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It Bleeds

February 4, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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It’s that time of year again. Any day now the earth around me will be covered in snow. Children, who are not fazed by the cold, will spend hours outside playing In it. Building snowmen, having snow ball fights, and going sledding. And of course they will be looking forward to snow days where they can spend even more time outside rather than being trapped indoors in class rooms.

I envy them. As I have grown older, I have come to really dislike the cold. Maybe that’s what happens to everyone as they grow up. We begin to associate the cold with unpleasant things instead of fun things like snowmen and making snow angels. No, we associate the cold to mean illness and even pain. We become bitter, more annoyed by it. We complain about the shoveling, the runny noses, the aching joints. I have also become bitter about winter.

But it’s not for the same reasons. It’s because I made a mistake. A very terrible mistake. Last year we had a pretty bad snow storm. Schools were closed as well as local businesses. The radio and tv weather stations cautioned people to drive carefully if they have to be on the road but other wise to just stay home. In some areas they had white out conditions.

White out conditions. I remember when I was a little girl, I loved watching the snow fall. Sometimes it came down so fast it was like a blanket of white. It was beautiful to me. But now, now it’s stained in blood.

I was on the road during the snow storm. I was heading home after a ten hour shift. I remember wanting nothing more than to go home and get in bed. Ten hours of running machinery on a factory line will make anyone a bit irritated. And therefore I was in a rush to get home. Maybe I was cocky, thinking I could drive faster on the back roads. Maybe I simply didn’t care. But I should have.

I honestly didn’t see her. The old lady. I sometimes wonder why she went out during a snow storm to check her mail. Why didn’t she stay inside? What could she have possibly have been thinking? But it doesn’t matter. Those questions won’t bring her back. Maybe not the questions, but I am sure she will be back.

As a rule of mine, I kept the cell phone on the passenger seat. Just in case of an emergency. I thought I had the ringer turned off. It never ranged before while I drived. But that day it did. I tried to ignore it, I tried to picture my warm bed instead that was waiting for me. But it wouldn’t stop ringing. And the ring tone. It’s one I don’t remember having set.

Finally I couldn’t take it. I grabbed the phone and as I flipped it open, I looked back to the road. My eyes were off the road for less than a minute. Enough time for this old lady in a blue worn jacket to appear. I still remember how she seemed to be turning toward me in slow motion. The headlights lite up her face, specially her widening grey blue eyes. I still see those eyes sometimes when I sleep.

It was so quick. I saw her turn towards me then there was a thud, not a loud thud but more like the sound a large stuff toy makes when a child drops it from the top of the stairs. Just like a stuff toy, she hit the bumper, bounced up and hit my windshield then somehow bounce up again and hit the hood of my car. She fell off to the side at this point. My car swerved and I nearly ran it into the ditch. But as soon as I had managed to stop, I turned off the car.

But I didn’t go out right away after the old woman. Instead, I remained frozen behind the steering wheel. I felt like I couldn’t get enough air. My heart was racing to the point I was sure would make it burst. I rested my forehead against the cool steering wheel, trying to calm myself down. Why was I not thinking about that lady I just hit? I don’t know. I just know I wasn’t. But I should have.

A soft thud made me open my eyes. I wish I hadn’t, God, I wish I hadn’t! A hand was on the hood of my car, the fingers more like claws as the nails scratched at the paint. I watched as a head of long grey hair came into view. The wind blew the hair forward, covering her face. Slowly she pulled herself up. Her blue knitted jacket stood out in all the white swirling around her. But not nearly as much as the bloody stump from her left shoulder where her arm once was.

The wind picked up and I thought I was screaming. But then I realized it was her screaming! The wind seemed to be picking it up and carrying it to my ears. At the time her screams made no sense to me. For you see, she wasn’t screaming in pain. Nor was she screaming for help. No, what she was screaming was this. “My skin bleeds! It bleeds!”

She raised her remaining hand, holding it out as if to show me her hand. And I did see it. I shouldn’t have been able to but I did. Her skin was pale and covered in red splotches. Where these red splotches were, there was broken skin that was bleeding. Then the wind changed direction and her hair flew out of her face. Her face had similar splotches, the broken skin and tiny trails of blood made it appear as if her face was cracking.

I opened the car door and got out. Again, an action that took no longer than a minute. But that’s all it took. She vanished. I don’t know how. I rushed to the front of my car and despite the blinding snow, I searched for her. But she wasn’t there. I swear I looked all around the car. Nothing.

Finally, I couldn’t bare to be out in that cold any longer. So I got back Into my car and started it up. Maybe I had fallen asleep behind the wheel and dreamed up the old woman? After all, old ladies don’t just up and disappear. Not during a snow storm. This is what I convinced myself. So I drove home.

But I didn’t go to sleep as I had planned. No, instead as the wind again picked up, I swore I heard her screams. “My skin bleeds! It bleeds!” Over and over again, I heard these until the storm finally ended in the morning. I was so exhausted by then. My eyes seem to close and I was out.

