Scratching

June 7, 2013 at 12:00 AM
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1

When I was 12 years old, my parents finally decided to split me and my younger brother up and give us our own rooms. I was a couple of years older than Alex so I got the bigger space, while he stayed in the box-room. My dad wasn’t too happy about having to move all of his junk down into the garage, but times change and I needed a room for myself.

The four of us lived in a bungalow on a quiet suburban street – a rather reclusive area. Me and Alex would get bored sometimes as there wasn’t much to do, but for the most part, all we needed was each other. Being two young boys with no one else to play with in such a huge neighbourhood, we were as close as two brothers could be.

One day after school, we arrived home to find that all of my belongings had been moved into the the room next to Alex’s. I didn’t expect to feel sad about it at the time, but deep down I knew that sharing a room gave us a stronger bond. After the realisation that we could no longer talk to each other at night, we had to come up with a plan. I devised a childish kind of morse code – a series of taps and scratches that we’d relay to each other on the wall behind our beds. I knew that this way, we wouldn’t get caught talking in the hallway or become bored during the night. After about three months, we had become experts at our secret talking and had managed to learn just over a hundred words. In our few months of doing this, there was one night in particular that stood out amongst the rest.

In the early hours of the morning, I was awoken by the familiar taps and scratches – this was confusing because Alex had never woken me up like this before. I sat up and listened intently to the words etched into the wall. It was vicious; it didn’t sound like Alex and some of it I couldn’t even understand. At that moment, I noticed Alex stood in my doorway: “What are you doing Jack?”. I stared at Alex in horror as the morse code upon the wall continued. Slowly realising what was happening, he began to tip-toe towards his bedroom door. Peering into the dark room, he could see that his window had been opened; somebody was in there. Alex slowly back-tracked, making his way into my room and closing the door. We didn’t speak, we just listened. The taps and scratches continued getting louder and more ferocious with every second; becoming violently intense until the persistent scratching built up into a loud bang. We couldn’t take it any longer. We screamed as loud as possible and our parents came rushing in.

In a fit of panic, we tried our best to explain to them what had happened. Mum sat and comforted us in my room while Dad went and checked Alex’s room. Seeing the open window, he sprinted into the garden to investigate, only to find that there was nothing there. After that, our parents tried their best to convince us that it was just our imaginations; but we know what we heard. After we had finally calmed down, we were put back to bed and all of the windows were locked. An hour or so later, I heard more tapping at the wall:

“Jack?”

“I’m awake Alex.”

“Me too, I can’t –“

“Me neither, there was definitely something there, something wrong.”

“I know, I know… Jack he’s here. He’s looking at me.”

“What? Don’t joke Alex, It’s not funny.”

“Jack, he’s staring at me through the window right now. I’ve got to move.”

The tapping ceased and Alex came stumbling into my room with a look of unconsciousness in his eyes. I shut the bedroom door and we sat on the bed shivering. We knew that there was no point in shouting our parents as they wouldn’t believe us; there would be no evidence of anybody being outside and we would most likely end up in trouble. Then we heard footsteps; they were accompanied by scratching that seemed to be leading from the outside of Alex’s room and inching towards my room. The heavy stepping stopped and a shadow blocked the moonlight behind the curtains. The window began to move a little as if it was being unlocked. We held our breath as it shook and creaked but luckily, it stayed closed. The figure leaned up against my window – almost completely shrouded by the shadows – and stared in to my room for what felt like an eternity. After a while, the shadow disappeared and never came back.

I asked Alex the next morning what the man by the window looked like; he told me he couldn’t remember – but it wasn’t a man. After the incident, we both seemed to block it out of our memory. We got back to our normal lives and completely forgot about it. Alex got the worst of it but he was doing fine and that was the main thing. It wasn’t until three years later that I realised it was never really over.

2

I was 15 years old and freedom-bound during the summer of 2003. I had just finished school for the holidays and earned a three month break to do whatever I pleased. Me and my friend Paul had originally planned to stay at home playing video games the entire time but those plans were soon shot down when I was told that Paul had to stay with his grandparents for a month. Paul spent a good hour or two expressing his love for the farm house his relatives owned; speaking highly of the lakes and fields that surrounded the family home. Eventually I gave in – it was clear I was to be joining him on his visit.

After packing my bags and saying goodbye to my parents, I headed down the road to Paul’s house with Alex helping me on my way. Me and Alex were still pretty close, but the older we got, the more we would drift apart. There were no more late night talks or playing out in the street together and I missed that. Once we had arrived at the house, Alex said goodbye, dropped my bag and ran off towards the direction of our local sweet shop. Me and Paul hopped inside the car and we were on our way.

We arrived safely at the farm within an hour or so. It wasn’t too far away, but it looked completely different from where we lived. – just a huge house isolated in the middle of nowhere with only hills and trees for company. After we arrived, time seemed to fly by and before I knew it we had already been there for a fortnight. The area was beautiful and his grandparents were lovely so I had no complaints.

One particular day after we’d eaten our dinner, me and Paul headed out to explore some more and somehow managed to venture too far. We’d usually spend the evening playing around in the fields or climb tress; but this time, we’d ended up a mile into the maze of bark. Eventually we reached a small stream and decided to have a rest. The sun lay low and twilight was fast approaching, but we couldn’t head back without having time to relax first.

After a while, I began to feel as if somebody was watching us from the surrounding trees. I looked around countless times but didn’t seem to find anything. I was on the brink of paranoia, when Paul frantically pointed out a small wooden box that he’d noticed floating downstream. All too excited to discover what was inside, I hurriedly made my way in the same direction until I was running so fast that I’d overtaken the box completely. I leaned over the bank as far as I could and managed to fish it out from the torrent. I looked back in Paul’s direction expecting him to be nearby but he was a mile away. “I can’t have run that far.” I said to myself.

I sat down and slowly opened the box. Inside, I found a small photograph and a scruffy, hand-drawn picture. The photo seemed to be of a small boy on his birthday; he was wearing a party hat and stood surrounded by torn wrapping paper – the biggest smile plastered on his face. Once I had managed to dry the picture off, I could easily make out a drawing of a family. There were three children and two parents stood outside of a dirty two-storey home. One of the children looked very sad and was separated from the rest of the family. Upon further inspection, I could see another person in the background; a much bigger man with an expressionless face staring from the corner of the house. It took a minute to register with my mind, but the events I’d hidden away from 3 years prior all came rushing back. A shiver ran up my spine and I picked myself up off the floor. I began to walk back towards Paul but my legs had gone weak. Then, in the quiet of the darkness I heard a noise from the trees behind me: tap, tap, scratch. My legs suddenly worked.

I ran towards Paul as we hurriedly made our way back to his grandparents cabin. Soon after we had arrived home, I managed to settle down. There were still doubts in my mind of who that drawing was of but the noises that followed my discovery kept leading me back to my original fear. Was that me and my family in the drawing? Who was the sad child standing on his own? What does the photograph have to do with anything? I went over the same questions in my mind, over and over and over – until the phone rang.

Paul’s grandma handed me the phone and told me it was my brother:

“Jack.”

“Yeah Alex it’s me, what do you want?”

“I have something I need to tell you.”

“Okay, I’m listening.”

“You know my friend from school… Tom?”

“I think so. I think I’ve met him once or twice. Why?”

“Well that day after I said goodbye to you, I bumped into him down at the shop.”

“And?”

“Well it turns out, he lives on the same street as us. Always has.”

“So, why is that unusual?”

“Well, it’s not really I suppose… It’s just, why didn’t we ever see him playing in the street?”

“Maybe he wasn’t allowed to play out when he was younger.”

“Yeah maybe, I don’t know it’s just strange.”

“It is a bit but some parents are like that.”

“I guess so. That’s not really the main reason I called anyway; I just found that unusual. I have something else I have to tell you, but it’s a big deal. We’ve never really spoken about it.”

“Okay, go on.”

“Well today I was at Tom’s house and ended up staying over for dinner. It got dark pretty early so we decided to tell some creepy stories. For some reason, I suddenly remembered that night, you know, the night a few years back. I got the courage to tell him about ‘the man’ and what he looked like.”

“Yeah.”

“Well he freaked out, he forced his fingers into his ears and started shouting. He kept repeating “Don’t talk about the man, forget the man”. I didn’t know what to do. His mum came running upstairs and told me I had to leave. I’m back at home now anyway, I think I’m safe. So you should never come back okay?”

“What?”

That’s when the phone cut off. I immediately rang back, only to be greeted by the sound of white noise. I stood there, shocked at what I had heard Alex say. A moment later, he called me back:

“Sorry about that, the phone cut off.”

“It’s… fine. Don’t worry about it. I think we should talk when I get back – talk properly. I’ll be home in a week. See you then.”

“Cool, see you then Jack.”

After I hung up the phone, Paul questioned me rigourously. I didn’t tell him much of anything – there was no need to – and I barely spoke a word for the rest of the time there. After all, I didn’t want to sound crazy. But all I could think to myself during that week, was that Paul has always lived on the same street as me too; so why didn’t I ever see him playing outside when he was younger? Maybe I was thinking too much.

I arrived home feeling worse for wear and noticed that Alex was waiting for me by the door. I was told that Tom’s mum had disappeared and left him on his own; all she’d taken with her was her jewellery box. Poor Tom went into foster care not long after his mum went missing; it wouldn’t be until a couple of years later that I’d meet him again.

