Skyrim’s Secret

August 27, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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If there are any Skyrim players on here, beware of a place called Husfortap Manor. It exists just outside of the playable area in the southwestern most end of the map, directly south of Markarth. You’l see it on the edge of a mountain as what appears to be a clearing with a rectangular white structure at one end. I found it one day while playing around with the console commands on the game. See, I was bored and decided to explore beyond the playable boundary of the game, as developers tend to leave some interesting Easter Eggs or unfinished concepts in the “Great Beyond”. So I used a command allowing myself to clip through the invisible wall that prevents you from leaving the map and explored around a bit.

For the first hour or so, I didn’t really see much besides empty forests and mountain ranges. I did come across the model for what looked like an early concept for the Falmer, and one of the developers apparently carved his initials into the side of a mountain, but that was really about it. Finally, while approaching the southwest mountain range, I thought I saw what looked like a structure on the other side. My curiosity sparked, I clambered up the mountain with surprising ease and landed in a large grassy yard in front of an enormous white mansion. In front of the mansion was a simple wooden sign that read “Husfortap Manor”.

The mansion itself was surprisingly low-res for a game this recent and lacked a lot of graphical detail aside from two large rectangular windows on either side of the door, and four featureless columns lining the porch. The lawn was also very rudimentary, lacking any sort of decoration or graphical texture and existing instead as little more than a wide sea of green. This must have been a planned location that was abandoned early on in development.

I entered the mansion, which turned out to be nothing more than a bare frame on the inside. No furniture, lamps, or trophy heads were present to decorate the wood walls; the only decoration this place had was a small podium on the very back wall with a featureless black book resting on it. I approached the book and pressed the prompt to read it (which oddly didn’t give the title, it just said “Read”), though disappointingly the page was completely blank except for a number 1 in the upper left corner. Placing the book down, I turned to leave and was unexpectedly greeted by an NPC I hadn’t seen on the way in.

It was a young woman, apparently a Nord, with jet-black hair and wearing a long blue gown. She sort of looked like Lydia but thinner and with longer hair. The woman stood in the center of the mansion, just staring at me and turning her head to follow me as I walked around her. As I came to about even with her, she said bluntly: “Wealth is temporary, what is here today will be gone tomorrow.” I wasn’t sure exactly what this meant, maybe some unrealized quest involving retrieving this woman’s stolen gold?

I determined there was no more to see here and left the mansion. This was certainly an interesting find: an entire location and character forgotten in the code of the game, and I had just uncovered them! And speaking of the character, I intended at some point to find that woman’s code so I could bring her to the main game and make her marryable: she was kinda hot!

Unfortunately, this high point would be overwritten by a horrible next day. On the way home from work, someone came up behind me, knocked me over, grabbed the wallet out of my pocket and ran off. I didn’t see their face, only that they were wearing jeans and a black hoodie. That wasn’t really a tremendous help to the police, who said they’d try to find the suspect but without an actual physical description, it’d be difficult. This definitely sucked: even though I can call and cancel my credit card, I had about eighty bucks in that wallet, and I’m damn near broke as it is! For some reason, I couldn’t help but recall what that woman in Skyrim said: “Wealth is temporary, what is here today will be gone tomorrow.” I knew it sounded silly, but I couldn’t shake that phrase from my mind. Maybe there was a connection?

I ultimately dismissed this thought as ridiculous. After all, whoever heard of a “magic fortune-telling video game”? However, I did need some cheering up after this. I fired up Skyrim and decided to return to Husfortap Manor, as last time I neglected to find out the mysterious woman’s name, which would be helpful if I’m going to hack her code and marry her! After journeying back to that end of the map (and killing a very persistent dragon along the way), I climbed back over the mountain and reached the mansion. Something was different about it though, the bright white that had cloaked the mansion yesterday had now faded into an almost “dirty white”, and the windows were coated in a thin layer of dust, making the view inside slightly translucent.

I approached anyway and stepped inside; to my surprise, the woman had seemingly undergone a change as well. She was a few inches taller, her hair was also a lighter shade than before, and she had more noticeable frown lines. It was almost as if she had aged to some degree. Not drastically, but she definitely wasn’t the hot young twenty-something I ran into yesterday. The woman’s deep blue gown also looked a bit faded, as though it too had aged. As I approached, I noticed that the prompt to talk to her never appeared, making it impossible to know the woman’s name. When I looked to face her, she offered me a faint smile coupled with a slight sigh, almost like she was faking being happy to see me.

“A man works hard for his coin,” she said suddenly. “But when he ceases to be useful, he is cast away to starve.”

Great, another cryptic message from an unmarryable NPC of unknown name in a bare house with nothing but a useless book. Disappointed, I left Husfortap Manor for what I intended to be the last time: it was a neat find, but there wasn’t anything of real value there.

The next day, I was hit with another whammy. As I came into work at the corner gas station, my boss pulled me into his office and told me that the place had gone over budget and he had to let a few of us go, and sadly a certain someone was among these few. I tried to explain my financial state, as well as the little incident yesterday with my wallet, but my boss merely apologized and said that there was nothing he could do, that he “simply didn’t have enough money to pay me.” Whatever, that was a crap job anyway.

As I walked home, a thought came to me, besides my hatred for my boss, that is. This was twice that the woman in blue had predicted my fate. The other day, she said something about the “loss of wealth” right before I get mugged, then just now she mentions workers being cast away, and here I am unemployed the next day. I know I just dismissed this thought as silly, but what if the mysterious woman was predicting my future?

