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Red Dunes

July 16, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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The sun warmed my face through the car window as I drove down the isolated stretch of road. I looked back at my daughter in the back seat who giggled, waving her feet. I contentedly sighed and focused my attention back on the road. This would be my last trip with my daughter for a year since I was leaving for my tour of duty next week. We’d visited these sand dunes before as a family, but as I wanted some extra bonding with Lucy so my wife had allowed me to take her alone. Lucy really seemed to love them last time, climbing up and sliding down the bright red dunes of sand. I could still remember her happy laughter ringing in the air.

Spotting the hotel down the road, I turned in and carried our suitcase in one hand and held onto Lucy with the other. After checking in and finding our room, we sang songs together in the dark, laughing through the night until we both fell asleep.

The next morning, I woke up just as the sun was rising to prepare for the day. I filled a backpack with several bottles of water and all of Lucy’s favorite snacks. Then thinking about how my wife would chide me if Lucy got sunburned, I threw in a bottle of sunscreen.

After shaking my daughter a few times, she popped out of bed and danced over to the suitcase. She pulled out her clothes, and went to the bathroom to change.

I smiled, standing by the door to wait for her.

After Lucy was ready, I gripped her hand and we walked together down to the car.

Before I had even fully stopped the car, Lucy swung the door open and jumped out into the sand running toward the nearest dune. I took a quick glance to make sure she was safe, and then I stepped out into the sunlight. I stretched my arms out and closed my eyes, feeling the hot sun on my face. Our hometown was perpetually cold and snowy so this was a welcome change. I took a deep breath, opened my eyes and saw a man and his son walking toward the parking lot where I was standing.

“Good morning, sir. Leaving so soon?” I ask the man.

“Yeah,” he sighed. “This little rascal stayed up all night and now he can’t even keep his eyes open!” The man glanced disapprovingly at his son who slightly furrowed his brow before yawning.

“Kids,” I mutter, and we both get a chuckle. “Well, I’m here with my daughter,” I say, gesturing over to the sand dune. “We’re planning to stay for the whole day, and maybe a little of tomorrow.”

“Ahh,” mused the man. “Don’t go too far into the desert. I’ve heard that some tourists have gotten lost in there.”

“Really? How? ” I ask.

“Well, I’m not really sure about the details, but I do know that some people go out into the dunes and are never heard from again. We assume they tried to hike through it. Anyway, I’m sure you’ll be fine, just stick near the edge of the desert.”

“Of course, I would never do anything to put Lucy in danger.”

“Great! Well, I really must be going. Have fun and good luck!” The man gave a little nod and pulled his half-asleep son towards their car.

I smiled towards their backs and watched them drive down the road before turning back toward the dune. Lucy was happily sliding down with another girl slightly older than her, her beautiful laugh ringing in the air. A warmness swelled in me. It was the knowledge that I could give her a happy memory. It didn’t matter that I had to leave her for a little while. She’d remember this.

Reaching into the backpack, I pulled out the bottle of sunscreen and a small jewelry box.

“Hey, Lucy! Come down here for a sec!” I call.

She popped out of the sand and flitted over to me, a big smile on her face.

“Sunscreen time!” I say cheerily, glopping the white lotion all over her face. I was never good at this.

“Daddy…” she whined, snatching the bottle away from me to apply it herself in the reflection of the car door. When she was done she tossed the bottle into the bag and was about to turn and run back towards the sand, but I stopped her by placing a hand on her shoulder.

“Lucy dear,” I say softly. My heart pounds in anticipation of her reaction. I pull out the jewelry box and hand it to her.
She slowly opened the velvet lid and looked into it with confusion. Listing up the small glass bottle topped with a cork, she flashed me another puzzled glance.

A little disappointed, I explained that I got her a little bottle to place some sand into as a keepsake and that she could wear it and remember me by it. She burst into a big smile and hugged me tightly.

“I love you, daddy,” she whispered in my ear. “I’m going to fill it up right before we leave so I can have some happy sand.”

I squeezed her tight and then let her run back over to her new friend. I watched them have fun together all day as I chatted with the other girl’s family. Time just flew by and soon enough, the sun was setting with a red glow.

We said our goodbyes to the other family and I turned to go to the car, but Lucy said, “Wait! I still have to fill up the necklace!” and ran off again up the sand dune.

I leaned against car and looked up and around at the empty stretch of desert surrounding us, completely devoid of other life. It was actually quite serene, hearing the soft breeze shift sand around. Suddenly, I felt an out of place shiver run down my spine. I didn’t know how I could tell, but I had the feeling that the desert was a bit bigger, the dunes a bit higher than the last time we had visited several years ago.

I looked up and saw Lucy at the top of the sand dune holding the necklace above her head, tapping it to level the sand inside. Then, just as she was replacing the cork, she let out a shriek and dropped the necklace.

“Lucy? Lucy!” I yelled. “What’s wrong?” I sprinted up the dune toward my little girl.

“I’m okay,” she said softly, holding her finger out at me. “Something bit me, but it doesn’t hurt anymore.”

I grabbed her hand and kissed it. “There, it’ll be all better. Oh right, your necklace, let me get that for you. Then you can fill it back up.” I trotted down the side of the sand dune and bending down, I scooped up her necklace in my hands. I then looked up to see my beautiful angel blowing away. My eyes widened and I froze there as her body disintegrated. First, a few grains of red sand from the tip of her head fluttered away, followed by a stream working its way down her body.

Snapping back to reality, my heart pounded in my chest as I ran back up the slope, reaching it just as the last of the sand was blowing away. I splayed my hands out, trying to grab a hold her, but the small particles just slipped through my fingers.

I fell to my knees, the wind howling around me, the darkness quickly approaching. All I wanted were some memories with my daughter. She was having so much fun out here and we only stayed because of my necklace. That stupid necklace.

I emitted inhuman, tortured sobs, clenching the necklace in my hands, and called out for her into the emptiness. Slowly, I fell to the sand, having lost any will to ever get up again. I could hear the unforgiving wind howl and the cold of night start to creep up. Eyes clenched tight from squeezing out sandy tears, I felt pinches up and down my legs. They hurt for a few seconds, but then the pain faded. Lightness streamed from my core throughout my body. My eyes still held tightly together, I felt the sensation of flying, no, soaring through the sky. Toward my baby girl.

Credit To – Mithril

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The Bum

July 15, 2014 at 12:00 PM
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It will happen when you are alone. It can happen anytime, anywhere, it does not matter. You will be walking and will be in no great hurry. That is when you will meet him: The bum. The people who have met him have all described him with differing detail. Sometimes he is short, sometimes tall, sometimes of an average build. Sometimes he is old and fat and sometimes he is young and skinny. His age and appearance are of little circumstance as he is always a man of charisma. He will call out to you when you are walking. His voice will be charming and pleasant and if he should startle you, you will soon reconsider your fright. He is not aggressive, and he will not approach you. You must approach him. He will be wearing tattered clothes and will give you the impression that he is a homeless man down on his luck. In fact, it is you that will be down on yours when you meet him.

The man is witty, and knows himself to be so. He will grasp your attention with his charm and whatever thoughts you will have in your head previous to this encounter will be momentarily whisked away. He will proceed to introduce himself to you and will make pleasant small talk. You will not know it but he knows your life and your story. Talking to him will feel relieving, as if you are talking to your mother or a good friend. He will calm your anxieties, and with his wit and humour he will make you feel happiness. However, after a couple moments you will begin to wonder why he has called you to him and will wonder what he wants. He will begin to smile a clever grin and will instead inquire as to what it is you want yourself. This man, like most beggars and bums is in need, but his need is entirely in consequence to the needs of you. He will produce a match from his clothing or from whatever he is holding. He will strike it on a surface and its tip will flare a bright orange glow. The glow is entrancing and you will be drawn to its brilliant flame. The world around you will seem to fade away as you look into the blaze. The bum will speak to you, his face a shadow behind the flame in his outstretched hand. This is when it will begin. Amongst the fire in the match head, images will appear. They will be blurry but will still be easily recognizable. The sound accompanying the images will be faint and it will seem as if you are hearing it from under water.

