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The Coal Yard

February 17, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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Rating: 7.5/10 (236 votes cast)

It was the summer of 1987. I was 25 years old and a city boy by nature. A product of the sounds of persistent traffic and bustling people on the move. I liked the bright lights and the conveniences of never having to stray too far from home to find anything I needed. Grocery, barber, post office, you name it. Rarely would the need arise for me to venture more than a couple miles from my midtown apartment and that’s how I liked it. Young and single, I often joked that had I not the need for a paycheck I would have no use for a vehicle. In fact, my preferred mode of transportation was my Yamaha V-Star 1100 classic. Nothing too fancy, but an all-around decent bike that I managed to pick up on Craigslist for under four grand. The summer months had come to an end but I was still taking full advantage of the warmer weather to ride my bike at every opportunity.

By contrast, I had recently taken a job as a security guard at an old retired coal fired power plant thirty miles out of town. The plant had been abandoned over a decade and remained fairly unchanged from its operating days. Large metal framed buildings and storage silos were covered in overgrowth and surrounded an enormous black pile of coal. There were a multitude of covered conveying belt systems that appeared to run from under the ground below the coal pile, working their way up to the tops of several of the buildings and structures. I would find out later that these conveyers were connected by underground tunnels beneath the coal pile. From there they would run the coal up to the tops of the other buildings where it would be crushed down and then transferred to the silos before being used as fuel for the boilers.

I was hired to work the night shift (6pm to 6am) but the pay was surprisingly good, twice that of similar jobs, and I didn’t mind the change of scenery to be honest. Beautiful night skies full of stars and things I hadn’t the privilege to notice among the incessant lights of the city. It was quite the peaceful setting with 80 acres of remote property along the river at my leisure. On top of that, the work itself didn’t get much easier. All I had to do was drive the perimeter every few hours, keep the teenagers and vagrants out, and generally just keep an eye out for anything unusual.

“You see anything unusual and you call me immediately.” I remember my boss saying to me at least three times during the hiring process.

Seemed like a dream job at the time.

Unfortunately, this would be the beginning of a series of the most “unusual” events I have ever been prone to experience.

The very first of these events began occurring by my second week on the job. Not all that unusual at the time, but looking back, I can see now that it had been watching me. Observing my routine. Looking for any weaknesses to exploit. Anything it might use to put its plan into action. Its plan to lure me into the coal pits.

It happened on a Friday night during my second week on the job. Right around 4 am, I had just set out on my final drive around the perimeter when I heard it. Not more than a mile from the little guard shack that was akin to my home base, I had been driving the small Ford Ranger that I used for rounds when I heard a sharp and terrible sounding shriek. It was short and crisp and immediately made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. I can only describe it as otherworldly and lasted only a brief moment but was enough to divert my full attention toward the origin of the sound. It had come from the coal pile.

My vehicle now at a full stop, I paused, silently staring into the darkness toward the mass of black coal. It wasn’t until that moment that I noticed exactly how much silence there was at this particular spot. No crickets chirping out the night. No frogs bellowing. Nothing but dead silence. At the edge of the coal pile I could just make out what appeared to be a bunker door that presumably led to the bottom of the nearest coal conveyer. I sat for what must have been a good ten minutes just staring, head cocked, listening for anything, hoping to hear any sign of life whatsoever. But there was only the sound of the breeze carrying on through the darkness. Must have been an animal of some kind. At least that is what I was trying to fool my mind into believing. I conveniently ignored the fact that not a single other animal sound could be heard. Shrugging it off, I finished out my rounds before retiring back to comfort of the guard shack.

Shortly after, the morning light began filtering out the shadows and I could see the regular day shift guard was pulling up in his sporty new Mazda RX8. His name was Dillman and he was the flashy obnoxious type that I had learned early on was in my best interest to minimize any interaction with. I wasn’t even sure if Dillman was his first or last name and didn’t really care. You see, Dillman was what you might refer to as a one upper. Any story you had to tell, he always had something better. If you had been to Alaska, Dillman had been to the North Pole.

Other than Dillman, the only other person I regularly interacted with at the site was Jim. Jim was kind of the fill in guy, rotating between days and nights. He filled the shifts that allowed Dillman and me to have time off. I always preferred to turnover with Jim rather than Dillman. You see, Jim and I shared a common interest.

Motorcycles.

In fact, he had been promising to ride his Harley in to work and show me exactly why my lowly Yamaha was outclassed in every which way. His love for his Harley went even further as he had at least a couple different jackets, caps, a zippo, and even wore an earring adorned with the Harley Davidson logo. All this and I had yet to see his bike, which he had assured me he would be riding in on Monday so I could have a look.

Following that Friday evening, I had the rest of the weekend off and was happy to spend some down time back in the city. The familiar sights and sounds were a pleasant respite from the long nights alone in the darkness of an abandoned coal yard. Any concerns I had soon faded as I shared my experience with some of my friends from the local bar and we all had a good laugh.

“You better watch out for the boogey man!” they joked while I tried to put my best foot forward.

“Shit” I retorted, “I AM the boogey man!” a half smile showing on my face. I was somewhat embarrassed about getting spooked and was intent on redeeming myself.

“If you’re the boogey man then we’ve all got nothing to worry about!” they floated back, my redemption not going over too well.

Later that evening I found myself drunk and staring into my bathroom mirror. They were right. I looked about as intimidating as a 12 year old girl dressed for church. I was going to have to upgrade my image. I plopped myself into bed and passed out thinking of various tattoos and locations to promote this image.

Armed with a new purpose and a brand new hand held spotlight I had purchased at my local hardware store, I was fully prepared for my Monday night shift. I had even brought along an old bowie knife that my father had given me as a teenager. It had served the sole purpose of looking cool on my bedroom shelf for years but would now provide the backbone to my new determination to man up.

Arriving to the job site at my usual time just prior to 6pm, I noticed that Jim was not there to meet me. This was unusual because we weren’t supposed to leave the place unsupervised. I assumed he must have gotten his schedule mixed up or possibly had to leave early for some reason. Being the new guy, I didn’t want to cause a fuss and get anyone into trouble so decided it best to just keep quiet about it.

That night, as I passed by the area where I had heard the shriek, I slowed to a crawl and listened intently. I had become more aware of my surroundings since that last episode and realized that it was here that the edge of the coal pile was closest to the perimeter road. It was also the only area that seemed devoid of any sounds of the usual night critters. I couldn’t help but feel a creepy chill roll down my spine thinking back to that horrible sound I had heard but was still fully determined to prove my manhood.

I decided to have a closer look.

Placing the truck in park, I grabbed my knife and spotlight and headed out toward the bunker door. It wasn’t until I was a few yards away that I began to notice the odd odor. A sort of mixture of sulfur and decaying flesh is about as best as I can describe it. It was faint enough to keep me from gagging but distinct in its own unusual way.

I directed the spotlight to the door of the bunker and saw that it was ajar by a few inches. A cool breeze emanating up from below and out the door was seemingly the source of the odd smell of decay. As I moved closer to the opening, the strength of the odor awakened a reflex that caused me to cover my nose and mouth, positioning my face into the elbow of my shirt. There most certainly was a dead animal inside this structure.

Focusing the light through the cracked doorway and into the bunker, I angled the beam back and forth so as to maximize my view without actually moving the door. Something inside my head, call it instinct or just common sense, did not want me moving this door. Opening a door that goes who knows where and harbors who knows what did not seem the brightest of ideas. Anything that might be in there would undoubtedly come flying out after me through the invitation of an open doorway. Bowie knife or no bowie knife, this door was staying put.

Unable to make out a whole lot through the small opening, I could see that the floor was sloped at a downward angle and the concrete walls were filthy, covered completely in black coal dust as far as I could see. The only thing of real note was that there appeared to be fresh scrapings on the floor leading down the passage and out of sight.

I backed away from the door and inspected the surrounding area with my light. Being this close to the coal pile brought some new perspective. The coal conveyors were much larger than they looked from the road. The nearest conveyor was a mere 25 yards away, rising out of the ground from the pile as if it had been shoved into the pile by some giant hand. It steadily rose until ending at the roof of one of the boiler buildings behind me to the south. I briefly envisioned the massive belt in operation, delivering coal from the pile all the way up and up to eventually be used as fuel for the boilers.

The smell again diverted my attention as I ventured around to the back side of the bunker and came upon what appeared to be a dead animal of some kind. If I had to guess I would have said it was a raccoon but it was in an unrecognizable state. Blood and fur littered the area around its mangled body.

At least now I had an explanation for the crazy shriek I had heard the other night. A coyote or something must have gotten it.

Satisfied with my findings and bordering the limits of my manhood, I made my way back to my truck and finished out the night uneventfully.

The next evening my boss was waiting for me at the guard shack when I showed up for my shift.

“Didn’t expect to see you here tonight.” I said a little confused.

“Ya, Jim hasn’t been in to work since Saturday.” He offered. “He didn’t even bother to clock himself out. Just up and left and won’t return any of my calls. I swear keeping this position staffed has been a real challenge lately.”

I didn’t know Jim that well but he didn’t seem the type to just ditch like that, I thought to myself.

“Happens every summer. Guys get tired of working out here alone on a nice day I suppose.” He tossed me the keys to the Ford Ranger. “Anyways, I may need you to cover some extra shifts until we find a replacement.”

He headed toward his car. “And keep a close eye out for anything unusual.”

Unusual.

Right.

As he left I couldn’t shake the thought that something wasn’t right. From the few short conversations I had with Jim, I was under the impression he really liked this job. Certainly he wouldn’t up and quit without a good reason.

The week passed and having no one to fill Jim’s spot, I found myself working the weekend. It was Saturday evening and the sun had just dipped below the horizon when I jumped in the Ranger for my first perimeter check of the night. The past week had gone by without a hitch and now that I had settled in to the routine I could see how the boredom might get to some people.

As I approached the bunker that had been the focus of my attention just a week prior, I barely gave it a passing glance. I had grown more accustomed to the layout of the structures and buildings and had actually developed a curiosity for what I might find in some of the old buildings. There was obviously still a lot of equipment and things that were worth something or they wouldn’t bother having a security guard on site. I decided on my next round I would do a little more exploring. Little did I know that my next round would be my last.

It was getting close to midnight when I headed out ready to do some exploring. There was no moon in the sky on this night with the only natural light resulting from the multitude of stars that I had become accustomed to seeing.

Passing by the old coal bunker without a second thought, something caught my eye in the driver side mirror of the Ford Ranger. I saw it only for a moment but it was enough to jolt my senses in to overdrive. Movement. Coming from the direction of the bunker. Or was it just the shadows playing tricks on my mind? Instantly and instinctively I hit the brakes and poked my head out the window looking back toward the bunker, finding myself in an all too familiar situation. There it was again, just for a moment. I strained to see through the darkness as the pace of my pulse picked up speed and thoughts began to stream through my head. There was definitely something moving over there.

