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The Dead Zone

July 21, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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I’ve lived in Central Florida my whole life. Disney World, mosquitos, the beach and flip flops are a way of life. I’m used to the sticky hot humidity, the gator filled swamps and the tea stained water of the St. Johns river. This is where my tale takes place; horrifying and unbelievable, yet true …

I don’t know when I first heard tale of the Dead Zone, a stretch of interstate four between Sanford and Debary Florida. Legend has it that the founders who settled in the area became ill of Yellow Fever residing in the mosquito infested lagoons and scrub of palmettos, which is where they succumbed to the abyss named Death and found their final resting place. For over a century, their plots were marked with wooden crosses and they owned their own place amongst the moss draped oaks. There’s lots of tales surrounding these graves; some say a man tried to remove the fencing that was at some point placed around the markers and that very night his house burned down. Another account alleges that a curious young boy tried to dig up one of the graves and was killed by a drunk driver shortly after. Myth or truth, i’m not sure. Many years later, when the developers came in and wanted to build what us Floridians call I4, they were sworn to build the road around the graves of the settlers, as to not disturb them. They agreed with a handshake and a smile, but as we all know, their intentions were set before the empty promise was made. Instead, they opted for what was easy and logical, disturbing and paving overtop of the burial site. The tale goes to tell of ghostly sightings, travelers dealing with late night car troubles and more accidents on that stretch of road than you can imagine, all at the consequence of the deceitful agreement that disturbed the dead.

Now, I’ve never been one to really buy in to the paranormal and I’ve driven this stretch of road hundreds of times. I’ve witnessed several accidents and broken down vehicles on the shoulder but never did I feed into the “Dead Zone” theory. If every disturbed grave became a ghost story, we’d have more tales to tell than we could keep up with. But, what I witnessed with my own eyes, driving that stretch of busy road, peering over the St. Johns River bridge, is something I will never forget, something I cannot shake and something that has forever changed me and my view of the paranormal.

It began over a year ago when I had just started a new job. I had to drive past the Dead Zone, exiting right across the bridge at the Sanford exit. I4 can be a white knuckle experience, especially if you have to drive it daily, but the part I always enjoyed was approaching my exit, breathing a sigh of relief that I had not been victim of any road rage or accidents and peering off the bridge into the murky brown waters below. Something about the way the sun shone down, reflecting itself in sparkling ribbons across the gator infested stretch, lily pads dancing with every swirl and breeze across the water, boats drifting lazily while fishermen cast another line, made me feel at peace. It was early on that I noticed the two houseboats floating aside the lily pads. I had seen them before, many times in fact, but it was after starting the job and having it be a part of my daily drive that I began to wonder how long the boats had been there. They looked abandoned, old and decaying. I remember thinking “who comes to rescue deserted vessels or do they float along until they sink?” …

The houseboats troubled me, for no apparent reason other than the fact that they had become a stationary landmark on the waters that upset my peaceful feeling with a darker and more foreboding impression. I could imagine what horrors lay behind the surface and in my mind’s eye I saw a mummified corpse, jaw locked open, forever staring into eternity. Abandoned. Forgotten. Surely the owners of the boats hadn’t jumped into the waters and swam to shore and left their boats cast off into the lily pads to sit until … Until what? I could only imagine the poor soul who decided to one day board the craft to discover my dreamed-up corpse. Perhaps, more than one corpse.

And then just like that, one day, one of my sinister houseboats were no longer there. I almost couldn’t believe my eyes as I was sure it had been there for as long as I could remember and there was no way the motor on the boat would still run. It had been there the previous morning, though I couldn’t be certain that it had been there on my way home as I was going in the opposite direction and could not see to that side of the bridge. I tried to imagine what had gone down as I made my way to the office and parked my car. A coworker of mine was exiting her car as I pulled up and I decided to ask her if she had ever noticed the boats, since she drove the same stretch of road that I did. I made my inquiry and to my surprise she informed me that she had noticed the boats and she had also seen a tenant of one of the boats out on his deck, sweeping. I was shocked. Never, in all the years I had seen the boats, had I ever witnessed a living soul on or around them, but she swore to seeing what appeared to be an older gentlemen on it’s deck.

“He was definitely there” she stated. “I know what you mean about the boats looking abandoned but there was for sure a man on board, sweeping off the deck. Have you noticed how the lily pads have gotten thicker around them and are almost vining up the boat?”.

I had not noticed, Not really. I knew the boats were in the thicket of lily pads but I hadn’t noticed them getting thicker. No, my attention seemed to be on the boats and only the boats anymore. I no longer watched the sun dappled waters and the fishermen’s lines. Now, I watched the boats, searching for signs of life, imagining horrors that I had drummed up in my mind. And now that there was just one boat, I couldn’t fathom where the other boat went. Perhaps, whoever comes for old abandoned boats had finally come and taken it away and would be back for the remaining boat another day.

Weeks went by. The houseboat didn’t occupy all of my thoughts but I did perk up when approaching the bridge and I did make sure to be in the far right lane for the full length of the bridge till my exit. I wanted to see the boat. I had to see the boat. I wanted to see if there were signs of life or movement or anything to prove that it actually had someone aboard. The lily pads did seem to thicken and the words “vining up the boat” seemed fitting. They appeared to be growing right up the side. I didn’t think that lily pads could do that. I thought they grew on top of the water but did not have the ability to vine out or attach themselves to a boat. Some days I thought surely my eyes were playing tricks on me.

Then one day, there was a man! Yes, a man aboard the boat with what appeared to be a broom pushing the lily pads off the side of the boat back towards the water. I tried to slow a bit before reaching my exit. I was in shock that for one, there was actually a person who must have been living inside of the boat, yet I had never before seen and two, that the lily pads seemed to be infesting the waters by the boat and overtaking its side. The man continued to push at the lily pads and I watched until I had to turn into my exit and could no longer see him or the boat.

Day by day I grew more uneasy when reaching the bridge. I never saw signs of life near the boat again but I still continued to watch it. I guess you could say I was fascinated by it and my mind worked up horror tales that gently rocked the waters of my mind, although I supposed it was just a dilapidated home on the water for some lonely old man. It did seem that the lily pads were making themselves even more of a nuisance and eventually they reached the front railing of the boat and were tangled all around it. Each day they seemed to claim another inch of it’s surface.

My horrors came to life one humid August morning. There were very few cars on the road at this early of an hour and the only reason I was coming in to work so early was to make up for some hours missed earlier in the week. The sun had barely breached the horizon, leaving shadows in the corners where the predawn light still couldn’t reach. I approached the bridge with sudden apprehension, as if my mind knew there was something sinister going on before my eyes could bear witness. As soon as I could see the water, I saw the mass of lily pads that had grown up over the top of the boat. The entire boat seemed to be covered by them and they were seething, writhing and wrapping themselves tightly around the vessel. In a matter of seconds, the boat appeared to give in and with a screech of twisted metal and a loud crack it was crushed as though it were nothing more than an aluminum soda can pulled down into the murky waters. The last thing I saw before reaching my exit was a bubbling, rippling mass and a few gentle waves that rocked the surface where the boat had been just moments before.

In hindsight, I’m surprised I didn’t stop my car right there in the middle of the bridge’s right lane because my mind was racing and my heart was pounding and I felt sick and uncertain all at the same time.

Did I just witness a mass of seemingly alive lily pads eat a houseboat?

The thought swarmed my mind, echoing itself over and over again as I drove down the exit ramp. As I reached the light at the bottom of my exit, instead of heading to work, I turned toward the boat ramp near where the houseboat had been anchored, driving with reckless abandon and throwing dust and gravel in my wake before coming to a halt. I don’t remember getting out of the car but I remember running toward the water. I saw no sign of the boat nor the man who lived on the boat and by now the sun’s rays were starting to peek over the treetops and land in the dark places. The tree line most likely prevented my view of where the houseboat had once been and there was no way I was going to enter the water to wade out until I could see something. The world seemed to stop for a moment and I thought I was going to faint. I could hear the rush of blood in my ears and my heart throbbing in my head but the outer world was quiet. In one rush, it all came back; the noise of the cars on the bridge, the water lapping at the shore and birds singing and chirping. I leaned forward and vomited.

I called the police once I was able to form a coherent thought. I told them what I had witnessed. I told them it was unbelievable but true. I stayed at the boat ramp until they came and took a statement from me but I could see the way the officer’s looked at each other and by the tone of their voice and the way they spoke to me that they didn’t believe a word of what I was saying. They asked if I was on any medications or had a history of mental disorders. I disputed both and pleaded with them to have divers search the water. They assured me they would look into it. I felt like I was speaking in slow motion and watching the two officers constantly exchange sideways glances made me want to punch them in the face. They didn’t believe me and it was obvious. In their defense, I probably wouldn’t have believed me either had I not been the one to witness it. Eventually, they left but not after asking if I had someone who could pick me up since I seemed shaken. I told them no, I didn’t, but I would be fine. I sat in my car and turned the air conditioning on as high as it would go and leaned my seat back. I guess I fell asleep.

I couldn’t have been asleep long but I did dream. I dreamt I was sitting at the water’s edge with people I had never met. The river’s embankment allowed my feet to dangle over the dark brown water and the smell in the air was stagnant with undertones of rotting vegetation. The world seemed muted as if in tones of sepia and my heart was beating fast. I felt nervous but I didn’t know why. No one was talking, just staring out at the water. Everything was still and silent other than the buzzing I heard from mosquitoes. The buzzing seemed intolerable as if it were coming from the inside of my head. I could feel the mosquitoes swarming and lighting on me. I slapped one from my legs and it exploded in a burst of dark red blood. I felt a trickle of sweat from behind my knees. It was all so very real. Other than being able to move my hands and slightly turn my head, I felt frozen in place. I knew I couldn’t stand up, let alone move or run. The heat was getting unbearable and the air was so thick I thought I would suffocate. I looked beside me and there was a man leaning against a tree. He was obviously not from this era as his clothes were old fashioned and dingier than anything anyone these days would wear. There were some children and a woman sitting by the water’s edge as well. They never looked my way or spoke a word, just stared blankly toward the water. Finally, the man looked straight at me with a bone chilling stare and spoke with a voice both cold and hollow, “The road to hell has been paved with lies and deceit. We no longer sleep. It never ends.” Before I even realized what was happening, he had grabbed me by the hair and pushed me forward toward the water. My hands grabbed at the dirt and leaves but the struggle was futile. I felt myself falling and hit the water, breaking the surface like crashing through a dirty window, sinking, unable to breathe, being drug deeper into the depths of water and muck …

I awoke with a start, sweating profusely, my car no longer running. No more than thirty minutes had passed since I had gotten in and cranked it up. As I set my seat back in the upright position and started to turn the key, I looked down to see a smudge of blood right where I had slapped the mosquito in my dream.

A few weeks later, while watching the news, I heard a body was found in Lake Monroe, which is fed by the St. Johns River right across the bridge I drove over daily. The body appeared to have been gnawed on by alligators which is creepy enough but what was worse was that no one had been reported missing, the body had no ID and no one could figure out who it was. He was a nobody that nobody missed. I wondered if it was my older guy from the houseboat. I guess I’ll never know.

I eventually quit the job I was working, not for any related reason, although the drive to work now brought much stress and trepidation and nausea swept over me every time I reached the bridge. I would find my eyes locked on the spot where the houseboat had once been and more than once, I came close to rear ending another car. I could hear the words, “It never ends …”, the gravel and furry in his voice as he spit them at me. Part of me thought that one day the bridge would just disintegrate as I was crossing it and I would plummet downwards to be swallowed whole into a watery grave. I now avoid this stretch of road at all cost. I’ve always heard we should face our fears but in this case, I find I can’t.

I never found out if the houseboat was recovered. I don’t think anyone ever looked for it. I called the Sanford PD once to check on the status of the report I filed. The lady I spoke with put me on hold and when she came back on the line she told me it was pending investigation then threw in a “You alright, Doll?”. I told her I was fantastic and figured I was probably the butt of a good joke to them and decided not to call back.

Aside from recounting my story to two people close to me, I’ve never uttered a word about it to a soul. Am I crazy? Did I witness something beyond the realm of reality? Or did the Dead Zone come alive and claim a few more victims? Because even though I wasn’t physically harmed, I consider myself a victim of it’s lore. I know my dream was of the early settlers. I know I witnessed a mass of lily pads come alive and swallow a boat. I know I’m not crazy. But I will never be the same.

So, if you’re ever in Central Florida and you drive the stretch of interstate four, somewhere between Orlando and Daytona Beach, know that there is more than meets the eye. There is a tale that keeps telling itself, in more ways than one and it wants to be heard. The road to hell was paved with lies and deceit. And just a word of advice: stay out of those waters … there are things more dangerous than the mosquitoes, snakes and alligators. I’ve seen for myself.

Credit: F. Maven

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What the Happiest Dreams are Made Of

July 19, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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The following originally appeared in a train enthusiast subreddit on October 29th, 2015. The thread did not have an account attached to it, and the original post has since been deleted for spam.

“Hello,

Thank you for taking the time to read this message, and I hope you are indeed able to read it. This is probably one of the most surreal things I have ever written (to say nothing of the circumstances I’m writing it under), but it is undoubtedly one of the most important as well. If all goes well, this will be just one of several messages you should have received; the others are writing things, too, but we’re not sure what will arrive intact, or even if your side has anything able to ‘receive’ this.

What you are about to read may seem odd, and understandably so, but please – keep an open mind, and in the very least read through the whole thing before passing judgement on my tale. I apologise for any terms or concepts that seems strange or bizarre to you – I have been informed this message could reach a number of worlds where such ideas do not exist, and so I will, at points, try to clarify some of the more important things others point out as ‘issue concepts’.

My name is William Wolfstone, and I used to work as a law enforcement psychologist. A psychologist is a person who talks to people and tries to help them maintain mental health. As a law enforcement psychologist, it was my role to do this for police (you may call them ‘guards’, ‘security’ or something similar where you are). It was a role I cared about greatly, and had dedicated fifteen years of my life to. I was decent at the job, so much so I ended up being stationed in the capital city of my country. I was one of two psychologists who cared for the personnel who worked at the city’s police headquarters.

This position also put me in one of the best places to see what unfolded, it turned out.

