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The Haunted Game Boy Camera

October 4, 2015 at 12:00 PM
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“I’ll never ask for anything else again, I swear, Mom!”

As kids, we’ve all said it at one point. We find something that seems the most amazing item in the world and we just have to have it, no matter what. For me, it was the newest handheld, a Game Boy Color. It was the most beautiful thing to a six year old, especially when all my friends were getting theirs. Growing up with four brothers and sisters and not especially well off, my parents did their best, but we struggled to get by most of the time. They did their best to give us comforts and toys, but new electronics were out of the question. Hell, we were still working off an old television that still used rabbit ears. I was the youngest of the five of us, so that meant a lot of hand me downs as well. I was used to it, but still held some resentment to my siblings and of course, still begged for the Game Boy Color. They said they would do their best, bless their hearts.

Shortly after my birthday, my mom and dad presented me with a box. I was surprised, but they said they had found something they knew I wanted very badly and I had been good. My heart raced with excitement as I tore into the box, but sank into the pit of my stomach. It was not a Game Boy Color. This poor excuse for a handheld was a badly abused original Game Boy. It looked like it had been bitten and melted by something in the corners, as well as stained. Up on top, a strange camera stuck out of the cartridge inserted inside. When I picked it up, it read Game Boy Camera. They’d somehow managed to find it with the crappy little printer as well, complete with fading printer paper.

“You see? Daddy and I found it at a garage sale, it’s exactly the kind you wanted. It even has a cool little camera to take pictures!” They said, far more excited than I was.

I’m not sure if it was the fact that this was the first thing that had ever been given to me first and it still was someone’s used piece of junk, or that they had no actual idea what I had wanted, or maybe they had and just decided it was too much so a replacement would suffice and I’d never know the difference, but in my utter disappointment, I threw the worst tantrum I’d had since I was a toddler. I tossed the box on the ground and cried my eyes out, screaming how they were awful and I didn’t want this and I wanted my Game Boy Color. Well, you can imagine how that turned out. I got a good whooping from my father in front of all my siblings and a long lecture on gratefulness and how hard they work. In punishment for my selfishness, they gave my gift to my brother Ryan, only a couple years older than me. I was so angry, I didn’t care though and was happy to be rid of the thing. Ryan, being the jerk he was, teased me about it endlessly.

It was a few days after that that he figured out the camera and printing on it. He would tease me from his room, talk about how he got to play with the cool system and I was too little and bratty to ever touch it. I would either yell back at him or slam the door to my room and ignore it. Shortly after though, I heard him leave his room and call out to our mom, claiming the printer was acting weird. She was busy making lunch and told him it was probably due to being used, and to keep trying and see if it would fix itself. I heard him go back into his room, then go back out a little while later, saying it was probably busted and that he was going to go to his friend’s house.

Wondering what was wrong with it, I snuck into his room and found the papers lying on his bed. He’d taken photos of himself, making weird faces into the camera. The game system had been turned off, as expected. The first few pictures were normal, then they changed into those strange faces that everyone knew about. The way the printer paper was stained, they looked even weirder. As I looked down at the later pictures though, they looked…different.

Obviously, the camera in the game was not the greatest, so it was sometimes hard to see details of someone’s face or it would look blocky or blurry. The later pictures however…seemed to change. It wasn’t just scribbles or silly words written on his face. His features seemed to change, and there were dark spots around his eyes and mouth. His expression didn’t look goofy anymore; instead it looked scared. Each picture seemed to change it more and more. Eventually, the pictures changed to where it didn’t even look like he was holding the camera anymore, but that…someone was taking the picture of him. He got farther and farther away and what seemed to be a horrible story unfolded. It was showing Ryan running from the camera. The last picture was showing Ryan’s face half missing, dark pixels spilled out from the side of his head, and lying on the ground.

I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t even know the little camera was capable of things like this. It frightened me immensely and I jumped from the bed and ran to my mom, telling her about the pictures. She didn’t believe me and got angry I was playing with it after my behavior. She scolded me and sent me back to my room. I was too nervous to be angry though. I wondered what was wrong with that Game Boy. Why did it print those pictures?

I was immensely relieved when Ryan came back home that night for dinner. He seemed fine and after that night, I convinced myself it must have been a problem with the system since it was so beaten up, some kind of error. At some point later in the week, Ryan tried again to take pictures. I heard him call it a piece of junk and then chuck it into a drawer. He threw all the pictures he had taken in the trash can.

I didn’t think much of the Game Boy and the camera until the week after. I had been coloring in my room when I heard a terrible scream from outside and the sound of brakes squealing to a stop. Immediately, we all jumped up and ran outside to find out what had happened, along with our neighbors. The sight that greeted us all still is burned into my memory.

Ryan had gone to walk across the street to his friend’s house, just as he would any other day. A man had come speeding down the street and hit him. He’d been pulled under the car and his head half crushed under the tires as the man hit the breaks. My older brother’s brain and skull were splattered under, a pool of blood soaking into the street. I still remember the cry of agony and horror my mother let out, and the rage and grief in my father’s eyes as he pulled the man from the car and shouted at him, asking him what in the hell he had been doing to hit a child. My sisters pulled me back inside, trying to comfort me and shield me from the sight, but the damage was done. I’d seen exactly what the picture had showed me and I knew that Game Boy had been the cause. In my naivete, I tried to tell them, hoping they would believe me. They didn’t believe me at all and it made one of my sisters fall apart.

The next few weeks were miserable. My parents were inconsolable and my mother could barely take care of the house and us. My eldest sister Andrea took over her role and struggled with it, angry with us and dealing with her own grief. She also took over cleaning out Ryan’s side of the room that he shared with my other brother. At some point, she found the Game Boy and the Game Boy Camera and asked if I wanted it. I told her it was cursed, that it had killed Ryan. She said that I was being cruel to our parents by turning their gift that was meant for me into a guilt trip and that I needed to stop being so selfish. The funeral for Ryan caused even more money stress on the family and slowly, even at the young age I was, I could see they were not able to handle any of it well. I did my best at that point to keep out of trouble and didn’t say anything more about the Game Boy Camera.

I don’t know when she took them, but at some point, I guess she’d needed a distraction from trying to hold up the house. I went into my sisters’ room to find a missing sock and thought maybe it had landed into their clothing. Her trashcan had the same printer paper in it. An ice cold sweat came over my body when I realized. I couldn’t stop myself. I reached in and looked at the pictures. They were the same. Andrea’s face was slowly transformed into looks of horror and fear before showing her in a grotesque and terrifying position that I could only assume was a clue to how she would die. In the ending pictures, her face was barely recognizable and her skin was black.

I was definitely sure now. This thing had to be destroyed. I thought to myself that maybe if I could destroy it, I could save my sister from the same fate. I tore her room apart searching for the Game Boy. Eventually, I found it and the printer. As I held it in my hand, something chilling happened.

