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October 20, 2015 at 12:00 PM
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“On lonely street, on a dark lonely night…” She sang softly to herself as she walked, hands clasped behind her back clutching her purse. “A thousand glittering lights flicker bright…”

Sara was bored… this Halloween had been such a letdown. Her boyfriend hadn’t been available to go to any of the cooler parties being thrown, having been grounded by his parents for his Geometry grade, and her friends were all busy with their own things, too busy to go party with her. As much as a wild child as she was (according to her father, at the very least) she wasn’t as stupid as to go to some strangers home alone, especially when beer and hormones were in full use. So here she was, walking home beneath the flickering lights of the street lamps after having a horror movie marathon with her two younger cousins at their house, while their parents went out to a party.

How fair was that?

Her Uncle Mortimer had offered to give her a lift home, as it was well past two in the morning, but she’d declined. She saw past his caked on white make-up and vampire fangs and seen how his eyes were somewhat glassy, and how they were following his wife’s every move. She knew he wanted to have some more Halloween fun, and she had no intention of ruining anyone’s Halloween like hers had been ruined.

The lamp above her flickered briefly, a harsh buzzing noise filling the air as if some large fly were close by. Pausing to look up, she jumped a bit when she heard the sudden shatter of glass, and the tinkling noise that came with such shards falling to the ground. Looking behind her, she could see that the street light ten poles down had burst, a sudden blanket of darkness rushing over the area, swallowing the street in pure void.

She calmed herself, knowing that the light had probably just been old, or the wiring was bad. The holiday, combined with the late hour, was setting her nerves on edge. She was merely a block from her house, from her warm bed, and her small night light that she had to make her feel better about those dark and stormy nights.

And then another light burst, a sudden shower of glass only making itself known as the glass struck the hard concrete, swathed in velvet darkness. This light was the next one, just after the first. Her eyes widened in fear as she saw the briefest flicker of a wide red eye, set back in a pale face. Two slender hands, brighter than the moon on a cloudless night, seemed to hover in the darkness near the face, spidery fingers caressing the very air around him as he gazed at her.

And then the third light shattered, casting the stranger back into the unseen, the last thing being seen was the wicked gleam of his wide smile, of his sharpened teeth.

Sara screamed, dropping backward from the sudden fright, scrambling to her feet as another two lights exploded in rapid succession, the high-pitching buzzing seeming to grow more fervent as she broke into a sprint.

But she couldn’t seem to outrun the darkness, the ever expanding shadows that were speeding along, nipping at her heels, as the street lights continued to burst and fade. Every time she looked back, she could see at the edge of the encroaching ebon wave a twin set of eyes, blazing like the sun, and her own reflection in his silvery grin, like some demented Cheshire cat from a horrible nightmare.

Over her screams, she could hear just the faintest singing, almost as if a lover was whispering it into her ear. The voice was sickly, high and reedy, and most definitely male.

“On a lonely street…” It hissed in her ear, another light breaking overhead, plunging her into the very edges of the darkened wave, a long-fingered hand reaching out languidly towards her neck, even as she was sprinting. “On a dark lonely night…”

“No!” She screamed, squeezing her eyes together to not gaze at those unearthly fingers closing in on her. How was he keeping up with her, and speaking so steadily? She could barely breathe, much less sing, and here he was right on her ass like nothing was going on!

She stopped cold as she was lifted bodily from the ground, her legs still doing their best to propel her forward in almost a comedic fashion. Opening her eyes, she could just barely make out the man’s features in the pitch of the night, thanks only to the brilliant glow of his blazing eyes. His head was tilted to the side, like a curious child, as he held her be her shoulders, fingers wrapped fully around her biceps, lifting her effortlessly. His mouth, far too wide to be real, was spread back in a sick grin, rows of needle-point teeth lining blackened gums.

“The song…” He said, the words sounding wrong as he spoke around his mouthful of knives. “Actually ends like this.”

And before she could even see him he had lunged forward, jaws snapping wide enough for him to swallow a bowling ball, slamming into her chest, his countless sharpened teeth piercing her like so many needles, ripping through her chest as if it were merely an orange rind with a cute pink baby tee. She swooned, as the pain she thought she would feel never came, merely a sense of nausea and light headedness, accompanied by the sounds of thick gulping, and water splattering on the cold October ground.

Not water… it’s not raining… She thought drunkenly, head swaying back and forth as her eyelids became heavy. That’s my blood…

Her vision, clouding at the edges, became filled with the blazing orbs again, a long multi-pronged tongue cleaning the gore from his face in a lazy fashion as he shuddered in apparent ecstasy. “On a lonely street, on a dark lonely night, a thousand fangs pierce the girl just right. Her blood he seeks to get his fill, her flesh and bones seemed to just fit the bill.” He sang softly, lowering her to the ground gently, like she was a fine piece of china. Her eyes, so heavy with sleep, could just make out that she was lying in a pool of her own blood, and that there were others standing around her, barefoot.

“Now she haunts the street, so ends this tragic tale, but don’t be sad for she didn’t fail.” He continued, waving his long arms wide, singing to his new audience. “She lingers on to see those who’ve sung before, and pray that there will be no more.”

All of the girls around him, some two dozen pairs of cold dark eyes stared back at him, no smile at his lyrics gracing their beautiful features or any kindness in their gaze. Each bore their own mark, their own open wound from which nothing but rot fell. He smiled at them, doing a deep bow with a fantastic flourish of his hands.

“My dear ladies, I would assume you would thank me!” He said in mock anger, eyes flashing brightly in the now silent alley. “After all, everyone loves to make a new friend! And here you go, one who already knew some of my work, a true fan of quality music, wouldn’t you agree?”

“Yes Maestro…” They responded in unison, a dead and hollow chorus of sweet tones made all the worse by their utter lack of emotion.

The creature leaned back with a satisfied smile, taking a deep and long sniff of the crisp night air, arms held wide. In the darkness, one could hardly see him save for his near translucent skin thanks to his black bodysuit. Tall enough to be considered freakish by any normal standards, the creature popped it’s back with a pleasant sigh as the young girls milled about him, their glassy eyes watching his every movement. Even hunched over, long spindly fingers dancing across the asphalt with a hideous crackling of nail on stone, he towered over all of them.

This was made only worse by the fact that he was completely skeletal, his frame that of a man who hadn’t eaten in weeks. Thin cords of muscle moved sickly beneath his pale hands and face, a horrible caricature of life if studied closely. A bald head, smooth as if shaven sat perched atop a high collar, a wide jaw curved up into a prominent chin, pale colorless lips pulled back into a shark-like grin, revealing the countless needles that sat aligned within.
Sara’s last memory, her last thoughts, were those of terror and fear; a chalk-white demon swimming within the shadows of the night had hunted her, stalked her like a wounded deer. He had even played with her, as if her life was so measly a thing that he could make light of it.

And then he had killed her, tearing into her chest with his shark-like mouth, singing some old song she had heard played on the radio every Halloween. She had been powerless, completely and utterly unable to do anything to prevent it. Just as she was now, as she somehow found herself standing over her own body, her chest looking like raw hamburger, her skin grey and cold as the stone beneath it. Her murderer, as inhuman as she remembered, turned to look up from his position on one knee over her body, a slow smile creeping across his features.

“Why?” She asked, not entirely sure what to say. Her hands were at her side, but she could feel the cold wind blowing into her open wound, somehow bloodless and stiff. It confused her, as there was no way she could be alive. But on some level she knew she wasn’t.

“Why?” He repeated, mouthing the words slowly as if he had never heard them before. “Why my dear girl, why not? I heard you as I was on my way home, singing with such a sweet voice, and knew that I had to add you to my choir.”

“Choir?” She asked, still too shaken from the surreal experience to even question the crowd of girls standing around them, all sporting similar wounds across their abdomens and legs, their dead eyes and featureless faces not doing much to ease her nerves.

“Why yes, my choir!” He cried, high and loud, waving at the surrounding girls as if they were explanation enough. “I gather those with talent and make certain their talent need not go to waste due to the ravages of age, or sickness. I preserve their greatness, and entertain those walking this great masterpiece we call Earth for all eternity.”

“Masterpiece of Earth? What kind of nut are you! You freak, why in the Hell did you do this!” Sara cried, the shock of it all sinking in finally.

“I know my dear, the transition can be somewhat difficult, but it really is for the best. It would be a crime to allow your dulcet chords go the wayside in the next few years due to something as silly as hormones. Now you can forever sing, sing like my own personal songbird!” He crowed, standing to his full height, practically skipping with joy at the thought. “Girls, be dearies and take my newest instrument home for me, I still have work to do before the concert!”

Sara couldn’t even protest at such a command as her world seemed to melt around her, the darkness of the night giving way to something far more enveloping, a soul-wrenching void that she could barely even begin to contemplate before she found herself thrust from it just as suddenly. She now stood in a well-lit ballroom that, perhaps years ago, was made to entertain a crowd of hundreds. Now it was old and worn, vast stretches of masonry cracked, paint peeling in wide stripes. A large stage sat against the far wall, near a pair of double doors, while the rest of the room was filled with old wooden tables, covered in worn silken tablecloths.

Two girls, a small Asian child and an older teen with glassy eyes and a gaping throat wound stood close by, motionless. The Asian girl bounded over to her, skipping as she went a wide smile on her face.

“You just be the new performer! Are you excited?” She asked, her blood soaked shirt and large torn streaks marring her face a tad unnerving to look upon.
“Perform? Why the hell should I perform anything for that monster!”

“He’s saved you! Saved you from age and disease, from losing what talents you have! The Maestro has been saving us all for the past three hundred years!” The little girl stomped, her brow furrowed in what would be a cute fashion had her side not been sliced open.

“Don’t mind Mimi, she’s still fresh, like you.” Interrupted the taller girl, seeming to merely appear next to her rather than walk. “After a few years, as your blood thins out, you’ll calm down like the rest of us.”

The girl’s flat, featureless tone was almost a breath of fresh air when compared to the demented cries of the smaller girl, who was now merely pouting at Sara angrily. “Angela, she needs to understand what we’re here for!” Mimi said with a low whine.

Angela waved away her concern with a small smile. “I’ll show her Mimi, we don’t need you throwing a tantrum right now. We just got all of the tables set, and we’ll need the room to appear at its best if we want Maestro to be pleased with us.”

That seemed to cheer the tiny specter up significantly, allowing Sara to breathe a sigh of relief. Mimi gave one final glare to Sara (which was only met with a bewildered blink) before vanishing without as much as a puff of smoke. “Don’t mind her; she seems to be in love with Maestro… it can happen to you, if you convince yourself that all of this was your choice.” Angela deadpanned.

“We’re ghosts, as I’m sure you’ve realized by now.” Angela continued, turning to begin sorting sets of polished silver tableware about the room, plates and knives and forks floating about her head as they slowly drifted to the numerous tables, getting set into proper position. “We are bound to the Unseelie that killed us, so long as our blood flows through his veins. It takes an average of ten to fifteen years for one of us to fade away to nothingness, less if our beloved Maestro sustains some substantial injuries. It takes blood to heal one of them you know.”

“How can you be so calm about all of this?” Sara asked, eyes glued to the floating steak knife, drifting lazily in the air as Angela decided where it was needed.

“I’ve been bound to Maestro for about six years, give or take. My blood is thinning within him, growing more and more diluted as he takes more in. This is allowing my spirit to slowly ease away from this limbo into the great beyond that awaits us all.” Angela explained matter-of-factly, flipping the knife through the air and sending it through the double doors with a sudden flourish. “We’re bound to him, cursed to roam the world as unnatural spirits until he either is slain, or our blood is used up within him. Until then we serve him without question.”

“Why?” Sara asked, walking slowly around one of the finished tables, eyes looking anywhere but at the dead woman before her.

“Because we have no choice. Any wish he has, no matter how perverse, we must follow through with it. For example, I helped shatter the lights tonight as he was moving in for the kill.” Angela said with a careless shrug.

“You helped him kill me?” Sara asked, not knowing how to feel at that thought.

Angela shrugged once more truly disinterested in the conversation. “I and a few others, the older ones. We have far better control than a fresh one like you, so we get the joy of helping him hunt.”

“So… we’re ghosts then,” Sara asked, waving her hand through a close by table for emphasis.

“The best term is poltergeist, as we can still manipulate the material world if given the proper motivation, but for now, yes. You’re a ghost, a vassal to a greater unnatural creature that requires the flesh and blood of the still living to power his very existence.” She answered her flat tone and bored expression etched across her comely features. “Maestro is virtually at the top of the food chain in the supernatural world, what most people would call a vampire; he hunts the living, creates servants and thralls from those willing to be bent to his will, and enslaves those he has slain in grotesque ways to provide him entertainment.”

“Entertainment? Mimi said the same thing a moment ago, what are we going to do, strip for him and his pervy little friends?” Sara asked, a bit of trepidation seeping into her voice.

“Nothing so simple actually. Maestro is called such because he exclusively hunts and feeds on performers.” Angela said, snapping her fingers to whip back a drawn set of curtains, allowing a flood of moonlight to shine into the room. “Unlike us, he truly is what he eats.”

“What? Why can’t you say anything that makes sense?” Sara asked, jumping back as a trio of mops swished past her, cleaning the floor without any visible direction.

“We’re merely echoes of what we once were, memories given form by the lingering fluids once taken from our physical selves. As those fluids thin out, they’re mixed with the fluids of others, altering us until we are merely a shadow of several different people; their skills, their memories, their personalities… all one rough amalgamation crammed into spectral form.” Angela sighed, shoulders slumping at the very idea. “That’s why the older we are, the more… detached we feel. We can feel our minds being eroded away by foreign thoughts and desires, hopes and dreams. I can’t even remember where I was born, let alone where and how I died. All I really know is what the Maestro allows me to.”

“Which is what, how to be entertaining? Because I hate to burst your morbid little bubble, but you’re kind of a mood killer.” Sara said with a grimace.

“All I know is cleaning and kinetic motion… how to interact with the real world. There are three others like me, all with memories of hunters and trappers, of soldiers. We help him hunt, help him add to his stable.” Angela said with a faint smile. “Most of the other ghosts, like you, are kept to entertain. He floods your mind with years of musical training, inundates your thoughts with past performances and songs; makes it to where everything you are, what makes you… you, is music.”

Sara didn’t truly know what to say to such a statement, but on some level she knew it to be true. All she could really remember at the moment was her death, a horrible jumble of sensations all made worse by the pain and terror that had accompanied them. Instead of remembering her birthday, she could now faintly hear a lovely ballad sung in a voice strikingly similar to hers, in a language she didn’t know, but was beginning to understand.

“It’s already started then, as you can tell.” Angela said with a smirk, waving a hand elegantly towards the far wall, the strips of peeling paint quickly rolling back up the walls, slowly aligning back into their original shapes, the torn seams vanishing slowly. “The thoughts… the memories you know aren’t yours… they’re ours. Each and every one of us. Every person slain by Maestro, every time he’s fed on their vital essence, they’ve been slowly woven into the vast folds that are our minds.”

“She’s hearing the Sonata…” Another voice said, a hollow whispering that sounded as if the wind itself were speaking. Sara turned to see a frail girl… no, a frail woman, floating just mere inches from her. Her hair drifting lazily about her translucent frame as if she were suspended in a pool of crystal clear water, her eyes but hollow points of pale moonlight. Her skin was old, paper thin and worn. “The Sonata is what Maestro loves to hear from his newest acquisitions. It’s a song from his homeland, he told me. Long ago, a song that was sung to warn of the threats that surrounded them, the threats that lurked in the night.”