But I woke up only a few minutes later. The first thing I became aware of is how cold I was. I was freezing. Maybe I left a window open? Maybe it got broke? When I sat up, I realized that my bed was covered in snow. Not only that but the rest of my bedroom was too. I looked to the window and saw that not only was it not broken but it was firmly shut. So where did the snow come from?

I got out of bed and took a single step. That’s when I saw it. Hand prints in the snow. They were everywhere, as if someone had been crawling around my room. I was now shaking with fear as I forced myself to walk around my bed and check to see if the source of the hand prints were hidden there. To my relief, I found nothing.

Then I opened my bedroom door. This time I did scream. Scratched into my bedroom door was this, “Your Skin Bleeds! It Bleeds!” The scratches dripped in blood.

I called the authorities. I told them about the old woman I hit and what I woke to. They told me that they would look into it and send an officer by. Strangely none ever stopped by. Later they called me back and told me that they searched the area I had described but found no sign of an old woman in a blue jacket. What they did find was signs of me nearly driving off the road. Black ice they said. There’s no old woman.

But what of the bloody words scratched into my bedroom door? As I was on the phone, I looked at my door. There were no words. I reached my hand out to touch it, to see if I was really seeing it. The door was iced cold. When I pulled my hand back,a hand impression was left behind. And slowly, it began to bleed.

The police insisted there was no old lady out in the snow, But they are wrong. I know that. At first, I believed them. I allowed myself to believe that I just fell asleep behind the wheel for a moment. That there had been no prints in the snow, no bloody words scratched into my door. Now, now I know. There was an old woman. And I killed her.

She is getting her revenge though. It’s a slow revenge. Slow and painful. Every time the weather gets cold, and the snow starts to fall, my skin becomes dry. Very dry. Lotions, oils, nothing helps. It burns, cracks and finally bleeds. Just like the old lady scratched into my door. My skin bleeds. It bleeds and bleeds and bleeds.

Credit: Desiree La Pinta

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Love

February 1, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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This is not meant to scare anyone.

Calling it a creepy story would be a bit of an insult, because it isn’t one. This is an expression of gratitude toward a friend, a friend who was always there for me. He watched over me as I was growing up and was the best friend any kid could ever have.

Even if I didn’t recognize it at the time.

He was always there, even though I couldn’t see him, and he was always acting in my best interests, even if I couldn’t understand. I’d like to take some time to share with you our story, because if you’re lucky, you might have a friend like this too.

I think I should let you read his letter first. In May of 2010, I bought a new computer and took my old one to the shop to have everything backed up. I’d brought the new computer home and had begun restoring my files from my portable hard drive and reinstalling programs when I noticed that there was a file in the Misc. folder that the shop’s technician had created for files with no other place. It was called HappyBirthdayBaby.txt.

Initially I thought it was a message my mom had written for me that I’d never read as intended, but I opened it, and this is what I found:

You might find this one day… I’m not great at this computer stuff, but I’ve watched you tinkering with this machine lately, and I think I know how to save this so that you’ll find it. Seeing as it’s time for me to go, I want to leave you this last little message.

I know you never met your father, but to me he was Col. Marcus Andrew Stadtfleld, as I’m sure your mother told you. He was a good man, one with the pride of a lion, the strength of a bear and a heart of pure gold. Truth is, I was almost like his son long before you were born. I was his second in command and served with him for three years.

I watched as your mother wept when she heard the news, her belly swollen with your soon-to-be debut into this world, and I stayed with her every second of every day. That was, until the day you came into the world- then my focus shifted to you.

I watched as they cleaned you and handed you to your mother, and she seemed to look right at me with a knowing eye as I stood over the both of you, almost as if she’d known along, and I’d be willing to bet my last penny she did. I’ve watched you grow and I remember everything, even the things you don’t. You always were such a happy baby and you had seemed to have inherited your father’s sense of humor. When you were getting to be four months old, you would do just about everything to hinder your mother’s attempts at changing you, laughing all the while. You were a wild one at heart, just as you are today.

Just like Marcus.

When you were about six months old we would play all the time. We had one game in particular, where I would grab your toes and tickle your belly. You would love it, though when your mother came in l’d have to stop, and it always perplexed her as to why you’d abruptly start crying- after a while, she seemed to think you didn’t like her, which is when I realized that I had to back away some.

When you were one year old you seemed to develop a sixth sense for me and although you couldn’t really see me so much or so well anymore, you knew I was there. I couldn’t play with you as much as before because I knew it would only hurt you in the long run, but I always kept guard. I knew you remembered seeing me because you had a way of testing my presence, you’d throw toys into the corner where I stood and then wait to see if I would play with them. Now, I know you won’t remember this, but once you threw a bear and a ragdoll at me, and because your mother was busy in the kitchen making dinner, I kept you entertained by putting on a little show. It was nothing special, I just made them dance a little. You were laughing loudly and your mom came in to see what was so funny, but when she saw, she wasn’t laughing. I bet you could mention the bear and ragdoll dance even today and the colour would run right out of her cheeks, but do me a favor and don’t. I think it would be kinder to ask if you ever threw the toys into the corner, that isn’t quite as bad a memory for her as the dancing is.

