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The Five

October 31, 2015 at 12:00 PM
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My involvement in the experiment started only a few weeks ago. I was visiting my grandfather, who lives alone and needs someone to come over and help out with the house once a week. I’d usually go for the well stocked library in his office, and the long conversations about any book, from Harry Potter to The Odyssey.
While browsing one of the bookshelves for something new, the phone called. He keeps the phone on the office desk at all times, so I handed it to him before going back to the incredible worlds behind leather bound volumes and filigree titles. My attention snapped back to the phone when my grandfather said the name ‘Daneel’ in surprised recognition.
Daneel was my cousin, living in England. I’d met her once at a family reunion when I was ten, and remembered her mainly as the girl who kicked my ass after we disagreed which X-Men characters would win in a fight.
My grandfather got out of his comfy chair and left the room, something he never does. I usually let people have their secrets, but it was only last week I’d asked him how my uncle’s family were doing overseas. He’d died just after the reunion, leaving behind Daneel to be cared for by her mother’s sister. Going against all my instincts, I followed to the half closed door, and listened. He’d had some problems with his hearing the last year, and to my relief he chose to take the call over speaker like always. A young woman’s voice sounded over the phone, and with a slight chuckle I could clearly recognise the little girl arguing in Nightcrawler’s favor.

‘Hey, I’m sorry to just call out of the blue, I know it’s been a while.’

‘Not at all, my dear,” my grandfather replied. He had a slight accent, but he’d put a lot of effort into learning the language after his son married an English woman.

‘Heh, okay,’ Daneel continued. ‘It’s good to hear your voice again. I was just wondering about something. Something about my father? I’m at Sarah’s place, and going through some of his old stuff in the attic, I found a cassette tape. It looks pretty old. It’s just, there’s someone else’s name on it. Do you know if he had any friends named James?’

‘What does it say on the tape, exactly?’

‘Ehm. It says ‘England, 1985. James’ track 14′.’

My grandfather got really quiet. I frowned and thought I’d might have missed something, before I heard Daneel ask if he was still there.

‘Yes, my dear. No, I don’t believe he knew anyone by that name. I will look into it, and call you back.’ After that, he said a hasty goodbye, and hung up. I grabbed a few books, opened the door, and walked out while reading the opening page of The Count Of Monte Cristo. He paid me no attention as I sat down by the fireplace. The days were getting colder, and a warm fire was already sending dancing shadows over the walls. I didn’t ask any questions, and after about ten minutes, he said he was going to bed. It was still early, even for him, but I just nodded and kept reading.

Daneel started everything with that phone call. I couldn’t help being curious, because I knew so well that my grandfather had lied to her. Why, I had no clue. Pinned to a cardboard above his desk was an old polaroid photo, and after I’d made sure grandfather was asleep, I took a look at it. Once, when I was helping packing up stuff after grandmother, I’d turned it around to see if it had been hers. If I wasn’t too mistaken, the name James would be on the back.

‘Me and Timothy on our way to Reinsnos, 1978.
James wanted to be in the photo.’

I was right. The picture was of two young boys, maybe 13-14 years old, standing on the side of a road. The shadow of the photographer fell across the bottom part of the photo. James.
I opened my mail account on my ipad, and found Daneel’s old email address. I’d never used it before. I told her about the photo, and sent her a picture taken on my phone. I didn’t think much about it after that; I already felt like I’d invaded someone’s personal space. My grandfather rarely mentioned Aleksander. Losing him had been a hard blow to the family, especially since Daneel’s mother had left them right after she was born.

I went home, made dinner, watched some TV series with my girlfriend, and went off to bed. It would have ended for me, if Daneel hadn’t emailed me back the next day. She’d found a phone number connected to the other boy in the photo, Timothy. She’d talked to his twin brother.

That is why I, three weeks later, found myself outside the local police station, holding a folder full of printed pages. I will tell you the same things I told the officers. It was a lazy day, as it always is in a town of five thousand people. The officer in charge was a woman in her late forties, whom I’d seen many times and even talked to during career days at school when I was younger. She was a strict but gentle woman, and easy to talk to. Her office was bright and cosy, full of colourful files and documents neatly arranged in metal cabinets. Above her desk were the typical pictures of the king and queen, as well as the prime minister. The assistant closed the door behind me, and Officer Aune rose from her chair to shake my hand, and showed me to a chair opposite her.

‘Now, how can I help you, my dear?’ She asked.

‘I’m here to report a missing person,’ I said. She looked surprised, to say the least. Things worse than the occasional lost dog or drunken vandalism rarely happened here. She nodded, grabbed a pen and a pad, and looked at me in a much more serious manner.

‘I see. Name?’

‘Daneel Selwyn,’ I said. Officer Aune looked up from the pad, one eyebrow raised.

‘Is this person a tourist, or…?’

‘No. I-‘ I breathed in deeply, looking down at the floor. ‘I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have come here. Thank you for you time.’ I quickly rose to leave, but she picked up on the tone of my voice.

‘Hold on, it’s okay.’ I hesitated, and turned back to her. ‘You have nothing to worry about, we will do everything we can to find your friend. I just need all the information you can give me.’

I nodded slowly and sat back down. ‘She’s my cousin. I think she left England maybe two days ago.’

‘And she came here?’

‘Yes.’ I put the folder on her desk, opened it, and revealed the first printed page. ‘Three weeks ago, she called my grandfather, asking for help with identifying an old friend of her father. Since then, she’s been investigating what happened to them in the 80’s.’ I folded out the pages. ‘She started keeping this blog, to show me everything she found out. There’s pictures, emails, phone calls…’

‘And you think this all led her here?’ Officer Aune leaned forward and looked through the pages. ‘Why?’

