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Thief

April 21, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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Rating: 7.7/10 (146 votes cast)

Note: This pasta contains gore. If this bothers you, please do not proceed.

The moonlight bathes Paris in a silver, calming hue; a breath of serenity amidst the turmoil of revolution. The city is asleep, deep in its midnight slumber. Only a lonely shadow moves in the stillness of the night, tiptoeing across the rooftops. It climbs effortlessly up a brick wall high above the ground, reaching a window sill with an outstretched hand and pulling itself against the glass. It presses its hands against the wooden windowframe and with a swift motion pulls up. The window clicks open and the shadow slips inside the dimly lit apartment.

The place once belonged to the late magistrate, Pondicher, but after he was relieved of his post -under dubious circumstances- he committed suicide, and the place has remained abandoned ever since. Many enquired about the luxurious two-story apartment but rumours of hauntings and strange sightings kept people away.

Rigaut wouldn’t let old wives’ tales scare him off an opportunity like this. Pondicher had amassed great riches during his time at the courtroom, but he had neither family nor heir, so his fortune should still be in his house. Gold coins, shiny jewels and various other trinkets awaited Rigaut inside the deserted apartment. His lust for gold wouldn’t allow him to pass such a lucrative occasion.

He is now standing in a dimly lit corridor, with wooden, intricately carved doors on the sides leading to the other rooms of the first floor. Specks of dust are dancing in the moonlight coming in from the only window in the hallway. Faded paintings and portraits are hanging from the walls. Further down, a small, wooden table, with scratches on its legs, is covered by a tattered cloth. Two tiny portraits -probably depicting Pondicher and a woman- with the faces scratched off are placed on top of the table.

Rigaut walks carefully down the gloomy corridor, the wooden floor creaking loudly under his feet. He enters the first room on his right. ‘This must be the study’ he thinks. A large bookcase covers the back wall. Piles of old tomes are heaved onto the various furniture -stools, a music player, even a small piano- around the room. Rigaut approaches an equally untidy desk in the middle of the study. Immediately his eyes dart towards a silver pocketwatch partially buried under a pile of stained papers. He grabs it and puts it into an inside pocket of his coat.

His focus shifts to the center of the desk, where a large book lays open. A thin layer of dust covers its parched pages. Rigaut tries to read a few lines, but discovers that the book is written in an unknown language; Greek if he had to guess. Intrigued, he turns page after page, until a crumbled piece of paper falls on the ground. He picks it up. Rows and rows of complete gibberish, with a few lines crossed off. “A list, of sorts.”

Losing interest, he moves back into the hallway. He decides to check the first room on the left. As he steps under the dislodged doorframe, he catches a glimpse of a shadow moving at the other end of the corridor. He quickly spins around. A curtain, torn and shredded, floats softly under the nightly breeze. He laughs at himself for being so jumpy. He has been in this kind of business for many years; the shadows a second skin to him.

He fixes his attention back on the room. This one is much more orderly than the study, but the sense of abandonment is still here. The red paint on the wall is starting to peel, revealing the yellowish plaster covering the brickwork of the building. Fine, aristocratic chairs are gathered around a marble fireplace with blackened-from-the-smoke delicate designs. A ripped chair pillow is thrown in the corner of the room, next to a mahogany dresser. He walks towards that corner, where the faintest idea of a foul odor seems to emanate. Getting closer, a strong sulfuric stench fills Rigaut’s nostrils. Upon investigating the wall, he finds a large hole behind the dresser, broad enough for a small person to creep through, leading to the next room. Slowly, he kneels down to inspect further.

Examining the broken wall, he spots dried blood onto the rim of the hole. Someone must have slid in, only to get cut by jagged edges and wood splinters sticking out. Who would go through there and why? And most importantly, was he still in the building? Rigaut peeks inside the hole, his curiosity pushing him past the rotten smell.

The room is bathed in almost complete darkness, bearing no windows and the only light source being the gap on the wall. Rigaut can’t make out much. The place is in much worse shape than the rest of the house and it is empty save for a battered sofa and a few overturned chairs. His eyes are beginning to adjust to the darkness; little details coming in view. He can now see the white paint on the wall that has dried and on some places has completely fallen off and, most strikingly, blood splattered across the wall and floor. To his horror, he discovers bloody fingerprints and smudges on the floor and lower wall, as if someone has crawled on all fours towards the corner of the room, which is just out of view.

Rigaut stretches his neck and presses as far against the wall as possible in order to get a better view, but the dark corner is still out of sight. Sick of the gruesome scene, he starts to retrieve himself from the hole. But a clanking noise roots him to the spot. He hears raspy, heavy breathing. Then a thumping sound, followed by a painful moan. Rigaut’s mind freezes. He hears the scraping of nails on the hard floor. Someone is dragging himself towards the opening. Rigaut tries to move, but his limbs are numb from fear. The noise is coming closer and closer.

Then, it stops, a low growl replacing it. Seconds pass. Rigaut, pale-faced and wide-eyed, slowly pulls himself backwards. As he is getting up, a hoarse scream pierces his brain. Rigaut rushes to his feet. A rattling of chains and thumping of limbs fills the thief’s ears. Whatever is on the other side is lunging towards the hole. Rigaut runs out of the room slamming the door behind him, the force bringing down the doorframe. He rolls to the side, narrowly escaping the falling door, which crashes to the floor raising a fog of dust.

He runs out to the corridor. “Whatever is in that room can go to hell. I don’t care even if there someone dying in there. Every man for himself, that’s my motto,” Rigaut thinks as he turns towards the window, but the sight in front of him stops him on his tracks and sends shivers down his spine. A man drenched in blood is blocking his exit. His eye sockets are empty, a thick, pus-filled fluid dripping down his cheeks. The white rags thrown over his head don’t cover much of his scarred body. A thick red line runs around his neck, like something tight was tied around it. Three large nails are pinned on his right forearm, while the fingers on both his hands are cut into short, grisly stumps.

Rigaut, mortified by the ghastly sight, backs down the corridor. With trembling hands he tries to grab on something to steady himself, but his legs give way and he falls on his back. He quickly stumbles back on his feet, frantically scanning the floor for an escape route. Unable to spot the main door, he blindly runs up a staircase on his left. He glances over his shoulder, catching the monstrosity turning its head towards him, its mouth curved into the faintest of smiles.

Distracted, he trips over the last step and falls flat on his stomach; his face pressed against a musty old carpet. He pushes himself up and takes a quick look around. This floor is much more claustrophobic than the first. The ceiling is hanging lower and the corridor connecting all the rooms is much narrower. One of the three doors is broken, revealing a small store-room closet. Rigaut lunges to the first of the two. He wrestles with the doorknob, but the door remains closed. He runs to the next door. A nasty smell hits his nostrils. He hesitates, but knowing his options are limited, he pushes the door open.

As the door creaks open, a gust of stale air burst out of the room. Covering his nose, Rigaut carefully peeks inside. Before he can get a view of the room, a little man jumps in front of him. He looks old and feeble, his frail framework trembling under his own weight. The few hairs left on his head are oily and a crust of filth covers his skin.

“Welcome to the Wall of Art,” he says in a high-pitched voice. He smiles, revealing a row of rotten teeth in his mouth. The old man steps outside the room, closing the door behind him. He is wearing a bloody white shirt, that once must have been very expensive, and he is carrying a small hammer in his right hand. He has no pants on, his swollen genitalia on display. Yellow and white marks run down his inner thighs.

“Come in and marvel at the wonders hidden inside that little corner of our world,” he gestures to Rigaut, his bony fingers trembling.

Rigaut steps away from the man until his back is pressing against the wall behind him.

“Don’t be scared. Come in and stand in awe in front of the unearthly beauty of our exhibits,” the old man says, stepping closer to Rigaut. His mouth reeks of rot and decay. He extends a greasy hand towards Rigaut’s face.

“Young lad, I assure you, the Wall is unlike anything you have ever seen. It will elevate you, it will perfect you. You need the Wall to be complete and the Wall needs you. Step inside and become part of the art.”