It began a few months ago, when one officer, whose name I don’t feel comfortable noting these days, presented herself to me with what seemed like simple insomnia (inability to sleep). She couldn’t say why, but she was certain she was having nightmares when she did manage to fall asleep (nightmares are bad dreams).

She couldn’t really recall what they were about, just that the situation had been going on for the past month, and that almost every morning , she felt a sense of dread and unease that sometimes took the rest of the day from which to recover.

I didn’t think much of it, to be honest; this officer was a minority in the capital (and certainly the police force), and in addition to those pressures, she had, a few months ago, undergone a traumatic series of events. Those events had turned her into a media curiosity (the media in this case being people who exaggerate news to make money), and from what she described, it wasn’t uncommon for her to find the odd interview request or paparazzi awaiting for her when she got home.

So I chalked the insomnia and dreams up to simple general anxiety and some post-traumatic stress – I arranged fortnightly cognitive therapy sessions, referred her to a doctor for some anti-anxiety and sleep medication, and gave her my personal number should she need to speak to me at any time (sometimes people just need an ear available, and I was happy to accommodate).

But she didn’t call me. And the first few sessions showed progress – although it didn’t resolve the issues, the medication was helping a bit, she was getting full support from her family and friends, and she even found herself recovering from the dreams easier, although she still couldn’t remember them. I figured she was drawing on the strength of character she’d demonstrated during those aforementioned events, and was on her way to ‘willing’ herself through the issues, and it would all be sorted in a few short weeks.

Then something curious happened – one day, there was a knock on my office door, and another officer wandered in. He explained he was my patient’s partner and that he, too, had begun suffering from this insomnia. These dreams. His partner had insisted he see me immediately, although he didn’t seem pleased about it.

Whilst it was unusual for two separate persons to present with the same thing, looking through his files, it made sense he could be suffering similar symptoms – he too was a minority in law enforcement, it turned out he too had undergone the same series of events his partner did…

Another easy case to resolve.

After talking with him, it was also apparent that he had some lingering trust issues, and was perhaps a bit more emotionally sensitive than his partner (often making jokes and observations on others; classic mannerisms for those personalities). So in addition to the anti-anxiety and sleep medications, I scheduled him for weekly appointments, just to suss things out. He also seemed grateful when I provided him my mobile number – as I said, sometimes people just need an ear to lend.

Yes. It all seemed quite normal at the time.

But then, the following week, other officers began to show up to see me and my colleague, presenting the same symptoms – and it wasn’t just beat cops, or those who regularly interacted with the other two, either. It affected someone from dispatch, the police chief himself…

For some reason, a sizeable part of the station was beginning to have sleep issues, and it was quickly affecting both morale and performance. It was obvious something else was going on here; I consulted with the police chief, and we brought in the Centre for Disease Control to check out the station (a disease is something that can make people sick). They walked through the building and, as they couldn’t find anything initially, it was agreed that the department would be closed, the unaffected temporarily transferred to neighbouring stations, and affected staff placed on leave and strongly encouraged to stay home as much as possible (it wasn’t thought to be contagious, but it didn’t hurt to cover bases).

I assisted the investigation as best I could, giving my opinion and ideas on what could have been going on (which basically boiled down to ‘an expression of mass-PTSD? I’ve got nothing’).

I wasn’t providing them anything my patient notes and common sense didn’t, however, so they stopped consulting me directly.

The CDC’s psychologists had sniped most of my affected patients, deeming it easier to track them themselves than through me, but I still kept in touch with Patient Zero’s partner; as I previously said, he had trust issues, so the idea of having to talk to someone new, someone who worked as part of a group interested in poking and prodding him? It didn’t appeal, and the CDC allowed it.

I recall I was watching the mid-day news when I got his call – the story had caught my attention, as it was about a local nudist club whose members had begun to present with some sort of ‘illness’. After I reached for my phone and noted who it was, I greeted the officer, and asked how he was going.

He sounded panicked, exasperated – his breaths were heavy and he choked out incoherences. I left the room so we could talk without the noise of the TV – clearly, things were not ok. He needed that ear loaned, and now.

When we were alone, I asked him to calm down, and to tell me what was going on. He couldn’t. After a minute of reassurance and empathy, I was able to ease him to a state where he could form words. I asked what was going on once more.

He explained to me that he was staying at his partner’s place, so they could both deal with effects of the nightmares better. He’d moved in a few days ago with a few token belongings, ‘just until this blew over’, and it had gone well enough.

The previous night, the officer had been unable to fall asleep on the spare sofa, twisting and turning for what he assured me was several hours, before he gingerly woke his friend up and asked for advice. She apparently suggested they share her bed for the night – it’s my understanding Patient Zero lived in an apartment, so space was likely at a premium. I’m also of the impression their close friendship was beginning to test bounds and begin development into a more romantic relationship, but that’s pointless musing on my end.

At any rate, they shared a bed together, and both officers found it easy to fall asleep.

And then, he told me, the dream started. That admission took my interest – no-one had recalled these dreams before.

He told me it began in a field – he was laying in gold-green grass, and the scent of wildflowers filled the air. It was welcoming, comfortable, and the only detractor was that the sun seemed to shine a little too brightly, but he was happy enough to keep his eyes closed, so it wasn’t that big of a deal.

As he lazed there, he found his mind turning to the events from a few months ago – back during the racial unrest that plagued the capital, tested his partner, and spurred him into joining the force in the first place. The memories were vivid, and he could recall every moment with perfect clarity. He told me it was like a movie of those events, but compiled from his perspective.

It felt so familiar to him, laying like this, reflecting like this. So familiar, and so right.

But at the same time, a small, building nugget in his mind told him it wasn’t.

He’d shrugged it off at first, instead enjoying the reflection on his past, but it strengthened, persisted – it told him not to doze, but to awaken, to fight.

Eventually, it got strong enough that, for a moment, the officer decided to comply. ‘I only wanted to get up and stretch my legs’, he whined.

And that was when he found out he couldn’t. When he went to move his legs, his arms, they only responded lethargically. Panic began to rise within him, and he struggled more, and more – but achieving just as little.

He told me that everytime he struggled, the sun seemed to get a little bit brighter, his eyes a little bit heavier, and he realised that, when his eyes were fully closed, he could still see the images of his past before him – less like he was reflecting, and more like his memories were being stretched out into a film reel run before him.

Vivid, with perfect clarity.

A weight slithered up against his leg, and writhed up along his body, before coming to a rest atop his chest. A voice whispered to him.

‘No. Almost done.’

The officer struggled his eyes open, and through the now blinding glare, he saw it, smiling down at him.

There was silence after he told me that. I asked what the ‘it’ was.

The officer simply began to cry.

I assured him it was only a dream, and he didn’t have to tell me what he saw. When he was calm enough again, he thanked me.

That, he told me, was what the dreams were – he was certain of it. It was this thing forcing people to re-live a period of their life every night, and he didn’t know why. I didn’t really know what to say – I had no-other patients to compare his experiences against, and whilst logically this experience was surely only unique to him…

Something told me he was right.

I stayed with him on the phone for a while, generally trying to calm him, whilst trying to make something of this new information. He was in the middle of telling me about the time he booked a friend for speeding, when he just…stopped.

Mid sentence.

For a moment, I thought the phone had died, either on his end or mine, but I could still hear breathing, so clearly that couldn’t be.

I asked him what was wrong. He didn’t answer.

And then I heard something else. It began quietly, but rose steadily, and surely – it was…laughter. The officer was laughing.

Again, I asked what was wrong. Then there was a noise, and the laughter became more distant – I can only assume he dropped his phone. I called after him, increasingly concerned, but he never picked it up again – the laughter drifted away as he presumably wandered off.

I’m told that’s normal by the others, and that there was nothing I could of ever done for him.

I went into my living room to use the house phone to call the paramedics – I figured I could call emergency services, whilst also staying on the line with my patient should he pick the phone back up. I was reaching for the phone when I glanced at the TV, and saw the news was still on.

As was something else.

I’ll be honest. I don’t like recalling this part of my life. I don’t think any survivor, either of this world or the others, ever fully deals with this particular moment. The moment when it was all over. But it is important to recount, for myself, just as much as you.

On the TV screen, there was some breaking news. The scene was an overhead view of Downtown, from the point of view of a helicopter camera, focused on police headquaters – my place of work. It took my mind a moment to grasp what I was seeing – for a moment, I honestly thought the things I saw in the image were something like those floppy balloons used-car lot have to advertise (a used car lot is a place where hustlers con good people for dubious vehicles).

But it wasn’t.

What it was, was…I assume you’ve seen something rotten before, yes? Fruit or flesh, particularly rotten, with writhing maggots and fly larvae? If so, that was how my workplace now looked. Except the ‘maggots’ were long, and had faces, rodent faces, whose thin flesh had been pulled taut across the bone, revealing every skeletal edge and angle. Strips of blood streaked down at points where the flesh had simply torn from the apparent strain, and thick veins snaked their banded bodies. Inside their exposed, cheekless mouths, their teeth clicked excitedly.

I remember the camera zoomed in on one as it was gnawing on an exposed girder, and how the large, swirling eyes inside that creature’s skull swiveled up to meet the camera almost immediately, like it knew it was getting it’s fifteen minutes of fame.

The creature’s entire body writhed towards the hovering chopper. It stopped, and its face split into a grin. Those wide, lid-less eyes fixed right on the lens.

And it began to laugh.

The rest of the day isn’t as clear to me after that. I remember watching that smile approach the camera, the screams of the people on that chopper as the image died, then me trying to pack, then just finding myself just running down the street. Part of me wanted to go to my friends, my parents, all of which lived in the inner-city. I wanted to get them out. But I’m afraid to say I didn’t even try. I lived in one of the outer suburbs of the city anyway, Cliffside – I don’t think I’d of made it to the inner-city in time the way those things…spread.

I don’t know if people were just stuck in their homes scared by what they were seeing on TV, or they simply didn’t know what was happening Downtown, but there wasn’t chaos when I ran down the streets of Cliffside. Just some people leaving their homes very quickly – if you’ve ever experienced it, it felt like that moment, the one before a riot happens? The calm before the storm.

I tagged along with a small group that seemed like they had supplies, and moved like they had purpose – a family, two guys and an older woman. We made it to a jetty down by one of the cliffs. One of the guys owned a boat, a small yacht-thing, and we planned to leave the city that way.

And we did.

It became obvious very quickly that we’d been lucky. The capital got a lot worse, fast; we didn’t see many other boats out on the water, and the news reported that those worm-things had begun emerging in other places around the city. That person-sized, cheetah-fast beings had begun swarming from those spots, murdering anyone they came across, dragging the bodies away to parts unknown…

The news also reported that the areas around the ‘emergence points’ were starting to ‘brighten’ and ‘soften’, but I’m still not entirely sure what that means; the mainstream news stopped broadcasting after that, and the people here don’t feel comfortable talking about it. They just say that it’s bad. Very bad.

The internet (a system that allows communication between people, instantly) stayed up longer than I expected. Wasn’t too useful though – online news sources either didn’t know what was going on, or simply stopped altogether. The general public was a mish-mash of doom-say and unbacked theories.

The only thing everyone did agree on was that the capital fell after just two days.

We headed down the coast to ‘Burrow, a neighbouring town renowned for its agriculture, but apparently things were starting to get unpleasant there, too. So we decided to wait for a while on the open water, skirting the coast. We did stop at one place, Stag’s Rest, but the people there were dangerously keen on the boat, so after that, we decided not to risk towns. We heard news that Stag’s Rest fell only three days after our visit – these things were spreading out.

We decided not to risk land in general after hearing that.

We kept traveling for a few weeks. Edging three months, I think. That’s a long time to live within 20 metres of eight other people. Tensions ran high. Supplies ran low. Things got desperate. Things I’d rather not talk about happened, in that time. People left. People died.

In the end, it was just me, the older woman, the guy who owned the boat, and the little girl who’d been part of that larger family. We’d traveled more than this small yacht was ever intended to, and everywhere we went, the news was the same; desperation, death, things that seemed to move in the woodlands that curtains the shore…

It was bleak.

Then, one morning, the ship radio picked up something – the first broadcast in weeks. We’d left it on just in case, but to actually hear something…

It called survivors to an oil rig that had been set up as a shelter, and it promised food, supplies, and that ‘the truth would be revealed’. The co-ordinates weren’t too far away, either. The boat owner thought it was a cult or a trap. I did too, truth be told, but a cult had food, and a trap meant death, and at this point…

I convinced the boat owner to set sail. We reached the rig that night.

The oil rig was large, and surrounded by boats – others who’d heard the call, which I later learned was sent out very rarely and only in short bursts, for safety reasons. The boats were the main reason we’d spotted the rig in the darkness, actually: the oil rig itself had just the minimal lighting on, a few splashes of yellow and red here and there. Again – safety reasons.

We exited the boat using this make-shift ladder to help people up onto the rig – the original gangway wasn’t intended for things as small as ours and the other boats, and the one that was was too dangerous to use this time of year because of waves.

At any rate, the oil rig was the sanctuary it promised itself to be – exiting out of the entrance into the main deck of the rig…it’s something I’ll never forget. People danced and sang around rusted equipment, and talked in clusters holding cups of honest-to-goodness hot food! I’m not afraid to admit I cried when I saw this place; I think everyone of our group did a little. It had been so long since we’d felt civilisation, after all.

We were quickly guided by a welcoming committee, who’d been informed of our arrival by the people who’d helped us up (I later understood why they wouldn’t want new arrivals to see too much before they’d been educated). We were guided into the ‘arrival area’ – a break room in the main building – and told we’d begin integration in the morning. We were also told we’d find out the truth then, too.

The next morning, we were guided into a nearby room that I assume was where rig staff received daily briefings. The community representative came and greeted us, learned who we were, and what our previous occupations were. For half the day, we worked with him and a few other ‘buddies’ from the community to figure out how we’d fit into this society, and what we could do to help.

Near the end of the day, the community head took me aside, and asked me questions about the state of my group, if I had any concerns about them, what I already knew of the events that had occurred…and general statements clearly probing my openness to new concepts and ideas. I wasn’t the leader of our group – the boat owner was – but I guess they deemed my background in psychology allowed greater insight. I assumed some of these questions related to that whole ‘reveal the truth’ thing, and decided to confront him on that matter directly; I’d seen some horrific things by this point, I was quite ready to accept many things, and I suspected the rest of my group was as well.