I fumbled for my spotlight and thrust it in the direction of the bunker only to see the darkness transform into a bunker door. Nothing more. Only this time the door was open. Wide open.

“What are you doing in there!?” I yelled out. Only it came out more like a high pitched squeal than a commanding tone. Pictures of a 12 year old girl on her way to church bought me a few moments of false courage.

Realizing my emotional state was getting the best of me; I let out a long exhale, gathered myself, and exited the truck. Knife in one hand and spotlight in the other, I marched toward the bunker door in a trance like state to face the unknown.

As I approached the bunker, the now familiar odor of decay filtered into my nostrils and I felt my already uneasy stomach turn. I did nothing to quell the smell, just continued on, letting the intensity of the fear and adrenaline propel me forward until I found myself directly in front of the door and thrusting the light down the passage.

Nothing.

Just an empty corridor leading down into a black haze of coal dust.

My light tried to penetrate the haze but could manage no more than 15 feet or so while I listened intently, unsure of my next move. The fear and adrenaline that had gotten me this far was beginning to betray me. I needed to get out of there. Every fiber of my being was screaming at me to get out of there. Run. Yet I didn’t run. There was something there in that passage and I needed to know what it was. I knew if I ran now I would never come back here again.

With a brief glance behind me I began shuffling my way in to see further down the passage. Left foot forward, right foot up to meet it, with my upper body lagging behind as if to beg the question of my feet’s intent. My focus and my knife were directed toward the extent of passage floor that was the furthest visible point. I knew that at any moment something was going to come barreling at me from below. Following the scraping marks that I had noticed previously, I continued my shuffling motion a short way into the passage when the unthinkable happened.

A sharp slam and quick wind gust followed by an audible click sent a shockwave of emotion through my body as I knew instantly what had occurred. The door had slammed shut behind me.

Instantly, I flung myself around and put my full force into the bunker door to no avail. It was locked solid. Scrambling for a knob or any device to release me from this terrible place, I could find nothing but a smooth door held tight against the concrete walls of the bunker. Again and again I threw myself into the heavy door until my shoulder could take no more.

Panic began to well up inside my body as I felt my grip on both the knife and my spotlight tighten. I put my back against the door and faced the passage, knife at the ready, for whatever may come scurrying up from the depths to get me. I did my best to force out the pictures of nightmarish creatures running through my head. Some teenage kids pulling a prank, that’s all it was. Minutes seemed like hours as the only sound was my heart rapidly beating in my head.

Nothing came.

I stood there, crouched in the corner of the door on the defense for who can say how long. Time had ceased to exist beyond my own breathing and heartbeat.

Waiting.

As I continued my defensive posture, listening intently, a glimmer of hope shot through my head.

The Conveyors.

If I could make my way to the bottom of the conveyors, I could climb up and out to the top of whatever building it happened to go to. It was enough to provoke an immediate sense of relief that I had a way out. I simply had to proceed down the passageway and find one of the conveyers leading out. This paired with the logic that whoever had locked me in here was undoubtedly outside the bunker, provided enough courage for me to begin working my way down the passage.

I slowly followed the passage downward about 30 yards or so before it leveled out and made a sharp right turn. The scrapings on the floor continued along in front of me while my imagination dreamed up various ominous sources for its existence. A dead carcass drug down into the pits? A human? Thoughts of Jim bounced around in my head. Could he have been a victim of something sinister?

Pushing forward, the passage eventually opened up into a square room that stepped down another several feet of which was full of filthy water. Leaning into the room, I directed my light from one side to the next. Taking up the center of the room on a raised platform was a large motor and as I moved the beam of light upward, I could see metal grating above me. It was another level. This was it. The bottom of the conveyor that represented my way to freedom. I could see it rising up at an angle toward the ground above.

Surveying the room further, I located a stairwell on the opposite side of the room. This is where I needed to be.

I took one last glance behind me for assurance and dropped a leg into the murky water to test its depth. About 3 feet down I found the bottom and eagerly waded in to make my way to the other side. I barely noticed the cold water clinging to my lower body as my eagerness to leave this place had overridden any lack of comforts from my surroundings. Halfway across, my foot caught on something under the water and I tripped headlong into the murkiness. I managed to regain my footing almost immediately but in the process had lost my grip on one of the two items that were most dear to me at this moment. It was the bowie knife. A brief query of the bottom with my feet came up empty as my desire to leave this place called a quick end to the search.

My now fully drenched form continued forward until I reached the stairwell on the other side and pulled myself upward, clawing my way out of the water. My flashlight, now wet from the ordeal, began to flicker creating a new form of dread in my already stricken mind.

As I gained access to the stairs, a flash of light from the corner of the room alerted me to something else in the space. I immediately went into my defensive position and flashed the light toward the corner in question just as a bolt of light flashed back toward me. It was a small mirror jutting up out of the water and was reflecting my light. The call to keep moving took precedence and I was just about to continue up the stairwell when it hit me. Following the mirror down to the water’s surface I saw it plain as day. It was a motorcycle.

I could barely make out a portion of the logo. It was a Harley Davidson.

Panic once again rushed into every pore of my mind and body. Flinging myself up the stairs I could finally see my ticket to freedom. The bottom of the conveyor rose upward and out of this horrible place like a highway to freedom. That was all I needed to know as I thrust myself up onto the belt. Scrambling upward, I had barely moved 10 feet before I saw it. Up ahead, halfway up the belt, it sat there motionless. Grinning at me with an elongated mouth like it knew it had won. Too hideous to even be real but there it was. It looked like a shriveled up humanoid with skin that was a hairless gray and shiny like that of an amphibious creature. It’s teeth glared through the smiling lips. I saw its chest heave as if annoyed by my flashlight and it took in a volume of air before letting out a god awful shriek. I now knew the true origin of that unworldly sound. My light flickering, it began to move.

I felt my heart drop into my stomach as the panic turned to horror. The grotesque form was moving rapidly down the belt toward me on all fours, the flickering light creating a strobe affect as it approached. I could see its bony features and long skinny legs scaling down the conveyor with that bellowing grin on its face. I was stricken motionless with terror at the sight of it and as it fell upon me I could see the grisly details of its face. It was disturbingly human with thin and matted hair atop the head, large sunken eyes, sharp jagged teeth that adorned the grisly smile, and large circular ears jutting out to either side. Attached to the left ear there was something small and shiny and as I felt its teeth penetrate my neck, I made one final recognition. It was a small round earring with an embedded logo.

Harley Davidson.

I awoke who knows how long later. Hours. Days. Weeks? No way to tell. All the pain and fear had exited my body and was replaced with something new. Something even more primitive.
I could tell it was daylight as the light was penetrating from the top of the conveyor and hurting my eyes. Looking behind me, the darkness was inviting. I slipped quietly down into the blackness of the coal pits. The darkness now my greatest ally, a craving rose from within. An incredible urge to hunt.

I thought back to those words I had announced to my friends only a week before and a grim smile spread across my face.

I was the boogey man!

Credit: Randal Ray

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The SCSI Temple

February 16, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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Rating: 5.4/10 (120 votes cast)

The first time I met Ada Klesco, she caught ahold of my hand and held it for a very long time. At first, I assumed that it was just a handshake, but there was no particular movement involved. We just stood there, in the living room of a house on Lago Street that our mutual group of friends tended to drift in and out of, palms warped inwards onto one another. I began to panic after a few seconds and attempted to retract my hand in a way that could still be interpreted as polite, but she strengthened her grip. I recall a feeling of resignation as I let my arm go limp. Everyone else was in one of the back bedrooms at the time, crowded around someone’s computer, watching a music video or something. Neither of us said a word. At some point, our hands just loosened and fell apart. I’m coming up blank about the rest of that night.

I happened to see her nearly every single day during the following three weeks. Ada would miraculously appear in the chip aisle while I tormented myself over whether I should buy aged cheddar chips with a waffle cut or go the kettle-cooked-salt-and-vinegar route, and she’d pluck a bag of chips from the shelves without so much as a glance towards the brand name or flavor. I would be with someone like Gary Leqat, or maybe Sylvan “Gorlop” Tidd, walking around Groever Plaza in the early afternoon; that person, whoever he was, would get a text from her, and the three of us would go to a restaurant and eat a meal together. She would always sit by herself on the other side of the table or booth. Now that I think of it, I can’t remember anything she said during this period of time. I used to come away from these lunches and dinners with a terrible headache, though, and the impression that she had had a shrill voice and had spoken incessantly. In any case, I made it a point to seem undisturbed whenever we would cross paths. Eventually, I got so used to perceiving her in my immediate environment that I began to forget she was there.

Then it was the 10th of October. I was back at the Lago Street house, sitting in a corner of its huge living room. Gary was there. He looked very pale and seemed to have some sort of ketchup stain at the corner of his mouth; his girlfriend, Janet Cund, had gone missing two nights before and his mental state was rapidly corroding. Kestor Philips was there that day, as well, wearing a new variation of his experimental saran-wrap clothing. He sat in the center of the bare hardwood floor near a clean space where there had once been an entertainment center and tapped on a small pair of bongo drums. And then there were two or three other people I didn’t know very well, all wearing jerseys, who were standing together in the doorway leading into the kitchen, talking about something idiotic, like maybe the World Cup.

It was about three in the afternoon and we had nothing to do. The day was unusually warm and bright. The wallpaper in the living room was curling up at the seams from the constant humidity and I was starting to feel somehow asthmatic. There seemed to be cake mix sprinkled all over the baseboard near where I sat. I closed my eyes for a long time once I’d noticed a pile of empty Corn Nuts bags crammed into the corner of a windowsill.

Twenty minutes must have passed before I opened my eyes again but, when I finally did, it was just in time to see Ada sidestepping through the front door with a bottle of cheap vodka nestled in the crook of her arm. Everyone in the room turned to look at her for a split-second, but no one said anything. She stepped over Kestor’s legs and pushed past the sports guys into the kitchen, where I heard her fixing a drink. She came back out with a cloudy tumbler full of nothing but the vodka and immediately sat next to me. I started to say hi, but gave up when she turned her head towards the rest of the room and swallowed half of what was in her glass. Gary was staring at her for some reason. I think his hands were trembling.

Then she turned around so fast that the tips of her pale green hair stung my corneas.

“Here, have some,” she said with the glass held out and sloshing under my nose.

I was suddenly relieved by the possibility of getting drunk while the sun was still out, so I finished her vodka in a single gulp. My chest blossomed with the wormy heat of the alcohol.

“Thanks,” I said, “that’s exactly what I needed.”

“Yeah, I know. That’s why I came,” she said.