It turned on.

The screen flashed the logo before it began to make noises and music. The sound was wrong, as though it were being played backwards. I had been looking straight at it and suddenly, my face appeared on the screen. It began to print. In my panicked state, I went to shut it off, but found the button was down already. It should not have been running. I then proceeded to rip the printer paper out and the game out of the system. The Game Boy began to spark and error while the printer spewed out ink all over my Andrea’s bed. I felt it heat up in my hands and dropped it, watching the screen begin to smoke and the sparks fly out from both the Game Boy and the printer. After a minute or two, it seemed to die.

Needless to say, I got in major trouble when my sister came home and found her bed sheets stained with ink and the system broken. My parents were furious and forbid me from going out with friends at all, as well as no tv. I was now considered very irresponsible and not allowed to touch any of my siblings’ things. It didn’t matter though. I had saved her from a horrible fate and the cursed system was gone.

Or so I thought.

I think back and realize that of everything I did, the thing that may have saved me was not letting the printer finish. Six months later, my sister was killed when she was driving home and slipped on something in the road, crashing her car and being trapped inside as it caught fire. When the police came to my parents, they had told them that she was burned beyond recognition and the only reason they knew it was her was because she was driving my dad’s car. I couldn’t save her. I didn’t dare tell my parents about the pictures. I don’t think they would have believed me anyway.

Years have passed and we’ve grown up. My parents never really recovered from Ryan and Andrea’s deaths and they have struggled immensely. The three of us take care of them now, though we still have the old rabbit ears television for comfort’s sake.

There’s still one thought that haunts me though and makes it hard to sleep at night.

I never found out what they did with the broken Game Boy, the camera and printer. I pray to God every night that the damned thing made its way into some kind of trash compactor or is tangled with the plastic floating in the ocean. I fear that they still wanted it to have use, and donated it, or sold it for parts. And someone, somewhere is repairing it and putting in new paper. And they will see what it was trying to print of me.

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Mr. Scott

October 4, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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“You may commence, Chief Inspector.”

The two constables started to write down notes as I began, my sweating forehead reflecting the bright shine of the desk lamp despite the harsh cold temperature. A notebook with a cheap webcam was recording our talk.

“We were called the September 29th, Dundee division. John, Pamela and I. It was nine or ten, did not bother about the exact time then. The matter occurred on the northern coast less than half an hour from Dundee, in East Haven. Pamela remained in the car when we arrived, and the locals sought John and me.

“’’Tis on the shore, Mr. Scott’, a young guy said without even introducing himself. That was how that weird fellow named people whom he assumed were from Scotland Yard. I guessed. ‘Ol’ O’Brien went on fishin’ and was found… lying on the shore, bloodied all over.’

“He kept avoiding our questions about his identity and occupation, you know. ‘We will dae talk ‘bout it later, Mr. Scott’. ‘You must see this first, Mr. Scott’.

“‘How many hours since this?’ I asked the mannie and his two odd-looking companions. Other than scared faces looking at us behind windows, the town was quiet dead. ‘Since the body was found’.

“He looked down to his early century’s cell phone. ‘Mustn’t be naw more than two, Mr. Scott. ‘Tis ten and twenty – it ‘as found ‘round nine’, so the body was still fresh, I assumed. Less than two hours since death. One might expect just mild rigor mortis in the jawbone and nothing much else. Given that it was a cold night despite it was autumn, we could not rely on body temperature to be more precise on the time of decease.”

“But you were wrong, weren’t you? According to what you told everyone so far.”

“Aye. Bloody fucking wrong, Mr. Constable. As John, myself, the Mr. Scott guy and his two folks arrived at the dark shore of East Haven, we found what used to be the so-called ‘Old O’Brien’. Conventional forensics would be useless.”

I took a moment to get rid of the tension brought with those disturbing memories. I felt sick.

“You all right, Chief Inspector?”

I just answered it by asking for a Mayfair. It is one of the best cheap brands one can buy here, under the Union Jack colours.

“Well. When we found the body, it was lying on the sand, about one metre from the water itself. Eviscerated. Scratch marks all over his bloody abdomen, shredded open. Half of his intestine had been cut off, his liver apparently… gnawed. His four lowermost ribs, both right and left, fractured in many points. No signs of pancreas. His blood drained or whatever fuck happened. Well, hell. Do you wish me to continue this?”

“There were any other signs on the body?”

“Beside the fact it was chewed by a sea hellish hound or something of the sort?”

“You may calm down, Chief Inspector.”

“Don’t tell me to fucking calm down” and I threw the cigarette on the floor. “Just don’t, lad. I have seen murders, rapes, dismemberments, and I can assure you as hell that it was nothing of the sort. That old demon was eaten.”

There was a mortal silence along the next seconds, their young and inexperienced faces in a tempest of both futile restraint and fear.

“There was not any other signs on the body, Mr. Constable. That I can also assure you. There were not even blood steps or anything that could lead us to any other location. Clueless at its definition. No murder weapon, no other cloth scraps, you can name it, and I will tell you it was not there. As if the thing had just popped, disappeared. I spent the rest of the night analysing that massacre. Besides, no one has reportedly witnessed the scene. The awkward guy, we found out be named Gilles, and his radgees found the corpse, as they told us, more than an hour after the murder probably occurred. ”

“And what else, Mr. Raynaud?”

“And what else… there was his boat. You know, O’Brien’s. A wooden two-metre boat, old engine motor attached to its back. It was lying just next to the corpse. There was a huge net, made for catching I don’t know, what kind of damn fish they expect to catch on that shore, and it was heavily blood-stained.”

One of the boys grabbed the forensic report regarding the bloodstains from that night, September 29th. “It matches only James O’Brien’s blood.”


“Nothing on the sand around the scene?”

“It was a windy night. Sand was unreliable.”

“And what else from that night?”

“Besides our frustration? Nothing else. The whole town woke in panic. Local media pictured the event as black magic, given that it wasn’t found any person whose grudge against O’Brien could fill such a murder motive. So, eight in the morning, our cell phones ringing every ten minutes from the central, we came back to Dundee. Wrote the papers and, at least myself, could not sleep for two days.”

“And care to state what have you done during these two days?”

“I do.”

He remained silent.

“You probably want to know about the next incident. That would be more, dunno, useful.”

“Yes, Chief Inspector.”

“I felt urged to investigate the town, despite which conclusions were drawn down back in Dundee. I went by myself three or four times to East Haven next week, and found absolutely nothing worthy of mention. Not a damn lead. Except for…

“I did not find my wee friend down there, and I can regard this as a clue itself. Gilles, the ‘hey, Mr. Scott’ boy. He was a kind of wayward son of a farmer expelled from his home, I gathered, Highlands folk. Dealt with pot and cocaine. And no sign of the other two that were with him that evening as well. He did not live there, but, as it seemed, made his deals in East Haven.”