‘That’s exactly it. She’s not posting anymore. I haven’t heard from her in a while.’

Officer Aune leaned back and breathed out heavily. ‘What makes you think this girl is missing? To me it seems she came to find something, and wants to pursue it alone. Why do you worry about her?’

I hesitated, wondering how much information I could hold back. The experiment hadn’t expected me. I was an outsider. I felt that for some reason, I could break the rules. I could spread the research. ‘Because someone is following her.’

Officer Aune frowned. ‘Who?’

I leaned over the desk and looked through the pages until I found the right one. It was a copy of an old newspaper clipping. ‘Daneel found something that linked all the people in this photo.’ I pointed to the photo I’d sent her. ‘There was an accident in 1985, just outside of central London. A bus went off the road, and five people died. Both of Daneel’s parents were on that bus, and both survived with minor injuries. James and Timothy were there too.’ I pointed to the writing at the back of the photo.

‘Wait,’ Officer Aune said. ‘You’re losing me here, kid. How is this relevant to your cousin being here, thirty years later?’

‘Because I found something she hasn’t seen. I can’t get a hold of her anymore. You’re the only one who can.’

Officer Aune got quiet, and just stared at me for a few seconds.

‘You said you would do anything you could to help me find Daneel,’ I said. ‘So…in your records. There has to be something about Reinsnos in 1978.’

‘Wait, what? Kid, you’re making no-‘

‘Please, just check it! That’s where Daneel is going. It has to be!’

She sent me a disgruntled look, before she logged onto her computer. She clicked around a lot, like her generation usually do, before she typed in a search field. I could see text reflected in her glasses, and waited impatiently. After about a minute, she nodded slowly.

‘What exactly would I be looking for? You know, this information is not exactly for your eyes.’

‘Most of it is already in public archives,’ I replied. ‘I’ve read most of it. I just… I don’t know what they were looking for. I don’t know why they were all gathered on that bus, and why they needed them.’

Officer Aune shot me a sideward glance from behind the screen. ‘You’re right. It’s public. If you’re referring to the experiments?’

‘Yes, that’s it,’ I said quickly. ‘Daneel’s father went to Reinsnos when he was thirteen, and that’s where he met Timothy and James, probably Daneel’s mother too. Their families were being paid pretty well for the experiment.’

‘What kind of experiment was this?’

‘The only thing these kids had in common. Daneel’s father had Hyperosmia. Timothy had Hypergeusia. James had-‘

‘Slow down,’ said Officer Aune. ‘Explain these words to me, please.’

‘Heightened sense of smell. Heightened sense of taste,’ I said. ‘James had unusually good hearing, while Daneel’s mother could see better than most. They all went to Reinsnos in 1978 to be part of an experiment having to do with their senses. Then, in 1985, they came together to continue the experiment in England, only they never got there. Five other subjects died, and the rest almost seemed to go off the radar after the accident. Timothy died three months after he left the hospital. Daneel’s father died when she was eight. Her mother disappeared shortly after she was born, and god knows what happened to James. For some reason, everyone connected to that experiment, are now gone.’ I paused, dragged five fingers through my hair, and looked down at the file on the desk.
‘But there’s something Daneel missed.’

‘What is it?’

‘The distance,’ I almost whispered. ‘Of the five victims, two of them died at the hospital less than ten hours after the accident.’ I looked up. ‘They died at the exact same time. They should both have survived. Then Daneel’s parents and the rest of the survivors disappeared, until Timothy’s body was found in a field three months later.’

‘What did you mean when you said ‘the distance’?’

‘The two in the hospital. They went the same distance from the crash site to the hospital, so they died at the same time. Timothy, he travelled around for three months. He kept moving, so they couldn’t catch up with him. Then Aleksander, Daneel’s father, who died many years later. He moved back to Norway, then went on business trips all over the world, so he made it for a long time.’ I could feel the adrenaline pump through my veins. Officer Aune looked at me with a mixture of shock and interest, and what I guessed had to be a hint of concern.

‘Don’t you get it?’ I asked. ‘The subjects of this experiment died according to the time and distance they moved away from the location of the accident. Daneel figured this out too. They were never supposed to get to wherever the bus was taking them. It was supposed to crash, because that was the experiment.’

‘Alright,’ she said, and folded her hands on the desk. ‘Let me now just assume that this is all correct. Why the distance thing? Why would that matter?’

I swallowed hard. ‘Because… Because of their conditions. The experiment started when they went on the run. It’s the only explanation. Whatever or whoever was after them, James was the only one who could hear it, Aleksander was the only one who could smell it, and Daneel’s mother was the only one who could see it. That’s why Timothy died. A heightened sense of taste wouldn’t be much help. Something followed them after the accident, something normal people wouldn’t be able to sense at all. I just don’t know what it was, or who.’

Officer Aune clicked with the pen, and looked down at the pad. ‘I will contact the London police department, and her family. Then I’ll call the officer in charge in Reinsnos. If that’s where she’s headed, they’ll know it when a foreigner comes around.’

I managed a grateful smile. ‘Thank you. I know this sounds just… strange.’

‘No, not at all. I actually wondered when you’d come around.’

I stared at Officer Aune, trying to find the right words. ‘Wh…what do you mean?’

Officer Aune crossed her legs, rested one cheek against her fist, and smiled. ‘I mean, you are Aleksander’s nephew, after all. Don’t you think we’d keep an eye on you in case you showed some similar skills?’