3

Way back in 2005, I was invited to my first high school party. All I’d wanted since I turned 16 years old was to experience alcohol, friends and stupidity all in the same place; and after a long, boring year, I was finally able to.

I arrived at the party with Paul at 8pm and immediately got to drinking. We danced, laughed and avoided vomiting but after being there for a few hours or so, we began to get bored and realised that we hadn’t been missing much at all over the past year. We finished the last of our drinks and headed towards the front door. However, just as we were leaving, I heard somebody shout my name from the corner of the room. I turned around to see Tom standing there – swaying from side to side and happily slurring his words. I decided to stay a little longer.

After talking for a while, I felt as if I’d known Tom my whole life. He was only a year older than Alex, but he seemed much more mature. He was very open about everything that had happened and didn’t seem to mind talking about it. He told me that his foster family were not the nicest of people and never seemed to care about anything he did – they made him feel like an outcast and treated him like a stranger rather than a son. He told me that he hadn’t heard from his mother since she disappeared and doesn’t know whether she is dead or alive. He even mentioned that he was failing in school, but he just didn’t care anymore. His life was slowly falling apart.

When the party was over, I told Tom that he could sleep at my house so he didn’t have to make his way to the home he hates so much. I set the futon for him and watched as he collapsed into a drunken slumber. When I woke up the next morning, Tom was already awake and holding something in his hands that I hadn’t seen in over 2 years:

“Where did you find this?” he said.

“I haven’t seen that in a long time – forgot I still had it.”

“Yeah okay, but where did you find it?” he spoke urgently.

“I found it a couple of years ago. It was floating down a stream in Oakshale and I managed to fish it out of the water. Why?”

“This is my mum’s jewellery box. That photo was taken on my 7th birthday – the day my Dad left.”

“Are you being serious?”

“Did you find this box before my mum left me?”

“I did actually. When I got home a week later, Alex told me that your mum was gone.”

“This is so fucked up. Look at this drawing. That’s me and my foster family, I’m sure of it. Even the house looks the same.”

At this point, neither of us knew what to think. This all seemed impossible. I pointed to the man drawn hidden into the background and watched as Tom’s face lost all colour. I had no choice but to ask him about ‘the man’. I told him everything that Alex and I had been a part of back when I was 12. About Alex seeing him but me being spared. I mentioned to him about the scratching and the strange conversation with Alex back in Paul’s grandparents house. He listened to what I had to say and it seemed to give him comfort. Maybe knowing that he wasn’t the only one to experience the things he had made him feel a little better.

After a long silence, Tom began to speak:

“When I was younger, I would see him all the time. He would come to my window, find me at school, watch me as I tried to sleep; he was everywhere. As I’ve gotten older I’ve been seeing him less and less. But I do still see him. He usually appears at night; a tall, scraggly looking old man. His eyes are the thing I remember most. Pure black, with the most intimate glow behind them that almost seems relaxing. Yet, you’re full of sheer terror, it’s strange.”

Before I could say anything to Tom, he picked up the photograph from the box and showed me something that was written on the back of it: “Follow the stream to 66”. I had never noticed that written on the photograph before. Tom asked me if I would take him back to where I found the jewellery box in Oakshale. The way I saw it, I had no other choice than to say yes.

We set off walking to the stream with the hope of finding something – anything – to do with Tom’s mother but I don’t think either of us really knew what to expect. We had been walking for around half an hour when Tom stopped and pointed to a sign in the bushes for a shortcut to Oakshale. Upon seeing the sign, I was filled with a sense of fear that I’d never felt before; I really didn’t want to take that shortcut. I told Tom that I had a strange feeling – almost like deja vu or an extremely vivid dream – but he told me not to worry. As we were nearing the sign, I noticed a white, spotted bow on the floor. It was playing out exactly as I had seen it. I made my way back on to the main road and refused to go anywhere near the trees by the sign. I don’t like to think of what might of happened in those woods.

Eventually, we arrived at Oakshale and began to follow the stream. As we neared an old wooden bridge, Tom pointed to a small house on the opposite side from us. We headed towards the front door but there didn’t seem to be a house number anywhere. “This must be 66.” Tom said quietly. We made our way along the front path and knocked on the door. To this day, I still find it difficult to explain what happened when that door opened.

Tom’s mum answered the door and stared at both of us:

“Can I help you?”

“Mum?”

“I’m sorry, I think you’re mistaken.”

I stood silently as Tom exchanged words with the woman who was once his mother.

“Mum it’s me, Tom. Are you okay? What happened to you?”

“I am not your mother. I don’t have any children, so will you stop saying otherwise.”

At this moment, a man I had never seen before approached the door and chimed in on the conversation.

“What’s going on here? What do you kids want?”

“Dad? It’s me. Where have you been? Where has mum been? I don’t understand.”

We must have stood there – shocked and confused – for twenty minutes before Tom’s dad ended the conversation.

“Look, we couldn’t take it anymore. It’s your turn to deal with it now. We like it here and I think we’re safe. So you should never come back okay?”

The door slammed shut and Tom began to cry. We left that house and made our way home in silence. As we were heading back through the trees to reach the main road, I turned around to look at the house one last time. Standing on the bridge, as clear as day and staring right at me was a tall, black-eyed man pointing at the stream. I tensed up, feeling sick and dizzy, but I didn’t mention what I’d seen to Tom. That was the first time I’d seen my worst fear. I wish I could say it was the last.

A month or so after going back to Oakshale, I was given a school report to do on local history. I had been doing research, working my way through the years and was going through hundreds of old newspapers. I stumbled across a paper that was dated August 17th 1958. The main headline was detailing the death of a young boy who had drowned near his family home. A headline from a paper dated May 8th 1960 was of another young boy who had drowned whilst playing near a local brook. Over the next 6 years, five more child deaths graced the front page of local newspapers. Then, in the winter of ’66, the killer was caught.

On November 12th 1966, the front page headline boasted the quote: “It’s the only thing I’m good at”.
Solomon Wallace had killed seven children over the course of 8 years and had finally been brought to justice. His final victim was 7 year old Kimberly Matthews. She was lured away from her back garden where she was playing and had been drowned in the brook running along the back of her house on Kershall Street – the same street that I live on. Her body was found nearby after an elderly woman noticed the white, spotted bow she often worn, tangled up in the weeds. During the final court hearing of the brutal killing spree, a disgruntled father of one of the children shot Solomon Wallace three times in the back. After being taken to the hospital and placed in the intensive care unit, his nurse returned to his room only to find out that it was empty.

After weeks of intense searching, Solomon Wallace was never found. Most people believe that he died from the gunshot wounds; some believe that he got away with it scot-free. However, some people like me are still unsure to this very day. Things gradually got worse after our visit to that house. The occurrences became more common and sleepless nights were a part of our lives. But it wasn’t until meeting Michael three years later that things would become worse than ever.

4

It was the day of my 20th birthday and I had been persuaded to go for a meal with my family. I was never one for family events – being forced into spending time with relatives you barely know doesn’t really feel like a present – but it made my mum happy so I agreed. This happened to be my worst birthday yet; I hadn’t exactly been feeling great for the past year or so and neither had Alex. The experiences involving Solomon had become more frequent and were really starting to take their toll on all of us. Well, except for Paul, he seemed to be doing fine.

About half way through the meal, I excused myself from the table so I could go to the bathroom. I had just finished washing my hands when somebody approached me:

“You’re Jack aren’t you?” he said.

“Yeah I am. Do I know you?”

“I don’t think so. I’m Michael, I live down the road from you.”

“Oh yeah, another kid who hid away for his whole life.” I said snidely under my breath.

“Ha, I guess so. I actually used to see you playing out when I was younger. I was never allowed out, you know, because of him. You and your brother were pretty gutsy.”

“Him? So you know too then. Same shit, different story.”

“I know about it, so does my mum. We’ve never seen him but my dad has. Him and a couple of his friends were a part of it back in the late 70′s. He gets to people you know, fucks them up – drives people crazy. That’s what he did to my dad’s friends. Either you or one of your little friends will be gone soon.”

“Shut your damn mouth. We’ll be fine. We have been for the past eight years and we will be when it’s all over. We just have to ride it out.”

“Sure you will. Just make sure you keep in touch with your buddies daily. Those most tortured usually suffer in silence.”

For the next few days, I took the advice of Michael. I made sure to keep in contact with Tom while me and Alex looked out for each other. Tom seemed to be doing pretty well, considering he’d had it the worst out of the three of us but Paul wasn’t doing so well. He told me that something bad had happened and that things were worse than ever. Up until this point, Paul had never mentioned to me that he’d experienced anything out of the ordinary, so this was a complete surprise – I’d asked him once but he denied ever seeing anything. I guess he was suffering in silence…

Paul was looking worse than ever when he told me the story; very thin, pale and evidently tired. He told me that it was around 3am when he was woken up by a breeze coming in through the window – he expressed bewilderment at how the window had been opened because he keeps it locked at all times. He got out of bed, ran over to the window straight away and tried to lock it but the latch was snapped. After closing it shut, he slowly walked back to his bed and sat down. That’s when he appeared. Paul had seen him at his window before, but not like this. His face was not as distorted as usual; he could make out his black eyes and a look of sick happiness on his twisted face. The window slowly opened and Solomon’s tall figure began to jerk in through the opening. Crawling and wheezing heavily, he kept his eyes locked on to Paul and he couldn’t look away. Creeping over to where Paul was sat, he pointed his finger towards Paul’s wrist and marked a cross into his skin using his fingernail. In doing so, he stared at Paul and smiled. After that, Paul told me that he passed out – the mixture of pain and fear had become too much for him – and woke up the next day with his window latch still broken. It wasn’t a dream and he had the scar to prove it.