“And what conclusion did you draw by this, Mr. Raynaud?”

“As you should have learnt, one should not draw out conclusions before one has sufficient evidence.”

“And so did you commence to track down this Gilles?”

“Not actively, no. I just stood down in Dundee and waited for the next move of his. Well, possibly his.”

“And so there was this case”, the older one, no more than 30, started to search through the pile of pages before him. “In Auchmithie, October the 13th.”

I just nodded.

“And you were not assigned to the case, Chief Inspector, am I wrong?”

“Not initially. Thomas was, and his team.”

“And did you bribe him to assume the case?”

I closed my fist to the point it began to hurt. “How dare you, you bampot?”

“I am a police officer, and you are being recorded, Chief Inspector.”

I glared at the cold silent notebook and its webcam. I could see my own decaying face looking at myself. “Sure I am. Well, no, for you deep concern, I did not bribe anyone, right? Friends, Thomas and me.”

“Friends, you say?”

“Friends, I say.”

He did not swallow it, I could see. “Well, please proceed with the facts, Mr. Raynaud.”

I took a deep sigh before stating the events. “Auchmitie, past East Haven and Arbroath toward Aberdeen. I had to see what happened with my own eyes, so I went to the place with Pamela. We drove until that graveyard of a town, and my spine felt frozen when we passed East Haven. I had the sensation the events would unfold in many ways similarly.”

“When the call was received down in Dundee?”, the younger one, who was frantically writing down notes, lifted his head to question me.

“October the 13th, as you’ve said. At ten and a half. We arrived there a few minutes before midnight. We parked our car on the sidewalk just before the way down to the sea. Almost every building was single-storied, and the street lamps were not enough to provide us sight in that clouded night. So we headed down to the beach, guided by Mr. and Ms. Belmont, old Scottish citizens, whose faces were ghostly pale. They said they were ‘strolling around’ when they found a dead couple.”

It came to me again. That feeling of uneasiness. Distress. Cold sweating. As something suddenly going wrong with me just by the act of trying to remember the scene.

“So… we were guided by that aged couple, frightened to their hearts. The man just pointed over a rock near an abandoned shack and said ‘it is over there, officer, sir’, and took hold of the hands of his lady. I leaded the way with Pamela just behind me.

“And we found ‘em. Just like that: on the sand, hidden behind the huge rock, a few minutes past midnight. In their twenties, both of ‘em: a girl with short blonde hair and a skinny long-haired lad. Both with their clothes on, and both… well, in a way that resembled the first victim. The girl had her throat stomped and open, her blood spattered all over them, hey eyes removed and half of the skin of her face was missing, the muscles being grossly chopped, or… bitten.”

I took a few seconds to continue, retaking my breath and weighting my words, their morbidity not even parallel to the true horror of that night.

“The boy, his abdomen and chest were tore open. There was a rib and a few pieces of his sternum right next to him, some of the others smashed to the point they became bone powder. His bowels standing crude on the sand, the remaining piece of his mangled heart still in his chest. As if something had a feast in him.”

“You truly believe that something made this, as some kind of animal, Chief Inspector?”

“You have seen the photos, didn’t you? With your own eyes. Do you really believe that some human could have done this? I do not question the cruelty of it, for what are demons or beasts compared to what we are capable of, but the way it was committed. The method. Humans do not possess claws, as the wounds suggest the murderer thing had, nor are capable of crunching in a way like that. And, most important of it all: humans leave traces.”

The two girlies did not answer me, standing there, like the couple of idiots they were, trying to delve into matters they could not possibly comprehend, for they did not stood there as I stood.

“You may continue.”

I returned a dark look. “There was a syringe near them, almost empty. Druggies, as you could have bet. Dots in their arms. Anyway, we searched thoroughly the area for any marks, any footprints… and found none. As, frankly, it was expected. And then I entered the shack.”

“That you stated to be abandoned.”

“I assumed so. Well, the front door was open, and so I entered while Pamela stood there guarding the scene. There was a kind of manky living room, a kitchen and a bedroom next to a bathroom. All of ‘em foul-smelling, boggin’, like some putrid odour of dead dog. You also saw the pictures taken inside: it’s nothing from this century, and certainly there was none living there for the last decades. You know, besides vagrants and drug addicts. Then as I was leaving the cabin, I looked over to the town, over the small cliff. Amidst the one-storey houses, just beside a street lamp, there stood, looking down to us… Gilles.”

“The young man from East Haven. Are you completely sure of this?”

“Aye, I am. That treacherous son of a bitch. ‘Mr. Scott’, ‘Mr. Scott’. I started to sprint toward him, dashing the way up to town, pistol in hand. And when I reached the place where he was, he had already gone.”

“Do you have proof that it was really him?”

“What are theories without evidence, Mr. Constable? I found a Benson & Hedges Silver, chewed on the end, where he stood.”

“You know Benson & Hedges is a quite popular brand.”

“It is. Though how many of its users actually chew the end? I don’t remember anyone chewing cigarettes, do you? Anyway, it was inductive thinking, but it was the best I had. So I kept it for myself, and the next day I drove back again to East Haven. Mr. Heathorn, the cigarette seller of the town, told me Gilles used to buy Benson & Hedges Silver when in town. My next step was just to trap the guy.

“I parked my own car outside town and stood there during the hours I was not on duty. Five days passed before the night I spotted him, and he immediately went to the beach, almost the same spot where the first murder occurred. Dealt with an old crook, we later found to be cocaine, so I just waited for him to light and smoke a cigarette. When he finished, I exited the car and rushed toward them. His friend ran when he could, but I stopped Gilles. And guess what I found lying on the sand? A chewed Benson & Hedges. Silver. This what I found.”

“And then you shot him.”

“He tried to attack me.”

“That was not what the two witnesses said.”

“And which will you rely on? Wasn’t his knife in his hand? He tried to fucking attack me, and I shot him. I can do that.”

“You murdered Gilles Ainsley, Mr. Raynaud.”

“To hell with this. I did it to stay alive.”

“Ms. Galloway, 56, and Mr. Timberland, 60, attested you shot cold-blooded three times against the victim’s chest after having a brief conversation with him. The contents of which you insist on not revealing since that day. Are three shots supposed to be self-defence?

“And you were wrong about Mr. Ainsley being the culprit of something related to the killings. Last Sunday, a boat was found drifting near Montrose. The three persons there mauled in a way that was associated with the previous victims. Seaweed from deep waters was found inside the boat, and no explanations were given since.”

I kept silent, and I asked for another cigarette. They gave me. I smoked it almost entirely before anyone said anything else. I did not talk about what Gilles told me before he died, before I shot him. Thrice. I would not, ever, to anyone.

“So, is this it?”

“This is it, Mr. Raynaud. Please come with us”, and one of them started to handle the notebook as I was handcuffed.