He conceded, and guided me to another room, where I’d meet someone who could tell me what was going on in private. The community representative assured me he’d be there and that although this person looked weird, they were friendly, and unrelated to what was happening to our world.

I braced myself when the door opened. In all honesty, I was expecting some sort of three-headed insect, drooling blood (that is something that does not exist on my world), but what walked in was…

I’ll be honest; I understand this appearance is apparently a common one across multiple worlds, but you have to understand, nothing like it really exists on mine, so I apologize if I come across as offensive in my description.

The being was about my height, and composed of tawny flesh that completely lacked hair or fur except for the top of his head, his eyebrows, and his beard. He wore a black, wrap around tunic, white pants, and golden shoes with curls on the end. He had a face and body structure similar to a family of mammal that went long extinct on my world; they were called ‘primates’. I’d seen artist depictions on TV documentaries, but they’d never been created to be so bald. It was quite odd seeing this being look back at me: no muzzle, snout, tail, paws, or claws. Again, I don’t mean to be rude, and whilst I was relieved to see another mammal, it still felt so alien to see something lacking such rudimentary features.

The man’s race are apparently called ‘humans’ in most realities. Hello if you are one, or know one.

The human shook my paw, let me recover from the surprise, and sat opposite me. He let me probe him with basic questions – something he was quite used to by this point – and answered some of my own. Even now it’s still remarkable to learn that mammalia in its totality don’t usually ascend to sapience; that, on some worlds, beings like myself still roam savage like my ancestors once did. A fact I’m sure a certain bigoted vice-mayor of the capital would of loved to know that back in the day, but I’m getting off topic.

The human, Aamir, then asked me a different sort of question.

‘Tell me, Dr. Wolfstone – Have you heard of ‘Disney’?’

It seemed odd, but I told him that I had. I hope it’s a word that means nothing to you; I’m sorry if you, too, understand it.

Disney is an ‘entertainment company’ – on my world, that meant they made cartoons and computer animated feature films (a computer is basically an electronic device that allows people to write, draw, play games and another way to use the internet). On some worlds, like Aamir’s native Arabia, they wrote books and made toys. At any rate, Disney was indeed something I knew of.

He explained to me that he was originally a guardsman from Arabia when his world began to undergo what was happening to mine now.

He’d been closer than I had been when it started, though. Very close.

The Sultan of his land was informing a crowd about reforms to tax law when it began – Aamir was a guardsman near the back of the crowd, waiting to keep dissidents in check should they disagree with the announcement.

The Sultan had just finished greeting the crowd, when he suddenly stopped. Mid-sentence.

Then he began to laugh.

The crowd had shifted uneasily as the Sultan continued to laugh – some were mad, assuming the Sultan meant to laugh at them.

But then, the Sultan began to choke. The crowd gasped, and aides rushed to his side, fearful he had fallen to some poison or malady. The Sultan clawed at his throat, before throwing his head up to face the sky in a sudden jerk. His body trembled and, from inside his mouth, a thing erupted forth – thin, gangly, and the off-white. It grew in height, and width, straining the Sultan’s mouth, before popping the jaw off his head. The crowd screamed.

The thing grew a rodent’s head with taut flesh, and grinned at their fear. Laughed at it.

Aamir tried to guide the crowd at first, but the thing on the balcony just kept growing larger and larger, soon breaking the balcony under its weight. He could see evidence of other such things emerging from over the rooftops, and the city beginning to burst in blended screams.

So, like me, he had begun to run.

And also like me, after he somehow escaped the chaos, he hid, far out in the desert with other survivors from his city. They were heading towards the next city when the group had encountered a group of foreign-looking people, ‘beast men’ like myself, and other creatures, all travelling behind a group of small, winged beings flying along – fairies. Fairies that had taken it upon themselves to guide survivors through the tears that opened up when Disney began to break a world down much further.

From them, Aamir and his group learned the truth – it was not just Arabia that was doomed, but the entire world.

The curse of Disney had come to them, as it had their worlds. As, Aamir apologised, it had now come to my own.

Disney, he explained, was not so much a company, as opposed to an entity – an insidious, living thing lurking in the space between spaces, a thing without form, only agenda. It wanted power over a world quickly, easily, and unopposed, and in order to achieve that, it needed to build ‘presence’ in the minds of that world’s people – an ‘in’ to pry through and enter a world more completely.

To achieve this, it seeded itself in various realities when it could sneak through opportunistic cracks in defenses – a ‘drop’ of itself that always set itself up the company, always in entertainment, always by a catalyst named ‘Walt Disney’ or a variant thereof.

It made sense the more Aamir explained it – Governments and entities could be opposed easily enough. If you formed a country and tried to take over the world, yes, you’d be known – but you also risked being crushed. Forgotten.

But something everyone needed, everyone wanted, like mere entertainment? A company that provided that well enough would grow, and eventually grow unopposed.

In almost all realities, Disney would work as inoffensive ‘feel-good-learn-a-message’ entertainment for younger audiences, because these audiences could create the largest market demand for Disney merchandise. Plant the most awareness of it in the most minds the quickest.

And eventually, when Disney finally gained enough power, enough presence to enter into a world and actually affect a world…? It would seep in quietly, and watch. Wait.

‘Wait? Wait for what’, I’d asked. Aamir looked at me with a weak smile.

‘A moment,’ He answered. ‘It waits for a moment it can use. It can re-purpose.’

He reached within his tunic, and withdrew something – a DVD. ‘Disney’s Aladdin’. A classic movie.

But, looking at the cover, it seemed…off. The Genie wasn’t an elephant, Aladdin no longer a fox, Jasmine not a tiger.

Instead, they all looked like humans.

‘This,’ Aamir explained, ‘Is something I picked up from a shopping centre in a place called Seattle, Washington. From the last world we went to.’

He looked at it grimly.

‘This abomination is also what remains of my beloved Agrabah.’

His beloved..?

In that moment, as my eyes widened and chest wrenched, I understood. I knew.

Every Disney movie I had ever seen flicked across my mind.

How many?

How damned many?

Understandably, it was a lot to take it. When they were told, the rest of my group took time to adjust to the idea, too.

But in the end, we did accept it. Our world was gone. The essence was being snatched through a moment to create…lures, for people elsewhere.

How could we deny it? It was madness either way.

And that is why I – why we – are writing to you today. We can no longer do anything for my world, but we can do something for yours. The last world the survivors went to (the one that went on to compose the property ‘Pig Hero 6’) provided an example of technology that could send things between realities. Send things before Disney tore the barriers. We’re testing the technology with simple things, like this data transmission, before we try anything more…substantial.

But if things go to plan, we will use this not just to find safety and warn others, but to fight.

If the word ‘Disney’ is foreign to you outside this message, and no such thing exists where you are, then be thankful, and watchful. Keep this message hidden, and let no-others know unless it emerges. If Disney is where you are, however…

Fight it. Don’t watch the movies. Don’t buy the toys. Don’t spread the stories. Ignore it, starve it of its desired power and influence. Protect your world by letting ours die. Stop Disney from achieving market saturation, from beginning to watch your world for that one moment it can use against you all.

We will never meet, and I don’t know if I will ever find a place I can call ‘safe’ ever again. The fairies say the barriers are beginning to tear again, and the group must move on. But no matter what happens to me, to us, I want you to know we believe in you, and that, if you try, everything will be ok. We believe in you.

Goodbye, and good luck (luck is…a concept that doesn’t matter, because you don’t need; we will win).

Regards,
Dr. William Wolfstone, PsyD”

***Author Note/Disclaimer: Obviously, this creepypasta was based entirely in the realm of fiction, Disney and anything related are not eldritch abominations bent on consuming worlds, and the author bares absolutely no ill-will towards the company. Infact, some of Disney’s more recent movies have been particularly great; go see one. Zootopia, Aladdin and Big Hero Six belong to Disney.***

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Knocking

July 18, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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Bella awoke from a horrible dream. Or at least she thought she did. Somehow she knew she was still dreaming, but she now looked down upon herself, as if watching a movie. Something like someone having had recorded her, and playing it back for her. But the edges around the “picture” looked hazy…there was a certain numbness that just told her she was still dreaming. Dreaming but unable to actually interact and intervene.

She watched herself rise, rubbing sleep from her eyes. She was in a cozy little bedroom. One that seemed so very familiar, she was sure she’d seen it, even having been inside it before. Yet it still felt wrong. A small, clean single bed sat in the corner, the one she’d risen from. The air was bathed in artificial heat. It felt refreshing. The lighting was dim and flickering slightly, as if ablaze by candle. But nothing visible seemed to be producing it, and there wasn’t a single window to allow natural light inside.

A sharp rapping of wood startled her, and broke the trance. The dream version of Bella stood still for a second, seemingly frozen in time. She watched intently, as if looking in through a haze filled pane of glass at herself. The rapping continued, someone was knocking on a wooden door somewhere. And they continued to do so until she finally decided to move from the cozy bedroom. The hallway outside the room was long, extremely dark and cold, bone chillingly cold compared to the comforting warmth of that bedroom.

The knocking got louder and sharper, and a chill ran up Bella’s spine as she stepped out into the hallway. The air out here spreading goosebumps over her body. She could feel the chill inside and outside of the dream, it seemed. A faint light crept out from the darkness down the long, unrealistically long hallway. Each step she took thundered around her in a deafening echo. The atmosphere thick and intensely quiet, all except for the constant pounding of the door somewhere down the hall every few seconds.

After what seemed like an eternity she emerged from the hall into the light. The place seemed like some sort of extremely rustic foyer. A heavy oak looking door without a single pane of glass stood before her, seemingly the door that was being knocked on. Bella slowly reached for the heavy looking iron handle bar. Hand clasped around the ice cold metal, but hesitant to pull it open. Everything told her not to open this door. To just ignore the constant knocking and walk back down that strangely long hallway and lock herself away in that cozy little warm bedroom. Whatever was knocking obviously hadn’t tried to open the door itself yet. She was doubtful that it would. She felt this as certainty. It’d been knocking now for at least ten minutes. The trek down the hall had to have taken nearly eight alone, at least it had seemed so.

“Just turn around, block out the knocking, go back into the cozy little candlelit bedroom, lock the door and curl up on the bed therein. That simple, just drift off to sleep and forget about this.” The real Bella intervened here, somehow. “Just fall asleep and wake back up, but for real this time. Put this behind you.”

But the knocking continued to grow louder and more frequent. It seemed insanely loud now. Each knock in quick succession echoing like a thunder blast of an intense storm. Bella’s grip tightened on the door handle, and slowly began to pull. A creak was heard as a small gust of wintry wind swept inside. The knocking ceased, and for a moment she stood frozen. Again she rolled that thought of just turning away through her mind. Just shut the door again and turn around. Instead she quickly, as quickly as she could anyway – as the heavy oaken door weighed even more than it looked, flung the thing ajar. The first thing her eyes focused on was the whiteness of the large yard beyond the threshold . Then her eyes focused.

Before her stood the near skeletal face of a woman. It’s fleshless face seemed to form a permanent grin, ice hanging from it, and from it’s straggly gray hair. There were no eyes in it’s hollowed out sockets, and no sign of anything seeing from them. None the less it stared intently for a few seconds, Bella could feel it’s gaze, feel it in her bones, looking through her. Ragged, white flesh hung loosely from the knuckles of its right hand, still raised as it had been knocking.

Bella was frozen, unable to move, unable to breathe even. Finally the thing, the corpse’s jaw seemed to unhinge, lowering as a shrill, bone chilling wail escaped from within its frozen, decaying body. A thin yellow mist poured from the mouth, and finally Bella found her breath as a thin yelp escaped from her own throat and her feet finally seemed free to move.

And move she did. Running, no, sprinting back down that too long hallway. The banshee like scream continued behind her as she heard the all too quick clattering footsteps chasing behind. Forcing herself not to look back she just continued to run as fast as her short legs could carry her. The wailing and the footfalls seemed to be catching up to her. Bella’s lungs were burning, her energy quickly draining. She chanced a look back over the shoulder and caught sight of the thing again. It ran like an Olympian, the trail of yellowed gas having filled the hallway behind them, and streaming from the gaping jaws of the corpse.

The bedroom was getting closer, Bella could see the light under the crack of the door, even feel the change in temperature slightly. She knew somehow that if she could get back in there she could shut the thing out and everything would just somehow be fine. But her legs were faltering, her lungs burning as if doused in napalm, she felt nauseated. Sweating and gasping desperately for precious oxygen. But it wasn’t just the sheer exertion of the near ten minute long sprint down this freakishly long hall, the air was steadily growing more and more sour and acidic. It stung her eyes now, and burned in her nostrils and in the back of her throat. The hall was filling with the yellow gas that seemed to just gush fourth from the thing behind her with each bloodcurdling scream it unleashed.

The door to the bedroom was now in sight, she could feel it’s radiating warmth, feel the anxiousness in her every pore to dash inside and slam the door shut behind her. But her vision was growing fishy, she felt a warm liquid run down her nose, trailing to her chin, knowing without looking it was blood. Her throat felt ragged, raw and mangled with each wheezing breath that tried to escape. She could not only feel but even slightly taste the rustiness of blood running down into her esophagus.

Her legs felt like jello, her feet numb. Eyelids seeming to swell, she stumbled, catching herself, her hand pressed against the warm door of the bedroom to prop herself up. within arms reach was freedom, narrowed down for the taking. Only wood and a lock to put this horrible nightmare behind her. Bella choked on blood, coughing, her eyes blinded now, she slumped forward against the door, head pressed against it. So close…so very close. She felt the thin, skeletal grip grasp her neck, fingers so cold they burned, literally. Instinctively, Bella jerked back, freeing herself from the searing grasp. A new smell mixing into the noxious, burning chemical odor wafting to her nose for a moment, seared flesh. As she’d jerked back the door swung open, spilling it’s oh so cozy candle like light into the dark, gas filled hallway. The warmth splashing out like a tidal wave.

Bella hit the floor gasping for breath, eyes, nose, ears and mouth oozing darkened blood now. Her swelled, watery eyes glimpsing freedom, it mocked her, laughing at her pitiful attempt to find sanctuary. No, not it, the thing, the skeletal thing was laughing as that searingly cold clutching grip again latched around her neck.