In the match’s flame you will see the greatest pain that plagues you, and how it got to be there. You will relive the memories of that pain vividly, as if experiencing it again for the first time: A heart break, the death of a loved one, a rape, a mugging, a tragic accident… You will see the memory that is the most painful to you. You will act accordingly, with panic, anger, or sadness, but in the snap of his fingers the bum will put out the flame and you will be released into a calmer state. You will listen to his words as he consoles you with due diligence, and it is then that he will offer you a choice. The choice is perplexing, a choice like no other you have experienced before. He will ask you if you wish that painful memory of yours to be removed from existence, for it to never have happened. If you have lost your life to an alcohol addiction, he will make it so you would have never picked up a bottle. If you have lost a loved one to a car crash, he will make it so that they will have never been in that car in the first place. It will sound wonderful to you; your pain will be relieved in an instant, but it will come at a cost, for you see, what is taken must be given.

You cannot remove without adding something to fill the void. You can have your pain removed, but at the cost of inflicting it to others. If you lost your leg in a workplace accident, the bum can make it so this accident happened to another in place of yourself. If your spouse committed suicide at the end of a rope, the bum can trade your spouse’s spot on the rope with the spouse of another. The cost to this deal will mean nothing to you, as he will explain that if you accept his proposal you will be relieved of any memories of this event or any memories pertaining to the hardship he will solve. Thus, you must ask yourself if you wish to inflict pain to relieve yourself of it. It is a perplexing choice, one that you cannot comprehend the answer to if you are not in that moment, in front of the rag-clad bum and his smoking match. If you agree, he will answer to your command, and with a sinister smirk, will exchange what needs to be traded. However, if you decline his offer you will be persuaded to reconsider. He will tell you that there are no second chances, that this opportunity will never befall upon you again, and he is not lying. Forfeit this chance and you will never see this man again. If you insist upon abstaining the man will give you a cold and hard stare, his face changing from one of optimism and persuasion to one devoid of expression. He will stare at you for moments that will seem like hours, filling your mind with doubts of your conviction. For now, it is still not too late to change your mind. If, however, you remain persistent in your choice, the bum will merely flick the smoking match into the air and place its smokeless head back from where it came from. He will then depart in the opposite direction from which you came. He will walk slowly, as if unburdened by your choice. If you choose to follow him you will be ignored, and you will find that the moment your gaze departs from his body, he will have disappeared. If you chose this path and decline his offer, this will be the last you will see of him.

Credit To – 9753

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What You Don’t Know Won’t Kill You

July 15, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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Kenny, I’m so sorry. Please forgive your Erica. I made a terrible mistake and I’m sorry.

Kenny is my big brother and my best friend in the world. We have a history of exploring the Great Unknown that goes as far back as childhood. The places that terrified most kids always seemed to call out to us, demanding their secrets be uncovered by those worthy to know them. We ventured deep into the abandoned sewer tunnels of North Hill and listened to the songs of restless ghosts. In the haunted woodland burial ground near Oakland Cemetery we found unearthed human bones, which we gathered and laid to rest. We were the only ones who ever went into the basement of the abandoned house on Werther Avenue, where a child-eating demon supposedly lived; we found no demon, but we did find a thousand dollars in a satchel stashed under the boiler. We had many “expeditions”, and somehow Dad always found out about them and grounded us the moment we came home.

I suppose I believed that knowledge was a ward for fear. I explored to understand the things that scared me — to look them right in the eye and know they were harmless. My obsession eventually led me to Winterfield University’s archaeology department, and to the journal, and ultimately to the events of this past Friday which continue to drag me into tearful fits.

I don’t expect anyone will ever read these pages. I’m only writing to preserve my last ounce of sanity for a few more minutes. The sway of the boat and drumming of the rain on deck are maddening to my ears, and the cabin is so claustrophobic I think anyone would lose her mind sitting in here for two days even if she hadn’t experienced what I have.

I’ll be okay so long as it doesn’t speak again. It’s been quiet since yesterday morning.

*

The journal’s author was the late Professor Blake Deforest, a renowned archaeologist whose explorations netted him an impressive collection of Mesoamerican artifacts belonging to an unknown Indian tribe. I’d read only a little about him in my youth: an infamous thrill-seeker and opium addict better known for his eccentricity than his expertise.

The majority of his treasures are small basalt totems stylistically similar to many Olmec statues. They represent a three-armed (or three-legged?) serpentine creature resting on its coils. Its face is nothing but a titan set of jaws full of long, pointed teeth. An amber gemstone crowns each totem’s head like a crystal ball on a dais, the opaque core of which creates an omniscient eye that stares directly at you no matter where you stand. All the totems present a malicious grin as with the knowledge of some delightfully horrible secret.

Deforest built his estate on a little hill in the nameless swamp hugging the shores of Lake Hela. After stealing a certain artifact discovered on one of his expeditions — a valuable, fist-sized stone — he locked himself in the mansion and spent the last days of his life slipping into madness. On September 6th, 1889, Deforest put a revolver to his head and pulled the trigger, spattering fifty years of archaeological experience all across his study walls. Police reports detailed a pathetically hurried and disinterested investigation, probably because the county politicians wanted the raving drug addict to disappear as quickly as possible. The stolen relic was never recovered.

The house has had three occupants since then, one as recent as 1976. All committed suicide.

The last of Deforest’s kin recently donated the property to the university, giving us permission to loot everything inside. When I became the head of the archaeology department the dean granted me complete access to all of Deforest’s resources — including that God-forsaken journal — and commissioned me to clean out Deforest House. If he hoped I would find the missing relic in the process, he gave no sign of it: everyone is convinced it’s on a permanent tour of the black market.

The small leather-bound book chronicles life on the Deforest property right down to the construction of the house. Deforest frequently mentions the stone, christening it the “Eye” for reasons he never explains, and goes on and on about his eagerness to study it, his theories of its pre-Olmec origin, its brilliant sheen in the sunlight, and so on and so forth.

A block of fifteen pages has been torn from the journal. The remaining pages show the rapid decline of the author’s mental health: paranoid hallucinations and dream-visions what could only result from heavy drug abuse, and other random nonsense impossible to interpret like, “Forever wandering the Red Horizon, one with the desolation, where the Cosmic Watchers stir; hungry gods of the pit! Still they call to me!” By the last ten pages nothing is even legible. Blake Deforest recorded his final thoughts in erratic scribbles only a lunatic could decipher.

Which says a lot about me. It seems strange that no one else ever tried to translate that madman’s scrawls, which I did out of nothing more than curiosity. I picked out the phrase, “it now sleeps beneath the cellar’s earthen floor,” and deduced what had happened to the missing artifact.

*

I recruited six of my friends as menial labor, including my brother Kenny because no one makes me feel safer in dark and foreboding places. We rented two trucks and emptied the house over the course of three weeks: its vintage furniture, valuable paintings, and rare books now adorn our library (those that we didn’t hock for school funds, anyway).

The swamp offered little more than murky puddles and murkier ponds, with less than a square foot of solid ground for miles, so when the weather got nasty we set up camp in the house, which was always unnerving. The marshland forest coils around the property as if trying to hide it in shame; even though it’s only an hour away from town, it feels completely isolated from the rest of the world. The house’s exterior is unremarkable except for the twenty stone steps leading up the hill to the front porch. From the bottom of these steps the manor’s outline resembles a ziggurat.

On our first visit the interior was as inviting as a quaint New England hotel; now the only decorations left are rusted wall-lamps and shadows thick enough to wrap around your shoulders on a cold night. Its empty rooms and corridors twist and flex like the innards of a creature that spent its last moments writhing in agony. The shadows knead the halls into the demented sort found in a carnival funhouse, or stretch them so they seem to go on for miles.

The air became more difficult to breathe on each visit, which I blamed on the building’s location or its advanced state of decay, though neither explanation relaxed the hairs on the back of my neck. I was always comforted to find Kenny and the others equally spooked.

Our most recent trip was to have been the last, so we took Kenny’s cabin boat to cut our travel time in half. If only we hadn’t been so eager to hold that relic in our hands we might’ve bothered to check the fuel gauge before embarking: when I fled the house I used the last drop of gas starting her up, and have sat here helplessly ever since.