That night, I decided to show the Easter Egg to one of my friends, who’d also been trying to explore the outer fringes of Skyrim with no luck. I had explained to him all the weird things that had happened including being mugged, losing my job, and the cryptic messages that predicted both.

“Dude, that’s so weird.” My friend said when I told him what happened, though I wasn’t sure if he fully believed me.

“I know,” I replied. “I’m kind of afraid to go back, but you know, maybe I can use this as a heads-up from now on.”

I started up the game and returned to the mansion, which was now in even worse shape than yesterday. It looked like the white paint was actually starting to peel off, revealing a stony gray undercoat. Tiny cracks were also beginning to form here and there, if nothing else giving the mansion some texture and personality, albeit an unpleasant one. When I entered, I saw that the woman had aged again as well. This time, her hair was beginning to gray and she had noticeable wrinkles on her face; she looked like she was about in her fifties this time around. Her dress was also beginning to tatter and lose its color.

“I thought you said she was a young woman?” my friend said.

“She was last time, she ages every time you visit the house.” I replied. My friend was confused by this, and with good reason seeing as how NPCs in this game don’t age. As I approached, the woman exhaled and her face almost looked sad.

“Your home is your sanctuary, and you do all you can to preserve it.” she spoke. “But what happens when others aren’t as responsible?” Her tone sounded very melancholy.

“Did you hear that?” I asked my friend in an alarmed tone.

“I didn’t hear her say anything, dude.” he said. “When she opened her mouth, all I heard was static.”

I packed up my computer in a hurry, ran out the door as fast as I could and tore down the street towards my apartment. Maybe I could get home in time to stop whatever was going to happen. Just because the game predicted it doesn’t mean it’s happened yet, right? There still might be time, I thought to myself. There might still be time.

I didn’t need to get close to see the flames. What used to be my apartment building was not a glowing orange inferno; firemen were already at the scene attempting to quell the fire, but it wouldn’t be enough to salvage my burning home. Speechless, I could do nothing but look on in despair at my room, crumbling and falling to pieces before my eyes.

“I’m gonna have to ask you to stand back, sir!” one of the firemen ordered me.

“What the hell happened!?” I cried.

“One of the residents left their stove on and gas spread into the air. We think that they went to light a cigarette and the entire room went up in flames.” The fireman explained. “Did you live here?”

I nodded, and the fireman apologized and offered his condolences. I didn’t know what to think. On the one hand, I was glad I wasn’t inside the apartment, thanks to my discovery of this Easter Egg. However I had just lost everything I owned in that fire, all except for my laptop, and this copy of Skyrim.

Luckily, my friend let me stay at his place for a while, so at least I had a roof over my head. For the next week or so, I focused on trying to find another job so I could rent a new apartment room, yet I was having no luck whatsoever. I told my girlfriend, Susan, the whole situation, from the mugging, to me getting fired, to my apartment burning down. However I did leave out the part about the Skyrim fortuneteller as she is neither a gamer nor superstitious. Susan was overcome with sympathy towards my situation and offered to talk to her boss to see if I could get a job where she works. She really is one-of-a-kind, I thought to myself.

Of course, I still put out what must have been eight job applications that day, just to be safe. Afterwards, I was mentally exhausted and ready to get lost in my video game once again. I decided not to visit Husfortap this time though; I just needed a normal session of escapist fantasy to relax my mind. All was going well for a bit: I took on a few random quests, raided a bandit camp, and brought down a few bears. Then, mysteriously, a courier approached me in the forest.

He did his usual bit about having a letter “for my hands only” and then handed me a note called “SkyrimNote367.esp”. This was made especially bizarre by the fact that I was in the wilderness when this happened, and typically couriers only hand you messages in cities. Regardless, I decided to read the odd note. I pulled up my inventory, opened the note, and saw that it only had one sentence: “Do NOT come back.”

This had to have come from the woman in blue, and I understood why: each visit causes her to age, and we both knew that, eventually, she would be aged to death. Be that as it may, this woman had a gift that could mean the difference between life and death for me. If her predictions could help me prevent possible disaster, I needed to know them regardless of the consequences to her. The needs of a flesh-and-blood human being are above those of an artificial intelligence, sentient or not. I was definitely going back to the manor.

I decided to immediately head for Husfortap after all. Reaching the edge of the map, I entered the console command and scaled the out-of-bounds mountain until I reached the mansion, which was now almost completely dilapidated. One of the support columns had fallen over, littering the front porch with rubble. The windows had all now been busted out, revealing an interior that was dusty and riddled with cracks. The exterior of the house was also checkered with spider webs, their inhabitants eyeing me cautiously.

The woman inside had, as usual, aged along with the house, but a bit more drastically this time: her hair had turned completely white, her face was heavily wrinkled, and she was beginning to hunch over. She looked like she was in her late sixties or early seventies. Her blue gown had now faded into more of a bluish gray, and was littered with rips and tears.

As soon as she saw me, the woman outstretched her hands in protest and shook her head, her face conveying a look of both fear and desperation. However, she did not back away or run, as though she was fixed to that one spot in the middle of the room. I approached the woman in defiance of her protests, causing her to lower her arms and hang her head in defeat.

“Love is a powerful feeling.” The woman choked out, her eyes glassy, as though she was about to cry. “But it is so fragile in this chaotic world, which shows no mercy to even the closest of lovers.”