A few days had gone by and we were all terrified by Paul’s story; we had no idea what to do. We couldn’t hide, we couldn’t tell anybody because they’d react the same way Tom’s parents did and we definitely couldn’t stop him ourselves. We were being tortured nightly by someone or something, and it was made that much worse by not knowing what we were dealing with. After a surprisingly good night’s sleep, I awoke to a knock at the door – it was Michael.

After getting dressed, he took me on to the brook along the back of my house:

“There’s something you need to see. It’s only about a mile away from here.” he said nervously.

When we finally reached our destination, I was confronted by an old, abandoned house. I immediately knew where we were, but I didn’t know why:

“Why did you bring me here?” I asked angrily.

“I thought you should see it. I thought maybe you’d like to know that it’s still here.”

“Well I didn’t know that it was still here, that’s for sure. But I really don’t want to be anywhere near this house.”

“You need more answers and if there’s even a slight possibility that you’ll find some here, we should go inside.”

I hated to admit it but he was right. I had nothing. Some history on Solomon and the colour of his eyes wasn’t going to get me anywhere. I had to go inside; for all of us.

“Okay. Fine. Let’s go then.” I said with an infinite sickness in my stomach.

Upon going inside, we could see that it was completely abandoned and destroyed. The stairs leading up to the second floor had collapsed into a pile of wooden rubble, the living room and kitchen looked as if they had been lit alight and there was nothing left in the house that indicated that anyone had ever lived there. The only thing that looked to be in shape was the basement door. Michael was the first of us to grab the door handle. He anxiously turned the knob and began to walk down the rotting wooden steps. I nervously followed as the light from the living room slowly lessened, the further I stepped into the dark hollow.

As I turned the corner, I was greeted by an entire wall of photographs lit solely by a large candle on a dirty, old table. Hundreds upon hundreds of images scattered all over the place. Some looked as if they were from the 60′s, some from the 70′s, the 80′s – then there were the more recent ones. After looking through them, we had found pictures of everyone we knew. There had been crosses drawn on random pictures, while other pictures were clear of such markings. Tom’s photo had a cross on it, Alex’s photo had a cross on it, Paul’s boasted the same scribble and mine did too – but Michael’s was clear. There were even pictures of our parents from when they were younger. Tom and Paul’s parents had been crossed out, as had Michael’s Dad; but my parents and Michael’s mum were clear. None of this made any sense. What did the crosses mean? It didn’t mean death because all of our parents were still alive; so what did it mean? I was wracking my brains in confusion. Then we heard footsteps.

We froze on the spot, too scared to move. The bangs were getting louder as they approached the basement door. That’s when I realised that I’d left it open – it was clear that we were downstairs. The final bit of light hitting the basement turned to black and it became apparent that there was somebody standing at the top of the stairs. Michael and I tip-toed and hid beneath the steps as Solomon began making his way down from above our heads. He gasped for air as he reached the bottom stair. His lanky frame hobbled over to the table and took a look around at the photographs. The fear I was feeling didn’t scare me still; it compelled me to run. I nudged Michael and urged him to follow me. Right before we were about to run, Solomon turned around a let out an angry croak. We ran. We were running as fast as we could but he could somehow keep up. All I could hear was the panting, the morphed laughing, the hunger. He was only a foot behind us when we reached the top of the stairs. Michael slammed the door shut behind him as we reached the living room and headed straight back out onto the brook.

We followed the trail urgently and made our way towards our homes. I now had even more questions than ever and no answers to accompany them. When I arrived at my front door, it was already open. I walked inside the house to find my mum, dad, Alex and Tom sat in the living room. My mum and Tom had been crying; the air suddenly felt cold. Paul had been found dead in his room. He had slit his wrists during the night – the night I had been having a good night’s sleep. It seems that Michael was right and now one of us was gone; I just didn’t expect it to be Paul. He drives you insane and there’s no escape when you suffer in silence. I’ll never forgive myself for not giving Paul more of my time, I can’t help but feel that maybe I could have saved him.
I know one thing for sure; I lost a great friend that day and I’ll never forget him.

5

Four years have gone by since Paul ended his life. I’m now 24 years of age and living in my own apartment, far away from my old neighbourhood. Alex and Tom have their own place and spend their time studying in university, while I attained a simple retail job; barely managing to scrape enough money together to live off. Our lives had been scare-free for the past few years and we were just beginning to get back to normal. There was the odd nightmare of course, but aside from that, the three of us were doing good. Well, that’s what we thought.

About six months ago, I was over at Alex and Tom’s place having a few drinks and watching a couple of movies. The talk of the intoxicated soon began and before we knew it, we were discussing everything that had happened. None of us liked to even think about the events, never mind talk about it – but I suppose that’s what alcohol does to you. We found ourselves dissecting Kershall Street, remembering the people who used to live there and all the people who left. Tom’s parents were long gone – losing their minds down in Oakshale. Not long after Paul died, his parents left too. Then Michael was forced to leave with his mum and dad, as well as other neighbours just up and leaving. The street seemed so empty when we left.

When me and Alex moved out, our mum and dad decided to stay put. They liked the street, the area, their jobs and they had never been part of anything that had happened. It didn’t take me and Alex too long to figure out that the reason we were the only kids allowed out to play in the street was our parents lack of experiences with Solomon. Most of the other parents happened to be part of the strange history in some way. I suppose he chooses his fixations.

After a few drinks and some intense talking, the three of us fell into a drunken slumber. It wasn’t until the early hours of the morning that we were disturbed by a bang at the door. Me and Alex opened our eyes and attempted to focus our vision. Tom was nowhere to be seen. A feeling of pure sickness hit my stomach that wasn’t drink-related – I immediately knew what was happening. Alex wasn’t as fast to react to the situation we were in, after all it had been four years. We stood up and made our way towards the front door. Just as Alex turned the handle, his face changed. It was almost as if at that moment, he had the realisation of what could be outside. He slowly opened the door, but there was nothing there. Just a small white, spotted bow on the ground.

We slammed the door shut and made our way back to the living room. It didn’t take me long to realise that I knew where we had to go. The article, my deja vu, the bow; it all added up. The shortcut through the woods to get to Oakshale – the place I refused to enter – was where Solomon would be. During my history research, I read that he would hide the dead bodies of all the children he drowned in that area because Oakshale was locally known for it’s beautiful scenic route – there was no way anybody would tread those woods and miss out on the wonderful sights. If Tom was going to be anywhere, it would be there. I still had the fear and didn’t want to be anywhere near Oakshale at this moment in time, but we had to find Tom.

We eventually made it to the woods and stopped on the road. Everything seemed so surreal. I took a few deep breaths and stepped on to the grass. At that moment, Alex pulled the bow out from his pocket, as a brisk wind blew it from his hand and on to the floor where it had been once before. I shouted at him, grabbing him by the shirt; I questioned him as to why he brought it? The only answer he could muster was: “I feel like it’s a big part of our whole story”. As true as that may be, I didn’t want to be reminded of what I once saw in my mind. We slowly made our way into the woods and walked for a good ten minutes, but nothing happened. Maybe it was just a dream or deja vu or whatever you want to call it. Then the smell hit us.

We turned a corner, cut through some trees and there it was. My nightmare.

The moonlight shone brightly through the crooked branches of the trees. It bounced off the stream and seeped through every gap in sight. The tall, skinny figure of Solomon Wallace had his hands on Tom and seemed to be leading him to the water. The figures of Paul’s parents hanging in the trees, spun slowly, drenched in blood and smiling like kids on christmas. Tom’s mum and dad were sat slouched against the bark opposite Tom. They were disfigured – maimed. Cut apart and sewn back together to seem smaller and younger. They all looked so happy.

The look on Tom’s face however was indescribable – a fear once thought impossible to feel. It surely matched the horror that me and Alex were feeling inside. Solomon stopped and looked at us with his black eyes. He banged and scratched on the tree next to him but we couldn’t understand. He took a few more steps towards the stream and stepped into the water with Tom. The torrent only reached Solomon’s waist but it had completely submerged Tom. We didn’t know what to do. We stood there, stunned and useless. Then Tom fought back. He kicked and tussled until he relinquished Solomon’s grasp. Me and Alex snapped out of our trance and ran towards the water. Tom slowly crawled out of the stream as his fear was replaced by anger. Solomon let out a deafening scream and marched towards us. The three of us muscled a large rock along the floor and rolled it towards his boney structure. The stone knocked him over into the stream; landing on his chest as he failed to move it from on top of him. We couldn’t stay to see the damage done.