The cellar was a mine tunnel, or a mass grave in waiting: an earthen floor spanning ten-by-fifteen feet, earthen walls held together with warped wooden beams. Except for the splintered pile of lumber that once served as a staircase, the room was empty. Armed with spades and an electric lamp we dropped in and set to work, twenty-minute shifts, three diggers at a time.

Two minutes later our dig came to an abrupt halt when Kenny, who’d started digging at the center of the room, struck something hard and wooden. The seven of us converged on that spot and dug like maniacs, expecting to find a treasure chest containing the Eye. What we uncovered was a four-foot-wide iron-braced trapdoor set in a stone foundation.

We paused and scratched our heads a minute. The cellar’s true floor had been curiously hidden beneath a fourteen inch layer of tightly packed marsh soil — days and days of obsessive work on Deforest’s part. It suddenly occurred to me that the journal — that is, the pages I had access to — never mentioned the construction of anything below the first floor.

We spent two hours shaving the cellar floor of its earthy coat and turned up nothing else. By then we were exhausted and figured we’d investigate the trapdoor the next day. Naturally Kenny and I were the only ones looking forward to it: oppressive gloom aside, every detail of the Deforest property tickled us with nostalgia as if it were a living synopsis of our childhood adventures.

In the meantime the weather bordered on catastrophic. Gale force winds ravaged the trees as snarling black clouds gathered over the lake — sailing would have been suicide. We unraveled our bedrolls around the electric lamp, enjoyed a modest supper of rations and hot cocoa, and after a few ghost stories my party retired for the night.

I have no idea how long I slept before the house’s unnatural stillness crept into the parlor and shook me awake. I couldn’t shake the feeling that something in the shadows was watching us. Each time I closed my eyes I saw Deforest’s totems sitting expectantly on the museum’s shelf, staring perpetually. Sitting and staring and smiling.

Dragged on a leash by some greedy curiosity I crept through the black halls and back to the cellar, keeping the lantern off until I reached the trapdoor to avoid disturbing my sleeping friends. With some effort — less than I had expected — I pulled the heavy trapdoor open, gagging as the smell of putrid water assaulted me. Beneath it a stone staircase descended into darkness.

Bile burned my throat. And I started down.

*

The stairway descended about twelve feet before it leveled off and the crushingly narrow walls opened into a sub-cellar, or what I had assumed was a sub-cellar until I took those first few steps toward the center of the room. The chamber was circular, little more than fifteen feet in diameter and crafted from muddy stone bricks the size of cinder blocks. Water covered the floor — rank seepage from the marsh above. Hieroglyphic carvings decorated the walls from floor to ceiling, all savagely defaced and impossible to read.

A large, mildew-stained creature emerged from the darkness, tearing a scream from my chest before I realized the demon was made of basalt and not flesh. Its features were perfectly intact, but rather than squat on its snakelike hindquarters like its smaller kin at the museum, it sprouted from the wall to form a chilling altar similar to those found in La Venta. With a shudder I turned my attention from the beast to the marred hieroglyphs on the wall.

On one side of the chamber was a mural like those found in Egyptian tombs, carved rather than painted, rich with detail and still mostly intact. The mural was six-by-ten-feet and depicted — how to explain it? — two-dozen tiers stacked like the floors of a hotel, with each tier containing a world that I can’t adequately describe beyond vague, horrified summaries. Many were so alien they gave me chills: a liquid planet, a world broken into fragments floating in nothingness, and a flat, endless desert to name a few. I think the mural meant to suggest coexistence, but separated the layers for clarity’s sake.

The creatures inhabiting those realms were the stuff of childhood nightmares, drifting along without purpose or cannibalizing each other with relish as they reenacted the ghastly histories of their worlds. It’s like each was another failed attempt by God at creating indigenous life. And it baffled me: Deforest, that attention-loving explorer, had hidden away a priceless treasure trove of never-before-seen mythology with the hope that no one would ever find it.

Human shapes inhabited the pan-dimensional apartment complex’s central tier. The characters dressed in an Aztec-style (were the Mystery Indians their relatives?) and seemed to stand in for the human race as a whole, acting out each chapter of the species’s evolution: harnessing fire, building tools and houses, learning to farm and hunt, forming societies, waging war, finding God.

The final act of the story of Man stirred my insides with an icy ladle: a congregation of bald figures, priests most likely, lined up behind a more prominent bald figure who knelt beneath a round, blazing object — something reminiscent of Ra and his solar disk. This didn’t disturb me quite so much until I looked up and found the same figure in the desert world — the world placed reverently at the top of the mural — lacking the solar disk and kneeling before the serpentine triped of Deforest’s treasure trove.

From that point things took a turn for the horrific. The other worlds began to seep into Man’s realm: first only one or two curious creatures, crossing the dimensional borders, looking around, snatching up a random object or person; then the landscapes bled into each other in patches, and otherworldly fiends came in raiding parties. Humans were tormented, possessed, transformed, or dragged into the other worlds and eaten. The once barren desert realm became populated with hideous human shapes, a mockery of the ones in the human realm. Finally the tier borders melted away completely, the worlds merged and all existence was pandemonium.

I identified this as the Mystery Indians’ nightmarish rendition of Ragnarok: the tiers of existence collapse on one-another while an apathetic cyclopean god looks on and laughs. That didn’t account for the priests, though, lined up and waiting eagerly for their turn with the solar disk. Maybe it was a common thing. A ritual sacrifice to the cosmic watcher; one where the lambs couldn’t wait to throw themselves upon the knife, to spend eternity with their hideous god in a heavenly wasteland. I shuddered again at the thought.

So where had the Mystery Indians vanished to? The other Indians must have annihilated them for their blasphemous religion. I’d just begun to wonder how many had migrated to North America when my foot accidentally met with a small, hard object and sent it rolling several feet. My gaze fell to the floor and remained there for ten minutes.

I knelt and took the carelessly discarded relic in my trembling hands, holding it before my face like a dazzled child would a Christmas snow globe. It had a haunting beauty unlike any jewel I’d ever seen: three inches wide, colored like a dark Oktoberfest brew, smoother to the touch than ivory except where hieroglyphics scarred its surface. I knew by its opaque core that it was the Eye. Laughing, I returned the statue’s grin to thank it for its lovely gift.

It had changed. Its smile was broader, more elated. It seemed to lean forward eagerly.

As quickly as my euphoria had enveloped me it recoiled in horror. The Eye was translucent, but the image on the other side was wrong. I had to hold the relic to my face like a monocle just to be sure it wasn’t [rest of sentence is too scrawled to read]

Sorry for my handwriting. Keeping my pen in hand is becoming difficult. This is the first time I’ve ever tried to revisit what I saw, let alone put it into words. Many details refuse to fully surface as though I’d experienced it all in a drunken stupor, but a cruel few tower before my memory with monumental clarity.

*

Metaphors only scratch the surface. A fish torn from the sea and tossed into a dry Martian crater all in one horrible instant. I didn’t belong there. My existence in that place was a blasphemy to the natural order of the universe.

How long did I lie there? How many days curled into a trembling wad with my head buried in my arms, after realizing the Eye — my inter-dimensional doorway — had abandoned me, like the rest of the earth. Eventually I gathered my strength and stood up, if only because I didn’t know what else to do.

The nightmare landscape was cracked, mars-red, spread out over infinite space, endless in scope and perfect in flatness as far out as the horizon except for a single lonesome crag of reddish stone in the distance reaching miles into the sky. Toward this formation I walked as nihilism swallowed the last ounce of my spirit. In every other direction the word “direction” had no meaning.

My shoes left no prints: despite its brittle appearance the ground refused yielding to my weight as if every last grain were frozen in time. A khaki sky seared overhead, devoid of clouds and sun; yet everything was brightly lit with a retina-crushing amber tint. In spite of the glare I felt no heat. No heat, no cold, no wind. No atmosphere at all. I don’t recall having the need for breath except when sobbing hysteria overtook me. My loudest wail vanished shortly after leaving my diaphragm, without so much as an echo. An impossible atmospheric stillness like that in a bad dream. Even with my hands clasped over my ears the silence penetrated and induced the sort of madness that is only partly relieved by long, anguished screams.

A red stalagmite stood twelve meters to my left where once there had been nothing. Its shape twisted screw-like up from the ground, but rather than come to a point it swelled into a bulbous mass. It looked like the petrified remains of some unnamable organism.