“That’s Eve…” Angela whispered to Sara just over her shoulder. “She’s been here the longest, and if what we believe is true, will soon be leaving us. Finally going to rest, after her years of service to Maestro.”

“Over a hundred years I’ve sang for him, from every moment he falls to bed from every moment he awakens… he loves to hear the Sonata, in his native tongue of course…” Eve whispered, floating closer to Sara than she felt comfortable with. The lower half of the woman’s body was merely vapor, no visible wounds standing out from her ancient features. “You’ll be learning it soon enough dearie, make no mistake.”

“Thank you?” Sara said awkwardly, not really knowing how to respond to such a statement. She felt a cold wash over her as Eve’s hand fell upon her cheek, a soft caress from what could have easily been made of ice.

“So lovely… just like I was when I was younger.” Eve said to herself as she began to fade from view, her voice becoming a mere echo. “So lovely…”

The time passed strangely for Sara, with vast tracts of time slipping past her notice like water through her fingers. Mimi would flutter into existence close by, dragging her through the crushing void to another section of the mansion, or perhaps another home, forcing her to gather supplies that their wayward master would apparently require in the coming evening. As they would return with armfuls of linens and silverware, Angela would tell Sara to aid another three specters in cleaning the vast kitchens behind the double doors, a task that proved futile as she was utterly incapable of doing any such task without the most direct of supervision, as her thoughts, her mind, were slowly being overcome with thoughts of songs, of notes and chords, of lyrics and melodies… all things Sara knew she had never heard before in life, but seemed to haunt her forever in death.

She found herself steered away from the kitchen after a time, trapped in a darkened corner of the house with the vaporous form of Eve watching over here, silently listening as she hummed the very song that reverberated throughout Sara’s mind. She ignored all attempts at conversation, and somehow seemed to have found a way to contain Sara within the stiflingly dark room, as every time she moved to leave she would find herself seated once more across from her, the same rotting armchair beneath her with the same broken table between her and Eve. Between the songs playing over and over in her head, the only thing she could really focus on was how her family must be feeling, how worried they must be.

Her two bratty cousins, her little brother and sister… their faces kept flashing through her mind’s eye, along with the images of her mother and father, and of her Aunt and Uncle. Did they know she was dead? It had to be morning already, and with her body left out like that she could only imagine how horrified they would be to find her. How was her little brother taking it? Her sister, only a baby really, wouldn’t be too broken up by it as she couldn’t understand death quite yet, but would she miss Sara at all? Would she even remember her?

“It’s almost time dearie.” Eve announced suddenly, her paper thin voice cracking from the effort it took the spirit to speak. “Just know that we’ve all gone through it, and it gets easier with time.”

“What, performing? I know it gets easier… I think.” Sara said, not really knowing which of her thoughts were hers and which were someone else’s.

Eve didn’t respond, choosing instead to pull them both into the soul-crushing darkness of the void and back into the ballroom that Sara had first appeared in. While it had been well lit before, now the entire place seemed to practically glow with energy, great spheres of light fluttering along the ceiling like fireflies, sparking whenever they came in contact with dazzling delight,

The ancient tables, now covered with more presentable linens than before, were now full of guests, all as disturbing to lay eyes upon as her killer. At least thirty to forty of the foul creatures sat in the hall, chatting and laughing amongst themselves, though not all were as frightening as the Maestro. Some wore their hair in long curtains down their backs, elegant ebon cocktail dresses hugging their pale flesh in all of the right places, blazing red eyes highlighted by equally bright lipstick, made only terrifying when they spoke or smiled, revealing rows of needle-like teeth. Squat men in tuxedo suits sat with long handled cigarettes, chatting with bearded men in robes, while several young-looking children ran about the floor chasing a yipping dog.

The children’s wide mouths and flaring eyes almost made Sara weep for the fate of the dog, but she choked back the sob that struggled to come forth. Eve placed a frozen hand on her forearm to draw her attention, and it was only when she turned did she meet the eyes of her maker.

“There is my little diamond!” Maestro crowed, dressed in skintight black silk, towering above her with eyes a dull glow. “How is she, dear Eve? Is she ready you think?”

“As ready as one in her position can be Maestro, but I know that I am ready. Please, let us move on with the show.” Eve creaked, moving to take Maestro’s offered elbow. Which seemed to help her float alongside him as he walked to the edge of the stage they stood upon. The crowd fell silent as the ebon giant waved for their attention.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I invite you here for my dear Eve’s two-hundred and fiftieth performance with utmost pride and never-ending sorrow. This performance, a piece I have favored for untold years, shall be her last.” Maestro announced, a deep sense of loss somehow being sent through his words that the crowd easily seemed to pick up upon as a collective groan rose from them.

“Now, let us not taint this marvelous event with such sadness, but instead embrace the new era of my latest talent!” Maestro said, waving the crowds disgruntled cries away before holding out a spidery hand to Sara, drawing her close to him. “Tonight shall be her debut upon the stage, and as is custom, let us aid her in her artistic endeavors!”

Sara didn’t even have time to think about what perverted custom he could be thinking of before a sudden whooshing of air, followed by a sharp and loud crack broke through the following silence. Dangling, some ten feet from the stage and from the rafters high above by a single length of thick piano wire, was her Uncle Mortimer, twitching in a macabre form of dance as the last vestiges of life ebbed from his body, blood spilling from the sliced flesh of his neck and dripping through his fake Vampire costume. A loud cry rent the air from above, and in horror Sara watched as her mother and father were pushed from the same rafter by a grim faced Angela, their screams not screams of mercy for themselves, but for of their children lined up for the next drop.

Sara’s mouth opened to scream and to beg, but all that came out were the words to that damn song that had been stuck in her head, a solid stream of richly sung French that held all of Sara’s anguish and fear. The song grew louder and louder as she watched her cousins pushed over the ledge, followed by her brother, watching their bodies writhe and struggle at the end of a long length of wire as they struggled for breath, as the cord cut through their slender necks, and as their blood fell from their bodies and into the hungering mouths of the Maestro’s guests.

The song reached its crescendo as Sara caught sight of the Maestro walking up onto the stage, cradling the sleeping form of her baby sister. Watching in horror as his mouth grew wider and wider, a veritable bear trap of blackened needles and bleeding gums. The high point came and crashed like a thousand waves upon the sand as he closed his mouth with an audible snap, her sister no longer sleeping and no longer there, now just a bulge in the Maestro’s throat as it expanded and forced the body of her struggling sibling down into his body.

With the song done and her family now swinging softly in an unseen breeze, Sara could do nothing but stand there as she was given a round of applause by the blood-drenched demons around her, forced to bow to them with blank eyes at the Maestro’s perverted whim, and to begin the song anew with the images of her family dying flashing before her eyes in a way she could not control nor stop. The only thing she knew to be her own within her head was the single phrase she had heard Eve say to her, in what Sara could now tell was in an apologetic tone.

“Just know that we’ve all gone through it, and it gets easier with time.”

Credit To – Nicholas Paschall

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Symphonies About Drowning

October 13, 2015 at 12:00 PM
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The faucet is dripping in the bathroom. It has been the whole night. I haven’t gone in yet. Yet.

I moved here two months ago. It’s my first house and I had no idea what I was getting into. I’ve been tearing down wallpaper, ripping up carpets, painting everything. And now I’m here, in my bedroom with half my stuff still in boxes, listening to the faucet drip. Listening to water fill a bathtub.

By the second weekend I was here I already needed to mow. The yard looked like a jungle. When I started in the front, a guy came out of the house to the left. I waved and shut off the mower as he waddled over.

We introduced ourselves. His name was Morris and he was fleshy, with a rubbery face. Sweat ran down his forehead as he smiled at me in the already humid, wet morning air. We made small talk for a few minutes and then, as I got ready to take my leave of the conversation and start to mow the grass, Morris leaned in to me and lowered his voice.

“So, umm, what’s it like in there?”

“In where? My house?” I asked. I looked back at it. Standard ranch, split level. “Oh you know. The usual. Needs a little TLC. Some painting. Why?”

“Oh, I thought,” he said, his voice froggy and low. “I guess I thought it’d be a little more, umm, you know…”

“No, I don’t. A little more what?” I asked.

“Well, you know. With what happened. In there…”

“What do you mean, “what happened?” Did somebody die in here?”

I looked at my house. “Oh my god. Somebody died in my house?”

“Nobody told you?” Morris winced. “Oh. Sorry.”

“What happened?”

“The guy who lived there, he, umm, he died. It was, umm…”

He said “umm” the way people say “om” in mediation: repetitively and with great belief that something will happen if he continues to repeat it.

“It was pretty bad, umm. That’s what I heard. At least. I didn’t see. I’m glad I didn’t. He was a nice guy.”

Hs looked at me and smiled. His teeth were all yellow in the hot air.

“He was a good neighbor.”

Later that night, as I was trying to get to sleep, I heard the water drip for the first time. A plumber, I thought, I’ll have to call a plumber tomorrow. Before I fell asleep, I thought I could hear music from a far away place. A sound that almost sounded like singing.

The doorbell rang the next day. It was Morris, slightly damp from the light rain that had been falling.

He sat down in my kitchen and took a mug of coffee I offered him.

“I’m sorry to, umm, just barge in on you,” he said, blowing on the steam. The black surface of the drink rippled.

“It’s ok. I’m not too busy today.”

“I wanted to stop by and apologize for yesterday. I didn’t tell you everything.”

“Really?” I said, sitting down across from him.

“Really. You see, the guy who used to liver here, he, umm, he used to talk to me sometimes. About stuff he used to hear in here. He thought he was going crazy.”

“Really?” I asked, “what did he think was going on?”

“He thought there was something living in his pipes.”


“That’s what I, umm, I said,” Morris looked at me. His eyes had little splashes of color in the sclera. Little brown discolorations. “I said, you’re crazy. Ha ha ha!”

After he left, I realized it must have been raining harder than I had thought out there. His seat was all damp. Everything felt damp.

The plumber came the next day. He couldn’t get the dripping to stop. He explained he needed a part, and he could be back the next day. Maybe the day after that.

That night, I listened to the dripping. I had gotten used to the rhythm. I kind of liked it, almost. The way it sounded like a song I almost remembered….

Right as I was about to fall asleep, I heard a weird noise, a sloshing sound sound. It sounded almost like stepping. I looked from my bed, without sitting up, and peered out into the hallway. I saw a dark figure moving, slowly, very slowly, to the bathroom. There was the wet noise of wet footsteps. The shadow moved into the bathroom. The water drops got louder. I could swear I recognized a song.

I woke up the next morning. I didn’t know I had fallen asleep. The bed had wet spots on it, like something had been dripping on it.

I rushed into the hallway outside my bedroom. The ground… There were wet footprints leading into the bathroom. The footprints had too many toes.

I called the plumber. The part was still on order. Maybe he’d have it tomorrow. I knew I needed to get out of the house. I emailed my real estate agent. I demand she tell me everything she knew. She got back in touch in a few moments. She didn’t know much.

The guy who lived there before me had died. The house was willed to his sister. She was the one who sold it. My realtor sent me the email address she had for the dead man’s sister.

I emailed the sister immediately, begging her to tell me more. As I paced about, I stared out my window at Morris’s house. In the hot weather, it shimmered, like it was underwater.

The sister emailed me back in a little over an hour. She thanked me for my condolences and said all she knew about her brother is he got very sick living in that house. She said he seemed paranoid, worrying about his neighbor, telling her about things that lived in the sewers under the house. Things that had moved there from the ocean. They sang songs, he claimed.

She said he had seen the drain was knotted with hair one day, and he tried to clean it out. He said he pulled on the long, black hairs and then they were pulling him into the drain. They wrapped around his wrists, in between his fingers, dark and slippery, like ropes in fetid water. He let go, he told her, and they wrapped around his wrists and tried to suck him under, to pull into the pipes, into their singing.

She wrote he was very sick. And she wished she could have helped him more.

She wished me luck in my new house.
I should have left. You would have, as you read this, that’s what you tell yourself, I know. That’s what I would say too, if I read this. But I have heard their songs, their incomparable drowned melodies. They want me to go to them. They want me to live with them, in their strange beautiful world of underground rivers and pale bodies and seaweed hair.

Morris has been telling me all about it. He’s helped others go into their palaces. He’ll help me too. They sent him up here to do that. To help people like me. He is in the bathroom now, filling the bathtub with water. I’m waiting for him to tell me to strip off my clothes and submerge myself in the porcelain, to dive into brand new oceans, to grow a beautiful new body.

The moon in the sky is dry and beautiful and very far away. In the bathroom, the songs are starting. I recognize every word.

Credit: Kevin Sharp

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Spirit Bottles

October 6, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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“Will you be with me when the time comes?” Caitlyn asked.

Her voice was soft and cracking due to dehydration. Even with the saline solution being pumped through the IV she was still far too weak to talk properly. Her lips were white and cracking like the earth in Death Valley. Henry tightened his grip on her hand, not by much but to acknowledge her request.

“What happened out there?” he asked.

“I will tell you, but first I need some ice. Feed them to me as I talk so I can at least keep my mouth wet enough to let you know what I saw.”

Caitlyn’s breathing was labored. This and the dehydration caused her to talk much slower than she normally would.

Henry released her hand and went to get some water. He came back with the little pink bucket filled to over flowing with little square ice cubes. Caitlyn’s mouth opened slightly and he slipped one in. He noticed even her tongue was a pallid pink, almost white. Once the ice was in her mouth he reclaimed her hand, it felt like leather. Her face looked fifty.

“I decided to go into the mountains for the weekend. The sun was bright and it would be a great camping trip. I had been to the Flatirons many times, so I decided I would go more towards the Devil’s Backbone.”

Caitlyn paused here, her thin hand reaching for the little pink bucket. Henry saw what she was trying to do and fed her another ice chip. Her eyes closed with her mouth as she let the water slowly trickle down her throat.

Henry took her hand once more; this time he noticed she was still wearing her ring. It seemed like it should have fallen off long ago. The band was far too large for the little meat she had on her hand, but it still would have a little trouble getting over the knuckle, not much but enough to keep it on.

“I knew that area was known to have covens. There was a community that lived there which everyone knew was into that shit. Most people thought they were into Wicca, but a few said it was much worse than that, that some were into darker things. Things which would make the devil blush. I never believed any of that stuff would work, I told you that before. But I was wrong. I saw things which make me believe, make me know that something else can be channeled by those people.”

The heart monitor started to race, it was the first time Henry had paid it any mind. His own heart started to quicken just from the sound. His hand tightened on her withered remains. The only reason he loosened his grip was due to the weak groan she let slip from those cracked lips.

“Sorry,” he said.

“It’s okay. I don’t think I have much left in me tonight, but you need to know what happened. It all happened that first night. I set up my tent, God, I wish you would have come with me. I was so upset with you though.”

Henry looked down at her wedding band once more. The matching one he wore on his left hand felt like a sham for the past few days. Now it was even worse. Now that his wife had been through so much, and he wasn’t able to be there with her because of his stupid actions. Tears welled in his eyes, as he felt the soft touch of her dry skin enclose around the back of his hand.

“I forgive you. It was a moment of weakness, I just wish it wouldn’t have been like that. But don’t worry about it now, just let me finish.”

She pointed towards the bucket again and he slipped another piece of ice into her barely open mouth. Once she was trying desperately to get the ice to melt he had a chance to wipe his eyes. His own hands shaking more than hers.