A surge of adrenaline rushes through Rigaut’s body. He slaps the old man’s hand away and runs for the staircase. The scarred man previously blocking the window is nowhere to be seen. Rigaut’s heart flies. He is so close to escaping this house of horrors, but as he sets foot on the first step, he freezes.

At the bottom of the stairs, a woman -her joints twisted and her limbs rigid- is slowly crawling up the stairs. She twitches and squirms, trying to drag her broken body up the stairs. She is wearing a white, ragged dress and her forehead is adorned by a broken tiara. Her blonde hair has been torn off, with only a few patches left and those glued on her scalp and forehead by sweat and grease. Her glassy eyes are staring blankly at the ceiling while her head is bobbing lifelessly left and right.

Out of breath, Rigaut bolts towards the nearest door on his right, his weight bringing it down and his momentum carrying him to the other end of the room, straight into a pile of rotten body parts. Eyes and limbs and tongues and hair, all crammed into a heap of gore and flesh.

Rigaut gags, the revolting smell invading his senses. Clotted blood glues his fingers together, his hands a sticky mess of blood and hair. He tries to get up but he slips, crashing back down on the pile of dismembered limbs.

“Sir, you aren’t authorized to enter the backstage area,” the shrill voice of the disgusting little man echoes in the room. “I will have to see you out sir,” he says, stepping through the doorframe. He walks steadily towards the fallen thief, rolling up his bloodied sleeves and swinging his small hammer around. Rigaut, accepting his fate, lies still and closes his eyes while the old man downs the hammer onto his head.

The thief’s eyes burst open; explosions of pain shooting across his body. He is lying on top of an unstable table, with the old man’s figure looming over him; a hammer in hand.

“Steady now,” the old man says, bringing the hammer down on Rigaut’s hand. His vision becomes blurry; a sharp pain on his palm numbing his senses. Rigaut looks at his right hand and, to his horror, finds a large nail penetrating his palm. The old man thrusts down with the hammer once more, pinning Rigaut’s hand to the table. The thief screams in agony.

“Shush young lad. You are ruining the magic. You will have plenty of time to scream later. Now I need you to be silent and let me concentrate on my work,” the old man says, putting his hammer down. He pulls a wheeled storage cabinet from underneath the table and opens it. After hastily searching for the tool he needs, he grabs a large, mechanic pair of pliers which he rests at the end of the table, near Rigaut’s feet.

The old man grabs Rigaut’s right foot and pulls it towards the pliers. The thief kicks and stomps, but the pain in his hand impedes his movement and he ultimately succumbs to the man’s surprisingly firm grip. His foot is pushed between the pliers, two metal plates locking it in place. The filthy man steps back, a wry smile etched on his face.

“What the fuck are you doing!?” Rigaut screams. The smile on the old man’s face broadens.

“I am painting. I am painting over nature’s incomplete work, perfecting it,” he says, using his whole weight to pull down a rigid lever connected to the mechanic pliers.

“What the fuck is wrong with you, you sick bastard!”

The metallic plates press down on Rigaut’s ankle. The grip becomes tighter and tighter. Rigaut screams in agony, as his bones crack under the metallic grip.

“There is no point in screaming, young lad. Nobody can hear you. You are only ruining your beautiful voice,” the old man says letting go of the lever. “And you want to be at your sparkling best when she plays with you,” he continues, putting emphasis on the word ‘she’.

The pliers around Rigaut’s ankle relax. The thief exhales in exhaustion.

“Now!” the old man claps his hands. “Before I leave you to her mercy, I will show you a glimpse of the greatness that awaits you,” he says, walking towards the darkest corner of the room.

Rigaut stretches to see what the old man is doing, but his aching body limits his movement. Instead, he focuses on his surroundings. He notices red curtains covering the walls around him. They are heavy and thick and their surface curves slightly around strange bumps sticking out from the wall.

Suddenly, he hears a rusty metallic sound in the corner behind him.

“Behold. The Wall of Art,” the old man whispers in a hushed voice.

The curtains part revealing dozens of bodies hanging from the walls. Some are charred, others are skinned to their bones and others are missing limbs. Large iron spikes are nailed on their heads, pinning them to the wall. They twitch and shudder spasmodically, as if they still try to escape their dreary fate.

Rigaut can only stare in horror; his mind numbed by the horrors of the cursed house. The old man stares at the bodies on the wall too, a puddle of drool ready to fall from the edge of his gaping mouth. After a few seconds of silence, he speaks.

“Beautiful, isn’t it? I have worked my whole life to achieve such elegance,” he says, sweeping a tear away from his eye. “And you will be up here soon,” he pauses. “Don’t mind me asking, but, how do you feel? You must surely be humbled by the honour that has been bestowed upon you.”

Rigaut spits at the old man’s feet.

“I don’t blame you for this classless act. In time you will understand. You will understand that man is only a pawn in the hands of a higher force. Everyone is forced to play; everyone is forced to fulfill the plot that has been set for him. Like an opera play, where the singers can’t deviate too much from the original work or they will be struck down.”

The old man says, walking up and down the room, marveling at the bodies hanging from the walls.

“I loved going to the opera. I remember one night, when I went to see the opening of Mozart’s ‘Magic Flute’. Oh, what a marvelous show that was. There, smitten by the maestro’s divine touch, I fell in love. I fell in love with the Queen of the Night, played by the beautiful and majestic Josephina Rossignol. But I knew I couldn’t have her. Have you ever felt the longing pain of a love that cannot be?”

Suddenly, visibly shaken and angry, he punches the table near Rigaut’s broken ankle.

“I was devastated. Such a graceful being could never stand by my side. I was consumed by heart-wrenching despair. Every moment away from her was a moment my heart skipped a bit. I was inconsolable. My life was spiraling swiftly into a hopeless abyss of misery. I only left my house to go to her performances, dreaming she would notice me. But she never did.”

The old man sighs and hangs his head to his chest.

“One day, I mustered up all the courage in my heart to go and confess my love to her. So, I booked a first row ticket to her next performance. I can’t even remember what the play was, that’s how nervous I was. After the opera was over and the actors retrieved backstage, I slowly made my way to her dressing room. With shaking hands I knocked on the door. She didn’t answer. Taking a deep breath, I opened the door,” he says, hiding his face in his bloodied palms.

“And there she was. S-she was… indulging herself with another actor. My whole world collapsed around me. I don’t know what happened afterwards. Maybe I died and went to hell. All I know is when I opened my eyes I was sitting in a chair in this very room; my love’s mutilated body lying where you lie right now. Something had snapped inside me. I could feel it. I was broken.

“You have met her, you know. She was the one slithering her way up the stairs. My love, my first painting, reduced to a hollow cell of something once beautiful. I cannot hang her on the wall and be done with her. No, she won’t let me,” he emphasizes on the word ‘she’ once more.

“I have to watch my love wilt and wither till there is nothing left of her. I had to chain her to a wall downstairs; that’s how sad her deteriorating state made me.”

The old man snaps his fingers.

“But enough with the chit-chat. My love is simply a work in progress. It is her that you should be scared of. The Lady of the House. She is the one running this household. I am simply a painter. I paint her victims and she plays with them, feeding off their misery and suffering. The more beautiful the painting, the greater the satisfaction she gets.”

As he says that, he opens a toolbox waiting on a chair and pulls out a knife and a cleaver.

“And now, it’s your turn to get painted,” he says, running his finger down the sharp side of the knife. Satisfied he buries his hand in his toolbox, searching.

Rigaut sees his chance. Mustering up every source of strength in his body, he pulls his hand away from the spike pinning it down and rolls on his side, screaming. He comes crushing down from the table, his mind blurred by the pain. The old man turns around and stares at Rigaut with eyes filled with hatred. He grabs a hammer and slowly walks towards the thief.

Rigaut reaches for his left foot, pulling out a dagger concealed in his boot. He grips the handle tightly with his left hand; his knuckles whitened by the effort. The old man swings at Rigaut with his hammer. The thief easily evades the blow and stabs the man on his shoulder, but his broken ankle gives way and he falls flat on his back, his dagger flying out of his reach.