With a start Bella awoke from a terrible dream, it had seemed so realistic. She sat on the edge of her bed trying to sort out the details and feeling a tinge of deja vu. Probably a sick fever dream as she felt like she was coming down with somehing. Her throat and sinuses felt kind of ragged and sore, her eyes burned. The hint of an unpleasant acrid aftertaste lingered at the back of her tongue. She shivered, wrapping a blanket over her shoulders.

Something felt off. This was the bedroom she’d spent a majority of her childhood in, the bedroom in her parent’s house. Not the bedroom of the uptairs apartment she rented now as a working college student. She shook her head, her mind felt hazy and it made her a bit dizzy. She just needed rest.

She decided it’d be better if she just went back to sleep, rest being the best medicine. A sharp knocking came from somewhere seemingly far away. It was persistent. Exhaustion tugged at Bella’s mind as she rose, letting the warmth and comfort of the blanket slide to the floorboards. She trembled as she slowly opened the door, not really understanding why. The hallway beyond was frigidly cold and dark, so very dark. The knocking continued, louder each time, determined to be responded to.

Credit: Xeo

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Voices

July 17, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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I consider myself a sensible person. I scoff at ghost stories and roll my eyes at the thought of a fourth kind. As an adult, I can easily disregard the notion that there is a supernatural realm that could affect me. But there is one problem with my current ability to ignore all things mysterious, a series of events that contradicts my disbelief.

As a child I heard things. However, I should be more specific, as I do not mean music or laughter or the innocuous, normal sounds belonging to our everyday surroundings. The “things” I heard were spoken by three distinct voices. And they had ill intentions – for me. You may be thinking, “Oh these voices could have been talking about anyone!” But they called me by name. You may also be thinking: “Children have nightmares!” And I cannot force you to believe what I have experienced is real. All I can do is share with you in the hopes that the telling of this story will provide me with some relief.

The most vivid recollection I have of the voices is actually the first time I heard them. At least I think it was the first time. I can now point to this event as the beginning of it all, but I know how easily my other childhood memories have blurred together and been altered unintentionally, in the years since growing up. In the interest of this re-telling, however, I can say with relative confidence that the first night I heard the voices I was seven years old. I was in an awkward phase – though in the interest of full disclosure my life has been a 24-year long awkward phase – and was still struggling with not only a severe lisp, but a stutter as well. My hair was cut in a blunt, harsh bob style at that age, adding to my peculiar look, as I was not only short, but also scrawny in the limbs with a pudgy stomach. Cute right? All awkwardness aside, I was a fairly happy child, despite a somewhat traumatizing home life that can be boiled down to “Daddy has a terrible drinking problem, but we all pretend it doesn’t exist and attend church like a good family should.” The fact that I was raised in the church makes this story even more disturbing to me in retrospect, though in my immature mind at the time I never made a connection between my religious upbringing and the demonic presence in my home.

So this vivid recollection – one seemingly average night as a seven year old, I lay safely in my racecar bed (being a tomboy had some advantages). My routine at that age included listening to religious-themed audiobook stories, which I found soothing for whatever reason. The cassette rolled, as usual, and I began to drift off to sleep, as usual. But that night I was awoken by the voices from beneath my room. Let me clarify something. My bed was positioned next to an archaic air vent, under which was the first floor of the house. More specifically, my room was above the first floor bathroom, and the style of the vent in my floor made it possible to see and hear what was happening in the room below me. The novelty of this view had grown old, and I no longer spied down to the sink (the only part of the bathroom I could see clearly) on a daily basis. So when I heard soft murmuring underneath my room, I at first subconsciously processed the voices as my parents, having a quiet discussion in the bathroom. I continued to drift.

I remember that I suddenly realized that there were more than two voices. Though my brother and sister were born by that time, neither was old enough to speak in a clearly distinguishable voice. The drifting stopped. I sat up in confusion. I would like to tell you that I panicked immediately and because alarmed – but that just isn’t how it happened. I was only perplexed, as I knew there were only two adults in my home, and there were three adult-toned voices conversing beneath me. From my position on the bed I could not hear clearly what was being said, and as I was not entirely concerned at that point, I inched off my mattress slightly, closer to the vent. I could not see down through the metal slats, as the lights in my room and the bathroom below were off, but I could certainly hear more clearly.

The following is my best possible recollection of what was said; I do not claim to remember word for word, and the phrases were spoken softly so I had trouble understanding exactly what was being said, but this narrative should give a general idea of what the voices said to me.

Male 1: She’s asleep
Male 2: We knew she’d be asleep. She’s a child. It is night.
Male 1: *soft laughter*
Female: But that’s no reason to waste time. She will wake up.
Male 2: This is kinder for (my name).
Male 1: There is no kindness.

These voices, obviously discussing me, belonged to two males and one female, though her tone was raspy and deep for a girl, I remember thinking. After the first male voice had spoken the last sentence, there was silence. I shook my head and told myself I was hearing things. Or maybe I was still asleep. I pinched a bit of my arm flesh between my fingers to wake myself up, to no avail. You may be wondering if I ran to the room of my parents for help or to alert them of what I had heard – but I did not. I had learned never to disturb them in the night, and so I tried to talk myself into a calm state of mind despite my rapid heart rate and sinking stomach.

I eventually found peaceful rest, and did not give a second thought to my nighttime terror as the next day dawned and passed without incident. That night and many nights after were free from the voices. I eventually dismissed the notion that anything had even happened; convincing myself it had been a nightmare, a bad dream.

Several weeks later, I believe, it happened again. Same set-up, so I won’t walk you through all of the mundane details. But this time the voices were making plans. You may question how I can remember this, and although I will admit I don’t remember the exact specifics, I knew that plans were being made to harm me. After this second occurrence of hearing the voices they came more often, having started to formulate their plans more concretely at that point. The plans seemed to change in nature, and I heard things ranging from burning me repeatedly, to kidnapping me, to torturing me for information about some unknown secret. It seemed to me that they did not care what the plan was, only that I was harmed. At this point it seems logical to you as readers that I should have disclosed my nighttime experiences to my parents, but I think I was still trying to convince myself that I was in the wrong – I was imagining these voices, and no one would believe me if I did not even believe myself. So I kept quiet and continued to listen to them.

I got to know them, almost as if they were friends. Thinking back I realize that I was a lonely child with few friends and a lack of love or nurturing in my home. I felt somewhat comforted by their presence after a while. The terror turned to familiarity. Sure these voices had bad ideas about me, and wanted to inflict pain on me, but they used my name. They knew where I was. They kept coming back.

One male voice, the first I had heard, was cold, decisive. He knew what needed to be done, though the plan kept changing. He always had new and more extreme ideas. He never used my name.

The second male voice seemed to have mercy. He would always mention that I needed to be asleep before they could do anything in order to make it as painless as possible. He used my name regularly.

She was malicious, graphic, and brutal. She wanted to harm me the most. She used my name occasionally, but with an edge in her voice that made me feel like my name was a dirty word.

After a while (I wish I could tell you how long, but my memories of time periods are vague and inaccurate) I started to try to stay awake for as long as I could in order to catch more of their conversations. They would repeat the plans, uttering the same phrases multiple times, almost as if they were trying to bore me into sleep, but I also somehow knew that they didn’t know I was awake. I began to think that staying awake was the only way I could prevent terrible things from happening to me. I would sit up in bed, on the edge of my mattress, legs dangling over the side, and listen to stories to keep myself awake. I would occasionally drift off to the sound of the voices, which had become almost as soothing as they were terrifying. But on nights when I could manage to stay awake until dawn, I would trudge through my day following the night of vigilant sleeplessness, proud of my ability to “beat” the voices. Even though nothing happened to me when I did fall asleep for any length of time, part of my brain told me that awake equated to safety and sleep to death.

Nights without sleep passed. The voices changed their plans. I struggled to stay awake in school. It became routine as listening to my audiobooks on cassette.

You may be wondering another thing (you may be very curious readers). Why didn’t I turn on the lights in the bathroom before bed so I could look down into the room and see whom the voices belonged to? I tried that. I would turn the light on, and one of my parents would flick it off before bedtime. I also tried sneaking downstairs and turning it on after they’d gone to bed. By the time I would reach my room and try to peer down through the rusting slats of the air vent, the light would be off again, making me wonder if I had turned it off at all. I began to feel like I was part of a twisted game that forced me to ask myself questions.

Would I fall asleep?

Why can’t I get the light to stay on?

Was I really hearing anything?

As I quizzed myself each night, lying in bed tormented by the trio of voices, the terror grew – but not because the threats to my safety increased or frightened me more. I began to question my sanity. As a young child, to become so unhinged I now realize was normal based on my belief that three people were underneath my room discussing plans to torture me. But at the time I was determined to find my fault in it. If only I could stay awake all night. If only I could see who it was. If only I wasn’t a bad girl who deserved to have these things happen to her. They seemed so sure that I needed to be hurt. I started to believe it.

I decided to sleep through the night and let them carry out their plans. I was tired. I was guilty. I just wanted the confusion to stop.

I slept all night. And all the next day. And that night as well. I slept for 36 hours. I remember my mother coming in and out of the room, tenderly pressing a hand to my forehead, presumably to check for fever. Little did she know I was the healthiest I’d been in a long time. Nothing happened. No plans were carried out. I rested my mind and body. I awoke eventually and went to school. My mother asked if I felt ill. I didn’t, and told her so. The voices did not return that night. Or the next night.

They did not return in my childhood.

When I look back on that period of my life it is easy to chalk up my experiences with the voices as normal childhood fear of monsters. I wish I could. I am so solidly a disbeliever in anything paranormal that it makes no sense to me that anything in that realm could have occurred. Did any of this happen? I have given you my most honest recollections. I leave it up to you to decide. Thank you for letting me release my inner demons.

I consider myself a sensible person.

I hope I can stay awake tonight.

I need to stay awake.

Credit: Aimee

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Bodyshock

July 15, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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Some people just don’t understand. What is right in front of you is almost never the whole picture. Behind every photo, every setting, every face, is an entire world yet to be discovered. My friends and I now know this to our disdain. We now understand why our parents always told us to stay away from the cranberry bogs on the west side. As a matter of fact, we now know why everybody avoided those bogs.

I never had a plan on my 21st birthday. I just figured I’d invite all my friends to my backyard, have some drinks by the fire, camp out, and wake up regretting the hangover. Only problem is, we all still had that teenaged yearning. Our youthful anxiousness for adventure fueled our minds with this reckless abandon.

It wasn’t even my idea to leave the confines of my quaint little yard. My friend Charlie had to point out how bored he was, even as we tipped back beers and debated over music genres with enjoyment. Charlie had a habit of zoning out, and he had a tendency of changing the course of every night we all spent together.

“So how about those cranberry bogs?” He chimed into our game of verbal pong.

We all turned to him, as I stopped mid comment. I opened my mouth to respond, but his impatience was a swift son of a gun.

“Come on guys, sitting around this fire just isn’t doing it for me. I don’t care whose birthday it is.”

“Charlie-” I started, to no avail.

“No. I was just sitting here thinking, we’re all 21 now. We’ve grown up hearing this story about those damned bogs being taboo – off limits. What do you say? Let’s throw our intoxicated caution to the wind. Let’s camp on the bogs for tonight!”

Charlie closed his suggestion with a smirk of buzzed hopefulness and mischief. I barely knew what to say. Looking around at the other’s faces, I didn’t find much more to go off of. Stacy and Henry kinda just stared at the fire, their eyes glossed over from shots and speechlessness. Jay sat to my right, gripping his beer and giving me half a glance with the corners of his eyes. The crackling of the fire seemed to pierce our silence with nothing but an awkward snap, that only background noise could administer. Jay finally stole the fire’s thunder, by interlining a response with throat clearance.

“Charles, my friend, didn’t you hear that story last week? The two young kids with the dog? Nobody has yet heard from them. That only adds to what our parents have always told us. There’s something wrong, something dark about the whole wooded area. Those bogs aren’t safe.”

“Why, Jay?” Charlie chuckled, while throwing his beer bottle into the fire. The glass broke with a muffled shatter, sending sparks up in front of our faces, revealing Charlie’s now sinister expression.

“Why what?” Jay shrugged.

“Why are the bogs so evil? Because a couple dumb kids had some careless parents? Because that old man turned up dead by the water? Because they found a girl murdered at midnight in the sand pit?”

“Unsolved mysteries, man.” Jay shook his head and grabbed another beer, not yet opening it.

Charlie lit up a smoke, and leaned forward to scan us all with his squinting eyes, beady and disgusted by our cautious rejection. He spoke slowly, and carefully now. His voice calm, but to the point.

“Jay, all I have to say is, shit happens. People die everyday, sometimes in one place more than others. The bogs are overgrown, dark, and the paths winding. It’s easy to get lost, but it’s also easy to hide. Anyone could be out there. Tonight, we’ll be anyone, celebrating our friend’s 21st year and having a good time.” He put out half a smoke, and tossed it into the fire pit.

He looked up at me, as if knowing that he had gotten through to someone. Maybe me? Maybe. He had a point. I spent 21 years in this part of town, and yet I never set foot on the mysterious roads of those bogs. How do I know my parents didn’t just do a good job of instilling fear into my mind to keep me safe? Stacy finally chimed in, standing up out of her chair slowly.

“Charlie’s right, why go to our graves never knowing what’s really out there? Who knows? It could be fun!”

Henry grabbed her hand sternly, shaking his head.

“Babe, you’re drunk. Sit down.”

“Shut up, Henry. I’ve only had a few shots. Drink your beer.”

She turned back to us and continued.

“It’s a time of celebration, guys. Let’s do something exciting. If you’re waiting for a vote, you have mine.”

Charlie smiled in satisfaction. His point has made its slow roundabout. Henry finally replied with an “okay, whatever”, and I just nodded and grinned nervously. Jay, on the other hand frowned with a stoic set of eyes, and wouldn’t give a yes or a no. His disagreement could have went on forever, but so could his silence.

As we all stood up to clean and begin our little walk down the street, I began to think about where we were going. I turned a mental eye to my nerves as they touched upon memory lane. I’ve heard a lot about the bogs. A lot.