Acknowledging the stone polyp caused more to appear. My eyes would pan to a new polyp only to notice another in their peripheral, until I found myself in the center of a disjointed circle of seven or eight. Each was twisted into a different amorphous shape, but all stood about six feet high. They didn’t burst forth from the ground, or drop from the sky, or form molecule by molecule before my eyes — they just suddenly were.

A hundred yards to the west, assuming the crag was north, something moved.

It likely appeared out of nowhere just like the stalagmites, and induced enough shuddering terror in me that I wished I hadn’t seen it at all: charred skin as black as ash, broom handle limbs carrying it with the grotesquely awkward steps of a marionette. Even from such a great distance I saw the empty holes where eyes used to be, and the face permanently shriveled and twisted in anguish. A millennium in hell couldn’t wear a human being into such a shape!

The broken man halted in mid-step and remained like a statue for several minutes. It turned its head until its empty eyes fell on me. It stood and stared and did nothing else.

I turned back toward the crag and walked faster in case the shambling thing decided to follow.

After three days of walking with no apparent need for rest, the crag now towered close enough that I could distinguish a narrow cave entrance at its base. More stone polyps had erected like carelessly scattered billboards along my path, and still more appeared whenever I blinked, or rubbed my face, or lost my grip on my emotions.

Then I made the mistake of looking over my shoulder. Only ten feet behind me, where once there had been nothing but stone polyps, a myriad of deathly thin nightmare figures stood staring at me. I never saw them take a step or even so much as twitch, yet no matter how long I walked, the distance between me and the colony of broken men remained constant. They kept a semicircular formation, curving inward toward me, herding me toward the great crag’s gaping mouth. I was too scared to think better of slipping inside to escape all those dreadful faces.

Details of the inside return to me in an earth-tone blur except for the hole cut into the ground at the center of the cave, circular and as wide as a house. The sounds from its throat commanded me to draw nearer until I stood teetering at its lip, gazing downward with streaming eyes and trembling breath.

That abysmal pit! It must have pierced right into the planet’s core! God, if you could have seen them slithering and writhing in that white magma, thousands bobbing shark-like to the surface and scaling the walls of the pit in unnatural flight! And I, the fearless explorer, just stood there and watched with stone legs. Stood and watched as the first one emerged and arched its colossal serpentine body forward to get a better look at me, its three giant talons straddling the pit’s mouth, twenty tendril-like tongues licking its fangs.

The thing spoke to me in an awful language of thunderous, droning notes I didn’t understand. The star hovering over its head reached its tainted gaze inside me and fanned through my every memory, every experience, every personal guilt like pages in a book. As it did I saw things I can barely put into words, like I’d tapped into its mind and shared its omniscience: time and space conjoined, spewing eons of existence in front of me simultaneously like so much junk on a flea market table. The universe cried out, peeled back like a scab and revealed a squirming mess of worlds overlapping like projector slides, and somewhere within that churning brew of slithering bodies and impossible landscapes I saw earth peeking out at me; glimpses of human beings going about their daily lives while oblivious to the horrors sharing their space in the universe. They walked through alien pillars as if they were illusions, across great rivers of acid as if they were asphalt, side-by-side with ungodly creatures as if they didn’t exist! A hundred coexisting worlds mortared with a thin sheet of tissue paper that could be ruptured with the tiniest glance.

The monsters can’t be accurately described with human language. Even the depictions in the mural do them no justice. I came within arm’s reach of a flying, tentacled horror the size of a bus drifting across a noxious, luminous valley of slime. It came to rest on a black stone-like protrusion that may have been a boulder or the rooftop of a sunken building. I seemed to hover over the fiend like a ghost, so close I could reach out and touch it if I dared.

It looked up, startled. It stared into my soul with forty squirming white tennis ball eyes. It saw me.

I started screaming.

I’d been screaming for several minutes before I realized I was sitting on the tomb’s wet floor with my empty hands outstretched. In my panic the relic had slipped from my earthly body’s grip and now rested on the floor just out of arm’s reach.

It was calling. The Eye commanded me to take it in my hands again. The statue sat gritting its teeth in an angry grimace, and almost imperceptibly the shadows began to move. Just outside the lantern’s failing glow the shriveled faces of six broken men glowered at me. Then the lantern went out.

Something grabbed at me in the dark that may have been real or imagined, and I scrambled up the stairs and out of the cellar, flinging the trapdoor shut behind me. Every animal in the swamp must have heard me as I dashed back to the parlor, crashing through doors and into walls, screaming Kenny’s name at the top of my lungs and growing more frantic when no one replied. All I needed was for Kenny to hug me and pat me on the head like he always did and tell me everything was all right. But when I had crept away from our camp, in the darkness I never noticed that the other six bedrolls lay open and empty — that I had awoken in that house alone.

The Eye had saved me for last.

*

It’s calling again. It’s so loud it hurts. It’s like an eel slithering inside my head and it’s furious.

stop please

The house is pulling me back like with a chain. God if you only knew what I know! The things it showed me! The things I still see! The things I saw in the swamp! I can’t go back, not through that swamp!

They’re drawn to me because I crossed the barrier. They can smell me. I saw the broken men wandering the marsh, flickering in and out of existence like the picture on a TV with bad reception. Sometimes one, sometimes ten. They see me and they try to drag me back to their masters. I always outrun them but they stay longer and longer. Maybe one of them is K–[remaining text violently scratched out]

I see other things, worse than the broken men. So much worse. They’re searching for me, too. Using me as a beacon. I locked myself in here and I haven’t moved since. I’m afraid to look out the windows and see them slithering about in the marsh. They’ll see me and they’ll come.

I don’t want to see them. I don’t want to know anymore. Deforest didn’t want to know. He didn’t want anyone to know.

get out of my head

I cant go back It’s angry that I fled and if I go back I don’t know what it will do to me I don want to go back please whoever finds this please bury that room bury it so no one can find it don let it take you to that awful place

ragnarok

put the barrel in your mouth it’s the only answer but is so heavy

put the barrel in your mouth you coward

something just crawled on deck outside

i’m so sorry for ev–[remaining text is too blood-smeared to read]

Credit To – Mike MacDee

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You’re Not Afraid

July 14, 2014 at 12:00 PM
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Dear Reader,
At the corner of Winter and Broad there is an abandoned house. Go into that house. The front door is closed but unlocked. Nobody lives inside, not even homeless people would dare stay in a place like that for more than a night. When you go in, you will hear the whispers. Don’t listen to what they say because they have more than just “a way with words.” They say things that your heart dreads. Things like, “I can see you. I can hear your thoughts in my mind. I’m going to use your secrets to ruin your life. The longer you stay here, the more I know.” It may not seem compelling now, I mean, why listen to some cocky little disembodied voices right? You’re not afraid.

No. Ignore the voices. There will be a lamp on inside. It’s always on so you shouldn’t worry about being able to see. The room inside is left precisely as it was. The table is still set for a meal, there are still six sets of silverware, six dishes and six crisply folded napkins situated at regular intervals about the table. The chair at the head of the table remains askew as though someone had stood up from it and left the room in a hurry. There are still old envelopes sitting in the fireplace waiting to be lit, addressed to the man of the house. There are still two tall candles plugged into their sticks, hardly used with droplets of wax paralyzed along their sides, their wicks blackened but still long. There is still a child’s toy truck lying on its side on the elegant oriental rug and a copy of Little Women is splayed on the seat cushion of the armchair, folded back at the spine. Someone’s reading glasses sit upside down on top of a newspaper from August 1923 and two broad yellow needles are tangled in the sleeve of a sweater. It’s as though the people who lived here are merely absent and could be back any minute. You might not think so if you were to enter the kitchen, which I would not advise. Still, you’re not afraid, right?

Disregard the voices. Disregard the state of this, what once was someone’s home. Don’t go in the kitchen. No. Take to the stairs. Be careful, for the owner of the toy truck on the first floor may have left one or two of his building blocks, one with a crimson letter A, the other with a viridian letter G, sitting on one of the steps. Ascend to the top of the stairs where you’ll pass the window as you round the banister and face the hallway. Do not open the burgundy velvet curtain even if you notice the tips of the shoes sticking out at the bottom. No you ought to completely disregard them. Not that you’re scared. There’s really not much of a view anyway. The voices will continue to whisper to you with their outlandish threats but you ought to simply proceed down the hallway.