I did not bother going to the precinct, not even to jail, were it the case.

I surely would be safer than they would. And oh, bloody Satan, I would hear more news on the forthcoming days. News about the eviscerated, the mangled, the chewed. Then they would understand me, and, if I my place, would do what I did.

For Gilles Ainsley was anything but innocent.

He knew it.

‘Mr. Scott’, Mr. Scott’, I kept remembering while being conducted to the police car in that starry night over Dundee.

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The Garden Gnome

October 3, 2015 at 12:00 PM
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Juliet stood on the sidewalk, hands on her hips, and stared at the house. How depressing. Her Aunt Camilla had passed away just three short months ago. An aneurysm or stroke is what the doctors had said. Camilla had been in her nineties and a spinster. With no husband or children, the probate court had informed Juliet that she was the nearest living relative, and had therefore been awarded her aunt’s estate.
At first, Juliet looked upon it as a windfall. She had hardly even known her aunt – actually her great-aunt – and could count the number of times she had visited with her on one hand. She then sadly realized how lonely the old woman’s life must have been. Even her closest relative was almost a complete stranger.
Juliet tried to put that feeling behind her as she drove to the small, New England town where her new home was located. She tried to avoid thinking about the point that she was, in fact, not much different from Camilla. Juliet had been an only child. Her parents were long since passed on, and she had no “real” friends to speak of. At the age of fifty-two, she was pretty much resolved to the fact that she would be a spinster herself. She had been living on social security income ever since an auto accident in her thirties, and had a small apartment that she could barely afford. It was for this reason that she had decided to pack up her few belongings and move into the old house.
Looking at the house from the outside, she could see that she had a lot of work ahead of her. In addition to a thorough cleaning inside, sorting through all of her aunt’s possessions, the yard needed some serious tender loving care.
The lawn had grown so tall that it had gone to seed, and it was riddled with weeds. A row of five things that might have once been considered shrubs were so overgrown that they just about covered the house’s front porch. The wrought iron railings of the porch that did manage to peek through the bare spots were wrapped in dead remnants of ivy.
“Ah well,” she rubbed the back of her neck in anticipation of the coming pain, “It’s not like I don’t have time. Hey, free house, right?”
The first thing that had to go, though, was the ugly old garden gnome that was poking its disturbing head up from the tall grass. It was male, bearded, wearing a red hat, and smoking a pipe. She had never been a fan of lawn ornaments, especially gnomes. They were so tacky. This one, though, was especially disturbing. It’s glazing was faded and crackled, leaving the face looking jaundiced and wrinkled; as if it had once been an actual living creature that had died and was rotting away.
“Yep, that thing has to go. First things first, though. I don’t even own a lawn mower.”
Nearly a week had gone by and she had all but forgotten about the gnome. She had visited the local hardware store and bought the first pair of hedge trimmers she’d ever owned. A man would be stopping by later in the day with a lawnmower he had for sale on Craigslist. She had spoken to him on the phone earlier in the day and he promised that it was in great working order. She had already decided that she would use her “feminine wiles” when he arrived and try to whittle the price down a little.
“Not that I have much left in the wiles department,” she smirked. She stopped in the front hall and looked at herself in the full-length mirror mounted to the closet door. She had to admit that the work boots, shorts, flannel shirt, and her aunt’s old sunhat did look somewhat cute on her.
Juliet was still hacking away at the first shrub, which was starting to resemble a real hedge, when a red pickup pulled into the drive. The man who got out of the cab seemed to be about her age, and not too bad looking, either. Juliet pulled off her gardening gloves and jogged down the drive toward the truck.
“Hey there, stranger. So… I believe you have a mower for me.”
The man surveyed the yard, and let out a long whistle. “Yeah, and it sure looks like you could use it. Name’s Jim, by the way. You must be Juliet.”
“Yes, um… So how much did we decide on?”
“Twenty-five, but… um,” said Jim as he cocked his head, “I didn’t realize that I was headed to old Camilla’s place. I’d about give it to you free just to see the place cleaned up.”
Juliet smirked. “Yeah, it’s pretty much a hot mess.”
“How’s the old bird doing anyway?”
Juliet bit her lower lip and winced. “Oh, she passed away about three months ago. That’s why the yard was in such bad shape. I’m afraid that I haven’t really had the chance to come out before now.”
“Oh, geez. Way to go, Jim. Open mouth, insert foot.” He removed his baseball cap and ran a hand over the top of his head, ruffling his unkempt hair. “I’m sorry. So, are you her grand-daughter?”
“Ha!” barked Juliet, giddy with the compliment. “No. I’m sort of her great-niece, I guess. I never really did see too much of her, but apparently she didn’t have any other family.”
“Yeah, yeah. Very sad.” Jim brightened back up. “Hey, let me get this old mower down. Come to think of it, I will let you have it. Just bought a new one and I would have just put it at the curb anyway. I thought I’d try Craigslist first. But, you seem like a nice gal. I just wouldn’t feel right taking your money.”
“Really?” Even without rent to pay, Juliet was still strapped for cash, so she wasn’t about to turn down the kindness of a stranger. Especially when it came to cash. “That’s so nice of you.”
Jim pulled the mower to the edge of the pickup’s bed and heaved it down with very little effort. “She still has a little gas in her… Hey, how’s about I help you tackle this lawn?”
“Oh, no. I couldn’t…”
But Jim put up a good fight, and truth be told, she was looking for an excuse to get him to stick around. She hadn’t noticed any sign of a wedding ring on his finger. She decided to test her theory, just to be sure.
“Well, would you like to use my phone? You know, let your family know that you’ll be late?”
Jim peeked out from under the brim of his cap. “If by family, you mean a wife and kids, then that won’t be necessary. Never did get around to settling down.” Then he hid his mouth with the back of his hand and joked, “And there’s not much of a selection of pretty ladies in this town.” Nodding again, he said, “Until now, that is.”
Juliet let out a girlish giggle before she had time to restrain herself. Her face turned as red as a beet, but she didn’t care. She was beginning to think that moving here might have its perks after all.
Juliet returned her attention to the hedges while Jim started up the mower and began pushing it through the tall grass. It cut out on him several times as he got into the thicker stuff. She was glad that she hadn’t resisted his offer too heartily. With her neck pain, taming this jungle would have been nearly impossible. When Jim was about halfway through the front lawn, she stood and yelled out to him, “Hey Jim, I’m going in to get us some lemonade. Be right back.”
Jim stopped, but didn’t turn off the mower. He just smiled and waved back, mouthing the word “Okay!”