We ran home as fast as we could and called the police. We told them everything. The story of Solomon, the dead bodies in the woods, the suicides; we didn’t miss anything out. The police didn’t seem to care. It was as if everybody knew but never spoke of it – an entire town built on silence. They sent a team out to the woods and found everything that we’d described. All of the disfigured corpses and even the body in the stream. It was finally all over. Nothing was written in the local paper the next day and the three of us were barely questioned on what happened that night. I guess everybody was still unsure on the whereabouts of Solomon Wallace and whether he really did die that night.

Two days ago, I got a phone call from the police down in my old hometown. The autopsy had finally been completed and the officers thought that I should know the results. The body belonged to that of a man named Mr Ted Bradley – Michael’s dad. I hung up the phone, called Tom and Alex and told them to get over to my place the next day so that we could talk. They arrived as I’d asked and I erupted – rambling in fear, screaming that he was still out there, sobbing like a baby. Then they interrupted me:

“We just found this in the lobby downstairs.”

They handed me a small box. We opened it up to find a broken window latch and a small drawing of my apartment. The picture was dated 4th April 2013 and had a small cross next to it. On second glance, Tom noticed it and pointed out the scribbled image of Solomon in the corner of the page. That’s when we heard the scratching. The three of us ran into the bathroom and locked the door; that was almost 24 hours ago and the noise has barely ceased since. It seems as though nobody escapes, not even us. So here we are, terrified in our final moments, razors at the ready…

Goodbye.

Credit To – Jacob Newell

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You’ll Be Okay

June 2, 2013 at 12:00 AM
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On our way home from vacation, my five year old daughter and I got stuck in traffic caused by an accident up ahead. My daughter asked why we had stopped, and I told her someone had wrecked. That’s when she responded with “Remember when that happened to me?” I was confused… She’d never been in a car accident. I laughed, thinking she was playing pretend or something, and asked her what she was talking about.

“Don’t you remember? We was going to the store and then we hit something, and then the glass cut me and it hurt so bad and I was so scared at first, I thought I was dying, but daddy kept saying I would be okay and I knew he wouldn’t lie.”

I just stared at her for a minute, not sure what to say… For one thing, the whole thing was crazy, I had never been in an accident, and neither had my daughter. And the other thing was, she didn’t have a “daddy”… I mean of course she had a father, but he wasn’t part of the picture, never had been, so where was she getting this from?

Traffic cleared and we continued on our way home, and it slipped from my mind. A few weeks later, while on the phone with my mom, I remembered it and told her about it.

After a pause, my mom told me that when she was just about 3 years old, there had been a car accident, and that her older sister, who was five at the time, had been killed when a piece of glass from the windshield had somehow slit her throat. It was such a tragedy that for the most part her family tried to pretend it hadn’t happened, getting rid of everything that reminded them of her sister and and never mentioning it, which is why I never knew about it. My mom said she could barely remember the accident itself, since she was so young, but she said she’d never forget her dad crying as he held her sister in his arms and repeated over and over again “You’ll be okay, you’ll be okay, you’ll be okay.”

I felt chills run down my spine as I wondered how my daughter could have possibly known that.

Credit To – Thenightmaregirl

If you would like to read more creepy stories of children seemingly recalling past lives and/or prior deaths, you should check out the Parents of Reddit, what is the creepiest thing your young child has ever said to you? post from last month. Even if you don’t believe in reincarnation, it’s very weird and very fascinating. Kids can be so creepy.

The following books were suggested over the course of the Reddit thread as well – I’ve partially read them and if you find the topic interesting enough, they’re worth a look. As always, our referral code is included in the Amazon links, so if you do order anything through the link – thank you!
Life Before Life: Children’s Memories of Previous Lives
Journey of Souls: Case Studies of Life Between Lives
Old Souls: Compelling Evidence from Children Who Remember Past Lives

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I’m Not Scared

May 31, 2013 at 12:00 AM
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I have to be brief, for I don’t really know how long I have until it finds me.

My name is Daniel Lockwood, I’m a 20 year old British citizen and I’ve been living in China for the last 18 months. My Mother’s name is Deborah Lockwood. I am typing this on an Ipad. It’s around 10.45pm on Tuesday 30th April 2013. I am unsure of my exact location, but I am somewhere in the mountains south of Beijing, on the border of Hebei province, close to a small village named Shidu.

My fingers are trembling as I quietly tap away at the touch screen and tears are flowing heavily from my eyes, creating a satisfying patter sound as they slam against the smooth surface of the tablet. A cigarette is hanging loosely from my lips. This space is tight and unwelcoming, not the kind of tomb I had hoped for.

Please forgive any spelling mistakes or nonsensical ramblings, my vision is slightly blurred and my mind abundant with unimaginable horrors. Isn’t it funny, that even in death the brain is concerned with such trivial things as grammar?

Anyway… This is my legacy. If you are reading this, I hope to God that you are warm and safe, within the confines of a locked room or in a heavily populated area. I hope that your friends and family are close by or that your pet cat is cuddled up on your lap. The tale I’m about to tell is not for the faint hearted, nor is it fabricated or exaggerated. It’s the telling of a desperate man’s final hour in existence, one filled with horror, fear and experiences he wouldn’t wish upon his worst enemy. The purpose of this final entry is to reveal the truth, to let it be documented that there are still things in this world that we don’t understand, that we’ve not discovered. There are still things in this world that haven’t emerged from the darkness to reveal their twisted and unholy faces. But I’m not scared anymore.

If you are reading this, I am surely dead.

Around 11 hours ago, myself and 4 others embarked on a ‘mini-adventure’ outside of the familiar and into the wild. I won’t waste time on back stories and the like, all you really need to know is that the 5 of us were intrepid travellers, a close group of friends who thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company and frequently enjoyed treks and hikes together. Of this 5, only I remain, and soon my life will too come to a grizzly end.

This particular escapade landed us in Shidu, a small and rural village far on the outskirts of Beijing municipality, China. Shidu is famous for its beautiful scenery, adventure activities and serenity. It’s also famous for its rich and colourful folklore, an area of Asia that often attracts crypto-zoologists from around the globe.

If you live in a foreign country for long enough, and take enough of an interest in its traditions, you will reach further and further into the foundations of its culture, learning about the food and history and mannerisms. You will eventually and undoubtedly come across an aspect of that culture that is often a very defining and unique feature – Fairytales and stories about beasts and boogies that hide in the forests or under your bed. Goblins and ghouls that will suck your soul out through your mouth, or drag you kicking and screaming through the earth until you reach the burning core of hell. You’ll learn about graveyards and rituals, superstitions and spells, curses and ghosts. All of these things add a certain charm and elegance to a culture and Chinese culture is brimming with such legends.

I have taken that step from reality into the realm of legends. No longer am I skeptical of the shadows in my cupboard or the creaks from the attic. I now believe that people have been possessed or abducted or probed or haunted or eaten or defiled in horrifying ways by horrifying things. These things I now know to be true. But I’m not scared anymore. I just hope that there is a God who can offer me some form of peace after this ordeal comes to its inevitable end…

We departed from Beijing’s city centre at around 11am, excited and well prepared for a couple of days in the mountains, armed with snacks, cameras and a sense of adventure. As the concrete jungle behind us slowly faded away into the thick layer of smog that frequently engulfed the city, the 5 of us enjoyed a long and comfortable ride through the Chinese countryside, passing large open fields and seas of rotten wooden shacks, which became less recurrent as we entered the sloping valleys and canyons that twisted through south-western Beijing.

The first port of call was a brief stop at the guest house, where we could stretch our legs, wash up and offload any unnecessary baggage. I’m not going to attempt to make this into a cliché horror story by providing falsifying claims of unsettling landlords or shaky warnings from deformed locals, because none of that happened. It was an ordinary guest house within the confines of ordinary mountains, inhabited by ordinary folk living ordinary lives. There was nothing extraordinary about this place just yet.

After a quick shower, a bite to eat and a cigarette, we hopped back onto the bus and started the brief journey to the beginning of the hike, which would take us through the most rural and unexplored section of this particular mountain range. At 5.20pm, we arrived. The driver, a stern but pleasant local man, told us to call him roughly 30 minutes before we wanted to be picked up. We responded by informing him that we should have completed the hike by about 9pm.

I guess he’s getting pretty worried by now.

We purposefully chose to start the hike slightly later than usual, to avoid swarms of other tourists, but admittedly not as late as we did. The sun was already waning in the sky, foreboding the fading light that would soon be devoured by darkness. The last few drips and drabs of sightseers were funneling out of the narrow opening ahead, shooting us concerned looks as we shambled past them on our way up. We had traversed tough terrain in the late evening before, so we didn’t give much thought to the implications of a night hike.

The first hour or so of the hike was relatively undemanding, lightly inclining slopes and steps, paralleled with rows of stone carvings and badly translated signs. All of the stalls and markets that accompanied the first section of the trail were deserted now, save for the one or two remaining locals gathering their cheap tat and trinkets, ready to sell on the next day. We only passed a handful of others, who shot us yet more disconcerting looks as we strolled past them in the fading sunlight. Areas of the mountain had already been swallowed up by shifting shadows, other sections were relishing in the last few minutes of luminosity.

The trail gradually became more demanding as equally spaced steps became less and less frequent. After about an hour and a half of trekking, we came across a tattered notice board which informed us of our current position and distance from the peak, not too far away.

The only sounds that filled the evening air were our voices as we discussed the next day’s activities – water rafting and horseback riding. Gaps in conversation would bring a dead silence. There wasn’t even a breeze to rustle the trees, not a cricket chirping, not a bird tweeting. Just silence. Even the sounds of our heavy footsteps seemed to be drowned away by the enormity of the mountain.