“I had my tent up in no time. The sun was going down and I started to hear something. At first I didn’t know what it could be, but after a while I was able to make out it was people. It sounded like they were singing, which is fine, Colorado is a strange place. But I figured it may not be a bad idea to see if I could find where they were. If people were out there maybe they would want to talk. And, I have to admit, I was feeling lonely.”

Her words were broken by a cough that was dryer than some papyrus left over from ancient Egyptian times. Dryer even than her voice, but not much. Her face gnarled as she coughed, and she tried to sit up, but she was far too weak and in far too much pain to do so.

“Sit down Caitlyn,” Henry said. “You don’t need to put yourself through any more pain than you are already in.”

With his help she was able to lie back down and get comfortable, well at least as comfortable as the situation would allow. It took a few minutes before she was able to return to her story. Time in which Henry found to smooth her hair and give her a kiss on the forehead. She returned his affection with a smile that broke her lips open slightly. A thick blood started to seep from the cracks. It was so dark it looked more black than red. He wiped away the blood and no more came from the crevasses.

“It was a long walk; that should have been the first thing I noticed was wrong. They were in the woods, you know how far away the woods are from the Backbone. It took me ten minutes just to get to the tree line. It was also closer to that community, the one where the witches live. But I didn’t think anything of it, I just kept walking to see who was singing and what they were saying. There was more than one person, I could make out that much at least.

“The wind picked up and I heard a tink-tink sound. I shined the flashlight into the woods and saw bottles hanging from the trees. None of them looked like any of the others, but there was one thing they all had in common; each had a little piece of meat on a string hanging inside and were sealed with wax. There must have been a hundred bottles in all. Blue, green, clear and frosted.”

Once more she pointed to the ice bucket and Henry knew the sign well enough to feed her another chip. The rhythmic beeping had slowed again, but it still seemed a little jerky. At times it would spike with a few rapid beeps then fall to the normal rhythm. Her hands would tighten on his, not hard, Henry didn’t think she was capable of using too much energy to make the squeeze hard, which made his heart sink a little deeper in his chest.

“When I was in the woods I still couldn’t make out what they were saying. Not because it was too faint, but because they were speaking in a different language. I saw a fire, and it pulled me closer like a moth. There must have been ten people dancing around that fire, each of them singing that strange song. I couldn’t see if they were all singing, because they were wearing masks, but it sure sounded as if they were all singing.

“The masks were pure white and contrasted well with the black robes they were wearing. The only other parts that were white were the gloves they wore and their sneakers. I didn’t think any of them had seen me, so I kept moving closer. Not close enough to feel the heat from the fire, but close enough to see what they were doing. I didn’t want them to know I was there, I can’t really explain why, but I knew it would be bad if they knew I was watching.”

Henry swallowed hard, his throat was going dry. So was Caitlyn’s. This time after he had given her a piece of ice he took one as well. The heart monitor had picked up its beeping again. Although it seemed impossible Caitlyn seemed to be getting even dryer. Her hands felt like sandpaper and her eyes looked smaller than the sockets they were in, her voice had even gotten hoarser.

“They stopped singing and one of those people in the blank white faces came forward with a bottle. They put it above the fire, hanging it from some makeshift gallows which was erected above the flames. A chain held it above the flames and it wasn’t long before the glass started to have a film on the inside. I thought it was a film at least, but it was smoke. Then they popped a hole into the wax which sealed it and removed the cork. The smoke came bubbling out but didn’t drift up towards the moon, instead it fell to the ground and started to build on itself. I know it sounds crazy but that is what happened. It happened like that until it made the figure of a man.”

Caitlyn’s eyes closed, if it wasn’t for the heart monitor Henry would have thought she died. His hand gently rubbed her arm until she opened her eyes once more. When he first started to move his hand up her thin arm she was disturbed by the dry scratchy sound it had made.

“The figure stood beside the fire and the group started to ask it questions. Strange questions like ‘what do you know of the afterlife?’ Or ‘when will this trial be over?’ Things that meant nothing to me, but must have been very important to others. It dawned on me that this was a ghost they were talking to, trying to get answers that no one from the living world would be able to answer. It was frightening, but got worse when they asked the last question I stuck around to hear. ‘How long can we keep our coven a secret?’ To this the ghost replied that I was watching them and a smoky tendril pointed towards my direction. I didn’t stick around to see what they would do if they caught me.

“You know how fast I can run, or at least could until I got here. Still the people in the masks were just as quick, if not quicker. I was stumbling through the trees and down branches when I heard them coming after me. I got out of the woods and was able to run faster. It was the fastest I had ever ran, but it wasn’t fast enough. One of them was able to get a hold of my hair. I jerked free but the hand that was holding me must have come away with a handful of my hair. After that I didn’t stop until I was safe in my car and locked the doors.”

Again she closed her eyes. Henry could see how much it was taking for her to tell this story. He wished she would stop, just relax for a little, but he knew that would be the last thing she would do. Her face was thinner than before, cheekbones protruding so far, her face looked like a skull with a thin cloth over it. He gave her another ice chip.

“When I got to my car I wasn’t able to start it. I don’t know why, I didn’t care why. The only thing I wanted to do was to get out of there before that group found me. So, I did the only thing I could think of, I ran for as long as I could. But I don’t think I was able to get away. Even though I hadn’t seen any of them I could still feel their eyes on me. I was still miles from any other town than the one I wanted to get away from. But I couldn’t run any more. My lungs were burning so badly and so were my legs. And once I sat down I had fallen asleep. I couldn’t help it, a wave of tiredness crashed over me and I was out. It wasn’t until morning that I woke and was able to start running again.

“By the time someone had found me I must have looked terrible. They took me here and left me once I had gotten checked in. At least they were nice enough to stay with me until they knew I was in good hands.”

The pause was longer this time. The heart monitor had slowed so much that Henry was amazed she was still talking. The beeps were about two seconds apart, far too long for someone to live and still be able to talk.

“I know they cursed me. They must have. Haven’t you noticed that I have been getting worse, even in the short time it took me to tell you that story. I must look like I’m dead already. But there are still some things I need to tell you. I want you to live your life again. Mourn me, but don’t mourn me for long. I’m sure that girl you were sleeping with would be eager to get back with you. Sorry, that was mean and I don’t want you to remember me that way. Lilly was her name, right? Be with her if you want, but please just wait a little bit.”

Tears rolled down both of their faces. Henry couldn’t believe she was saying what she was saying. Caitlyn couldn’t believe it either, but she was more upset about dying. It wouldn’t be long now and she knew it.

“I have always loved you Henry. Even when I had walked in on you. I was hurt, but it hurt because I loved you so much. Please, do what you have to, to…”

The monitor flat-lined. Nurses rushed in and checked Caitlyn. It was clear she was dead, and there was nothing they could really do to revive her. When the nurse had pushed Henry away three of her fingers snapped off in his hand, one of which still had the wedding band on it. No blood came from the missing fingers, it had all dried up. When the nurse pushed on her chest to revive her dust came out from her cracked lips. There was nothing they could do, and everyone in the room knew it. So they did the only thing they felt they could do, give Henry a few more minutes with his dead wife.

“I’m sorry, honey,” he said over the dried corpse which had just told the story of her last days. A story of fear and pain.

“I never found Lilly attractive. We had sex because it was part of a spell we were doing.”

He reached into his blazer pocket and produced a small bottle with a piece of meat hanging in it.

“But don’t worry, you and I will be together for a long time.”

The bottle began to fill with a smoke as he chanted in that language she couldn’t understand in the woods. Once her spirit was in the bottle he pushed the cork deep in the mouth. He would have to wait to put the wax over it, but that was okay, she wouldn’t get out before then. As he left the room he gave her body one last kiss on the forehead and dropped the fingers on her chest. Leaving the ring which symbolized their vows to be together for better or worse.

Credit: Johnathan Nash

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And More

August 23, 2015 at 12:00 PM
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“No, absolutely not,” I told the doctor. Dr. Murdock maintained eye contact with me. Whether or not he had any personal feelings about the situation, I couldn’t tell. I always thought it was eerie how detached some doctors could appear, almost as though they were machines that could turn emotion and off at will. Hell, with some of the cases they faced, that’s probably a necessary survival technique.
“You’re certain?” Dr. Murdock asked. “You know his situation. Free health care is a wonderful thing in theory, but you need to understand that it will be years before his chart is even processed, and even longer until they approve or decline his kidney transplant. He came to America because he knew you were here. The tests are positive, you are a perfect candidate as a donor, and it would expedite the process greatly if you agreed to this donation. That’s not to say this is his only hope, but you would be doing him a kindness by alleviating all the anxiety of having to find another potential donor.”
“I don’t even know this man. We’re supposed to be related? I didn’t know he existed until I received that damned letter telling me to receive a so-called ‘relative’ at the embassy. He’s no one to me, why should I owe him a kidney?”
Murdock’s lips tightened into a thin line. Ah, finally some emotion. So this doctor did have an opinion.
“You understand, Mr. Erikson, that there are hundreds of willing donors who are complete strangers to Mr. Fyrafemsju, who, if they were appropriate donors, would simply donate the needed organ for the sole purpose of helping another human being. They don’t owe him anything either, and yet they’re willing.”
I scoffed.
“Fyrafemsju. Why the hell doesn’t he go by first name when his last name is so jacked up? I almost choked on my own tongue tongue trying to say it. Aside from which, if he’s family, then why didn’t they come to America when my mother immigrated? Why would his family have stayed?”
“Fyrafemsju is his only name, he simply identifies as a member of his clan, a tribe derivative of the Sami people in northern Scandinavia; a tribe whose name, I assure you, is much more difficult to pronounce than his given name. And the short answer to your second question, Mr. Erikson, is simply that I don’t know. I don’t know your family history, I simply know that Fyrafemsju is in need and he came to you for help.”
“Yeah, I know he’s a part of some weird-ass tribe; the guys at the embassy gave me the background of his weird little voodoo mysticism cult, and I don’t give a damn. Why is he even using western medicine anyway? He should just get his shaman to do a little rain dance, pump him full of peyote or whatever the hell they smoke up there, and leave me the hell alone.”
Murdock closed his eyes for a moment. He was obviously trying to keep his frustration from showing. Without a word, he handed me a clipboard with a paper attached.
“Sign here. This is a disclosure indicating that you decline to undergo the transplant procedure and that we’ll be free to continue looking for a suitable donor as soon as possible.”
“Fan-tastic,” I said and scribbled my name at the bottom of the page. Murdock wasted no time in leaving the room, and I followed suit. As I walked through the waiting room of the doctor’s office, I saw my ass-backwards cousin sitting in a hard-backed chair. He glanced up at me, a hopeful look on his face. I winked at him.
“Sorry Pal, what’s mine is mine.”

“What do you mean you said no!” Becca shrieked on the other end of the line. I actually had to pull the phone away from my ear due to how loud she was screaming.
“Why should I have agreed?!” I yelled back. “What is it feminist women always say? ‘My body, my choice’? Well I’m invoking the same privilege!”
“You just gave this man a death sentence. You’re practically killing family, you—”
I hung up. I didn’t need this. I’d called my fiancee for support and hopefully to make plans for dinner or something. This was the last thing I’d needed after another 14-hour day at the office.
I was exhausted and had to get up in four hours to meet with a possible supplier for the moulds we needed to produce a single piece hardware required for the new product we otherwise were completely finished with.
One. Single. Piece.
Why the hell we needed to enlist a new supplier for something smaller than the size of a battery watch was beyond me. I know specialization is huge and everything in the modern economy, but let one of the other companies we’re already paying put forth a little damn effort and take this extra project! I handled dozens of projects at once, it’s completely unbelievable that a single product that can fit in one hand requires a different company for each piece of hardware. What a bunch of lazy-assed, pathetic wastes. I could make this piece myself, but they refuse on the principle of ‘industry’.
Like it mattered. We may as well have scrapped the project with how far behind schedule we were. We were supposed to have started production two weeks ago, and instead we’re meeting with weasels and sharks we who want to screw us over at every turn. I knew exactly what was going to happen tomorrow—we would exchange niceties, waste about two hours talking utter nonsense and pretending we didn’t want to stab the other person in the gums with the nearest relatively sharp object, listen as they explained their offensively high rates, pretend to haggle, and then walk away pissed off with another day wasted. If it were up to me, I’d just cancel altogether. Hell, if it were up to me, I’d just release the product without that final mould and find some famine-stricken village in Kiribati do it all by hand for pennies a day. It’d save us a hell of a lot of time and money.
I drove home in a fury, cursing the rain, cursing the traffic, cursing the ass-hat pedestrians who couldn’t figure out how a crosswalk works. A 15-minute car ride took over 45 minutes because apparently the world just loves to piss me off. Finally, I arrived at my complex, parked the car in my parking garage and made my way up to my room on the 44th floor. Psh, the 44th floor. That jackass who had the penthouse suite above me thought he was all that. He was never forward about it, but he rubbed in my face every day with his smug expression and condescending attitude. I’d board the elevator and there he’d be, on the way down from the floor above, greeting me with a smile on his face and an obnoxiously cheerful: ‘Hey Ben, how you doing today? Are we finally gonna grab lunch this week? My wife and kids want to finally meet you!’
The bastard.
When I unlocked the door to my apartment I nearly soiled myself. Standing, not even sitting, but standing like some kind of lunatic, in the middle of my darkened living room was a black silhouette. I reached into my Gucci jacket pocket and retrieved my taser, shooting without hesitation and, unfortunately, without taking careful aim. I’d hoped to see the son of a bitch fry.
The figure ducked out of the way quickly, with almost animal-like reflexes. With similar reflexes, I pressed a button on my smart watch and illuminated the room.
Ah. That’s why it was animal-like. It was my maniac forest monkey cousin. How long had he been in the country? Why was he still wearing his ridiculous hand-woven trash? It looked better than the day I met him, dressed all in furs, but still, he didn’t exactly look like a fully functioning human being with with his scruffy face and dirty blonde hair pulled back into a bundle of braids, forming some kind of ridiculous mega-ponytail. Nor did his handmade clothes help much. Long sleeved, forest green goat-hair shirts with leather boots lined with wolf fur don’t exactly scream “I’m American!”
“How the hell did you get in here?” I demanded, retrieving my phone from my pocket, already dialing 911.
“You…no want do,” he said in a thick, garbled accent reminiscent of a German gargling glass shards.
“Oh, so you speak English now?” I replied, still preparing to connect to the police. “Please, by all means, explain why I ‘no want do’.” He approached me slowly, his hands up so as to show he was unarmed, and spoke very slowly, a soft smile on his face.
“Because I have you gift.”
“You have my gift? What are you—”
I noticed he was whistling a soft tune as he approached. I don’t leave the city much, and I certainly never go into the countryside, but the whistling sounded like wind cutting through the trees. In some strange way, it made me feel nostalgic and at home. He had a very soothing manner about him and I no longer felt on edge or even nervous as he advanced. Gently, very gently, he removed the phone from my hand and set in the table. The whistle had evolved into a deep-throated hum, the kind of earthy noise you hear emanating from geothermal power reactors or when you’re deep inside a cave in the heart of a mountain.
He reached into a leather pouch affixed to his belt and pulled out what looked like a small drinking horn plugged tightly with some kind of tree bark or cork wrapped with animal skin. He removed the top, brought the horn to his lips and drank a sip. He then brought it to my lips. I was intrigued and confused, but most of all just at peace. I normally can’t stand people getting anywhere near my person, but this time, it didn’t bother me at all. In fact, I rather enjoyed it when he raised the horn to my mouth and let me drink. It tasted sweet, like nothing else I had ever tasted before. Strangely, the only word that came to mind to describe the flavor was:
He took another item from the pouch, something that looked like a large bone, perhaps a femur, but far too stout to be a wolf or deer and far too thick to be from a rabbit or wild cat. He twisted, pulled, and it came apart in his hands in two halves. With one end he was very careful about keeping the opened end upright, and I quickly discovered it was because that piece contained blood, thick and visceral. He dipped his fingers in it and drew a pattern on my face, all the while quietly chanting something that brought me back to a home that I never knew.
Upon completion, he proceeded to draw what I presume to be the same image on his own face with remarkable detail.
When this ritual ended, he grabbed my face in his hands and stooped slightly so that we were at eye level.
“Broren min,” he whispered and pressed his forehead to mine. Then, in English, he said, “I take what I need. And more.”