My heart dropped. The person I loved more than anyone in the world was Susan. We’d been going out for three years and were practically perfect for each other. If anything had happened to her, it would destroy me. I slammed my laptop shut, grabbed the keys to my friend’s car (who luckily was asleep), and floored it to Susan’s house. During my drive, I could only pray that I would get to her in time. I had waited several days to return to Husfortap, what if I already found out too late? Arriving at my girlfriend’s house, I could see through the window that her kitchen light was on. Good, I thought, at least she was home. I approached the door and pounded on it several times. No answer.

“Susan, are you there?” I called, my voice shaky from sheer terror. After a few seconds, I knocked again, my strikes louder and more frantic this time.

“Susan, please open the door!” I called again, pounding furiously, to which there was no response. I was mortified now.

Unable to waste another second, I rammed the door as hard as I could with my shoulder. Once, and then a second time. Finally, I charged full force at the door causing it to give way. I hurried to the kitchen only to find that my worst fear had come true: I was too late. The love of my life lay motionless on the kitchen floor, her mouth dripping foam and her head lying in a puddle of blood. I knew Susan was an epileptic; she clearly had an episode and hit her head on the kitchen table.

I literally felt my soul shatter into a million pieces. Not able to remove my gaze from the dead body of my girlfriend, I staggered forward and fell to my knees. If I had been here just a few minutes earlier, she may still be alive. I lifted Susan’s head out of the puddle of blood and held her to my chest, sobbing uncontrollably. At that moment, I wanted nothing more than for her to reach out and hug me back. In a way, I died that night as well.

Nearly a week had passed since my girlfriend’s death, yet that horrible night still burned fresh in my mind. Why wasn’t I quick enough? Why hadn’t I gone to receive the woman’s prediction earlier? I just couldn’t bear this guilt any longer; no matter which way you look at it, Susan’s death was my fault.

Or was it? That fortuneteller had to have known for some time that this would happen, yet she waste all that valuable time with far more trivial predictions. I could have live without the eighty bucks stolen from me, or that crap job of mine. Hell, even my apartment could have been replaced! But Susan was my love, my soulmate. I had plans to marry her one day. Yet this woman, she chose to tell me the least important fortunes first, knowing what would eventually happen. Had she revealed Susan’s fate from the get-go, or even informe me in her note (that she hacked the game to send me, no less), I could have saved my girlfriend. This was all her fault!

Hastily booting up my laptop, I could see nothing but red. I was gonna kill her, I was gonna bust down that mansion door and break her old body with the strongest weapon my character had. When the game loaded, I was at the very far end of the map as far away from Husfortap as I could be. Plant me wherever you want on the map bitch, it won’t save you!

I barreled through the land faster than I thought my character could, mowing down any unlucky AI enemy that crossed my path; nothing was going to get in my way. My mind was fixated, I could think of nothing more than avenging my girlfriend’s death. The forests and holds of Skyrim flew past my vision in a blur of color; I literally stopped for nothing. At last I reached the mansion, which had completely collapsed into a pile of unrecognizable rubble now, and equipped my warhammer. I was just itching to bash the old woman’s brains in.

I ducked under the fallen beams and clambered over the piles of collapsed marble to find the woman in her usual position in the center of where the building would be. This time, she was older than I’d ever seen a human being. She was hunched and trembling, looking like she was hardly able to stand up. Her arms looked more like skin stretched over bones, her hair was nothing more than thin wisps of white, and her gown existed simply as ragged strips draped over her crippled form. To be honest, the woman looked barely alive at all. In this moment, my rage and hatred gave way to almost pity; her advanced age was clearly putting her in a great deal of pain. I put away my hammer and just stood there, at a loss for what to do.

“You came back.” The old woman breathed in what was little more than a loud whisper. “Why did you come back? Why couldn’t you just stay away?” I could tell she was sad, but simply too exhausted to convey it. At this time, a moment of clarity came over me. I fully understood for the first time that this woman was not a simple mindless AI acting out programming, but rather a living and thinking being who existed within the game. I didn’t know where she came from or who put her there, but there she was nevertheless.

“What are you talking about?” I caught myself asking out loud. The woman, almost as if she had heard me, raised a trembling arm to point to the book at the back end of the mansion. I was confused: the last time I looked at that book, it was blank except for a single number, what would be different now?

Still, I found myself overcome by curiosity and opened the odd book once more. To my surprise, the contents of the book had completely changed. Rather than one simple number, there were now the numbers 1 through 5 running down the page, each with a different symbol by it. The first symbol was that of Skyrim‘s Thieves’ Guild, the second was a silhouette of a beggar, the third of a burning house, the fourth of a broken heart, and the fifth entry…blank.

Wait, if this place knew my future, why was the final entry blank? Then a horrifying realization hit me: what if the woman in blue wasn’t predicting my future after all? What if my visits here were actually causing all those things to happen? They did seem to happen very shortly after speaking to the woman in blue. Yes, it all made sense now: the woman wasn’t at fault, she was simply the messenger of whatever was responsible for the atrocities plaguing me, yet I had to hear her message for them to take effect. That’s why she never wanted me to return here! She knew that my visits would eventually lead to Susan’s death and tried to stop me, but I just wouldn’t listen. Now, my girlfriend was dead and my life was in shambles because of my arrogance and stupidity. Shaken, I closed the book and turned to leave, only to see a horrifying sight.

