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Shadow of the Storm

November 3, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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Shadow of the Storm
By Joongus

You always hear stories of boys and girls, or men and women for that matter, who will randomly wake up in a foreign land; still groggy from sleep, their fears will get the best of them until the realization that they are mere feet or yards from their original nexus: their beds. The occasional tale of the small child going missing, only to be found crying on the roof of their house or in the neighbor’s backyard are always a comical pleasantry. I, personally, had found sleepwalking a rather funny habit. When all is said and done, the idea that a person can move about completely free of the mind only to nearly forsake themselves to madness upon waking up always seemed whimsical to me. It is, in essence, the perfect prank; your own body, behind the back of its own accompanying mind, seems to have a sense of humor. And, the backbone of all good jests, is the lack of consequence when the joke comes to fruition. I have yet to hear of a sleepwalker getting into a car and causing a fatal accident; or, I have yet to hear of a sleepwalker turning on the faucet and drowning in their own bathtub. Ironically, however, there have been cases of both sleepwalkers driving cars and taking baths without any such tragedy. Of course, there are outlier cases in sleepwalking as well; but, the number of creepy/funny tales of parasomniacs’ shenanigans vastly outweigh that which you can find in the tragic/fatal tagline. So, um, I’ve decided to not let a few bad apples ruin the genre for me.

My son, Jaime, started sleepwalking when he was 6 years old. And, honestly, as a parent, it was terrifying for me at first. I woke up before dawn for work one morning, and just found him sleeping on the hardwood floor of the upstairs hallway. I shook the little guy up, asked him if he preferred a harder mattress or something, and he just looked at me like “How the hell did I get here”? When it started happening 3 to 4 times a week, that’s when I started getting nervous. Because, while each instance was harmless and uneventful, a parent’s mind always expects the worst when it comes to their child’s safety. After the first few instances, I began asking the “what if”s? What if he self defenestrates himself? What if, he turns himself into the police for some crime I had no idea he committed? Yes, Jaime is only 6, and yes, parents’ minds can stretch to even the most outlandish of places. Needless to say, I began losing sleep after the first week. I tried sleeping in his bed with him; I looked online for solutions that didn’t involve force feeding my kid pills; I even tried blocking his door one time (I tell ya, that kid was strong). When all went up in failure, I, honestly, just got over my paranoia. You see, the thing that was strange (and relieving) about Jaime’s sleepwalking habit was that he always would end up in the same spot. The way our upstairs is set up, the landing stairs come right up to my bedroom and his room is across the upstairs balcony from mine. On this balcony, the aforementioned ‘hallway’, there is a small light, one that’s more akin to a large nightlight than an actual lamp, located between our two rooms. A few times a week, every single time, I would wake up around 4 for work and find him sleeping under the glow of this nightlight. Now, I asked him if he wanted more light in his room, and he reminded me that he would sleep just fine and has no recollection of ever moving to the hallway.

This went on for about a month and a half. After the first few weeks, it sort of just became a routine of mine. I would wake up for work, flip a coin, and if it was heads Jaime would be under the nightlight again. Tails, and he was still in bed. I would always just tuck him back into bed and go off to work. However, this routine was interrupted one night in April. There was a small thunderstorm that night, and Jaime, being afraid of the storm, wanted to sleep in my bed. I’d tried sleeping in his room before, but never the inverse. Well, this technique was anti-therapeutic. I awoke that morning to find my son, unsurprisingly, not next to me in my bed. Casually, I got up and checked the hallway. To my terror, the nightlight shown down on nothing but the wood floor. I started panicking and screaming my son’s name: no answer. Once again, the horrible “what if”s swarmed back into my mind. There was my son, splattered across the street outside my house. There was my son, face down in the local retention pond. There was my son, on the back of a newspaper or milk carton…and there was my son, sleeping on the back porch behind our sliding glass door. Recovering from my heart attack, I stepped out into the witching hour’s daughter. Scooping him up into my arms, I asked him what the hell he was doing out there. I got that familiar blank stare.

Things returned to normal after that night. Back in his own bed, I was relieved to find him sleeping under the hallway nightlight a day later. So, my son goes to one of those K through 5th grade schools, and, call me paranoid, but I had him see the school psychologist. I notified her ahead of time that this was a minor sleepwalking issue, and that I just wanted any of her suggestions that she can draw from sitting down with Jaime. Jaime was pretty pissed at me for that one… but nothing a new Star Wars action figure couldn’t fix. Anyway, she couldn’t get anything out of him. My son had always been a good, cooperative kid in the few years of school he’s had and the psychologist told me that his testimony to her reflected that behavior. “No underlying illnesses or behavioral issues were apparent”, is what I think she said. After the good news, I did bring up to her that my son always ends up under the same nightlight, except for the one time he was under the porch light. She attributed this to a latent fear of the dark; that, some kids can override their fears of the dark, but succumb to these fears subconsciously, I.e., when they’re asleep. After a good laugh about how my son’s a fear suppressing badass, I asked her if she had anything else; she countered my question by asking if Jaime has ever manifested a fear of heights. Allegedly, the night of the storm, Jaime had a weird dream where it felt like he was falling. He had said that it was so vivid that he thought he had woken up, but, that the fall was so brief it was over in the blink of an eye. The doctor asked him if he remembered anything else from that night, and with a shake of his head, then concluded that he must have still been dreaming.

Time continued on once again, and the tedium of Jaime’s midnight promenades slipped back out of my mind. By the end of April, Jaime’s nap on the porch had become just another laughable memory. To this day, I love reminiscing about that night; where, after so much stress and panic concentrated over a few minutes, my boy was right there: waiting on the porch to be brought back into my arms…

“April showers bring May flowers” and the “air is calmest just before the storm”… The news rang on about a large scale thunderstorm in my area. That night, April 30th, the weathermen were surprisingly accurate for once. The storm was quite fierce. Flashes of lightning blinded me in the same duration yet opposite manner of the blink of my eye. Their less graceful tag-team partners followed not long behind, with punches that seemed to nearly knock me off of my bed. In fact, they knocked Jaime out of his bed. I remember that boy standing in my doorway, his wide eyes barely gleaming under the hallway light. That boy, who I tucked back into his own bed; “Not this time, I wouldn’t want you getting wet in the rain!”

The dark limbo before dawn came: a slightly darker limbo than I was used to…There it was, my son’s door, ajar, like the unhinged maw of a snake. There it was, the nightlight, having breathed its last, dead in the night. And there it was, the sheer panic that only a parent caught in the helpless headlights of chance can experience. Reminiscent of my past hell, I sprinted downstairs. Sharply turning the corner of my foyer, I nearly reentered blackness when I almost tripped over my son’s favorite teddy bear. I picked it up, scanned over its soft effects, and rubbed the matted spot on its left arm. Just above the bear shown our wall mounted analog clock. Its face stared at me, frozen in fear, while its long black tail still reached for life inside the barren wall.

The police found me that night, shouting and sprinting through my neighbors’ blackened yards. They… haven’t found Jaime yet. Because of the storm, there were no eye witnesses who saw my son leave the house. They’ve searched the entire area, and have not a single lead. At this point, I try not to think of what happened to him. The flowers showing up on my doorstep and porch the weeks after were little consolation. I just, want to see my son again. I want to wake up and find him under the nightlight once more. I want to tuck him back into bed and kiss him goodnight. And then, I don’t want to see his face again until I pick him up from school that day. I hate seeing his face around dawn. His brown eyes are now acquiesced blackness. His light hair, now strands of tinsel gray… Funny, it’s probably how he looked, when there wasn’t any light.

Credit: Joongus

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Trash Bag

October 31, 2016 at 4:00 AM
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You get on the bus at around 11 PM. Finally. Later than you’d like. Much, much later. But at least, tired as you are, you’re finally on, headed home for the evening. You hadn’t expected the group meeting for your final project to drag on for so long, but your group got distracted and started amicably chatting about everything that wasn’t related to the project before finally, barely, getting down to business. Upon leaving the library at last, you realize that you barely accomplished anything at all.

But you don’t really care about that right now.

Right now, you only care about getting home. You make your way to the back, even though you’re one of only two passengers. This is mostly out of habit, but also out of preference. You’re used to sitting back there, and so you’ve grown fond of it.

The other passenger is a man, seated in the middle left row. You’ve never been very good at guessing ages, but you know that he’s much older than you. You’ve never been good at describing people, but you know how to describe him, just from what you can see of the back of his head. In one word, even.