I woke up in my bed. I don’t even remember having gotten ready for sleep, the last thing I remember was that psychotic nutjob breaking and entering into my home. I scrambled out of bed and looked for any remaining footprints, droplets of blood, hair, fibers that may have fallen off his clothes, anything to prove that he’d broken in. If he left anything evidence, I was going to get his ass deported as fast as possible. Hopefully I could land him in prison instead. I darted into the living room, but saw everything was impeccable, perfectly spotless how I always left it. I sighed in defeat, wishing that I could get this mongoloid out of my life.
That’s when I noticed the clock.
“Damn it to hell…” I muttered. It was already 9:17. I’d missed the meeting by over two hours. I was going to catch hell for this from Dennis. Luckily, I always had a few excuses prepared. Confident that I could talk my way out of this, I returned to my room to grab my phone from off the end table near my bed. I went reach for it with my right hand, and saw something that stopped me dead in my tracks.
My fingertips were missing.
The ends of my fingers, the pads, the fingernails, they were gone, ending with the knuckle. Had that freak drugged me with that drink and cut off my fingers? Even if he had, a single sip of a drink couldn’t be enough to knock someone out cold and leave them so numb that they wouldn’t feel someone cutting off a part of their body.
This wasn’t possible. I pulled up my sleeves, checking the insides of my arms for apertures that would testify he had drugged me with some kind of intravenous sedative. What I saw were the same arms I’d seen my whole life, no new scars or marks. I lifted up my shirt and did the same, checking my torso for markings.
There was nothing.
Then how he did do it? How in the hell could he come into my room and sever part of my body without me waking up, without me noticing? I looked again at the nubs that that lay just beyond the furthest knuckles of my fingers.
Maybe a better question was how did it heal so fast?
The skin around the severed part of my fingers looked so natural, not even like it was a wound, but rather like I was born without fingertips. The blood drained from my face and I suddenly felt light-headed and nauseous. Dialing work with my left hand, I moved into the kitchen and retrieved a glass from the cupboard. Or I should say I attempted to. I was only missing the last inch of my fingertips and yet I seemed barely able to function. Without the pads of my fingers, I underestimated my reach and accidentally knocked the glass over with my new nubs, causing it to fall and shatter on the floor. It took two more attempts before I successfully grabbed a glass, awkwardly seizing with the base of my fingers, squeezing it tightly like a lifeline. I was shaking now, full on tremors. I lifted the faucet and filled the glass when I heard:
“Hello! Are you there, Ben?” Apparently my call had gotten through while I was fumbling around with the cupboard. Who knows I don’t know how long Alice, my secretary, had been waiting on the line. I raised the receiver to my ear.
“Uh…Alice, hi,” I stammered shakily.
“Ben, what’s going on?” Her voice softened. She could tell I was obviously upset about something.
“I—” my voice cracked with that single syllable. “I’m not coming in today. Tell everyone.” My voice betrayed me and I hung up before I heard her response. Involuntarily, tears began streaming down my cheeks. What was happening? How was this possible? If this man was capable of removing parts of my body without me noticing, what else could he do?
I take I what need. And more.
I suddenly became aware of just how real his threats were, and I began fearing for my safety. But what could I do? I couldn’t call the police, they’d take my claim as a stupid joke, or even worse, try to commit me to a mental hospital.
Becca. I had to talk to Becca.

I pounded on the door as hard as I could with my left hand. My right hand didn’t hurt, but I felt like I couldn’t use it, that by somehow using it would cause more pieces of my hand to fall off. Luckily, she answered on the second knock. The door swung upon and there she should stood, an overly large tank-top and sweat pants with her her soft brown hair tied into a ponytail. Was today a day off for her?
“Hey babe, I’m sorry I got so mad at you over the phone,” she started. “After thinking about it, I realized I think you’re right, you don’t need to…what’s wrong?” She asked, seeing the look on my face.
“This is what’s wrong!” I yelled, throwing my mutilated hand in her face. She stared blankly at it.
“I don’t understand,” she said flatly.
“What do you mean you don’t understand? My fingers are missing!”
“Yeah, like they always have been. You’ve never seemed bothered by it before, in fact I remember it took me until our fourth date before I realized that your fingertips were missing.”
They always have been? What was she talking about? My body was perfectly intact until last night, what did she mean that I’d been deformed since we first met?
She must’ve seen the anxiety and confusion pass my face, because she wrapped her arms around me.
“Hey, hey, calm down. You’ve been under a lot of stress lately, I think what you need is the day off,” Leaving one arm wrapped around me, she led me into her house where we sat down at her kitchen table and she went to fix some tea.
“So…ugh, I’m going to sound crazy, but I need to ask you something.”
She kept her back to me as she prepared a kettle on the stove, but answered with kindness and patience in her voice.
“You can ask me anything, sweetie,”
I sighed, “You don’t ever remember my hand having my fingers complete?” She paused for a moment, her eyes cast slightly upward like when she’s pondering something intently. I couldn’t tell if she was genuinely considering it or if she was just making a show of pondering to humor me. After several seconds she responded.
“No, but we’ve only been together for what, three years? Did you lose them before we met? I always just assumed you were born without them, but you never volunteered the information and I never found it important enough to ask.”
As she was talking, I furiously typed up a text and sent it to everyone in my contact list who had known me my whole life—my mother, my father, close family friends, and I asked a similar question. I got a lot of confused replies, many of them questioning whether I was joking or not. But it was unanimous.
They all said I’d been missing my fingers my whole life.
I began searching through photo albums stored on my phone and in my Cloud account, hoping to find evidence of me with my fingers fully intact, but as I traveled further back in time, year after year, all of the images attested that I never, at any point in my life had a complete hand. I ran my left hand through my hair, my breath shallow and close to hyperventilating.
“Hey, I don’t know what’s going on, but this is not normal,” Becca said, her voice full of genuine concern at this point. “You’ve been pulling 14 to 16 hour days for the last two weeks, I think it’s finally catching up with you. It’s only 4:00 pm, but you need the rest. Come on, let’s get you up to bed and I better not see you awake until at least 10:00 tomorrow morning. You may not feel like your body needs the rest, but your mind does, now let’s go.”
I didn’t resist.

I woke up while it was still dark outside. It was 3:00 am. I’d slept a solid 11 hours uninterrupted. I rolled over and found Becca lying by my side, snoring softly. Normally snoring drove me insane, but hers was soft and cute, like a kitten. I could listen to it all day and it would never bother me. She looked so gorgeous in the moonlight, her delicate features softened and bathed in milky light. I didn’t know what was going on in my life, but I was grateful to have her. I was grateful that I had such an incredible person to be there for me, to support me when I needed it. I just wanted to embrace her, hold her close and feel safe, never letting go. I reached out to stroke her cheek.
“No,” I whispered. “No, no, no, no, no, no!”
Becca stirred.
“What’s up, honey?” She asked, groggily.
I stared at my hand. What was left of it anyway. Half of my hand was missing; only half of my palm and my thumb remained.
“My hand is gone!” I screamed. Becca flinched and backed away slightly, her eyes wide with uncertainty.
“Ben, you’re scaring me. We had this exact same conversation yesterday in the kitchen. Why are you suddenly so fixated on your hand? It never affected you until yesterday when you came over.”
“Yesterday, my fingertips were gone! Now it’s half my damned hand!”
“No,” she said, her voice reverberating with small tremors. I was making her nervous. “Yesterday you came over and you were freaking out because your hand was missing. That hand never had fingers, it doesn’t make sense that you’d say your fingertips were missing you’ve only ever had half a hand.”
“He’s doing it! Fyrafemsju is chopping pieces of me off, bit by bit!”
She pulled away much further now, all the way to the edge of the bed. Legitimate fear now shrouded her face, and she looked at me like she didn’t recognize the man in her bed.
“Who? Your cousin? You’re not making any sense,” she stammered.
“It’s him, I swear it! He’s trying to get revenge for refusing to give him my kidney!”
“Ben! Stop it!” Becca shrieked, tears spilling over her eyelids down onto her cheeks. “What’s going on with you? You’re scaring me!”
“He placed some sort of curse on me and now he’s stealing my body! Can’t you see?” I yelled, unsure if I was more furious at my insane cousin or horrified at the situation I faced.
“Ben, please, let’s go. You’re not well, you’re…you’re having a stroke or something! We need to get you to the hospital, they’ll find out what’s wrong. We need to get you help!”
It broke my heart to see her like this. She was terrified, unsure of what had become of her fiancee, and yet even while her body shuddered from fear, she still struggled to slide her arms into a jacket. Twice the jacket fell from her shoulder because her body was wracked so heavily with sobs. Even though she could barely hold it together, she was still trying to comfort me, to help me.
My cheeks burned from the trail my own tears had made. As much as it broke my heart, I knew I couldn’t continue doing this to her, I couldn’t emotionally torment this woman who loved me so much that she was trying to get me help when she, herself, so obviously needed comfort.
When she went to go get her keys, I left her house.

Damn it. Damn it, damn it, damn it all to hell! How did I fall asleep? I’d taken uppers, I’d been feeding myself a steady supply of energy drinks and caffeine the whole night. I’d been watching marathons of TV shows on Netflix, and I’ve never been able to fall asleep with the unnatural glow of a television set burning into my eyes. There is no possible way I could’ve fallen asleep!
Sitting on the arm of the chair I was in was my cell phone, the green notification light pulsating. Most likely more texts or voice mails from Becca.
It had been two weeks since I’d officially called things off. I know she wanted to help me and she loved me, that she didn’t understand what was going on. But I couldn’t drag her through this. I couldn’t pretend that nothing was happening as I saw my body slowly disappearing piece by piece at random intervals. I may be losing my mind and my body, but that didn’t mean I would subject her to the same thing.
I reached out to pocket my phone
Alerted, I my attention was drawn to the most noticeable area that didn’t register. My right arm was even shorter now, ending in a round stump just beyond my elbow. Aside from that, the pinky and ring fingers of my left hand were missing. Something else was missing, I could feel it, I just didn’t know what.
I knew it was a bad idea, that I shouldn’t check to see what else was taken from me this time, but I had to know. And besides, it wasn’t like I wouldn’t find out eventually, so would the shock of finding it out now change anything in the long run? Hell, maybe I’d catch a break and my mind would finally just snap and I’d live like a vegetable, not having to think or feel or even know anything of what’s going on around me.
I rose out of my recliner to find a mirror, and after the first step almost fell to the floor. My slipper had fallen off when I stumbled, and I discovered that the front end of my right foot was missing now.
My leg ended in a misshapen chunk of flesh attached to a heel. There was so much missing compared to the first night. He was taking more. That first night was just a warning, showing me what he could do, and now he was coming in full force, trying to drive me into a panic.
And it was working.

Everything felt so wrong as I rolled into work in my electric power chair. The people I worked with every day either ignored or didn’t register the look of depressed resignation on my face as I rode past them in the lobby. I got the occasional nod or casual greeting from people I knew, but for the most part almost nobody looked pleased to see me. Apparently whatever Fyrafemsju was doing to me only changed my body, it didn’t change how much of an asshole I’d been to everyone over the last couple of years.
I arrived at the elevator and reached for the button.
“Hey, don’t worry, I got that,” a cheerful voice said as he pressed the button for me. I looked up and saw the clean-shaven, youthful face of out intern. Probably the last person who treated me kindly.
Tears sprung to my eyes, unbidden. I’d treated this guy like dirt, I was purposefully disrespectful to him because of his status and mocked him at every turn, and what tore me apart was the fact that this is how he treated me even before my nightmare started, not that he knew of the hell that I was experiencing.
“Thank you,” I said, making eye contact with him. He smiled back at me, and I got caught in the reflections of his lenses. The image that stared back at me was hideous. All the hair on my head, including my eyebrows and eyelashes, was completely gone. My lips on the right side of my face concaved so far inward that the side of my head looked like a decaying pumpkin, an image not helped by the fact that the fleshy cartilage of my nose was now missing, exposing two large holes at the bottom of the bridge of my nose.
Even though I had an amazing tailor, even he couldn’t help my situation, as evidenced by the limp right sleeve of my jacket that dangled uselessly at my side. My left pant leg, too, was deflated and rolled so as to avoid getting snagged under one of the wheels of my chair. My only remaining fingers on my left hand were my index finger and thumb, which rarely got much use these days except for pushing elevator buttons and pressing the “answer” button on the BlueTooth touch pad embedded in the arm of my chair. Even with all these enormous changes in my life, my busy work life was remained as busy as ever.

We rode up together to the 52nd floor where I was to have my meeting. The meeting didn’t go well. Everything was a foggy haze and although I heard angry, yelling voices directed at me, I heard them as though underwater. They were unclear and muddled, and I couldn’t care less what they were saying. That is, until Dennis, my immediate supervisor slammed his hand on the table in front of me. I slowly looked up to see his fuming, hateful expression gazing back down.
“Did you just hear a damned word I said, or are you as deaf as you are mangled!” He screamed at me so forcefully that I could feel his breath blowing on my like a hot fan. People in every room three floors above or below us must’ve heard his angry bellow.
“No. I wasn’t listening,” I responded, my voice hollow devoid of response.
“Then let me say it again in language you can understand. Your work is SHIT! Get the hell out of my building, you don’t work for me anymore!”
I nodded, and using the remaining digit on my left hand maneuvered the joystick of my power chair to guide me outside the building.

It must’ve been a month and half or two months since this curse started. Some days I’d wake up with everything intact, and sometimes I’d wake up with large chunks of my body missing. The process was so unpredictable that as soon as I though I was finally adjusting to a the lifestyle of invalid, I’d become even more limited. When I finally thought I was safe and nothing more would happen, I’d wake up to find a large section of my leg missing or a few more toes.
Nothing prepared me for this day, however.
I woke up with a full-length mirror hanging directly above my bed. It took me a moment to realize it because the image staring back at me barely resembled anything human. My lips and gums were completely gone, leaving two rows of exposed bone and teeth. My nose, similarly, was completely gone and was replaced with two skeletal holes that comprised the outermost pieces of my nasal cavity. My eyelids were intact, but my eyelashes, eyebrows, and all the hair on my head was still gone, leaving me with the appearance of a freakish skeleton wrapped with skin.
The skin of my torso around where my right shoulder should have been was smoothed over. My left arm ended just above where the elbow would have connected. The skin stretched across my chest was completely free of any natural markings, no nipples, no navel, nothing. I don’t know how, but Fyrafemsju somehow stripped the muscle and tissue away from my collarbone and the the most prominent sections of my ribs, leaving the bone in the areas exposed and glaring white.
Below my torso, my genitals were gone, removed. He made me into a eunuch. My right leg ended somewhere around the knee. There may have been an appendage, there may not have been. I didn’t care anymore. My left leg, as a cruel mockery, he left completely unaltered. It was the only part of my body he had left untouched ever since his perverse torture started. It was a reminder of what I once was, the person who I used to be. It was also the least useful appendage to remain. What was I going to do with a single leg? I can’t grip anything with a leg, I can’t walk on a single leg, he may as well have taken all of my limbs.
My body was destroyed, useless now, and the ironic part of it was that it looked like there had been no damage done, it looked as though this was how my body was supposed to have been designed from the beginning. Like someone had pulled a car from a devastating crash and polished it to a finish, my own body was malformed and incomplete in utility, yet so perfect, smooth, and flawless in finish.
It’s been like this for weeks. I’ve never left this bed since I woke up that morning and from what I can tell my neck muscles are locked in place, causing me to forever make unbroken contact with my own personal hell, the mirror above my bed. Although I’m perpetually thirsty and hungry, my body never thins nor does it show signs of dehydration. I never urinate and I never have bowel movements. I never sleep. All I ever do is lie and stare at my reflection. And every day, every minute of every day those words ring through my head, the words that could never reflect the true sadism of their intended meaning, the words that, had I understood what they actually entailed, would’ve caused me to take my own life the night that I had heard them.
I take what I need.