For example, ten years ago. I was only eleven. Young, innocent, maybe a bit over anxious about life. Still, my mother was able to sit me down in the kitchen for something this serious.

I knew what murder meant, I just never had to be subjected to it. My neighbor used to stroll down by the river that ran behind the bogs. He would never set foot anywhere else near the bog land, he stayed on the other side of the water. That summer was different though.

Mr. Frasier was a nice man. My dad knew him on a first name basis, I remember him calling him ‘my friend Jim” a lot. Jim was a few decades older than my father, but they’d easily bonded over fishing, cars, and sports. Ol’ Jim would even buy us all gifts. He only lived near us for a couple years, but we felt like we knew him for much longer.

When my mother told me that he was found sprawled out by the inner edge of the river, I was confused. He used to talk to my parents all the time about how he would only stroll on the outside. He was educated about the mysterious land, even in the short time he lived here. What changed that day?

We hit the road around 8:00 PM. The uneasiness had finally let up, and we all started joking about how old we felt. My legs ached, and Stacy kept saying her lower back was a bit uncomfortable as Henry placed his hand there to comfort her.

“Henry, guess you gotta let her be on top more often. You’re killing her back.” Charlie snickered.

“Shut the hell up!” Henry sneered back.

“Hey hey, it’s my birthday guys. Let’s not tear each other’s throats out.”

We shared a laugh about it anyway.

We arrived at the bogs around 8:30. As we stepped up to the borders of the shifty land, I realized it looked different than I remembered. From what I could see at least.

The street lamps were off for some reason. Even though I’d driven by it many times before, noticing how lit up it was. Tonight, something was different. The bogs were all overgrown, tangled in a mess of leaves, vines, and weeds. The trees hung menacingly over the footpaths, like hungry bullies waiting for a payout.

Charlie faced away from us, pulled a cigarette out of his pack, and lit it up nonchalantly. He took a drag, and then smiled as he exhaled. His face was beaming with excitement.

“Okay!” He started. “Who wants to be the first one in?”

My stomach jumped. I’d almost forgotten we were actually going to step foot on the property.

Jay shook his head and begun mumbling about something incoherent.

“Jay my brave friend, how nice of you to volunteer!” Charlie flicked his unfinished butt across the street, and rubbed his hands together in anticipation.

Jay shook his head again, but spoke calmly.

“I think we should all line up and walk in together. We stay close, and keep as quiet as possible.”

Charlie’s smile turned instantly to an eye rolling sneer.

“Fine Jay, but you can lead the way.”

“Sure. Follow me, guys.”

Stacy and Henry scurried to the back of the line, holding hands and pressing close together. I stood next to Charlie, and let him pressure on to a position behind Jay.

Jay wasted no time entering the dark, shadowy mouth of the tree laden path. The sound of our feet shuffling behind him echoed ominously through the night. We were unsure, nervous, and not far from scared. We were buzzed, and looking for nothing but a good time. Well, all of us except for Jay.

I could tell at this point he had only taken charge to mediate the dangerous fun. He lead us through the trees, as the vines reached their inanimate fingers toward our feet, and we stepped and stomped our way to the sandy clearing.

We were suddenly out of clear sight. Civilization had been buried behind us through leaves and pine. I could hear the slight hum of traffic in the distance, but I knew now we had reached the belly of an unknown beast.

I took a look around us once we stopped moving. All of us lit up cigarettes, after we dropped our equipment on the ground. Henry and Stacy cracked a bottle of booze open, and Charlie made himself comfortable on a log.

I observed the bogs like an alien planet. The old cranberry plants were discolored. Pieces of machinery lay around a little watershed on the opposite side of the plot. Several old looking, run down cars were parked by a big warehouse ahead of us. I felt a chill in the air all of a sudden. I couldn’t tell if I was only cold from fear, but I wrapped my arms around myself a bit anyway.

“Welcome to the scariest place on Earth, my friends!” Charlie celebrated as he cracked open a beer.

“It’s not that bad. It’s just getting dark is all.” I pointed out.

“Who packed the flashlight?” Stacy wondered out loud.

We all looked at each other, all waiting for an answer.

Jay started to laugh a bit, “Are you kidding me?”

He reached into the tent bag and felt around a bit.

“Damn, nobody thought of it?”

Charlie snickered as well, “Wow. Oh well. We can start a fire. Utilize your surroundings, right?”

“Yeah, plus we can use my phone light until the battery dies.” Stacy offered.

“Oh – almost forgot! Take out your phones!” Charlie pulled out his phone and shut it off.

We all blinked at him for a moment.

Henry took out his phone and waited for a reason. The rest of us did not follow suit.

Charlie added in, “No phones tonight, ladies and gentlemen.”

Wide eyed and silent, I grabbed at my phone in my right pocket.

“Why? We need at least one, in case of emergency.” I left mine away, not complying.

“There won’t be an emergency. We’re grown adults with a survival instinct and we’re only five minutes from society. We’ll be okay.” Charlie was serious.

Jay surprisingly agreed and asked us to just turn them off. We could always turn them on if we really needed them after all.

We spent about a half hour just chatting it up by a nice warm fire, and telling quick little scary stories we’ve heard throughout the years. The thing was, nobody was uncomfortable anymore. We were having a pretty good time.

CRACK.

We all stopped talking.

SNAP. CRACK.

Loud noises, distinct and nearby, echoed around us. Charlie went stoic.

“Were those branches?” he asked.

We shrugged at him, and stared at the trees.

Jay stood up next to Charlie, and looked down at him.

“Wanna go take a look, man?”

Charlie was starting to look less sure of himself. His shoulders held a defensive attention, and his neck showing signs of tenseness. He eased up after a minute of peace, and stood up at a ready.

“Yeah, we’re gonna go see what’s happening. Probably some coyotes or deer.”

“Giant ones.” Henry joked, half serious about it.

“Eat a giant one.” Charlie retorted.

We all laughed again, but Jay and Charlie were starting toward the trees.

Almost immediately, before they could get to the tree line, the brightest lights you could imagine popped on deep in the woods. Countless beams of sparkling luminescence careened and shot straight out between tree trunks. Jay and Charlie were so shocked that they couldn’t help but bounce back on their heels a bit.

“What the hell?!” Charlie exclaimed, shielding his eyes from the strange lights.

I stood in awe of the sight. Nothing but bewilderment occupied our faces. Henry spilled his booze and dropped his cup. Stacy drank her booze and started pouring another drink. I was never much of a drinker, but I suddenly needed a smoke and a drink myself.

“Where is that coming from?” I asked to nobody in particular.

“I don’t know.” Jay was confused, but he threw his hand across his forehead and peered through the trees, hoping to catch a glimpse of a rational answer. Nothing revealed itself, but lights and questions.

“Are we just gonna stand around and wonder about it? Let’s go check out the source!” Charlie demanded.

“No, Charlie.” Jay threw his arm out, stopping Charlie in his tracks.

“Ya know Jay, I’ve had enough of your rejection. I’m so sick of you trying to take charge, and acting like you know what’s best. I really don’t care anymore. If you, or none of you want to follow, that’s fine. Just have a tent set up for me when I find out what this light is.”

He grabbed Jay’s arm and flung it aside. Jay wasn’t phased a bit. He just watched as Charlie walked into a section of lit woods.

“We can’t just let him go wandering off alone!” Stacy insisted.

“Sure we can Stacy,” Jay was unmoved, “It’s his own choice. There’s no sense in the rest of us getting hurt with him. Because then, who would save us?”

Stacy looked drunk with disgust.

“Jay! He’s your friend! We should be saving him. It was our choice to come here, so we are responsible for what happens!”

Jay just shook his head. Funny thing is, even through her scolding, nobody, not even Stacy followed Charlie as he disappeared into the unknown. We were all simply too tired, or too buzzed.

Or too scared.

A half hour or so passed by with no event. Stacy had fallen asleep in a bliss-less drunken coma. Henry sat silently by her, and I chained smoked my last few cigarettes like never before, lighting each one with the cherry of the last. Finally, Jay spoke up.

“He did ask us to make the tent. Anybody wanna help me?” I volunteered and grabbed the bag.

“AAAAH!” A searing scream of agony ripped through the tree line. I jumped so much, that I accidentally smacked Jay in the face with one of the tent poles.

“SHIT!” Jay grabbed his face and glared at me.

“Sorry…” I mumbled.

Stacy woke up from her intoxicated cat nap, and Henry stirred to his feet.

“What? What’s going on?” Stacy yawned, clearly not shaken and maybe clueless to what we all heard.

“Did that sound like Charlie?” Henry asked.

Jay nodded in confirmation.

“He has to be messing with us. He’s probably on his way back.” I pointed out.

I wasn’t so sure though.

The sudden sound of a buzzing, electric pulse then shook me to my core. We all watched as a streak of colorless light, zig zagged it’s way through the forest.

“NO, AAAAH, PLEASE!!” Charlie screamed from somewhere deep inside the woods.

“J-Jay…” I stuttered, “What do we do?”

“I don’t know, but…what is that?” He pointed above the trees.

My jaw dropped. There, beyond his finger, above the trees and beneath the sky, was something I’d only ever seen in movies and books. A disc, larger than an airplane, hovered soundless in the air. It’s round characteristics weren’t too threatening, but out from underneath its bottom surface came a cylindrical beam of light, swirling with sparkling heat. I was in awe.

Frozen, and shocked.

Stacy and Henry came to our side, eyes widened and jaws lower than mine.

“Holy crap…is that what I think it is?” Henry asked, practically laughing in bewilderment.

Jay and I nodded.

It appeared to be alien. It didn’t look like any aircraft I had ever laid eyes on, at least not in real life. I wasn’t about to jump to conclusions, but it was shooting lights. I felt permitted to assume.

BZZZZT. The light clicked off.

We all jumped back, and didn’t have much time to react. The strange disc sped away into the night. My eyes and brain couldn’t explain.

One blink. Still didn’t know what happened.

Two blinks. I was more confused than ever before.

I scratched at my head, hoping somebody would speak up. They were as silent as the dark night before us.

“I don’t hear Charlie anymore.” Jay pointed out.

He was right. Not only did I not hear him, I didn’t feel like he was out there either. A wave of fearful emotion crawled into my veins. I didn’t want to feel the truth, anymore than I wanted to hear it.

“Is he dead?” Henry asked dumbfounded.

Jay shook his head.

“I don’t know, man.”

We all decided it was probably best to sit for a moment and collect ourselves. We gathered around our little fire, and half heartedly prodded at conversation, but nothing was interesting. I kept peeking at the trees, hoping to see Charlie. Jay kept twiddling his thumbs, and scratching his neck. He was a nervous wreck.

I couldn’t take the waiting anymore. I finally came to my senses.I stopped Stacy from pouring a shot, and spoke my mind shortly.

“We have to go look for him.”

Jay stood up, nodding in agreement.

“Yeah. I can’t handle this, guys. We can’t just sit here and hope.”

Henry and Stacy looked at each other. Stacy agreed with us as well, but Henry was clearly exhausted.

Henry is a great guy, don’t get me wrong. He would walk to the ends of the earth for his friends. He actually drove to Colorado to pick up Jay when his Uncle had kicked him out. He lent Charlie three hundred dollars when he missed a car payment last year as well. So his qualities in friendship are not in question when I tell you, he refused to help us find Charlie.

“I can’t even keep my eyes open, guys. I don’t think I can walk who knows how many miles, through trees and darkness. I’m drunk and tired.”

Stacy grabbed his arm, “Babe, me too, but that’s our friend out there. He could be hurt and scared.”

“It’s his fault. He wanted to come out here. Everybody warned him it wasn’t safe.”

“Yeah? Yeah? Well we came here with him too. You knew something weird could happen. Now, we face the consequences. Get your drunk ass up, and come with us!”

Henry stared, waited, and glared at her for a few moments. The gloss in his eyes reflected Stacy’s sassy smirk. They really loved each other; you could see it in their body language. So, not unwillingly, Henry took her hand with a ‘you’re right’ shrug. They stood up together, and faced Jay and I.

We were all in this together now, for sure.

Approaching the tree line this time was a bit more unnerving than when we originally entered the bogs. There was now a weathered fear involved, as well as a missing member. I couldn’t imagine what lay beyond the tangled webs of vines and creaking wood. After that disc in the sky, I now saw the landscape surrounding us as an actual alien land. I felt watched, observed, and weak. I was helpless and under dressed. I actually felt disarmed.

“Hey, you okay?” I felt Jay nudge me with concern.

I then realized I had been staring into the distance. My thoughts must have stopped me, cause Stacy and Henry were looking back at Jay and I beyond the trees. They had started walking already.

“Yeah, I uh, I was just making sure we had something to defend ourselves with. Jay, did you bring your knives?”

He reached into his hoodie pocket, and pulled out two of the blades he had bought at the mall last year.

“Are you good now?”

No, I thought to myself.

“Yes.” I lied.

We continued walking. The crunch of fallen leaves and spare gravel alerted me, and who knows what else, to the path we were following. My sense of sound was heightened by my lack of clear eyesight. Henry had clicked his phone back on to make use of his flashlight app, but all it did was give an eerie glow up ahead.

“Wait.” I stopped dead in my tracks.

Everyone else stopped ahead of me, noticing the absence of my crunching footsteps.

“What?” Stacy seethed back to me.

Up ahead of Henry and Stacy, through some bunches of trees, a strange ball of light flickered a bit. It didn’t sit still either. It seemed to be circling a possible clearing. I pointed to it. Once I did, it immediately caught Jay’s attention. He turned Stacy and Henry to it and stuck his finger out so they could see it too.

They did.

I put my finger to my lips and joined their party of confusion. I shushed their muffled muttering so they could hear what I was hearing.

Bzzt. Bzzt.

That on and off zap of energy reminded me of the burst of electricity from earlier.

“You hear that?” I asked.

They nodded in unison. None of us were too certain on moving after that either, but we couldn’t stop now. Henry took the first steps toward it, Stacy close in tow. Jay now had his hand wrapped tight around a knife in his pocket. I scurried after them with hesitation.

I felt my heart pound against my chest the closer we got. I could see structures up ahead now. A garage type building sat behind a gate. Inside that gate, tall poles stood to the left and right. We were getting closer. A wire was strung up between the two poles, and it continued into the building through an opening. We were not even ten steps from the gate now.