I felt as if I’d frozen to the chair. ‘You’re joking. You don’t believe me, so you’re joking.’

Officer Aune chuckled. ‘Nope. Not at all. You actually did a wonderful job. We’ve been looking for Daneel for a while, and now we have a chance to find her.’

I slowly rose from the chair, never breaking the eye contact. I could feel my voice shaking. ‘Why? Why would you drag her into this?’

‘She’s been part of it since she was born. It was no one’s choice.’ She sent him one last smile, as she closed the folder, handed it back to me, and turned toward the computer screen. ‘It was nice talking to you, and thank you for your cooperation.’

I stared at her, stunned, before I took the folder, and walked towards the door. I stopped at the sound of her voice, but didn’t turn around.

‘Oh, and… Henrik, isn’t it? As for what is following Daneel, you really shouldn’t worry about it. She may not have a choice in the matter, but so far, you do. Go back to your flat, to your girlfriend. Clean your grandfather’s house once a week, and finish The Count Of Monte Cristo. Let me worry about finding Daneel for you.’

I slowly turned the handle, and closed the door behind me. My head was spinning as I made my way outside in the fading sunlight. Yellow and orange leafs lay scattered outside the office building, and a sharp wind played in the treetops. It will be winter soon. Daneel went far north, alone.

I’ve told you everything I told the police, and I know it was a huge mistake the first time. But I have to do something. I’m leaving soon. I’ll be going north, to find Daneel. She needs to know.

The address to her blog is, and the password is ‘aleksander’. Whatever happens, I need to find her first.

Credit: Henrik Syvertsen, Daneel Selwyn

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One Word Story

October 28, 2015 at 12:00 PM
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Have you ever played One Word Story? It’s a very simple game: a few people take turns, going around to make a sentence. Each person adds one word, until the sentence is complete, then someone says “period” and it’s read back. It’s actually pretty fun if you play with the right people, but I’m pretty anti-social and only have one or two friends. They don’t like the game as much as I do, so I use a random-chat site to play with strangers. It’s completely anonymous, so my identity is supposed to be safe. Anyway, it was late afternoon on a Saturday, and I was in the middle of a game when my apartment went dark. It was probably caused by the weird heat; all week, other tenants in my building had complained about the power cutting short around this. It only lasted a few minutes, but when the power came back on, I saw had been disconnected from the site. When I tried to reenter, I couldn’t, it kept crashing or something and I kept getting disconnected.

I’m easily bored, and was a little more than pissed that I hadn’t finished my game. So, I took to Google, and searched “Chat Room, Anonymous, One Word Story.” After “0.18223 seconds,” I had 23,000 results. I scrolled down the page and tried a few sites out, but either the players weren’t very good, or I was led to an anonymous sex chat site. It wasn’t until the third page of results that I found something interesting: I clicked the heading and entered the site, then I logged in as a guest. I was really surprised to see how dedicated this site was to an overall simple game; mystery, parody, anime, music, cartoons, horror, film, superstition, and superhero were just a few of the categories that people could use to play One Word Story. For no particular reason, I went to Mystery first and played a few short games, then I went to Horror, then to Music, and to a few others. Eventually, I went to take a bathroom break, and made sure to bookmark the site, so I could visit it in the future. The site was pretty well managed; under each main heading -for example horror- there were subheadings. These were games being hosted by members. Some games only had a few people in them, others had thirty or forty. Some were open to anyone, others were private games that you could only get into if you had a password that the host had sent you. I played for a few hours, really enjoying myself because everyone here took the game just seriously enough to make each sentence interesting, and also had enough fun to make the whole story funny to read out loud, while still making sense.

It was ten now, and ten thirty was my self-imposed bed time, so I resigned to play one more game before going to sleep. Going to Mystery for the last time that night, I found a private game. Being a guest on the site, I couldn’t message the person to ask to join, and I would’ve kept looking for a Public game, except that the page froze. I refreshed it, and saw that the game had been changed to Public, with room for one person. I thought about that: a one-on-one game of one word story, and I felt excited at the possibility that this guy would be just as good as I was, and we could create something really unique. So, I joined. The host, username Doppelgänger1221, went first; “I,” appeared on the screen almost instantly. I was impressed with this guy’s bravery, as using “I” in this game usually led to embarrassing sentences in the long run. So, I rewarded him with a simple enough word that would keep the sentence going: “see.” He responded almost immediately with “you.” This was honestly a very amateur tactic. It would make the game harder to finish, and the “unsettling” approach was never enough to make me quit. I decided to humor him though, and typed, “through”. His response: “your”. I thought about where the sentence was going, and noticed that my living room window was still open from the afternoon; I typed “window.” His response was a period, signaling the end of the sentence.

“I see you through your window.” I chuckled to myself, realizing this guy was a “creep,” a player who tries to make unsettling or disturbing sentences to scare his opponents into leaving the game. He probably had a friend with him, and they were thinking up ways to scare me. I didn’t blame them, my sister and I did that last Halloween when I babysat for my parents. I started the next sentence: “You.” His reply: “are.” My reply: “not.” His reply: “safe.” My reply was a period, ending the sentence.

“You are not safe.” Again, I chuckled, and watched as he started the next sentence. “I” appeared on the screen. I typed “am,” which was followed by “coming”. I thought about ending the sentence there, as a slight punishment against the guy for not taking the game seriously. Instead, I typed “for” to see if he would type what I thought he would. He typed “You.” I was right on the money, and typed a period.