You might look through the first door on your right, if you so desired. It will be ajar. The room is just a small one with an unmade twin bed, a couple of bookcases and a small desk with a typewriter on it. The beginning of a thesis on the Great War may still be sitting in the shaft. A small alarm clock that, if twisted twice, will be set to 7:30am sits on the bedside table and all of the clothes in the closet are meticulously hung, side by side, like uniform soldiers. There really isn’t much to see. Still it’s better than if you were to open the door on your left. The one with the broad wooden letters nailed to the door reading “Sam.” Nor would I suggest that as you take a step or two down the hallway that you open the door on your right with its own wooden letters, these delicate and italicized reading “Beth.” The door across from Beth’s room is the bathroom, which you might use if you absolutely couldn’t repress your bladder any longer and you didn’t mind doing your business as voices whisper absurdities into your ears. Just don’t pull aside the shower curtain to peer into the claw-footed tub. Not that you’re afraid.

It’s best if you just continue forward. You could glance into the last door on the left but all you’d find there is a king sized four poster and a vintage vanity mirror with some pearls strewn across the floor. Just don’t look in the closet. Not that you’re afraid. And neither are you afraid of opening the last door on the right. It’s just better if you didn’t. You wouldn’t want to see what was sitting in the rocking chair on the far side of the room between an ironing board and another four poster.

It’s best that you don’t look. And still the voices will whisper to you such peculiar things. But since I know you aren’t afraid, I know you will continue on to the door at the very end of the hallway. The black one. Open this door and the whispering voices will be hushed. Through the door you shall be greeted by a wall of shadow. The voices have been silenced to make way for the deep chuckling you will hear from within the room. However, I promise you, that this is just to deter you. But I know you will not be disheartened, because you are not afraid. You will courageously step forth into the darkness without hesitation. The shaft of light from the hallway will offer you very little breadth of vision but still you will step onto the first stair. Then the second. And the third. With each progressive step, the chuckle will become more and more audible. At first it will seem to be coming from the top of the stairs, but once you reach it, it will sound as if it is before you. Still I know you are without fear. You will disregard this voice as you did all of the voices before. The owner of this chuckling voice will always sound as if he is just before you, but truthfully he is just as ethereal as the other voices in the house. At times the voice will be distant as if he is pacing about the room. At times he will be so close that if it weren’t for the fact that you know your own voice, you might think that you were the chuckler yourself. But still, you’re not afraid.

Simply ignore the voice. Even as your hands grope through the darkness against the bureaus and boxes, old furniture and toys, you will diligently proceed. At some point your hands may find the waist of a dress form, once owned by the lady of the house. If you follow its delicate shape to the left shoulder, you may find a small chain hanging just above it. Do not pull this chain. It turns on the light. If you do so the chuckling voice will not remain disembodied, and you don’t want to meet the owner. Not that you’re afraid.

You must carry on through the darkness as you search for the leaden box. You will know it by its earthy metal chill on your skin. When you do, you may notice that the chuckler seems to have regressed to the far side of the room. You must open this box, for inside you shall find the key. As soon as you have it, you may leave the attic. The chuckler will rush up behind you, laughing hysterically, and you must escape the attic before you feel his hands upon you. Do not hesitate to slam he door behind you and use the latch below the doorknob to lock the chuckler inside. When you turn around, you will see that all of the doors that were closed are now open and the shoes below the curtain have disappeared. You have awoken the family and they are rousing from their beds in each of the six rooms that you passed. You must be swift. Close each of the doors as fast as you can, including the first one you saw, locking them as you did the attic. They will pound and kick against the wood of the doors from inside, but they cannot break through. If you accomplish this in time, you have done well. I know you can do it because you are not afraid.

Now, you have the key, the dearly departed have been locked in their rooms and you may proceed downstairs once more. The whispering voices will have returned but they will be even more adamant than before. They will hiss at you furiously, abandoning their threats and choosing to insult you profanely instead, but you must still ignore them. You have come so far because you were not afraid and neither are you afraid now.

When you return downstairs you ought to go into the kitchen. There is nothing to be found there now, you have locked her upstairs in her room. On the far side you will see a door, identical to the one through which you discovered the attic. Through it, you shall discover stairs going downward. The lightswitch shall be to your left and you may turn it on because there is no chuckler in the cellar. Enter and close the door behind you. You must follow the stairs down and cross to the far side of the room. There isn’t much in the cellar, some shovels, a rake and other gardening tools mostly. The floor is even earthen and there is a bulkhead leading out. This is your exit, but it is an old one, the door will not be easily opened. You will hear the banging continue from upstairs. Still, you’re not afraid.

At the far end of the basement opposite the entrance, there is an apparently blank wall but you will find a loose brick at eye level for someone who is about 5′ 9″. Take it out and you should be able to pull more out afterward. When you’ve pulled enough of them away you will find the hatch. The hatch may be opened with the key. However, by the time you have found the hatch, I imagine the family will have found their way out of their rooms. But still, you’re not afraid.

The sound of footsteps may sound through the house as the family comes in search of you. There are limited places you could be so you’d better move fast. Open the hatch with the key and inside you will find the safe. The combination is the date of the newspaper that was in the living room upstairs. You must turn the dial even as it becomes apparent that the family has discovered where you are. They will bang on the door to the basement and it will only hold for so long. Still, I know, you will not be afraid.

Once you’ve opened the safe you will find the briefcase. Don’t bother to open the briefcase there for the family will be on the brink of finding you. Even now they may have broken through the door. Grab the briefcase and run to the bulkhead. Shift the locking bar to the side. Use your strength because it is likely rusted in place. Push with all of your might to get the bulkhead doors open and run out into the night. The family will likely be on your heels but if you run with all of your strength they will not catch you. Run out through the surrounding buildings and lose them. Find someplace to hide. Whatever you do, escape them and don’t lose the briefcase. Even as Beth comes forth, the wound on her chest spilling blood out through her rosey dress, you will not be afraid. Aren’t you glad you didn’t open Beth’s door? Even as Sam waddles forward, his collapsed rib cage forcing stomach fluid to spill out of his mouth, you will not be afraid. Aren’t you glad you passed by his door as well? Even as mother rushes after you, the dent in her skull from the meat cleaver pulsing, you will not be afraid. Aren’t you glad you didn’t enter the kitchen? Even as grandpa rushes after you, the glass sticking out from his torso forming a scarlet line around his waist, you will not be afraid. Aren’t you glad you didn’t part the curtain? Even as Uncle Jonathan comes after you, drenched in water with the slit in his throat swollen from age, you will not be afraid. Aren’t you glad you didn’t look in the bathtub? Even as papa comes after you, the bruises from the pearls and the burns from his necktie at the indent in his neck making his skin appear scaley even in the dim light, you will not be afraid. Aren’t you glad you left the closet door shut? Even as grandma comes after you, her lims disjointed and her stomach emaciated from where she was left to starve to death, you will not be afraid. Aren’t you glad you didn’t go into the last bedroom? And even as the last man who tried to attempt what you will surely succeed in accomplishing, rushes after you, his eyes sunken and his hair white, his ribs visible even through his tattered rags, still laughing as if he has heard the best joke in the world, only God knows if he died of fear or madness, you shall still not be afraid. This I know. You shall run until they are far behind you, and then hide and wait for an hour. Once you’re sure that they are gone, you should find your way home. I know you can accomplish this because you’re not afraid.

At home, you ought to open the briefcase. You will find that it also has a combination lock but this is simply the address of the house. If you didn’t think to look you may need to return to the house the following night. I know you would do that because you’re not afraid. Once you’ve found the address and you open up the briefcase, you will find what I have sent you to look for and the reason for all of your trouble. It’s the deed to the house. The city cannot demolish the house without this document. Be careful with it as it is over a hundred years old. Bring it to the city and have them demolish the house. Once and for all, my family will be able to rest, and maybe this will be adequate repentance for what I did to them all those years ago. If you do get the city to demolish that house my family’s bodies will be interred in the rubble, finally at peace. If not, you left the front door unlocked, didn’t you? God forbid someone else enter that house by chance. But that doesn’t have anything to do with you. And anyways, they have nothing to fear, right?