Under other circumstances, I would have been frightened by such a response, but I was somehow already tipsy. I began to really pay attention to Ada in a way that my sobriety had deterred me from doing before, taking in everything she said and did with a drugged sense of humor. She sat there in front of me on that sagging corduroy couch for the next hour, telling things to me. I don’t know if they were anecdotes about herself or regurgitated news headlines. It could have been anything. I just don’t remember. Although, I do remember suddenly snapping into an intense focus halfway through something she had been telling me about broken piano wires and noticing for the first time that she always wore various shades of yellowing beige. She was wearing khakis and a puffed-up Members Only jacket with thick, finely woven cuffs. I studied her technically unattractive face, with its lunar surface of chicken pox scars and its rectilinear nose. She seemed to me the type of girl who was really quite mentally dangerous, who might be into some hellish secret hobby. I was beginning to see how she might be somewhat desirable in the right context.

While this was going on, the house began to fill up with people. I found it hard to pay attention to what they were doing. I vaguely recall that someone started bickering with Kestor about how loudly he was playing his bongos. Someone else brought in an old CRT television and began to hook up a Nintendo 64; later I heard the muffled clank of the giant mechanical fish in that one level of Banjo Kazooie, swimming around in the abyss.

After about two more tumblers full of the cheap, silty vodka, Ada stood up and asked me if I wanted to walk to a cool place that she had found out in the industrial developments by the mall. The heat in the living room had grown extreme as more people flooded in; I agreed with almost no hesitation. When the slightly cooler air from outside hit me on the doorstep, I realized that my clothes were entirely saturated with sweat.

Out on the curb by the mailbox, I saw Gary sitting with his head in his hands, leaning against the crushed bumper of a white Corolla. He was very still. In fact, looking back, it was almost like he wasn’t breathing, but I hardly registered any of that. We set off down the street, the legs of our pants catching seedlings from the bobbing yellow weeds poking up through cracks in the asphalt.

We must have walked for hours—this is another span of time that seems to be completely erased. My memory comes back in at the point where we were standing in front of a towering warehouse that I had never seen before. Its outer walls were dizzying expanses of corrugated aluminum that could have been miles wide. The sun was setting and dyed the sky purple and orange as it sunk below the horizon. There were narrow windows that formed unbroken vertical lines up the several floors of the building, starting at the junction between the narrow lawn and the concrete foundation and ending at the very edge of the diagonal roof. Bright white lights were on inside. I could see people in pressed work shirts and suspenders, weaving past each other, carrying manila folders and coffee mugs.

“My dad works here, actually,” Ada said.

“What? I thought you had just found this place.”

“I mean I found out about it. But, come on, we should go inside. It’s fucking nuts in there.”

At this point, I was still tipsy, but I was suddenly starting to feel very unwell. I figured that it was probably the vodka roiling in the empty pouch of my stomach, but I think now that it must have been some suppressed instinct to sprint away from the place at top speed. Instead, I took great care not to upset myself further as I followed her up a long incline of concrete stairs. We reached the entrance, which was a set of glass doors that led into a long dark brick hallway with a funky carpet, whose pattern hadn’t been changed since perhaps the early 90s, complete with abstract polygons and renegade yellow corkscrew designs on a deep purple background.

Ada took one of my hands in hers and wove her fingers through mine. With her other hand, she pulled on the chrome door handle, which gave with a ratcheting screech as if it had not been used in a long time. When we began to walk down the hallway, I realized that there were no lights on at all, at least not on that floor of the building.

“Hey, do you even know where you’re going?” I asked.

“Yeah, it’s pretty easy to figure out. We just need to go into the big room. It’s like an indoor courtyard. You’re not going to believe this.”

“Believe what? Is there something you haven’t told me?”

The tone of Ada’s voice shifted in her response; she had caught on to my growing unease.

“I’m just doing that thing people do when they want to sound like they’re saying something exciting. Let’s just keep going. This is a fun adventure.”

Eventually, I lost visibility altogether as Ada dragged me along at a kind of terrifying pace through the blind chaos of the muted halls. We would suddenly turn a corner as if she could see in the dark. We never even came close to clipping the walls or anything. Along the way, her hand was beginning to tighten and hurt me a little bit, but I was still inebriated enough to ignore the discomfort.

We went along that way for a long time, maybe a half-hour or even more. My legs became very sore and began to lose feeling. Towards the end of this mystifying passage, the toe of my sneaker slammed into something hard, which shattered, permitting my foot to collapse into the interior of whatever it was I had accidentally kicked. It seemed to be a conglomerate of plastic and metal on the outside, because I could hear its angry clattering against the bald carpet. Based on its dimensions around my foot, I would guess it was some sort of computer monitor. Only there was another texture I became aware of as I thrashed around trying to free myself. Something cold, stringy, wet, spongy, sticky. Like a cadaverous organ that had chilled on the coroner’s table. I somehow decided that laughter was the best response, but the understated bark that shot out of my mouth was a pathetic lie, and Ada saw through my pose. Her grip clamped down on my hand, harder than ever before. I thought I felt something prick my skin for a moment.

“Fuck, that hurts. What is that, a thumbtack or something?” I asked.

“Sorry,” she said. She didn’t say anything else.

We kept going and, a little bit further down that last stretch of hallway, we stopped in front of what turned out to be a set of wide plexiglass doors. I could see a blue glow on the other side through the scuffed translucent material. Then Ada was suddenly behind me. She pushed me into what she had earlier referred to as the “big room.”

This is the part of the story that I have the most trouble remembering as a coherent whole, but I have managed to retain certain mental snapshots of what followed:

1) An indoor chamber that is at least one square mile in area, with a ceiling that seems to go up several floors higher than the exterior of the building would let on.

2) The blue glow coming from old computer screens with rounded corners, which are embedded in a jagged spire rooted in the center of the big room. The base of the spire is at least 300 meters in diameter, choked in a tangle of what at first seem to be tree roots, but are not; are instead thick bundles of grey electrical wire.

3) Ada standing within the perimeter of this glow. Her eyes seem to have a light all their own. She’s holding both of my hands in this snapshot. But her hands are not really hands anymore. They’re hard and blocky with glinting shelves of metal poking out of what used to be her knuckles.

4) A blurred struggle. Glaring white lights have come on in the room. I may be falling to the floor because Ada is looking down at me. My hand is in front of my face. There is a neat rhomboidal grid of fifty holes that has been punched clean through the meat and bone

5) Almost a mile away across the room, humanoid figures with harsh angles in their shoulders and heads that almost blend into the white interior of the room, except their outer shells are a little bit dimmer, almost yellowed, as if they’ve been in an airtight room full of cigarette smoke since George Bush Sr. was in office.

6) I’m back in the dark hallway in this one, but I can see ahead of me since there are several sources of the blue glow at my back, throwing my shadow in a hundred different angles across the awful pattern in the carpet. Almost out of range of this glow is the thing I think I had kicked going in the other direction. It really does seem to be a computer monitor of some sort, but it’s got an odd fluted curve followed by a swooping bulge in its side that is oddly reminiscent of a skull. These contours flow seamlessly into a laser-cut fan vent. A thick maroon liquid has hemorrhaged from this vent.

7) Back outside of the warehouse. I’m near the side of the building, passing closeby one of the windows on the first floor. In the melee of my escape, something has collided with it, creating a radial pattern of cracks in what turns out to be an LED screen of astronomical resolution. The bustling businessmen are frozen in the middle of their tasks, stuttering between two frames of the video feed where the pixels haven’t gone dead.

8) I’ve rounded a corner of the building and am looking over my shoulder. I see Ada clearing the corner as I struggle to get away. One of her arms has swung out in front of her. At the end of it is the reinforced plastic base of a computer cable of some type. Her hand has become some sort of pronged interface port. It is covered in drying blood. I presume it is my blood.

9) This is the final snapshot—something shiny and plastic hurtling toward my face. I can’t determine what this object is, and it almost dominates the entire mental picture, but I can see just below its blurred outline scores of beige plastic feet, some of which are covered in mud and clumps of grass.

That’s all I have left of the experience, really. That and a huge hospital bill to look forward to. As I type this account into my laptop, I’m lying in a bed in the Groever Life Center. The doctors say I have suffered a subarachnoid skull fracture and that I’m lucky that I even know who I am anymore. Oddly, they’ve said nothing about the holes in my hand, even though the nurses appear to be cleaning it and replacing the bandages while I’m asleep.

I’m starting to notice something kind of troubling, though. Even though I’m pretty sure the things I remember from that warehouse are probably just confusions caused by my head injury, the holes in my hand are definitely there. And now the veins in my forearm are starting to straighten out and form right angles where they branch off.

I’m not sure who I should talk to about this.

Credit: Charles Ybdis

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Projections: Part 2

February 15, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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NOTE: This is a continuation of a previously standalone pasta. We recommend that you read the original story, Projections, before proceeding.

September 1st, 2015

It’s been a long time since I’ve had the opportunity to log any activity on my end. Things have changed so fast.
Just a forewarning: What I’m about to tell you is crazy. The story: It is what it is, and where it goes from here—I can’t say. Just know that however way you take it will determine whether or not you’re in danger too. Observe these events, believe them if you can. But do not involve yourself, though. I’m not even cut out for this.