Close to the peak, we came across a small, traditionally crafted pagoda. The path split in two here, one lead straight ahead, further up the mountain and towards the peak. I remember from the map that this was also the exit route, which eventually wound down and intercepted the entry path close to the bottom. The other path strayed off to our right. This route, dutifully named ‘cloud road’, was steep and led to a large raised viewing platform about 200 meters above.

We spent a few moments deliberating whether or not to take the minor detour to catch a glimpse of the setting sun from one of the mountains few viewing platforms. Sarah and Thomas, the couple of the group, decided that they would have a rest at the pagoda. The rest of us, assuming that they just wanted some alone time, sighed and began to make our way up to the platform.

It wasn’t much of a detour, perhaps 10 minutes each away, but a tiring walk nonetheless. Neither of us really spoke much on the way up, the path was too uneven to focus on conversation, but the top of the platform rewarded us with a breathtaking view of the landscape. The mountains stretched on for as far as the eye could see. Even in the waning light, I could see far into the distance. The rolling hills seemed to carry on forever and signs of early summer blossomed and cascaded over the slopes. We spent 5 or so minutes catching our breath at the rest stop. I enjoyed a celebratory cigarette, resting against the lone fir that occupied the platform, appreciating the spectacular view that lay before me.

I found myself unable to take my eyes away from the scene. The hills seemed to twist and ripple around me, not in a sinister way, but in a magnificent display of beauty. It wasn’t until my friend Jay nudged me that I awoke from my day dream, crushed the cigarette butt into the ground and turned on my heels to begin the descent back down to the pagoda.

The sun was hanging very low in the sky now, disappearing behind a large set of mountains to the west as we fumbled our way down. Gradually, the pagoda emerged from behind the shrubbery and into view. Sarah and Thomas were no longer perched on one of its colourful beams as they had been before. My first thought was that they were probably responding to a call of nature in a nearby bush, or that they had gone on ahead without us.
Then Clare saw it. Then she screamed. Then we all saw it.

A human scalp, sprouting long, blood-matted blonde hair lay on the ground towards the back of the pagoda. Folds of tattered skin were hanging loosely from the main bulk of the flesh. It looked like a piece of road kill and as though it had been clumsily removed using a blunt instrument, or perhaps a giant animal’s claw. It was clearly identifiable as being from Sarah’s head. The rest of her was nowhere to be seen. Long streaks of crimson had stained the wooden floor of the pagoda, and lead away into the foliage just past it. My eyes shifted from the gory mess in front of me to the left, where a detached jaw lay clumsily on the soil. Velvety tendons protruded from the thing. Whatever had ripped it from its owner did so quickly and with almighty strength.

I began to taste acid on the back of my tongue as mouthfuls of thick hot vomit made its way out of my stomach and up my esophagus. I could barely distinguish between the sounds of my friends screaming and the throbbing retches that accompanied the stream of bile that flowed from my mouth. My stomach had emptied itself onto the earth before me, stinging my nose and eyes as it did so. Somebody grabbed me by the shoulder and was yelling maniacal and undecipherable words at me. My legs instinctively began to carry me away from the nightmarish scene and along the unexplored path ahead.
The sounds of heavy breathing and clumsy footsteps rang through the trees and bounced off the rock faces surrounding us. Dusk was settling in and the first few stars began winking in the void above me. We sprinted for several minutes, plummeting through thick shrubs as we lost all sense of direction, fuelled solely by adrenaline.

The path was tight here, barely enough space for two people to stand side by side. I glanced over my shoulder to see that the others weren’t far behind me. Their panic stricken faces only served to heighten my own desperate fear. Another 20 seconds of sprinting led me to take a sharp left turn around a protruding rock, after which I stopped dead in my tracks.

Fear is a horribly difficult emotion to describe. It does things to the human body that can traced back to the earliest species of man. It forces hair follicles to stand on end in an attempt to make our forms seem more menacing. It commands a fight or flight instinct, designed to secure our continued existence when confronted with something potentially life threatening. Fear can also paralyze the human body, a reaction to frightening stimuli that is less understood by those who study it.

This latter reaction, being paralyzed, is the unfortunate response my body decided to commit to when confronted with the terror ahead. The path in front was again long and narrow. It was lined with brooding trees, most of which hung delicately over the lane. Roughly 100 meters along the trail stood, or rather ‘hunched’, a figure. I immediately came to the conclusion that it was not human. It was far too tall, perhaps close to 8 foot, even with its drooping posture. Its arms and legs were massively out of proportion to its body, stretching almost to the floor. I couldn’t quite make out any defining features; it was far too dark to pick up on anything other than its overall size and shape. One thing I did notice, however, was that it was clutching something in its right hand. This ‘something’ was dripping a thick liquid, which was pooling in the earth below.

I assumed that the others had witnessed the same horrific sight as I had; I could sense them standing close behind me. Even in this situation, the closeness of others provided the slightest amount of comfort. I’m not really sure how long we were standing there. It could have been as much as several minutes. I can’t say for sure how I knew it, but I was certain that I was staring into whatever it had instead of eyes. Dark voids occupied the space, a shade of such complete blackness, it was unnatural.

It dropped whatever it had clasped in its claws, extending its slender fingers so that they scraped the ground below. The object, which I now assumed to be a chunk of flesh, splattered onto the soil. The thing began creaking and moaning as it shifted slightly.

Then it began running straight towards us. Life swept back through my limbs as I launched myself in the opposite direction, pushing past the others in a selfishly desperate attempt to put myself ahead of them. The thing was screeching now, a blood-curdling sound that quickly intensified as it grew nearer. I had been running for a few seconds when I heard a different kind of scream. I can only assume that it had mounted Jay, for the most unnerving shriek, obviously that of a male, stung my ears, quickly followed by a loud thud. His screams were soon cut off by a sharp snapping sound that echoed through the night. It certainly was not the sound of a branch breaking.

Tears blurred my vision, making it difficult to navigate the uneven path. Frequent glances over my shoulder confirmed that Clare was not far behind me. Looking past Clare, I could see the thing, sitting atop Jay’s chest and greedily gnawing on his face. One prolonged look treated me to a view of the thing pulling Jay’s eyeball out of its socket with its teeth. The optical nerve stretched to a surprising length, before eventually snapping and bouncing back and forth like a child’s play thing. It slurped the sensory organ into its gaping maw and swallowed it down whole, sending it down into its abyssal stomach.

I turned again, making eye contact with Clare, whose face was a mess of colours as her makeup was sent sprawling across it in a mixture of sweat and tears. My stomach lurched again when I noticed that the thing was no longer in view. Jay’s mangled corpse still lay awkwardly on the floor. I screamed at Clare.

“IT’S GONE, IT’S GONE”

Clare immediately swung her head around in an attempt to confirm my claims. As she did so, her foot caught on a stray root that had defiantly pushed its way through the rock floor. I tumbled to a halt, only catching a short glimpse of her rag-doll like form as she toppled over the edge of the steep bank on her left. I could do nothing but stand and listen to her muffled yelps as she crashed down through the foliage. The drop was at least 20 meters and strewn with ragged rocks and tangled trees.

I made a necessary and self preserving decision right then, to carry on without her. If she managed to survive the fall, then surely the thing would get her anyway. I pelted my way back down, past the pagoda and the scalp and the jaw. I fell down a couple of times, quite seriously hurting myself.
I ran until I could physically run no more, and collapsed in a heap on the floor. My chest and head were pounding violently and for the first time since the start of the ordeal, I had a few seconds to reflect on the reality of what had happened. 3 out of 4 of my friends were certainly dead, the fourth’s fate as yet unknown. This thing was fast and likely had super-human sensory abilities. Was there just one of them? Or had a whole clan of monsters evolved in this untouched region of China. The thought of a group of the things made me whimper audibly.

I screamed quietly as my phone vibrated against my leg. I quickly fumbled it out of my pocket, so as to silence the damned device and use it to call for help, now that I had a chance. Clare was calling me. I answered it immediately and put the phone to my ear. She was sobbing painfully. Through the weeping, I could hear her saying,
“Why did you leave me? Why did you leave me? Why?”
And then,
“It’s here. It’s here now. It’s just standing there. Watching me. Just standing there. Right in front of me”
A screech, a scream and a sickening squelching noise bellowed through the speakers. I scrambled along the ground and into a crevasse in the side of the mountain, behind a bush, and buried my face into my knees. Indescribable sounds continued to stream out of the mobile phone, which I had placed on the ground in front of me. A brief moment of silence followed, eventually broken by the sniffing, creaking sounds of the thing. It handled the device for a few seconds before screeching, dropping it and galloping off into the night.

I threw the phone away from me and rustled through my backpack for a cigarette and my Ipad.

I’ve spent the last 30 minutes chain smoking and immortalizing my last words. It’s almost time, I can feel it. I’m not scared anymore, because I know it will be all over soon. Anybody reading this might think it insane of me to just sit and wait for death as opposed to attempting escape. I don’t really know why I’m not currently cascading through the night; it just feels right that I sit here and wait. I’m not scared anymore.