And more.

Credit To – nibris

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Ikidomari (Part 2 of 2)

July 13, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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This is part two of two in the Ikidomari series. Please read the first part here!

Ikidomari 1

The doll stood motionless in front of the door, waiting to be invited inside, as the light from Jake’s flashlight shined upon its dusty wooden face. “It’s that damn creepy doll!” He yelled, quickly walking back to the table. I really didn’t understand how the doll was standing without anybody to hold it up. Most or all ventriloquist dolls required someone to hold it up but this doll stood on its feet with no problem. Maybe someone was holding it up, someone or something we couldn’t see. I believe the doll was alive somehow, either that or someone or something was moving it from place to place without any of us noticing.

Joel was up next so he spun the wheel. His game piece moved five spaces to another gray space. Kenzie spun the wheel and her game piece also moved to a gray space. It was then my turn so I spun the wheel. We just wanted to get the game over with so we were getting through quickly. We barely even talked to each other. I spun an 8 and my game piece moved slowly until it stopped…on a red space. I looked around at everyone, they all looked frightened, except for Joel who I guess still had the mentality that it was all just a game. I pulled a red card from the deck and took a deep breath before reading it.

Don’t be scared, we have just begun
The doors are now locked and there’s nowhere to run

Creepy riddles. I don’t know why but the fact that they rhymed was very unsettling to me. We all looked at each other, stuck in fear for what seemed like an eternity. We heard footsteps echoing through the halls, it sounded as if someone were running relentlessly around the building.

“What the hell is going on?” Jake asked, looking at me. Everybody looked at me as if I knew the answer. I had no idea what was going on, the only thing I knew was that we were in deep trouble. Jake suddenly got up and scampered outside the room and down the hall. We all followed him out, I tried to convince him that we couldn’t leave until the game was finished. It was frightening to find out that even if we wanted to leave, there was no way we could. The doors were locked and the windows were boarded. We were stuck there with no way out. The only way was to finish the game. While Jake and Joel furiously wandered the building in search for a way out, I was right behind them, trying to get them to understand that we had to finish the game or we would never get out. Things were starting to get out of control, Jake and Joel were arguing and it got to the point where I had to yell for them to shut the hell up.

“We have to finish the damn game,” I explained.

“That damn game is cursed and there is no way I’m playing it,” Jake said.

They were finally understanding how serious and real the game was. The melody started echoing through the halls, it was calling for us. It took me a while to get everybody to understand that if we do not finish the game, we’d die either way. It was a frightening situation we were in but finishing the game was the only way out. We all walked back to the room and back to the game. I noticed the doll sitting back in the rocking chair, I don’t think anyone else noticed.

We took our seats, didn’t say anything at all as we finally continued the game. One thing about this game is that it can literally drive you to go insane. That was happening to all of us. Since I drew the red card that locked the doors, It was Jake’s turn. He spun the wheel and landed on a gray spot. Joel was next and he spun the wheel. His game piece moved up five spaces, landing on black. He drew a black card from the deck and read it.

“Don’t be afraid…but there’s someone on the furnace.”

The only thing I liked about the black cards was that they didn’t rhyme. We flashed our flashlights at the furnace that sat on the other side of the room and what we saw will give you nightmares even if you aren’t asleep. Her face was insidious and she was just sitting there on the furnace, tapping it with her fingers. Her eyes were dark, you couldn’t see anything inside them but evil. Her skin was pale and rotten, you could actually smell her. There was blood lightly dripping from her mouth and It seemed as if her jaw was broken because it hung unnaturally low as her neck tilted to an angle that no neck should ever be, unless it was broken. She had a rope hanging from her neck and she wore a white gown. I swear, she was looking at me. I couldn’t really tell because her eyes were dark but I know she was looking at me. She still does. Every time I close my eyes…I see her. Her dreadful face and vile smell will probably haunt me for the rest of my life.

We continued the game, trying to ignore the smell, the tapping on the furnace and the fact that something sinister was just behind us. Kenzie was next and she spun the wheel, ending up on a gray space. I was next and also ended up on gray. Jake spun the wheel and we watched restlessly as it stopped on red. We were so worried about what would happen next that we didn’t notice the tapping and smell was no longer lingering and that whatever that thing was, was no longer there. Jake took a red card from the deck, I could tell how scared he was by the emptiness in his eyes and how slow he was moving. We were all scared about what would happen next.

She sits in the dark and she feeds on fear
Don’t be afraid or she’ll appear

Everything was silent, you could’ve heard the sound of our hearts beating against our chests if you were there. They were beating and begging for the fear to go away and no matter how many times I counted to three, the fear was like a never ending curse upon us. Our flashlights started flickering until they went out completely. The room was black and I was convinced that we were already dead and in hell. We heard the sound of heavy breathing and it most definitely wasn’t any of us. It was something more demonic and haunting. We heard the tapping against the furnace and the music started playing from the game, the creepy melody that echoed through the room. We felt a pulse and that pulse was coming from the heart that sat ghastly at the center of the board game. After a minute, everything became silent again but it was still completely dark. We sat in silence for about fifteen seconds before the hopeless screaming of Jake echoed throughout the room and out into the hall. The door slammed shut and we were stuck helpless in the room listening to the screaming of Jake as it faded out into the halls. Something dragged him away.

Joel pounded on the door as he yelled for his brother but there was nothing else we could do but continue the game. I tried to convince both Joel and Kenzie that Jake was probably fine even though I knew very well that he wasn’t. I just wanted to finish the game. We sat back down, saddened by the empty seat at the table. I didn’t know if anyone else was seeing what I was seeing because they said nothing about it but I saw that thing again, that woman, sitting on the furnace, tapping away. I ignored her and we continued the game, still traumatized by what had just happened. To make matters even worse, Jake’s game piece, his tombstone, moved suddenly to the bottom right of the board where other tombstones resided. He was officially out of the game.

Joel was next. He spun the wheel and barely missed the red by one space. Kenzie spun and her tombstone stopped on gray. I then spun the wheel and my tombstone moved six spaces to black. Black cards no longer scared me, compared to the haunting red ones, they were harmless. I took a card from the deck and read it, my voice, becoming frail.

“She’s watching you.”

I flashed my flashlight around the room, not really sure what I was gonna see. I saw the doll, sitting against the wall of the bedroom door. She was looking right at me. Her evil stare pierced into my mind as a memory. I ignored her, turned back to the game and we continued. Joel was next, he spun the wheel and landed on 6. We watched as his tombstone stopped at a red space. He took his time before drawing a red card from the deck.

They’re calling from the graveyard gates You’ve disturbed the dead
Lock the doors and stay away
They’re something you will dread

We looked around at each other, confused and worried. We heard the footsteps and the moaning, echoing from the halls. The smell of their rotten skin could be smelled from miles away. They were coming toward us, their footsteps and moaning getting louder as they got closer. The door was opening when Joel and I slammed it shut, just before they were coming in. We moved the refrigerator over to the door to keep them from breaking through and it worked out well. They were moaning, growling and hungry for flesh. There had to be at least ten of them. I wasn’t exactly sure what they were but they were clearly something possessed and, something dead. After a while, the moaning and pounding at the door had stopped and I guess whatever those things were, they were just entering the graveyard and laying back into their dreadful graves.

Kenzie spun the wheel after everything calmed down and we were finally able to breathe. Her game piece moved to a gray space. I spun the wheel afterwards, meeting a gray space as well. Joel was next and he spun the wheel, just missing red by one space. Kenzie spun the wheel, and her tombstone moved 8 spaces and stopped just in front of Joel’s. She landed on red. We looked at each other, the dead silence adding to the suspense as she took a red card from the deck. She read it slowly, her hands were noticeably shaking as she held the card in her hand.

She waits behind the bedroom door
Under the sheets, she walks the floor

“What the hell is that supposed mean?” Joel asked as if anyone actually knew the answer. The bedroom door creaked open, shining my flashlight, I saw a hand reach out of the door and it made a gesture that was basically saying “come here.” What happened next, I really didn’t understand. It was as if Kenzie was possessed or something because she got out of her chair and slowly walked over toward the door. I saw the emptiness in her eyes, it was like she had no soul. She was like a walking corpse.

“What the hell are you doing Kenzie?” Joel asked, worriedly. “Get the hell back here Mackenzi!” He stood from his chair and tried to stop her but it was too late. She was pulled inside and the door slammed shut. It was silent, other than the sound of Joel pounding on the door. We couldn’t hear a sound coming from the room. We managed to get the door open a few minutes later. We were hearing a creaking sound and that sound was coming from a rope that was wrapped around Kenzie’s neck and hung from the ceiling. She rocked slowly back and fourth and her jaw hung low in an unnatural position as if it was broken.

Joel pulled her down and tried to revive her but there was nothing, not even a trained doctor could do. She was dead. He was oblivious to the breathing sound that echoed through the room. There was something in there with us. Something sinister. The room wasn’t completely dark, we were able to see without our flashlights due to the moon that shined vividly outside the window that wasn’t boarded. We couldn’t see anyone but we heard it breathing. The smell was unbearable and it wasn’t coming from Kenzie’s corpse. It was coming from the thing that suddenly walked out of the closet and sat at the side of the bed. Joel and I just stood there in fear as she turned her head toward us, our minds, traumatized by her deadly dark eyes. She was tapping against the nightstand next to the bed and she had some dusty sheets that were once white wrapped around her shoulders. I realised it was that same woman or…thing that sat on the furnace. She just stared at us, the room was silent in the most horrifying way. The only thing we could hear was her heavy breathing.

“Shhhh,” she whispered, her finger pressed to her lips. “I love this song.” The music from the game was playing. She got out the bed and she danced around the room, the terrible smell followed behind her. Her voice was probably the most creepy part of it all. It was her creepy tone and the way it echoed.

I turned over to Joel, trying to understand why we hadn’t left the room yet. “Let’s get the hell out of here, Joel,” I said. He stood up off the floor and looked at me.

“My brother’s out there somewhere,” he said, wiping the tears from his eyes. “I have to find him.” He seemed unfazed by the creepy dancing woman in the room. He scampered out of the room and I helped him move the refrigerator from the door before we walked out into the hall.

“Jake!” His screaming echoed through the halls, probably waking anything that lived within. We searched through some of the rooms for about twenty minutes before that creepy melody from the game started playing again. I knew it was just a matter of time. He thought it was a good idea that we split up and that’s what we did. He searched the fourth floor while I searched the third.

I was searching through a room when my flashlight started flickering before it turned off. I heard footsteps, at first believing they were mine until I stood still and the footsteps continued. It was dark, the windows were boarded, blocking out any light from outside. Somebody else was in there with me and I know it wasn’t Joel because I heard his calls for his brother echoing through the hall. The door slammed shut and I felt a cool breeze run through me.

“Jake?” I whispered. “You in here?” Everything was silent, the only thing I heard was Joel yelling. I then heard a voice but it wasn’t very clear.

“He’s dead.”

It was a deep, dark and sinister tone. I couldn’t see anything or anybody but I felt them. I felt their presence. I was lightly tapping my flashlight, trying to get it to work. I closed my eyes and I started counting to three. I was lightly shaking and every part of me, it seemed had a pulse. 1…2(deep breath)…3.

The flashlight finally turned on and it flashed directly at some old dusty mirror…I saw her standing behind me. I felt her cold breath as it dissolved into my skin. I ran out of the room, literally as fast as I could. I was surprised my heart didn’t jump out of my chest because it sure did feel like it would. I walked back down to the first floor to the game.

When I stepped in the room, I noticed someone standing over by the windows. It was Joel. He was just standing there, in a fixed position, completely immobile. “Joel?” I walked toward him slowly. “You okay, man?” He turned around slowly, his face was so pale and he had bags under his eyes as if he hadn’t slept in days. I wondered if I looked like that.

“Did you find anything?” He asked, finally dropping back to earth.

I thought about the devilish woman I saw. “No…sorry.”

He sat back down at the table. I had a feeling that he didn’t care what happened next. Like he didn’t care to die. He didn’t seem scared or worried he was just…I don’t know. Two seats were now empty as we continued the game. Kenzie’s tombstone, I noticed was moved to the bottom right of the board, right next to Jake’s. I spun the wheel and landed on 2. That kept me on gray. Joel spun the wheel and was forced to draw a black card. He took a card from the deck and read it.

“She’s watching you.”

He wiped the tears from his eyes with his shirt and looked over at the bedroom door where Kenzie’s body still lay. “It’s her,” he said, crying. “It’s Mackenzie.” I turned around but I didn’t see her. Either he was losing his mind or she was actually there. I wouldn’t be suprised if she was. I spun the wheel and landed on the same space as Joel. That meant I had to draw a black card. I took a card from the deck and I read it.
“There’s somebody at the door.”

A loud knock echoed through the room as Joel and I froze in fear. Joel and I stayed put as the knocking continued until the door suddenly creaked open. We heard the footsteps but we didn’t see anybody. Joel spun the wheel, desperate to end the game. He was safe from the black and red cards as his tombstone stopped on gray. I spun the wheel, also safe from the cards. As Joel spun the wheel next, I saw Jake. He was sitting on the furnace, tapping away. His jaw hung low as if it was broken and his eyes were dark but I knew that he was looking at me. Joel had his back turned so he couldn’t see him and I guess he couldn’t hear the tapping. He was completely oblivious to Jake’s presence. I pretended like I didn’t see anything and eventually the tapping had stopped and he disappeared. Joel and I continued to land on gray until eventually, Joel was forced to draw a red card.

“This is it, isn’t it?” He said to me, his voice becoming weak. I didn’t say anything, I wasn’t really sure what to say. He took a deep breath and read the card.

Under the floor, you must peek
There’s something there beneath your feet

I remembered the hole in the floor where I first found the board game. I showed Joel to the door and he lifted it up. We flashed our flashlights inside to see what was under. What we saw can unfortunately never be unseen. Joel immediately looked away in distraught when he saw what was down there. It was Jake. His corpse was already being infested with flies and maggots as it lay down there, against the wall. There was no blood but it was clear that his neck was snapped and his jaw was broken because they were each in unnatural positions. Joel just stood there, his back turned from the ditch. He wasn’t crying or showing any kind of emotion. He just looked empty and exhausted. I sensed that something was going to happen and…it did. Something down there grabbed Joel by his ankle and tried to pull him down. I tried to help him but there was nothing I could do. The game wanted him and they got him. They pulled him under and the door slammed shut. I was all alone.