My name is Dylan Adams. A year ago, I sent out a post that went viral for exactly the length of time between one funny cat video and another. That post, it was a distress beacon. So far, I’ve had a lot of compliments for my creativity.
No one has reached out; no one like me anyway.
Not much time went by before it was taken down from every site I posted it on. At that time, I wondered if I even written it at all.
If you didn’t read my original blog, I urge you to do so. I’ve attached it to this post. It really makes the following explanation a lot easier to understand. Still, I’ll do my best to let you know exactly what’s going on:
My father had a very unique mind. He had what anyone would call a photographic memory. He could recall any memory in perfect detail. They did a lot of tests on him when he was a kid, and he was published in a few journals. Then they sent him on his way. Well, he took that talent and became an amazing detective, mainly because of that vivid recollection.
What few people knew was that he didn’t just see his own memories, but other people’s too. Some of the recollections were random, others belonged to those he met… like suspects for example. He was a champion in an interrogation room; able to pick out their emotions during the event of the crime, and summarize them in a way which had them literally vomiting before confessing. He was a decorated military veteran, Special Forces, and his colleagues always talked highly of him.
My father shot himself at home on my seventeenth birthday, but that’s a whole other story.
The important part is that in a way, I’ve inherited a unique mind from him. My version of it… isn’t quite as useful as his. There’s a photographic memory, and then there’s an eidetic memory or at least some abstract form of that. What happens with me is that the things I bring about in vivid detail aren’t just in my head. I see them in my real-time vision of the world. I think of my dad, and there he is, sitting in the room across from me. It’s every bit as real as the computer in front of you. These visions are called projections.
I don’t just see memories though, I see anything. Picture your worst fear, that horrible image you conjure when you can’t quite get to sleep. Think of every horror movie creature, every shock that still made you shiver hours later.
Now picture your imagination’s artistic touch on all of that—played in front of you in what could be the pinnacle of personal, virtual reality. Now, for anyone who could be unlucky enough to literally live in hell like I do because of this condition, they at least have the safety of knowing that what they see is a result of some very crossed wires in their brain, and that they are not actually there or dangerous in any way.
That comfort has never applied to me.
A psych counselor who– to his credit– had no fucking idea what he was dealing with, urged me to reach that false conclusion. He said that the next time I see anything threatening, to let it attack me.
The nightmares that I see? They do nothing other than to literally try to kill me. Whenever we meet eyes, the attack is on, and it is fucking brutal. I realized that my counselor may have misdiagnosed the situation when jaws as wide as a New York style pizza closed around my midsection and I felt the pressure bubble pop as each shark-like tooth punctured my skin and muscle.
I have those scars… and a lot more… from nights that went way worse than that. People, doctors, have seen them. They’re my only proof. I used to think, ‘Could I have done this to myself? You know, to make it real? I, at many times, was convinced that I had.
Like I said before, I can literally see anything.
I’m in Manchester, New Hampshire right now. If I look up at the sky, I’ll see brilliant stars—billions of them—and the Milky Way, bright blue and green, stretching across the sky.
It’s a city. You can’t see shit. I do, though.
At times, I’ll watch the pavement in the street crumble and fall away, opening a large pit in the ground with all these black tendrils waving around, looking for something to drag down. A car will drive over it, and the hole will disappear.
People’s faces turn into the faces of dead people, of rotting corpses, while they take my order at a drive through. I see blood everywhere. Walls, floors, handprints on doors. Bodies in the street, some sit up suddenly with hungry looks in their eyes.
Monsters. Whatever that pureed mix of fear and sadistic imagination called my subconscious can put into form, it will. These things try to kill me, and if I don’t control my mind to keep them at bay, they will kill me. Somehow, by bringing these things into my reality; they become real to me. It’s like the furthest the placebo effect can go. All this time, I’ve been able to cancel out the things I see by acknowledging it as a vision and focusing on what’s really there. It worked for a while, and I didn’t get any more scars.
Then the feelings came. It’s like that barely audible but unmistakable electrical whine from old tube-style TV’s. I think that’s how I put it in my last post. You might know what I’m talking about. Maybe not. Still, that’s what it’s like at first. It’s almost not a thing, but you hear it anyway. I hear it over everything around me. Then it builds, not in volume, but in vibration. I feel it in my teeth and hair, then in my chest; until finally my bones feel like they are rattling. My heart races, and my body twitches.
I didn’t have that feeling until last year. At the height of its intensity, some… thing would appear and nothing I could do would make it go away. So instead of running, I started killing them. If I killed one of my own eidetic projections, it would immediately vanish. These new things, they stay there. I’ve left their bodies for others to find, but no one has.
I call them ‘new’ because in my last blog, I said that what attacked me was not something I had made. It was something else, something more real in the most unreal way possible. I thought of my father, how he could see other people’s memories in vivid detail. I wondered, what if that’s what was happening to me?
I couldn’t fight the nightmares of every person I came across. My own were fucking plentiful enough. It made me also wonder if that is why he killed himself. There’s so much in one’s own life that has to be dealt with. All that baggage from everyone else? Still, there’s no way to really know.
I’ve thought of killing myself. It’s definitely more welcoming than letting any of the things I bring about end me.
I’ve been coping with the thought of seeing every one’s deep fears until tonight. Tonight, I feel like my soul is burning. …It’s a good thing.

I’m at an Irish pub in Manchester, right near the Millyard—a group of mill buildings—along the Merrimack River. There’s this older guy, kind of looks like a less fortunate Patton Oswalt in dirty clothes. I think his name is Bob. Anyway, I don’t know—I’m just drinking my fifth beer while watching the sports network on TV. Bob is talking at me about the current season of some sport that I missed at the beginning of the conversation. At first, I tried to make it clear that I wasn’t listening, but he didn’t take the hint, so I just accepted the company.
Whenever he did stop talking, I would nod towards ESPN and say, “Well what about him?” to whatever baseball or football or who-the-hell-cares was on the screen. That would start a whole new round of him going at it.
He’s gabbing on, and the whole time, I’m trying to block out the grey-skinned human with long, extremely thin spider-like legs that end in sharp spear-point fingers as he shuffles his way across the wall. Its eyes are yellow, and its desiccated smile takes up the majority of its face.
I look away and then look back; it’s not there. I tune in and out of Bob to keep them away.
Then the feeling comes, that sound. People are laughing and shouting, glass chattering amongst a room of conversation. The TV’s, almost silent beneath all the noise, are at full volume.
I can still hear it.
I tell Bob that I have to go to the bathroom, and he waves at me as if to say I have his permission. Without paying, I walk around the corner, past the bathrooms and into a kitchen full of some very confused workers. From there I find the side door and take that into the alley behind the bar. Without pause, I pace left, down the hill towards the river. My teeth are chattering, buzzing with an inaudible hum.
One thing about the Millyard is that it is an ongoing renovation project. A lot of the buildings have been turned into offices, but the lowermost floors are too decayed. They’re renovating them so they can make use of the space.
In the meantime, it’s a great place to… deal with what’s going on. The routine is similar to that of an unfortunate victim of a werewolf attack embracing the next full moon. Stay away from public places, and find somewhere you can be dangerous with the least amount of collateral damage.
The air has this moisture, coupled with the smell of the city, and it’s like walking around a giant washing machine full of mildew-ridden clothes. Most everyone I see at that hour is drunk, or fighting, or homeless. I hate everyone.
I venture past the railroad tracks, to the mill building on Commercial Street. Its basement floor is a wide span of empty space and large cement pillars. I go there, the moon is out, or at least I see it that way. The light spills in through the open window spaces.
The sensation is so strong now that I can just about tell which direction the monster is going to come from. I stand there, ready with a .45 caliber pistol in hand. The fingers of my left hand stay touching the handle of the bowie knife on my belt.
I hear a low hiss, and a scuttle. I turn right. Still nothing. Above me, I hear the rasp of a deep breath being inhaled. I duck, turn and step away in time before it drops down.
I see the red-eyed face first, almost human-looking. It’s connected to a neck, which is nearly two feet long. The thing has a shoulder span of about a yard, and its arms arch high and end in several long, scythe-like blades for fingers. It has four hairy human legs with what looks like hooves that had been crudely sewn on. It shuffles like a god damn crab.
The blades lurch back, it draws in a gasping breath and screams. The sound is piercing and unlike anything I’ve ever heard. The blades whirl. I spin and duck, leaning and twisting as they try to scoop into my body.
The thing hurls itself at me through the air, its limbs pulled back; ready to close on me. I side-step around the pillar behind me. The giant claws snap around it, sparks fly off as they gouge the concrete with ease.
I roll to the right, raising the .45 and shooting it three times in the torso. It lurches back with each shot, and as it does, I run at it.
Jumping, I snap the knife from its sheath and sink the blade right up to the hilt into the creature’s back. It bucks and howls. I use the sunken blade to gain leverage as I step up onto its spine. The pistol in my right hand levels with the back of its head, and I pull the trigger.
We both crash down with a thud, and I immediately roll off of it. The feeling is still there, so I know it’s not over. By the time I’m on my feet, I hear the approaching roar of what sounds like a big-rig firing all eight cylinders at full speed. A mass of flesh appears from the shadows, furiously charging right at me on four legs.
I dive forward, rolling again as whatever came at me misses by inches. I hear its feet scrape against the concrete floor as it slides to a stop and whirls around. I turn to see what appears to be a giant, skinless hound with enormous jaws and massive, hunched shoulders. Red ichor oozes between its jagged fangs.
My knife is still in the crab-monster’s back, so I take aim with my pistol as best as I can. My finger pulls the trigger back halfway before I’m slammed from behind. The momentum of whatever hit me lifts me up and carries me about fifteen feet before it stops and I slide and bounce across the floor. I am reasonably shocked, but uninjured.
As I rise, I meet eyes with what could be considered the zombie of Michael Clarke Duncan, only about a foot taller. He is completely naked except for the fact that his body is wrapped in coils of barbed wire. His flesh is torn, and blood continuously runs from the wounds. There’s a blackened swatch of gore where his genitals should be; it would be reasonable to say that’s why he seems so angry. His face is twisted with rage, his red teeth clenched so hard it looks like they could break. He takes these large, heaving breaths.
“Jesus Christ!” I shout in exasperation.
The hound darts to the right. It’s flanking me. Even without my blade, I run at Big Mike and scream as if I’m charging into a battle scene from Braveheart. The hulk in front of me lowers his shoulders and holds his arms out to his sides as he begins charging at me. We’re twenty feet away, then fifteen, ten, and then five before I let myself drop to the ground.
Big Mike almost trips right over me as I flop to the floor. The timing is right on, though. The hound, which had circled to my right, flies through the air and takes Big Mike right off his feet. The two crash to the ground together.
Tangled among each other, even for that brief moment, sends both creatures into a rage against each other. The hound bites the giant, and he begins punching its throat. I run to my left, stepping on the corpse of the crab. Pulling the knife from its back and without stopping, I race towards the freakish melee in front of me.
Big Mike is lifting the hound off of him and rising to his feet when I fire the first of three shots. It hits him in the back, which doesn’t even seem to get his attention. The second shot catches him somewhere on his head. He turns his face my way, and I see that it had struck the back of his jaw on the left side. The entire mandible was torn loose and hanging in a horrifying expression of gore. His eyes widen with a newfound rage, and as I’m just feet away, I fire once more. The third bullet passes right through his left eye, and he goes down.
Without losing momentum, I jump over Big Mike’s body onto the injured hound and stab at its head with all the fury I have. Its body thrashes and hurls about. One of its massive paws catches me in the chest and pushes me onto my back. The hound shambles to its feet, but is too slow to pounce. I put the remaining three bullets I have into its face. Finally, the feeling I sensed ever since the bar is gone.
I lay there panting for a moment, glad for the worn and torn leather jacket I have on because of the protection it offered against the claws and concrete. It was too hot though, so I unzip it while I catch my breath. Eventually, I’m able to stand up and dust myself off.

I’ll admit, each time I walk away without a scratch, it feels just like that post-sex cigarette.