BZZT. A surge shot through the wire. Sparks flew up around the pole, stopping us from nearing the gate any closer. I watched as a blue ball of light circulated on the outside of the wire and moved its way to the left, making a corner, and into the opening of the structure.

“What the hell is that?” Stacy whispered.

Nobody answered. None of us knew what we were looking at exactly. Some sort of electrical building? Where was the electricity coming from? Who was running the equipment? The chills in my body were starting to bug me more and more.

“This is unbelievable…” Jay muttered .

“Do we try and get inside?” I couldn’t believe I asked that one.

Everybody turned and looked at me, realizing I had asked a damned good question.

“Well,” Jay started, “we came all this way to look for Charlie. I think we should at least take a look.”

Still, we remained standing without further action. After all, what would we find behind those doors besides Charlie? All we’ve experienced from these bogs were unexplained phenomena. Things could potentially be dangerous. Or worse, deadly.

Jay observed that we should test the gate first. He had to make sure it wasn’t electrified. He picked up a stick from the ground, and gestured for us to stand back. He wrapped his fingers around the stick tensely, sighed, and tossed it at the gate. The stick bounced stiffly off of it, and fell to the ground. We looked at each other with confirmation, and approached the gate side by side.

Jay did not hesitate, reaching for the gate latch with confidence. He flipped it open, and pushed. It made a loud screeching sound, which scared me half to death. I peeked around, paranoid that we had alerted someone, or something to our presence. Gladly, there was still no sign of life besides us.

The next obstacle was easily cleared as well. The strange wire surrounding the front premises of the lot was high enough off the ground that we could step right beneath it safely. The ball of light hadn’t shown itself in recent moments either, so we weren’t concerned. However, the concerning issue was to soon arise.

We arrived at a small front door, shuffling into a close knit huddle behind our unspoken designated leader, Jay. At this point, he was subconsciously leading the way, with concentration masking a focused fear factor beneath. He peered carefully into the window through the door, to no avail. A thickly settled dust sat on the inside of the pane. Beyond that, the generic white shade dangled plainly, yet effectively concealing what lay on the other side. Jay turned to us, his eyes scanning our faces. Then, back to the window. He shook the doorknob to check and see if it was locked.

“I think it’s unlocked.” He stated breathlessly.

“Open it!” Henry seethed, squeezing Stacy’s hand and looking around us frantically, just praying nobody would notice us.

“No!” I intervened quietly, but with urgency.

“Why not?” Jay and Henry asked in unison.

“Because! What if whoever took Charlie is right behind the door?”

“Then chances are, we’ll be snuffed out on the spot. But we don’t really have time to come up with a break in plan, put it into action, and assume all of us are going to pull it off. No, let’s just take our chances with plan A; walk through the front door.” Jay grinned, and patted me on the shoulder. I knew he didn’t mean to be a jerk about it. But, even though his reassuring little shoulder tap was meant to relax me, I could just sense he was fuming with anxiety. His face was expressing an exhausted fear. His eyes were glossy, drooling tears of anxious terror. He too must be scanning his thoughts, remembering the strange disc and anomalous lights.

His hand gripped the doorknob so hard, I could hear a crack in his knuckles. He twisted it swiftly. The steel door scraped the cement beneath it, as Jay pushed it slowly open. I took a deep breath as it finally swung far enough for us to look inside.

I was surprised. There beyond the doorway lay an empty looking hallway, dimly lit by a single dusty bulb. My hands still shook with nervous adrenaline, though. Jay stepped inside for a second, before gesturing us to follow him.

“Jay, should I shut the door behind me?” I questioned quietly.

“No, keep it open in case we need to run.”

I gulped. I never thought of that. What if what we’re dealing with is that dangerous. Are we going to be running for our lives any time soon? The hairs on my neck were standing alert now, chills marching through my body bloodhounds on parade.

As we creeped Mystery Inc. style through the hall, I noticed to the right of the dim light was another door, this one solid grey with a black door knob. Stepping closer, I saw a white sign with red lettering to the left of the doorway.

Jay saw it too. He read aloud in a hushed voice:

WARNING! HIGH VOLTAGE PROCEED!

“What?” Stacy scoffed, “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Proceed?” I said dumbly.

“I think it means nothing tonight is going to make sense.” Jay replied, already reaching for the black door knob.

“Wait!” I practically shouted.

Jay turned to me confused.

“What?”

“Um, I don’t know. I’m just not sure if we’re ready for this.”

“I’m more ready now than I’ll be in five minutes, when I’ve had enough time to second guess it.” He swung the door open sharply.

CLANG. BANG. CLICK.

Suddenly, we were welcomed by an overwhelming pool of light. It washed through the room like nothing I’ve seen before. All four of us shielded our eyes with our arms and hands. Then, as quickly as it happened, it dimmed back to a tolerable level. We were at the brightness of a normal living room lamp now.

Cautiously, we all adjusted back to normal and began observing our surroundings. It was like a plain old hangar of some sort. Military like. Only difference was, it was empty. The walls and floor were bare. Except…

On the opposite side of the large garage, was a table. What I noticed from there, paralyzed me.

It wasn’t a table, it was a hospital bed. Strapped electric chair style to the arched bed was a figure that I recognized all to well.

“Ch-Charlie?” I whispered.

Jay, Stacy, and Henry breathed heavy sighs of relief when they brought their attention to him too.

“Charlie!” Stacy cried out in excitement.

Henry through his hand over her mouth urgently, looking around us as the echo of her voice surrounded the hangar.

“Babe, you can’t do that. Remember where we are.” Henry let go of Stacy, as she blushed and hung her head in embarrassment.

“Sorry…” She mumbled.

We walked slowly, but steadily toward Charlie, never breaking our close huddle. As we got closer to Charlie, I felt a sharp pain in my stomach. I looked to the right of Charlie’s bed. A box with wires circulated underneath the legs of the bed. Something was wrong, and I was soon to realize why my instincts were acting up.

Jay stepped up to Charlie first.

“Hey ,bud – it’s us. We came and found you.”

Charlie never spoke, never stirred. He looked alive, but unconscious as all hell.

“Charlie, we’re here. Wake up.” Jay continued.

A clang from an upper level inside the building startled us. Jay looked concerned, his eyes watering with impatience.

“Charlie, you idiot. Wake up. We have to get you out of here!”

Jay snapped, and pulled out a knife. He unsheathed it, sending Henry, Stacy, and I stumbling back.

“Whoa, Jay!” I gasped.

“What?” He asked, “I’m going to cut him free.”

I blinked a couple times., and sighed with relief. I thought he was just so mad that he was gonna put the knife in Charlie. I shook my head, as Jay began carefully cutting at the ties. To our surprise, Charlie’s eyes were starting to open.

“Charlie!” I whispered with a smile.

He blinked. He started to eye us a bit. I noticed his face was covered in dirt and his mouth seemed stressed as if he hadn’t used it in a while, or maybe his jaw was just tense from screaming for help. Suddenly, his eyes went wide. He moved his head from side to side.

“No Charlie, don’t move.” Jay ordered him, “I’m cutting your ties. I don’t wanna cut you.”

“Hmm, uggh” He grumbled, still shaking his head.

Finally, he started using real words.

“No, Jay!” he cried, clear as day, “My limbs are paralyzed. You can’t save me. You all need to leave.”

“Wh..what?” I stuttered.

Henry and Stacy grabbed each other tightly. Jay pulled his knife away.

“Dude, I’ll carry you. We’re not leaving you behind.”

“No, it’s not worth it. They’ve taken all of my strength already. I’m screwed. Just leave me here. Get home safely. Just go!”

“They – who’s they?” Stacy whimpered, startled by Charlie’s stubborn desperation.

“Those things. They have a leader. The town cops are all a part of it, or at least Officer Hendricks is. It’s all so screwed up. I couldn’t believe it.”

We all stood frozen in silence. Charlie continued.

“There’s…people here. Some not of Earth. Officer Hendricks has partnered up with them, for some…experiments on humans. He already killed a girl that was here today. She was young, with a bossy little attitude. Hendricks said she had some inner leadership aura, that if sapped out, would give him and the other things some sort of paranormal powers. I don’t know guys, but they’re doing the same thing to me. They already took my motor skills. I can’t even think as fast I used to.”

I was choked up with sadness and fear. I could tell my friends were too. We couldn’t believe it.

“Whatever,” Jay snorted, “I’m getting you out of here anyway.”

Jay started cutting away at the ties again.

“Jay, stop. Go before-”

Charlie’s desperate worry was cut off by the sound of a metal door opening to our right. I turned and looked. It was Officer Hendricks, in a long blue lab coat, and needle in hand.

“Well, well, well.” He sneered, “The neighborhood punks I pulled over all last summer, all in one room together. This is too perfect.”

“Hendricks…” Stacy stammered, “…wh-what are you doing here?”

“Sweetheart, this is my home. So, I’m going to ask you all – what are you doing on the bogs this late at night? I heard these woods can be murder.”

His words followed by a loud buzzing noise caused us all to jump.

“Oh my! It’s time!” Hendricks started stepping toward Charlie.

Jay threw himself in front of Charlie, denying passage to him.

“Don’t take another step, asshole. Get away from him.”

Hendricks chuckled a bit, clearly unmoved by Jay’s heroic efforts.

“Oh Jay Levox, so brave, so young. So-” He paused, “naive.”

We all just watched, as Hendricks pulled up a chair and sat down. Jay straightened out a bit, completely uncomfortable, and unnerved by the dirty cop’s nonchalant behavior.

“I suppose,” Hendricks trailed off a bit, “I suppose I should explain myself before we kill you all.”

Stacy burst into tears in Henry’s arms, emotional and hurt by the cold, cruel behavior of her Uncle. That’s right, this psycho is part of Stacy’s family. Until that night, none of us ever knew he was like this. He just seemed like a normal, douchebag cop.

“Stacy, it’s okay. Your father will get a much less bizarre answer when he asks what happened to you. I promise.”

“Why are you doing this!?” She sniffle and sobbed, glaring through teardrops.

“Well if you’d shut up for a moment, maybe I’ll get to that!” Hendricks slammed his hands on the arms of his chair, sending another loud echoing noise through the whole room. Stacy shut up abruptly.

“Now, who’s ready?”

“Yes Hendricks; tell us.” Jay demanded.

“Please, Jay. Call me Tim.”

“Bur your name is Hubert…” Stacy mumbled.

“Excuse me little missy, that was the name my dirt bag mother gave me. I changed it years later, and for good reason!” He slammed his hands on the chair again. I was getting tired of this by now.

“Please just tell us.” I sighed in annoyance.

“Okay!”

He smiled and put the needle in his coat pocket. He rubbed is hands together, and adjusted his sleeves. This guy was a real nutcase.

“Okay,” He repeated, “Who believes in power?”

We all didn’t answer.

“Hello, anybody home? That’s okay, I know you’re all shaking in your boots at the sight of me. I’m too much, right?”

We remained silent.

“Power. It sits inside all of us, some more than others. My friends and I have developed a way to convert that power into an energy one can harness, and place inside a new host. Guess who that host is these days?”

He turned his thumbs on himself, and mouthed ‘This guy’. Again, nutcase.

“What friends?” Jay asked confidently.

“My wonderful, technologically advanced friends from out of town.” He laughed at his own awful sense of humor.

“Again, Tim, what friends?” Jay insisted.

“Have you not figured that out yet, really? God dammit, they’re aliens.”

Even though I had already silently confirmed this, it still chilled my bones again. To hear it from him was just a whole new monster in itself.

“Aliens aren’t real.” Jay stated plainly.

“Of course they are, I assure you. Only these ones have lived on this planet for longer than we have. They’ve been among us for centuries. Almighty master, bless them!” Tim clasped his hands together.

Almighty master? Centuries of aliens walking among us? I became flustered all of a sudden.

“Almighty master?” Jay shook his head.

“Never mind that, let’s get down to business.”

We gasped and spread ourselves out a bit.

“Business?” Henry gulped.

“Out of my way kids, I’m already late in taking care of this. Be quiet, and step aside.”

“No!” Jay lunged at Tim shoulder first.

The psychopathic cop grabbed Jay effortlessly, disarming him of motion and holding him in place.

“Hmm, poor Jay. You try so hard. You have leadership abilities, but it’s simply not backed up by any real strength to follow through with. Well, maybe a nap will get you back up to standards.” Tim pulled the needle out of his pocket, as Jay squirmed and we all screamed out loud. The needle entered Jay’s neck without further ado. Jay’s squirms rapidly turned into flailing, and then his eyes drooped and he fell limp. Tim then tossed him aside. He looked at us with a relaxed grin, no affection behind his cold eyes.

“Oh. I almost forgot you were all watching. No worries – it’s a safe new drug. It actually makes sure his brain has nice, calm dreams to keep his aura clean while he sleeps. It’s a very peaceful thing really.”

“You crazy mother-” Stacy started pulling away from Henry to get at Tim, but henry held her back firmly.

“Crazy? Ha, my beautiful, spunky niece. I’m not crazy, I’ve just been enlightened by a better race of beings. They know me and I know them. I know all. The power they’ve bestowed upon me, has made me the most powerful man in the world. I can do anything I want. My friends work for me and build for me. It’s flattering, actually.” He smirked again, and looked off into nothing, eyes smiling with the rest of his face.

“You’re a lunatic, just let us go!” I screamed.

“Oh. I almost forgot again!” He reached into his pocket, ignoring my desperate cries.

He pulled out another needle, and approached Charlie. All we could do was hopelessly watch as he approached him with a sinister look on his face. I was speechless now. The needle entered our friend’s neck, and he instantly closed his eyes. Poor Charlie couldn’t fight at all; he had lost too much strength already.

Tim Hendricks wasted no time, reaching down and pressing a button on the box below him. The wires around Charlie’s chair began glowing and vibrating.

“I’m so thankful for this knockout drug,” Tim stated, “I got so sick of him screaming for help. Such an annoying, desperate scream. For what? Nobody is going to save any of you.”

So cold, so unaffected by his surrounding peers. He’s in his own alien world. I turned to Henry and Stacy. They were looking at me, probably expecting me to get us out of this mess. I looked toward the door to the right of us that Hendricks had emerged from. No, that’s no way out. I turned to the door we had entered from. Maybe, if we ran fast enough, we’d be able to make it out in time. But what about Jay? There’s no telling how long it would take him to wake up.