The melody started playing from the game and I walked over to it, not knowing what to do next. My game piece started moving to the center of the board and it stopped directly at the heart. The heart started beating, it had a pulse. The music got louder and louder, it was piercing through my head until suddenly, it stopped. My game piece moved all the way back to the beginning, where I first started. That was it. The game was over.

I left the building without ever looking back. I didn’t want to go back to my dormroom where I would be alone so I walked to the grocery store that was just a couple minutes away and I cried to everyone there that my friends were all dead. I know they all thought I was crazy but they called the police and the bodies of my friends were found later that night. I told them the story, I told them everything that happened but they never believed me. The game was never found but I know it was somewhere in that building, somewhere either within the walls or under the floors. Haunted by the demons within. I can hear the melody playing right now as I sit alone in my room, surrounded by white walls and cameras. They’re watching me. I can hear them, I can feel them, and I can see them. That game is somewhere in this world and I pity the poor soul who finds it. I learned to live with the haunting melody that echoes wherever I go. I sometimes put on my dancing slippers and I dance to the melody. I dance around and around and around. I dance to the sound of fear…because it’s the only sound I hear.

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Lost Tombs and Those Lost Within Them

May 24, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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I could barely keep from collapsing as I ran through what seemed to be the never-ending darkness of the godforsaken catacombs. When I’d first signed on to serve as Professor Nickel’s field assistant, I’d assumed that the shrunken old man and I would spend days standing over a blanket of dirt, sifting through broken vases and old bones in search of some lost relic that the old fart would be hunting for.

He was always ranting about the “lost civilizations” and “how they need to be better explored by those with vision!”

All I’d cared about was walking away with a passing grade.

Now all I cared about was living to tell the tale!

We’d gotten separated some time ago, the old loon hopping down from a leaning column to the top of what he claimed to be a Sumerian tomb, telling me to keep up. How the old man moved like he did, I had no idea, but the jump was easily a twenty-foot drop.

Yeah, not doing that. I’d thought with disdain, having thought of the horrors my knees would face from such a height had I made a similar jump.

Now I was running for my life from some ancient Sumerian creatures that had crawled from the cracked awning of some ionic pillars, great shark-like maws wide in anticipation for what I could only assume to be dinner.

Namely me.

It didn’t matter as the creatures chasing me through the utter darkness were outright terrifying. From what I’d seen, the creatures were essentially unwrapped mummies that had replaced their funerary wrappings in place of moving along the walls like spiders. Hissing in their ancient language innumerable insults at me as they chased me around the catacombs, howling with laughter like sadistic chimps as they swung from high above, their aged claws scraping away bits of ancient plaster as they hurried after me.

Running with the two satchels of archaeologist’s tools, I quickly roll under a fallen column and soldier-crawl my way beneath a toppled statue, doing my best not to hack and cough at the dust I was kicking up.

I almost hack when I feel one of them land on top of the toppled statue, the other landing on all fours some distance away, prowling just within the light of my dropped flashlight, giving me a decent look at them.

They were obviously once human, but centuries of decay had changed that, turning them into something far worse. What funerary bindings they still possessed seemed only to exist to hold the carrion beetles that crawled all about their yellowed bones held together by the lightest of pink tendrils, thin strands of decayed sinew perhaps. Their mouths were no longer even comparable to what I possessed, being cracked down the middle and held aloft by the same pink tendrils, giving them a wide, toothy maw that nevertheless looked as if it could break stone. Their arms were covered in faded tattoos, highly intricate looking dark ink work that had probably meant something at one time. Now all I could do was stare at the bare-boned hands, the sharpened finger bones…

The one on top gave a great leap, causing more dust to rain down on me, landing next to its compatriot. This one held an old sword awkwardly with its left hand, handling the cracked leather-hilt as if it were poison.

Whatever this Ghoul had been in life, it was obviously not a soldier. It held the sword awkwardly, offering it to the other with a shrug, the two speaking in their gibberish language.

Oh, good lord, they’re thinking…

I fish into my satchel, as quietly as possible, for something that I could actually use as a weapon for when I eventually bump into one of them and can’t run. One satchel is nothing but books and brushes, so I look into the other, finding my great savior!

A steel trowel.

Six inches of sharpened steel connected to a wooden handle. That was all I had to separate me from death.

I shuffle about beneath the collapsed statue, like a sleepy turtle trying to find a comfortable spot, crawling the way I came in, squatting behind several tons of rubble in hopes of keeping the creatures far enough away from me actually to make a break for it. I slink around the corner as best I can, trying to figure out where the hell I actually am in the damned ruins. Pulling a compass and a smaller flashlight, I frown as I notice North is in the exact opposite direction I wanted it to be.

The map of the supposed “Tomb of the Ubaid Princes” that Professor Nickel had traded his watch for was worth its weight in lead in my eyes, but Nickel had been hopping with joy over the idea of a set of Ubaid tombs as of yet untapped.

I’d merely rolled my eyes.

Now I could just wring his damn neck for getting me into this deathtrap.

A crumbling of mortar tumbles over my shoulder, a hissing cadaver perched atop a column just above me, wielding the ancient looking sword within its cracked leather casing, its eyeless sockets filled with an unholy green light as it opened its mouth to an unholy size. It howls at me in anger or hunger.

Or happiness?

I have no idea, so I respond by ramming the trowel up into the creature’s chest, the steel cracking through the creatures sternum with the sound of dry timber snapping. It doesn’t seem to mind as it swings its sword at me with clumsy fumbling, falling off of the pillar as I yank the creature down with me into a wrestling match, stabbing at the creature madly as it howls in agony, its weak claws scratching at my shirt feebly as I vent my frustrations out on the unholy being.

Two more come bounding around the corner, caterwauling like a pair of mated tigers after the people who stole their cubs. The creature beneath me is barely grasping at my boots as I stand, feeling a little more empowered seeing as the damn things obviously can’t fight worth a damn. I scoop up the leather ensconced sword from the creatures twitching talons. The two creatures run at me, moving more like wolves than men, hissing their greeting as they leap over the rubble. I raise the sword more like a mallet, bringing it down to the crown of one of the mad beasts, hammering its skull more than cleaving it.

The leather cracks away more than any damage I did to the screeching corpse beneath me. This one is far stronger than the other, giving me a rather painful sense of anger at myself for being made to believe I could effectively fight these things. My leather-clad sword serves some healthy justice snapping the wrist of the second howling creature as it pounces onto my back, the thin pink veins doing little to keep the fractured bone connected to the body. The creature on my back encapsulates my head within its engorged mouth, the separated lower jaws forming a tight noose around my neck as the creature beneath me grabs hold of my wrists, their unholy shrieking becoming profane laughter as, rather than the intense pressure of a bite or the serrated edges of teeth, I feel a sudden pressure against the back of my head like I’d blocked off a water pipe. The one on my back pulls up slightly, allowing room for whatever its vomiting to move over me, and thousands of scarabs and carrion beetles begin scuttling over and under my clothes, their feathered legs leaving long shallow cuts wherever they fall.

I throw my weight back, slamming my insect-filled foe into a column behind me, a disgusting squelching noise similar to the sound of rotting pumpkins being thrown from an overpass rising from its chest, along with a series of audible snaps as I cave in its torso. It falls to the ground in a heap, wheezing out a steady stream of insects that seem to have decided to turn on him rather than me.

Thank God, because I can feel a few dozen finding spots all over my body and beginning to claw through my epidermis, seeking the warmth of the womb that my body would provide. The leering undead still grasping my wrists expands his mouth out, his hollow throat beginning to bulge as it seems he feels like sharing his personal wealth of flesh-eating insects.



Two shots fired from Professor Nickel’s personal hunting rifle tag the creature, once in the temple and again in the right shoulder, effectively blowing it to pieces in my very hands. While old, senile and eccentric, Professor Nickels always carries two guns with him at all times, something he’d suggested I do as well, once I actually earn some money to buy something. Slinging his Sharps Buffalo Rifle back over his back, you can just barely make out the holster to his M1911 pistol, something he tells me “one should always keep loaded when on an expedition, just in case.”

I’d assumed he’d meant bandits!

“Joshua!” He calls out from half way across the rubble-strewn room, hopping to and fro like a bullfrog after a fat firefly. “Did they get any on you?”

“Yes!” I all but screech as I feel three particularly large beetles begin wriggling their way into my skin, pushing a hole through my flesh. Three red blotches begin to form over my clothes, two over my stomach and one over my right thigh.

“Quickly, drink this!” He says, shoving a glass bottle into my hand that I happily begin fumbling with the cap. After several seconds of nervous fumbling, I growl and slam the top end of the bottle across an old mosaic next to me, breaking the bottle open wide enough for me to begin guzzling the foul smelling liquor held within.

“The larvae will die quickly enough if you’re sauced to the gills,” Nickels explains, his wrinkled face crinkling further as he smiles at me as I continue to drain the bottle, a faded paper label bearing the words “Ever” before being too rubbed out to see. With my throat on fire and my insides wriggling with parasites that were continually burrowing into me, I drop to the ground gasping for air, dropping the empty bottle into the sand.

“It will hurt like hell in the morning, let me tell you,” Nickels says with a smile, patting me on the shoulder with a gnarled hand. “The alcohol will drive them out of your body, or kill them. You’ll have to pay a nice doctor to drain your infected wounds once we get back to Baghdad in a few weeks.”

I sputter at the thought, my head spinning. “A few weeks? Did you not just see what we had to deal with?”

The old man waves his hand in the air at me as if a foul odor was passing. “Merely temple guardians, looters that fell prey to the traps around here and found themselves as guards for tombs and the like. But I have a good feeling on this one lad, a good feeling!”

“However so?” I ask, moving to my feet rather shakily, leaning heavily on my newest acquisition, the sword reaching an easy four feet in length.

“Well, that sword for one thing!” Nickels says with a wide, toothless grin. “The Ubaid weren’t known for their iron-working abilities, merely their domestic advancements; I’ve long since held belief that there was a civilization here before the Ubaid, based on their legends of metal men and the like, and that sword is quite a piece of history if I do say so myself.”

“Well at the moment it’s my cane because I can feel a goddamned roach burrowing deeper into my gut!” I hiss at him, but he pays it no mind.

“The tomb I found, the one that you wandered away from, well it is just what I was hoping for when I saw it and the great seal over it!” He crows, dancing about me like a mad little leprechaun. “The seal predates the Ubaid by at least five hundred years, and it has markings similar to the ones the Sumer used to mark royalty. I think I found myself the crypt of a King of an Empire not yet recorded!”

“Bully for you…” I grumble, limping alongside him.

He looks up at me with a discouraging glare. “Don’t tell me you’re going to be this much of a whiner the whole expedition, are you? Because if you think those petty guardians were anything worth talking about than you don’t even want to know what is probably lurking down in that tomb we’re going to be breaching in the morning.”

I could barely keep from collapsing as I felt the first of my burrowing playmates begin to spasm from the strong grain alcohol I’d ingested. My head swimming with drunken vigor and mild blood loss, all I could do was glare at the old man as we settled into our campsite, twin pair of tents and several large chests scattered about the sandy cavern we’d climbed down into, our camels left at a small oasis some two miles East of here with a tribe of nomads that Nickels seemed to be on good terms with.

Drunkenly leaning back, I decide to take a solid look at my walking blade, brushing away the flaking leather to take a better gander at the iron beneath it. It was in near pristine condition, a few touches of age here and there, but no actual structural damage to the frame of the blade. I knew for a fact that the museum back in London would pay me an easy ten thousand quid for the thing more than enough to pay off any outstanding loans I have hovering about my head at the local gambling houses.

Despite the crazed dead and demented midget, this dig might not is so bad at all.


I awake to the sounds of scraping stone and the grinding of dried mortar, giving my sleep-addled mind a sharp spike of adrenaline, considering all that has happened to me so far. I push my way up, wincing at the numerous bruises and scratches that are littered over my thin frame. The fire we’d assembled atop the tomb still burned bright, shining slivers of starlight peering through the narrow crevice we’d climbed through to get to this hellish dig.

I find Professor Nickels crouched over the tomb’s seal, hammer and chisel in hand as he is lightly tapping away at the edges of the four-foot circular disk of stone. Hunched over in the darkness, the old man makes me think of the stories of gremlins, incomprehensible creatures that would come into your home at night and hide your shoes, or take your socks. The old man is goofy looking not because of his wild mane of hair sprouting from the side and back of his head instead of the top, nor because he wore glasses that had adjustable nobs on them to move lenses in and out of the frame, allowing him to examine things “in better detail”, while essentially looking like the King of the Insane Beetles.

He was goofy because he didn’t care what everyone else thought of him, and despite his low social standing amidst the Historical community, he churned out peer-reviewed research like clockwork every six months that furthered our knowledge of ancient cultures. So the eccentric midget was tolerated, and asked only to teach two classes a year, when the icy chill of winter would spread over England and him would remain cloistered within his quarters, writing and compiling notes in between classes.

“Professor, what are you going?” I ask tiredly, leaning heavily on my shining sword, which had taken quite a bit of work to get to this poor level of shine let me tell you. The Professor, after looking it over, had declared it to be from the same time period of the Ubaid people, but not of their make (metallurgy was beyond them), theorizing it came from a group that “displaced” the Ubaid through warfare, eventually creating the Sumerian culture some five to seven hundred years later, depending on who you were talking to.

“Joshua, my boy, come down and help me move the seal!” He calls to me, still squatting impossibly low for a man of his advanced age. “The mind is willing, but the flesh is withered and old; I need a young strong back to move the seal so that we can continue our explorations!”

I sigh and walk over next to him, dropping to my knees and taking as firm a grip as I could at this awkward angle and begin to shove with all my might, slowly moving the three to four hundred pound slab inch by inch. After moving it halfway open, he orders me to halt, giddy at the smell of the musty old air rising from the crypt below us.

“Why didn’t you just break the damn seal so we could just go down? Now my back feels like it’s been run through a sausage grinder.”

“Call it vanity on my part, but once we’ve cataloged what’s in the primitive tomb, I’ll want to bring that seal with me, as a souvenir.” He said with a grin. “Don’t worry; you won’t have to be my porter for that one. Plus, if we discover something down there that could be called ‘The Mother of All Evil,’ I’ll be wanting that seal intact to cover it back up.”

“The Mother of All Evil?” I repeat, looking at the spry little dwarf of a man as he flipped between lenses on his glasses, peering into the darkness beneath the seal.

“Oh my, it looks like we’ll need some rope… perhaps a hundred or so feet of it.”

“What’s down there that’s so important that we need to go deeper into this crypt Professor?” I ask, curious to what he can see with his steam-powered headgear. He looks up at me, all of his additional lenses flipping back at once, rolling back into their separate compartments.

“What I’ve been looking for my boy, what I’ve been looking for.” He says with a grin, hopping from foot to foot gleefully at the discovery. Rolling my eyes, I climb back up to our campsite to retrieve the rope and the climbers gear. Hammering in three pitons (safety first!) I loop the knotted silk rope around them and tie as harness about myself, as well as a smaller backpack rigging that I planned on tucking the good Professor into, the twisted little bastard. He happily tucks himself into the makeshift backpack, jabbering on about how important this find was, and other such nonsense.

I just wanted to live through this now, like I said.

“Professor, mind if I take your Pistol, for the time being? I feel a little… unsafe walking around with just a sword.” I ask, trying not to sound too desperate in my plea.