The old man charges towards the fallen Rigaut, but the thief kicks him in the knee, staggering him. Rigaut struggles to his feet, leaning against the table for support. His adversary swings his hammer once more, but the thief catches his hand in mid-air. The two men wrestle, but Rigaut manages to come on top, throwing the old man on the ground. By the time he gets back on his feet, the thief has already grabbed his dagger and is steadying himself for the oncoming assault.

The old man charges once more. This time, Rigaut feigns a move to his right but at the last second darts to the left, plunging his dagger deep into the man’s gut. Despite the stinging pain on his ankle, he manages to balance himself and grab the old man -who has dropped his hammer and is holding his bleeding belly- by the neck.

The old man’s face suddenly drops, a sad and tired look resting over his eyes.

“I once was Pondicher, the Great Magistrate of the Paris’ Court. But now I die as a wretched worm. Oh, how cruel life has been to me,” he says dropping on his knees.

“At last, I find peace. But the Lady, oh, she needs a painter. Without one sh-”

Rigaut slices his throat. He drops the dying man on the floor, letting him gurgle on his own blood; his face a visage of terror. A few seconds later, he draws his stern breath. Rigaut drags him across the room, pulling him onto the bloody table. He puts down the dagger and grabs a hammer. He puts a nail on the side of the magistrate’s head and thrusts down.

A new piece of art is now adorning the Wall.

Credit To – MrDupin

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Looks Like We Got a Live One Here, Boys

April 20, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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Yarrow was in the garden planting garlic with her seven year old daughter Sophia when the old man appeared, ranting and raving, screaming bizarre premonitions and strange warnings, scaring the living shit out of both of them.

It was winter in Humboldt County, California, but it was one of those rare days when it was not pouring rain, when the sun managed to shine down and warm the earth for just a moment before it sunk beneath the towering Douglas firs and sequoias.

Yarrow was kneeling in the garden, her knees sunk into the damp, black earth, her long chestnut brown dreadlocks falling in a ring about her, as Sophia, her round little face etched in concentration, reached into a small woven basket and pulled out a clove of garlic, handing it to her mother.

“Are fairies real, mama?” Sophia asked as Yarrow pressed the clove into the dark, crumbly soil and reached up for another.

Yarrow laughed softly to herself.

“It’s not funny, Mama. Are fairies real or not?”

“Well, some people believe you can only see them if you believe in them, sweetie.”

“Well, I know the tooth fairy’s not real because I saw you put that dollar underneath my pillow.”

Yarrow chuckled as she sunk another clove into the ground, Sophia was growing up so fast.

Neither of them had noticed the old man approach, not until his shadow had fallen over them. At first Yarrow just thought it was Calendula, coming down from the cabin where he had been wiring some battered old solar panels he had managed to round up, and she smiled.

But when she looked up at the figure that loomed over them what she saw was the old man. He was dressed in a pair of dirty old overalls and his bloodshot eyes bulged out from beneath a battered John Deere hat, a long drop of tobacco stained drool dripping from his mouth.

“You all people gots to get!” he hollered with a shower of spittle, bending down close so that Yarrow could see that the whites of his eyes were jaundiced and yellow behind the maze of red veins. “You knows where you are? You got any idea what’s out there in them damn woods? They’re breeding them fucking things out there, for god’s sake! You don’t get out you gonna die! You’re all gonna die!”

The old man startled little Sophia so badly that she screamed and dropped her basket of garlic. Yarrow quickly scrambled to her feet, pulling the little girl protectively behind her and backed away from the old man who came at her waving his arms maniacally, stepping all over the garlic they had just planted.

“It’s a curse, that’s what it is! The injuns bred ‘em back in the old days and now they’re back. They’ll use ‘em on you, girl. Use ‘em to get back the land they lost. They’ll use ‘em on you and that’s no joke. For god’s sake, they’re breeding those damn things up there!”

“What are you doing here!” Yarrow screamed at him. “Get away from us!”

The old man looked around for a moment, startled. Then he spit a wad of tobacco juice onto the ground and started ranting again, this time a little calmer, but still not making any sense.

“You got nothing to fear from me, little missy. I ain’t gonna hurt you. I’m just here to warn you. It’s them damn things out in the woods you got to worry about. I’m telling you they are breeding them things! You all gots to get away. Now, while you still can!”

Calendula, having heard the commotion from all the way up at the cabin, came sprinting down the hill and burst into the garden, out of breath, his stubby blonde dreadlocks bobbing, his face screwed up into a grimace of concern. Althea, their golden retriever, raced along beside him, barking like mad.

“What the hell’s going on?”

The old man turned towards him. “You all got to get! Get while you still can!”

“No,” Calendula screamed, storming over. “You got to get! This is our land now and you’re on private property! Now get the hell out of here before I go and get my fucking shotgun!”

Althea danced around the old man’s feet, barking. When the old man went to swat at her she squatted down on her hind legs, bared her teeth and growled.

“I said, get the fuck out of here!” Calendula yelled as the old man kicked at the dog.

“I’m a going. I’m a going. Just keep that damn dog the hell away from me. I’m only here to warn you, but you stupid kids are obviously too damn dumb to listen.”

The old man stomped out of the garden and down the trail to the road, mumbling to himself loudly.

Calendula looked up at Yarrow who clutched Sophia to her.

“What was that all about?” he asked.

“Just a nice neighborly visit, I guess,” she said, and burst into laughter. “Well, I guess that’s one of the crazy redneck neighbors the real estate agent warned us about.”

Calendula shook his head and started laughing along with her.

“What did he say to you?” Calendula asked, running his hand through his beard.

“He said, They are breeding those things out there.”

“What did he mean?”

“I don’t know. He’s obviously crazy. It was scary but I think he’s harmless.”

“I told you we needed a shotgun.”

“Oh, Calendula, we don’t need a shotgun. You said you were getting that thing for the bears anyway, not crazy old men.”

“Whatever it takes to protect my girls,” he said with a big grin and sauntered over and wrapped his arms around his wife and child, his little family. He squeezed them and held them close, kissed his wife’s face, the smell of her hair and sweat flooding his senses.

“What’s a redneck?” Sophia asked, and they all burst into laughter.

They had managed to buy this forty acres of rugged, forest covered hills four months ago with an inheritance Yarrow had received from her Aunt Sophia, whom they had named their daughter after.

Sophia was Yarrow’s favorite aunt and Yarrow had held her hand and watched her wither away to nothing on that dingy hospital bed in Sacramento, listening patiently as she rambled on- why do you do that to your hair? You had such pretty hair. Why do you call yourself that silly name? Your name is Megan, a beautiful name. That was your grandmother’s name.

I know, Aunty, she had spoken softly back, Yarrow is only my forest name- you can call me Megan. She had whispered in her ear, trying not to notice how skinny her dear Aunt had become, how much hair she had lost, please, call me Megan.

It was a terribly hard time for Yarrow. Sophia had been like a mother to her, but now, at least, she had something beautiful to hold on to- she had this land- and they were going to make it a paradise.

Yarrow and Calendula were both certified permaculture designers and they had quickly set out to turn the forty acre hillside into an organic farm.

The plan was to eventually get some goats which they would then use to clear sections of land for gardens of lavender, Echinacea, chamomile, lemon balm and mint. Medicinal herbs that didn’t need irrigation and were deer resistant. With the goat milk they would make cheese and soap to sell at the farmer’s market. They wanted to dig a pond for water storage and raise up some Cray fish and tilapia in it, get a couple of ducks gracing its surface to provide meat and eggs. They would run their gray water through a marsh of edible cat tails. Turn the rundown little cabin, just a hunting shack really, into a functioning ecological green home with solar panels and micro-hydro, an attached, south facing cold frame to heat their house in the winter and sprout their vegetable seeds in in the spring.