“I am coming for you.” It wasn’t funny anymore, just boring. There was a chat, so I used it to tell the guy to cut the “creep” stuff. I told him it wasn’t funny, and if he didn’t cut it out, I would leave the game. He actually replied.

“Look out your window.” That caught me off guard, but I did what I was told. Across the street, a light post had burned out its bulb, which I hadn’t noticed before. It was pretty dark, and I couldn’t really make out any shapes. I turned back to the monitor. Doppelgänger had typed “I,” and I saw in the chat that he had posted another comment. Basically, he was telling me what to write. I was becoming fed up with him, but ten thirty was just five minutes away, so I reasoned to just finish, and did as he asked. I typed “Have.” He typed “A.” I typed “Gun.” He typed “To.” I typed “Your.” He typed “Head.” I finished the sentence with a period.

“I have a gun to your head.” I sighed aloud, and closed my eyes, stretching at my desk. I just wanted this game to be over. It was my turn, and he had sent me another list of words, so I typed “I.” He typed “Am.” I typed “At.” He typed “Your.” I typed “Window.” He typed a period.

“I am at your window.” Reading it aloud, I realized the game was over: we had made the “story” relate to our first sentence. Out of habit, I read every sentence out loud.

“I see you through your window. You are not safe. I am coming for you. I have a gun to your head. I am at your window.” I finished reading, and rested my head against my chair, yawning. I was drowsy, and thought about sleeping in my chair when a loud, cracking sound echoed across the empty street outside and I noticed the crack that was spider-webbing from the center of my computer monitor. I blinked to full alertness and saw it: the glint of a bullet, sticking out of my screen. I turned my head behind me, and screamed as I saw someone in a mask staring in through my window. Out of panic, I dashed out of my chair and into my bedroom. I hid in the closet, under a thick pile of dirty laundry, and waited, trying to control my rapid breathing as my eyes adjusted to the uncomfortable darkness.

It was a few minutes before I heard soft footsteps. The maniac was in my bedroom; I could see his dark boots and leather pants. He fired the gun again at my bed sheets; he must have thought I was hiding in the covers. He rummaged through my drawers, and took something that I thought was money or my prescription medicine. I saw him stalk towards my bathroom, and fire a shot into the shower. He looked around in there, before turning around, and looking under my bed. He was almost level with the floor, so I could see his features: he was at least six feet, and dressed in all black, except for his mask, which was white with red tear-tracts under the eyes and a painted set of crooked, beast-like teeth; he seemed to see perfectly in the dark. I could really only see him because his clothes seemed to be darker than the already lightless interior of my bedroom. After what felt like hours, he stood up, and walked out of my room. I stayed in my closet all night, eventually falling asleep, covered in my unclean socks and underwear. I smelled horrible in the morning, and the first thing I did was take a shower; I stepped on the bullet that had torn a hole in my shower curtains.

Afterwards, I called the police, who told me to come down to the station. I got ready to go, but couldn’t find my keys anywhere. While looking through the drawers of my desk, I complained internally about my monitor being busted. I could still see the site, the chat room, and the game, and took a picture of it with my phone for the police. Now, in the kitchen looking for my keys, it hit me that I had kept them in my dresser-drawer, and ran into my room to see that what the psycho had taken was my keys. I groaned, and was about to call my buddy for a ride when I accidentally opened my photo gallery. I was very annoyed with myself, until I took another look at the picture I had taken. Something was different in the picture than I had remembered from last night. There was a new line in the chat. A single word. A simple question. A word I had used so many times over the words, after a game was over. I never thought that this word would send shivers down more spine nor turn my blood to ice in my veins.


Credit: Anthony Naranjo

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The Ghost of You

October 27, 2015 at 12:00 PM
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The Ghost of You

By Heather Wright

One cool October evening a man by the name of Nicodemus was walking down a trail that was all too familiar to him. The path was enclosed by woods, with trees that were brilliant with leaves of rustic reds and bright orange. He was strolling along, enjoying autumn’s scenic view, following the path that would ultimately lead him to his quaint little home, where he lived alone.

Nicodemus was an older man, with a face that, though now showed signs of aging, had once known great beauty. His dark hair was streaked with white, his once strong body now ached from a lifetime of labor. His thoughts were weary of a life that seemed long begotten, where memories now replaced what so long ago had been ambitions.

It was on this fall twilight that Nicodemus came upon a strange little creature, the miniature fiend appeared suddenly before him. His blue eyes were cast downward, distracted by his own solemn thoughts and just as he looked up, there it was, standing in the middle of the dirt path. The wind took on an eerie howling, the crackle of leaves softly blowing across the path preluded the appearance of the strange fiend. Its stature was not more than a foot and a half tall, an exaggerated grin was stretched across its small round face. “What might you be?” he asked aloud, taking cautious steps to approach the thing; he kneeled before the creature to get a better look at it. Its head looked like a tiny pumpkin, only its features were incredibly lifelike, its little body was almost human in form with slender arms and legs. It wore the smallest pair of red pants and the tiniest patchwork top that Nicodemus had ever seen on anything alive, least a baby.

The odd thing spoke to Nicodemus, “Me is Coo Coo.” Shocked that it could speak and perplexed by its name, Nicodemus raised an arched brow and repeated “Coo Coo?” It replied, “Yes it be sir, named after me master’s favorite clock,” the dastardly thing explained. “Because me knows how to turn back time.” Its voice was high pitched and impish. “Turn back time? And how’s that?” Nicodemus asked curious, still in shock and awed by such a strange being. “Hand me that dandy watch from out your pocket.” He told Nicodemus pointing to the chain that hung from his vest. Nicodemus did as the creature suggested and slipped his watch out and handed it to the thing. In its tiny hands it wound the watch backwards three times then handed it back to him. Nicodemus shook his head and laughed at the creature’s simplistic mind. “Oh, I see.” he felt it unnecessary to explain to it that anyone could wound a clock backwards, for the dastardly little thing seemed proud of its deed.