The woman was dead, and her body was completely decayed. She honestly looked like a draugr with the now-gray rags thrown over it. Clutched in her skeletal hand was a small note, which I dared not read, for I knew what it would say. This manor had taken everything from me, and now there was only one thing left it could take. Terrified and still furious, I switched the computer off, ripped out the game disc, and tossed it in the trash, ensuring the manor’s final curse went undelivered.

Nearly a month has passed since I threw the game away. I am completely broke now and still without a job. My friend’s sense of charity is gone and he kicked me out, and I have no family who can take me in, so now I am completely alone. The only possessions I have now are the clothes on my back and my laptop, which I intend to sell after I type this so that I can finally get some fresh food for once.

I still have no explanation for what happened to me, or where Husfortap Manor came from in the first place. All I know is that there are forces in this world we can’t even begin to understand and, when tampered with, they will destroy us. I had to learn this lesson the hard way and I hope that none of you make the same mistakes I did. If you happen across that mansion in your game, do NOT enter it and do NOT speak to the woman in blue!

As for me, though I will always revile that place for what it did to me, every night when I go to sleep, I toy with the idea of going to the landfill and finding that copy of Skyrim, so that I can return to Husfortap Manor and receive its last message. After everything Husfortap has taken from me, maybe now it could finally give me something: peace.

Credit To – Sean Blevins

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The 121st Night

August 23, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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This is a video pasta – if you are unable to view the embedded video, please click here: The 121st Night

Credit To – Sarah Edge

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South Wing

August 20, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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I was desperately broke. I suppose that was why I decided to suck up my pride and apply for a job at the Hindlewood Mansion. They were always in need of housekeepers at that big old place. In high school, a few of my friends had worked there, but never lasted more than a week before quitting. They all said it was because of the way the old man treated them, but they way they acted when we rolled past that house in our beat-up cars told me otherwise. Something was just…weird about that place.

My appointment for a housekeeping interview was at 9 o’clock at night; a strange time, but I had heard that old man Hindlewood hated company, and we were only to clean house at night when he was sleeping. I did not really mind, my nights were normally pretty uneventful. The small town I lived in hardly had any night-life, and the only gatherings the younger people had were drinking in the corn fields or hanging out at the local gas station. I preferred to stay home and read.

The interview was conducted by the lead housekeeper, a woman who looked a little too old to still be working. She was small and frail, very sweet, but a little strange. The questions she asked seemed a little irrelevant to the job. She mostly wanted to know if I was afraid of the dark, since the old man could not sleep with the slightest light. I did not really understand how, in such a huge place, one light could bother him – even at the other end of the house. We were permitted candles and a flashlight, not exactly ideal for dusting the small nooks and crannies of the old place. Despite the irrationality of it all, I obliged to her request for lack of light; I was never afraid of the dark.

Mrs. Levingston also requested that I never visited the Southern-most wing of the house, where the old man slept, because she deals with that area herself. Hindlewood did not like strangers, and would likely fire me on the spot if he so much as saw evidence that anyone was in his wing.

I suppose I answered all of the odd questions correctly, because I was hired on the spot. I was to work that night, and began immediately after getting my uniform from the maid’s quarters. She walked me to the room with the cleaning equipment, near the kitchen, told me to work the Northern wing for the night (the same wing which the harbored the Maid’s quarters), reminded me again not to enter the South wing, and said goodbye for the night. She was to return at dawn where my session would end, and hers would begin.

I changed and began performing the duties explained to me; mostly dusting an array of antiques. I was about half-way through my shift when I hear a high-pitched whistling. Not like a person whistling, more like the wind spiraling through a small window. I figured a window must have been left open somewhere, so I followed the noise, with my flashlight, checking all of the windows as I passed them. It was oddly still out, and my heart began to beat a bit harder as I noted how eerily quiet it was outside. It did not seem windy at all, so what could this sound be?

Of course, the noise was coming from the Southern wing. I stood at the threshold to the Southern hallway wondering what to do. I did not want to go down there, but could feel a dreadful draft coming from that direction, and was afraid the poor old man could catch pneumonia from the open window. I did not want to be the cause of the old guy’s death, even though he had a reputation for being quite the grouch. I’m sure he would understand, and if not, the worst that could happen is that I get fired, right?

I took my first step into the hall, half-expecting the old man to come charging out garnishing his cane like a crazed dementia-induced madman, but nothing happened.

I slowly walked down the hallway, listening. I could still hear the whistling, but nothing else. I came to Hindlewood’s doorway and put my ear to the door: nothing but the whistling which was clearly coming from the room. The door was nearly closed, yet was open just a crack, and I could see some light coming in from the crevice. It was not artificial light, but a dull blue light, like from the moon.

I slowly opened the door, which creaked loudly as the room slowly came into view, with my flashlight pointed at the floor of the dark room in front of me. The room was large and mostly empty with a very large curtained bed at the center. I could see a lump in the bed with the flashlight, which I assumed was the old man. He looked to be sleeping, but the hairs on the back of my neck told me I was being watched.

As I inched towards the bed, I remembered my purpose for entering: the window. I looked around at the barren walls and out of the corner of my eyes I noticed what was above me. The light poured in from a large skylight above me, yet cast in the light was a shadow; it seemed as if a figure of person was highlighted on the floor from above, yet its shape was unnaturally large and twisted. What would have been the head was shaped more like a V, and where its shoulders would be, there were large pointed protrusions.