Credit To – CousinSpookyNoodles

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The Prophecy

July 14, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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This is the eighth installment in the Tower of Sorrow series.
Part One: Yon Black Edifice Hath Called Me
Part Two: First Steps
Part Three: Tight Spaces
Part Four: The Driver
Part Five: Hittin’ The Road
Part Six: The Blue Bronco
Part Seven: And The Hole Goes Deeper

I can see that Conner’s gears are turning as he stares at R’luhgrah’nyth. I don’t think he truly understands just what’s going on or what’s at stake. I had figured that I shouldn’t expect much from a member of the human race, but Conner surprised me. After releasing him from the trunk of my car, I instantly understood why The Collective needed him. In many ancient prophecies, from worlds across the Multi-verse, it was written that the son of Azathoth would imprison The Great Old Ones and claim the Multi-verse as his own. In these dark times a being would emerge that could free the imprisoned Great Old Ones to reclaim their lost realms. Conner is that being. As the eons tick by, many have forgotten these ancient prophecies or have discarded them as fiction. R’luhgrah’nyth knew, and I can see now that he was right to send me for Conner.

“Jack?” R’luhgrah’nyth snaps. “Hello… Jack… won’t you join us here on Earth?”

“Sorry sir,” I say stepping forward, “how can I be of service?”

“I don’t think our guest here quite understands our situation. Could you perhaps enlighten him as to who we are and why we have summoned him?”

“Happy to sir,” I say with a bow. I can’t stand all this ceremonious bullshit. All the bowing and the “sirs” get on my damn nerves. What can I say though? These “men” saved my life and now, may have even found a way to stop the upheaval of all of existence. I think they deserve the respect, no matter how I feel about it.

“Yeah Jack-o,” Conner grins and leans back in his chair, taking down a nearly full tumbler of scotch, “tell me a nice bedtime story. I’m awful tired.”

Laughter erupts briefly at the sight of Conner’s drunken antics. I can’t help but smirk a bit myself. To think that this man could possibly lead us to victory, it’s laughable. I clasp my hands in the small of my back, take a deep breath, and begin.

“Eons ago, before the birth of your planet or your species, in a realm outside of this universe, sprawled the blind idiot god Azathoth. Azathoth became lonely within the void and begat Nyarlathotep (The Crawling Chaos), N’yog-Sothep (The Nameless Mist), and Syhan’ghft (Darkness). There were more generations to follow, begat of The Nameless Mist and Darkness, but not Nyarlathotep…”

“Stop, stop, stop,” Conner drones with a wave of his hand. “Can we just skip all of the “begats’ and ‘begots’ and all that?” He sits up straight and levels his eyes at me. “Besides the fact that this sounds stupendously boring, I can’t see how it explains anything.”

The genuine look of confusion on his face freezes my rising anger. I may as well be dealing with a child that lost his mother in the supermarket. In other words, deep beneath his confident façade, is a scared kid without a clue where to turn. So, begrudgingly, I pull up a chair across from him and have a seat. “Look Conner,” I say with a heavy sigh, “I’ll give you the cliff note version ok?” He nods his head, but never breaks his gaze. “I don’t know what your religious beliefs may or may not be, but I’m sure you know of the story of God and Lucifer, right?” He gives me a curt nod. “Well,” I pause purely for dramatic effect, “it’s all bullshit.”

“Tell me something I don’t know,” he sneers.

“Okay smartass. The story as you know it is a complete and total lie. ‘God’ and ‘Lucifer’ do exist, but they are one in the same. There is only one entity in both positions. Heaven and hell? The same place and all run by one being.”

Conner’s jaw slackens a bit and he shakes his head. “What? Seriously? Am I being punked right now? Is Ashton Kutcher about to pop out with a camera? ‘Cause I smell LOADS of bullshit.”

“Listen you impudent little shit! How much do you have to see to believe?! The Crawling Chaos is coming! He’s destroyed worlds upon worlds across the Multi-verse and your pathetic little mud ball is next if you don’t shut the fuck up and listen to me! He sent his minions for you once and will do it again. Heaven, Hell, God and Satan are all lies. All of the monotheistic religions are lies! All of the souls of those who believe belong to him. They feed his power and have given him the strength to imprison The Great Old Ones within their own realms. Now that they lie dormant he is free to reign. We must stop him and you are the key!”

Conner drops his head into his hands and sighs heavily. When he raises his face I can see the tears welling up in his eyes. Pathetic, dull, cow’s eyes they are. “H-how? How can I stop him? If he’s so damn powerful, powerful enough to imprison gods, how can I stop him? I’m only human.”

As I open my mouth to speak, R’luhgrah’nyth raises his hand to stop me, “If I may, Jack?” I nod my acknowledgement. “Listen Conner, we know this is a lot to take in. We don’t have all the answers, but what we do know, is that you are the key. The ancient prophecies don’t call you out by name. They don’t even say what species the zhro’ai will come from. All we know for sure is that ‘He who is visited by the hlirgh-nyth Nyarlathotep will have a great lw’nafh. During this k’yarnak within Shagg, the dreamer will visit Shogg and the palace of Nyarlathotep.’ We know this is you. We felt the cosmic vibrations emanate from your psyche the minute you stepped into Shogg.”

Conner shakes his head as if awaking from a daydream. He tents his fingers, leans over in his chair and says, “Look man, I can’t pretend that I understood much of what you just said to me. What I can say is that I need to sleep. It’s been a long day since your goon,” he juts a thumb at me, “dumped me in his car. Any chance you could give me a safe place to sleep?”

A huge smile spreads across R’luhgrah’nyth’s face. “Sure dear boy. No problem.” He stands and extends his hand toward Conner. Conner accepts and gives him one brief shake. “Jack. Go get a key from behind the bar and show Conner to his room would you?”

“Right away sir,” I give my best bow and take Conner by the elbow. “Come with me, please.” He fidgets a little, but doesn’t try to get away. I can tell from how much he is leaning on me that he’s pretty wasted. Partially dragging his weight I make my way to the bar and grab a random room key. I know the rooms here are filthy little holes that people screw in, but I doubt that Conner will notice or care. As soon as I get the door open Conner takes a few stumbling steps forward and falls face first onto the floor. “Nighty-night little Alice,” I smirk as I head for the door, “I have some other business to attend to.”

Credit to: J. Brown

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Chalk 3 – The Bodies Multiply

July 13, 2014 at 12:00 PM
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This is the third entry in the Chalk series.

The anchorman had completely lost control of the interview. Part of me thought it was funny, but even so, I had a hard time laughing. This whole thing had me worried. I wasn’t sure why at the time, but maybe some part of me sensed that this was only the beginning of a much more enormous horror.

On the surface nothing was out of the ordinary to justify my unease. It was just my usual Friday night ritual. Dinner done, lights off in the livingroom, a glass of whiskey, and the local news before watching a movie with the wife. This was my comfort after a long, hard week of angry clients and angrier bosses. It was time to unwind.

Still, tonight it wasn’t working. Tonight something felt off. I couldn’t put my finger on what it was.

On the news tonight was the latest on a series of killings that had terrorized the city. People were being murdered in their own homes, with rarely any sign of struggle, and never a sign of a break in. They were just found gutted or stabbed or sliced up. The victim was almost always an adult, although there were a few children. Disappearances of other family members were common as well, but there didn’t seem to be a consistent pattern.

The only clue left behind was a bit of residual chalk dust lightly powdered over all of the victims.

“This is a real death cult, alright? The next Charles Manson is out there turning people into murderers!” The shrill woman, I think her name was Gladys something, was a representative for a group called “Family Survivors of the Chalk Murders”. They were a growing group.

She was debating someone who also had a family member that was recently killed. The guy’s mother was butchered in her own kitchen. Even so, he was disagreeing with her. He was some kind of expert on cults, and said that none of it matched the patterns of behavior that these groups usually showed.

“Look, this doesn’t fit with how cults do things. There are no messages left behind, nobody emptying their bank accounts or posting manifestos. None of the active cults in the area are taking responsibility, and believe me, they would if they could. I understand that you need to assign blame, to have someone that you can attack, but there are more important things! We need to stop looking for some cult leader and find the person or persons who are really doing this!”