Nicodemus decided to walk around the thing and continue his journey back home, when from behind him the fiend called out, “Me had to take out me own eye when me made a man see his own ghost.” Turning back to look at the small thing again, Nicodemus noticed that, indeed, one of its eyes were missing, revealing a hallow orb. “Then me had to cut off me own nose, for me made a man inhale the essence of his own ghost.” And, indeed, its nose was merely two hallow slits on its ghoulish face. “What manner of rubbish do you speak of vile creature, be gone! Go back into the woods from wince you came!” Nicodemus scolded.

He turned abruptly and with haste made his way back home. Darkness was settling in fast, the wind carried on its ghostly whisper. When at last he arrived, he could have sworn that his eyes might have been playing tricks on him in the pale moonlight, for it was his house, but there, in the grass before the door, loomed that thin tree with its bony branches outreaching like skeleton limbs; the one he had chopped down when he was still a younger man. From one of its crooked branches a decorative skeleton dangled by a noose upon its neck, it swayed in the breeze like the twine on a pendulum…a Hollow’s Eve prank played upon him by a friend…some 30 years ago. Nicodemus slowly approached it, “How can it be?” he whispered aloud. A strange little voice called to him from where the front door waited, “Go ahead good Sir, look into the window, look, see,” it urged, the retched little fiend from the woods was there, its wide obnoxious smile spread across its unnatural face.

Angry at the wicked pest now, Nicodemus stomped over to where the thing stood nearby and dared to do as the creature told, he looked into the window and let out a gasp as he stumbled backwards. There, inside the home, was his young self, three decades earlier. He saw the profile of his own face, chiseled with the tautness of his youth, those handsome features that had once been his own. “Go ahead, look, see.” The thing called out again in its decrepit voice. Nicodemus gazed into the glass again, becoming mesmerized by his own forgotten beauty. How handsome I was, how smooth and full was the flesh upon my face, how lean and healthy my body was, how safe I was in my youth, how excited I was about what life would behold for me, Nicodemus thought longingly as he became evermore entranced by his own vision. Then his young self turned and his young blue eyes were peering directly into his own old blue eyes.

Nicodemus stepped back in horror; young Nicodemus ran out the front door, old Nicodemus shrank back into the shadows, the darkness swallowing him. “I know you are there, show yourself!” young Nicodemus demanded. Old Nicodemus stood silently and began to slowly back farther away. Suddenly the foul little monster appeared in a nearby tree, the full moon illuminating his tiny ghastly face, “Tell him, tell him all the wisdom you have now, make him a better you,” he urged. “Quiet you beast!” Old Nicodemus hissed. “Come out now or I shall pull you from out the shadows myself” young Nicodemus threatened. Looking at his former self, old Nicodemus could no longer resist the longing to want to see his lost youth up close, to see once again his smooth skin and flawless complexion.

He stepped forward to reveal himself. Young Nicodemus looked upon him in disbelief, he saw the familiarity, the uncanny resemblance to his own self. “Who are you?” he asked, eyes starring wide and bewildered. “I am you” old Nicodemus sobbed, it pained him so to see the handsome young man he used to be. How fast these years have passed, for beauty and health was lost in his memories–until now. “It cannot be, no, you are some lunatic” young Nicodemus insisted. Old Nicodemus reached out his hands, “I just want to touch my own smooth skin, just let me touch that face I once knew so well” old Nicodemus cried walking before his own self– reaching. Frightened by this forward stranger, young Nicodemus could not bolt for the door and shut himself away inside the sanctuary of his home for the odd man now stood before it. “Leave me be you crazed man!” young Nicodemus exclaimed, but to his horror, the wild eyed stranger continued to come towards him…reaching. He turned away and decided to run, to run as fast as he could and distance himself from this familiar stranger.

Old Nicodemus ran after him, young Nicodemus looked back and called out “Leave me be!” and ran faster. Old Nicodemus’ aching knees and hips could not keep up pace with his former self, as he fled like a frightened rabbit through the darkness. As old Nicodemus chased him, he realized that this was the year when he first moved into the house, it was not long after that he cut down the tree; his young naive self was still unfamiliar with the property. But old Nicodemus knew that just up ahead in the direction where they were running was a steep drop off. If young Nicodemus continued to run blindly through the night, he was sure to come to this cliff and fall to a certain death. “Stop!”

“Stop!” old Nicodemus pleaded, “Stop! There’s a cliff up ahead!” he called out only to be greeted by his echo. He tried in vain to keep going, but had to stop to catch his breath. The cool October air burning his nostrils as he breathed in heavily. Then suddenly a sharp stifling pain overcame him. He started to walk in the direction of the cliff, but each step became forced, every movement sent an aching agony through his bones.

A sinister cackle filled the night and echoed through the darkness, a deviant laughter that interrupted the silence. Then Old Nicodemus saw the pumpkin-headed creature with its ghastly wide grin, standing just up ahead. He continued with each painful step until he was beside him. Realizing only then that he was at the edge of the cliff. The tiny monster pulled a tiny knife from out his pocket and explained “Now me has to cut off me own tongue for me made a man talk to his own ghost” and the fiend then grabbed his own tongue and sliced it off. A cold breeze blew through Old Nicodemous’ hair as time seemed to slow to an eerie halt. He looked down and saw the still, lifeless body of his young self, lying sprawled across a great rock at the bottom of the cliff. He had fallen and died instantly.