It would be a paradise, a dream, a utopia; but, it was a lot of hard work. More than they had ever anticipated, and for the moment most of those projects had fallen by the wayside. They had spent nearly all winter just cutting enough firewood to keep their tiny little cabin warm, getting out when they could, on rare days like this when the sun broke through those seemingly ever present black clouds that filled the sky, to plant Jerusalem artichokes, fava beans, kale and onions.

But Calendula had built his chicken coop/greenhouse and packed it with a dozen Rhode Island reds. It was his pride and joy and a symbol to him of the permaculture ethic of capturing and recycling energies in a circular pattern: the chickens heated the greenhouse and supplied it with manure for fertilizer, and the greenhouse provided fresh greens, chard and kale, for the chickens to eat. A symbiotic relationship.

Just this week the chickens had finally started to lay eggs and he was ecstatic. Now he was planning on letting the really broody one (he called her Bonny), the one who pecked at him when he tried to reach into her nest and pluck an egg up from under her, hatch her brood. Things were working on this little dream of a farm, even if it was going slow.

So far, he’d only had one real problem, when some chickens had squeezed through the chicken wire that separated them from the plants and had demolished the kale and about 20 tiny marijuana starts they had hoped to grow and make a few bucks off of in the fall. But one little set back when you sit on the doorstep of a utopia is nothing.

They awoke at dawn the next morning, Sophia somehow ending up in their bed sometime in the middle of the night. After they drank their coffee, ate their eggs, and smoked a big fat joint, Yarrow and Calendula went down the hill to the garden, Sophia between them, holding on to their hands and swinging.

“Oh, no,” Calendula muttered as he turned the corner. The chicken coop was destroyed: lumber and chicken wire strewn across the garden, chicken carcasses scattered about, mauled and ripped up. Clumps of bloody feathers lay everywhere amongst the debris of the greenhouse: limp kale and chard starts, their white roots exposed to the air.

“Damn it. Damn it. What the fuck!” Calendula shouted, stomping about, kicking the scattered boards, searching amongst the debris for maybe one living chicken- let it be Bonny.

“Calm down, Calendula,” Yarrow hissed, scooping Sophia up into her arms. “You’re scaring Sophia.” She soothed the little girl, stroking her hair and whispering. “It’s okay. It’s okay.”

“But our chickens, Momma. The poor little chickens.”

“Oh, sweetie, it’s okay. That’s just life on a farm. We’ll get new chickens.”

Calendula picked up a two by four that had been snapped in half. “What could have done this?”

“Some kind of animal. A bear?”

“Yeah, maybe. But I didn’t even hear Althea barking, she usually doesn’t let any animals near here. Where is…” he circled around the devastated chicken coop and saw the dog. She lay on her back amongst a clump of chicken wire and greenhouse plastic, her belly ripped open and her guts spilled out.

Calendula gripped himself, fighting back a flood of rising tears and bile.

“Yarrow, take Sophia up to the cabin. I’ll meet you up there in a while. I got some work to do.”

Yarrow swooped up Sophia, pressed her head against her shoulder, and looked to Calendula, her eyes widening in horror, mouthing the words, “Not Althea?”

Calendula nodded grimly back at her.

As Yarrow shuffled away back to the cabin, Calendula got a shovel and started digging a grave.

He pulled the old dog by its hind legs to the pit, real tears now coursing down his cheeks. Althea was ten years old; he’d had her before he’d even met Yarrow, before Sophia had been born. Now she was gone. He dumped the old dog’s body into the pit, flinching at the thump that the body made when it hit the bottom, and slowly started filling the hole with dirt as the shadows grew long and darkness fell. A thick fog leaked out from the forest and the land grew cold; he could see his breath as he headed back up to the cabin.

As he reached the summit of the hill that his little cabin sat perched on, he thought he caught something move from the corner of his eye. Something tall, dark and ape like, swinging long arms as it sunk into the woods. But when he blinked it was gone and there was nothing there but trees and shadows. Had he seen something? No. Just paranoid. He was just being paranoid.

They ate dinner in near silence that night. Yarrow tried to make conversation, saying how now they could get some runner ducks and finally try experimenting with bogs like they’d always wanted to. Calendula smiled and said how great that’d be. But a melancholy mood hung heavy in the dim light of the small cabin, the fire crackling in their little, black woodstove and throwing strange orange shadows against the walls. Luckily Sophia was tired and fell right asleep, Yarrow sitting beside her, stroking her long dark hair for a long time while Calendula sat alone in the dark, thinking of his old dog and, with tears in his eyes, listening to the sound of rain on the roof.

Yarrow finally came out from Sophia’s little bedroom, sat beside her husband and ran her hands through his short, blonde dreadlocks.

“It will be alright, sweetie,” she said.

“I know it will, honey. I know it.”

They kissed briefly, then sat back and drank organic pinot noir out of mason jars till their heads spun. Their mouths were stained dark and purple and they stared in silence at the rain splashing down against the window. Then they stumbled to their little bed and passed out.

At first he thought it was an earthquake.

The cabin shook violently as the scream like sound of wood splintering filled the small space. His head pounding with an early hangover, Calendula leapt out of bed and ran to the kitchen as their small propane refrigerator went crashing against the wall. The rain had stopped, the clouds blown away, and the full moon shone its light into the rustic kitchen, illuminating it perfectly.

What Calendula saw froze him in his tracks. His mouth went dry and cold as all the blood drained from his face. There, bending over the sprawled refrigerator, picking through the tofu and tempeh, was a huge, fur covered creature. It was not a bear. It had a tall forehead, and a hairless face. The creature looked up at him and roared, its mouth unbelievably huge and filled with glistening, square teeth.

“Momma!” Sophia cried out from her tiny bedroom.

“My baby!” Yarrow hollered, pushing Calendula aside and darting into Sophia’s room.

The monstrous creature leapt over the refrigerator and Calendula had just enough time to think to himself, the shotgun is under the bed and the shells are in the closet (Yarrow refused to allow him to keep a loaded gun around) when the beast gripped his shoulders in its massive, ape like hands and pulled him forward, sinking its teeth into Calendula’s neck. It pulled its giant head back, the torn jugular vein in Calendula’s neck releasing a shower of black blood that rained down over the kitchen. The creature then grabbed Calendula by the face and with a quick tug snapped his spinal cord and ripped his head completely off his shoulders. Howling an awful, bestial scream, the creature violently threw Calendula’s head into one corner of the tiny cabin and his decapitated body into another.

Yarrow screamed and the monster turned toward her, howling.

“Stay away from my baby!” she hollered, and the huge beast grabbed her by one arm and began pounding her against the wall. It beat her against the wall even after her screams had stopped and her body went limp, violently thrashing her until her arm dislodged and her body fell down, crumpled on the cabin floor.

The creature stared curiously at the severed arm, lifting it up and down so that Yarrow’s hand flip-flopped back and forth, when suddenly flash light beams and voices filled the room.

“Well, goddamn it. Just look at this fucking mess. I told you to double check the goddamn lock on that cage!”

“Sorry, Pa, sorry.”

A big man wearing a Caterpillar cap and a tan Carhart jacket, a thick coil of rope hanging over one shoulder, stomped through the door. “Just look at this god awful mess.” The big man stepped up to the creature. “What the fuck you think you’re doing?” he shouted at the beast. “Look what you did!”

The creature looked sheepishly down at its feet.

“Bad!” the man yelled. “Bad! Bad, boy!” and he began beating at the now whimpering and huddled creature. He pulled the coil of rope off his shoulder and looped it around the creature’s neck, handing the line to the teenage boy behind him.

“Now, Joey, get this damn varmint loaded up in the truck.”

As the creature meekly scurried past him, head hung down, the man kicked it hard on the rear. “Goddamn stupid fucking Sasquatches.”

He then started peering around the room with his flashlight. “What a mess,” he muttered under his breath. “What a goddamn mess.”

He stepped into Sophia’s room and shined his light under the bed.

“Well, looks like we got a live one here, boys!” He reached under the bed with his huge mitt of a hand and grabbed Sophia who began screaming and thrashing.