It’s here now. I heard its silent footsteps a few moments ago. Now it’s standing about half a meter away from me, on the other side of this bush. I can see its pale, scaly, thin legs through the shrubbery. I can see its crimson-stained claws hanging freely by its side, almost touching the floor. I can hear its controlled breathing and croaking. I can smell its thick musk and the drying blood around its face. It’s my turn now, and I’m not scared.

Credit To – Reece Ayers

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The Darkness

May 30, 2013 at 12:00 AM
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Call me outdated, but Counter-Strike is still at the top of my all-time favorite video games.

Late night at the dorm alone, playing up until 3 am, with full volume on. Yeah, that’s my style. Today was supposed to be no different.

I turned on my MacBook Pro. The glossy screen made a clear reflection of my long, narrow room. The dorm’s rooms were all made just for one person, so I was always alone. My laptop was propped up on my desk at the end of the room, opposite the door.

It was almost too routine. After a long, boring day of classes, I’d get back to my room at 10 pm. I’d go Facebook, Twitter, 9gag, up until I’ve surfed every nook and cranny of the net. Then, bored as fuck, I’d open Counter-Strike, and go firing deep into the night.

But tonight, while surfing, a friend suddenly messaged me on Facebook.

“Hey dude! Check out this sick CS Map! (Download link)”, Kevin messaged me.

As he was a CS addict just like me, I opened the link. The map was called ‘de_darkness’. With my 10 mb per second internet, the map downloaded in a flash. Excited, I immediately opened Counter-Strike to try out the map. I set it up to play a good old fashioned, 5 v 5 affair.

The map, living up to its name, had many dark areas. Set late at night, only the pale blue shade of the night sky and a few lamp posts gave light to the area. Stone walls lined each corridor, filled with long, green vines. Dark hallways and tunnels snaked at the center of the map.

Around it was an elevated area, perfect for sniping unwary players on the bottom, through ceiling holes in the tunnels. Bridges also kept the map interesting, hovering across the width and length of the vicinity.

‘Darkness’ seemed to have nothing special to it. There were two ways of getting kills in the map. The first one, which I like to call the ‘pussy’ way, was camping and sniping in the elevated areas of the map. It was almost too easy, as the darkness gave you instant camouflage. You could rack up tons of kills immediately.

The next one was the more interesting part of the map, which was running the maze of tunnels at the center. It was perfect for sneak attacks or point-blank kills.

As usual, I racked up more than half of my team’s kills in the first few rounds, even while switching between the 2 ways to play.

It was after the first 5 rounds that I started to notice things.

One time, while roaming the map, I started to hear creaking noises; they were nothing like the usual sound effects I hear in CS maps. Some players’ footsteps also started to sound different. Instead of the usual thud of military grade shoes, a metallic clink and clank would be heard, even when no player seemed to be in the immediate area.

And then, I started to notice an extra character in the map.

While staying in the elevated area, a shady figure appeared in the outskirt forests of the map. It was impossible to get up there. Curiously, I zoomed in my crosshairs on the human-like figure, but he disappeared.

Next round, the figure appeared again. This time, he was only a few paces away, so I was able to get a better look at him. He wore a brown overcoat, extending to the knees, fully buttoned up. A matching pair of brown slacks completed his outdated fashion statement.

The only thing more puzzling than the man’s clothing was the face that rose above it. He had dark, round eyes, with an empty stare straight at me. A sinister smile accompanied it, but the man didn’t seem to have any lips. A grey, faded complexion covered the rest of the mystery man’s face.

Just like any other opposing character I see, I fired at the guy. Bullet after bullet, aimed straight at his thin, 6 foot body, all seemed to have no effect. Before I could try other ways to kill him, another player killed me.

Wow. This map has something special after all. An extra character, almost impossible to kill? A sense of excitement hit me like never before, like it was just the first time I got my hands on this game.

I spent pretty much all of the remaining rounds trying to find and kill this character, even if it meant lowering my kill-death ratio. I noticed that the man only appeared in dark spaces, randomly across the map.

Many times, the man would toy with me. When I try to run at him, he would stand still, but no distance would be made up. Other times, while firing at him, the man would contort and shake rapidly, like thousands of bullets showered his body all at once. But one thing remained: I was never able to kill him.

It must have been an hour or two already, as I was starting to get sleepy. Trying to kill the mystery man was now a boring, futile effort. It was great fun while it lasted, so I closed the application. Shutting down in 3…2…1…and my Macbook’s screen shut off.

But something remained on the screen. The same shady figure wearing brown was still on the right hand corner. Is my Macbook glitching now?

Then the figure came closer, and closer, and closer. Now, his grey face, empty eye sockets, and sinister smile occupied most of my screen. Then I realized.

I was staring at my laptop’s reflection.

Credit To – Brian Tan

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Any Final Thoughts

May 28, 2013 at 12:00 AM
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The overwhelming majority of your actions in life will have no effect on your eternal condition. After all, does a grain of sand have any effect on a prodigious star? Of course it doesn’t. The star cannot even discern the grain of sand, let alone, is it affected by the sand’s insignificance. The grain of sand is negligible, as is the condition of most of your life. The good deeds you perform, your philanthropy, your positive mindset, your hate, your murder, your lust; none of these things matter. None of these things determine whether you go to heaven or hell after you die. Heaven and hell do not exist as objective places. All that exists is what the individualized mind believes, therefore, the conditions of heaven and hell are contingent upon the individual’s particular notions.

To be more specific, roughly 99.9% of your life is immaterial, and this is the initial 99.9% of your life. All that truly matters is the last 0.1%. This small fraction is paramount. All that matters is your state of mind in the precise moment before death brings down his heavy, rusty scythe. Your state of mind, in this fleeting, unexpected moment, will remain this way forever, and at some point in the inconceivable eternity following death, you will forget everything about your comparably diminutive life. The final emotion is the only thing that remains, and it never dies. You exist only as this single, distilled emotion, or a combination of emotions, detached from your body, forever. This truth is fortunate for the 0.1% of the human population, whose last 0.1% of life is pleasant.

Credit To – Dylan Morone

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Those Eyes

May 22, 2013 at 12:00 AM
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This is difficult, very difficult. I am not at all comfortable with this. I keep reminding myself why I’m doing it. These are not the typist’s words. The typist is not me, but my sister. I don’t know if she believes me, but she’s giving me the help I need, the help I’ve needed for a while now. She is transcribing what I’ve spoken to her with a trembling voice. I could not type it myself since I do not own a computer anymore. What has happened has tainted technology for me, presumably forever. I wanted this to be in the past. I wanted to lock it up in a box never to be reopened, but I have to visit that dark place now. I don’t want this to happen to anyone else. I am managing in my life, not thriving, but managing. I have a small place where I keep the television on all the time. I like the sound. I sleep with on so that the noise will drown out the bumps and whispers that plague me now. It was a television that prompted me to do this, to tell this story. I was awake one night, as I am most nights, and I came across a television program called “Catfish.” I did not know what this show was about or what the title meant. I was horrified when I found out the premise of the program, people using fake photographs to meet romantic partners on social networking websites finally revealing the truth to those they had fooled. The deceit did not shock me nor did the anticipation of the reveal. I was so stunned that there were still so many people on the Internet who would search for a fake photograph to lure others into conversation and romantic relationships. This concerned me so much because it is exactly what I did and its what changed my life forever.

I will start from the beginning, the pertinent beginning. When my family first got the Internet my sister and I would stay up late during the summer and venture into chat rooms. This was before webcams and digital photography so people didn’t really ask for photos of their chatting partners. A description would suffice and it didn’t really matter what you would make up. Of course, I would create someone who I thought was the ideal beauty. Someone who was tall and thin who had long hair and a perfect smile. Needless to say in reality I did not fit this description. I have no deformities or abnormalities, but I’m not a dream girl by any means, just plain. I could be in a room with you for an hour and you may not notice. I’m that type of girl.

Usually, the Internet was reserved for weekends and holidays. I was part of the last generation whose entire youth did not revolve around the Internet I suppose. That all changed when I was a senior in high school. This was during Myspace’s glory day. Suddenly there was a way of communicating online that did not involve a chat room. Your whole existence could be laid out for all to see. Your likes, dislikes, education, hobbies, musical preferences and, yes, pictures, were right there in front of everyone. All the kids at my school had joined and talked about it often, but they rarely mentioned talking to each other on Myspace, but rather they would speak about all the new friends they had made through the site. This intrigued me. Could I be someone completely different on Myspace? Could I start from scratch? No one had to know the real me, or at least I could show them only the parts I wanted them to see. How terribly I wish that this silly idea had never come to fruition.

I filled out my Myspace with truthful and accurate information. I listed my favorite bands and movies, my birthdate and a short bio revealing that I liked swimming and watching horror movies. Everything I posted was true except for the photograph. I knew that if I posted my own photo I probably wouldn’t get much attention. I will admit, as stupid as it makes me feel, that is part of what I wanted, attention.

I wondered how to find my new face. Maybe I could scan a picture of a pretty girl from my school. No, then people from my area may recognize her. Being oblivious to the obvious I, at last, realized that the answer was right at my fingertips. Myspace had millions of users. I could just search for the Myspaces of girls my age and pick one whose photos I could steal. As naïve as it may sound I thought I was the first and only person to do this. I felt ashamed, but reconciled my guilt with the fact that I wasn’t hurting anyone, or so I thought. I decided to search for girls who lived far from me so as to not be found out by someone who may know the girl in reality. I live on the east coast so I picked California, a large state full of cute sun kissed girls.