“No, no” Nicodemus sobbed, falling to his knees. “You beast! You wretched vile goblin! What have you done!” he screamed picking up little monster and began to strangle it and as he strangled him it wailed and howled until Nicodemus turned to a pile of dust upon the ground, the creature falling limp beside him.


Nicodemus died at the age of 28 that night and was never known to have ever grown old. His dark hair was never streaked with white, his bones never knew an ache. He never had to mourn a youth long begotten-for he never left his youth behind.

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Mind Tricks

October 26, 2015 at 12:00 PM
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We’re lying on the floor of a stockroom in a gas station. Malia and I, the chubby, middle-aged clerk and an older couple I’ve never met are lying facedown on dirty cold floors surrounded by the detritus of running a small convenience store on a highway. The young man with the gun, no older than 19 and fidgeting with the tell-tale spasms of a meth addict, is screaming. This is not how I wanted to spend my day.

I search his mind incessantly. Nothing is where it’s supposed to be. What do you fear? What do you love? What can stop you? It’s hard with meth addicts. The meth makes everything a jumble of incoherent, random images. I’m nearly giving up when I find it: a monster he’s created. A fleshy, long clawed beast with metallic teeth, dripping with black ichor.

I glance over at Malia and nod. “It’s OK,” I try to tell her with my face. I’ve got what I need.

What I’m about to do requires a lot of energy. Fortunately it’s early in the evening and we haven’t been on the road long. I should be able to summon enough to do what I need to do. I lift myself slowly off the ground. The other three hostages scolding me in hushed yells. “You’re going to get killed.” “Get down.” “Don’t be a hero.”

Malia calms them quietly and nods.

“Close your eyes and cover your ears,” I whisper back.

The young man, Josh is the name I’ve managed to garner from his racing mind, is rummaging through the locked case holding the OTC medicines behind the counter. He wants the pseudoephedrine and anything else he can get. The cash in the register will merely be an after thought. My steps are slow and deliberate. He can’t be allowed to see me until I’ve assumed the proper shape.

It’s finally transformed and I stare through the new beast’s large, wet eyes. I snort loudly and growl softly. Josh sees me and everything drops. The items in his hands, his face, the contents of his bladder. He’s pinned behind the counter. There’s no way for to escape as I make my way slowly to him. The screams get louder and louder and I drift into his mind again.

“Your soul,” my monster voice growls in his head. “I know what you did to Cassie.”

I don’t actually know what he did to Cassie. But I know she’s in his brain and there’s an immense amount of guilt swirling around her. There’s a good chance he doesn’t even remember what he did. He begins to wail.

I keep pushing every button I find. Keep morphing my beast body to suit his worst imaginings. I promised Malia years ago that the worst damage I do wouldn’t be permanent, but would be enough to effectively disable them for their natural lives. It’s a brutal task but it makes everyone safer in the end.
When I’m done, Josh is in the fetal position wailing incoherently. I’m back in my normal form and I’m exhausted. Sitting on the floor, propped up against the soda cooler. I call to Malia. It’s all clear now, everyone can come out.

They creep slowly out of the room and stare at me wide-eyed. My color is gone, my lips are pale and big dark lines have taken up residence under my eyes. Josh has stopped screaming and is now whimpering softly to himself.

I give the clerk a solemn look.

“You don’t want the kind of attention telling the whole story will bring you,” I tell him. “Erase the security tape, then call the cops. Tell them it was a weird freak accident that happened with the tape. Tell them our friend over here just came into your store and lost his mind. He won’t be able to tell them any different.”

He nods at me. He’s frightened but willing to trust me. The couple is staring at me with concern.

“You don’t look good at all,” the woman says, kneeling down by me. She’s a mother, and my tiny pale frame and consumptive look is giving her pause.

“She needs to eat. Preferably lots of protein,” Malia explains. Malia knows the drill, she’s been with me at this for a while.

We can’t stay here. I can’t talk to the cops. Despite my abilities, I’m a terrible liar and I don’t like to do my mind trick on innocent bystanders. It feels like a violation.

The clerk and the couple help Malia get me out to the car. The couple knows a diner not far and they want us to follow them there. They really need to talk about what happened. I trust Malia’s instincts on this one and she agrees to follow them.

The diner is retro looking more by lack of funds than aesthetics. Something you’d expect to find on a desert highway. The waitress is older and doesn’t look twice at my sorry state. She’s seen worse and isn’t interested in finding out more. Her feet hurt and her bills are due.

I order steak and eggs, with the steak cooked as rare as possible, and devour it in nearly one gulp when it arrives. The couple is remarkably calm for all they’ve witnessed and I appreciate their stiff upper lip.

The bloody meat, though a terrible cut, was enough to give me back my color and restore my energy. I eat my eggs like a normal human being.

“What do you want to know?” I ask them.

The husband, an older man who looks like he might work at the local branch of a bank, or maybe a kindly high school history teacher, clears his throat and whispers, “What are you?”

I’ve been asked that before. When Malia first met me, when we were tiny youngsters, she asked me the same thing.

I’m as human as you and the guy next to you. But with a major difference. I was born after my mother had been dead for about five minutes. She surprised a burglar who decided to stab her in the throat. I shouldn’t have survived. Living things are not born of dead things. But it does happen. And when it does, those particles in the universe that are attracted to death, to miracles, to things which should not be, come and attach to whatever is left standing. That was me. Tiny, two-week early neonate coffin birthed, going against all laws of natural order.