I panicked. As I went to turn and look at whatever was standing in the light of the moon, I dropped my flashlight. As I tried to catch it from my tumbling hand, it rolled across the room and under the bed. I watched it fall out of reach, and spun around to check the skylight. There was nothing there, and the shadow on the floor was gone.

With my heart pounding in my chest I got on my knees to seek out the flashlight under the bed. I could see it shining out from the darkness. It had rolled underneath and I crawled in to retrieve it when I noticed that the whistling was gone.

I grabbed the flashlight and held it to my chest trying to calm myself for a second. I told myself I was probably seeing things; the darkness was beginning to get to me and I was seeing false shadows. I needed to check on the old man, who was likely sleeping soundly directly above me.

I took a deep breath and began to scoot my way towards the edge of the bed when the whistling started again. I could immediately feel the cool air whirling around the room. I stopped where I was, still underneath the bed but close to the edge. I peered out, hiding the light of the flashlight in my hands, in the direction of the ceiling with the window. Something was standing there, covered in shadow. I could only see the muddy red gloss of it’s eyes as it stared at whatever was above me. It was then that feet dropped inches away from my face, old veiny and wrinkled feet, and so I tucked my head back into the darkness. The feet lifted into the air as if they were floating, and the whistling was then accompanied by larges gusts of wind, like the flapping of large wings.

Then all was quiet.

I stayed in that spot for what must have been two hours with my heart pounding in my chest. Was I crazy, or had something taken the old man out of his bed while he slept? My mind raced as I lay there, frozen in fear. It was not until I could see the first indications of sunlight that I was able to summon up enough courage to get out from under the bed and look around the room. The bed was empty, like no one had ever slept in it. The room was tidy, the window closed.

I walked to the maid’s quarters, feeling numb and bewildered, and waited for Mrs. Levingston. I did not say a word to her. I took especially long to change, as I knew she would be making her way to the South wing. She came back only a few moments later, and as the maids room was next to the kitchen, I saw her making breakfast. When she saw me, surprised I was still there she says “Oh, glad you are here honey. Mr. Hindlewood worked up quite an appetite last night and I could use your help, would you like to stay for breakfast?” I was not quite sure what was on the menu, so I said “No thank you” and left.

I am still not quite sure what I saw that night. At first I thought Hindlewood was taken by some evil creature, but I saw him walking the gardens the next day by Ms. Levingston. He looked normal, perhaps even more spry than usual. Now, I’ve been working at the mansion for over 10 years,and somehow, the old guy is still alive and looks like he has not aged a single day. Whatever has been going on, I don’t really mind because it gives me a job and good pay. All I know is, I stay out of the South wing, and I’ve learned to ignore whatever it is I hear in the night.

Credit To – B. Paige

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Why Sarah Never Sleeps

August 19, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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There were too many doors in the upstairs hall. Sarah told her parents, but they couldn’t see it. They told her not to worry. They told her there was nothing there. But there was an extra door, at the end of the upstairs hall. An extra yellow door, and it didn’t belong.

It was the color of disease, jaundiced and infected, with spidery black veins across its face. One perfect silver knob gleamed in its center above a shadowy keyhole, and it didn’t look right. The doorknob shone with a mirror’s finish, and caught the light from any angle, begging for Sarah to look its way. Sarah did her best to ignore it, but the door knew her name, and it whispered it when she drew near.

“Saraaaahh . . . ” the door would rasp with a voice like dried leaves as tiny claws scraped against the other side. Tears would well in Sarah’s eyes as she’d hurry past, her arms laden with everything she’d need to get ready for the day.

“Saraaaahh . . .” it would call again before she’d shuffled out of range and closed the bathroom door, cutting off its paper-thin wails. When she’d creep from the bathroom to head downstairs, the door’s voice would follow her with a furious flurry of scraping claws and tormented howls. They lingered and gnawed in the back of her mind as she’d rush through breakfast so she could leave the house a few minutes sooner.

School became a blessing, an excuse to be someone somewhere else. At school she could forget the door. At school she could pretend her house was like everyone else’s, with the right number of doors and no eerie whispers. But at the end of the day it was still waiting for her at the end of the upstairs hall, with it’s mirror-ball knob and yellow face. She hated coming home and knowing it was there, but even more than that, she hated going to sleep, because in her dreams, she opened the door.

Every night, she stood before it, fighting the urge to reach out. Dread knotted her belly in anticipation of pain when her hand rose anyway, to grasp the silver knob. Some nights it burned her like the driest ice. Other nights it seared like a red hot iron. Very occasionally, it did neither, instead turning and turning without ever opening the door, and she couldn’t stop turning it until she woke up.

When the door did open, it revealed a swirling vortex of shadow and sound, with a thousand voices crying in the darkness. The voices curled around her, crawling through her hair like spiders. She thrashed and swatted at their skittering whispers, but the words still tingled across her skin.

She never should have listened.

“He sees . . . ” they said. “He hears . . .” they moaned. “He hungers . . .” they wept, and burrowed in her mind like worms. “The Hollow Man, the Hollow Man,” they echoed in her mind and screamed to her from the gaping vortex. “The Hollow Man . . . he hunts!”

Sarah shot up with a scream, gasping and sweating, but alone in her bed. The clock’s crimson face said midnight had passed, but not by much. Darkness enveloped her room, except where a vestigial nightlight illumined the corner by her desk; it wasn’t a lot, but it made her feel better.