“You’re a young strapping buck, Joshua,” He said from his safety harness on my back, patting my kidneys to reassure me. “A sword should be fine enough for you. I never lend anything, my boy, anything at all! That’s how you lose your favorite books or good pens, you know.”

I ignore the urge to just throw the little man down the hole and just make my final adjustments with the rope and the pitons, ensuring their driven deep into a solid section of stone and not just some piece of loose tile. Strange, there are several other holes in the stone similar to the ones I’m hammering in, almost a ring of them surrounding this pit. I pay them no mind as Professor Nickels urges me to move forward.

“The ropes seem fine Joshua, just fine! Now let’s get a move on!” Professor Nickels whined from my back.

“Hey, I’m just making sure this will work alright? Whatever’s been down there had been down there since before the pyramids, according to you, it can wait another five minutes.” I snap at him, still trying to figure out how to carry my sword (which is essentially the same size and weight as the good Professor) while shimmying down a rope into a darkened tomb. I reach in my side satchel and pull out a flare, cracking it against the stone floor to ignite the magnesium and sawdust held within it, the foot long rod now glowing as brightly as the sun.

“What’s that?” Professor Nickels asks, sounding somewhat worried. “Are we being attacked?”

I can feel him pulling his rifle closer to his chest and quickly snag the butt of it with my armpit. “No, I’m just throwing a flare down in the hole, relax.”

“What? Why on earth are you wasting a flare when I already told you it was perfectly safe?” He demands hotly, struggling to break my ironclad grip on his rifle.

“Because I can’t see in the dark as you can you old loon.” I curse and, before he can reply, tuck the flare into the rope about my waist (the fiery bright end up against a boiled strip of leather I used to protect my kidneys whenever I practice boxing in between classes) before jumping down into the hole, feeling the roughened silk rope slide through my leather clad glove as the two of us scream at our rapid descent.

I ditch my sword when I see the ground is coming too quickly and grab the rope with all my might, turning us into a swinging pendulum a good ten feet from the dusty ground. My hands sting from the sudden friction, and I thank God for the fact I’d brought along all of my fighters gear, just in case.

The palms of my gloves are forever ruined, but at least I had hands.

Professor Nickels undoes his rigging, dropping to the floor lightly with a fit of giggles. “Good God, what a rush! It’s a shame we can’t do it again, eh?”

I give him a sour look that I know he ignores and pull the flare from my belt, holding it up high to take a look at what this chamber held. It was built in the shape of a bell, the base much wide than the top, with flaring buttresses and smooth stone sloping up the walls. A surprising lack of murals for such a wide chamber, but as I approach one of the walls I can tell why: hundreds of slats running along the walls, perhaps a foot deep and a foot wide, are filled to the brim with human bones.

Professor Nickels wasn’t joking when he called this a tomb.

He hobbles up next to me, studying the architecture with glee as he jots down note after note in his small moleskin journal. “Very nice, very nice indeed!” He said happily. Looking around at the vast collection of bones. “This must be a room where those sacrificed were to be placed.”

“Wait, how do you know that?” I ask, looking around for any sign of writing or any indication that this was a religious room.

“Well the only entrance is nearly a hundred foot drop, and while you may not have noticed, the center stone directly beneath the hole is made of much more durable granite, polished to a fine shine.” He said with a carefree smile. “The bones were placed into the walls after the victim had been thrown down here. I would also like to note, just to keep you alert, that none of these skeletons, no matter how incomplete, seem to have suffered any major broken bones.”

“That means something was down here to, what, sort the dead?” I ask hesitantly, looking down at Professor Nickels.

“No, I believe this is just a hobby for whatever it is they trapped down here some few thousand years ago.” Professor Nickels replied while eyeing the varying states of decomposition between the bones. “Grab your sword Joshua… we might still have need of it.”

The entire room was indeed built like a bell, tapered at the top, with curving walls flowing downward in a wavy pattern that suggested the site was originally a naturally existing cavern that some primitive culture had chosen to alter. The entire room is roughly two hundred feet in diameter, with four pillars acting as support for the structure forming a square some fifty feet apart from each other, and seventy-five feet or so from the Charnel-lined walls. Everything was carved from smooth granite, with few actual etchings marring in the stone, indicating the tools used to fashion the tile, and the columns were metal, not stone.

Professor Nickels was ecstatic, having pulled an oil lantern from his prodigious satchel, creating a wreath of comforting light around us. He did this not for comfort, but to study the pillars, and the drawings ever so carefully carved into them. I chose to shoulder merely my sword and stay by the old man, watching for whatever could be down here that enjoyed sorting bones.

Scribbling furiously in his journal, Professor Nickels was blathering on about how this was supposed to be the antechamber to the “River of Continued Life,” which would either represent a belief in reincarnation or a belief in an underworld reachable only by waterway. Both of these beliefs existed in this area at a later date, the rocky hills and mountains of Iraq having played host to Roman and Hindu alike. But from what little Sanskrit and hieroglyphs I knew, damned if I could say they were similar to the writings on the pillars.

My flare, slowly dying out, left a large black mark on my leather bodice, and so I chose to use it as an exploratory tool, mostly by throwing it as far as I could.

Bouncing off the wall (and narrowly flying into a slot full of femurs), the flare drops down with a clatter and rolls for a few moments, illuminating a passage by just the barest shred of shadow. I immediately break out another flare, cracking it to life with a sizzling twist and hurl it into the gaping maw of the passage, its landing kicking up a small cloud of dust and grim as it rolls about, hissing and spitting sparks. For the briefest of moments, I thought I saw the flicker of movement within the flares fluorescent glow, but thankfully it was just a cloud of detritus that had been stirred up.

“Well now this is strange,” Professor Nickels says aloud, a phrase that I can safely say is never safe to hear when you are hundreds of feet beneath the ground. “It keeps referring to a symbol that could either mean ‘Keeper Of’ or ‘Keeper from’.”

“Those are two big distinctions Professor, and I’d rather not die fighting whatever the hell acts as a Keeper to this place, only to find your supposed ‘Mother of all Evils; down here.” I reply, eyeing the passage and the two sets of light keeping it illuminated. “Check another Pillar, see if they have a different reference, a different story.”

“That might be best, as now all I am finding are references to something that I shouldn’t be reading here of all places,” Professor Nickels said with a grunt, walking over to the next pillar, the one furthest from the passage. “The symbol… it can’t be what I think it means, as that would prove this to be a very dangerous place.”

“What symbol? Maybe I’ve seen it somewhere.” I offer, thinking it worth a shot. After all, I am an archaeologist in training.

He looks at me oddly as if not looking at the man he knew me to be but with a sudden, distrusting glint. “You’ve never studied at Miskatonic University, have you?”

“Miskatonic? No, I tried to get in but my application was rejected. Their standards are too high for me to attain for now. Why?” I ask, confused. What did the infamous Arkham University have to do with knowing an ancient symbol?

“Then thank whatever God you believe in that you can’t confirm that symbol for me.” Professor Nickels utters as he pushes past me and to the next column, dropping his bag to serve as a seat as he begins scribbling notes from the pillar, his translations slow and steady.

I chose to crack open another flare and follow along the walls to make certain I wasn’t missing any other passages, slowly running my hand along the centuries old stone as I go. Cool to the touch, yet oddly bereft of any dust, or soot. The passage has been full of such debris, but it seemed as if a maid had come through just before us, tidying everything up.

I make a discovery that nearly kills me as I stumble upon a sudden drop-off, just opposite of the passage. The wall opens and goes back about twenty feet, for about thirty feet of wall space. A small stone bridge, barely three feet in width, crosses over to an alcove on the other side, where the most bizarre statue I’ve ever seen sits atop a fountain.

A creature that looks aquatic by nature, with fins and frills sprouting from its three tentacle appendages that it is using to rise from the fountain, with carved from what I could only guess to be marble. The tentacles themselves reared up, showing off what any normal squid would have but instead revealing a row of carved eyes, each set with a small faded emerald. The tentacles connected with the main body, a bulbous center followed by a long serpentine tail that it was resting upon, like a cobra raised up.

The head of the beast was lowered and shaped like a bell, with a three-foot wide lamprey mouth slowly spewing water into the fountain beneath it. One great eye, shut for reasons I could never guess, sat atop the head, but from where I stood I could see spacing for the eyelids to move, probably if a lever were turned or something.

The rest of the fountain was nothing but a great piece of art depicting a city, embossed figures running away from the great beast while smaller versions of the creature seemed to be chasing them.

“I’d say early ninth century BC,” Professor Nickels says from my elbow, eyeing the disturbing piece as well.

“What the hell is that?” I ask, waving my flare at it. “I’ve never heard of any tales of giant sea beasts that resemble that.”

To say its name is said to garner its attention, but to ease this conversation, we shall call it by the title it earned: Darkness Given Hunger.” The Professor said with a sigh, staring at the statue with the look of a man lost in a terrible, terrible memory. “If this is this far south… what this is isn’t what I was looking for.”

“Well, you were looking for evidence of older civilizations Professor.”

“Not this kind, and certainly not here of all places.” Professor Nickels grouses, moving over to his pack in a sudden hurry.

From deep below our feet the entire complex quaked with the churning of some unwholesome howl, along with the groaning of the very stone around us. Whatever Nickels feared could be down here, it sounded as if it just now took note of us.

How that would play out, I couldn’t say.

Professor Nickels had decided to drop finally his mammoth backpack to the temple floor, a sudden cloud of dust bursting up from the floor in a choking miasma that left both of us coughing. Flipping over the seal of his bag, he rooted within its cavernous interior until he yanked free two cartridges of ammunition for his M1911, pulling back the safety and checking over the heavy pistol before tossing it to me.

“While the sword’s a nice touch, I’ve got a feeling that we’ll need a bit more arms than that to deal with what we’re going to find down here.” Professor Nickels says with a wry chuckle, carefully loading his Sharp’s rifle with the inch long bullets as he spoke. “A good deal of trouble should be heading our way if my guess is right.”

“Guess? What guess? And shouldn’t we be leaving if you think we’re going to be in trouble?” I ask, fumbling with the heavy pistol before getting a good feel for it, sheathing my sword in the crumbling scabbard as I watch him pull out small green orbs, a metallic sheen glinting from the flare’s bright glow.

Grenades? “What are we going to need those for? To cover our escape?”

“We stood in front of the statue lad, shed blood over the top soil of the creature’s tomb,” Professor Nickels calmly explains. “If I’d but known this was a sight where one of these blasted things dwelt, I’d never have of brought you here. For that, I’m deeply sorry.”

“What things? This Darkness Given Hunger thing?” I ask, growing slightly annoyed at how little the dear professor was sharing. I snap my head to the side, looking down the tunnel opposite of the statue leading down, down deeper into the cold womb of the earth. A distant echo was coming from the tunnel, a wet noise… like the sound of mud dropping from the hide of an elephant, plopping to the ground in great sickly splats.

“The Darkness Given Hunger is something put to sleep thousands of years ago by ancient man, and kept in a tomb under lock and key.” The Professor begins to explain, moving away from his pack with a surprising amount of speed, back straight for the first time that I’d ever seen. “Legend’s tell of creatures made from the blood and dreams of the slumbering beast, creatures that act as both its wardens and its servants.”

“Servants? What the hell are you talking about?”

“The creature and its ilk are as close to damned gods as mankind have ever seen! They ruled over the ancient civilizations as monstrous tyrants while others merely reveled in slaughtering entire empires, feasting on our flesh and drinking our blood!” Professor Nickels all but shouts, sliding the bolt of his rifle into place. “We’re going to need to do something about this… an unholy site like this must be sealed up, locked away from people who would stumble blindly into it.”

“So the grenades?” I ask, watching as he slings a smaller pack (pulled from his larger one) over his shoulder, filling it with the small cylindrical grenades and sticks of dynamite. “And the dynamite?”

“We’re going deeper, deep enough to where the tunnel is narrow and beneath several tons of earth.” The good professor replied, shouldering his rifle. “And then we’re going to coax out some of these creatures out and kill them so I can have a look at them before blowing this place back to the bowels of Hell where it belongs.”

A horrid, gurgling screech echoes from the depths of the tunnel before us, a scrabbling of steel upon stone as… something is coming up from the unknown. “Here comes the first wave… this should tell us what we’re dealing with.”

I look at him like he’s a madman (which isn’t unusual) before moving behind a pillar, putting my back to the cool stone as I pull a new flare from my satchel, cracking it to life before spinning around the pillar and throwing it into the dimly lit tunnel, my previous flare having begun to peter out.

The thrown flare collides solidly with a wet slap against the chest if you could call it that, of unholy terror torn from the brainchild of Dr. Seuss and Escher. Two legs rising from the top of the creature’s body, multiple joints visible beneath the gelatinous skin moving in tandem as the creature shuffles awkwardly towards us, my flare seemingly stuck to its hide by viscous ooze seeping from its pores.

The main torso is nothing but a lone, unblinking eye and a series of snake-like tentacles, all ending in three pronged mouths that writhe and hiss. Its feet are boneless, shapeless blobs of protoplasm that it used to balance upon, merely sliding along the ground with its leg movements rather than lifting its feet like any other creature would. The crackling flare stuck just above its eye created a corona of light that illuminated the rest of the hall, revealing another three such creatures shambling up the hall towards us.

Professor Nickels breaks me from my horrified stupor with the loud crack of his rifle, echoing across the chamber as the high caliber round lances through the gelatinous hide of the first creature, passing through it and through another still, all without slowing them down. Cursing, he fires two more shots, blasting away large globs of their green flesh, spattering it against the walls around them as he begins firing at their legs.

But still they push on, onward into the chamber, their tentacles stretched out towards us hissing, hissing in a language that seemed too alien for me to understand, yet I understood all too well. Words of pain and suffering, of my eternal agony and of their eternal suffering flitted through my mind, images of men being torn asunder by armies of these creatures, of how the oceans would grow dark with their passing, consuming anything and everything in their path.

And of how they dreamed of doing it again.

“Focus damn it!” Professor Nickels shouts at me, reloading his Sharps as quickly as his arthritic hands can. “They get in your mind unless you focus!”

Seeing what little effect his bullets seemed to have on these gelatinous horrors before us, I move from behind the pillar, focusing on the creature with the smoldering flare charring it’s quivering mass. I fire three rounds as I calmly walk up to it, one going wide and striking the floor a few yards behind it, but the other two piercing deep into the creatures eye, a spray of writhing maggots erupting from the two holes made over the sensitive flesh. The snake-like tentacles screech in agony, growing louder in pitch as I lunge forward with my blade, hacking into the writhing mass with vigor I never knew I possessed.

The multiple maws all shriek with fury untold as I hack and tear them away from the creature’s bobbing form, firing bullets into the center of its bulbous, now deflated, eye as I slash and jab away at its tentacles as if they were mere weeds. Prof. Nickels, watching the effect of shooting them in the eye, unloads a single round into the remaining threes’ large eyes, the floor now smeared with trampled maggots and green blood.

It takes me but a moment to realize, as I’m rending into the beast, that I’m slowly growing taller than it. Looking down, I see several of the severed tendrils, now mawless but still quite flexible, wrapped around my legs and waist, lifting me high into the air above it. Confused, I drop my gun and grip my sword tightly with both hands, swinging in wide arcs to tear away the strands holding me aloft.

With mounting horror and a moment of realization, I saw the bones within the gelatinous beast, the ones that seemed to be there to grant the beast legs and a torso, begin to realign within the central mass of the blob.

Realigning into a humanoid shape.