And that word is weird.

The man has a full trash bag next to his feet. On the public bus. What kind of person would bring trash on a bus? Is that even allowed? You’ve been kicked off for bringing on fast food before in the day time. But you guess everyone, including the night driver, loses any motivation to care about much of anything at around 5 in the afternoon.

You text your roommate and joke about it, hoping to give her a few laughs after her late weekend shift. The two of you have been friends since freshman year, and you know that she would get a kick out of the weird trash man.
She doesn’t reply. Must be in the shower.

You wonder if the man is homeless. This thought makes you feel a bit guilty for a few moments, even though he doesn’t look very homeless. Then again, you wouldn’t know if “homeless” had a look, or if it did, what that look would be. Maybe he keeps his clothes in there. Maybe it’s not garbage at all.

You zone out for a while, eyes fixed on nothing in particular in the vague direction of the trash bag at the man’s feet. It only grabs your attention when it begins to move.

Your first thought is that, oh god, a rat or something got in. Or maybe this guy is some live-pigeon-collecting creep. You were startled out of your seat either way. Then you notice that the whole bag is moving, and whatever is in there is much bigger than a rodent or bird. You can’t keep your eyes off of it as it squirms and writhes.

After a few seconds, you start to wonder if the movement will cause the bag to break. Somehow, miraculously, it hasn’t. You aren’t sure that you want to see what would come out if it did. You text your roommate again, freaking out about what’s happening in front of you, but, again, no reply. No matter. She’ll get the full story when you get home, even if you have to wake her up to give it.

You watch in sheer horror as the clear outline of a human hand stretches the black plastic.

You can’t see inside, but… Oh god. The implications of what this means hit you all at once, and you can’t breathe. You can’t move. You’re frozen in fear. You wonder if you should alert the bus driver. On the one hand, you don’t want to let this creep escape with his… captive. But you realize that to get to the driver, you would have to pass him, and you don’t know or want to think of what he would do to you on your way.
Surely he’s noticed you by now. Your eyes on his bag. Surely he knows that you saw it. And you’re trapped with him on this bus until one of you gets off. The hopelessness of this situation is overwhelming, you can’t escape, you can’t get out, you can’t breathe–

And then, at the next stop, he makes the decision for you. He gets off with his bag, disappearing into the night, never to be seen again. Or, at least, by you. You know that you have to tell someone, but you aren’t sure what you would say, how you would describe him, or if anyone would believe you. You get home a few minutes later, relieved to be done with that experience, even though you know you won’t be sleeping that night. Your roommate should be home by now, so at least you won’t be alone.

Your roommate isn’t home.

You have the sinking feeling that she never will be again.

Credit: Max Rosa

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How Lucky I Was

October 29, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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I was dying.

I knew it, my doctors knew it, and my family knew it. It has only been sixteen weeks since my official diagnosis, yet here I lay, trapped in this generic hospital bed, surrounded by various machines, beeping and wheezing in a haunting melody that has likely been the last lullaby for countless souls before me. I mean for God’s sake, I’m 56 years old; how the hell did it come to this? I was given a hundred different reasons why my legs gave out on me before this team of specialists came to a consensus: Guillain-Barre Syndrome. I was told my immune system was attacking my nervous system, and although potentially treatable, it was not curable. So far, in my case, it’s been neither. It started with my legs, first attributed to a pinched nerve in my lower back. Over the next several weeks, my breathing became weaker and weaker until I could barely breathe on my own. My arms began to feel like ship anchors weighed them down, then they didn’t feel like anything at all. I should be living the best years of my life; instead, I’m trapped in a body that four months ago was perfectly healthy, now relegated to blinking and tear shed to express an entire range of words and emotions.

At this point, the doctors do nothing but tell me to think positive; if not to aid in my “recovery,” then at the very least for the sake of my family. I know they’re right, but at the same time, the timing of it all could not be any worse. I was able to comfortably retire in the spring, and my youngest had left home the month after, joining our daughter in San Francisco to work for some Internet start-up. That just left my wife and I to travel the world, just as we had talked about since our first moments as husband and wife.

God, Katherine, I’m so sorry.

I can’t help but feel like I’ve let her down. We sacrificed so much time for each other for the sake of our kids and an early retirement, assuming we would have all the time in the world for ourselves down the road. Well, down the road came and went and here we are. To her credit, she’s been nothing short of amazing. She’s always been quite literally my better half, and it’s showed most recently more than ever. This whole process has been just as devastating for her, if not more so, and yet up until now she’s been the only source of positivity between us. Now though, even she seems to be nearing the realization that she may end up leaving this hospital alone. As these thoughts enter my mind, my eyes well up with tears. As my eyes meet hers, I notice they begin to glisten as well. They are an incredible shade of blue, like looking into the deep of the ocean from the window of an airplane. I could stare into them forever, and it breaks my heart to think that for me, forever isn’t that long at all. After a few seconds that graciously seemed more like hours, I break her gaze as the door to my room opens and another doctor makes his way in.

I hadn’t seen this doctor before. I wasn’t all that surprised or concerned; a lot of them have been in and out, giving their useless input and expertise on my condition. I watched him as he calmly walked across the room, around to the bed and to the seat right beside my wife. She didn’t seem to pay him any attention. I didn’t want to either. I was tired of these people coming in, experimenting with new treatments that did nothing but fuel my frustration as this disease continued to rip me from my life and from Katherine. I could tell she was still looking at me, finally letting her pent-up emotions get the better of her as tears streamed down her face like condensation and her smile became hidden behind tightly pursed lips. I wanted so desperately to squeeze her hand, to look at her and tell her everything was okay, but I wasn’t able to, just as I wasn’t able to take my eyes off of my new doctor as he took a seat next to her. He was wearing a typical white robe, and looked to be wearing a nice black suit underneath; he was probably a research director or some other head high up on the pay scale. His face was devoid of any emotion, and it didn’t appear as if he had any intention of speaking to either of us. He was holding his hands out in front of him, the same way someone would hold a candle at a vigil. I uncomfortably turned my eyes to his hands as he sat unnervingly still. I didn’t know what this man was doing, and it seemed that although Katherine didn’t acknowledge his presence, she had grown increasingly upset since the moment he entered the room. I was furious. He had taken away the only source of positive energy I had and I just wanted him to leave us in peace. As the curiosity in my stare turned into menace, he reached his hands in front of my wife, and placed a small black box between us.

It didn’t look like a jewelry box, nor did it appear it could even be opened: it was just a cube, black in its purest form. It was dark enough to appear as if it was an absence of space rather than an object sitting on my bedside, like a broken pixel on a computer screen. I looked from the box to my wife, expecting her to be inquiring to this man about the box or even of his presence in general, but she still had yet to look away from me. If she was so upset, why hasn’t she asked this man to leave? I would be screaming this man out of the hospital if I could, but all I could do was turn my attention back to the doctor and hope my eye contact was enough to relay the message. As it turned out, he hadn’t taken his eyes off me either, his emotionless appearance a perfect contrast to my near unhinged wife. I had no idea what to make of this incredibly strange situation, but before I could even compose a thought about it, the doctor reached for my arm and extended it towards my wife. I was hoping he did so in an effort to comfort her, so she could grab my hand and we could pretend, at least briefly, that things would be okay. However, my wife did not extend her hand in return, and instead my hand fell short of her as the doctor rested it directly on top of the black box.
My eyes shut tight like I’d just been shocked by a loose wire, and my heart was racing, pumping faster than it had in months. It was a few seconds before I was able to open my eyes again, and when I did I was practically blinded by sunlight. When my eyes adjusted, I found I was no longer in my bed, but in a yard. My yard. Well, my parent’s yard I suppose. I was at my childhood home in Indiana, running around like I’d done every day when I was little. Unbelievably, I was able to move again, but I soon realized that my movements were not my own. It seemed so familiar, but it didn’t hit me until I began to run towards the garden my mom had in the back of the yard that this was a memory. A very real memory and one of my first to be exact; it was the first time I was stung by a bee when I was three years old. All I could do was watch as it all played out for me. I ran next to all the flowers, stopped at a bright red tulip right as a busy honeybee was crawling out of it. I knew I would grab the bee with my hand and it would sting me right in the middle of the palm, causing me to wail in pain as I ran towards the back door and into the waiting arms of my concerned mother.

Except that wasn’t how it happened.