Living with these forms swirling around you gives you perspective on things. Everything is charged particles and wavelengths. Every action in context has a unique charge and wavelength. Malice, love, lust, pain, joy, grief. There is no “good” or “evil,” really. Simply actions in context that emit an energy. Our energies impress on the energies around us and drift out into the world. I can manipulate these energies, though it saps a lot of my own to do it. My mind trick is merely an ability to read the wavelengths and charges in a brain. The Secret had one part right. What you put out will affect you. Or me. It most definitely will come back to me.

I explain as scientifically as possibly, realizing they may think I’m absolutely insane.They seem to be taking it in well. Maybe they believe in the supernatural or new age bullshit. Either way, I’m grateful they are not freaking completely out.

Not everyone handles it that well. My grandparents were not prepared for a newborn who would overload the breakers when she was wet or hungry. Nor a toddler who would mess with the electronics for giggles. Knowing the two people you love the most are terrified of you is a lonely feeling, especially when you can’t control it. My grandmother’s aunt was into old world magic and decided to take me when I hit kindergarten. Things got easier as I learned control. I very nearly lived a normal life after that.

The wife sighs deeply, “This must be hard for you.”

I pause.

“It can be. But then sometimes I get to save people’s lives,” I smile.

Talk turns to the mundane. Our jobs. Their children. Our dogs and cats. Their family and business. A bookstore in a tiny California town tucked into the redwoods. We should come visit it. Numbers and addresses are exchanged and we begin to leave.

“Check in on the clerk, if you’re down this way again,” I ask. I know he’s all right. I got a sense he was tougher than he looked and pragmatic. He didn’t want trouble. He wanted to run his business and raise his family.

Malia turns on the car and away we go, back into the desert darkness. We’ll find someplace to bed down for the night. Hopefully the rest of our trip will go smoothly.


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Childhood Fears

October 22, 2015 at 12:00 PM
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I have to stop doing this. I know I have work in the morning. I know I have one strike, but I just get distracted. The basement is dimly lit by a single lightbulb hanging from the center of the room. Well, that and my television screen. The beige walls contrast the white carpet, to make it seem almost as if it is glowing. I have a whole house to myself, but always find myself retreating back here. All that’s changed in the past ten hours has been the movies appearing on and off my screen, and the sound of my clock, which sounds every hour. That is what snaps me out of my trance. My eyes dart toward my clock, and see that it reads three. I only have about four hours until work. But I really, really, don’t want to go upstairs. See, I have a childish, embarrassing fear. We’ve all been victims of this, but mine, never left. My light switch is at the bottom of my stairs. This means I have to turn off my light, and then sprint up the stairs like a kindergartener. Why? Because as stupid, and immature as it may sound, I am certain that there are monsters, lurking in each corner of my basement, waiting to snatch me and pull me into wherever they go when light is shed upon where they lurk. So as you can imagine, it is a living hell to go upstairs each night. Procrastinating doesn’t help much either. I take a deep breath, tell myself to man up, and I get up. I walk to the television, and turn it off with a loud *click*. I hate myself for this. It is SO quiet. I can practically hear the beasts breathing. I put my hand on the icy cold switch. The breathing of the things intensifies, I feel like a caged animal, being watched, stalked. I look up the stairs. Only a few seconds, and it will all be over.




Pitch black, I have no sense of direction. They are touching me, I know they are. I feel the fragile, papery skin of one. The moist scales of another. The air grows damp with their breath and mine. They’re grabbing, clawing at me, eager to pull me back into the abyss. Nipping at my ankles, and pulling at my legs. One part of me says it can’t be real, but all other parts tell me to get out of this horrific place. I feel the unbelievably slippery brass doorknob in my sweaty palms. I grip the rustic sphere, and turn it with all my force. When I break into the cool air of my living room, the fresh air fills my lungs like the first step outside on a brisk autumn day. The dimly moonlit room is all the relief I could ever ask for. I look into the abyss for one last time, and shut the door.

My heart skips a beat when something squishy keeps the door from closing. As quickly as this living room gave me salvation, it is just as quickly turning into a nightmare. I look down, ready to confront whatever demon that has made it’s way out of my personal land of nightmares. But all I am confronted with, is a sock, my left sock, wedged in between the doorframe. I look down, and sure enough, only my right foot is covered. I chuckle to myself, wondering how I can be so childish, so silly. I toss the old sock into the darkness of my less horrifying basement.

It’s tossed back.

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October 21, 2015 at 12:00 PM
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I’m not even gonna try and convince you this is a true story. I mean it is, but I don’t care if you believe it. I just needed to put the words on the screen, and put it out in the world to get it off my mind. Let it be someone else’s problem figuring this shit out.

It started when a friend from high school messaged me on Facebook, let’s call him Jim. (Sorry internet people, no real names. I want to be honest about what happened, but I also don’t want anyone getting doxed over this either.) Now Jim is definitely a good friend and a good guy, but he’s a total bro too. Great to hang out with, not so great to have a conversation with. So I usually hang out with him when I’m back home, but other wise don’t hear much from him. So him sending me a message was already weird.

I tried to copy and paste the chat below as best as possible:




The most fucked up thing just happened


I was watching porn




That’s not really that fucked up

Just listen ok

ok man


This pop-up opens. You know with the cam shows

uh huh…

So I went to close it but stopped, cuz it was Jess



Ugh huh…. who?