She covered her face with shaking hands, and pushed away the chitinous echoes. “I’m fine,” she swore. “It’s just a dream.”

“Sarah?” Someone whispered.

Sarah froze. Tears welled in her eyes.

“Sarah? Are you Sarah?” It was the voice of a girl, not at all like the voice she usually heard from the door at the end of the hall.

“Who . . . who are you?” Sarah whispered back.

“My name is Lizzie. Are you Sarah?”

Sarah rose from her bed slowly, clutching the sweat-damp shirt she’d worn to sleep, and moved toward her bedroom door, moved to where the yellow door waited. When she stood before it, her stomach lurched, and for a moment she couldn’t tell if she was going to vomit, or faint.

“Please,” the door said in a young girl’s voice. “Please, are you Sarah?”

Sarah opened her mouth to respond, but her voice crackled when she couldn’t find the breath to speak. Shaking all over, she struggled to calm down enough to answer. She pressed her palms to her cheeks and smeared away the tears as she forced herself to take a breath and speak.

“Yes,” she said at length, her voice tremulous and weak. “. . . I’m Sarah.”

“Please, let me in!” The door’s silvery knob shook violently, rattling as if locked, and jostled by someone on the other side. “Let me in, Sarah, please! I can’t stay in here, please help me! Let me in!”

Sarah stared at the door in shock, backing away a moment before her knees buckled and she fell to the floor, where she screamed.

Level with the shadowy keyhole below the rattling knob, she stared directly into a very human eye. Wide and white with fear, it darted around, as if searching through the hall, but seemed not to see her. Tears shimmered in the other eye, as they shimmered and spilled from Sarah’s. Then the silver knob stilled, and the keyhole became shadow, and Lizzie began to cry.

“Please, Sarah,” she pleaded. “He’s almost here.”

“The Hollow Man?” Sarah whispered as a chill slithered up her spine. Lizzie sobbed quietly. Sarah scooted closer to the door, fear allowing room for tentative concern when the girl from the other side failed to respond. “Lizzie?”

Silence came without warning, and concern became sharp fear again.

“Lizzie?!” Sarah sat up on her knees with both hands braced against the door. She trembled under the weight of growing horror as not even a sniffle or a whimper came from the other side. “Lizzie, please answer me!”

Sarah’s head and heart ached, each throbbing painfully through her tension, and the world was a little fuzzy around the edges; it was getting hard to focus.

“He’s here . . .” Lizzie whispered at last. Her words were barely audible, and came as though her lips pressed tight against the keyhole. “Please, let me in . . . .”

Though she still hesitated, her hand was upon the silver knob before she even realized it.

“Please, Sarah . . . .”

Rising from the floor, she turned it.

The door opened noiselessly beneath her hand, gliding open without resistance. As it did, she cautiously peeked around the edge.

A lonely expanse of normal wall inched into view, and she felt sick. She worried at her thumb in confusion, and extended a trembling hand to touch the wall behind the door. It was solid. As solid and as normal as the wall at the end of the upstairs hall should be, but her stomach churned.

Something wasn’t right.

She closed the door, which issued a soft click as the latch sprang into place, and waited. She hardly dared to move or breathe as she listened to the night, waiting for the door to speak again. When her muscles ached, and her eyes were heavy with sleep, she finally relented. Fatigue sucked at her limbs — she hadn’t realized how exhausting fear could be until the last traces of adrenaline had finally bled away–, and though she didn’t look forward to her dreams, she simply had to sleep.

The crimson clock was broken when she rolled herself into bed, its face declaring 12:16 AM to a room that only vaguely felt familiar, but she couldn’t bring herself to care when her eyes and body felt so heavy.

“Sarah . . . ,” Lizzie whispered. But it couldn’t be a whisper.

“Sarah,” Lizzie whispered again. “Sarah, don’t wake up.”

Sarah groaned a little. Don’t wake up? But she hadn’t even fallen asleep.

“Don’t wake up,” Lizzie said, her voice echoing in Sarah’s mind.

Sarah frowned, and rolled on her back. She didn’t want to wake up. She wanted to sleep! Don’t wake up, don’t wake up. Lizzie didn’t need to tell her not to wake! It was the furthest thing from her mind!

For a long time all was silence, and Sarah began to drift toward the strange warmth of sleep.

“He’s here . . .” Lizzie whispered at last. “Please, don’t wake up . . . . ”

Who’s here? Sarah wondered as sleep pulled her further down.

“His hollow face, an eerie mask. With hollow voice at doors will ask. To be invited in to bask. Above his favored midnight task.”

A strange tingling worked its way up her body as Lizzie recited the haunting rhyme in a disconcerting monotone. Clarity inched its way toward Sarah, slowly melting away the fog of sleep. Wasn’t she still dreaming?

Something was wrong.

“He’s waiting inches from your face. To be the first thing your eyes grace. But keep them shut, or else embrace. A hollow shell to take your place.”

Cold dread seized Sarah’s heart with each new stanza, and she trembled with the weight of her mistake. For a moment, she swore she could feel the air stir above her, stale and strangely warm against her cheeks. Don’t wake up! Don’t wake up! She squeezed her eyes closed extra tight to keep them from opening, slowly surfacing from her vivid night terrors at last.

“The yellow door, you always keep. He follows you to where you sleep. Into your room he then will creep. Your life and dreams for him to reap.”

Lizzie’s voice became little more than a breath within Sarah’s mind, and a pressure lifted from her chest when the air cooled around her. What had she done?