Juliet stood in the kitchen. She stared out the window over the sink and regarded the back yard. It would need as much work as the front, possibly more. She was certain that she could get Jim to volunteer to help. The thought excited her. She had just finished pouring out the second glass of fresh lemonade when she heard the mower stop. Juliet didn’t think that Jim had finished the lawn, so she assumed that he must have run out of gas or hit another rough patch of grass too heavy for the old mower to make it through.
Holding one frosty glass in each hand, she made her way through the living room and pushed open the screen door with her hip. She stood on the porch and looked out to see Jim standing motionless and staring at the ground with a blank look in his eyes. As she approached him, she noticed that he was standing directly in front of the ugly, old gnome and gazing as if he were entranced by the malice in its eyes.
“It’s pretty ugly, isn’t it?”
“Gah!” Jim literally jumped a little into the air. “I didn’t see you coming.”
“It is ugly, though. Don’t you think?”
“Um, it might actually be considered handsome, in a way,” he said, as if he did not wish to offend the statue. His attention began to drift back to the gnome again, but he caught himself and turned away to face Juliet. “You know, it seems like everyone in town has one of these little guys, but I never noticed one in Camilla’s yard before.”
“Yeah, well, I’m not surprised, given how tall the grass was.”
Jim shook his head. “No, even when Camilla was living here and having the lawn mowed by the neighborhood kids, I never saw it. I would definitely have noticed. I know a little something about gnomes, you know. You might say that I’m even a collector, of sorts.”
Juliet groaned internally. She began to question her thoughts of inviting Jim to stay for dinner that evening. “Well, you can have it if you want. I plan to get rid of it as soon as possible.”
“You can’t,” he almost screamed. “I mean, I couldn’t take him. It wouldn’t be right. It’s very unlucky.”
“Really. Enlighten me, gnome-man.”
“Well,” Jim removed his hat, almost reverently, and stared at the gnome as he spoke, “Gnomes are a class of legendary creatures, originating in Europe, that could take on several meanings. Most generally, though, they refer to very small people – usually men – that live in dark places: especially underground, deep in the forest, or more recently in gardens. Most European ethnic groups have their own gnome legends with local variations.
“Despite all of the varying forms, gnomes all possess the common attribute of being able to move through the earth as easily as we move atop it. Paraclesus, a sixteenth century Swiss alchemist, identified gnomes as a class of nature spirits comprising earth elementals, as opposed to the air, water, and fire elementals. Other subclasses of gnomes include dryads, elves, brownies, goblins. Some help plants and animals, some help humans, some reclusive ones stay underground, perhaps hoarding treasure.”
By now, Juliet’s eyes were glazing over, but she was trying to keep up her end of the conversation. “Mmm hmm. And which type is this little guy?”
“Well, out in the open like this, I’d guess that he’s one of those mischievous ones. The sort that plays pranks, or even causes harm, to humans.”
Now she stared into his eyes defiantly, but still with a sort of playfulness. “Well, great. That’s it then. It goes in the trash tomorrow.”
“No,” Jim pleaded. “Please just leave it where it is. It’s probably quite valuable, you know. Most of the people around here have those cheap hardware store gnomes. Made of resin or plastic, you know? But not this guy.” Jim stooped lower to look at the gnome, almost affectionately. “This guy is definitely terra cotta, and old at that. The artist sculpts a model, and then casts a mold around it. Once the mold sets it is removed, reassembled, and thin runny clay is poured in. He allows the clay to set against the mold’s inner walls for a bit, and then pours out the excess.”
“So he’s hollow?”
“Well, maybe,” Jim said teasingly, “Unless there’s a real gnome inside.”
Juliet friskily punched him in the arm. “Enough. Or he definitely goes in the trash.”
They drank their lemonade and resumed work on the yard. A few more passes with the mower, a couple more stops for lemonade, and they stood in the driveway admiring their work. They agreed that it wasn’t too bad, for the first day, and Jim offered to return the next day to tackle the back yard.
“Oh, you really don’t need to,” Juliet said unconvincingly.
“Nope, I started the project. Now I want to see it through. That’s the way my Daddy raised me.”
Juliet offered to cook dinner, but Jim begged off, saying that all he needed after that day’s work was a hot shower and a soft bed. Juliet paused to wonder if that had a double meaning, but shook off the thought. So, they exchanged phone numbers, agreed on getting back to work in the morning, and parted ways. Juliet chased him back to his truck, though, and gave him a quick peck on the cheek. She couldn’t believe how bold she was acting.
“You’re staying for dinner tomorrow, though. I won’t take no for an answer!”

By the time Juliet finished up with her own hot shower, it was dark outside. She toweled her hair dry and put on a robe. Stepping into the kitchen, intending to make dinner, she stopped at the rear window to check out the backyard and come up with a preliminary plan of attack. That was when she noticed a pointy, faded red hat sticking up from the tall grass. She immediately ran to the back door, flipped on the jelly jar light, and stepped out onto the rear porch. Sure enough, there was another gnome, identical to the one in the front yard. She was surprised that she hadn’t noticed it earlier.
Confused, she walked back through the house and out onto the front porch. The gnome that had been there was gone. She realized that the one in the back yard must have been the one previously out front.
“What the hell?”
Muddle-headed, she again ran back through the house to the rear porch to examine the gnome in the back yard – just to be certain. When she got back out, it was gone. She ducked inside the door and slipped on her tennis shoes, then went back out for a closer look. Five minutes of walking back and forth through the high grass turned up no sign of the gnome. After standing still for a minute with a blank look on her face, she went back inside, locked the door, and turned off the light. As she did the same at the front door, she could swear that she saw the pointy hat sticking up from behind the hedge. She briefly considered stepping outside again, but decided against it when a chill ran up her spine.
“Too tired to deal with this shit,” she reasoned. She locked up, returned to the kitchen, and made a light meal. After a little television, she turned in early. She drifted off to sleep actually looking forward to another day of hard work – with Jim’s help.