The creature let loose a horrid squelching noise as the skeletal remains of what was once a living, breathing man burst from the gelatinous walking tomb, sharpened fingers curled into talons as it lashes out, tearing four wide strips in my jerkin with its razor sharp talons. A wet, hollow laughter fills the corridor as the maggots still spewing from the central eye began to swarm back into the creature’s feet, swimming through their host to slowly writhe and contort over the skeletal torso sticking out of the top of the stoop creature.

“Fleshlings… for the master…” The skeleton rasps with a dark voice, the maggots swarming over him, flattening out until they were bursting from the pressure to form a semi-solid paste over the skeletons body. The other three were doing the same, skeletons climbing out of the gelatinous beasts as the writhing streams of maggots fueled a horrid transformation granting them a taut skin coat as pale as the moon. “All will kneel… within his shadow…”

“Kneel to this!” I shout swinging my blade in a heavy-handed arc down into the fragile looking frame as it was climbing from its roost.


I stare in shock as the skeleton, now more of a pasty-colored emaciated monster, writhing maggots peeking out from its empty eye sockets, stands there with both hands held high, a thin staff of green slime having jutted out from the quivering mass to block my strike, it’s hardness now equal to that of my ancient blade. As the laughing dead takes a firm grip of the staff, a wicked curved blade grows from the end of it, turning the staff into a scythe. A sickening noise akin to vomit hitting the floor echoes across the chamber as my foe tears his new weapon from his former host, his comrades creating the same weapons from their symbiotic graves.

“The Darkness… feeds… needs to awaken…” The skeletal creature rasps, limping forward towards me, dragging its heavy ended weapon along the stone floor beside it, the scratching of iron on stone grating in my ears. “Bleed… bleed for Qas!”




Professor Nickels quickly begins to reload his rifle as his three shots blast away great chunks of my foes body, rending off an arm at the shoulder socket and blowing away its left lower leg from the knee down.

Undaunted, two of the other undead warriors (the third stumbling from the Professors second shot, which blew away a good portion of its upper body), scythes raised high in the air with screams on their lipless mouths’. I pull my ancient saber back, stepping to the side as a heavy ended scythe came crashing down into the stone with a heavy cracking noise. Before the creature could pull back, I swing my blade in imitation of the abominations maneuver, severing its arms at their elbows, the skeletal forearms still wriggling on the shaft of the scythe wedged into the stone floor.

“Qas… hungers for yo-urk!” The creature hisses at me before I ram the full length of my blade into its skull, the hilt shattering its aged teeth with a sickening crunch. Putting a boot to the creatures face, I hop to the left to put the wriggling undead between me and his last dangerous friend and kick him free from my blade, sending the armless body tumbling into its colleague, who mercilessly twirls its weapon and bisects its allies broken form.

“Flesh… blood… spirit…” The creature hisses as it advances on me, holding the deadly curved blade high before it, a guard flawless against anything I can do.


… but not anything Professor Nickels can do. His rifle shot blasts the last skeletons head into disjointed fragments, a rancid green slime exploding outward from the sudden implosion caused by the .50 caliber round. The body stumbles for a moment before the eldritch energies holding it together collapse, the skeletal being falling to pieces as its composite bones are reduced to ash and grit.

The various scythes that the undead abominations had been wielding, as well as their pasty flesh that was drawn taut over their emaciated frames, began to bubble and dissolve as their evil spirits finally lose the battle to remain coherent.

“Good work,” Nickels says as he walks up behind me, reloading his rifle. He scoops up his pistol from the ground and holsters it again, giving me a wary eye. “That sword of yours better pack a wallop, because they confirmed what I feared was down here.”

“You mean…?”

“Darkness Given Hunger,” He interrupts, looking at me pointedly. “Never say his name, or his eye will be cast upon you. Even now he sleeps… hopefully.”

“Than what were those?” I ask, pointing my sword at the bubbling green muck at my feet.

“I’m no expert on the Elder Gods, but those were clearly fractured pieces of the Darkness that serve as guardians for him.” Professor Nickels says as he kneels by one of the steaming puddles, pulling a flask and a spoon from his satchel and ladling in a fair amount of the muck. “Each God has beings that serve them, which are a part of them. The followers of the Christian God call them Angels, the followers of the Yellow King have the Byakhee. If I recall, Darkness Given Hunger has the Dreamless Nightmares, or Quan-gao.”

“Yeah, I can see where they’d get that name.” I say, toeing one of the puddles with my boot. “That sounds somewhat Asiatic in nature.”

“That’s because it is,” Professor Nickels replied from his place on the goo slathered ground. “The Darkness Given Hunger was originally sealed by the Uruk, the Sumerians. How do you think they overcame the vast Ubaid empire history claims they toppled?

“I’ve never thought about it.” I admit, wincing as the Professor pulls a slicked shard of bone from the quivering mass.

“Nobody ever does. Every time a great empire fell, it was because one of these… these things awoke or arrived from beyond time and space, and undid all that man had labored so many years to create. The Sumerians buried this creature after it gorged itself upon their civilization, merely renaming themselves afterward to the Sumerians thanks to the hero who led the battles against the Quan-gao.”

“So why didn’t the Sumerians deal with all of the Quan-gao when they had the chance?” I ask, looking at the bubbling remains of the foul beasts.

“Each man slain in the Darkness’s name, or under his gaze, are pulled into his dreams and made into one of the beasts we just fought.” Professor Nickels says with a distinct shudder. “What you just did was release the souls of three men or women that had spoken his name and died by the hand of one of his agents.”

“Oh… that’s disheartening. And we’re going to go deeper into the tunnels where these things came from?” I ask a tad incredulously, pulling a pit of cloth free from my ruined shirt and wiping away the gunk from my blade.

“Just to blow the narrowest point of the tunnel closed, so that none of this can ever surface. If the Darkness awakens, the world as we know it could fade into a living nightmare.”

“Well if the world is at stake,” I say with a sigh, looking around the tunnel in search of something to plunder. “I’m going to need a shield. I can’t use a gun to save my life.”

“I know,” Professor Nickels said with a smile as he cracked his rifle into the ready position, “I saw. You do well with a blade, and if my eyes don’t deceive me, there’s a round shield just under that debris over there.”

Looking to where he was pointing, I indeed see a battered iron round shield, one that would have been used by virtually a dozen civilizations that had ruled over this area in the last thousand years, pinned beneath a large slab from the mosaic. Moving over, I wedge my blade into a crack in the detritus and heave my weight forward, breaking away the crumbling remains pinning my new prize to the ground.

Covered in verdigris and dents, the leather arm straps within the shield are surprisingly sound, with very little rot to them that I can see. The dented shields surface bears a wolf’s head symbol, perhaps linking it to one of the numerous barbarian tribes that had ravaged the lands above over the past thousand years.

How it got down here when it took the Professor and me over three days of spelunking is beyond me, but I’m thankful for it. I quickly tie the shield off on my left arm, freeing the hand to hold a flare.

While I busy myself with that, the Professor has been busy studying the remaining sections of mosaic with intense scrutiny, jotting down notes in his ever-present journal. “A group of people native to this land dedicated their entire civilization to worshiping the Darkness,” he says aloud as I’m adjusting the straps, “according to this for over five hundred years they lived in the caverns above, building this great complex to house the ancient horror while it lay dormant. Of course, they revered it as a God… and according to this it gave them blessings in return.”

“How? It’s asleep, right?”

The Professor snorts and shoots me a derisive glare. “A being like this is never fully asleep, nor fully awake. It neither lives nor is dead, it just is. Those ghouls up top we encountered were the caretakers of these sacred grounds, blessed with eternal life to serve better their God.”

“Oh…” And we’d killed them. “Then we better hurry, or the rest of them will notice those guards are missing and come looking for us.”

The Professor remains silent as he finished the mosaic, clearing his throat every few moments as he had to stoop to the pieces I had broken away to get a clearer view of what the pictographs read. From his face, they weren’t anything pleasant.

“Anything else I should know about?” I ask as I tighten the last arm brace over my bicep.

“Just that the Darkness slumbers so long as it is regularly fed warriors. If it goes too long without eating, it sends out the Quan-gao. If it goes even longer than it wakes up.”

“Lovely,” I grumble, adjusting my satchel along my hip to have a better sense of balance in the inevitable case of having another fight, “Well then let’s hurry and blow the tunnel closed so that it can’t get out.”

I move deeper down the dank tunnel, trying to ignore the saccharine scent of the dead that seems to pervade through the porous stone tunnel we’d begun descending about half an hour ago. The Professor has been unusually quiet as I move ahead of him, my tarnished shield and gleaming sword glinting softly in the light of the flare the good professor has dangled from an extended wooden rod from his satchel, held in place by the straps of his backpack and creating a peaceful glow that chased away the overwhelming gloom of the strange tunnels design.

“It’s like the stone wasn’t carved,” I muse as I slowly make my way down the smooth slope, the tunnel walls, and floor slick with the same green slime the Quan-gao had been comprised of.

“It wasn’t,” Professor Nickels said with authority, pulling a scroll from his side satchel as he spoke. “The Quan-gao are formed primarily of a weak mineral acid, something akin to Boric acid I believe, which allows the slumbering Darkness to guide his guardians in creating new tunnels for it to travel should it ever awaken.”

“Lovely,” I deadpan; slowly learning that the more I heard of this forgotten Elder God, the more I wished it remained forgotten.

“Look! Just up ahead, it looks like an opening!” The Professor says, a gnarled hand grasping my shoulder, shaking me excitedly. “Let’s go, we have much to do!”

“Shouldn’t we just set the charges here and blow the cavern closed?” I ask somewhat hesitantly as the good professor shuffles ahead of me. He shakes his head, sputtering on excitedly.

“No no no, that just won’t do! What if there are other tunnels?” He asked without looking back. “We need to ensure that we’re sealing the Darkness away for good, not just closing one of its many doors.”

I sigh at his usual impeccable logic, moving onward past his shuffling form to look to the edge of the darkened chamber, a sense of vertigo overcoming me as I stare into the vacuous void before me. A few moments later the dangling flare hanging above my diminutive professor allow me a greater chance to peer into the cavernous hollow, great pillars of stone lining the walls to hold the ceiling too high to see aloft. The floor of the cavern, a mere thirty feet from the tunnel they stood in, bubbled with darkened slime, the ooze shifting and swirling, moving like the slimy fried eggs, pushing and pulling against one another in an endless struggle for dominance.

“Well… this sure slows things down.” I say with a sigh, looking at my crazy Professor for an answer, one that he seems to have already ready as he is rooting through his satchel. The toothless man gives a cry of glee as he pulls a tightly wound orange rectangle from his bag, shoving it into my hands as he fishes out a pair of collapsible oars.

“You can’t be serious… we came to a dig in the desert, and you have an inflatable raft?” I nearly shout before he shushes me, looking across the cavern with concern. “What?”

“Nothing… I… I just don’t want to alert anything to our position.” Professor Nickels says, scratching at his neck idly as he set to extending the oars. “Roll out some rope and some pitons so we can have a safe drop down onto those waters, I want to make sure we don’t have anything else to worry about.”

“Are you serious?” I cry, pointing my sword out into the darkness, a low groan echoing through the cavern, waves of slime splashing against the rocks beneath us as if something titanic had just breached the surface of the small sea. “This right here is a big thing to worry about!”

“Now my young warrior, you have no reason to worry. Between your blade and shield and my gun, we’ll be fine.” Professor Nickels says with a smile as he slides the last piece of the oar into position. “I know you’re worried, but you must ask yourself: are you prepared to defend humanity from the otherworldly evil that lurks here, even if it may cost you your life?”

Taken aback by the strange question, I stare at my Professor with a measure of caution. “Well… of course, I mean… who wouldn’t be willing to save humanity?”

Professor Nickels serious demeanor melts away to his normally cheerful expression. “Well then, get to it! We need to be down there seeing what we need to do, not standing about like a couple of bumps on a log!”


After we’d scaled the slick wall to the crashing waves of darkened slime beneath us, the good Professor had pulled the ripcord on the raft, unfurling the great orange life raft in an awkward moment of sheer panic as the great boat almost overtook us and comedy as we fell from our tenuous grip on sanity and into the raft, the waves rocking us back and forth as Professor Nickels fastened the collapsible oars to the raft, moving to the helm of our teetering vessel and adjusting his glasses, peering off into the darkness.

“Full steam ahead my boy!” He says with a hearty chuckle, nodding to the oars as he moved past me towards the rudder. “It’ll take more than these withered old bones are capable of to battle these raging waters.”

“That is not water…” I grumble as a jellied glob splashes over the side, seemingly trying to stretch out in search of open skin. Taking the oars, I begin rowing as best I can against the swirling currents of the underground sea as Professor Nickels steers us along. Several times my oars slide between greasy ovoid’s, pushing them apart.

We drift for what feels like hours as my arms go numb from the strain of battling the turbulent currents, sweat pouring from my lean frame in buckets as I desperately tried to keep us on the Professors desired course. The entire time he praises me, telling me we were almost there, that we were only a few dozen yards from it.

Gasping for breath, I never thought to ask what it was.

Just as I felt my arms giving out from exhaustion, I was lucky enough to see the wicked grin the cracked across my scholarly advisers face as he lunges across the raft with his rifle held firmly between his white-knuckled hands, the butt of the gun making a shuddering snap as he beat me across my brow with the butt of the gun, dropping me back from the force of the blow, my vision swimming as I struggle to understand what had just happened.

I struggle even further when he brings the butt of the rifle down onto my face, breaking my nose and shattering my front teeth in a sickening crunch, tears streaming from my eyes as I watched him slowly pull the weapon from my face, a fractured piece of one of my front incisors sticking to the butt by a thin coating of my blood. He steps over me, shucking off his heavy satchel onto my chest, I suppose to pin me in case I had any fight left within me, as he moves to stand at the bow of our miniature raft, hands held high overhead.

“Qas!” He intones, a low moan akin to the call of a whale rising up from beneath us as he lowers his arms once more, jumping from the raft and landing on something hard just out of my sight… something made of stone? “I’ve brought you the blood of a tested warrior, one who will allow you to slumber still. Come to your servant and grant me my boon and I will render unto you the supple flesh of the young and the brave!”

This can’t be good. I struggle to move the massive pack off of me, but with between my swimming vision and my numb arms I can only flail uselessly as he hops back onto the raft with the dexterity of a man a tenth his age, rolling the bag off of me and hoisting me up onto his shoulder.

Coughing up blood and a few teeth, I look at him through the one eye that can see. “No expert, eh?” I laugh, hacking up a lungful of blood onto the back of his khaki jacket. He merely pats my aching back with a gnarled hand as he jumps from the raft, landing on a large stained stone, rounded along the edges, before dumping me onto the ground with the care of a man dropping a bag of gravel.

“What can I say boy,” He says with a smile and a genial shrug, “I’m a man who figured out a way to stay young forever while keeping mankind safe from the things that go bump in the night. I’m a bloody hero!”

As he’s saying these rivulets of blackened slime are trailing up along ridges carved into the stone, seeping and searching for my spilled blood. I wince as I feel, and hear, the caustic hiss of the ooze lashing to my leg, and then my arm, pulling me taut along the rock. I let out a wail of agony as the slime begins to suffuse over my body, eating away at my clothes and skin with a sound akin to the sizzling of a slab of meat on a grill. Just as my head begins to submerge beneath the malevolent muck, I see Professor Nickels leap back to the raft, my sword in his hand, calling out to me over his shoulder.

“Don’t worry m’ boy!” He shouts cheerfully as he begins to row away, leaving me to my horrid demise. “You’ll see me again in another fifty years!”

Credit To – Nicholas Paschall

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