“The Hollow Man, above your bed. With hollow eyes, deep slumber fed. His hollow dreams may fill your head. But never peek, or you’ll be dead.”

Everything was wrong.

Distantly, Sarah registered the sound of her parents screaming in their room, and felt tears sliding down her cheeks. Why did they sound so far away?

“. . . Mom,” Sarah whispered, the sound paper-thin. “Dad,” she rasped with a voice like dried leaves. “Lizzie?” She thought, probing for her presence, but Lizzie did not respond.

Silence fell over the house and Sarah knew nothing would ever be right again.

From the hall outside her bedroom door, Sarah heard the soft click as a latch sprang into place, and waited.

Several hours passed before she felt safe enough to open her eyes. Sunlight peeked through the curtains, and the crimson clock said it was 7:45 AM. The yellow door, with it’s mirror-ball knob, stared at her from the wall at the end of the upstairs hall.

And Sarah knew she would never sleep again.

Credit To – Death_by_Proxy

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Once, In Karachi

August 11, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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It was his first time in Karachi. The coastal city seemed to sprawl on forever, and for a little while he was concerned about getting lost there. But, fortunately he had a lot of friends accompanying him. One look at his them as they stood gathered there outside the bus station and he felt neither alone, nor afraid.

“Take one of these whistles with you!” said one of them, handing him a smooth silver whistle and moving on to the next person, handing him a whistle as well.

“What are these for?” he called to him.

“Well, since we’re dividing into small groups to explore, I thought it was a good idea for us to have a quick way to calling out to each other”

He looked back down at the whistle and then to everyone else slowly forming groups of different sizes. He was the only one travelling alone; Since he had a few relatives he wanted to meet, and a few traders he had to discuss terms with. ‘I had best get going’ he thought.

It was all a very boring affair. He wanted to finish his visits as quickly as possible so he could meet up with his friends and maybe go around the city seeing the sights. The British had left only a few years ago and the city had since become a model city for development and growth. It was called ‘the city of light’ and he wanted to see exactly why it was so.

It was already evening by the time he finished all his ‘work’. He was considering where to start looking for his friends when he was approached by a weak, aging woman.

“Could you help me carry these son, son?” she said, gesturing to a sack of rice. It looked heavy even by his standards and he was surprised the woman had actually managed to carry it at all.

“Sure gran. Where is your home, exactly?” he said, lifting the sack onto his back.

“Not far from here” she said, smiling sweetly.

There was something off about her smile but he kept following her anyway, dismissing it as his imagination.

It took him five minutes to toil to get to her house and he was grateful for it not being any farther. She offered him food as he sat on the threshold of her tiny house, trying to catch his breath. He tried to refuse, thinking he should probably be joining his friends soon, but she insisted.

“I really can’t let you go, son. You have helped this old woman. Besides, I have a real treat for you if you can do me just one more favour.” she said earnestly.

“What’s that?” he asked her, wondering if the favour was more donkey work.

“Well, you see… my son died last night”, she said, her face serious and strangely impassive. “…I am but an old woman and I do not have the strength to bathe him for the burial”

He felt shaken by the woman’s request, and a little embarrassed at wanting to get away from there. The helpless old woman was simply preparing for her son’s funeral.

“I’ll be honoured to help”, he said after a moment, resigning himself to do another good deed.

She thanked him profusely led him through a narrow corridor and into what appeared to be a rather austere lounge, seating him on a rug.

“I’ll get you some food first. You will need your strength” she said, bringing him a tray full of pilaf rice. “Let me know when you’re done” she said, and left him to go elsewhere.

He was grateful for the food. His stomach had been aching for a while now and some Pilaf was just the thing he needed. So, he dug in eagerly, searching the rice for some meat. He found a finger.

His body gave a shudder and he immediately spat out the rice he had been chewing. He held up the finger he had found to the light and realized beyond doubt that it really was a human finger. That woman was a cannibal. The horrifying realization hit him like a hammer and he dropped the finger out of shock.

And then, he realized that he had probably been lured there to be eaten.

He looked around him, searching for a way to escape. The woman was waiting outside, he knew, and he did not want to risk running through her. She could be carrying any number of weapons and he needed to be very, very careful about how he dealt with the situation from then on. One wrong move, and he could be the next guy to be made into pilaf rice.

So, the first thing he decided to do was to take all the rice he had scattered over the rug in shock, and sweep it all under the rug along with the finger. He threw some more rice under the rug to make it appear as if he’d eaten his fill and then called out to the woman, and told her that he was ready to bathe her son’s dead body.

She led him out back to a courtyard, where a dead body was indeed placed, covered by a large white sheet on a wooden bed. He wondered if that was really her son. Did she intend to eat her own son as well? Perhaps, the body was simply another one of her victims, and he was actually helping her clean him up for her next meal. The thought was chilling.

He was treading in dangerous territory he knew, so his senses became extremely alert to every single move the woman made. She was carrying an oil lantern and went over to stand by the body’s head holding up the lantern for light. He brought some water in a large steel bucket, and began to bathe the body, keeping an eye on the woman as best as he could.

The first thing he noticed was that the body was not very cold to the touch. Fresh kill, perhaps, he thought. Though a cold shiver ran through his spine, he concentrated on not letting any emotion show on his face. He required every single bit of concentration he could muster to stay in control of the situation, pouring water over the body slowly, and trying to adjust his eyes to the dark.