Do you remember your first word? I do… “Love.” Hahah. your mother made damned well sure you knew just how much you were cherished by her, every moment of every day and she would always say, “Love you baby…” I remember you tugging at my heart strings something awful once, when your mother was changing you in the bathroom this one time. You seemed to have caught my reflection in the mirror behind her, and you pointed and said Love (well, more of a wuv, but your mother knew), and she laughed and affirmed it. It was your only word for a time, but as I walked out of the reflection you started getting restless and I knew again that I had to be more stealthy. You were growing more and more every day now, and I couldn’t afford to break my promise to your father, which is why I would have to retreat yet again.

I broke the rules many times to protect you, for that promise to your father was everything to me. I remember when you were three and had mastered walking, you were a regular little scout, hahah. You could never keep still- those little legs had opened up a whole new world to you and you weren’t shy at all about exploring it. One day you were with your mother in the market, and a lady with a shiny purse caught your eye. You went running after her, just as another shopper was running with her trolley in front of her, coming the other way. She didn’t spot you, and because you were running after the purse, you didn’t see her either.

Breaking the rules was not allowed, but allowing you to get hurt wasn’t permittable either. By the time you noticed her it was already too late, and you fell on your bottom before you could scamper out of her way. Left without any other option, I sent that trolley flying Into the side of a freezer and as it crashed, that woman screamed blue murder, “A-A-A man in a uniform!” she screamed. You simply giggled as the crowd gathered and your mother came running. When she found you at that scene you were safe and sound, and you pointed to the trolley that had smashed the freezer window. You know what you said to her then? “Love mommy.” I was hiding by then, embarrassed to have created such a scene, though I have to admit I was laughing on the inside.

As you grew and became more aware so did I, and I finally knew when I could and couldn’t intervene. Doing too much would hurt the both of us, so I chose my moments carefully. You were a smart kid, just like your father, and most of the time knew how to handle any and every situation. If there was an option, you took it, though I slipped up a few times as you were growing up, I do think I did well to keep an eye on you. It was just the little things to make your life a bit easier, things you probably won’t remember, like putting your piano music sheets into your bag at night, turning off your television when you fell asleep, pulling the sheets over you on the colder nights, sorting your drawers, setting your alarm clock, closing your windows and door… You caught me doing one or two of these things a few times, and I want to take the time now to apologize for scaring you.

This one time you were doing your homework and fell asleep at your desk, so I filled In all the answers for your math quiz. You’d made such a fuss to your mother earlier about how strict the teacher was about homework and I knew you knew the answers anyway, but you suspected more than ever when you woke up and found that whole half a sheet you left incomplete was done. You were older and had forgotten that we were friends, things you saw in the media about ghosts scared you- and you had every right to be afraid. I just want to say I’m sorry. I never meant to make you cry. If only I had taken a little extra care you’d never have known. I just wanted to keep you safe and happy.

As you matured you began to take form as a little lady and as such, and you began to know the evil of men. Though you had your wits about you, you were always taking stupid risks, and watching over you became a little more of a worry for me. Gradually, I had to expose myself more and more, most memorably that night when that no-good boy you brought home started putting the moves on you. Your mother was at work, he was only after one thing, and although I knew it wasn’t my place to choose for you, you were still only a baby girl, just fifteen years old… As he got on top of you and started undressing you, took his top off and began whispering those sweet nothings, your face said it all.

You were scared. And when you told him to stop and he wouldn’t, and when you tried to push him off and he got angry, when he struck you and finally tried to put his hand up your skirt, all the evil I kept inside of me broke free at that moment and it was something I couldn’t control. My rage boiled over as I began to growl, the lights flickering, the TV volume rising, the doors and windows crashing open and shut. The keys on your piano began to rattle and with your fathers roar, I yelled, “Get out of the house boy!” He ran out of that room and you tried to follow, but I slammed that door in your face and wouldn’t let the handle go until your mother pulled into the driveway… I’m so sorry kid, that whole thing traumatized you for a while… You became more frightened of me than ever, having such an experience, and I knew from then on in spite of how much I loved you, we could never be friends. Not after what I’d done.

Some nights you used to sit awake late into the evening, watching for me, and I’d have to sit in the darkest corner, looking right back at you, unable to reassure you that I wasn’t here to cause you harm. You used to scream, “I hate you! Get out! Leave me alone!” And just as you used to do as a toddler, you would throw things into my corner, only instead of toys for me to play with, this time it was heavy books, CD cases, anything you could get your hands on to get me to move. You used to sit in your bed watching that corner… I always felt terrible about what I did. I’d almost broken that promise to your father- but more importantly, I’d almost broken the personal promise I’d made to you.

It was like that until the night you tried to make peace with me, that night you sat up in your bed and said, “If you’re here, I’m sorry, you were only trying to stop him…” I wanted to say something, but I couldn’t, even as you shuffled around nervously and called, “You’re here right? Could you show me a sign?” I wanted so badly to give you something, anything to show you I was there and that I’d heard that, but fearing that you would lose it if I did, I kept silent and just nodded, in that dark corner where you couldn’t see me.. You have to know I was never mad at you, you were just a little girl and that little prick tipped me over the edge… Promise me you’ll never do anything like that again, won’t you?