“Grand pop, bring me that burlap sack!” the big man screamed as he pulled the kicking, struggling little girl from under the bed. “Damn, ain’t she a feisty one,” he grumbled as he hit her solidly over the head with his flashlight and she went limp in his arms.

The old man came shuffling into the room with a large, burlap sack in his arms, mumbling, “I tried to tell ‘em. Get going, I said. Did they listen? Do they ever fucking listen to an old man like me? No. Never. Goddamn stupid fucking kids.”

“Give me that,” the big man scowled, roughly pulling the sack from the old man’s hands. “Go wait in the truck, Grandpa.”

The old man shuffled away, mumbling incoherently.

The big man bent down and scooped the little girl up into the sack.

When Sophia awoke she was in a cage, laying on a mound of filthy straw. Her head ached terribly. She gazed hazily about, her eyes blurry and crossed. All around her were cages similar to her own. In each was a large, hairy creature with a bald face. In the cage immediately next to hers, a creature cradled a tiny, fur covered infant to her sagging, hair covered tit. The baby looked over its shoulder at Sophia with big, white rimmed eyes as it suckled noisily, a thin trickle of milk running down its lips and into the downy fur of its chin.

“Awake, huh? Are ‘ya hungry?” the big man asked as he strolled over with a bowl of slop in his hands. He slid the bowl into the cage. Behind him was an old, hunched over woman and a young girl not much older than Sophia dressed in a ragged princess dress with a sparkling tiara perched atop her head.

“Well, look at her,” the old woman cooed, poking Sophia through the bars with her finger. “Ain’t she just adorable.”

“Can we keep her, Daddy? Can we?” the little girl pleaded.

“Well, I suppose, if you promise to feed her and clean her cage you can keep her,” the big man said.

“Oh, I promise,” said the little girl. “I promise.”

Credit To – Humboldt Lycanthrope

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Roommate Problems

April 19, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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I had moved out of my last apartment that February. My roommate had gone crazy and I had to get out. By crazy, I don’t mean “crazy.” I mean insane. She thought she was being abducted by aliens? They were taking her at night and running experiments on her. She said they were testing her body for exposure to something. My therapist said I shouldn’t say she’s insane. He says that’s a terrible way to describe someone with mental health problems. He says she probably had control issues, and that being abducted was a way for her to both stigmatize and fetishize loss of control.

I know, right?

She got hospitalized when she tried to kill her parents. They stopped by the apartment one afternoon to bring her groceries. I think they thought she was going nuts and the grocery drop off was a not so elaborate ploy to see if she was. Their ploy worked. She accused them of being clones and made a bull rush at them with kitchen scissors, the kind you use to clean chicken breasts. Her dad was ex military, or something like that, and her got her in this complicated hold and we called the cops and they took her off to Westview. “Seventh floor,” I heard one of the cops say. I googled it later. Seventh floor was the psych ward. She lost control.

The next day I rolled out of the apartment. Without Claudia there, I couldn’t afford the rent, and with the way her parents took all of her shit, I couldn’t imagine she was coming back. That left me needing a place, which I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to manage. I had left my last job in a hasty and desultory manner
(It was Starbucks and my godawful manager accused me of taking home a tray of pastries illegally (I denied it but it was totally true); I shouted “suck my ex-corporate cock” at him as I left, even though, as a girl, I technically have no cock). I crashed that night at Julia’s, but her boyfriend hated me, so I knew I had to find something else quickly.

The next day, I found the place on Craig’s list. F roommate wanted. 250/month. I could make 250/month. You have to work to not earn 250/month.

The place was an utter shithole and it was way, way, way off any sort of bus line, which is why is why it was so cheap, but the girl, Holly, wasn’t awful at all. She was in her final semester at university and interning at some mental health outreach 20 hours a week. She had a tumblr called introspectivecats that was just pictures of cats looking at themselves in the mirror. She drank such cheap wine. I liked her.

A few weeks after I moved in, she asked me if I saw anything weird the night before. “Lights? Any weird lights?”

I knew. Before she did.

A few weeks later, she told me. They were taking her at night. While I slept. Experiments. Surgeries. She showed me a cut on her back. Look at this, she whispered. Look at it. I did. It looked like a cut.

She didn’t come back to the apartment one night. And then the next. Her boyfriend, however, came over the next. Lyle. Nice guy. I knew him from freshman year intro to english lit class (“Beowulf to Virginia Woolf!”). He told me Holly had been having problems. She moved back home to her parent’s house. She wasn’t planning on coming back.

By now, I was working again, at the trash 4-Q down the street, selling cigarettes and energy drinks three nights a week. That income allowed me to be able to afford the place on my own, so I didn’t have to move, although the empty apartment made me feel like I was the only living person in the world. Then I would leave the building and see people walking around like the world was so normal, so routine. They just left their apartments and went outside.

I was taking six credits that semester, after Holly talked me into trying school again. Although it was only two classes, it made me eligible for a few hours of counseling every week at the shitty drop in mental health clinic. I religiously went, talking to my therapist, Mr. Whitley, about what had been going on.

After a few sessions, I noticed he seemed different. It wasn’t so much anything he said or did (and honestly he didn’t say or do much in general, just sat and maybe listened while I complained about my life) but he just seemed different. Like something was bothering him.

One day, after I sat down, he started in with the questions.

Where was I from? What did my parents do? What was my earliest memory? What did I do as a child? Where did I go to elementary school?

I told him the same thing I always did: my memory is terrible. I literally barely remember the last hour of my life.

He kept asking, his voice rising.

What are the names of your parents? Where are you from? Then,

“What are you doing to me?”

I told him I didn’t know what he was talking about. His eyes looked far away and spit was coming out of his mouth, like he was a dog trying to bite me.

“They’re coming for me,” he said, getting out of his chair, “they’re taking me. At night. The lights. Every night.”

“I don’t know what —” I got up from the chair, trying to back away to the door.

“The aliens. They’re taking me. Because of you. And it stops right now.” He pulled out a fucking knife —a knife of all things! — and leapt toward me.

I screamed and kicked him. I felt my leg, I felt something enter my leg, and I started screaming again. Not in fear or anger but just sheer unbelievable wet agony. Somehow my kick had managed to knock off his glasses. When security rushed in, he was on his knees, red faced and grey haired, trying to find him. The security dude (Carlos: he was super chill. He and I talked about bluegrass sometimes. Carols loved mandolin) froze, staring at the two of us, me bleeding from the cut on my leg and Mr. Whitley, sweating and crazy looks. I think Mr Whitley made Carlos’s decision easier when he screamed, direct quote, he needed to “kill the girl! She brings the aliens!”

After everything was done, an EMT came and bandaged up my leg.

“This is a really bad cut, but it could have been a lot worse. You’re definitely going to need stitches.”

“I know. I can’t believe my therapist tried to kill me.”

“I know, right? This world is cra — Oh, did you,” she paused, “did you have surgery here?”

“On my leg? No. Why?”

“Because,” she pulled out a piece of gleaming, translucent metal out of me. Ceiling lights throbbed and reflected against the strange metallic, blood smeared surface. It seemed to soak in all the light in the room. “What is this?”

My first memories were the lights, pulling me into them.

Credit To – Kevin Sharp

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Alien Invasion 1905

April 18, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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Alien Invasion 1905

This is a video pasta. If the embedded video is not loading for you, please click the link above to go directly to the video’s YouTube page and try watching it there.