I scanned through dozens of profiles passing on girls who were too this or not enough that. I don’t really know what I was looking for exactly. I did not have a clear picture of the girl I was looking for, although many of these girls were beautiful, none of them seemed quite right. I was growing tired in my search and wanted to take a break, but instead I decided to scroll through one last page of profiles.

I remember it clearly the photo, that photo. It was on the second to last row from the bottom of that last page I clicked on. I have tried to describe the girl pictured, but my descriptions always seem to fall short. You would not mistake her for a supermodel, but you would definitely look twice at her. The picture showed the girl from the knees up. She was youthful, but womanly. She wore a light blue sundress with thin straps that showed her lightly tanned shoulders and arms, which hung casually at her sides. Her light brown hair was put into a high ponytail with the long bangs tucked behind her ears. She wore no apparent makeup or jewelry. She had a close-mouthed smile and almond shaped sea green eyes. It was her eyes that interested me the most. I had always wished that I had green eyes instead of my chestnut brown ones that my sister would liken to roaches when teasing me. I do not remember anything else about what was shown in the photograph or the Myspace profile, I just remember the picture. I knew this was the picture I had been looking for. I quickly opened her Myspace, saved the lone picture that was posted and uploaded it to my own profile.

I was anxious to check Myspace the next day. It was Sunday, but I awoke shortly after sunrise and hurried online. I had about a dozen messages and at least twice as many friend requests, mostly from men. I accepted everyone without checking their pages; I was just so excited to have these people notice me, or who they thought I was. The messages were pretty obligatory, “Hi, how are you?” “What’s up?” A couple of them were more specific with questions and several mentioned how pretty “I” was. Of these messages one stood out. It was from a guy who I will call “Ken.” “What did the girl mushroom say to the boy mushroom?” His message asked. I responded back with “What?” As I waited for a reply I opened Ken’s Myspace. He was from my state, but a different town a few hours away. He attended the local college where he was studying political science. He wasn’t someone who, perhaps, would be considered great looking, but he had a friendly smile. I suppose “friendly” is the first word I would use to describe Ken.

I hoped that Ken would reply. I wanted him to break up the monotony of the one-word messages I was receiving. How disinterested I was in these men and how much I wanted to hear from Ken made me realize that more so than I wanted unfiltered attention I wanted someone to talk to. Finally, I got a response, “You’re a fungi :)”

Over the next couple of weeks Ken and I sent messages back and forth. We told each other stories from our childhoods, shared movie reviews and discussed whatever happened to be on our minds. The more we talked the more I liked him. He never crossed the line between flirtatious and inappropriate. Sometimes, I would forget who he thought I really was. I would let myself believe that he liked me, the real me, but then he would mention something about that picture. He liked the hair, the smile, her legs…those eyes. Ken never brought up the fact that I only had one picture or had no Myspace friends who seemed to actually know me. I think, maybe, he just wanted to believe she was real. She could make him forget all the inconsistences and suspicions.

Ken brought up speaking on the phone after about a week of chatting. I was apprehensive about letting this guise go further than an online friendship, but I did want to speak to him, to hear his voice. I finally agreed and eventually Ken and I were spending hours on the phone with each other each week. Our online correspondence became less frequent, but he would still send me messages when he was at school telling me a joke or a story from his day. I didn’t pay attention to any of the other people I had on my page. I stopped accepting friend requests or responding to messages. I was satisfied with just talking to Ken.

On a certain day I was scanning my messages to see if Ken had sent me anything and noticed that I had a message from a girl named Melissa. This was very unexpected. I almost never got messages or friend requests from girls. The message was one line, “I think someone stole your pictures.” Followed by a link to a Myspace. The link opened to Sarah’s page, and I saw my new face staring back at me. The clothes were different. She now wore blue jeans and a light pink sweater, but had the same hairstyle and the same coy smile. The picture was odd. It looked as if someone had taken off the clothes in my picture and replaced them, like a paper doll. It was too convincing to be photo shopped. The stance, the direction of the camera, the angle, everything was the same, except for the clothes…and the eyes. The sea green that had struck me was instead a dark hazel. I don’t remember what I thought at the time, perhaps, just the lighting or digital enhancement software was to blame.

Sarah had several hundred friends and a mile long list of comments citing her beauty. She was listed as being from the Midwest, but her admirers came from all over. At first I was afraid that I had been found out, then I realized that if this is the real girl from the photograph I could possibly get more pictures to add to my page’s validity and hopefully keep Ken believing I was this girl. I checked her pictures, but she only had the one. I saved it and tried to post it to my page, but each attempt ended in an error message. I gave up, but bookmarked Sarah’s page.

As the weeks went on Ken and I grew closer. He had brought up meeting in person several times, each ending in an excuse on my part. In retrospect, my excuses didn’t hold much credit, but Ken always accepted them so we kept to our phone and Myspace conversations. As often as I would check my own page for Ken’s messages I would check Sarah’s page. New pictures were never uploaded and the latest comment was posted over a year before. I was curious about Sarah’s life. I wanted to know what this girl with the perfect face was doing. How was she living her life? Was she as happy as I would be if I were her?

As Ken and I grew closer I lived more in my fantasy life. I imagined the two of us together in reality, having those comfortable conversations in person. I would let myself day dream about the life we would have together, sharing an apartment, getting married, having children. As much as I lived for these fantasies and my talks with Ken I always ended up feeling guilty. I thought about this man who, possibly, loved this woman he hadn’t met. I wondered if he thought about us the same way I did, but his fantasies wouldn’t be riddled with my shame. I finally convinced myself that, perhaps, Ken did not really care about that picture. Maybe it didn’t matter as much as everything else about me that he liked. Could I actually come clean?

Each day I wrestled with these thoughts. They accompanied me during every task, growing more prominent when I would check Sarah’s Myspace page. Having checked it every day for months at this point it had become part of my routine, then, one day, it was gone. Only an error message appeared when I clicked on the link. I tried several times growing more and more anxious. I had not realized how attached to Sarah I had become. I believed she was the girl I would give anything to be. If I knew more about her, knew her, maybe I could start to possess some of whatever she had that was so captivating. Now she was gone, lost. Maybe she just made a new page, wanted to start fresh and get away from all the men that flooded her Myspace. I had convinced myself that was it.

I resolved to search for Sarah. I knew which state and town she was from and all of the other identification markers I needed. I filled them in and looked in dismay as more than a hundred pages of results were found. I went through page after page of 18 to 20 year old girls from her area. I tried all the zip codes for the city looking at a 25-mile radius, but page after page of disappointment was turning into fear. Somewhere between the 60th and 70th pages something caught my eye. The display picture appeared to be one taken by a school photographer, with that familiar yearbook pose. I clicked on the profile and, yes, there they were, those same sea green eyes that I found so fascinating in my picture of the girl. This wasn’t her face though. This face was that of a cornhusk blonde cherub. Her sincere smile revealed misaligned teeth and several acne patches marked her skin, but those eyes were there. What caused my heart to drop even more than seeing the eyes was what read above the photo, “R.I.P.”

I wanted to just get up and walk away from it all. My gut, my intuition, told me to leave it all behind, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t walk away from Ken. I knew that. Any strength that I had was usurped by my desire to have him. I suppose somewhere buried with that desire was also a curiosity. I wanted to know more about that girl whose eyes my picture shared.

The “about me” section listed the girl’s full name, date of birth and date of death. I will call her E.M. to protect her family’s privacy.

E.M. had died close to a year earlier, just before her 16th birthday. My eyes were burning badly from looking at the computer screen for so long. Tears began to roll from them. I can’t say whether they came from the eyestrain or something else that was gnawing me from the inside. Those eyes, they seemed to burn right through me.

The information categories on the page were scarcely filled out, but several photos were posted. They pictured scenes from a childhood, a little girl sitting on Santa’s lap, holding a miniature pumpkin, cradling a new baby, all with those eyes staring into the camera lens. I clicked back and read the “who I’d like to meet” section and read instructions to contact the local police with any information. Why would the police need information? What happened to this girl? I knew I didn’t’ have the kind of information they wanted. Anyway, if I were to tell them this strange tale I would have to come clean about my Myspace and the picture I used. I did not know what to do, but I knew I couldn’t let it end there. I began looking through the short friends list of the dead girl. As I clicked to go the last of two pages I noticed one of the friends’ names. I frantically clicked back. There was a girl with E.M.’s last name in its unusual spelling. Maybe this is a relative, a sister perhaps. Maybe she could and would give me the information I so desperately sought. I sent a message to her that I’m sure was riddled with misspellings and grammatical errors. I just needed to know who this girl was and what had happened to her.

The next day I received a reply message from the woman with E.M.’s last name.

E.M. was my cousin. She was murdered about a year ago. Please contact the authorities if you have any information, our family would appreciate any help.

I could almost feel the sadness in those words. I could almost touch my own fear now. I messaged E.M.’s cousin back expressing my sympathy. I wasn’t feigning this concern, but in complete honesty I wanted to know what happened to her. I needed to know to sooth my own fears. What was I afraid of though? I was afraid of it all ending, of everything ending. It couldn’t end. I felt like everything was slipping away. I felt like Ken was slipping away. I couldn’t fathom losing him. I had to do something drastic.