It’s your eighteenth Birthday today, which is exactly why I’m writing this to you. I want to wish you a happy birthday. I’m sure your dad’s getting sick of keeping that bar stool open for me. Live a good life, try not to forget about me, and know you turned out great.

Your father would be so proud of you.

This letter is my present to you, and don’t you worry about the spooky corner anymore, my final order is complete. I don’t know about you, but I think this trooper deserves a drink; you sure were a handful, hahah!

If you find this one day, try calling out to me.
Take care, be safe, and live a happy life.

Love,
Lt. Ashley Gilchrist.

PS. If you call out my name, call me what you used to call me as a kid, that always got me to come running.

I was gobsmacked when I read this letter; everything finally made sense. All the things that happened when I was growing up. I’d always thought I was seeing things until that day when my ex-boyfriend almost raped me. I’ll be the first to admit that I was scared of him, because I didn’t understand what he was, why he was there or what he was after, but now I see that I had it all wrong.

A few days after reading the letter, I asked my mom a few questions about the spooky things that happened when I was growing up. She was very nonchalant about the whole thing- until I mentioned what happened in the market. There, she stopped cleaning, set down her cloth, turned to me and smiled. “You always had a guardian angel watching over you, honey. I don’t know if it was your father or not, but who or whatever it was, it made sure nothing bad ever really happened to you.” As she turned around and began cleaning the dishes, she asked, “So I guess you met it then, right? Your spirit friend?”

“Not exactly, he left something for me.” I went upstairs, brought my laptop down and showed her the letter on my computer. My mother was crying by the time she finished and she told me all about my dad’s friend…

“He was a kind boy… Marc brought him home once to meet me and he had a certain thing about him. That man was as loyal as a dog to your father, he had a love and respect for him that even I was intimidated by at times… When he came to our home on leave, Marcus nearly had to order him to make himself at home, and he even had to be asked to take his uniform off. He looked up to Marcus almost like a boy looks up to his father. I don’t really know his background but I remember your father telling me that he was a good drinking partner, a fine soldier, and an invaluable friend.”

She took a deep breath and choked back a few of her tears before continuing on.

“They found that poor boy and your father all alone in a building that had been overrun by their enemy. They’d been out on recon, and their team got separated when they came under fire. The rest of the boys on your father’s team survived, but those two weren’t so lucky… The way they found them was peculiar,” she swallowed heavily, looked me right in the eye and said, “That boy was found on top of your father, riddled with bullets… he was shielding him right up until the moment he died. He could have gotten away but he refused to leave your injured fathers side.”

With that we both burst into tears… Love. That’s exactly what he was, he was a guardian. I’d never had any reason to be afraid of him, and I’d have given anything just to tell him I was sorry and that I loved him back. I had no right to have done all those terrible things I did to him at the end, I realized, and I realized that he had loved my father so much not even death could keep him from that promise he’d mentioned in the letter. When I asked what the promise was, my mother looked at me and with tears in her eyes said, “It was made in this very house while they were setting up your room, it was just-”

“No matter what happens, promise me you’ll watch over my daughter.”

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Outside the Window

January 31, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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I was 19 years old and still living at home. My dog Cooper, a pit bull, always slept with me. He would never wake up at night, let alone bark or whine. This is one of the reasons I was so unnerved when I was awoken around 3 am one dark night. When I was awake enough to know what was happening, I noticed that Cooper was standing over me. All the fur on his back was standing on end and he was making a noise that I had never heard him make before. It sounded like a mix between a growl and a cry. I was more worried about him than about what had frightened him at that point. That is, until I noticed what he was looking at.

Cooper was staring straight at the window right next to my bed. He had such anger and fear in his eyes. I didn’t even know such emotion could be displayed by a dog’s eyes. As soon as I looked at the window, Cooper turned around and sprinted out of my room. I sat completely still for a minute before I gained the courage to look at the window again. I slowly turned my head towards the window. The dread began to gather but I knew I had to. I finally turned my head the last couple inches and forced my eyes to look, but I didn’t see anything. But I definitely heard something.

I sat completely still in my bed, suppressing the childish urge to cover my face with blankets and hope whatever was out there went away. But my curiosity held me in my place. I had to know. Suddenly I heard heavy and slow footsteps outside my window. The rocks outside made them sound too loud and too close. The footsteps were too heavy to belong to any animal that might be innocently scurrying past my window. They were most definitely human, or humanlike.

Completely still, I sat and waited. The footsteps stopped for a few seconds and then they seemed to go back the way they came from. That just happened to be towards the back door of my house. A sound from outside my room in the hall drew my attention away from the window. It sounded like Cooper running down the hall. Before I could react, the back door opened and closed. Someone had let Cooper out.