Juliet told Jim all about the gnome the next morning. He told her about the pastime of gnoming. Kids would cruise around town, stealing lawn ornaments from peoples’ yards and moving them around, sometimes taking them from one yard and placing them in another. It was a nationwide fad. In some extreme cases, kids would steal a gnome and travel around, texting pictures of the gnome in different locations – sometimes across the country – to the original owner, or posting them on websites. It was annoying, possibly illegal in some cases, but mostly harmless.
“Well,” said Juliet, “Another reason that I don’t want it in my yard. Maybe next time the kids take it, they won’t return it.”
Jim pursed his lips and raised his eyebrows. “I’m telling you, Juliet. It’s bad luck. You’re better off just leaving him be.”
“Now you’re creeping me out. Stop calling it a ‘he.’”
As if the terra cotta gnome itself wasn’t creepy enough, Jim went on to tell her about so-called “real” gnomes. He said that gnomes consist of a number of different types. The most common is the forest gnome who rarely encounters man. The garden gnome lives in old gardens and enjoys telling melancholy tales. Dune gnomes are slightly larger than their woodland brethren are and choose curiously drab clothing. House gnomes have the most knowledge of man, often speaking his language. It is from this family that Gnome Kings are chosen. Farm gnomes resemble their house brethren, but are more conservative in manner and dress. Siberian gnomes have been more interbred than other gnomes have and associate freely with trolls. They are much larger than the other types and have an infinitely more nasty nature. Jim said that it is best never to evoke the ire of such gnomes, for they delight in revenge.
“So, if all of that is true, then why is it lucky to have one in my yard?”
“Well,” explained Jim, “Garden and house gnomes are very protective, both of their home and the people living in it.”
“Hopefully he’s interested in protecting me, and not the house.” She slapped her forehead. “Oh God, now you’ve got me calling it a him.”
Thankfully, Jim stayed for dinner that evening. Although she desperately wished that he would stay the night, for more reasons than one, she didn’t feel comfortable enough to hint at it yet. She walked him to the door, but waited there while he walked to his truck. She felt a little creeped out by the thought of walking outside after dark now. He made it half way down the drive, then turned around to give a little wave goodbye. She waved back and then, after staring at the house for a few seconds, he walked back toward her. Her heart leapt a little.
“Um, Juliet,” he said haltingly.”
“I think that your gnome moved again. It’s not here.”
She was really beginning to like Jim, but was getting a little pissed off about this whole gnome business. She considered telling him to go home and slamming the door, but now, more than ever, she didn’t want to be alone.
She stepped out and confirmed that the gnome was gone. “Do you mind checking the back yard, Jim?”
“No problem.”
Juliet waited at the front door, and after what seemed to be the longest minute in her life, he popped back around the corner of the house.
“He’s not back there,” he said, actually looking somewhat sad. “Maybe you got your wish and the kids took him for good.”
“Oh, well, that’s too bad.” Juliet said it for Jim’s sake, but she was secretly jumping for joy inside. She was glad it was gone, and hoped that the kids who took it never brought it back.
After a second goodbye and a promise to get together again the next night – for a real date, this time. Dinner, at a restaurant. She watched him walk to his truck and pull out of the drive. She shut the door slowly and flicked off the porch light. Putting her back against the door, she sighed. Aside from the gnome business, the move to this new town, the house, the opportunity for a fresh start, and Jim were all working out quite well.
Juliet went to the kitchen and cleared the plates from the table. As she set them on the counter beside the sink, she attempted to resist the urge to look out the window. She realized how silly that seemed, but still… Finally, as if in defiance of her fear, she looked up quickly. There, even closer to the house than the night before, stood the gnome.

She and Jim went out the next night. He walked her to the door, but didn’t come in. The date did end with a kiss, though, which pleased her. She was almost as pleased by the fact that the gnome was back in its original position in the front yard when they returned from dinner. She couldn’t take much more of this joking around by whomever was trying to prank her. They probably thought that it was funny, but to her it was not.
She had no reason to enter the kitchen that evening, and so did not. She even avoided looking out of the rear window of her upstairs bedroom, for fear of glimpsing that stupid gnome. She did not want to spoil an otherwise perfect evening getting upset over it.
Juliet had just slipped her clothes off and was about to get into the shower when the doorbell rang. She assumed that it must have been Jim, and so a thousand thoughts raced through her head. Why did he come back? What did he want? What would she do? She pulled on a terry cloth bathrobe and quickly padded down the steps. She flipped the light switch for the front porch and threw open the door.
With a smile on her face, Juliet said “Well, hello stranger. Long time, no s…” She screamed and jumped back from the door. There, on the doorstep, stood that dreadful little gnome. She quickly slammed the door and locked it, leaving the light on, and ran back up the stairs. Grabbing her cell phone and throwing herself on the bed, she punched in Jim number and waited. It rang six excruciating times before going to voicemail. She hung up and dialed again. This time, he picked up on the first ring.
“Hey babe, sorry I couldn’t make it to the phone the first time. I was just walking into the house. Miss me already?”
“Jim! Thank God! He’s back. He’s doing it again.”
“Slow down, Juliet. Who’s back? What’s going on?”
“The gnome! The doorbell rang, and I answered, and… Oh my God, he was standing there on the porch!” Juliet began hyperventilating.
Jim tried to speak slowly and in a soothing voice. “Calm down, hon. It’s the kids again. They’re messing with you. A clay statue can’t move on its own and it sure can’t ring a doorbell.”
Juliet took deep breaths. “Whoo, okay. You’re right. I’m being silly, aren’t I? Why am I letting this upset me?”
“I’m sorry, Juliet. I shouldn’t have filled your head with all of those dumb stories. Gnomes aren’t real.”
Juliet let out a little laugh as she calmed down. She stood up and began to stroll around the bedroom while she spoke with Jim. She reached the rear window and gazed down toward the ground.
“Holy shit!” she screamed. “It’s in the back yard again! It’s on the back porch!”
“Juliet. Stop. Do you want me to come back over there?”
She didn’t even need to think about his offer. “Yes! Please! And please hurry.”
“Okay, just try to hang on. I’ll be back in ten minutes.”
Juliet couldn’t bear to be near the windows. In fact, she wanted to be in as small a space as possible. She considered her walk-in closet, but decided that would be overreacting. She went into her bathroom, locked the door, and sat on the closed toilet seat. She waited, and waited, checking her cell phone every few seconds to watch the time go by. “Just ten minutes,” she told herself, “Just ten minutes.” She jumped as the doorbell rang again. It couldn’t be Jim; she had only hung up a minute ago. She knew that it was the gnome again – or the kids who were pranking her. Either way, she wasn’t about to answer it. Then came knocking. She couldn’t tell if it was the front or the back door, but she had a good idea that it was the back. She left the bathroom and poked her head out of the bedroom door. Her skin tingled and goosebumps raised up as the knocking started again. It was at the back door. Soon after it stopped, the front door bell rang again.
She let out a little yelp and dove back into the bedroom, first slamming its door shut and then locking herself back in the bathroom. The ringing doorbell and the knocking alternated back and forth, back and forth. Then the knocking turned into hammering, as if whomever was there was trying to smash its way through the door. Now the hammering was coming from both the front and the back, again alternating. The doorbell began ringing incessantly.
With horror, she realized that when Jim did arrive she wouldn’t be able to tell. Just as the thought came to her, her cell phone began to ring.
“Yes? Jim?”
“I’m here, Juliet. I’m at the front door. No kids, no gnome. You can let me in.”
“Thank God.” She bolted down the steps and, after turning on the light and carefully pulling back the windows shade on the front door, saw Jim standing there on the porch. In a state of near panic, she struggled with the lock, but finally threw open the door and hugged Jim tightly, burying her face in his shoulder. She began to cry.
Jim had a duffle bag with him. He planned to stay the night, on the couch if necessary, but he had a feeling that Juliet would want him closer. He had barely stepped through the doorway when the hammering at the back door resumed.
“Oh, that’s enough!” he roared. “I’m going to beat the living shit out of whoever that is.” He charged toward the back door and yanked it open. “Who the hell..?” There was no one there. He and Juliet simultaneously realized that they had failed to shut the front door. He was first to enter the living room, but Juliet was just behind him. Her hands flew to her mouth as soon as she came into the room and she screamed. The gnome was standing there in the middle of the living room floor, a trail of dirt leading from the doorstep to its current position on the carpet.
Jim lunged for the statue and picked it up with both hands. He thought that it seemed surprisingly heavy, but he shrugged the thought away. He made for the door and ran out into the driveway, Juliet following a few steps behind.
“Screw bad luck! We’re through with this thing,” he screamed as he threw the gnome onto the concrete drive with all of the force that he could muster. On impact, it shattered into pieces, sending bits skittering across the driveway. Staring down at the aftermath in the cold light of the moon, both Juliet and Jim were aghast. Their breath caught in their throats and they were not even capable of making a sound.
Mixed in among the broken shards of terra cotta, there were the remains of a tiny, humanoid skeleton.