Credit To: Words: James Livermore, Music: Rodena Borisova

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The Scourge

April 17, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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“Forgive me father, for I have sinned,” she giggled as she traced her fingers across his chest.
Heather Wilson; she was young, much younger than him. Eighteen to be exact, the singularity of youth and maturity, or at least the age where mistakes were bound to occur. She caught his eye immediately when she began showing up, staring intently as he would go on with his work. As he came to find out, her intent was one built upon desire rather than interest. She was temptation in the form of a seventeen year old when they had their first “private meeting.” It was morally incorrect, he knew it all too well, but that never stopped him from committing his actions. Desires, aside from some being too hard to ignore, come in large numbers, especially when you’re a priest.
“I absolve you of all your sins,” Father Wren said between a smile.
Reverend Wren Thomas, the community priest and worship leader of the Ascension Catholic Church. He was well known in the community, not for his sexual behavior but for his sermons, guidance, and spirituality to the catholic faith. The doctrine teaches that all humans are sinful in nature, and Wren was no exception. He had his secrets, all of which ranged from miniscule to somewhat troubling, but none more so than his clandestine sexual relationship with Heather Wilson. His position was the vital cause of the immorality, the fact that he was forty-six was just more fuel to the aberrant blaze.
Wren had been meeting with Heather in secrecy for over six months. He could remember the first time she came to his sermon; how she eyed him down the entire time, how difficult it was for him to not do the same. It wasn’t until the fourth week that she approached him in that tight yellow petal dress. Wren would come to find out that was her favorite choice of clothing, and as fate would have it, it happened to be his favorite as well. Her looks were enough to make any man swoon in her presence; the dress was what set Wren over the edge.
Ever since then their relationship had been a well kept secret, oblivious to the minds of the other members of the congregation. Even Heather’s parents, who attended just as much as she did, saw Father Wren as a champion for scripture and the path of righteousness. Had her parents (or anyone) found out that he was having sexual relations with a seventeen year old, he would have met a worst fate then excommunication. But she was legal now; the government could hold nothing against him now when their relationship was consensual. It wasn’t the government he was worried about however, someone in a much higher position stained his sense of guilt.
“God, eight-fifteen already?” Heather said as she observed the clock by her bedside. “My parents are supposed to get home around nine.”
“I don’t want to overstay my welcome,” Wren replied.
“Sometimes I wish you would,” Heather said as she leaned in for a kiss.
Wren met her lips as quickly as his body would allow him to move. He never understood why a girl so young was into a man as old as he was. Perhaps it was the inexperience of her age, making her clouded vision subject to wanting something she didn’t need. Maybe she just had a thing for older guys, or maybe she had a thing for priests. Wren had no idea what Heather’s motive for sleeping with him was, and truthfully he didn’t really care to know. He enjoyed it all too much.
After a quick succession of lip pecks, Heather slipped her way out of bed and made her way to the closet on the left side of her room, searching for a cute pair of night clothes she could throw on to tantalize Wren just a bit more. Wren followed suit, shuffling on his pair of Wrangler jeans, Abbey Road t-shirt, Nike tennis shoes, and black hoodie. It was the last kind of wardrobe anyone would suspect a priest of wearing. Wren wanted to keep spotting outside of the church to a minimum, especially in the company of one of the younger girls in the congregation.
As Heather slipped out from her closet Wren was able to catch a glimpse of the garments hanging from the racks. Shirts and pants were all part of a normal wardrobe to Wren’s eye, but seeing the line of different colored dresses made him want to stay just a little longer. A hidden rainbow of lust behind the doors of a teenager’s closet, he had to leave before his clouded judgment brought him back to the sheets of Heather’s bed.
“See you Sunday,” Heather said with a quick wink of her left eye.
“See you then.” He replied as he closed the bedroom door behind him, making sure to get one last view of the closet before exiting the room entirely.

And so it was once again that he was exiting the Wilson’s apartment, unbeknownst to the owners of his presence and purpose in their home. As he reached the hall leading to the front door, a phrase he had heard from an immeasurable amount of people for the vast majority of his life had filled his mind. A phrase uttered by Heather Wilson as she laid naked on her bed, a girl twenty-eight years apart from the man who against his moral code had committed one of the greatest offenses against his position in the church.
Forgive me father, for I have sinned.
Sins; Father Wren could have said it himself, he had far too many to count.