It’s been more than a year since I’ve started fighting back against these twisted projections… those things. If I can say anything, it’s that I’ve gotten to be very fucking good at what I do. My father had been all about putting me through local martial arts programs. You know; Jiu Jitzu and Krav Magaw courses taught by Sensei’s named Jim and Carl. I had refused to go once I was a teenager, but recently picked it back up.
I thought tonight was kind of special because it wasn’t often that more than one of these things came out at a time, let alone three; but I had no clue how special tonight would be.
I step back out onto Commercial Street, feeling actually relieved despite the shit-storm around me. Those bodies didn’t disappear. That’s important to remember.
Anyway, I walk home. It’s actually not too far from the Millyard. I live in an apartment above a shitty nightclub called The Jewel. My apartment consists of a bed, an oven, kitchen sink, and a bathroom. My food is kept in a mini-fridge next to my bed. I choose the stairs over the fire escape and get settled in. I pull the pack of American Spirit cigarettes out of my pocket and flip it open. There’s two left.
“God damnit.”
After some internal debate, I decide to go to the gas station up the street for some more. My body is still charged from the hunt earlier, and I know I’m not going to bed anytime soon. I smoke my last butt on the way there. This is important because as I walk to the store, I go right by the small side street that leads down, right to the room where I killed that crabby praying mantis mother fucker and his two asshole-friends.
I don’t even look in that direction. It’s not to avoid it; it’s just the impression that nothing will come of it. Nobody sees what I can. That’s why I fight them in private. Ever see Ed Norton beating the shit out of himself in Fight Club? That’s pretty much what it is to everyone else but me. You understand then why I hold this entire narrative as suspect. Suspect until tonight.
So I open the new pack of cigarettes, turn over one for luck, and put another between my lips. It’s lit, and I’m walking back. That’s when a tiny flash catches my eye. I glance right, down the hill, and suddenly I’m frozen.
Two white vans, no windows. They’re backed up against the side entrance to the construction site. I more or less find myself walking that way, compelled to see what real life looks when it’s adjacent to the corpses of my mental by-products. If they could only see it…
I creep down the sidewalk, between the vans and the building. I glance around the corner and see figures standing inside. There’s bright portable shop-lights beyond them, illuminating the whole floor.
The men inside are dark silhouettes to me. I step into the open. I’m completely numb, dominated by the sight of the men standing around the crab’s corpse. I’m caught in this surreal moment.
I hope you understand. When you’ve been dealing with the unreal your whole life, to the point where crazy or not, you still go understandably insane; all you want or need is some kind of… grounding. Any kind of proof; something real that you can hold on to.
As best that I can, I venture back into the mill’s basement level, hoping to use the pillars as cover as I approach. It’s a bad idea. As I get closer, I can tell that the people inside are definitely armed. Their heads look huge and it’s because they are all wearing these odd full-face helmets. They look like they should have arrived on motorcycles.
They’re talking via radios, but the helmets they wear muffle their voices. I can’t tell what they’re saying, so I inch my way closer. I’m being reckless, however I can’t deny any part of the drive to see if they are actually seeing the bodies—if they themselves are actually there or just another projection.
I’m only two pillars behind them, about ten feet, when I realize just how stupid I can be.
The cigarette is still in my fucking mouth.
I didn’t even notice it until one of the men stopped in mid-sentence to say, “Do you smell that?”
I quickly extinguish the cigarette and press my back against the pillar. Hunched there, I freeze completely. Around me, light builds as the men turn to scan the area around them with flashlights. A long minute passes before I hear the men start talking again.
There are six of them. These guys are completely equipped. Full body armor, face masks, and guns that I’ve never even seen before. They are wearing all black.
I hear a series of noises indicating the movement and operation of equipment of some sort. My curiosity once again clouds over any fear I have of being found out by the random soldiers. They are at my crime scene after all. Slowly, I circle around the pillar, intending on crossing over to the one just behind them. I stay very low, nearly crawling as I move.
I have to know. Even though it seems obvious that they are here for the bodies, I have to see it with my own eyes. Just one of them touching the body and seeing it move against their fingers would be enough for me. As I approach, I lean to my right to see around the pillar. The soldiers are all facing the crab monster, and two of them are hunched down low next to it. My heart is racing, and I—
“ON OUR SIX!!” A soldier barks, cutting the tense silence. I freeze up, and the soldiers whirl around, training automatic rifles at me. The rifles have tactical flashlights on them, and I’m blinded by them.
“Woah! Woah!” I shout, raising my arms high as I climb to my feet.
That’s as far as I get before one of them put his hand around my arm. Acting on reflex, I bend my wrist down, taking hold of his arm with one hand while grabbing just above his elbow with the other. I yank down quickly, using the motion as leverage to throw my legs up and around his neck. Working with gravity and pulling down with my back, I send his head and shoulders smashing into the floor, his body and legs pass over me as I roll off and back to my feet in a single fluid motion.
I kick his helmet like I’m going for a goal in the fucking World Cup. It was hard to tell because of the helmet and body armor, but I think I hear a muffled crack when his head snaps to the side.
That was the extent of my counterattack. I am suddenly covered in the other five soldiers there. They beat the ever-living shit out of me. My ribs, my legs, my head. When it’s all over, I’m on my knees, bleeding all over the place, and my hands are bound by those flexi-cuffs.
So much for walking away from tonight without a scratch.
The guy behind me radios in that he, “Has the target in custody.”
Target? Shouldn’t he say suspect?
There is a pause, and a voice on the other end chimes in, “Orders are to execute.”
I barely hear it over the ringing in my ears, but I get the message anyway. The soldier in front of me steps to the side, and I can finally see what lay beyond them. I look up to find an entire crime scene set up around the bodies of the things I killed.
I almost cry. I can’t stop smiling. To always second-guess yourself, to fight day-in and day-out to convince yourself that you’re fucking bonkers. To say that none of it is real, and all of this is just the narrative afterbirth of a complete psychopath… and then to find proof that it’s not all a lie.
They see it! They know it’s all there!
I laugh. They look, and whisper to themselves. I don’t fucking care! It’s… it’s literally the best thing that could ever happen to me.
I never finished school. I’ve never had a real job, or a girlfriend. I’ve never been in love… or had a reasonable grasp on what that would even be like. All I’ve had are these fucking nightmares, this abhorrent menagerie of… of pure fucking evil. It was easier to convince myself that it was all me, my brain. None of this was real. The scars? The hospital visits?
If I can imagine a mound of corpses that moves as one being, trying to pull me in, then I can imagine what an everyday doctor would say to a scratch, or broken ribs, or several claw marks across my throat. It didn’t help that I lied to them every time. All of that, it was all suspect. It was all in my head.
Well these guys are real. I’m pretty sure I killed one of them. Now I’m about to be executed for stumbling along my own crime scene.
You know what? I’m happy. I’m fine with dying at this point. It’s mainly because… I was right. I WAS RIGHT! It’s not just me. Something is happening. Something is coming here. Maybe it’s because I see weird shit already that I can see them. Still, these things—the bodies that stay behind—they are real.
Just that much; that little bit of evidence, is enough for me to die happy. I don’t need the full story. Hell—I don’t even want to know the full story. I feel the soldier behind me move closer and raise his rifle.
I wanted to look up to see the moonlight once more, feeling like there was something special about it that I couldn’t quite remember. I think of my dad, and how a bullet went through his head too.
Then I see the fucking clown.
I’ve never named him. He’s just the clown. He wears a black and yellow suit with white pom pom buttons. His skin is white. His hair is dirty yellow, and the top of his head is bald.
His eyes are black and in the center, glowing red. His nose is large and red as expected (anatomically, not from a foam ball). His jaw hangs about twelve inches too low. From first glance, you don’t think there’s actually any jawbone there. The flesh just hangs loose. Then there’s his tongue. Long, wet, and black; it curls around like a tentacle in the air.
I’ve seen this god damn clown since I was about five years old. In what is supposed to be my last moment, I roll my eyes and groan. The soldier behind me barks something else into the radio. Maybe he is double-triple checking the decision to kill me. Anyway, in that moment I realize something.
Every time I ever saw one of my own projections and didn’t actively try to block it out, it would always rush for the attack no matter what I was doing. This time, the clown is just staring at me. I look back, trying to read his expression. That’s when it clicks: Real people are about to kill me.
I am fine with it, but the clown? He is here for a reason.
“If I die,” I say out loud, “you die with me.” It’s more of a realization than an explanation.
The soldiers all pause and look down. One of them says, “Are you talking to us?”
The clown stares at me, and then looks at the soldier he is closest to. In his hands, he’s holding a large mallet on a long handle. It’s the hammer for the strong-man competition. He stares at the soldier and breathes deeply.
I pause, look at the clown, and whisper, “Do it.”
The clown winds back, and at full length swings the hammer into the soldier’s head. His neck snaps with a loud crack. As he crumples to the ground, the soldiers spin in his direction. They all see the fucking clown, curse and shout with fear, and immediately raise their weapons to fire.
I look right, to the soldier closest to me. Right behind him is the clown. It’s like he teleported to where my eyes went. He swings the hammer into the soldier’s stomach, who doubles over. When he’s bent down, the clown pulls the hammer back and strikes him in the head. The solder falls to the ground. The clown swings the hammer up and over his shoulder like he’s splitting wood and crushes the soldier’s head despite the helmet.
The other soldiers fire, but the clown is gone. As fast I look to my left, the clown is standing behind the two remaining troops. The clown lifts his leg and kicks the soldier to my left. He literally flies through the air, crashing to the ground almost ten feet away.
The other soldier got the hammer. The first blow hits him right in the knee cap, snapping his leg like a dry twig. The second blow hits him right in the chest, and he literally pukes a gallon of blood which runs out the bottom of his helmet in a putrid shower. The third hit strikes when he is laying on his chest. The clown nails him right in the middle of his back. He screams the whole time, but the last hit makes him reach a pitch that is more animal than human. He shrieks like that right up to the point where the clown’s hammer makes the back of his head become the first layer to touch the floor.
The last soldier stands up, clearly shocked by what he has just seen. I look in his direction, and this time the clown is standing right in front of him. The soldier recoils in terror. That’s when the clown’s tongue shoots out. That long black tendril coils around the soldier’s neck. He reaches up to tear it off, but he can’t. The clown draws him towards his low hanging jaw. Suddenly, that jaw takes a new shape as it opens impossibly wide. Enormous, dirty fangs appear as he closes that fearsome mouth around the soldier’s head, shoulders and torso.
A chorus of the most horrible cracking and snapping, gushing and grinding noises ensue as the clown chews and tears his way through the soldier’s still scrambling body. He twists his head left and then right before snapping back, severing everything he bit onto and leaving a gigantic chunk missing out of the top of the soldier’s body. His severed arms drop to the floor with his half-torso and legs. Blood is literally everywhere.
I kneel there, completely astonished by just the pure violence of what I had just seen. My hands are still bound. The clown side steps in a silly way until he is in front of me. It is like he’s acting drunk. There is this brightness in his eyes, the thrill of the kill I suppose.
He walks towards me, kneels down in front of me, and put his face right to mine. Deep, labored breaths flow from his cavernous mouth, smelling of rancid rot and fresh blood. I stare back at him, unaffected by his horrifying countenance.
“The rule still stands,” I say firmly, “I die, you die.”
He spins to the side, and my body clenches. I anticipate the hammer, but instead I feel something near my hands. The flexi-cuffs fall loose, and I am able to put my hands on the floor in order to push myself to my feet. The beating I got has me very weak.
I turn around, but the clown is gone. I don’t miss him at all though. I stumble out, bloody and shambling onto the sidewalk. Despite the pain, a smile stays on my face.
The vans have dash-mounted cameras. I carry myself over to the one on my right, and lay myself across the hood. Mustering the fire in my heart, I raise my arms and present two prominent middle fingers to the camera lens.
Satisfied, I stumble up the sidewalk towards home. My cigarettes are crushed, except for two. I’m fine with that, though.
If someone had called in my earlier gunshots, there would have been cops there. There was just the two vans. I leave behind every body, but none of them are ever found. Suddenly, my mind is given new pieces to a puzzle it had long given up on. It all made sense in the craziest way possible:
The ‘New Things,’ they are real. That’s why their bodies don’t disappear, and it somewhat explains that new feeling I have. As far as why I can see them? Well because I can see shit that shouldn’t be there already. I just have the brain for it.
As for the clown? That’s my second breakthrough. In no way was I controlling him, but he did fight for me. And when he attacked those men, he became real to them as well. When he was done with his bludgeon-filled slaughter? He still didn’t kill me. I laugh at the thought of it, but tonight was the first time my life was sure to end by something other than a projection or nightmare; it was the first time I was threatened by something real.
It hurts my brain to even think about this, but something about my life has established a hierarchy of ‘what is real’ around me. My projections are like ghosts, harmless unless I let them attack. I know they can kill me if I don’t force them out of my mind, but to see one of my own fucked up memories, that fucking clown, kill other people? It means that they in some way are real too.
Then there are the new things, the monsters that bring about the vibration I feel. I know I’m fucked in the head, but not so fucked up as to imagine the nature of the things I see (or feel) coming into this world. Those are someone else’s projections, but whose?
So much horror and tragedy, loneliness and doubt; all of it centered around the question of ‘What part of all this is real, if any at all?’ Imagine my surprise to find out it’s all real, even if it makes no god damn sense.
After all these years, tonight was the first time I could look at one of my demons and reach a common understanding. I wonder, does that mean the clown will begrudgingly defend my life to protect his own? What about the countless other grotesqueries my brain has made over the years?
If there’s a chance they will all fight for me… I could have an army.
These people that showed up tonight. They were studying the creatures, not me. Still, they called me the target. They know about me then.
What does that mean?
Either way, this is huge for me in a way I don’t think you’ll ever understand. I’m not lost, not completely insane. Something is happening, and like it or not, I’m involved. I will see this through to the end.
Choosing the fire escape this time, I pull myself haphazardly up the ladder toward my apartment. They’ve been following me, I realized. They’re taking the bodies after I’m done. But where?
There is only one way to find out. I will leave them more bodies, and when I can; I’ll follow them.