My legs seemed to know what to do before I did. I was in the hall and at the back door in seconds. I just stood there with my hand hovering above the doorknob for what seemed like minutes. Paralyzing fear was preventing me from actually turning the knob, but I knew Cooper was out there and I needed to save him from whatever was there. With that thought, I turned the knob and threw the door open.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but complete and utter silence was not it. The countryside is usually much more lively at night with crickets and all. As for lighting, there wasn’t any. I took one hesitant step out of the doorway. That was when I heard it. It was the same noise I had heard Cooper make earlier. I felt a hand on my shoulder and whipped around. It was my father wondering what on earth I was doing and telling me to get inside. I frantically tried to explain that Cooper was out there with something that walked past my window a few minutes before. My father looked at me like I was insane. Apparently Cooper was sleeping on his bed. He had been there all night.

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What’s Next

January 30, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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This is a video pasta. If the embedded video is not loading for you, please click the link above to go directly to the video’s YouTube page and try watching it there.

Credit: Liam Vickers

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For a Better Audience

January 29, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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When I think back on my life so far I find that one of the things I can’t stop thinking about, no matter how hard I try, is MagikTrick.

Right off the bat I should say that I have no answers here. What I’m about to tell you is a true story and all I can say is what I know. And in the end I never did find out much about what was going on here or what exactly I’d stumbled upon. There are maybe people out there who can tell you more than I can. But this, right here, is the story of my experience, told as best as I can remember it.

I first found out about MagikTrick thanks to a friend of mine. Sophie was one of those people who could spend literally HOURS on YouTube, not even looking for or at anything in particular, just browsing through whatever random clips caught her eye and seemed funny or interesting to her. From what she told me, she’d been trying to find a clip of that scene from ‘The Dark Knight’ with the Joker and the pencil when she first found this channel.

The users name was MagikTrick and there was only one video on their account, one that was simply titled ‘Do u want to see a Magik Trick?’

Sophie had been curious and she’d clicked on it. This is a description of the video that she showed me later that day when she came ‘round to my house.

The video starts with about six seconds or so of lousy quality footage of a man, naked apart from a pair of boxers, sat on a wooden chair. He’s in a red room and when I say that this room is red I mean the walls, the floor and what can be seen of the ceiling are ALL the same shade of red. He just sits there, doing not much at all and then the screen cuts to black.

The words ‘Do u want to see a Magik Trick?’ flash up on the screen. Footage of a dog sitting beside the now empty wooden chair appears here, panting heavily. The dog looks to be a Pitbull or something like that.

The screen cuts to black again and the word ‘Abracadabra’ appears against the black background.

When it cuts back to the room the man’s body is still sat in the chair.

His head and hands have been cut off. Where his hands were there are now the dog’s paws. And the dogs head has been attached to his neck crudely. This is where the video ends.

I had no idea what to make of this. I didn’t know if I’d just seen an art student’s lousy film project or if Sophie had just shown me a snuff film.

I asked her where the hell she’d found this and she told me about how she’d stumbled across it. I told her she should get in touch with YouTube and tell them to take that shit down or at least look into it. The shot of that stitched together corpse had looked far too real.

I tried to put it out of my mind and didn’t think much about it until a few weeks later. Sophie told me that MagikTrick was ‘Back’ and explained that the account had been taken down a couple of days after she’d shown me that video. But here they were, back with a new account and a new video posted on it. I can’t say I had any desire to watch it but Sophie promised me that this one wasn’t gory in the least.

I reluctantly agreed to check this one out and so I sat down to check out what MagikTrick had posted this time. The video was called ‘Now u see him’

It was footage that looked like it had been filmed on a pretty cheap handheld camera. The cameraman or woman was never in shot and seemed to be focused on a man walking down a crowded street.

The man wasn’t anything special, just some blonde guy in a T shirt and jeans. The person behind the camera followed them along, sticking pretty close behind them.

The footage went on like this for about a minute and I started to get bored. Was this just something some stalker had posted?

When it was nearly at the two minute mark the screen went to black and the words ‘Now u see him’ appeared before cutting back to footage of the guy in the T shirt being filmed walking down a long alleyway and then simply….not being there anymore.

He didn’t fall or dart off to the side and there were no flashy special effects. One minute he was there in front of the camera and the next he was simply gone. I hate to use a cliché but the phrase ‘Vanished into thin air’ is the only way I can think of to describe what I saw. The person holding the camera swung it side to side to show and up and down to show that the man was nowhere to be found.

The screen cut to black once more and the words ‘Now u don’t’ appeared. And that was it.

I told Sophie that it was just done with some kind of technical wizardry.
They’d taken the guy out after filming, something any teenager with a decent knowledge of computers and video editing software could probably pull off. In a way I was relieved. This wasn’t some sicko posting snuff movies; it was just some bored guy somewhere uploading weird stuff on the internet to creep people out.

Sophie seemed almost disappointed when I told her how easy it was to throw something like this together. I think she genuinely wanted it to be real, to have found something sinister.

So it probably shouldn’t have surprised me a month later when she demanded I come and see what she and her girlfriend had found.

I found out that once again MagikTrick had been taken off YouTube and once again they’d popped back up. I told her that I really wasn’t interested in looking at another stupid video but she and her girlfriend Helen insisted that I had to see this, that it was the most messed up thing they’d ever seen. That didn’t exactly win me over but I didn’t want to argue with them over nothing so

I agreed to give this thing a look.