I saw Henry sneakily check his phone for service. He looked at me, and lightly shook his head, confirming to me that we were truly alone out here. Surely, I was feeling helpless.

“So!” Tim called out excitedly, “Who’s going to be next?”

I thought quickly, then I surprised myself.

“Nobody.” I reached into my pocket and pulled out my phone, and tossed it at Tim’s head with great force. It hit him between the eyes with a thud.”

“AAAAH, owwww! Fuck! You little shit!” He screamed with his hand over the spot of impact.

During this free moment, I gestured to Henry and Stacy to run. They obliged with a quick start, hand in hand. Unfortunately, they didn’t make it to the door. A burst of light shot from the ceiling over head. It illuminated the room all around, and sparks shot from Charlie’s bed. Wait, no…they shot from Charlie’s body!

“Noooo!” I strained out a cry of denial, shielding my eyes from the light as I watched the hairs burn off of Charlie. His skin began to droop practically off his body. I now noticed that Charlie had wires going under his clothes. As his skin shriveled, I saw that they were under his skin too. I puked abruptly, all over the floor in front of me.

Henry and Stacy had stopped and saw this too. They were both crying. Then, just as quickly as it had started, the lights disappeared and the sparks ceased. Tim clicked the box off next to Charlie, still holding his forehead. Blood dripped around his fingers and down his face. He looked up at us, frowning but eyes gleaming with satisfaction.

“Well, that one is fried.”

I puked again. Tim scoffed down at me with disgust.

“Gross,” He said, “All over my living room floor.”

I sat up and started crawling back away from him.

“You…you bastard. You killed him!” I started sobbing.

“I didn’t kill him. You don’t understand. None of you do. Don’t get me wrong, he is very dead. Still, I can’t get over the feeling that I’m actually saving you all. I’m saving you from your pointless existence. None of you will amount to anything. You will never be as great as me. So, why live?” He snickered and smiled again.

“You’re sick Hendricks, very sick.”

“Yes, I’m just throwing up power everywhere I go.”

Suddenly, the door to the left swung open with a banging abruptness. We all turned to see who had entered.

There, in front of Stacy and Henry, stood a man, about 6 feet tall. It was a man, but of a different kind. He lacked a nose or ears. He wore a blue lab coat and high brown boots. His limbs were skinny. Most strange of all? His hair was made of wires. I gasped, voice trapped deep within my body. I could never find the words to speak in front of this unusual being.

“Doctor!” Tim perked up when he realized who had entered the hangar.

“Hello, Tim. I just wanted to let you know…”

The creature stopped speaking when he saw Charlie’s charred, drooping corpse. It’s eyes went wide, and then squinty with fury. He turned to Hendricks.

“I thought I asked you not to go too far with this one!”

“I’m sorry Doctor, I just can’t help myself. I hunger for the rush, the resulting energy, and the power!”

Hendricks shoulders dropped, like he was punished. I think this ‘Doctor’ might be Hendricks’ superior…

“Mr. Tim, I understand. Still, we need the specimens for research. I’ll cut your funding if you keep it up.”

It turned toward me with beady, cold, emotionless eyes. He observed me on the floor, and Stacy and Henry as if he just noticed that we were there.

“Oh Doctor, these three just crawled in from the woods. I have good plans for them. You won’t be disappointed again.”

Hendricks smiled faintly. He seemed worried that he would be harmed in some way. If not by the doctor’s words, by some use of force.

“You’re using my equipment. If you abuse your position…well, let’s just say I know how to use these machines better than you do. Dispose of that body in the pit, and I better not see another one any time soon!”

With that, he flipped his coat with a turning start, and stormed out the door without another comment. He slammed the door with a crashing clang. Everyone was silent for a good minute, but Hendricks couldn’t hold his tongue.

“One of you rats are gonna have to cooperate for me. Production is slow, I need results!”

“That’s your own damned fault, asshole!” I screamed, “You got yourself into this mess. Let us go before it gets any worse!”

“You don’t understand. You really don’t.”

I shook my head, as I watched Tim begin unhooking Charlie’s remains from the bed. I couldn’t keep my eyes on him though, as I felt choked up and helpless. Instead, I looked at Jay’s motionless body on the floor and started brainstorming a way out of the building. All I could think of was the hallway, from where we entered the hangar. Jay started to stir. My eyes widened. I couldn’t believe it. That was quick.

“Psst…” Stacy directed at me.

I turned to her. She pointed at Jay. I nodded, confirming that I was aware of his awakening. I eyed him, as he slowly began regaining consciousness. I had to think fast.

Hendricks began tucking Charlie’s corpse into his arms, and I wondered where he would go with it. To my dismay, he started carrying him toward the hallway I was planning on dipping out of. He carefully opened the door, and shuffled on out, leaving the door clanging shut.

“Jay!” I seethed to my friend.

He looked up at me, eyes still glossed over from the drug in his blood.

“Wha-what happened?” He stammered.

We all got up and approached him on the floor. Henry and Stacy helped him to his feet. I was not going to begin explaining what had just happened.

“We’ll tell you everything when we get the hell out of here, Jay.”

“How are we going to do that?” He asked me, dusting himself off from his time out on the floor.

“I don’t know. That psychopath just left out of the hallway we came in. I don’t wanna chance a close quarters encounter that way.”

I looked around some more. The upper levels of the room lead to a steel bridge with a doorway at the end. I didn’t want to be fearful, but I wanted to take a guess. The only thing holding me back was not wanting to lead my friends into danger. I couldn’t handle the thought of anyone else ending up like Charlie…

“Hey, snap out of it!” Stacy snapped her fingers in my face.

I came to, realizing I had spaced out yet again, trapped in tantalizing thoughts.

“I’m sorry, I…”

“It’s okay,” Jay placed his hand on my shoulder, I think to reassure me, “I understand. This is not an ideal situation. I’m feeling weak in the mind right now, but… I also know we have to get out of here.”

I stared at him, eyes wide and scanning his face. He didn’t need to say anymore. I’ve been designated to make the next choice, to get us out of this mess. To save my friends.

“What if I make a choice, and it’s the wrong one? I’ll feel like a murderer if I lead you all to your deaths…”

“I’m telling you now, none of us will blame you.” Jay was serious, and final with his words. It was time to move…

Stacy and Henry took each other’s hand, and Jay and stood shoulder to shoulder with them as I began walking to the staircase. We were going to take the upper level. The clanging of the steps stresses me out, but Jay’s words rang through me head. It kept me pressing on. I was leading the way, ready to find us a way out.

We got to the top faster than expected. We must have rushed our way up, but it didn’t matter. Nothing was stopping us.

The central bridge was approaching. We turned onto it and followed it all the way to the end. Ahead of us now stood a double door way. It was rusty, but I could tell it used to be a deep gray color. A rectangular outline on the left door made me think there probably used to be a sign on it, but it was clearly gone now.

“Think this is our shot?” Henry whispered to me.

“I don’t know.” I couldn’t lie. I felt nothing more than fearful adrenaline. I was blindly pressing on.

I reached for the handles of the doors and wrapped my fingers tightly on them. I didn’t want to hesitate. I don’t want to wait at all. I yanked them open.

We blinked. There was a wall. A flat, gray wall.

“No.” I said dumbly.

I began to feel around, hoping to find a seam, or button or anything at all to get through it. It was no use. My heart began racing. The blood poured angrily through my veins, frustrated that I had failed to find an exit. Instead, I’ve lead my best friends to a dead end. A cold, dead, gray end.

“Pretty funny, huh?” A voice sneered from behind us.

My jaw dropped and we all swung around. There, looking mischievous as always, stood Tim Hendricks. His arms were covered in dirt, and blood. His eyes were glossy, black, and beady, staring at us with a smirk of malevolence.

“Hendricks, um uh….” I stuttered.

I was stupefied. If there was any ounce of leadership in my bones, it was now dormant. I had no idea what to do.

“Kids, I think we all know how this is going to end. If you would give up and come with me quietly, it would be much appreciated.” He gave a little muttered laugh.

There was an awkward moment of silence. We all stood and stared at each other.

“Come on!” Tim shouted.

Without thinking, all four us ran shoulder first at the corrupt cop, knocking him flat on his back. We piled past him, shoes squeaking and clanging across the steel beneath us. My eyes were frantically darting for another way out now, scanning each direction the upper level could take.

There. To the right. I didn’t notice it before, but there was a balcony within jumping distance. Behind it lay a door. It was our only real chance besides going back the way we came. Which way was the right way?

“Guys, right or down?!” I yelled.

Without waiting for a response, I turned right. To my surprise, they kept running.

I stopped.

“Guys?!” I shouted again.

Jay stopped and turned.

“I don’t wanna leave the decision on you this time, we’re all running for our lives. Just follow or go!” He turned and continued back down the staircase.

I looked to my right, as Hendricks foot steps began to clang behind me. That’s it I thought, no more chances. I’m sticking to my friends. I darted after them, Hendricks in tow.

I caught up to them as they slowed to a jog. The door we had entered through lay just ahead, practically gleaming like a light at the end of a dark tunnel. Hopefully.

BANG! The door slammed open, just as Henry was reaching for it.

“OW!” He cried out, stumbling to the side and grabbing his wrist.

“Henry!” Stacy ran to his side.

Jay and I had no time to react. What stood in front of us, sent a shock right through our bodies.

It was the doctor – the very creature who had scolded Hendricks earlier. Behind him, crowding the hall, stood many other smaller humanoid beings. Some stood normal adult height, others looked like normal humans. They pushed into the room, surrounding us.

“Hello, young folks.” said the doctor in a calm voice.

We did not respond. Jay and I looked around us. I could not believe my eyes. Some of these people were familiar.

“Mrs. Carter?” Jay gasped. It was our old English teacher from sophomore year, standing directly across from us.

“Hi, kids!” She said smiling.

“This is screwed up Jay, we have to find a way out of here.” I tried shaking myself awake, but this was no nightmare. It was a living hell.

Stacy and Henry were motionless behind the circle of people, looking at Jay and I with horrified expressions. After a strange momentary silence from everyone, the doctor spoke.

“Well, this has gone on long enough.”

Hendricks approached from behind us.

“You’ve met my friends,” he snickered, “They’ve been watching our chase from the control room. You see, you’re never safe. This was always meant to end in my favor.”

“ENOUGH!” The doctor boomed, causing my heart to skip a beat.

“Sorry sir, how should we take care of these four now?”

“I don’t care. Just get me their energy. Route it right to my father’s chambers. I’m sure he’ll be very pleased.”

My face must have twisted to another deep level of fear, because the doctor looked right at me and spoke again.

“Oh child, don’t bother being scared. Your existence will no longer matter in the following moments. This is the end of the road for you and your friends.”

The circle of people began to close in. That’s when I noticed them. There, in the furthest end of the crowd were my parents.

“M…Mom? Dad?”

“Hey, sweetie.” My mom did not smile. She merely cracked a smirk that I knew as her bored expression.

The circle opened to reveal them to me some more. They were in their normal day attire, hair and faces neat and prim.

“What the fuck is going on here?!”

My tear ducts were damned, causing my face to twitch as it held back the waterworks – a mix of anger, sadness, and fear that had all built up through the night. Jay, Stacy, and Henry were all speechless. Their parents were not present, but all eyes were on me as I took in the confusing situation.

My dad stepped forward.

“I’m so sorry. We wanted you to stay away from here. We didn’t want you or your friends to end up in this…awkward position.”

“Awkward? Fucking awkward? Charlie is dead! These people want the rest of us dead too. You’re going to let this happen?”

“Listen. It’s nothing personal.” My mom stated coldly.

“You’re our blood. The Almighty Master may share your energy with us this time.”

Nothing personal. Almighty Master.

“Mom…Dad…I’m your son!”

Suddenly, my arms and hands were apprehended by some aliens from the crowd. Stacy, Henry, and Jay were all grabbed as well. They were screaming for help, but my eyes would not peel away from my parents.

“I’m your son!” I screamed again. No response.

I couldn’t help it. I pulled one of my kidnappers’ hands up to my face, and sank my teeth down into their palm.

“AAAH!” The being screeched aloud.

“Stop that one!” Hendricks seethed.

I was already headed up the stairs to the upper level. The sounds of my shoes clanging against the steel practically muffled the cries of my friends beneath me, screaming for help. Maybe from me, or maybe to no one in particular, but I couldn’t stop. Some unknown fear inside me compelled me to get away. I knew we would all end up spread out at some point. I was just leading the way, right? They would soon follow, right?

I could see it again, the balcony in jumping distance. It had to be a way out. It had to be.

I grasped the railing from where I was, and swung myself across. My body cracked against the double doors and I stumbled backwards, but I kept my footing. I wasted no time as I opened the doors in front of me.

A long winding corridor stretched out beyond me. Again, it was dimly lit, this time by many bulbs along the length of the ceiling. As I followed the walls without hesitation, taking each turn with barely a cautionary stall, I began panting.

I never realized it, but I was becoming very tired. My muscles ached and pulsated like the throats of frogs, swelling and deflating over and over. Only thing is, I didn’t plan on croaking anytime soon.

My frantic running slowed to a jog. How long was the damned hallway?

I was answered by a doorway up ahead. This one was a glistening chrome surface, smooth and twinkling as if it were freshly scrubbed, waxed, and shined.

Again, without thinking twice about it, I swung the door open.

BZZT.

“What…?!” I gasped as a gust of wind, accompanied by a furiously bright light, smacked me with a wave of surprise. I shielded my eyes quickly. It was so bright, I could feel it through my eyelids.

I waited for what felt like minutes on end to reopen my eyes, and then I finally did. The light had ceased gladly, but I kept one hand close to my face just incase. Then, I began looking around the room. Wait a second. No, not a room. I was outside! I was standing on a rooftop. My heart began to race. That means I had made it out! But, hold on…I was not alone.

“Shit!” I whispered aloud.

The large disc-like craft from earlier sat quietly whirring ahead of me. The same shiny gloss from the door behind me made up the entire surface of the alien ship. It had multiple circle windows around the top part and a few lights unlit around the bottom half.