I grabbed the bee just as I remember, but instead of immediately dropping it, I swung my hand towards my face and threw the bee directly into my mouth. I panicked as the bee hit the back of my throat and its stinger pierced the lining. I then began to sprint towards the door like I remembered, but instead of making it inside I fell several steps short as my breaths became strained and my throat began to swell and close. My heart was beating out of my chest as it desperately worked to keep me moving, but soon I was unable to take in any air at all and my vision began to fade. I turned over to see my mother, and the last thing I could make out was the unforgettable look of terror on her face as she grabbed me, her hysterical screaming sounding miles away as darkness enveloped this horrible, distorted memory.

My eyes shot open again, and just as I was about to shout to my mother that I was okay, she was gone. I was breathing just fine, and as I regained my bearings I realized I was off the ground, and on a bike. I was in another memory, this time one of my first times trying to ride a bike. My dad was jogging lightly behind me, excitedly urging me to keep going as I had finally set a good pace following several falls into my neighbor’s yard. This was such a happy memory, but after that warped nightmare I had just endured, I wanted so badly to turn around to him and scream for his help. Try as I might, I couldn’t. Instead, I was laughing along with my father. I was proud of myself for finally getting the hang of it. I continued to pedal faster and faster as my confidence grew, and I began to pull away from my dad. I remember looking back at him with a smile as he told me to stop, because I was approaching an intersection at the end of my block. I had stopped just fine from what I could remember, but for some reason I continued to look back at him to tell him to hurry up and stop me. I didn’t know how to use my brakes. I thought I did, but then I began to scream as I reversed my pedaling to no avail and my hands frantically waved across my handlebars in an attempt to grab the handles. I gave up fast and turned back again to see my dad right behind me, his hands outstretched to within about a foot of the back of my seat. I took my hands off the handlebars to try to reach back to him, but just as I was within inches of his hands, I was violently pushed away as a sickening thud and a high-pitched screech replaced the sounds of my frantic screams. I felt the air shoot out of my body as the front tire of a pick up truck crushed my bike and rolled over the middle of my back. I felt like my eyes were halfway out of my head, and I couldn’t feel much of anything. As I once again faded out from this horrible memory, the last thing I saw was my dad lying next to me, arms still outstretched, and blood pouring from his exposed neck as his head rolled slowly a few feet in front of me.

Again, my eyes opened. I didn’t want them to. I was so afraid to see any more of my life ruined by these twisted variants of my memories, but this new experience began anyway. It was dark, and I was driving rather fast on an empty, winding road. As things progressed, I had a hard time putting together when and where this was. This was the first memory so far that I didn’t really, well, remember. It didn’t help that I felt a little disoriented, but I just assigned it to the effects of what I’d already seen during these terrible nightmares. Had I fallen asleep with that doctor there? Did he do something to me? What about Katherine? Just as I had thought about her, I heard a laugh coming from the passenger seat of the car.

Hers.

God, no. Not Katherine. Don’t do this to me. I couldn’t bear to see anything happen to her, I don’t give a shit if any of this is real or not. I looked over to see her laughing in the passenger seat, and couldn’t help but laugh myself. Hell if I know why, laughing is the last possible thing I felt like doing, but I did anyway. She looked younger but still as beautiful as she always has been, and she was dressed up in a costume. She looked like Wonder Woman. As I saw myself, dressed as a Clark Kent/Superman combination, it hit me like a ton of bricks. We were on the way back from a Halloween party back in college. I couldn’t picture when this happened because I didn’t remember it; I was drunk. For years the both of us talked about how lucky we were to make it back safely to my apartment that night, and she was mad at me for a week when I told her I was as drunk as she was that night. As our laughter continued back in the car, I dreaded what was yet to happen. I looked over at her again and I couldn’t help but stare: she really was beautiful. I was completely lost in those same blue eyes, to the point that when my car began to veer off the road, I still didn’t look away. Even when my head snapped forward and the windshield shattered from the force of the collision with a telephone pole, I kept my eyes on her as her seatbelt snapped and her body propelled forward over the dashboard and straight into that pole. Her body contorted and snapped as the steering wheel cracked the front of my skull wide open. I fell back against my seat as Katherine’s lifeless body collapsed in a jagged heap next to mine. Her eyes were wide open, still with a look of blissful laughter as a small stream of blood ran slowly between them. As I drifted from consciousness, her piercing blue eyes continued to stare through me.

My eyes opened. Of course they did. And they keep opening. Memory after memory went by, nostalgia and happiness replaced with torturous, morbid misery like all the others. My parachute doesn’t open as I’m skydiving during our honeymoon, and I’m forced to watch the ground below envelop me and listen to my body splinter. I wake up again to a late night run to get my pregnant wife fast food. She had asked me to go a half hour earlier before, and her favorite take-out was surrounded by police by the time I made it. This time though, she woke me up just in time to be next in line as a man put a bullet in the back of my head before jumping the counter for a few hundred dollars. All of these dreadful phenomena blend together as my memories turn against me and leave me in perpetual agony. As the familiar darkness begins to set in, I almost welcome it as a sweet, yet temporary relief.

As I open my eyes, I feel as if my body has finally caught up with all that my mind has been through. Through bleary, tired eyes, I observe my surroundings, trying to piece together what moment in my life is about to be forever ruined. I recognize the flickering halogen light on the ceiling, and the persistent sounds of beeping and wheezing machines. My eyes scan the rest of my hospital room and I realize they were moving of my own volition. I was back in my bed, and Katherine was at my side just as she’d been all day, and many days before. Before I could look at her, I looked at the space on my bed in front of her where that awful box had been. It was gone. Relieved, I looked into my wife’s eyes, full of life and love. Through the horror I was forced to experience, thoughts of real happiness began to break through. I spent so long in this hospital bed being so upset with life for taking me so early that I didn’t think about what a miracle it was that I made it to this point to begin with. I was raised by loving parents, I was able to meet the woman of my dreams and spend 35 beautiful years with her, raise a wonderful family together, and despite not being able to continue living this wonderful life I had, I felt so thankful for the years that I was given. I was so happy to see Katherine again that my eyes began to well up with tears, and hers returned the favor. While we shared this visual embrace, I felt a brief rush of strength. It was my arm. I was so overcome with emotion that I hadn’t realized that my once lifeless arm had come up off the hospital bed and extended slowly towards my wife. Tears burst from her eyes, and her lips tightened to keep herself from audibly sobbing as she reached her arm out and took my hand in hers. I thought my tears began to blur my vision, but as the room began to grow darker I knew that I had finally reached the end. I hated to leave her this way, but as I thought back to the memories the nightmares attempted to ruin and the countless untainted memories I shared with her, I was astounded at how lucky I was. Finally at peace, I closed my eyes as the door to my room opened and a doctor made his way in.

I opened my eyes.

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Dark Radio

October 24, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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The general span for FM radio stations usually falls in the range of 79kHz to 108kHz. AM stations generally fall in the range of 530kHz to 1750kHz. Within these frequencies 99.9% of audible radio lives. In these parameters you will find talk radio, rock, rap, country, etc. Basically everything you’d generally associate with radio. Outside these areas were military stations used during the wars and some rogue stations that have all been since shut down or discontinued. Those areas are known as “dark frequencies” or “dark radio.” No one with specialized radios have heard anything on dark radio in years, until now.

One day a man came home from the flea-market with a highly sensitive military grade frequency radio. His wife thought it was a worthless piece of crap but the husband being a huge history buff thought it was a wise investment. He had hoped to find an active military station or one that was set up on a constant loop broadcasting Soviet-era information or war propaganda.

He would spend hours a day scanning for stations and hoping he could find something out there that would make his purchase worthwhile. He would pick one precise frequency at a time and scan the entire range for any activity. Several days went by digging through static and he had nothing to show for it, until the day he finally heard something.

It was very grainy at first. He tried to fine tune it as best as possible but he was barely able to make out what was being said. He could hear words but he was unable to understand them. He went out the next day and bought a sound recorder. When he turned on the radio he was shocked how much clearer the signal came in. It was still grainy but he could make out some of it. In a low groan he heard “We have…”

“We have, we have what,” the man thought to himself. The possibilities were endless. The man noticed that the words kept repeating on a loop. He had found exactly what he was looking for, an old abandoned loop station. He turned on the recorder and tried to record the sound as best as he could. The next day he was going to take it to a studio and see if they could find out what exactly was being said.

The man barely got any sleep that night. He was filled with excitement about making such a historical discovery and the world changing effect it could possibly have. He figured it would be best not to tell his wife about the discovery until he knew for sure what it was.