This new video was called ‘Presto Change-O’ and right from the start it was different than the previous two. It began with footage of what looked like a theatre stage and there was a woman stood in the middle of it. She was dressed in a black tuxedo, with a featureless white latex mask over her face and white gloves.

Text appeared on the screen. It’s funny how I can remember it so clearly.

It read

‘What a great crowd we have here tonight

Now

For my next trick

I will require a lovely volunteer from our audience’

The woman pointed at an empty seat in the front row of this theatre.

‘Would this lovely young creature please take to the stage?’

In an instant there was a woman sat in the chair beside the woman in the white mask. She was dressed up like a magician’s glamorous assistant…a sparkly red and black number with fishnets and make up plastered on her face. The makeup was applied far too thickly and her mascara was running. She was tied to the chair and despite there being no sound it was clear that she was sobbing.

The words ‘Let’s give her a hand folks’ appeared.

The screen flickered and suddenly the scene was of the girl in one of those boxes you see in that trick where the magician cuts his or her assistant in half.

I didn’t like where this was going.

As the woman in the white mask watched on, a buzz saw began to descend from above. The box was shaking violently and the girl in the box’s head was jerking side to side, making it clear that she was struggling quite violently.

As I watched, the saw blade came down and began slowly cutting into the box as it shook more and more violently, as the camera zoomed in closer and closer to the girls face.

In the end the screen was dominated by a close up of the girls’ eyes.

The screen cut to black and the words ‘Presto Change-O’ appeared. It cut back to a shot of a series of boxes. Each box had a painting of a human limb on it, one box had an arm painted on top of it, and another box had a hand, a foot, a leg.

The word ‘Alakazam’ was displayed. And the next shot was of the girl’s body.

It had been cut to pieces and reassembled, with no real surgical skill from the looks of it. Her head was now sown to the end of one leg, while one of her feet now was attached to a wrist. An arm had been attached to her neck stump while in place of her left arm there was now a leg.

The body was on screen for perhaps ten seconds and then the screen briefly cut to black. When the picture returned the stage was empty save for the woman in the white mask. From somewhere, there was the sound of applause or a recording of applause and she took a bow. The video ended.

I felt physically sick. But it turned out that the video hadn’t been all that Sophie and Helen had wanted me to see.

This video was different from the previous two in another way. This video had a link in the video description and like an idiot; Sophie had actually clicked on it.

But it didn’t lead to anything dodgy or to a site infested with viruses. In fact what it leads to was neither disturbing nor dangerous but just…baffling.

It was a web site that looked like little work had gone into putting it together. It was a black background with a childlike drawing of a frowning face, like the kind of thing that a kid in kindergarten would draw. And beneath it were written the words ‘Better Films’

And beneath that, in smaller text ‘For a Better Audience’

And the rest of the text on the webpage was all in what looked like Japanese.

The only other words in English were
‘Donate’

‘Our Titles’ and ‘Auditions’

Sophie had apparently had no luck clicking the buttons for ‘Donate’ or ‘Our Titles’ but when she’d pressed the ‘Auditions’ button it had led her to another webpage. This one was just an address, for some place a good few miles away. And she and Helen wanted me to check it out with them to see what was there.

I told them in no uncertain terms that was NOT going to happen. Sophie insisted that it was all fake and that this was probably some kind of marketing stunt or game. Some kind of online scavenger hunt, just some weird creepy bit of fun that someone had cooked up to promote a new horror movie or something. That it would be a laugh.

I told her that I wanted nothing to do with any of this anymore and that if she and Helen wanted to go play Nancy Drew that was up to them. But I told them I had a bad feeling about this whole thing and that they’d be better off forgetting all about it.

It will probably come as no surprise that they did the exact opposite.

I got a phone call from Sophie about a week later, sounding like she was in hysterics. I asked her where she was and she gave me the address for some crappy motel where she and Helen were apparently staying at right now. I headed over there, not sure WHAT I would find or what the hell had happened.

It turned out that Helen and Sophie had done just about the stupidest thing they possibly could. They’d gone to that address. You know when you’re watching a horror movie and you’re screaming at the screen for those idiots to just RUN and not make the obviously horrible decision they’re making?

Imagine having people like that as friends and you’ll maybe see why this latest bit of stupid from these two didn’t surprise me.

Maybe I’m being overly harsh but when I think back on this I still get so damn angry. They could have been killed or god knows what else. As it was the two of them were white as sheets and looked utterly terrified.

They said it was an old house, front lawn overgrown with weeds and grass at the end of some dull little slice of suburbia. The door hadn’t been locked and they’d gone inside. I listened to their story as I scrolled through the pictures they’d snapped of this place.

The inside of it had no carpeting, all of it having seemingly been torn up.
The walls were filthy and there was a horrible smell filling the house they said, which they soon learned was coming from the kitchen. Filthy pots, pans and plates were literally everywhere and some still had half eaten, rotting lumps of food on them, mould overrunning most of the cups and glasses.