“Unbelievable…” I mumbled.

There had to be somebody on board. It was running. It sounded like a car sitting idle. This was no earthly, personal vehicle though.

I looked around and noticed a large wooden crate off to the left of me. That would be my cover until I figure out what to do from here I thought. I quietly tip toed over and ducked down behind it. I couldn’t believe the situation at this point. Here I was, hiding behind a crate on a rooftop, of a building occupied by alien creatures, and crazy people. Officer Hendricks, my parents, my old teacher. I mean, what the hell was going on? I wondered what my friends were doing. Had they gotten away? Would I find them when I get out of this mess?

BANG! The shiny chrome colored door flew open. My heart skipped a beat. Who was it?

I could hear two voices, male and female. They were talking frantically back and forth. I had to sneak a peek, and figure out who had followed in my tracks to this alien landing zone. I took a deep breath, and stuck my head out just a bit.

“Stacy! Henry!” I whispered loudly, my voice rasping, straining to still keep quiet.

They turned to look at me, eyes widening with smiling surprise.

“There you are!” Stacy cried out, also straining her voice with a hushed hoarseness.

Her and Henry shuffled over hurriedly, stooping down to join me.

“I ran as far as I could to escape those things, but I don’t know where to go from here.” I explained.

“I don’t know either, but I’ve had it up to here with this bullshit.” Henry shook his head and put his hand on his forehead, displaying stress and discomfort.

“Well, there has to be a way off this roof. We’re gonna find out. Where’s Jay?” I looked at them both, as their faces fell to a solemn lowness.

“Oh…” Stacy turned away a bit, “I’m sorry he…”

“They got him.” I said. It was a statement, not a question.

They both nodded.

“No…no.” I stood up, hands and head shaking, “No! Shit, it’s my fault!”

“No it’s not!” Stacy shouted, “Don’t say that! And sit down, they’re gonna find us.”

“I should’ve been there, I should’ve…” My voice trailed off.

My devastation finally took its toll. The waterworks were brewing like a pot of bad coffee. My body was rejecting my own feelings. I couldn’t handle it anymore. I was bitter – toward myself.

“Stop crying, it’s not gonna help matters. Not to degrade him post-mortem…but this was Charlie’s idea.” Henry tried sounding final, but I wouldn’t take it.

“Henry, we all decided to follow…”

Stacy cut me off, “Then it’s everybody’s fault. Get over yourself!”

My jaw dropped. She was probably right. I was taking it to heart. Jay and Charlie were gone. This isn’t about me. It was about everybody. I kneeled back down.

“You guys are right. I’m sorry. Let’s just get out of here.”

“How?” Henry asked.

I looked around us. Besides the giant craft, the crate, and us, this roof was empty. I turned my attention to the edge of the roof. There wasn’t a lip on the edge; the roof was flat on every side and every corner. It was concrete. But what was over the edge?

I stood up and walked to the edge and looked down. Below me was a forest floor. Trees surrounded us but they were too far to reach from the rooftop. Along the walls there wasn’t a ladder or anything else to climb down with. We were at least two stories off the ground.

“What do you see?” Stacy asked.

“Nothing. I don’t know what we’re going to do.”

Just then, the idle whirring from before became louder. It startled me and I turned around.

“Holy shit, the hatch is opening!” Henry yelled to me.

No way, I thought. I kneeled back down behind the crate. We all watched in astonishment as the large hatch door began to open up on the bottom surface of the alien ship.

“Oh my God, what’s gonna come outta there?!” Stacy wondered out loud.

With a loud hissing sound the hatch came down. There were no stairs or anything, no slope, so I didn’t expect anything to come walking down. Maybe it would come floating out.

Then came the vacuum sound. A loud rushing windy noise, with a suction effect like that of a vacuum cleaner. I watched as leaves, dust, and dirt began to recede up into the ship.

“You’re kidding me!” I gasped.

“What?!” Stacy and Henry said at the same time.

“Guys…grab onto something. Now!”

But, there wasn’t anything. The rooftop was bare except for the crate and The crate sat loosely atop the roof.

We latched onto the crate, and I hoped it was heavy enough not to move.

“What’s going on?!” Henry screamed.

“Don’t let go!” I shouted.

BZZT! There was a flash of light and electricity as the suction sound got louder. I could feel it now. I tightened my grip, but I could the feel the crate moving.

“It’s trying to take us in!” Stacy cried out, scared shitless.

Henry and I were just as frightened. I felt the crate sliding inches at a time, us with it.

“Hold on guys, we’re going into the craft with it. We can’t get out of this one.”

“Fuck that!” Henry rejected my advice as he let go of the crate, but he had no time to run. I watched in horror as his feet were swept out from under him, and he was dragged through the air toward the ship.

“Henry! No!” Stacy screamed in desperation.

There was no use. We watched as he was sucked straight up underneath.

“No!” Stacy’s voiced cracked as she shouted and plead for Henry.

“It’s too late. We’re gonna end up in there too Stacy, I’m sorry. This could be it. I’m so sorry I…”

With a pop, the suction got even stronger.

“Shit…” I thought out loud.

Suddenly, Stacy, the crate, and I were all viciously dragged across the roof and into the ship.

“AAAAAH!” We screamed the whole way.

Smack! My head cracked off the side of the hatch. I didn’t even see it coming. I blacked out.

I don’t know how long it was before I came to, but I woke up before my eyes opened. I heard a loud bickering from somewhere close by.

“No master, I don’t know. Three did get away, but we may have enough energy already. This planet will be all yours!”

A deep, booming, gravely voice came next.

“You weak, weak scum. There is no explaining your way out of this one. You’ve failed me again. First you killed the old man and those children before you could bring them to me. Then you nearly destroyed the equipment with that teenaged waste of space…”

“His energy level was enough to finish this…” the voice stammered.

“Do you understand me Hubert!? I am not satisfied!”

“I…I…I’m sorry master.”

“You’re no longer of use to me.”

“Please, it won’t happen again!”

“You’re right.”

There was a loud crunch, and a squishing sound. It continued into a rushing of drips and splashes. Then, there was silence.

I couldn’t see a thing. Wherever I was, only feet away from that horrendous conversation I just witnessed, it was pitch black. I reached my arms out to feel where I was. It felt like a box of some sort. A box big enough to give me room to move, but a claustrophobic space nonetheless. My head was pounding too. It took me a moment to remember I had smacked my head off the ship as it had aggressively pulled me in. I grabbed at my forehead and groaned. Yep, it was painful. I shifted myself uncomfortably.

CLANG! I jumped.

The “master” was moving around now. I wondered what was going to happen next. Was I going to die? I really didn’t know. What was he doing out there?

“It’s okay young one, keep quiet.”

“No no, please. Please! No!” Stacy begged, and cried.

Shit, he had Stacy out there!

“Stop! You useless little girl!”

SMACK! I heard the sound of a hand across a soft cheek.

“Uggh, ow!” Stacy screamed even louder.

“You’re useless to me. Weak, weak, WEAK!”

CRUNCH!

“No…” I covered my mouth.

The dripping and pouring I now recognized as blood followed the clear crunch of bones. This was it. Hendricks, and Stacy were both dead. If Henry wasn’t already dead…

This “master”, who or whatever he is, clearly finds us weak. What he seemingly does to us weaklings…I couldn’t even think about it. My stomach was turning.

I can still hear him out there. He clicked buttons, opened drawers, mumbles to himself and paces back and forth. I’ve managed to write this to you all on my phone, from inside this box. I don’t know where I am, or even if I am still on that space ship out in the woods. Last I knew, I had escaped the inside of a crazy, alien run warehouse of some sort in the middle of the woods in Wareham, MA. Don’t come find me. Don’t even go out into the bogs here. I would even suggest to you, avoid Wareham altogether.

Shit. My phone is dying.

“Are you moving in there, child?”

He heard me shift inside here. This is it. I’m about to die. Well, my parents won’t miss me. My friends are dead. So I guess I don’t care that this is it. This is the end.

The box lock clattered and clanged, I could feel the air in my lungs swirling like fire ants marching inside me. My eyes began to water. Then, click.

The box swung open.

Credit: Mike Maxim

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The Model

July 14, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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What if I told you I could still feel your mouth on mine? I can still feel the delicate throb of over-used lips. What if I told you I could still taste you? I can still swallow the minty cigarette spit.
I don’t think you’d believe me. Honey, there is a lot more than land between us now.
It wasn’t that long ago that you were lying beside me in bed sharing a Marlboro. We shared a lot more than a cigarette that night. Remember? And I miss you now, tonight, because I can’t touch a memory.
You lit me up. Wrapped in bed sheets, you’d paint me. It felt like I was being studied by an unreckoned force, captivating like I was in a movie. It was fabulous. I got such a rush from watching your magnetic eyes watch me. It was poetry when the paintbrushes flew. It would have almost been a cliché if it hadn’t felt so real. The paint thinner made me dizzy and I paled in your brilliance. I soon became your biggest fanatic. But I was too old for you. It wasn’t the math that was the problem. It was the life. But we were careless and thoughtlessly teased the seams anyway.
You can’t blur broken lines. I know you well enough to know you honestly believe what you’ve done isn’t wrong. I know you well enough to know how you turn a back-handed compliment to gold. You are a brilliant bastard, and I created a why each night just to show up at your door. I was a stupid fool to come knocking. But you were so clever with your bony hands. You’d hand me a tea cup, and then anything you said next was, well, static.
We would have these amazing conversations. I was thrilled to be privy to your darkest thoughts. I thought I was the only one to whom you bled that deep. I thought I was the special one out of the many girls who have crossed your threshold. No, it was all part of the seduction. God, you’d mastered it all. Lying really was your best attribute.
How was I supposed to know this is not where you sleep every night? Thinking on it now, it is actually funny that I really believed you didn’t own a phone because of some philosophical babble. I was that stupid that I ignored the bloated white ring on your finger even though it hung around when we were together like a dead fish.
Just think of it. While I was tucked away for the night in your arms, your wife was tucking in your baby. Maybe even with a lullaby. We, however, had rocked in different motions. You bastard.
I found out at the flea market. I’m sure you were off on another creative tangent while I was plodding through the street looking for the perfect tomato. I was going to make my special sauce for you. That recipe has been in my family forever. You didn’t deserve that tomato.
Everything went black around me when my eyes made contact with yours. What will you tell your son if he asks about me tonight at dinner?
It took a minute, but I recognized her from the portraits you’d painted of “a friend.” My body flushed when she told me her name was Catherine. And this was her son, Lucas. He’s three. He was born right about the time you met me. Of course, she was beautiful. She didn’t know about me. While I was flushing, she was fading as the realization slammed into her with such force she stepped back, and I thought she would pass out when I described your tattoo with such accurate detail a blind man could have pictured it. I wish I could say I am sorry for hurting your wife. Any of your conquests could have done it easily, but it was me.
I don’t let things lie; I don’t let you lie. It wasn’t her you were untrue to. It was me. It was me, you fool. She was really that oblivious, but she too recognized me. I am almost sorry that she believed I was only your model. And I was, until you kissed me.
I remember that first kiss so vividly my knees tingled, among other things. You really were quite debonair. I don’t think you paid me my sitting fee that day or any day after for that matter. As far as I am concerned, you owe me much more than money.
I wonder what she said to you that night when you skulked in for dinner. I wonder how you rationalized her “ridiculous” suspicions. Did she cry?
I made her cry.
Were you twisted enough to hang paintings of me in your room? Did you look at me most nights?
There wasn’t a night I didn’t dream about you.
I will never forget the look on your face when I confronted you. It went way beyond getting caught with your hand in the cookie jar. Then bizarrely enough, rising up from God knows where, you let loose a horrendous laugh. You belittled me and berated me, telling me I should have known.
And you were right, I should have known.
I was frozen for a moment. Then I started obsessing about your wife again. Did you laugh at her? Did she coddle you and tell you that everything would be okay? Does she kiss with her eyes open?
I asked you if she was as good as me, and I was twisted and flattered when you said, “You’re the best baby.” What a stock line. Underneath it all, you were always generic.
I was never your baby. I’ve been past bottles and diapers for years. Not you though. You were inundated with bottles and baby at home. Is that why you placed that ad in the paper?
Then everything became so clear to me.
I don’t believe I was intentional. I think with you, it is never intentional.
I think I’ll say at your funeral, “He never intended any of this,” you and I know that won’t absolve you of your faults.
What bothers me most in this hell you’ve created is that I am still not sure you loved me. I mean, really loved me. I suppose now, it is not really worth bringing up. Up until Catherine, my memories are of a man full of life and love and me.
My insecurities didn’t set in until I came face to face with your Catherine. Then suddenly I became the stray cat hanging around, starving, outside your door. I can’t believe you told me it wasn’t true, that it wasn’t like that. I don’t buy it, not completely. I just don’t know what to believe anymore.
I believed the look on your face when I punched you full force in the gut. You did more than double over. I bet your knees would still be bruised.
Oh, it was delicious, me standing there amid the canvases and sheets and you lying on the floor like a child.
I know your son won’t grow up like you. I know your wife will never completely trust another man again. Not after you.
We are all left half-empty after you.
I wonder what pained you more that night, when I shred your canvases or when I shred you?
Everything will be okay now. I felt an incredible sense of clarity as I doused the mattresses and the walls with paint thinner.
Nothing was louder than my lit Zippo dropping to the ground.
I studied you as you tried to wriggle free of those ropes. You were a mess of blood and sweat, and I still could’ve kissed you.
Yes, I am devastated. Devastated you didn’t love me half as much as I deserve.
You’re last words echoed in my head begging me, “What about my son?”
No worries. I thought we had covered that already. It is like I said before, he will never grow up in your likeness.
Never mind this anymore. I am tired of all this chatter. It is time for me to clean up this mess you’ve made so I can move on.
Burning the bed has so much irony. I wonder if you would see it the same way if your skin weren’t sliding off your bones.
I wonder if you’re sorry.
What saddens me in all of this is that you won’t see how beautiful I will be standing at your casket, how serene. I will hold white lilies and wear a big hat. I will look up at your broken wife and helpless son with a sigh. And I will know the only one out of all of us at peace is me.
If I am asked to speak I will say, “Even in death, you’ve set me free.”

Credit: Samantha Kreger Shultz

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