Before he left the house that morning he turned on the radio again. He set the recorder down when he realized he wouldn’t need it. The station was now a lot clearer with minimal static. It was as if the station was reaching out to his radio. “We have 21,” followed by the sound of two bells, one high pitched and one low pitched.

The man sat in awe listening to the loop over and over again. “We have 21…We have 21…We have 21.” He would hear the two bells in between each repeating phrase. “21? Is that a code for something? Do they have 21 objects of some sort?” He was perplexed.

He spent the day doing research but he ended up with nothing. No mention of the phrase “We have 21” played any significance in history. He waited a day hoping that the signal would improve in case there was something he couldn’t yet hear.

When he turned on the radio the next day he was disappointed to hear the same voice repeating the same phrase over and over again with the two bells in between. Although, something seemed different. It took him a few minutes to realize it but a faint clicking was heard in the background. It didn’t take him too long to realize that it was Morse code.

He spent an hour on the computer translating it from scratch and was thrilled to see that it spelled out coordinates. Using his GPS he was able to find the location. It was about a two hour drive from where he was.

After driving down a few side roads and one really long one deep into the woods he had finally reached his destination. It was a large clearing with a massive cube shaped building in the center. It must have been at least four stories tall. All four sides were gray with no marking on the outside as to what the building even was used for. He walked around the entire perimeter of the building and found the only door available.

The door was surprisingly unlocked. He walked into the building and saw a giant empty room dimly lit by dusty rooftop windows with a single wooden desk and a chair in the middle. The place seemed like a giant airplane hangar from the inside. He approached the table and saw a small desk lamp illuminating radio broadcasting equipment complete with a transmitter and a microphone.

It was emitting a deep ominous groaning noise. This makes no sense, there is no one here. Where is that sound coming from? He listened to the groan and noticed that it was changing sound, volume, and length. It didn’t take him long to realize that it was actually saying “We have 21” extremely slowly.
He listed for several minutes until the groaning voice stopped after completing the phrase. None of this made any sense to him. “Who was saying this? There’s no one here. Why is it sounding so slow? Why is it now silent and not repeating? And where are the bell…” At that moment two deafeningly loud bells rang throughout the room. They didn’t sound like small bells anymore, they sounded more like massive church bells being struck with a sledge hammer just inches above his head.

He covered his ears and collapsed to the ground. When the sound finally stopped he uncovered his ears. He looked around the building again, he noticed it was significantly darker than before. The windows on the roof were no more. There was no door nor was there ever a sign of one existing. The lamp on the desk was still lit and all the broadcasting equipment was still there. He was now surrounded by silence and darkness.

Curiosity eventually got the best of his wife later on that day. She turned on her husband’s radio. Clear as day, as if he were standing right there in the room with her she heard his voice, “We have 22.”
It was silent for a brief moment.

Then…

static.

Credit: Jason Mehl

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The Closet Behind the Wall

October 23, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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“Where should I put this crap?” Lily asked her mother, pointing to a box of cheap artwork that looked like it belonged in a dentist’s office.

“Oh, come on, I like these,” Sharon replied. “I’ve had these since college. Your father never let me put them up.”

Lily became cross at her mother’s words. “I hate when you act like he’s dead.”

“I’m not doing that,” said Sharon, a bit rattled, “but if he isn’t here then I can hang them up. It’s nothing more than that, okay?” Her daughter just glared at her. Sharon realized she was being insensitive, but she couldn’t help getting defensive. “You’re not being fair. I miss him, too.”

“Then why do you act like he’s never coming back?”

It was a fair question, one that Sharon had been subconsciously expecting but still not fully prepared for.

“It’s the only way I can deal with it, honey. We lost your father. We lost the house. Now we have this one, and I just want to make it ours, yours and mine. We’ve had the year from hell and I’m trying to be positive.”

After an awkward silence, Lily picked up the box. “So where do I put these?”

Sharon smirked. “Just stick them in the upstairs hallway. I want to hang them at the end of the hall. It looks so bare, it’s the perfect spot.”

“Fine,” Lily mumbled as she trudged up the stairs to the end of the hall, carelessly throwing the box down.

“I heard that!” her mother yelled.

Lily just ignored her and pulled out a framed print of a painting, expecting it to be hideous; it wasn’t so bad. Scanning the walls for a place to hang it, she noticed something peculiar.

“Hey, mom!” she shouted down the stairs. “The wallpaper doesn’t match up here!”

Sharon came up to see what she was blabbing about. Sure enough, the wall at the far end of the hallway had slightly different wallpaper than the rest.

“Good eye, honey. Wow, I wouldn’t have even noticed that.”

“It doesn’t look bad, right? It’s just odd that they did this one wall with a different wallpaper.” Lily examined more closely. “It almost looks like they tried to match the other one. Nice try, I guess.”

“Well, we don’t have the money to go around fixing stuff that isn’t broken, so we’ll just leave it as it is for now. Why don’t we hang something here? How about this one?” Sharon picked up the painting that Lily had been looking at. “Can you get the toolbox?”

“Fine.”

Lily returned with the tools to find her mother tapping the walls with her knuckle.

“What are you doing?”

“This wall sounds different.”

“Which one?”

“This one,” said Sharon, knocking on the alternately papered wall. “Check this out.” She proceeded to knock on the other walls, then again on the first one.

“Weird,” said Lily, “that doesn’t sound right.”

Sharon continued to knock in different spots. “I can’t find a stud.”

Lily picked up a hammer and nail from the toolbox. “Here, let me see something.” She held the nail to the wall and gently tapped it a few times with the hammer. “It doesn’t really wanna go in.”

“Well, hit it harder,” her mother suggested. Lily rolled her eyes then delivered a firm blow to the nail, but the wall shuddered and sounded like it might crack. “It sounds like plywood.”

“Plywood? You’re kidding me.” Sharon banged hard on the wall. “It’s like there’s space behind it. No insulation?”

“Now I know how you got this place so cheap.”

“Ha ha,” Sharon said sarcastically as she looked over the wall some more, pushing on it firmly with both hands. “I guess we’re just going to leave it?” she asked, fishing for her daughter to make the call.

“Might as well,” Lily replied. “We’ll find another way to hang the painting. I don’t want the wood to crack if I don’t hammer the nail in correctly.”

“You’re such a good handy man, though. Like your father.” Sharon immediately regretted bringing him up again, but Lily’s reaction was more amiable this time around.

“Yeah,” she said, “but not quite as good. He would have made a better wall, that’s for sure.”

They laughed together for the first time in months, and it felt good.

The next evening, Lily proposed something interesting to her mother, “I think I figured something out.”

“Hmm, what?” Sharon wasn’t giving all her attention just yet, instead focusing on cleaning the counter.

“So you know that weird wall upstairs?”

“Mm-hm.”

“Okay, now think about the other rooms upstairs. Think about the space and where the walls end, even in the closets. Try to picture it like a floor plan.”

Sharon stopped cleaning and gave Lily a puzzled look. “I don’t get what you mean.”

“Well, there’s unused space upstairs. One of the rooms should be bigger. Think about it.”

Sharon looked even more puzzled, but tried to work out what Lily was getting at.

“Ohh, I see what you mean. So like, the hallway should be longer, or the closets should be bigger?”

“Yeah, there’s wasted space. What if there’s something behind that wall? Like a secret room?”

“Behind what wall?”

“The plywood wall at the end of the hallway.”

“Wait, a secret room? Lily, be serious. You’ve been watching too many movies.”

“No, I’ve been reading Anne Frank,” Lily fibbed conspicuously. Sharon just rolled her eyes. “Besides, whatever’s behind it, don’t you think we should look? It’s a crap wall, anyway. We can get someone to put up a real one, a professional one.”

“We can’t really afford it, honey. Though, we’re kind of getting jipped if there really is more space being blocked off by that shitty wall.” Sharon froze, realizing she just swore in front of her daughter. Lily smiled ear to ear, then started cracking up, causing Sharon to burst out as well. It was then she had a sudden change of heart about the wall, and a crazy idea: “Let’s tear it down.”

Lily was excited for a brief moment, before it dawned on Sharon how impractical it was.

“Nevermind,” said Sharon, “that would be a huge mess.”

“Aww,” Lily sighed.

“But…” Sharon began. Lily looked hopeful again as her mother continued, “we could get your uncle Jack to bring over his little power saw and cut a hole in the wall so we can see what’s behind it. Then, if there’s nothing there, we’ll just patch it up and hang a picture over it.”