Will write again soon.
-D.A.

Credit: Spencer Jackson

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Miss Delsy

February 14, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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The house was nestled into the depths of the woods, and from a certain distance the only evidence it existed was a small column of smoke in the evenings. No one ever went that deep, though. The woods themselves were believed by the locals to be haunted, though the specifics of the hauntings vary to the point of over-active imaginations. A cow flying, for instance. I’ve heard that one many times. What the story-teller fails to realize is that to give his tale credence, it requires a semblance of truth. The amount of ethereal power a ghost would require to lift a cow would have to be incredible. That’s why in most cases we see smaller objects moving. A picture frame falling to the floor. A tea cup rattling at an empty table seat. Bearing these things in mind, the story of this mysterious house is quite unbelievable.

I arrived on one such evening where the smoke column was visible. The gray wisps died off in the sky and melded flawlessly with an orange and purple sky. The town itself sat safely five hundred feet away from the woods. It contained all your typical small town commodes, and the local inn was no exception. I stayed the night, and, to pass time, amused myself by inquiring the origin of the smoke. I was not disappointed.

The eldest man in the room required little motivation to spout out bits of information in the form of a faded recollection of past events. Past events that happened before his time; missing children, mutilated bodies, rapes, objects moving. You know, the usual. But, the one alarming occurrence he related was that of the woods itself. He claimed that, in the early hours of the morning before the sun has risen, the believed-to-be-former occupant of the house, a Miss Delsy, a woman who was trying to invent a flying house based on works by da Vinci, attempted to make contact with her recently deceased husband. Her chosen method, the elder reports, was using a spirit board. In my experience, such reckless methods end with either disappointment or a one-way trip to an asylum. Regardless, he continued to say that Miss Delsy had in fact communicated with her late husband, but that he was not the only one to hear her call. After a brief reunion, the Delsy home shook violently, causing a local gale within the house, tossing belongings here and there. Miss Delsy was horrified, naturally, and got up from her fallen position to run from out her front door. However, she stopped dead in her tracks after having opened the door. Her house was flying! She stood spellbound as she watched the town get smaller and smaller. Soon she was over the woods, and her wails went unnoticed by her neighbors. Then the house stopped moving, and fell to the ground. To this day, one hundred and fifty years later, no one has dared to enter the woods to discover the fate of Miss Delsy.

I thanked the old man for his tale and retired to my room. The only window in the room gave me a lovely view of the woods. The full moon shone brightly over the treetops, but the smoke remained. It was to this view I fell into troubled sleep.

I was surrounded on all sides by a squadron of menacing trees, their bark as black as tar and their leaves dripped a mysterious maroon liquid. The moonlight glittered on the ground in front of me, the silvery beams barely piercing a blanket of leaves. In the distance, I heard a terrible scream. Only, it wasn’t a single scream. It was as if a great many people were meeting their demise. The branches of the trees bobbed up and down with a mute laughter, and I ran with haste to escape this haunted wood. At last I came upon a small clearing whereupon a lonely house stood with smoke lazily lifting itself into the atmosphere. The scream resounded again, and to my horror it was emanating from within the house. The ground beneath me began to shift, and I found myself being pulled towards the house as though it contained a powerful gravitational center. I tried running away, but in my haste I tripped, and I felt strong hands grasp my ankles. Soon, my own scream melded into the symphony as I was dragged to the door.

I awoke with a cold sweat to find myself once again in the safety of the inn. As I removed my blanket, I stifled a scream. On my ankles were large red hand prints. I quickly gathered my things and rushed out of the inn, but not without leaving a few coins for the innkeeper. I was just about to exit when a hand grasped my arm and pulled me back. It was the elderly man who had I had talked with the night before. He saw the look of fright in my face and inquired, “You dreamed of it, didn’t you? You dreamed of the house?” I could only respond with a nod, as proper words wouldn’t find their way to my lips. He released his hold on my arm. Before I could ask any questions myself, he spoke again. “Running will not save you then. All who’ve had the dream have two choices; Death, or the venture into the woods to find the truth themselves.”

“Death by what?”

“If you try to leave the town boundaries, your heart will simply stop beating. Likewise, none who’ve gone into the woods have ever returned. I’m afraid you’ve condemned yourself by visiting this town, sir! Woe is I who have to look upon the living dead!” he cried as he took a seat at the empty bar to stare into his empty palms. I assumed the man to be senile, and made to leave the town as quickly as possible.

I had just passed the final house of the town when I felt a sudden light-headedness. I put a hand to my chest and despaired to find my heartbeat failing. I went back into town and the feeling went away, and my heartbeat regulated. I determined my only hope of survival to be a journey into the woods.

My brisk pace brought me to the edge of the woods in less than an hour, and the morning sun of September brought welcome solace to troubled mind. I turned around one last time to view the town, and found a visage in every window, some of which were praying. All were watching. After a deep breath, I entered the woods.

Sunlight pierced the frail covering of the treetops, and my heart calmed significantly at the pleasantness of New England in autumn. Birds sang from hidden stages, their curtains a pleasant weave of green, orange, and red. I assumed a leisurely pace, taking in the beauty and convincing myself all this was a good omen.

I had walked in a straight line for what seemed like hours. My legs were weary, and I decided to sit down. I rested my back against a tree. It wasn’t long before the tranquil aura set my mind to rest and my body to sleep.

When my eyes opened, the sun was beginning to set. The peaceful atmosphere was dissipating, and the woods were starting to resemble my dream from the night before. I decided to move with all haste to the house using the smoke as a guide. I could barely make it out through the trees. I began to walk at a brisk pace towards it, and, just as the sun removed itself from sight, I came upon the clearing with the lonely house.

Before the invisible forces could start to pull me towards the house, I decided to go forwards of my own free will. The door knob was ice cold, and before I could turn it, it turned itself and the door swung open, tearing the knob from my grasp. I entered and found it to be a rather cozy one room home. However, not a living soul could be seen. The door slammed behind me and I jumped. The screams echoed once more, and I covered my ears with my hands in a vain attempt to mute the sound. Once it died down, I tried the door. To my despair, it didn’t open. I tried to ram it open, and an invisible force threw me to the ground. I was too dazed to stand back up. To my left, from under the bed, a rotten arm reached out to pull the body it belonged to out. I scuttled to the far side of the room. It was then that I realized that I’d left my pack in the woods. I didn’t even have my crucifix with me. I was defenseless. A second arm reached out.

The hands had found their grip and began to pull itself out from under the bed. It was halfway out when it finally lifted its head from the floor. An empty face stared at me with pitch black eyes. My fear had left me paralyzed, and all I could do was shudder. It had finally reached me and grabbed hold of my foot when I could hold onto my scream no longer. And, as I did so, it screamed as well, until I found that my voice had melded into its Hellish orchestra.

I awoke once more at the inn, and found once again I had a cold sweat. The elder had told me I could discover the truth or accept death. What truth was there to be found? And that putrid being beneath the bed, who were they? I once again walked down the stairs and found the old man in his usual seat. I took the stool by him and he turned to me at once, the bags beneath his eyes a most hideous shade of purple and red as though he’d recently taken a few good hits to his face.

“You’re back. Most who experience the dream even once decide to accept death. Twice, now. Twice you’ve met her and still retain the will to go on. I admire your courage, stranger.” He stretched out a liver spotted hand and I took it wearily. “Linwood.”

“Burke,” I replied, releasing his hand and folding mine on the counter. He pushed a cup of tea in my direction, but I let it sit for a bit. “You told me to discover the truth or let death take me. The truth of what?” I asked, pacing my questions so as not to overwhelm him or seem eager, despite my being so.

I heard a sigh escape his lips, a sigh of remembrance and pain. “The truth, no one knows. A man who wandered here a few years ago had the dream. The woman spoke to him, telling him he must find the truth or face his end. He lasted not two days afterwards, tearing the town asunder with desperate questions. Alas, he made no progress.” He regarded my face. “You want to know who she is. My good sir, she is none other than Miss Delsy herself. Surely you could’ve presumed as much so far.”

I brought the tea closer to me, frivolously striving to preserve its warmth. “The wretch is no woman, Linwood. ‘Tis an unholy beast, a mockery of beauty and life. If I am to face her again, what am I to do?” I sipped the tea, feeling the heat slither down my throat and into my stomach.

Linwood finished his own tea, and I could see the bitter taste warp his lips slightly. “Muster your courage. Scour the house she lives in. Speak to her, if you are able. I fear another night will be necessary, Burke. God be with you,” he said, and I could hear his genuine sincerity. He looked once more into his empty teacup, lost in thought. I left him sitting there, and prepared my mind for another journey to the evil heart of the woods.