The living room had been just a grim. I saw pictures of a couch covered in a variety of unpleasant looking stains, filth and grime covering the old wood floorboards. Across the wall someone had scrawled ‘For a Better Audience’ and beneath that was an old TV set with the screen kicked in. A bunch of tapes were all over the place and they’d snapped pics of those too.

They looked like tapes of a TV show I guess, something called Sunshine Street.

They’d gone upstairs and the weird factor had gone right off the charts.

The first bedroom they’d come across had been like something a mental patient would call home. No mattress on the bed, just a rusty old wire bedframe with a couple of pillows tossed on it and what looked like hooks dangling from the ceiling.

Big, thick rusty hooks with what they were pretty damn sure was dried blood on them. And what looked like a pool of it beneath that wire frame bed.

But the walls were what really made me shiver. Someone had written ‘For a Better Audience’ on them. All four of them. The same words repeated over and over again, rows upon rows of text with the same four words repeated again and again. Sometimes big, sometimes small, sometimes with no gaps in-between them.

The next room they’d tried had looked like it might have belonged to a kid at first. Bright, cartoony wallpaper and a few scattered and broken toys on the floor. Helen said she’d picked up a Barbie she’d found lying on the ground only to drop it pretty quickly when she turned it over and found out that its entire front was covered in thick, old blood. Holes had been punched where the eyes should be.

That big cartoony frowning face had been painted on the wall. The words ‘For a Better Audience’ were written underneath it again.

But that wasn’t what made them turn and run. What had made them turn and run was when they’d come to the third room. When they’d pushed open the door and felt an awful stench hit them. When they’d recognised it as the red room from MagikTrick’s first video. When they’d realised the source.

It wasn’t paint on the walls, floor and ceiling.

They ran and didn’t stop running until they were in the car and breaking every single speed limit to get as far away from that house as they possibly could.

They didn’t have any pictures of the red room so I only have their word for that last part. But the way they looked when they told me about it, I don’t think they were lying. And the fact that they were with me when we filed a police report about the whole thing makes me think that they weren’t making the rest up, either.

Of course I could be wrong. The whole thing could be an elaborate practical joke. Their little attempt to scare me.

I’d certainly find it a lot more comforting to think that it was that they made up MagikTrick, that it was just them and a few friends trying to give me a good fright. If it was, they certainly succeeded.

I tried googling Better Films once or twice and got nothing back that seemed relevant. When I tried to go back on the site it was gone. I just got an error message. I’ve never been able to find any movies made by ‘Better Films’ though from what I’ve seen they probably don’t make the kind of films that play at the local cinema.

None of us felt like playing detective here after this, not even the pair of idiots I have for friends. What they’d seen had put them off delving any deeper down this rabbit hole and I am deeply thankful for that.

The police never contacted us to ask any follow up questions and I’ve never tried to talk to them about it so I have no idea if that house was real, what they might have found there or what happened next.

If any of you feel like looking further into this I can’t stop you. Hell, this might have encouraged some of you and if that’s the case I’m sorry for that.

Because having seen the look on Sophie and Helen’s faces in that motel room and looked at some of the photos they took in this place I’ve got to say, when it comes to whatever this is?

I think ignorance is bliss.

Credit: Alice Thompson

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Atonement

January 28, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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Walter Thomas lied in his deathbed tired and sleep deprived, nestled underneath the covers. He had reached the ripe old age of ninety-five and knew that his time was almost up. He had not reached this age by living a healthy and wholesome lifestyle, but rather by stubbornness and an unrelenting will to live. He had done many things over the span of his lifetime that he had come to regret. He had hurt everyone around him who loved and cared about him in one way or another, and now he felt it was too late to atone for his sins. A feeling of dread dwelled deep within him of what might await him in the afterlife.

He now waited helplessly for his impending fate, afraid to fall asleep in fear that he may never wake up. To pass the time, he stared at the clock on the wall of the other side of the room. It didn’t help to ease his anguish and despair though. Every time the clock ticked, Walter could feel his life slipping away from his fingertips, as he knew he was just one second closer to entering the realm of the unknown. The tension and suspense created by waiting for the inevitable was literally killing Walter on the inside. He couldn’t handle the pressure any longer. Part of him wanted to just die and get it over with, but another part knew that what awaited him afterward may be much worse than anything he may be suffering from at the moment. He decided to continue to cling onto life.

Suddenly, a man in a black cassock entered Walter’s room carrying a bible. He was a rather young and handsome looking man with compassionate eyes and neatly groomed black hair. He took a seat by Walter’s bedside. Walter hissed in anger and distaste at the man and withdrew into the covers.

“I know who you really are! You can’t fool me! Leave me alone and be gone from this place!” shouted Walter.

The man sighed. “Walter, you’re being irrational. There’s no need to be afraid of me.”

“I know why you’re here! You’ve come to take me away!” said Walter.

“Everyone must face me at some point or another in their lifetime. It’s inevitable,” replied the man.

Walter removed the covers from his head. “You’re wasting you’re time! I have no interest in what you have to say to me! Go bother someone else!”

Once again, the man sighed. “Walter, we’ve been playing this game for several years now. Frankly, I’m getting quite tired of it. You’re going to die one way or another. Why must you prolong the inevitable?”