Lily chuckled in agreement. Somehow this poorly constructed wall was bringing her and her mother closer together. Sharon was all for some extra storage space, but Lily was just caught up in the mystery.

A few days later, Sharon’s brother, Jack, came to the rescue with his crate of mini power tools. He couldn’t help laughing at the wall.

“Who the hell put this thing up? Did they have a field trip from shop class? I can’t even tell what they did here.”

“Pathetic, right?” said Lily.

“So there’s something on the other side of this?” asked Jack.

“That’s what Lily thinks,” replied Sharon, “but I figure it’s just unfinished space and they were too cheap to block it off with a proper wall.”

“Again,” Lily jumped in, “why the house was so cheap.” Sharon just rolled her eyes.

“Well,” said Jack, “I guess it’s time to solve the mystery, huh?”

“Go ahead, we’re waiting,” Sharon said in jest, crossing her arms.

Jack slipped on a pair of goggles, plugged in his saw and went to work, cutting a square hole in the wall about a foot and a half wide. Sharon and Lily stood back and watched in feverish anticipation as the small slab of wood toppled into the empty space behind the wall. Jack waved the dust away and shined a flashlight into the hole.

“I knew it!” shouted Lily. “A secret room!”

Sure enough, about two feet behind the wall was a door.

“Holy shit,” said Jack. Sharon just stared blankly.

“I told you! Secret room!” Lily continued to gloat.

“Can you remove the whole wall?” asked Sharon.

Jack looked at her like he was insulted. “Yeah, I can remove the whole wall.”

Sharon made some coffee while Lily watched Jack cut around the perimeter of the false wall.

“How’s it going?” Lily was getting impatient.

“Alright, I guess. But, man, this guy was the worst carpenter of all time. Step back, I gotta take this out.” Jack grabbed the massive slab of sawed out wood and set it aside as Sharon returned with three cups of coffee.

“Done already?”

“Okay, who’s going to do the honors?” Lily inquired, hoping Sharon and Jack would realize she was dying to be the one.

“Go ahead, honey,” said Sharon, motioning for her daughter to approach the door.

“Cross your fingers for no dead bodies,” Lily said, half-joking.

“Honey, that’s not funny. Just open it.”

As Lily reached out for the doorknob, the three of them held their breath. She started turning it slowly, but then flung the door open to make it more of a surprise; and what a surprise it was.

“You’re kidding. A closet?” Lily moaned.

“Well, you were right about that extra space,” said Sharon in an attempt to help her daughter save some face.

“Yeah, but, there should be more than just a closet.”

“Well,” Jack interjected, “just because there’s extra space doesn’t mean it’s always used. I mean, you could probably make this closet bigger, maybe even big enough to be a room. That’s what you wanted, right?”

“No!” Lily cried, “I wanted a ”secret” room! Seeecrehhht!”

“Well, you got a secret closet,” Jack innocently replied.

“Who builds a wall in front of a closet?” she continued to whine. “Why didn’t they just turn the door into a wall?”

“Oh, my poor baby,” Sharon remarked condescendingly as she squeezed her daughter’s shoulders.

Lily shrugged off her mother’s hands. “This is such a disappointment. Just when I thought this house was interesting.”

“Well at least with this extra closet we can get some of that junk out of your room.”

“It’s not junk.”

“I’ve seen it,” Jack interjected. “It’s junk.”

That evening, Lily noticed her “junk” wasn’t in her room. She checked the newly discovered closet but it was empty, so she went to interrogate her mother.

“Did you take that stuff out of my room?”

“What stuff?”

“The boxes with all my stuff.”

“Oh, the junk?”

“Yes, the junk. Where is it?”

“I put it in that closet.”

“The closet that was behind that wall?”

“Yeah.”

“I checked there. It’s empty.”

“Well, that’s where I put it. You must have moved them and forgot.”

“How would I move them and forget? It sounds like ”you” forgot where you put them.”

“Honey, I put them in that closet.”

“Well, there’s nothing there.”

“Show me.”

“Fine.”

So mother and daughter went upstairs to check the closet, each hoping to prove the other wrong. Sure enough, it was completely empty.

“Okay,” said Sharon, “you’re messing with me.”

“I’m not messing with you. They’re not in here, and they’re not in my room.”

“Did you check anywhere else?”

“No, I’ll look in my closet.”

“I’ll look in mine.”

The two searched their own rooms, then proceeded to check everywhere else in the house, even the basement and the garage. Lily’s boxes were no where to be found.

“Did you hide them?” Sharon asked suspiciously.

“Mom, why would I hide my own stuff?”

“Because you’re playing a joke on me?”

“I’m not playing a joke on you!” Lily was getting frustrated.

“Okay, okay. Let’s just leave it for now and maybe they’ll turn up. There must be some explanation.”

“Fine. But if they don’t turn up, I blame ”you”.”

Sharon smirked. “Fine.”

A few days later, Lily was studying in her room when her mother came in looking for some missing clothes.

“Have you seen some space bags full of clothes? I put them in the hall closet.”

“Nope,” Lily replied flatly, not really paying attention.

“Honey, I’m serious. They disappeared.”

“Mom. I didn’t see them.”

Sharon looked like she’d lost a puppy.

“Damn it, those were my mother’s clothes. I was going to give them to aunt Phyllis. That’s the second time something’s gone missing. We never found your boxes, either.”

“Maybe there’s a thief in our midst.”

“Well, they sure don’t have their priorities straight. We still have our television and computer.”

Lily chuckled, “Maybe the closet just ate our stuff.”

“No wonder the house was so cheap, right?”

Lily playfully glared at her mother for stealing her wisecrack, then together they searched for the missing clothes. Nothing turned up.

The following day when Sharon returned from work, Lily immediately shouted for her to come upstairs.

“What is it?” Sharon groaned. “I just got home.”

“Mom, you have to see this!” Lily was more animated than usual, which concerned Sharon, so she reluctantly went to see what her daughter was going on about.

“Check this out!” Lily reached into a trash bag and picked out an empty soda can.

“Oh God, honey. What are you doing?” Sharon covered her nose and mouth to avoid the stench.

“Gross, right? We should really recycle, by the way. But that doesn’t matter, because look at this!” Lily swung open the door to the closet that had been behind the wall, threw the empty can inside, and slammed it shut. She then turned to her mother with a maniacal grin.

“Um… what’s going on?” Sharon asked apprehensively.

“Watch,” said Lily as she slowly opened the door. The can was gone.

“Oh my god! How did you do that?”

“I didn’t! It just happens! Watch!” Lily squealed, and threw a crumpled Pop Tart box into the closet. She shut the door, opened it, and the box was gone.

“When did you become a magician?” Sharon just assumed Lily was behind the illusion.

“Mom, I’m not doing anything. You just put something in there, shut the door, and it disappears. That’s where our stuff went! It just vanished!”

Sharon tried to wrap her head around what Lily was suggesting. Instead of refuting it, she took a half eaten apple from the garbage bag and gently placed it on the floor of the closet. She then shut the door, paused to give Lily a skeptical glance, and opened it again. The apple had vanished.

“That’s incredible!”

“I told you!”

“H-hold on,” said Sharon, “we have to try something bigger. There could be an explanation for little things disappearing.”

Lily dashed to her room and returned with a large teddy bear.

“Mr. Biggins? But you used to love him!”

“No, I didn’t. I just kept him because dad thought I liked him. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings.”

Sharon put her hand on Lily’s shoulder and stroked Mr. Biggins’ cheek.

“What if he disappears?” she asked.

“Well, dad disappeared, so… maybe Mr. Biggins will find him.”

They looked at each other for a moment, sending hope and forgiveness back and forth with their eyes. Sharon opened the closet door. Lily knelt down and placed Mr. Biggins inside.

“Well, here we go,” she said as she got up and stood next to Sharon. “If he disappears, then we know for sure there is something strange going on.”

So mother and daughter held hands and, together, shut the door to the closet. Lily counted to three and opened it again. Mr. Biggins was gone. Sharon and Lily froze. They were amazed by the disappearing garbage, but a vanishing teddy bear the size of a five year old was a frightening realization that there was something terribly wrong with this closet.

Lily turned to her mother. “I wish I hadn’t done that.”

Neither Lily nor her mother could even begin to explain how the closet worked, or why it existed. Lily wanted to know, but Sharon didn’t. However, one thing they did agree on was to keep it a secret.