Credit: Kenneth Kohl

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October 3, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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This is a video pasta. If you cannot see the embedded video, please click the link below and watch at the video’s YouTube page. Enjoy!

Credit: Liam Vickers

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The Fair Folk

October 2, 2015 at 12:00 PM
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Every culture has its own unique folklore- traditions and tales passed down through generations. In the modern day, these are often looked upon by most with the idle interest of a time gone by, but I have always found them to be quite fascinating. They reveal so much about the hopes and fears of people who once were; people trying to make sense of the world around them and at times, cope with its harsh realities. It was this passion of mine that would eventually lead me to major in Folklore at Memorial University.

I relished the study, so I was thrilled when I was given the assignment to interview people on a topic of my choosing. I live in Newfoundland, a province steeped in supernatural folklore, so I jumped at the chance to delve into the stories of the fairies, the mischievous, malevolent creatures that lurked in the forests and fields. In preparation, I went to the folklore archive to borrow some recording equipment as well as to listen to other recordings to get more of a sense of what I was in for. I listened in rapt attention to people of various ages tell their tales of wee people, of lights in the forest or of strange enthralling music carried on the wind.

I decided to conduct the interviews in my home town and made plans to stay with my parents for the weekend. My family comes from Cupids, a rural, over 400 year old community about a one hour drive from the city where I lived. Given that Cupids was the sort of town where everyone knew everyone else, it wasn’t hard for me to find a few of the older residents who were willing to share their tales and encounters with the fairies and allow me to record them. One lady told me of her uncle who was wounded by one of them and spent the rest of the month picking fish bones and wool out of the stinking cut before it finally healed. Another encounter was described by a gentleman who claimed that he had gone into the woods to set rabbit snares, only to come home three weeks later with no recollection of where he had been or even that such an amount of time had passed.

The last interview of the day was reserved for my grandfather, who had agreed to tell me his story but, unlike the others, now seemed reluctant to do so. I assured him that I could find someone else if he was uncomfortable, but he shook his head and began to speak. He told me that his mother would always warn him about travelling on a particular trail; that in order to safely pass through, he must wear his coat inside out and carry some breadcrumbs or else he would be taken. Even in those more superstitious times he was not the sort to believe in such things and so, as he found himself hurrying to get home before dark after a day of berry picking, he brazenly cut through that very trail, without a second thought to his mother’s warnings. He recalled that as he walked along the path, the surrounding trees seemed to close in on him, the area feeling more oppressive. While he felt foolish, he decided at that point to turn back and take another route.

He had begun to shake while telling his tale, but now tears filled his eyes as he spluttered and stammered as he attempted to describe what he saw when he turned back. “Devils!” was all he could finally manage. I took his clammy hand to calm him and told him again that he did not have to tell me anymore. But he regained control of himself and told me that he ran, frantically throwing down the breadcrumbs and tearing off his coat, flipping it inside out and holding it in place like a cape. He did not stop or slow until he reached the safety of home, bursting through the door to find his bewildered mother. She was about to scold him for his torn coat until she realized what had happened, at which point, she held him close and thanked God that he was safe. When my grandfather looked at his coat, he noticed three long tears as if it had been clawed.

His story finished, he shakily excused himself to bed. I apologized for upsetting him, but he waived it away, only turning back to make me promise not to ever go looking for such things. I gave him my word to ease his old mind and left. I returned to my parents’ home and spent much of the rest of the night writing my report and re-listening to the stories I had gathered. Hearing my grandfather get upset again made me feel terrible, but his story also sparked a sense of curiosity within me. I remembered seeing what I believed was that very same trail, when I was a child and helping my family pick blueberries (though I probably ate as much as I picked). We would never take that trail, instead taking one of the longer routes back home. I had assumed that they were afraid of robbers and roughnecks that might be roaming this less maintained and less populated path, but now I wonder if it was simply to appease my grandfather’s fears. The next morning, I attempted to slip out, explaining, when my mother caught me at the door that I wanted to go for a stroll through my hometown before I had to go back to the city. Once out, I followed my memories back to that blueberry patch and, sure enough, there it was; the path I had remembered seeing years ago. It was even more overgrown but I could still maneuver my way through it. I remembered my promise to my grandfather, but my curiosity overcame it. In fact, a rush of excitement went through me as I walked the same path I was sure he had so long ago. It’s difficult to explain, but this sense of stepping into the folklore was thrilling and supressed all worry and perhaps my common sense as I proceeded.

Strangely, as I walked onwards, the overgrowth seemed to recede as if someone had maintained the path only so far and then stopped. After passing through a ring of trees that had managed to grow in, I found myself walking on a trail that was as neatly groomed as any other in the community, my initial confusion at the change in the path was turning into disappointment as I wondered if this was the right place after all. Perhaps some childlike part of me had hoped to see something otherworldly. This feeling was soon replaced again, now by a wary sense of being watched. I nervously increased my pace, not for fear of fairies but of malicious people.

The path remained well-groomed, but the dense trees at either side made me feel as if they would swallow me. I began to sweat as I continued onwards, before a sound made me stop in my tracks. There was a low creaking sound as if a bough were being broken. Even though everything in my being told me not to, I turned towards the sound, which was coming from the area I had just travelled. My blood ran cold at the sight that greeted my eyes. Standing there was a tall creature that looked to be made of tree bark that creaked and groaned with every movement. Its body was thin and crooked like a spruce that had been battered and misshapen by the elements with uneven broken branch arms. Its legs were equally misshapen, leading to a mess of roots for feet. Its face was the most frightening of all; split open into a grin of splinters over which two bored holes sat as in mockery of eyes. I stood transfixed as a clacking noise heralded the approach of its companion; a creature on all fours whose twisted knotted body seemed to be made of joined thin antlers and sinew, except for the face, which was a moose-like skull, complete with wider antlers and with eyes that looked like pearls and shone with terrible beauty. A third being appeared, forming out of the ground in front of me. It held a vaguely humanoid form, although faceless, and looked to be composed of moss and soil, though it reeked of death, and insects burrowed through it. I felt the worst sense of malice as I stared at these things. They, the fairies, ruled here and I was trespassing. Either their thoughts entered my mind or my fears projected that the king of rot wanted to suffocate me in his stinking embrace, that the king of trees wanted to pull me apart until my limbs were as broken tree branches and the king of bone wanted to gore me with each of its twisted antler limbs. I was snapped out of my horrid trance as a malformed insect ridden arm began reaching for me.