He was making sense but… I don’t know. Maybe he was the reason I was feeling so uneasy. He was average looking, not really remarkable, but there was just something about him. It could have been that, even though he was yelling, he looked completely calm. His voice didn’t match his face.

Finally the anchor broke in: “Kevin, thanks for that. I’m sorry but we’re out of time, we have to move on.”

Rick Warslen’s face appeared on screen again as he shuffled papers dramatically and the graphic reading “Chalk Murders” appeared over his shoulder.

“Tonight’s grizzly murder of Thomas Greetly brings the total number of Chalk Murders to 38. Greetly was found in his office by the cleaning staff this morning stabbed through the back of the neck repeatedly and coated with a fine layer of chalk dust. The city lives in fear as the number of murders seems to be increasing in frequency, with a murder every day for the past four days. Authorities have yet to comment on… I’m sorry… one moment…”

He seemed to be listening to someone off-screen. I had to laugh a bit. He really did not have it together tonight and it seemed like the whole news broadcast was disorganized and amateurish.

“Don’t laugh at him dear, he’s just upset!”

I was so startled I nearly jumped out of my skin. Kim was standing there next to me in her pink housecoat, backlit in the darkened room by the kitchen light. Weird that she startled me. We’ve been married for 32 years now, and I’m used to being able to hear her coming. I must have been even more wrapped up in this news story than I thought.

“Yeah OK hon, I’ll give the guy a break, his daughter having been killed and all. He’s still a wreck though, really he should have taken more time off than just a month.”

“Well, if I got all hacked up and chalk covered, would you go to work the next day?” She gave me her cute, pouty, fishing-for-compliments look. I knew what that look meant. It meant she wasn’t going to let me watch the news until I gave her some attention.

“Of course not baby, I’d be a wreck for years!” She leaned over and I kissed her with just enough passion to make her feel like I wanted her, but not so much that she would get excited and want me back. This way she can push me away with an “oh you!” and I can go back to the news. Works most of the time.

Rick Warslen had started up again. “… obtained exclusive closed circuit security footage of the murder of Thomas Greetly. Ladies and gentlemen, while this may be hard to watch, it will be important to identify the killer and for your own safety familiarize yourself with how these murders are being done. Children and those sensitive to violence should leave the room. The following footage is very shocking.”

“Whoops, that’s my cue to get out of the room,” Kim said, “Really I have no idea how you can watch that!” She smiled and gave me a head shake of disapproval as she left. I love her, but as soon as anything the slightest bit scary comes on the TV she either runs away or makes me change the channel. I haven’t been able to watch a horror movie in peace in years.

The camera quality was pretty good for security footage; sharp and in full color. You could clearly see the rows of cubicles and into the glass office that Greetly was working in. It was late and he was the only person there. The lights were on in his office area, but the rest of the place was mostly in shadows.

Two people entered from the left. One was a guy with longish hair wearing a vest over a purple shirt with the sleeves rolled up. He had a pair of glasses that reflected the light from the office. The other person was an older lady in a shawl and drab looking dress.

When they entered his office Greetly looked up at them and leaned back. He seemed relaxed; not at all apprehensive about his guests. The old lady walked around the desk to stand next to Greetly while the guy in the shirt and vest stood back by the door.

The anchorman’s voice cut in: “I’ve just been informed that the woman on screen has been identified as Greetly’s mother, Mildred Greetly, an 86 year old pensioner. She… oh…”

He stopped talking when Greetly’s mom pulled out the knife. It reflected the office lights brightly. She held it behind her son’s back, and he never saw it coming when she drove it down into the back of this neck.

I couldn’t help but wince and jerk back from the TV. The utter brutality of it… she didn’t even hesitate. She just pulled out the knife, positioned it in the air, and then put her whole body into the thrust. The force drove Greetly face-down onto the desk, but she wasn’t done. As he went into spasms she wrenched the knife out and then drove it back in with both hands, leaning back to lift the knife as high as she could and then bending at the waist to make the most of each thrust. One, two, three, four… blood splattering up her arms, over her face, everywhere.

The worst part was her expression. That part turned my stomach. She was smiling this big false-toothy grin as she murdered her son.

The man she’d come in with made a slight motion, and she stopped and stood back. He approached the desk and lifted his hands to hover about a foot away from the dripping body, as if giving it a blessing or something. The picture warped then, bulging out unnaturally. It wasn’t a digital interference but more like the lens was being twisted somehow. Then… everything went black.

After a few seconds Mark Warslen’s face reappeared, shuffling papers with shaking hands and a drawn expression.

“Shocking footage of the murder of Thomas Greetly. We’ve been informed that Mildred Greetly has been taken into custody. We have… yes, OK… we do have footage of her being brought in for questioning. We take you live to the 9th precinct headquarters.”

The camera cut to an outdoor scene. It was mayhem as a crowd of reporters was being held back by a few officers. The back door of a police car was being opened. The old lady was pulled out in handcuffs, blood still splattered across her face. No sign of the other guy.

She seemed calm despite the shouting from the reporters. She looked happy beneath the blood, as if all was right with the world and there was nothing to worry about.

A shout cut through the noise of the crowd: “How could you kill your own son?” She said something then, but it was hard to hear. It was something like: “There are more important things.”

They led her to the door of the station and she seemed to be going peacefully, but then suddenly she straightened up, looked around until she spotted a camera, and stared into the lens. She started shouting then: “Chalk will consume you all! Every last one! You’ll rot in the pit, and his presence will be made manifest!” The cops started shoving her faster, so she yelled over her shoulder as best she could: “We are his disciples, and we are everywhere! We’re the people you’ve loved and trusted! And we will kill you, I promise! You will be fed to he that emerges!”

Suddenly the TV switched off. Irritated I looked around and saw Kim standing next to the table putting the remote back down. That’s the second time tonight she snuck up on me! Usually she’s so stiff I can hear her stomping around easily, but there was an unusually relaxed grace about the way she was moving now.

“You been drinking?” I asked.

“You know, dear, I’ve been thinking about taking up a new hobby,” she said. I started to get nervous. First her odd behaviour and now this random phrase. Maybe it was just the crazy old lady on the TV, but all of these little unexpected things about Kim tonight were making me uneasy. I tensed up a bit and shifted in my seat.

“New hobby?”

“Yes. I’ve been meaning for some time to take up art. You’re going to help me with my first piece. By the way, have you met my friend Chalk?”

She points across the room and fear slams through my body. He’s standing there, the guy from the TV. The tweed vest and purple shirt are unmistakeable. He’s smiling at me behind shining glasses.

“Kim, get out of here, he…”

The blade gashes my right hand, pain shooting up my wrist. When I turn to look, Kim is standing over me, tugging at the knife that has buried itself in the chair. She’s wearing a big, toothy grin.

“What the hell are you doing?” I ask. She doesn’t even seem upset that she accidentally hurt me. My fear at the man’s presence hasn’t left me, but I’m more confused at that moment at what Kim is trying to do.

She pulls the blade out of the chair and winds up for another blow. I react, standing up and making a grab for her wrists to hold her back. My right hand is in searing pain and gushing blood. It’s making my arm weak, and the gleaming knife is getting closer to my face. I can’t hold her back, but at the same time I’m worried that if I push back any harder I’ll hurt her. I’d rather let her kill me than hurt her.

Still, I don’t want to die either, and a terror begins to creep in as I realize that she really is trying to end my life. This wasn’t an accident. If I hadn’t been trying to wave her off my hand wouldn’t have deflected the blade and she would have buried it in my chest.

She’s still smiling at me, showing lots of teeth, but seems calm even as the muscles strain and cords stand out on her neck in her effort to push the knife into my face. I don’t understand.

“Kim! Kim wake up! It’s me, it’s Luther!”

“I know dear,” she says, “it would be better if you stopped resisting. I’m going to kill you now.”

“W… why?”

“It’s an exchange of energy. There are…”

The tip of the blade starts to dig into my cheek, and I panic. I shove hard enough to make her stumble back, and suddenly I’m running. My feet take me down the hall, and I slam the door of the bedroom behind me. It’s only then that I realize the stupidity of this move since the door has no lock. I brace my back against the door.