Time went by, and the closet began to cause a rift in Sharon and Lily’s relationship. Sharon wanted to nail it shut, but Lily wanted to experiment with it. She would put something inside but keep the door open, then sit there waiting to see if it would vanish. No matter how long she waited, nothing would disappear unless the door was shut completely.

Before long, Lily became obsessed with her closet experiments. She squirted ketchup and mayonnaise all over the interior; it disappeared. She tossed a bucket of water and slammed the door as fast as she could; it disappeared. Smashed eggs, glitter, motor oil; gone, gone and gone. After she scratched the stairs and hallway with a huge rock, Sharon couldn’t let it go on anymore.

“I’m taking this door off,” said Sharon.

“Oh, come on! Don’t do that!” Lily cried.

“Things only disappear when the door closes, so if we take off the door then it’s just a doorless closet. No more magic tricks.”

“But it’s so amazing! It’s our very own magical closet! How can you be so boring?”

“I’m thinking about safety. What if you accidentally went inside and the door shut behind you?”

“I don’t know. What if that happened? Where do you think I’d end up?”

“I don’t even want to think about it. We’re taking that door off. I’ll get Jack to do it.”

The next day, Jack came by to take the door off the hinges.

“Why do you want this door off, anyway? Are you gonna put a wall here again?”

“Maybe,” said Sharon, “but for now I just want that damned door off.”

Jack was a little confused, but it wasn’t a big deal to remove the door so he obliged. “I’ll put it down in the basement.”

Sharon was relieved to have the door gone, but Lily was pissed.

“I’m gonna tell someone about the closet,” she told her mother. “When you’re not around, I’ll have Jack put the door back on, and then I’m going to show people the closet.”

“No, you’re not,” Sharon firmly stated.

“Why, huh? Why are we keeping this a secret? I wanted to before because I liked us having our own little secret just between us, but…”

“I did, too. But, honey… there’s something about that closet that isn’t right. I don’t think we should share it with people. Whoever blocked it had the right idea.”

Lily wanted to argue, but she knew her mother was right. She thought of all the possible things that could happen if they went public. At first, she reveled in the fifteen minutes of fame, but then realized how it could turn into years of unwanted attention. Then there were the moral implications if the closet was ever used for unsavory purposes.

“I know. It’s our responsibility to keep it secret. I guess it was fun while it lasted.”

“We can still put stuff in there, it just won’t vanish. Sounds more fun to me. You know, not losing things.”

Lily smirked. “Fine. I’m going to bed.”

The next day was Saturday, so both Sharon and Lily slept in. Shockingly enough, Lily got up before her mother and shuffled out into the hall. To her amazement, the closet door was back on its hinges.

“Mom? Are you awake?”

Sharon came out of her room, rubbing her eyes.

“I can’t believe I slept so late,” she yawned.

“Look.” Lily pointed to the closet.

Sharon couldn’t believe her eyes. “Honey,” she said in a disappointed tone, “did you get Jack to put the door back on?”

“No, did you?”

“Of course not.”

“So how the heck…” Lily was stumped.

“I don’t know,” said Sharon, “I’ll call him. We can just get him to take it off again.”

“Won’t he wonder how we got it back on?”

“You know, I don’t know why we need him anyway. We probably could have gotten it off by ourselves. We’ll just do it again.”

“And if it comes back again?”

“Then we’ll take it off again.”

“That doesn’t seem practical.”

“We’ll take it off again and see if it comes back and then we’ll think of something else, okay?”

Forty minutes of struggling and the door was finally off its hinges. The two carried it clumsily to the basement, banging it into the walls several times.

“Okay,” said Sharon, huffing and puffing, “we are not doing that again without Jack.”

“You’re not kidding.”

That night, Lily couldn’t sleep. She was too anxious to see if the door would magically appear back on its hinges again. Taking a tip from every modern paranormal movie, she placed her laptop in the hallway, facing the closet, and turned on her webcam. Hopefully, it would reveal what was really happening before her hard drive filled up.

Sure enough, the following morning, the closet door was back once again. Lily checked the video but it had only recorded for a few hours before stopping for no reason.

“So what do we do now?” asked Sharon.

“I don’t know. It should have kept recording. I could try it again. Or we could just stay up all night.”

“I don’t think so, honey. I have to work in the morning and you have school.”

“So we’ll wait till the weekend. Come on, it’ll be fun.”

Sharon thought about it for a moment. Staying up all night with Lily could be a good bonding experience, considering the closet was potentially threatening to drive a wedge between them; a wedge she worked so hard to diminish.

“Fine. Let’s do it. It’ll be fun.” Sharon smiled, and Lily nodded back.

Sharon arrived home that Friday to find Lily preparing a “stay up all night” snack spread.

“Honey, what is all this?”

“It’s our fuel! We’ve got soda, chips, candy, energy drinks-”

“Lily, please. I’m getting indigestion just thinking about it.”

“And we can take the portable DVD player upstairs and watch scary movies.”

Lily seemed to be getting carried away with their little slumber party, but Sharon was too tired from work to argue. She just let Lily take the reigns. Hopefully, they would find out what was going on with the door before Sharon passed out.

It was nearing 3:00 am and Sharon and Lily were still wide awake. No one had come to secretly put the closet door back on its hinges. The chips were eaten, the soda drank, and the night was beginning to drag on.

“I can’t believe it’s been a year since dad left.” Lily’s words were met with silence. “I feel like I should still be sad. Not that I’m not, I just feel like I should cry myself to sleep every night or I’m a bad daughter.”

“Honey, that’s ridiculous. People move on. As long as we don’t stop loving him, we aren’t bad people for trying to be happy.”

Lily didn’t reply, but gave a little shrug like she understood somewhat. Then she noticed something beyond peculiar.

“Mom!” she shouted, standing up and pointing at the closet. The door was back.

“How the hell? We were right here!”

“Mom, I don’t like this.”

The two looked at each other, dumbfounded. Lily touched the door to make sure they weren’t just seeing things.

“There has to be an explanation,” Sharon insisted.

“Forget explanations.” Lily was finally tired of games and experiments. “I say we destroy the door. We can take it off the hinges again and chop it up into little pieces.”

“Isn’t that a little extreme?”

“Are you not the least bit concerned about this?”

“Of course I am. That doesn’t mean we have to chop up the door.”

“It’s the only way to know for sure if there’s something supernatural going on.”

“Supernatural? I was leaning more towards science fiction.”

“Science doesn’t make doors magically appear back on their hinges. Ghosts do.”

“Oh, come on. Ghosts? I’ll believe in a closet that makes things disappear, but not ghosts.”

“Ghosts or not, I want to do this. We have to be sure. We’ll destroy the door, then no one can put it back, right?”

Sharon took a moment to let everything sink in. “I think we should talk about this in the morning.”

“You’re going to sleep after this?!”

“Come on, you can sleep in my bed. We’ll lock the door.”

Neither Lily nor Sharon could sleep much. The mystery of the closet was on a whole new level now. Once the sun came up, they crept out of Sharon’s room and sent the closet door a threatening gaze. Lily looked to Sharon to give the word: “Let’s do this.”

They’d gotten pretty good at removing the door, but carrying it to the basement was still a disaster. Once they got it down there, Lily dragged over some cinder blocks and they propped the door up at an angle, taking turns whacking it with a skimpy hatchet.

“We couldn’t have a real axe?” Lily grumbled.

“Honey, do I look like a lumberjack? At least we’re making some headway.”

“I just hope this proves something.”

“Are you hoping it proves someone’s been messing with us? Or that our closet is cursed?”

Lily didn’t have an answer. She just looked down at the broken pieces of door, and gave it one more whack.

That night she slept easy, part of her believing the door would remain in shards in the basement, and that everything had just been some weird dream. Though, if something so unbelievable could happen then maybe anything was possible, even her father returning home.

In the morning, the closet door was back on its hinges, as if nothing happened. There were no marks of any kind. For the fist time Sharon and Lily were truly frightened by the situation.

“What do we do?” Lily asked her mother. “Should we get a medium or something?”

“Honey, you’ve been watching too many movies. I’ll tell you what we’re going to do. We’re going to check into a motel, get someone to put up a wall in front of that closet, then sell the damned house.”

Lily was shocked that her mother would be so decisive, but she agreed that getting the hell out of there was the right thing to do. “Let’s just hope no one puts anything in the closet before the wall goes up.”

Days went by, and Sharon was concerned about the money they were wasting on a motel.

“Can’t we stay with uncle Jack?” Lily asked.