I ran from them. I could hear the creaking and clacking and shuffling of their pursuit as I did. The path now seemed impossibly long as I sprinted; cursing my arrogance and my curiosity with every step. I cursed myself further as I felt something tear at my hip, nearly throwing me off. My mind spiraled into deeper panic as I felt warm liquid and a crawling sensations coming from the wound, but I forced myself onwards. Like the lash of a whip I was struck in the back, sending me tumbling forwards. I scrambled forwards on all fours like a frightened animal until I could right myself and run again. They could have easily caught me and killed me there, but they did not. They were playing with me, I realized. I was their game and they wanted to savour my torment. Gasping for breath from the strike, the fall and the pain I was becoming increasingly aware of, I thought of my grandfather’s description: “devils”. At that moment I could think of no better term to describe them. The tales I had gathered had spoken to their maliciousness, but even my grandfather’s tearful recount had failed to instill in me an inkling of the pure evil that lurked here, or a true belief in their existence. I had no bread to offer, nor a coat to turn inside out. It was early October and the day was so warm, I thought one would only be a hindrance.

I was shaken from my thoughts by the sign of my salvation the path up ahead was once again becoming overgrown. I hoped that I was reaching the boundary of their domain, and my trespass would soon be at an end. This hope was shattered as a stabbing pain pierced my side. The king of bone would not let me go without his mark. Again I was pitched forward, landing in the overgrowth. The nettles and roots and grass added an agony all their own to my wounded body. By some miracle I stood up and limped slowly away, unable though I was, to get a good breath of air. I stumbled through the last of the overgrowth, a step away from my freedom when I heard a creak and a snap like a broken tree branch. I looked behind me and realized that the king of trees had my arm, and was holding it at an impossible angle. My fear left me, as did my senses, as I slipped from his grip and fell the remaining distance out of the trail. I thought I heard laughter that was soon replaced by the voices of men.

I awoke in a hospital bed, surrounded by the worried faces of my parents and my grandparents. My mother, seeing me awake, burst into fresh tears. She told me that I was in the Carbonear General Hospital and that I had been attacked by a moose. I was seen falling out of the woods by some locals and rushed to the nearest hospital. She broke off at the thought of what might have happened if they had not seen me, and was led out of the room by my father who, himself was holding back tears but still suggested that they step out and let me rest. My grandfather suggested that my grandmother should do the same and, after a quizzical look, she too left, leaving us alone.

I attempted to shift in my bed to look at my grandfather, but was held in place by a sudden awareness of terrible pain. I glanced down at the cast on my arm and then back up to my grandfather who moved to my side so that he could speak quietly to me.

“They can’t seem to keep the wounds clean.” He said after a moment of silence. “They keep finding bone fragments and splinters and dirt…” He broke off, then continued mournfully, “You went looking for the fairies didn’t you? Without even an offering to protect yourself.” His face was pale as he squeezed my good hand, “I should have never told you my story. I’m sorry I did. I’m sorry I couldn’t make you believe an old man.” Before I could say a word, he left me to my guilt ridden rest.

They kept me in hospital until the wounds on my side and my hip healed completely, out of fear of infection due to the never ending supply of items that needed to be pulled from them as well as the putrid stench. I remember waking from a restless sleep one night only to find a centipede working its way out of my hip. I screamed until the nurses came who pulled the thrashing insect from me and, after inspecting the wound for more, they cleaned it again and left with looks of fear and disgust barely hidden under the bedside manner.

By the time the wounds had healed, so had my bones. They cut open my cast only to find bark and spruce needles caked in around my arm. Baffling though it was, my arm was healed and they could find no signs of infection so I was sent home.

In the years that passed since this incident, I completed my Bachelor’s Degree and am currently working on my Master’s while writing a book about the fairy lore of the province; including my own incident. That day did not quash my love of folklore but has given me a deeper respect for the old tales. I am also driven by another need. Whenever I pass by a wooded area, of which there are many, even in the city, I hear them. I hear their spiteful laughter and the dreadful creaking and clacking and turning of earth. They want their offering. After so many years they want payment for my life that goes beyond a handful of breadcrumbs or a coat worn wrong-side out. I am supplying this payment by telling my story- their stories- and honouring them here and in my book. I can only hope it will appease them, as the sites of my wounds continue to itch and I often find clumps of spruce needles, moss and bone waiting at my door.

Credit: KnitWolf

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Human Echolocation

October 2, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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I’ve been blind since birth. This in and of itself is not what this is about, but it’s a crucial part of the story. Throughout my life, I’ve used lots of different kinds of assistive technology; braille keyboards, voice command apps, adapted smartphones… Recently, I tried human echolocation for the first time in my life. For those of you who don’t know what this is, it’s a technique emulating that of how bats find their prey in the dark. By making clicking noises with your mouth, you are able to hear the sound bounce off of objects it hits, and in that way “see” where the objects are. A friend of mine, let’s call her “J”, had seen a couple of videos about it on Youtube, and asked me if I had ever tried it. I told her I hadn’t, though I had heard of it.

Long story short, I decided to test it out. It took a lot of concentration at first, but after a few days I felt like I started getting the hang of it.

The next time I met J, she sounded excited and congratulated me when I told her I was doing really well. Practice makes perfect, and I was able to avoid any major obstacles without much trouble. We went to a park, and J asked me to demonstrate what I could “see” around us with my current abilities. I laughed, and told her that I’m not exactly Daredevil, but that I’d give it a go. After a few clicks, I told her I thought there was a small wall or building to our left, and a tall thing in front of us. It was “blurrier” for me to make out, so I guessed it was some kind of bush. J got quiet then, and had a hint of worry in her voice when she spoke again. “Well, you’re right about the wall… but there’s nothing in front of us at all. Just… grass.”

I froze. I knew that I was a beginner at this, but the sound clearly bounced off of something. It was much taller than a person, and only a few steps in front of us. Could I have messed up what I heard that bad?

I decided to laugh it off with J, and said that I apparently wasn’t ready to go out and fight crime just yet. Feeling very uneasy, I hurried us away from there, and we continued our walk. By the time she dropped me off at home, she seemed to have forgotten about it. I doubt I ever will.

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