“Come back dear, this really isn’t the way it’s supposed to work,” she calls. My hand is throbbing now, and I wrap a random t-shirt around it that happens to be laying nearby.

I still can’t believe this is happening. My Kim. Why would she be acting like this? Who is that man? Is she really about to kill me?

She tries the doorknob and I press back against the door, my feet sliding on the carpet. Terror wins over confusion then, and all I can think of is survival. I can’t fight back at her directly or I might hurt her, and she’d probably kill me. I need options.

I spot the phone a few feet away, and make a wild grab for it before slamming my back against the door again.

“911, what is the nature of your emergency?”

“It’s that guy from the TV! The one who was with the old lady, the one that’s getting people to kill their families! He’s here and… my wife… tell the police not to hurt her! She can’t…”

“Sir, what’s your address?”

“2654 Chrisland Street. I’m hiding in the bedroom, holding the door closed. Please hurry they’re…”

“Luther?” the operator asks.

What? How does she know my name?

“Yes,” I say.

“Luther, just open the door and let them in. They need to complete their art.”

This can’t be. It can’t be. I start to get dizzy and realize that I’ve been panting. I try to stop before I pass out. Calm down. Think.

“Luther? Luther can you hear me?” Kim calls through the door, “Let me in Luther. Chalk has created such a beautiful piece of art, and I need to bring it into the world. Just come out and sit in your chair.”

“You should do as she says,” says the operator. I hang up.

This can’t be happening. It can’t.

She tries the doorknob again and pushes. I hold it shut, but my feet feel like they just have no grip on this carpet. My heart is beating so hard now I swear I can hear it. Kim had always been a fitness buff and nagged at me to get in shape, but I’ve always preferred the couch and a strong drink. I’m regretting that now. The extra pounds I’ve packed on are going to give me a heart attack before my wife even has the chance to kill me.

She starts throwing herself against the door over and over. She isn’t holding back at all and is hitting the door with more force than I imagined she could. Maybe that guy is helping her, although it’s only one thump against the door at a time and it’s her grunts of effort that I hear. This has to be bruising her up, and she’ll break a collar bone if she keeps up this pace. The door opens an inch every once in awhile, and I keep having to scramble to keep my back against it. I’m sweating now, although more with fear than strain.

In the window across the room a face appears, looking in at me. It’s the man with the longish hair and the vest, the one Kim called Chalk. His glasses are reflecting the light and he’s grinning at me.

Madness took me then. The throbbing in my hand, the roaring of my blood in my ears, my wife… he gave me a target for all of it. I stood and ran at the window, screaming at the top of my lungs some crazy, incoherent thing. I have no idea what I was thinking. All I could think was that maybe, if I could get him, maybe somehow Kim would snap out of it.

Kim opened the door behind me, filling the window with light from the hallway and obscuring the man’s face, but that didn’t stop me. I dove, raising my arms and smashing through the glass with my elbows. I had no idea how torn up I was when I landed, but adrenaline had taken over again and I scrambled up onto my feet in the cool wet grass. He wasn’t out here. Had I imagined him?

When I looked up, Kim was looking back at me smiling from the window. “Come back here, we have important work to do,” she said calmly.

“Don’t do this, don’t kill me,” I blurted.

“Oh don’t worry about that. There are more important things,” she said. She leaned forward then and started to climb through the window, seemingly oblivious to the scrapes and gouges she was creating in her arms and legs.

I ran. Pain raged through my legs announcing the damage that I did them with my dive through the window earlier, but I was too scared to slow down. Across the street and two doors down was Frank’s house. He would know what to do, even if I was too weak and stupid to.

The street was covered in chalk drawings laid out in swirling patterns. I noticed a picture of a rotting corpse hanging from a tree, which seemed to twist and contort into another picture of someone who was being hit by a car. The detail on their broken shin and the anguish in their eyes was unmistakeable.

As I passed over the drawings it felt like the pavement itself was throbbing and vibrating. My head started spinning then, and I wondered if I would even make it across the street.

As luck would have it, Frank had left the garage door opened, and he was inside putting something away. “Frank! Frank help me,” I called. When he saw me his jaw dropped in shock. I can only imagine how I looked.

“What’s going on Luther? Are you OK? Is Kim OK?”

“Kim did this to me! She’s…” It occurred to me then that she was probably almost on top of me by then, and I turned around to fend her off. She was gone. I looked back at the house, but she wasn’t there either.

A heavy hand landed on my shoulder and I jumped, screaming. It was just Frank of course, but it was getting harder to think things through. “Calm down buddy, what the hell is going on?” He took my good arm and started to help me to his house. I allowed myself to limp a bit, wincing with every bloody step at the deep cuts in my legs and feet from the broken window.

“It was Kim, she just went nuts. She came at me with a knife.”

“Kim did that? I can’t believe it!”

“I’m not sure I believe it either, but…” I held up the blood-soaked shirt in my right hand.

“Alright buddy, I got ya. Come on in and let’s get you cleaned up.”

“What about Joan and the kids? They’ll flip if they see me like this.”

“Don’t worry about them Luther. They’ll be fine, there are more important things. Let’s just get you sorted out here, then we’ll figure out what to do about Kim.”

It sounded like a plan, but something he said sent a shock of fright through me. I couldn’t put my finger on it. What was it that he said that had suddenly turned my stomach in knots?

The truth is, I just didn’t want to think about it. I was sick of being afraid. I shoved that cold fear down as best I could and let Frank guide me into the house, all the while leaving a bloody trail behind me. Seeing the red puddles I was leaving when we got to his linoleum floor seemed even worse, somehow. “Oh man, look at the mess I’m making in your house.”

Frank chuckled. “It’s fine buddy, like I said: there are more important things.”

I froze. That phrase. The old lady said it. Kim said it. Now Frank was saying it.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“Where’s the family Frank?” I asked.

“They’re in the living room. Don’t worry about it, come on,” he said.

I tore loose and ran for the living room. I had to know for certain if my suspicions were right. When I got there what I saw ripped the last of my sanity from me, and I fell to my knees in wretched pain and terror. My horrified scream echoed against uncaring walls.

Frank’s family was sitting on the couch. His wife, his daughter, and his son. Their heads, however, were sitting on the coffee table. Their bodies were pale with powder, and blood covered everything else. Just… it was… everywhere…

I could hear Frank approaching from behind at an easy, casual pace. He chuckled a bit before saying: “I’d only just finished cleaning myself up and putting the chainsaw away before you got here. Takes a lot more work than you’d think to get blood out of the motor. Oh, hi Chalk! Found one of your runaways!”

Chalk had suddenly appeared in the moment I had looked away, standing in the middle of the room as if he had always been there. He looked down at me, smiling. The front door opened slowly and Kim walked in with the butcher knife, blood trickling down her arms and legs from wounds she didn’t seem to care about.

She walked straight over to me. I should have run, I should have fought back, but… it was all just too much. I could only weakly paw at the hand that grabbed my hair and jerked my head back. I searched her eyes for some sign of pity or sympathy or something, but there was only a kind of happy determination.

“Kim,” I whispered. It was all I could manage.

She leaned back before driving the gleaming knife forward into my chest. The pain was excruciating, but I lost consciousness before the second, third, fourth, and fifth thrusts.

Death, however, didn’t come. This wasn’t the end.

I was drawn out of myself and down into a dark corridor of rotting flesh and dust. There I joined the dozens of secret victims of Chalk, the ones that his servants had hidden along with the few they had revealed to the world. The boundaries of my identity were split open and my mind was spilled out into the gallery to mingle with the other victims. We think as one now, we the rotting dead.

We feed him from here in this pit of horror and darkness. Our essence decays and powders, feeding him on the surface world, slowly bringing his essence forth. He is so much more than even his disciples comprehend. He is a god beyond imagination, a demon from which Satan himself cowers in fear. The barest hint of him has been shown, a mere shadow. Now, the shadow grows.

Soon there will be enough of us, and his true face will be revealed. Towering and terrible and all-consuming, he will sweep across the world and consume it entirely with a gaping maw of fear and madness. All of humanity will know this dessication and despair. Suffering will be the only truth.

His power is a juggernaut now. Nothing can stop it. This is only the beginning.

Credit To – Sidney Crawlspace

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