“If it were a serious emergency, yeah, but we’re just scared of a closet. I don’t think he’d appreciate it.”

“Well, are we going to go back?”

Sharon sighed and rubbed her forehead. “I don’t know. I called someone about putting up a wall but they want to charge us an arm and a leg.”

“Like what we’re spending now?”

“Maybe we should just put up another plywood piece of crap and stick the house on the market.”

“I guess that’s what the last guy did, huh?”

Sharon paused. “I guess so.”

Something about Sharon’s “I guess so” sounded odd to Lily. She took another tip from every paranormal mystery movie and did some research on the previous owner of the house. Unfortunately, she discovered more than she was hoping for.

“Hey, I’m home,” said Sharon, removing her coat as she came through the door. “You hungry?”

Lily just sat there on the bed, staring at her.

“What’s wrong, honey? Did something happen? You didn’t go back to the house, did you?”

“No, I didn’t go back to the house.”

“What’s that you’ve got?” asked Sharon, motioning to a sheet of paper in Lily’s hands. Lily stood up and looked straight into her mother’s eyes.

“Did you know about this?” she asked quietly, holding the paper in front of Sharon’s face. Sharon wasn’t sure what was going on, but when she noticed the newspaper article before her she felt the heated sting of regret.

“Honey, I’m sorry. We lost the house and I didn’t know what we were going to do, and it was being foreclosed because-”

“Because the owner killed himself?!” Lily shouted, her face red and her fists clenched. “You bought a fucking suicide house!”

“Hey! Don’t you speak to me like that! I-”

“No wonder we have ghosts!”

“We don’t have ghosts, Lily. Now, cut that out.”

“Don’t tell me what to do! You moved us into a suicide house and you weren’t even going to tell me?! What else aren’t you telling me?!”

“I did this for us! Who cares what happened in the house before we got there!”

“I can’t believe this!” Lily screamed, and sat down hard on the far side of the bed, facing away from her mother. Sharon sat down next to her. The two didn’t move or talk for a while, then Lily grabbed the newspaper article and showed it to Sharon again.

“You see this?” said Lily. “His wife disappeared. It was before he killed himself.”

“Maybe he missed her so much he couldn’t go on.”

Lily ignored her mother’s reply. “They actually didn’t discover that she was missing until they found the husband’s body.”

Sharon was getting nervous, afraid of where her daughter was going with this. “That’s a shame, honey. I never should have bought that house. I’m so sorry.”

“You know, she disappeared around the same time dad did.” Lily turned to look at her mother, anticipating her response.

“Well,” Sharon said anxiously, “that’s a strange coincidence.”

“The last time we saw dad was three days before this guy supposedly killed himself. It was also the last time anyone saw his wife.”

Sharon started to panic. “What are you getting at, honey?”

“Did they know each other? Did dad know this guy and his wife?”

Sharon didn’t answer.

“Mom? What aren’t you telling me?”

Sharon still didn’t answer.

“If you know something about this, you have to tell me. Did dad really vanish, or did he kill himself too?”

“Oh, god, honey, no!” Sharon wasn’t expecting that kind of conclusion from her daughter’s investigation.

“Then what? What happened? Did dad know these people?”

Sharon looked away in shame. She had kept something from Lily for too long, and it was time to confess.

“Honey, your father was having an affair.”

Lily was stupefied. “You’re lying.”

“He was having an affair with that woman.”

Lily’s mouth hit the floor. Her mother had bought the house of the man who’s wife was having an affair with her father. A suicide house, no less.

“You fucking bitch.”

“Honey…”

Lily stood up. Unable to focus her rage, she paced around the room picking up random objects and throwing them at the walls. “I can’t believe this!”

“Stop it!” Sharon yelled, grabbing Lily’s arms.

“Let go of me! You lied to me for so long! How could you do that to me?!”

“I didn’t want you to know what kind of man your father was! I didn’t want you to hate him!”

“Well, now I hate ”you!””

“You don’t hate me! You’re just shocked and upset!”

“You moved us into dad’s mistress’ house! Where her husband killed himself! What the hell is wrong with you?!”

“Honey-”

“I don’t even know you! You’re my mom and I don’t even know you!”

“I’m still your mom, and I love you! Just calm down and we’ll talk about this.”

Lily got right up in her mother’s face, said, “Fuck you,” and stormed out.

“Where are you going?!” shouted Sharon, chasing after her.

“I don’t know!”

“You’re not going back to the house, are you?”

“Why in God’s name would I go back there now?!”

Sharon felt stupid for even asking. As Lily walked off down the sidewalk, Sharon just stood there. Once her daughter was out of sight, she broke down in tears.

Hours went by, and Sharon was a nervous wreck. She thought about calling the police, but had a feeling Lily would come back at some point and that she’d just seem like a bad mother. Though, she knew she was a bad mother. Maybe it wasn’t all her fault, but she was hard pressed to convince herself.

It was pushing 10:00 pm when Lily finally came home.

“Thank, God! Where were you? Are you alright?”

Lily hung her head. “Yeah, I’m fine. I’m sorry I called you a bitch,” she said, then looked up at her mother, “but it’s still really screwed up what you did.”

“I know. I don’t know what I was thinking, buying that house.”

“I think I kinda get it, though. That’s why I don’t hate you.”

Sharon smirked. So did Lily, and she let her mother embrace her.

The two of them sat up all night talking. Sharon wanted to set Lily straight about her father.

“Why didn’t you confront him?” Lily asked.

“Because I knew he didn’t love me anymore. I couldn’t bear the thought of him telling me face to face.”

“Sounds pretty cowardly.”

“Hey, now. Cheating on your wife is what’s cowardly. You can’t blame the victim.”

“Yeah, I guess. I just can’t see dad like that. He’s not here, so it’s not fair to judge.”

“Lily… that’s bullshit. He is who he is, and he did what he did, whether he’s here or not.”

“How do I know you’re even telling me the truth? All this time you supposedly had no idea where dad is, or why he disappeared, and now I find out that you knew he ran off with that woman.”

“I never said that. And if that were true then they would have been discovered by now. People don’t just vanish into thin air unless somebody makes them.”

“Maybe they got new identities, like on Breaking Bad.”

“Honey, that’s just a TV show.”

“Yeah, but that stuff really happens.”

“You need a lot of money for that, sweetie. Your father and I were in debt. Why do you think we lost the house?”

“I just don’t understand. Why would he leave without telling us?”

“I don’t know, honey. I guess neither of them wanted to deal with divorce.”

“What if dad and that woman killed her husband and made it look like suicide?”

“Okay, that’s just ridiculous. Your father is not a murderer.”

Lily felt embarrassed, so she stopped with her unfounded theories. Sharon laid on the bed and closed her eyes, not intending to sleep but just to rest. Lily joined her.

“Mom?”

“Yeah?”

“What if they went into the closet?”

“What if who- oh, honey, no. They wouldn’t do that.”

“Why not?”

“Because that’s crazy! We don’t even know where the stuff goes. What if it just doesn’t exist anymore?”

“I was thinking that, too, but… what if they knew something we don’t?”

Sharon took a moment to let that sink it, but she still wasn’t on board. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, what if they knew where they would end up if they went in?”

Sharon sat up and turned to Lily. “Don’t even joke about that. And why would they know where it goes? There’s no way to know.”

Lily sat up and turned to Sharon. “You don’t know that.”

“Well, you don’t either.”

“You said people don’t disappear without a trace, right?”

“They don’t!”

“Then where’s Mr. Biggins?”

Sharon sighed and dropped her shoulders. “Mr. Biggins is a teddy bear, not a person.”

“Well, he’s gone. He disappeared without a trace. Just like dad. Just like that woman.”

“Honey, stop it.”

Lily wasn’t sure what else to say to convince her mother, so she got under the covers and turned away from her.

“I’m going to sleep,” she muttered.

“Well, we should both get some sleep anyway. You’ll feel better in the morning.”

“No, I won’t.”

The night crawled as Lily thought about her father and his mistress. She pictured the closet door opening, their bodies shuffling inside, a hand grabbing the inside knob and pulling the door shut. Is that really where they went? Sharon was snoring, which didn’t help. Lily tossed and turned, finally giving up on sleep.

Sharon awoke from a dark dream to notice Lily missing from her side of the bed. Upon further investigation, she was missing from the room entirely. Sharon threw on shoes and a robe and reached for her keys on the table; they were gone.

“Damn it!”