Jess Nolan

idk who that is.

She went to high school with us

Well that explains it. I didn’t really know people back then.


She had black hair

Not ringing any bells.

She was super hot.

I kinda figured that from the conversation. Still don’t remember.

Was that the fucked up part?


That you saw a girl from highschool in a cam show pop-up.

Was that the fucked up part?

Oh no. I’m not done.


Oh sorry. Continue.

So she’s doin this strip tease, and has all these toys on the bed.

You wanna maybe skip ahead. I’m at work.


So after awhile there’s like a crash sound from somewhere.

She turns the music off and opens the closet and bends down behind the bed.

Then there was like this weird noise.

and then what?


That’s it?

No I’m mean she never came back.

What do you mean she never came back?

This happened like half an hour ago.

I still have the video open.



I’m serious.

Well I don’t believe that. But…

If you are serious, you need to do something man.

Like what?

Call the police or something.

Maybe she’s in trouble.

I’m sure it’s nothing

“The most fucked up thing just happened”

That was how you started this. Doesn’t sound like nothing.


OK well I should probably do some work today.

Let me know how it goes, assuming you’re not full of shit.

So that was it for a few hours. I know, I know, hardly the “most fucked up thing.” So I finished off the work day and the whole thing drifted out of my mind. I mean, I didn’t live there anymore. I was on the other side of the country, so as weird as I guess it sounded there was little to nothing I could do about it.

So I went home, made dinner, watched Netflix. It was pretty late when Jim messaged me again. The only reason I mention this is because I now live on the east coast, but grew up in New England. Which is where Jim was. So while it was almost midnight for me, it was around 3 AM for him.

Anyways, here’s that conversation:

Dude wtf

Is this that Jess girl thing still?


So what happened now.

I can’t find her

You went to her house?

No I mean I can’t find any trace of her.

Like online.


Did you ever call the cops?

Ya. They just blew me off.

So then I tried to find her Facebook. To message her or find someone that knew her to call.

That’s actually pretty smart.



But I couldn’t find it


And Matt doesn’t remember her either.

Or Bob.

You sure it was her.

Yes. For sure.

So I’m just sitting with this cam still open like wtf

You still have it open?

Can you send it to me? I’ll poke around. Maybe I can find something.

So then he sent me the link. I opened it in a new window in incognito mode. I mean I know that’s not why I wanted to see it, but it was still porn. Just a force of habit I guess.

Just like Jim had described, the room was empty. The closet door was open. Several dildos were displayed on the bed. A chat window on the side trying to entice me to enter a credit card number.

When I asked Jim to send me the link I thought maybe there’d be some clue that he would have missed. One that would either explain what happened, or better yet prove that he made the whole thing up. But there was nothing.

So then I tried to find the missing Facebook account. I copy and pasted “Jess Nolan” into the search bar. I figured if we went to high school together, then we’d have some mutual friends and it wouldn’t be that hard. Nothing. No one by that name from my hometown area, that was the correct age.

So then I started just googling. I figured I could at least confirm or deny her existence. Sadly our school was pretty shitty at record keeping. I tried finding a list of students in my graduating class but it looked like it had lost it’s data when they had redesigned the website a couple years back. I tried the years below mine and the years above, but didn’t find anything there either. So then I tried honors lists from that time, but no luck. Last ditch effort was searching for articles for the girls soccer team. Pretty much every girl I knew of was on it, and they usually won just often enough to get an article about them in the town paper now and then. But this turned up nothing as well.

At this point I felt pretty satisfied that it was a bad prank on Jim’s part, and began putting less and less effort into the search. Eventually I got distracted, and fell down a wikipedia rabbit hole about DC comics villains before realizing it was now pretty damn late and decided to crash.

I had forgotten all about the missing girl/Jim’s prank until I got home from work the next day. When I opened my laptop I realized I still had the window with the cam show open. Honestly my only thought was how glad I was that I hadn’t made this discovery while some one else was around. I went to close it, but then noticed the chat window.

The start of it was exactly what you’d expect, generic “Want to come over? Just enter your social security number” kind of stuff. Except for the last two lines, which had timestamps that were about when I had finally gone to bed.

The first line was something along the lines of

“You should stop looking for her”

Followed by simply by:


Then my computer froze. Quickly I restarted. I wanted to get a screenshot of this, already foreseeing how unbelievable this story would be. I don’t know why the creepiness of the situation hadn’t hit me yet. My computer rebooted. I looked in my history, and remembered I had opened the page in incognito mode. I opened the link in my Facebook chat with Jim again, but just kept getting a 404 error.

I thought about calling Jim with this new detail, but thought better of it. If it was still a joke, I wasn’t going to feed into it by calling Jim in a panic in the middle of the night. Though I was much more doubtful that it was a joke now. Instead I started writing this.


So I wrote the first part of this story about a month ago. The plan was to ask Jim about it, give it some kind of proper conclusion, then post it on Tumblr so my friends could see it. But as much as I like writing, I’m pretty bad about keeping focussed. I eventually forgot all about it again, as I was afraid in the end other people wouldn’t find it that interesting or weird. Back then, working on something creative only to have no one care was probably my biggest fear. That changed today.

Sometime during work I got a notification that I got a new match on tinder. By the time I checked it I had a message from the girl too. Her name was Jess. I opened the app and looked at her profile. She had black hair, was about my age and was very pretty. I didn’t recognize her or remember swiping right for her. Her bio was left blank, but it said she had been active a few minutes ago and was less than a mile away. I opened the message. All it said was:

Thanks for not posting that story ;)

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