I moved faster this time, and stopped for nothing. I would have plenty sleep should I solve this mystery, and plenty more should I not. I made it to the dim hut in half the time as before, the smoke trailing to the sky as a ghastly serpent. Determination filled my spirit, and I strode to the home as a man with nothing to lose. Once inside, I found the interior to be much the same as before. I checked under the bed firstly, not wanting to be caught unawares again. Gingerly I took the sheets and steeled myself for what might be beneath. In a swift motion I removed the sheets and peeked. Nothing but cobwebs and dust. I breathed a sigh of relief, but what was on the bed caught me by surprise.

It was none other than an ancient spirit board, its letters barely visible through the fade of time. A planchette sat beside it. Daylight came in through the window and fell upon the board, as though Heaven itself were willing me to use it. In my heart of hearts I knew, however, Heaven had no place here. Regardless, I sat on the bed and turned the board so the letters were facing the correct direction. I focused on my breathing, and took the planchette in my hands, my thumbs on the bottom side while my fingers rested on top. I wasn’t sure of what to say, so I moved the planchette to the center of the bored and simply asked if anyone was here. Despite my earlier notions of these devices as nothing more than lies, I still felt chills tickle my spine as well as a strange increase in my awareness. I could hear wind caressing the leaves of the forest, could hear each crackle of the fire and the smoke forcing its way to freedom, and every color seemed more vibrant. Even the gray paper on the walls seemed worthy of further inspection. I was about to do so when I felt her. Her physical presence I could not see, but I could feel decayed and cold flesh place itself on my fingers. I knew better than to ask who it was, as Linwood had filled me in. Instead, I had a far more important question.

“Why do you haunt these woods so? Why do you haunt me?” I asked to the seemingly empty air in front of me. With a gentle force I felt the planchette move, and I was so deeply entranced I almost forgot to look through the glass at the letters.

“Trees,” it spelled. I pondered a moment, then came to the realization her body was lying in the woods, presumably unburied by her manner. I nodded my understanding, not quite sure how to communicate so. Then, it moved in answer of my second query. “Clean.” This stumped me, as I had bathed only four nights ago. Unless, she wasn’t referring to my skin. My spirit, mayhaps? That must be so, but what of the rest of the town? I spoke that aloud, and was treated to, “Native.” I wasn’t sure how that was supposed to make sense, but at the same time I made sense from it. For whatever reason, only travelers were afflicted with this dream. That must mean the locals took no interest in Miss Delsy’s fate, and relied on foreigners to save her. That was the truth I must discover.

I congratulated myself on my wit in the situation and said goodbye to Miss Delsy’s spirit, when the icy hands clenched my wrists and held them to the planchette. I struggled in vain, and read the words, “Look at me”. The hands moved mine and the planchette up into the air, and when I looked through the glass, the fight went out of me. Looking at me, from beyond, wasn’t Miss Delsy at all. Instead, a man looked at me. He disappeared, and I could hear a voice crying from the next dimension. “Save my wife”.

The sun was laying itself to sleep to allow the moon its time on the stage when Mister Delsy left me. So he’d found rest, and was bringing wanderers into the woods for them to save his wife, who apparently was having trouble moving to the great beyond. I knew then what to do. Bury Miss Delsy and pray for a safe voyage to join her husband. But where to look? The woods were vast indeed. I dared a glance at the sunset and was treated to a glimpse of the man who was Mister Delsy walking under the canopy of leaves. I was eager to move on and get this over with, but as I got off the bed, the sound of laughter stopped me.

It had come from just outside, on the other side of the window I had just peered through. As I looked back, I caught the barest trace of long hair. Then, a knock at the door. Linwood’s words of courage came back to me, and I answered the door, silently telling myself that no ghost would garner one more ounce of fear from me.

I opened the door wide, and Miss Delsy’s horrid face greeted me. Her body was elsewhere, however, as the only thing beneath her head was an incredibly long neck. Worms and maggots creeped along the flesh of her neck. She released her vile scream upon me, and I responded with a swift hit to her nose. Her head flew back a few feet, and her neck followed like a string to a ball, flapping oddly in the breeze. I took advantage of her position and ran into the wood where I’d last seen Mister Delsy.

The trees were black as they had been my first night, the red liquid still streaming off their leaves. I was no longer afraid, even though the liquid fell upon my skin. When I wiped it off, I realized it was blood. I heard Miss Delsy shriek again behind me, and I dared a backwards glance. My courage failed me when I saw her. She was flying towards me, her feet barely touching the grass, though her head had found its way back to her shoulders. She wasn’t what caused my heart to sink, but what was falling in line behind her.

The house had fallen into a great chasm in the ground, fire bursting forth with an intensity that rivaled the very sun itself. A black, clawed hand took grip on the cold earth, destroying the life beneath it. Another hand found its way as well, and pulling itself upwards I could feel my hope as a tangible essence, being pulled forcefully away. Its head I’d seen before, in a French encyclopedia I’d perused from mild interest. Belphegor arose, his head a motley mix of red and pink, black goat horns, a large nose, and a mouth which contained teeth that seemed to come from a creature which dwelt at the very bottom of the sea. His beard was as black as his horns, and his fiery eyes were fixated upon me. Miss Delsy had fallen in league with a prince of Hell, for what purpose I could only imagine.

My mind found its sanity, and I ran with all speed through the dreary trees, following sights of Mister Delsy as I went. The anguishing wails of Miss Delsy mixed with the ground quaking steps of the demon, and soon the crash of trees followed. My lungs were failing me until finally I saw a corpse in a circle of moonlight. There was a strange beauty that I could not put my finger on. For a few moments, it was only me and Miss Delsy’s body, and the softest breeze carried blood red leaves gently downwards, the moonlight giving the body a gloomy, saddening spotlight. Almost all her skin had been rotted away, hair long gone, but some flesh remained as well as some clothing. And, though I couldn’t see him, I knew Mister Delsy was there, weeping for his fallen angel.

I came back to myself quickly, the beauty of the moment gone. Miss Delsy and the demon were closing in, and I hadn’t the slightest clue of how I was to bury her with so little time. I hadn’t even thought to bring a spade with me. In answer, a crucifix that had once been on the wall of a home and a shovel that had once shoveled coal into a fireplace fell from out of the trees. If that wasn’t a gift from the Heavens, I wouldn’t know what is. Frantically I dug into the earth, finding the soil easily moved. With every heap of dirt moved, I prayed a word of thanks.

I had a decently sized hole for Miss Delsy’s corpse when her spirit was upon me. I could feel her presence chilling the sweat on my back. “Let me help you, miss,” I spoke, almost out of energy. Her response yet another scream, but she was cut short. A peaceful blue light emanated from behind me and I turned to what it was. It was none other than Mister Delsy himself, holding the raging spirit of his wife in a loving embrace. He had his nose in her sinister locks, and her head was pressed against his chest. He bothered himself to grant me a nod, then returned his full attention to his wife. Belphegor’s thundering steps grew closer, but I took no heed. God himself was with me, I was sure of it. That, or by His will he sent Mister Delsy to guide me. Even the blood curdling roar of the beast had no effect upon me.

I took Miss Delsy’s body in my arms with all the care of holding a new born infant, and laid her to rest. I replaced the soil, and planted the crucifix just above her head. I knelt down and spoke the Lord’s Prayer, and after I did so, I could hear Belphegor’s retreat to Hell. He was attempting to claw his way out, but to no avail. I rose to thank Mister Delsy, but his specter, as well as that of his wife, had vanished. In their place was a small crucifix, a child’s version of the one I’d planted, only its silver caught the light in such a way that reminded me of the blue light that had radiated from Mister Delsy earlier. I placed the token in my pocket, and began the long trek back to town.

I returned to the inn just as the sun decided to wake, a yellow sphere barely peeking over the woods. Linwood was walking down the stairs to take his seat as I entered. He stopped dead in his tracks and made the sign of the cross. “My God, Burke. Have you done it?”

I was exhausted from the night before and the lack of sleep, so I gave him the shortest explanation I could. At the mention of Belphegor, he simply nodded and said, “Ah yes, the prince who helps people in their discoveries. He must have appeared to the widow Delsy when she wanted to make her house fly. The poor woman…” I finished my story, and told him the couple now rests in peace. I begged his pardon, and promising to speak more upon the subject when I awoke. I returned to my room at the inn for well-deserved sleep. I closed the curtains, feeling weariness overcome my body. The simple cotton bed seemed to me a fitting reward for the night’s accomplishment. I fell upon the bed, sleep taking me instantly. And, when I dreamt, I saw not demons or ghosts, but Mister and Missus Delsy, in each other’s arms and giving me their thanks. The woods were gone from the dream, and the sky was the gleaming gold of a dragon’s horde. A lovely gate sat on a cloud, its keeper greeting the couple with open arms. They bid me a fond farewell, and that they awaited for the day when I could join them.

Credit: David Majewski

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The Darkness

February 13, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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This is a story from my childhood, one which I have not told anyone except for my wife; just thinking about it still sends shivers down my spine. I grew up in a small house with just my mother. It was a nice little house with two bedrooms upstairs, a small living room and kitchen on the main floor, and a basement where I kept all of my toys. The basement had a small storage room in the back, lit by a single light bulb. It wasn’t until I was seven years old that I started to get scared to go down there.

It was a dark, rainy night as I played with my Lego’s in the basement. Rain water slowly dripped through the window and down the cement wall. It was cold down there that night, more so than usual; I was wrapped up in my hoodie and a blanket as I played. While attempting to build an airplane out of my Lego’s, I suddenly got a chill down my spine followed by the overwhelming feeling of being watched. I turned and looked behind me toward the dark storage room. Something drew my attention to the room, but I couldn’t see what it was. It seemed darker than usual; I didn’t think a room could get that dark, especially with the lights on in the room adjacent to it. It almost seemed like there was something in there drawing away all of the light, sucking it in like a black hole. I stared into the darkness at seemingly nothing, until I saw something move. I didn’t know what it was, but it seemed even darker than the room. I saw it for just a second before it disappeared; as it did, I could see light slowly start to trickle into the room. This terrified me, so I ran upstairs to the living room to seek comfort from my mother. When I told her what I had seen, she just told me that it was my mind playing tricks on me because of the heavy rain outside.