She would have to borrow Jack’s car, but she couldn’t tell him it was because Lily had stolen hers. Then she took a tip from every paranormal mystery movie and didn’t call the police. Granted, her failures as a mother were best left incognito. Lily was just a beginner at the wheel, so Sharon knew she wouldn’t drive far. There was only one place she would go.

The lights were off in the house when she pulled up, but the front door was ajar.

“Lily? Are you in here?” There was no answer. Sharon stepped lightly up the stairs, unsure of what she was so afraid of. At the top of the stairs she saw Lily sitting against the wall near the closet.

“Honey, what are you doing here?”

“I don’t know.”

Sharon sat down next to her. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you.”

“I don’t care about that.”

They didn’t talk for a while. Sharon took Lily’s hand, and she didn’t pull away.

“I just…” Lily began, “I just wish he said goodbye.”

“We don’t know why he left. Maybe he couldn’t say goodbye. Maybe he didn’t have a choice.”

“I wish I could just see him again. None of this makes any sense. I thought he loved me. He wouldn’t just leave without saying goodbye.”

“I know he wouldn’t. But he did.”

“What if that guy pushed him into the closet? Then he was so guilty he killed himself.”

“Honey, stop it. This isn’t helping.”

“Don’t you want to know? Don’t you want to know what really happened?”

“It doesn’t matter. All that matters is you and me, here and now.”

“Well, I want to know. I want to see dad!”

Sharon didn’t like what she sensed Lily was driving at. “Honey…”

“The only way to know if he went into the closet… is to go into the closet.”

“I want you to stop this right now.”

“No. I want to know. I want to know why he left us! Why he left ”me!””

Lily turned towards the closet and put her hand on the knob.

“Lily, cut it out. This isn’t funny!”

“I know it’s not funny! Am I laughing?”

“Get your hand off that knob!” Sharon yelled, grabbing Lily’s arm and attempting to pull her hand away.

“No! Get off me!”

They struggled violently, neither one giving an inch. Sharon stepped on Lily’s foot by mistake, causing Lily to elbow her, and they both fell back. With Lily’s hand still on the knob, the door flung open. They looked at each other for a brief instant, then Lily bolted for the closet.

“No!” Sharon yelled, grabbing the back of Lily’s shirt.

“Get the hell off me!”

Sharon lost her grip, but managed to catch up to Lily and put her arms around her torso.

“You’re not going anywhere! You don’t know if he went in there! You don’t even know where it goes! What if you die?!”

“I don’t care! This is so fucked up! You ruined our lives with this fucking house! I hate you!”

“You said you didn’t hate me!”

“I LIED!”

With that, Lily stomped on her mother’s foot as hard as she could. Sharon released her grip, giving Lily the opportunity to grab her hand and bite down on it.

“Shit!” Sharon pulled her hand away and held it tightly. “You’re crazy!”

Lily stood before her mother, her chest heaving, her hair stuck to her sweaty face.

“You moved us… into a house… where a man killed himself… because his wife disappeared… who was having an affair with my dad… and ”I’M” crazy?”

Sharon couldn’t respond. What could she possibly say? Lily started to turn towards the closet again, but Sharon wasn’t going to let her go so easily.

“Bite me all you want,” she said with steely resolve as she grabbed Lily’s arm again, “I’m not letting go this time.”

Lily jerked her arm, trying to shake off her mother’s grip. “Let go. I’m doing this.”

“The hell you are. I’m calling the police.”

“Oh, yeah? Where’s your phone?”

Sharon felt her pockets with her free hand. They were empty. “Damn it!”

Lily smirked. “Nice one.”

“Fine, then,” said Sharon, “I’ll just drag you to the house phone.”

“Like hell you will!”

A tug of war ensued.

“If you won’t let go,” Lily shouted, “I’ll just drag you in with me!”

“Stop this craziness! You’ll kill us both!”

“You don’t know that!”

“Neither do you! It could go anywhere! It could go to the most horrible place ever imagined! Don’t you realize that?!”

Sharon thought she could get through to her daughter, but she only made her more determined.

“I don’t care where it goes, as long as it leads to dad!”

“We have no way of knowing if he went in there!” Sharon’s feet were sliding slowly towards the closet. “Stop it! You’re going to pull me in!”

“That’s fine with me!”

Lily was halfway inside as Sharon tried desperately pull back, bracing herself on the door jam.

“Stop! I don’t want to go in!”

“Then let go!”

“No! I won’t let you go! I love you! You can’t leave me!”

“Then come with me!”

“No! It’s crazy! You’re crazy!”

Sharon couldn’t hold on any longer.

“Let go, mom! This is what I want!”

“I can’t…” said Sharon, tears running down her face, “You’re my daughter… I can’t lose you!”

Lily pulled harder. She was completely inside the closet with her mother’s arm and head coming through the doorway.

“Let ”GO!”” Lily screamed, kicking her mother in the shins.

“Ow!” Sharon exclaimed, falling down on one knee. Lily proceeded to kick her feet out from under her, sending her on her behind.

“That’s it! You’re coming with me!” Lily growled, and started dragging her mother across the floor by her ankles.

“God, no!” Sharon pleaded. Before she could get free they were both inside the closet. Lily grabbed the knob and tried to pull the door shut, but Sharon cupped her hand over the edge. Lily slammed it over and over as Sharon shrieked in pain.

“Get out then!” Lily kicked the door open and pushed Sharon out onto the floor.

Sharon looked up at her daughter. Lily looked down at her mother.

“Please,” Sharon cried, “don’t do this.”

Lily stood in the closet. Now was her chance to shut the door, but she hesitated.

“Lily… I know you don’t really want to do this. You’re just upset. We can get past this. He’s the one who left us. What’s the point in following him?”

Lily didn’t respond. She was shaking now, trying not to cry. Sharon stood up slowly, reaching out to her.

“Honey… I love you. Please come out of there.”

Lily smirked, gave a halfhearted wave, and shut the door.

== Six months later ==

“Oh, this place is nice!”

“Isn’t it? The price is nice as well. Let me show you the kitchen.”

“Oh, I like this. Don’t you like this, honey?”

“Yeah, it’s nice.”

“These are all new stainless steel appliances.”

“Oh, good. We want stainless steel.”

”DING DONG!”

“I wonder who that is? Excuse me a moment.”

The real estate broker opened the front door to reveal a disheveled woman who looked as though she hadn’t slept in weeks.

“Can I help you?”

The bedraggled woman stood silent for a moment before pushing past the real estate broker and rushing up the stairs.

“Um, excuse me?” said the broker, completely flabbergasted.

“Oh my god,” said her lady client. “Did that woman have an axe?”

“What is she doing here?” inquired the lady’s husband. “Is she looking at the house as well?”

Loud banging sounds came from the upstairs hallway.

“What the hell is she doing?!”

The broker raced up the stairs with her clients trotting behind. They were shocked to see the mysterious woman wielding her formidable axe, attempting to break through the far wall.

“What in God’s name is going on here?!” demanded the broker.

The crazed woman ceased her chopping and turned her head around, her eyes bulging.

“I’m going to find my daughter!” she screamed, and continued to hack desperately at the wall.

“Call the police, honey!” cried the lady to her husband.

“I’ll do it,” the broker insisted.

Before the police could arrive, the insane woman had already made mince meat out of the poorly constructed barrier.

“Oh my god… is that a door?” the lady asked.

“I had no idea that was there,” said the broker.

The strange woman gripped the knob on the door, then stood motionless.

“What is she doing? Isn’t she going to open it?”

“Shh, let’s just wait and see.”

The broker and her clients waited in feverish anticipation as the woman slowly turned the knob and opened the door.

“A closet? She tore through that wall for an empty closet?”

“At least there isn’t a dead body.”

“Shush, you two.”

The woman dropped her axe and turned to the trio who stood with blank faces. She looked so tired; not from breaking through the wall, but from loneliness and remorse. Yet her sadness failed to resonate with her onlookers who were nothing short of befuddled. There was a moment of pure silence before she turned back and entered the closet, pulling the door shut behind her.

“What is she doing?” the husband asked his wife.

“Is she coming out?” the wife asked her husband.

The three crept up to the closet door and the broker put her ear against it.

“I don’t hear anything,” she said. “Should we open it to see if she’s still there?”

“Of course she’s still there,” said the husband. “Let’s just wait for the police.”

The cops soon arrived and filed into the second floor hallway. With guns drawn they opened the door, expecting a madwoman to jump out. All they found was an empty closet.

Credit: Umbrello

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