Walter huffed in reply, “You know damn well the reason why! Whatever fate awaits me is far worse than anything I could possibly imagine now!”

“You don’t know that. Countless numbers of people have gone through this before you. No one’s fate is sealed. There are an endless number of possibilities that can happen.”

“Well I’m not interested in finding any of them out!” replied Walter.

“Perhaps some scripture will change your mind. Here’s a verse from Luke 17:33.” He thumbed through the pages of his bible. “Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.”

“Oh cut it out! That doesn’t even make sense!” shouted Walter. “If I lose my life I’m going to suffer for eternity, I just know it!”

The man took a moment to think. “If you won’t listen to me, perhaps there is someone who you will listen to.”

“Good luck with that,” replied Walter.

The man got up and walked out of Walter’s bedroom. Shortly after, a small and frail old lady entered the room. Her soft gray hair was tied back into a bun and her wheat colored skin was wrinkled and weathered from years of hardship. Walter looked up at her with shock and surprise.

“Eleanor, is that really you?” said Walter.

The Woman gave a warm smile and looked down at him with her kind eyes.

“Of course it is Walter.”

“But that’s not possible. You’ve been dead for ten years,” replied Walter.

“Death will never be able to keep me apart from you Walter.”

“Eleanor, why do you treat me so well? I never deserved a Woman like you.”

“Oh Walter, it breaks my heart to see you in this state,” replied Eleanor.

“You’ve always had much compassion for me. I wish I wouldn’t have been such a fool and taken that for granted,” said Walter.

“You’re being too hard on yourself. What happened in the past is over with. You need to move on with your life.”

“But how can I ever make up for all of the things that I have done to you. The constant abuse, neglect, and malicious remarks?” asked Walter.

She softly caressed his cheek. “You don’t need to make it up Walter. I have already forgiven you. I just want you to move on and be happy.”

“But I’m afraid,” said Walter. “I don’t know what awaits me on the other side.”

“Then let’s find out together,” replied Eleanor. She extended her hand towards Walter. Slowly, Walter reached his hand out and gently grasped hers. He stepped out of bed and proceeded to hobble out of the room with his wife, hand in hand. A brilliant light radiated outside of the doorway. Walter took a moment to pause. He looked behind him and saw his mortal body resting peacefully in bed.

“I guess there’s no going back now,” said Walter. They stepped into the bright light together and became enveloped by its embrace.

As Walter entered into the light with his Wife, he felt all of his stress and tension release. An overwhelming wave of warmth and euphoria spread throughout Walter’s entire body. In that moment, Walter was happier than he had ever been in his entire life.

The warm feeling inside him began to grow warmer. As Walter progressed, it continued to grow even warmer. The temperature started to get a little bit uncomfortable. Walter’s feeling of euphoria went away and turned into confusion. The heat increased even more. Walter grew uneasy. He tried to turn around to head back, but it was no use. There was nothing to go back to. He suddenly noticed that his wife was no longer beside him.

“Eleanor! Where did you go?” Walter cried out.

He looked around through the sea of blinding light, but saw no sign of her. Suddenly, a familiar voice spoke to Walter.

“She’s not here Walter.”

Walter looked around to find the source of the voice. To his dismay, he saw that there was a young man in a black cassock staring at him. However, his face seemed to be changing images back and forth like a lenticular picture from a handsome, clean-shaven man to a black featureless pool of darkness. Walter clenched his fists and glared intensely at the figure before him.

“Where is she?” Walter shouted.

“She is in a happy place, I assure you,” it replied. “However, I am unfortunately not able to say the same about you.”

“You tricked me!” Walter cried out. “I knew I should’ve stayed in bed! I knew it! I knew it!” As his anger heightened, the temperature increased even more. The air grew thick to the point where it seemed to have substance.

“I’m sorry I had to resort to such tactics, but this was getting ridiculous. I have other clients who I need to attend to,” the figure said.

“I don’t want to hear another word of your lies!” shouted Walter. The heat grew more intense. Walter felt a mild burning sensation throughout his entire body. His anger quickly turned into fear.

“Get me out of here and return me to my home at once!” Walter demanded.

“I’m afraid I cannot carry out your request. It is already too late for you,” the figure replied.

“Please let me go home!” Walter cried. The air grew thicker and toxic. Every breath Walter took, he felt a searing pain course throughout his lungs. He tried to cry out to the figure for help, but he choked and coughed on his own words. He stumbled and fell to the floor. He tried to get back up but was unable to. The sea of light that surrounded Walter slowly turned into a sea of fire and engulfed him completely. The heat became too intense to bear. An unimaginable sensation of pain seared throughout every square inch of Walter’s body as he writhed around uncontrollably. The figure stared at him sympathetically.

“I really am sorry that this had to be your fate. I honestly didn’t know this was going to happen to you. Unfortunately, your fate is out of my control. I’m just responsible for the affairs that take place when transitioning to the next life. If you’ll excuse me now, there are many others who are awaiting my arrival.”

In an instant, the figure was gone and Walter was left alone to suffer and perish for eternity.

Credit: David Walker

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