I went to bed that night not thinking much about what had happened in the basement. I lay back in my bed and closed my eyes just like on any other night, and I fell asleep rather quickly. Although I fell asleep like it was a normal night, the night was less than normal; I woke up that night with the feeling of being watched. I opened my eyes to see nothing but darkness; I couldn’t even see the light from the street light outside of my window. Thinking that maybe my blinds were closed, I looked across my room for the soft, green glow of my alarm clock, but it wasn’t there. At that moment, I realized that this was a lot like the darkness I had seen in the basement and that scared me. My fear doubled in an instant when I thought I saw movement in the darkness. In my terror from seeing that there was something in my room, I pulled my blankets over my head and screamed. In the midst of my screams I heard my door open, and the soft call from my mother. As she sat down on my bed, I slowly pulled my blankets off from over my head and looked around my room. The light had returned to my room and I could now see the soft glow of my clock blinking at 2:17am, and the light from the street light outside my window with my blinds fully open. My mother asked me what was wrong, and I told her what had happened; reassuringly, she told me that it was just a nightmare and to go back to sleep. She gently kissed my forehead and left my room, closing the door behind her. It was hard for me to fall asleep after that, so I just watched my clock slowly tick away the minutes.

This went on for about two or three months, staying at this level of activity; nothing more than the feeling of being watched in the darkness, however, that all changed on Halloween night. It was a typical Ontario Halloween night; cold, windy and rainy. I had returned home that night from trick-or-treating with my mom at about eight o’clock and went down to the basement to play with my toys for a bit before bed. I could hear the rain tap against the basement window, and the wind whistling as it blew between my house and my neighbour’s house. Something was unsettling in the basement that night, more so than usual. As I played I thought I heard sounds coming from the storage room, but every time I looked there was nothing; this was nothing strange to me as it’s been happening for the last few months, so I continued to play. I played for about ten minutes when the power suddenly went out, and that’s when everything changed. As soon as the power went out, I heard more movement from the storage room behind me. I immediately looked behind me to see a quick flash of red light, and then darkness. As I stared, I could hear footsteps from the dark room, but I could see nothing. The footsteps slowly made their way toward me, the darkness somehow getting darker as they approached, until they suddenly stopped. I moved my eyes around the room, careful not to move any other part of my body in fear that whatever this was would see me. I looked around the room, trying to see what this thing was, but I could see nothing; it was so dark I couldn’t even see my feet. I wanted to run upstairs to the safety of my mother, but I was frozen in fear so I didn’t move a muscle or even breathe.

I sat in silence, listening for whatever was in the room with me. I couldn’t hear a sound, not even the rain on the window or the wind between the houses. As I listened, the hair on my arms and the back of my neck stood up on edge, and I got chills down my spine, and that’s when I heard it; a deep voice whispered into my right ear “You will be mine, Robert.” I instantly screamed and ran to the stairs, tripping on toys along the way. I made my way up the stairs and through the door to the living room, slamming the door behind me. I ran to my mother, crying and she held me not knowing what was going on. I told her what had happened, but she just told me that my mind was just playing tricks on me again; what I had heard was just the wind, but my mind exaggerated it because of the darkness. From that moment in the basement, no matter what my mother said, I knew that whatever this thing was, it was real.

From then on, I refused to go into the basement alone; in fact I didn’t like going into the basement at all! The activity in the basement itself settled down a little bit because I was never alone down there after that incident, but I still had trouble sleeping. I would wake up at night with the feeling of being watched to see nothing in my room but darkness. I would lay there staring into the darkness with my blankets pulled up to my neck, hoping there was nothing there, but after a few minutes I would hear that same voice again; “You’re mine, Robert.” The second I would hear that voice, I would pull my blankets over my head and scream, causing my mother to run into my room and every time she would say it was just a bad dream. This sequence would go on at least twice per week until August of 1998 when the activity escalated yet again.

My mother had been dating her now husband for a while now and we were preparing to move into his house. I was going to be on vacation for two weeks in Quebec with my grandparents as my mom moved our things into the new house, but what happened my last night in that house still terrifies me to this day. I had fallen asleep easily that night, excited to be leaving on vacation the next morning, but the rest of the night would not be so easy. I woke up again that night, this time to the sound of breathing; I opened my eyes to see nothing but darkness yet again. Thinking that my mother was in my room with me, I called out to her: “Mom?” but what answered was definitely not my mother. It was that deep voice yet again; “Your mother is not here, she can’t help you Robert. You’re finally mine!” I continued to stare into the darkness thinking that it was my imagination, but as my eyes adjusted to the darkness I could see the silhouette of that dark figure standing at the end of my bed. I immediately pulled my blankets over my head and screamed, but my mother didn’t come. I felt pressure on the end of my bed, as if someone was sitting on it; I screamed again. Suddenly, I felt something grab onto my ankle under the blankets and pull. I somehow managed to turn onto my stomach and grab the end of my mattress, but it only gave me a few seconds before it shifted and I was pulled right out of my bed. I continued to scream, louder than I had ever screamed before. Finally I could hear my mother get out of bed and make her way to the door, only this time when she reached it, the door did not open. The entity continued to drag me toward the door as I continued to scream; I could hear my mother pushing against the door trying to get it open without success. As it dragged me across the carpet, I tried to grab onto anything that I could, but the only thing that seemed to work was the foot of my bed. I stopped as I took hold and I finally stopped moving toward the door. I could feel the entity begin to pull harder, hard enough to lift my body off of the carpet, but I managed to hold on. As I fought the entity, I could here my mother struggle with the door. It took my mother a good two or three minutes to finally get the door open.

As the door finally opened, light returned to my room and I no longer felt the grip on my ankles and I fell back to the carpet. I looked around the room, terrified. My room was a disaster; the sheets were in a ball on the floor, by mattress was half off of my bed frame, and my bed was no longer sitting flush with the wall but pulled off about three feet. I looked around for the entity, but it was no longer there. My mother held me tight as I cried on the floor, not knowing what happened only thinking that it was a really intense nightmare.

I spent the rest of that night in my mother’s bed, but did not sleep. The next morning, I could see the rug burn on my arms and elbows from being dragged across the carpet. I looked at my ankles to see they were red and swollen, but harder to see were the little scratches along the top of my feet. That was my last night in that house, and I’m glad that it was.

To this day, I do not know what this thing was or what it wanted of me, but thinking of it still scares me. In my adolescent years, and even now that I’m in my mid twenties, I have what my doctor has only described as night terrors; I wake up in the middle of the night to see nothing but darkness and as I stare into the darkness I see a figure, even darker than the darkness around it. I still scream when I see the silhouette the darkness. Now that I’m older though, I have more control over my actions; I take a flashlight and shine it through my room, or I’ll turn on the light switch. Many times I’ll just wake up screaming, sometimes even running out of my room, with no idea why. I do not know if what I see is the same entity that stalked me as a child or if it’s just my imagination digging deep into my subconscious, but the entity still haunts me to this day. I just pray that whatever this is does not start going after my wife or our future kids.

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Soldiers of Misfortune

February 12, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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“We knew we were scouting for caves, but didn’t have an exact search location. The Sarge had us pair off and reconnoiter in all four directions. Bradley and Jones were the first ones to lose audio contact, although we could still track their movements on our grids.”

“Munch and Green were next to go. Same pattern, loss of audio, but still registering on the O-watch grid. Everyone seemed to be converging in one place. Charley and I then changed direction to meet them.”

The man in the chair was speaking quietly to his superior. He didn’t keep the fear from coloring his voice or causing it to quaver.

The Captain, himself, was conducting this interview with the Corporal. He wanted to hear first hand of how the death of five of his elite fighters came about. He studied the survivor across from him, letting the man talk freely.

“We were operating under the assumption they had found the caves, and they had. We followed their tracks inside. That’s when we realized we too, had lost audio contact.”

Corporal Bryce’s skin was as gray as the chair he sat perfectly upright in, a testament to his training. There was a glass of water and a pack of Marlboro Lights set in front of him, on the table. He had been given permission to smoke and so far had ignored the cigarettes, though the Captain knew he was a two pack a day man.

“Truth is, we weren’t prepared, sir. It would’ve been nice to know just what we were up against. Bravo company was nearly wiped out because higher brass didn’t give a shit about a buncha grunts. No offense sir, it’s just the reality!”

The Captain noted the bitterness in Bryce’s voice, but gestured for him to go on.

“No one told us these… creatures … were fast, and I swear Captain, I’d never been so afraid for my life as when I first saw one of those… things … hunting me and Charley.”

“It sucker punches you twice, when you recognize they were once human. The shock of it nearly got me killed. As it was, they took Charley, sir, just up and snatched him.”

Bryce was wearing a pair of protective eye gear, making it tougher for his superior to ‘read’ his face. Since being retrieved from the mountain, Bryce began suffering from photophobia. It had worsened quickly.

The docs, finding no reason for it, thought it might be psychosomatic. The trauma Bryce had gone through, whatever he had witnessed in that warren of caves, was too much for his brain to process, so he went ‘blind’.

Bryce’s rasp of a voice broke into the Captain’s thoughts as he started speaking again.

“I’m not ashamed to say it sir, but I ran then, loosing a hail of gunfire as I went. When I reached the mouth of the cave, I rolled out of the entrance, turned, knelt, and brought my scope up to look through the infra-red, primed to fire. One of those ‘things’ had been chasing me, but I couldn’t see it.”

The Captain could see Bryce was struggling with the memory. He waited patiently for Bryce to continue.

“I… I couldn’t see it, because it was clinging to the ceiling, Captain.”

Bryce stopped a moment to let the shock of that statement settle. He seemed to gather himself, squared his shoulders and continued on.

“That was when I began to hear it. It was soft at first, more a vibration you feel in your gut sir, you know? Rather than hear.”

The Captain had heard of some odd reports from other companies. Their scouts telling of hearing ‘music’ before they went missing. Bryce was the only one to come back, having experienced it.

“It was… haunting. Hunger and longing, promising you fulfillment.”

Bryce seemed to smile slightly, almost wistfully, before speaking again.

“It was torment, but so sweet it made you crave the caress of it in your mind. To want a consummation with it so deep it bleeds your humanity dry, turning you into a husk of need.”

Bryce spoke with such undisguised lust, that the Captain barely stopped himself from recoiling in disgust.

“It became everything I ever wanted, and was secretly wishing for.”

“It compelled me back into the cave, sir. I don’t know when I had pushed the panic button on the O-watch. Must’ve been on the roll-out. Glad I did though. Especially after I found what was left of Charley.”

Bryce hung his head in solemn remembrance of his friend.

He reached for the water and changed his mind, letting his arm drop back to his lap, after a moment his hoarse voice went on.

“I don’t remember much after that. Couldn’t tell you how I got the punctures in my leg. Doc said they were at the femoral artery too. If the Sarge hadn’t found me, I’d be a goner along with Charley and the rest.”

“Sarge said I was crumpled there, just barely outside the mouth of the cave, lying on a pile of rock, bleeding out. They found Charley and the rest further down in a strange dirt chamber.”

“Too late though, they were all corpses.”

Corporal Bryce stopped then and looked up at his Captain, his face wearing an unfathomable expression.

Bryce started to rapidly transform. His whole lower jaw unhinged, displaying razor sharp teeth. He reached up and ripped the eye gear off. His eyes, now blazing red orbs.

The Captain’s disbelieving brain was too slow in warning, as Bryce leaped across the table…

“Why don’t you join them?”

Credit: D. L. Henry

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