I reconciled that some how, someway, I could convince Ken that the picture, that girl, didn’t matter. I was the person he wanted. This was the only solution. Going deeper into this dark unknown matter was not feasible. I called Ken right away, he didn’t answer. I left a voicemail agreeing to meet him on Saturday, two days away. Since I had called him so hastily I panicked and blurted out the first meeting spot that came to mind, a community lake. I didn’t think to take into account that it was mid winter and there would be no shelter from the cold. I thought about calling him back and changing the meeting place, but I was afraid that I would just chicken out and tell him I couldn’t make it since as soon as I hung up the phone I regretted making the call at all. Ken called me back a couple of hours later, the ringing made me jump from my seat as I was so focused on the computer screen waiting for a reply from E.M.’s cousin. I didn’t answer, but I could hear the exhilaration in his voice when I listened to the voicemail he had left. I didn’t know if he was excited to finally have one of our wonderful conversations in person, or maybe he was just eager to see that picture come to life.

I spent little time contemplating Ken’s motives compared to what I would have before I discovered those eyes on E.M. Instead, I spent the next two days and nights at home, forgoing school and sleep. I would pace my floor to relieve the aches in my back and neck that came from spending my time glued to the computer waiting for the Myspace replies I would receive from E.M.’s cousin. I spent much time crafting my messages, trying to mix in the right amount of concern and condolence with prying questions. I wanted to successfully build a rapport with the cousin. I wouldn’t get the information I needed without it.

I found out through E.M.’s cousin that she was shy and quiet and had few friends. She was teased for her weight, caused, in part by the beta-blockers she took for a heart ailment. Her parents were divorced and she rarely saw her father. She was an avid reader especially loving adventure novels. Her favorite author was Jon Krakauer. Her family thought this was odd since she spent most of her time in her room and didn’t seem to like the outdoors very much. The police had no leads to go on concerning her death. E.M. didn’t seem to have any friends and had never had a boyfriend that anyone knew of. Her untouched bag was found near her body and she was not sexually assaulted. There was no apparent motive, but the manner of her murder led police to believe it was not random, that she was specifically chosen. Why was she chosen, this simple little girl? I sent one last message to the cousin asking her to explain. My message was blatant and I hoped that our prior communications provided efficient sincerity and ease to warrant a reply.

My lack of sleep and interaction with others made these days melt together. I did not have a real sense of time and a barely a sense of place. The center of my existence became the Myspace inbox. I now know that the final message came on Saturday at approximately 9 o’clock in the morning. This message from E.M.’s cousin still makes my heart stop when I picture in in my mind’s eye. I don’t claim to have a photographic memory, but what is below is, I’m sure, that final message verbatim.

E.M. was found in the bathroom at a park not far from her house two days after leaving to go to school. There was no running water in the bathroom so no one really goes in there. Two teens went into the bathroom, probably to get high, and found her. They thought she had passed out. She was on the floor with her eyes closed. They tried to wake her up by shaking and screaming at her, but couldn’t. After calling 911 they continued to try to get her up. They lifted her eyelids. Her eyes were gone. There was no blood, no fingerprints, nothing. Police couldn’t find a real cause of death, just that her heart had stopped, but obviously they knew it was murder.

I read this message over and over, holding my breath each time. Her eyes were gone? How could someone’s eyes be gone? No blood? That’s not possible. Is this a lie? I knew it wasn’t. I’m not sure why I believed in E.M.’s cousin’s validity, but still, none of it made sense. Why was she there alone? Was she alone? I couldn’t send the cousin another message. I wasn’t concerned for her state of mind having to rehash the awful details of her family member’s death, but I was certain she had told me everything she could. As a testament to my own state of mind, instead of searching for help in reality, I dove back into the cyber world for answers. I had the information; I knew the name, date, place and enough other details to narrow down my search. I found news articles on E.M.’s death and read each one. A teenaged girl being mutilated in a park bathroom was not a story many papers would pass up. Most of the articles revealed nothing I hadn’t learned from the cousin, but at the end of one of those stories was a short paragraph. What I read left my head spinning and my stomach churning. The body of a yet identified young man was found less than one mile from the scene of E.M.’s murder. Police did not know if they were connected, but there was no apparent evidence that they had known each other and for the first time the article gave E.M.’s middle name as “Sarah.”

After vomiting mostly bile into my trash bin, I wiped my face on my unchanged shirt and continued searching the paper’s archives. There was only one further article that mentioned the young man. It said nothing more than the previous about his death, but it did mention his name. I found the man’s Myspace. It became apparent why it was assumed that he and E.M. did not know each other. He was catalogue perfect and why would a catalogue perfect young man be associated with a chubby, shy, 15-year-old girl? He was also from a neighboring state, possibly explaining why the local papers covered his death so little. I rifled through his page. There were no answers. I clicked around desperately looking for anything. He had one blog entry titled “school.” In it he explained his frustration with and dislike for academics, every subject except literature. He had recently gotten into Jon Krakauer, “Thanks to Sarah.” He wrote.

Was this the same Sarah with my picture? Was it E.M.? I remembered her cousin’s description of the girl who loved to read adventure novels. Was E.M., Sarah? The fragments began link together in my head. They were still fuzzy, but coming together nonetheless. The seconds masquerading as hours had reversed their roles. It was now 2:20 pm, 20 minutes past my scheduled meeting time with Ken. My legs got me down the stairs and out the front door despite their flaccidity. I only remember the constant red lights from the drive to the lake. I had driven there at least a dozen times in my mother’s blue car, but each stop light seemed like a fresh obstruction, put there just to hinder me.

The lake is too big to freeze in the winter, but the water is too frigid for fishing and air too cold for jogging its perimeter. I expected the parking lot to be vacant and was startled by the lone black four-door backed into one of the spots. I parked across from it and hurried out. I saw no signs of life, only the swaying of the bare trees in the heavy woods that surrounded the vast lake. Was I too late? What was I too late for? I had no fewer questions than I did before, just more avenues to get lost in, more places for that unknown horror to pounce out from. I stood at the lake’s edge, my face and hands numb. I had not thought to dress for the temperatures and wore only a long sleeved shirt and thin cotton pants. I stood at the water’s edge and stared into it. In this temperature it would not take long. I could just end it, be done with it all. I would never have to think about Ken, Sarah, E.M. or those eyes again. Most of all I could bring an end my shame.

My contemplation was broken by a sound behind me. This sound was quiet. Not a sound that would illicit a quick turn around and investigation, but rather the kind of noise that makes your breath halt and your legs turn to stone. It was familiar, but still unidentifiable. What was it? Dragging, yes it’s dragging. It was closer now and still moving. I had only two options, turn around and see or just walk, walk into that icy mud colored water. I don’t know why I made the choice I did, but in my mind I see myself turning around in slow motion, with all the color draining from my surroundings. There he was, Ken, standing there. His normally olive skin was white, his mouth gaped open and his eyes stared at me with bewilderment. I could feel the tears turn cold as soon as they left my eyes, freezing on my cheeks. I stared into his eyes, neither of us moving. Suddenly, a burst of dark blood leapt from his opened lips, splattering onto my front. I was so stunned that I stumbled back hitting the shore crashing water. The temperature robbed my lungs, but no more than Ken’s body falling on top of me did. We lay there in the water, me struggling to breath and Ken gurgling and convulsing. As I was pushed further down by Ken’s weight my eyes saw it. It was standing over us, the beauty replaced by unfathomable decay. The skin dripped with puss-likened liquid as the straw hair danced in the winds. Its eyes, those eyes, just vacant holes indicating the status of its soul. My hands gripped Ken’s wet coat as it neared me. I was crying, but my throat had tightened so much that no sound could escape. It was there right above me, the dreadful image eclipsed only by the odor from it mixing with the lake’s damp aroma. It was there so near that it was all I could see; this was it, then…black.

I woke up to my face burning so badly it felt like a match had been lit inside my sinuses. The familiar sense of confusion was much stronger. Voices were muffled and foreign. I tried to speak, but nothing came out. I felt a hand on my shoulder. “Shhh.” I recognized my mother’s tone. Her words were unclear, but the shushing soothed me. I thought I was dreaming. My eyes were closed. I needed to open them to wake up. They won’t open. Why won’t they open? I believed I was saying this out loud, but instead I was screaming, a primal, instinctive scream.

They’re gone. Those eyes are gone; my eyes are gone, replaced by forever darkness. I was saved from the water, first by Ken as his dying body’s last warmth was given to me, or the warmth that I stole, which is how I describe it. The second person to save me was an out of man visiting the lake for sightseeing. I told the police about Ken, he wasn’t found, even after the lake was dragged. Maybe the lake scavengers got him, or maybe he’s still down there, still waiting for that girl. I will never see Ken again. I will never see anything again. The irony is that of all the things I miss seeing, I miss the face looking back to me from the mirror the most, my plain face. I write this, not to frighten the reader, but with hopes of stopping other people from turning away in disgust at their own reflections and looking for someone who they wish to be online. But, if you still want to find that perfect face to parade as your own, please, if you see a beautiful smiling girl looking straight through you with chestnut brown eyes, look away from those eyes. Those eyes are mine.

Credit To – Ju-Ju B.

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