Outside the air was thick and still. It was early in the night, yet late enough for the sun to be overtaken by the moon. The forecast called for clouds to roll in by seven, and as Wren looked to the sky he could tell that they were abundant. The moon, wherever it was, had become blotted out by the clouds overhead. The only illumination erasing the darkness was the periodic street lamps and the storefront lights protruding out onto the sidewalk. Looking around Wren noticed that there weren’t many people walking about, just the way he wanted it. Wren pulled the hood over his head shrouding his face in shadow, content on making sure not a single person he passed would be able to recognize him.
Making his way down the street, Wren couldn’t help but wonder how he could get away with such an act as he was periodically committing. In his younger years, he felt devoting his life to the cause was something worthwhile. His faith was strong, and his willingness to help others achieve salvation was even stronger. But it seemed that with age came a new outlook among other things. He no longer felt the same connection to the spirit as he once did. At one time his connection with God was an adamant bond, but as he continued on the ropes had become increasingly worn down and used up. For all of his decreasing devotion however, Wren didn’t find it suitable to simply leave his position for reasons of deteriorating faith. The people believed in him, trusted him, and as he came to find out, were oblivious to a double life he could play behind their backs.
Wren noticed a man approaching from the opposite direction. As they passed, Wren noticed the man to be Brian Humphrey, a man who was a regular attendee at Sunday mass. Brian passed Wren without so much as giving a second look. He stopped just outside an alley and turned back to see if Brian had considered that his Pastor had just casually walked by him on the street. No sign of alteration, it seemed that Wren’s disguise was foolproof, it seemed-
“Excuse me, Father!” a voice from the alley called out. “Could you spare a moment of your time?”
Wren jolted with shock, turning his head down the alley to the figure that stood in the dark. He was dumbstruck as to how someone saw through his disguise, especially from the angle the figure was standing. That was another thing, who exactly was the figure in the shadow of the alley? Judging from the voice it was coming from a man, but aside from that Wren had no other guess as to who was standing beyond the veil. Wren calmed himself, knowing that making a scene would only worsen his position.
“Not at all my son,” Wren called out, “how may I help?”
As the figure called back, it slowly made its way towards the light of the street lamps.
“Oh, it’s not how you can help me; it’s how I can help you. Why don’t we take a walk?”
Emerging from the darkness of the alley came a young man wearing a blue letterman jacket accenting his grey cargo pants. His dirty blonde hair draped down to the cusps of his shoulders while his dark brown eyes became the stand out feature of his moderate complexion. He didn’t look like a mugger, nor did he really seem all that dangerous. Wren eased off his tension, if only by a small margin.
“Shall we?” the man said as he extended his arm towards the sidewalk.
The man had a cool demeanor about him, as if he was aware he was controlling the situation. Taking a few steps down the street, he turned back to Wren and gave a waving motion with his hand. Cautious as he was, Wren reluctantly followed, allowing himself to be the selfless man the community expected him to be.
“Pretty dark out tonight,” the man said, “don’t you think?”
“The night is black without a moon,” Wren replied.
“It sure is. How was your day Father? No doubt brighter than the current state of the sky I take it.”
Wren quickly thought back to Heather lying naked beside him, committing sin in grand fashion no more than twenty minutes ago.
“Uneventful,” Wren replied, “just a normal evening I suppose.”
“Say,” the man replied between a chuckle, “you do have a sense of humor. You’re always so stoic when you’re giving sermons; I guess you put up a pretty good act.”
More thoughts of Heather; the way her tongue twisted around every crevice, the little mole on her left thigh. He shook it off, observing the man in his entire mystifying swagger as they walked side by side down the block.
“Might I ask your name my son?”
“Back to the norm I see. Does it matter what my name is?”
“I have nothing to call you outside of ‘son,’ or ‘sir’ if you prefer. Or if you like I’ll-”
“Francis, just call me Francis. It’s what I’ve been using for a long time; don’t see why I should change it now.”
“You say that like you’re against it.”
“Well, let’s just say it’s not my favorite. Basically it was-”
He was interrupted by a subtle buzzing sound that emitted itself in a rhythmic fashion. Wren looked over to see Francis dig into his pocket to pull out his phone. Wren couldn’t get a good look at the screen, but he noticed a sudden shift in Francis’ facial expression when he looked at the caller I.D. The cool demeanor he had before was replaced by a look of apprehension. He pointed his index finger up at Wren, signifying he would need a moment to speak to whoever was on the other end.
“Yes? I’m aware of what I’m-… no… of course I can… I’ll get to that eventually, but-… yes… yes; I understand… whatever you say.”
With that he hung up and slid the phone back into his pants pocket. Wren heard Francis begin to say something under his breath. He wasn’t able to catch what Francis was saying, not only due to volume at which he spoke, but also because much of what he was saying didn’t sound like English.
“Is there an issue?” Wren asked.
“Hmm? Oh not exactly, my father just doesn’t like me lollygagging is all. He’s a very ‘straight to the point’ kind of guy. I don’t get out much, but when I do I like to take my time. You understand right?”
“…Uh-huh,” Wren replied with confusion, “I think I see what you mean?”
“Let me ask you something Father; do you enjoy your position? As a man of God I mean.”
“Well sure, I believe I have made the right choice in life. It’s not easy mind you, and I have given into temptations more than I would have liked, but I believe these are all just tribulations on the proving path.”
“Temptations you say? And here I thought a priest was supposed to be void of any and all temptations.”
Wren was getting suspicious, he had never seen Francis around the church before, but he seemed to be inquiring into a territory where most didn’t tread. He couldn’t quite figure Francis out; something seemed off about him, in a way a person may suspect a thief in their store. He had a lingering presence but displayed himself with decisive calculation. Wren figured he could play along for a little while longer; he didn’t want to do anything to set him off.
“We are human so yes,” Wren continued, “but nothing major I assure you. I’m not going out and killing people, but I have the occasional slip up where I’ll swear or become angry at something when it isn’t necessary.”
“Nothing major hmm?” Francis replied, his voice curled like the hissing of a snake. “Only petty curses and anger? I wonder what Heather Wilson’s parents would think of that statement.”
On the outside Wren continued to pace along with Francis as though he hadn’t missed a beat, but on the inside Wren’s reaction was that of complete distress. It didn’t seem to be mere coincidence that Francis would bring up Heather no more than ten minutes since Wren left her parent’s apartment. But how could Francis know that he was even there in the first place? Wren, though faintly panicking on the inside, continued his pace as though Francis hadn’t said a word, knowing full well that playing it cool would likely be his best bet.
He scanned his surroundings quickly and noticed a couple approaching them on the sidewalk. He recognized them as the Martin’s, a couple who regularly attends his services and would never expect to see him outside of church. Wren pulled down the brim of his hood as far as he could, just enough to see a few feet of the sidewalk before him. He had to keep appearances.
“Heather Wilson?” Wren asked. “I don’t see why she or her parents would care about my periodic anger.”
“I don’t know, you are a man of God after all. Doing His work when He Himself sits upon high heaven. How can you express living an honest life when you yourself are committing sins every day?”
Wren gave an inner sigh of relief; it must’ve been coincidence that Francis brought up Heather and her family. Perhaps he actually knew them personally, or maybe he-
“After all,” Francis continued, “you are fucking their daughter right behind their backs.”
Wren’s tension shot back up to one hundred as he stopped dead in his tracks. Francis took a few more steps before he realized Wren had stopped following him. As he watched Francis slowly turn to face him, he noticed the devilish grin etched across Francis’ face, as if he was letting all of it sink in.
“How do you know that?” Wren asked. “Who are you?”
“Now isn’t that the question of the hour?” Francis replied as he slowly paced his way towards Wren. “Such an interesting question to ask, who are you exactly, Father? That’s fitting isn’t it? Father. How many ways does that title befit you? You’re a minister obviously, if you keep fucking around with Heather you’ll likely become a father. Hell, the way I see it you’re old enough to even be her father. Does she call you father in bed, daddy maybe? As if I didn’t already know the answer, she was moaning it no more than a couple of minutes ago and-”
Wren made a quick lunge towards Francis and pinned him against the wall of the store before them. He moved with such speed that his hood fell back behind his neck, allowing him to clearly see the unchanged expression across Francis’ face, and allowing all others to see the irritated expression across his.
“Is this some kind of joke? Who the fuck are you!?”
“Come now Father, I don’t think the Martin’s would appreciate that kind of tone, especially coming from you.”
Wren froze as he heard the pair of footsteps inching closer and closer. He had completely forgotten the Martin’s were walking towards them, and in his shock he realized that his hood had fallen, exposing himself for the entire block to see. It was far too late now, he was uncovered, and the couple was close enough now that they likely witnessed the entire course of Wren’s aggressive actions. Regrettably, he turned towards the oncoming couple and formed whatever excuse he could think of.
“Please don’t take this the wrong way,” Wren began to plead. “I acted out of anger and I would never, expect, you, too…”
Wren slowed his speech as the Martin’s completely passed him without even acknowledging his presence. He knew what he did was out of his character, but it wasn’t enough for people to completely disregard him, especially those he knew. He heard dark giggling coming behind him, and turned to see Francis leaning against the wall Wren had previously pinned him against, savoring every second.
“Isn’t that strange?” Francis said. “It’s as if they didn’t even know you, like you didn’t even exist. But you’re wondering how that’s even possible; I can see it in your face. Why don’t we keep walking? There’s much to discuss.”
“No,” Wren replied franticly, “I’m not taking another step with or anywhere near you. Leave me alone!”
Wren swung his body towards the adjacent alley and ran as fast as he could. He had to run, get away from Francis as quickly as possible; it was the only thing he could comprehend. A quarter of the way down the alley he turned his head back mid run to see Francis eyeing him down from the sidewalk.
“Where are you going Wren?” Francis called out. “You can run all you want…”
Wren set his gaze forward anticipating he was now more than half way down the alley. He almost fell to the ground trying to stop himself when he saw Francis blocking his path in the shadows before him.
“… But don’t expect me to stop following you.”
“Wh-? What do you want from me?” Wren asked between heavy breaths.