He quickly became aware of an advantage he had. With the woman standing at the head of the body, she cast a very sharp shadow across the walls and he could see if she moved slightly even with his back turned to her. He thought about it a bit and decided that if the woman really wanted to kill him then he might as well try to lure her into an attack.

So, he deliberately started working on the body with his back turned to her, keeping both eyes on her shadow as he worked. At any moment, he would see hand move, and would immediately counter-attack.

He saw what happened next quite clearly as shadows started to shift. The woman’s left arm slowly drew out something from within the folds of her clothes and raised it high to attack. At the same time something else happened just as slowly though. Something he had not been expecting. It felt like terror creeping up his limbs as he saw the body’s right arm move as well, drawing out something long and blunt from under the shroud.

He jumped away from them reflexively. Fortunately for him the old woman chose to strike at the same moment; her iron rod missed him by mere inches as she brought it down. Her son, who had sat up to reach him, was not so lucky. Her full-blooded swing hit him to the side of his skull and he was knocked out immediately from the hit.

He could not let her recover, either. He jumped right at her and delivered a kick straight into her chest. She was lifted clean off her feet and flew back into the wall. That was it. He did not check to see if either of them was still conscious. He ran out of the house as quickly as he could, covered in cold sweat and short of breath as he was. And as soon he reached the street, he found the whistle his friend had given him and started blowing as hard as he could.

It did not take very long for him to gather a crowd. Some of his friends arrived as well, and he quickly told them what had happened. The police arrived soon after, and began searching the house for the the woman and her son.

The search resulted in a few shocking discoveries as bones of over 50 people were found from the basement of the house. The woman, and her son were arrested. Apparently they had been luring people to the house and eating them for quite a while. Also, according to them, they were not the only ones. Not by a long shot.

Writer’s note: This true story comes from my maternal grandfather, and has been told from his point-of-view. I have tried to keep all the details intact.

Credit To – Salman Shahid Khan

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Dead and Buried

August 9, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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Dead and Buried

I buried my grandfather last week. A deplorable man who made the lives of everyone around him miserable. He left me with nothing but bad memories and debt. I wished him dead every day till he passed away at the overdue age of ninety one. I was the one that cared for him, and I was the one that found him in his bed. He was sitting up, back against the headboard. His heart had given out on the spot, killing him before he even went to sleep. His eyes just seemed to stare at me, an angry stare he often gave in life. I was left with his estate, and I made sure that his funeral be as cheap and short as possible so that it cause little intrusion to the lives that were obliged to attend.

In ages past my name meant something. That name died with time, however nothing damaged the family name more than my grandfather. Spending the dwindling family coffers on occult artifacts and our reputation on the eccentric. With my parents untimely death when I was young, I am the last of my line. Yet because of my grandfather, all am left with is a decaying estate and near empty coffers. Yet even after I left him rotting in the ground of a cheap grave I could not get him out of my mind. My dreams kept bringing his memory back. I dreamed of darkness, I was laying down on my back my arms folded on my chest. I tried to move but found walls on either side of me, and another not six inches from my face. I still remember the smell of fresh earth and rot. I could feel my arms as they rubbed together, dry sagging and wrinkled. I tried to scream but my mouth was dry and my lungs refused to take in air. I tried to strike out with all my limbs but I found hard wood encompass me.

When I awoke from my nightmare I found myself on the floor of my bedroom. I felt my night terrors must have moved me out of my bed, but I could not get the dream out of my mind. I was resolved to rid myself of my grandfather once and for all. I sold every last item the man had owned. All the artifacts, all the books, and every bit of occult nonsense that he wasted his time and money on. I took any price I was given for I did not wish to spare another thought for him. The dreams did not stop, but grow worse. I was visiting an old school friend when another dream, or vision happened. Again I was in the darkness, the smell and feel of the cage I found myself in felt more real than ever. I could feel myself, every inch felt different. I could feel the age on me, and know this was the body of my Grandfather. In desperation I clawed at the wood in front of me, I could feel shocks of pain as my fingernails tore off my hands. When I awoke from this dream I saw the concern on my old friends face. He told me that in the middle of our conversation my personality changed. That I grow agitated and tried to leave in a hurry. He said it was like I forgotten where I was. It was only with his skill in diplomacy that he managed to get me to sit back down for a few moments more till I came out of whatever possessed me. I bid my friend an apology and left his company not a few moments after I assured him am myself again.

By the time I made it home I felt a weight on my mind. I felt I understood what was befalling me. Even after death my grandfather seeks to take what is mine. The horrors of my fate were not lost on me. His grave will be my grave, his rotting corpse will be the new home of my soul. Again that night I experienced the vision, I refused to sleep till it came. I could feel it coming, as if something was pulling my head, and my sight away. The Silence I felt that night drove me to madness, kicking and hitting as if having a tantrum.Yet it was all for naught as I could not escape. When I awoke after, I know my time was growing shorter. It was coming soon, the final switch. I refused to let that be the end, my Grandfather will not have his victory.

The Switch would be soon, I have little time to prepare. This letter will be my final testimony. By the time I finish writing I will have taken a number of medications that will put me in a deep sleep. I arranged with the last of the money in my name to be buried in the woods. I will not give the names of who I conspire with for such a task, but I know them to be trusted as long as the money is correct. When I awake, or when Grandfather awakes he will find that his cage is complete. I won’t let him win, he will share my fate and be trapped under the earth till our corpses rot!

Credit To – BlueHero

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