“I just want to talk,” Francis said imitating a coy child. “Is that too much to ask?”
“Who are you?”
“Weren’t you paying attention back there, I’m Francis.”
“Then what are you? You’re clearly not normal given the fact that you just, miraculously, appeared.”
“Well you’re right about that, I’m anything but normal. Nor am I of this city, or this state, country… planet; though I do love spending time here. Taking in the sights, seeing the hustle and bustle, talking to the people. That’s all I want from you Wren, I just want to talk.”
“Screw you, I’m calling the police.”
Wren fumbled in his pockets to pull out his phone, his shaking fingers making it hard for the phone to be operated with any form of finesse.
“Is that the new iPhone model?” Francis asked. “Mind if I take a look at it?”
“You have a phone,” Wren said looking up from his screen, “look at your own.”
“Uh-uh, I don’t think so, I’d much rather look at yours.”
From the pocket of his letterman jacket, Francis pulled out an iPhone and began to tap on the screen. It wasn’t until Wren looked down and noticed that his phone was missing from his hand that he realized whose phone it actually was.
“You know I don’t really see all the hoop-la that comes with these things. Does this one have the voice that talks to you; Sammy, or something like that?”
“How did you-”
“Oh, what’s this? New message from Heather. ‘Enjoyed our time tonight, want to do it again sometime next week?’ Sorry Heather, Wren here is going to be a little busy for a while.”
Francis flipped the phone in his hand and tossed into the nearby dumpster with a clanging thud.
“Trust me; you won’t need that thing to bother you any longer. We can’t have your little sex toy interrupting our chat.”
His lips curled upon uttering the last words. Wren looked upon Francis with total confusion. In the shadow of the alley it seemed as though Francis was on his own turf, the field was his to control. The absence of moonlight from the clouds above gave an even more sinister vibe to Wren’s already worried suspicions. He had limited options, none of which gave promising options considering Francis’ proclaimed and displayed abilities. Wren had no other choice but to comply.
“All right then, I’ll talk. But if I have questions, I want answers.”
“Fair enough. In fact, I’ll let you start. Ask any question you want, I won’t hold back.”
“I want to know exactly who you are. Why are you following me?”
“Well you see that’s a bit of a long story, where to even begin? My name once again is Francis; no last name, no middle name, just Francis. I am not human, as I have already told and you have no doubt already inferred. My father is a powerful… I guess “subject” would be the appropriate word, and his father even more powerful than him. They are old, very old, and I like them am old, just not as old as them. You catch my drift, is that what the kids are saying these days?”
“These days? You don’t look a day over twenty-five.”
“Well aren’t you sweet. I can see that my form is quite convincing then. Who knows, maybe you’ll be lucky enough to see my true form and all its… well, don’t want to spoil the fun. It’s one of a number of skills I have at my disposal. The whole ‘jumping location’ thing that almost made you face-plant earlier was another.”
“And the Martin’s walking right past me, taking my phone right from the palm of my hand, what were those?”
“More tools in the box. Taking the phone was quite simple really considering you weren’t even looking. As for the Martin’s, well, people tend to look over what they don’t want to see.”
Wren had devoted most of his life to faith, strong confidence in what he couldn’t prove as factual, and yet even for all his capabilities Francis was an anomaly. How could he believe anything this guy was saying? Then again, how could he not believe him when he just travelled across an alleyway in the blink of an eye? Wren was lost for words, lost for any form of logical comprehension to explain his current endeavor. He recalled a particular doctrine he had taught at his sermons before: Put your faith in God and he will put his faith in you. Perhaps the same applicability could be given to sadistic youths in letterman jackets.
“Fine,” Wren continued, “assuming everything you are saying is true, why are you chasing me?”
“Like I said, I just wanted to talk.” Francis responded, his lips unable to capture his amusement.
“Well here I am, now fucking talk!”
“Language Father, watch the language. You never know who might be listening. Actually, have you ever considered that before? Who might be listening in on us at this very moment? Who might be watching us, who might be watching you? But of course you have, you believe in God don’t you? After all, he’s always listening, watching, judging. You do believe in him, don’t you?”
Wren knew the answer his position would give, knew what everyone would expect a priest to say. But it was not the response Wren had in mind. For all his unchecked debauchery, for all the unpunished revelry, how could he believe in a God when so much had gone by? He knew his true answer in his heart, deep in his mind, and judging from the glare of pleasure formed across Francis’ face, it seemed he knew Wren’s answer just the same.
“Is that doubt I see in your face Father? Strange for a man of the cloth to take so long to answer such a simple question.”
“I guess,” Wren began, “I guess you could say my faith in his presence has been tested. My belief has dwindled; it wasn’t what it used to be?”
“Oh really? As I recall that’s not what you’ve been telling people lately. In fact, judging from that response it seems you’ve been lying to every one of them for some time now. What did you tell little Miss Madeline the other day, the old widow who hasn’t been quite the same after her husband died? No wait, I think I remember, something like ‘believe in the lord as I believe.’ What a crock of shit, and the worst part is that she believed you; she ate all of that shit up without so much as a sneer. Do you see what I’m getting at here… Father? Priest? Man of God?”
Put your faith in God and he will put his faith in you. Wren began to fear that the reverse was just as true a statement.
“So what does that make you Francis?” Wren asked. “Are you God in the flesh?”
“No.”
“Are you… Satan?”
“Not quite, but I serve them both. You see, those old codgers that wrote you’re precious, well maybe not you’re precious, little book back in the day got a lot of things right. But just as they got some things right, they got other things wrong. You may think God despises Satan for what he did, and maybe Satan isn’t too fond of what God did to him either. They don’t hate each other though; they’ve actually grown to become pretty good friends. God has more of a use for Satan then simply ruling over hell, God is a busy man, and needs assistance in situations he can’t attend to himself. There are a lot of bad people on this Earth, people that maybe deserve to be here less than others. God isn’t very happy with these people, but he’s a fair man, he’s willing to give them opportunities to change their ways. But when those opportunities run their course… well, that’s where we come in.”
To Wren’s creeping paranoia, the sky seemed to be growing darker above him, adjusting to the general vibe he was receiving from Francis and his words. Upon further inspection however, Wren noticed that it wasn’t the sky that was getting darker, but that everything around him was slowly becoming dimmer. As if some unknown force was gradually turning down the dial on the lights, allowing the shadows to flourish in a bitter blossom of decadence. Wren’s body began to shake with discomfort, while Francis seemed to enjoy every passing second.
“There’s a certain group I belong to,” Francis continued, “a group working on behalf of God and Satan. When Satan finds certain children who are evil in nature, when they reach a sort of boiling point, he contacts God notifying him that his domain is going to become a little more crowded. He sends him a sort of ‘naughty list,’ listing the possible candidates to be delivered to hell upon their death. If God agrees he checks them off the list, and their soul is damned for good. Now most of these people continue to live their lives as they are until the day comes when they die, when they reach their eternal home of fire and brimstone. There are some exceptions to this rule however. Some people are just too bad; they don’t know when to stop. Satan isn’t fond of these people; he likes to give them special treatment. He lets God know of these people, God determines if special action is needed, and if it is Satan informs his children, my brothers and sisters to act on his behalf. God, Satan, myself and my siblings. Judge, jury,-
“Executioner,” Wren said with disdain.
“Nice to make your acquaintance. I do so love meeting the ones that father finds to be the badest of the bad.”
It was safe to say that Wren didn’t fully understand all of what Francis was giving him. Not because of a lack of attention, but simply a lack of believability. To think that God and the devil were in cahoots with their own personal death squad. That Francis himself was a twisted vanguard of some demented order of demons, or angels, or whatever the fuck he was. He no doubt had something unexplainable about him, but for Wren to believe in every word of Francis’ speech seemed like the most foreign thing that lurked in the shadows of the alley he found himself in.
“Pardon me for my faltered trust in what you’re saying; I was never very good with holding a strong belief in things. You’re telling me I’m one of the worst people on this planet? I can think of plenty of more people worse than me. People who have committed murder, rape, cheats, liars-
“Not a liar, is that right? Last time I checked Wren, a liar is exactly what you are. A fraud of the highest order?”
“I have lied, I admit it. I have lied to my peers, my friends, even my congregation at times, I admit that. But that makes me one of the worst there is?”
“You seemed to have left out the most important figure. More than twenty years ago you dedicated yourself to live a life in the name of God. What kind of life are you living Wren, hmm? Are you the same man you swore to be all those years ago? Do you claim to be the man you really are? Openly, freely? Your life is nothing but a ruse, a sham!”
“Why does he make it so difficult then!? Why does he allow temptation to be so enticing!? What I have done is wrong, but I shouldn’t be condemned to hell so easily!”
In an instant, quicker then Wren could possibly keep up with, Francis appeared before him, his figure much more intimidating and his voice much deeper than before.
“You are in no position to make that call you filth!” Francis shouted with dark malice.
Wren reeled back in fear, throwing his hands up with what little protection they’d give against a demon from the pits of hell. He expected to be struck down for his outburst, for his insolence in the presence of such a figure. But he was left to shake in his fear for some time, eventually returning his sights back to Francis, standing before him as calmed and amused as he had been since they met.
“Is this because of Heather?” Wren asked.”Is this because of our time together?”
“It is a portion of it,” Francis replied, “but she is just the tip of the iceberg. A substantial tip no doubt, but only a part of the larger whole. You have to do a lot to get on the devil’s personal shit list, and trust me when I say you’ve done plenty.”
Wren was keenly aware of all he had done; he just didn’t want to admit all of it. But he didn’t have to admit it; Francis was more than willing to do that part for him.
“You remember your Father Wren?” Francis continued.
“He was a drunk, a pitiful excuse for a man.”
“If I recall, he was the head of his own global business. He was successful, he was renowned.”
“Outside of the home maybe, inside he became a monster.”
“Is that right?” Francis asked as he retreated into the shadows. “Tell me, if you got the chance to talk to him again, what would you say?”
“Nothing, he doesn’t deserve words from me.”
“So that’s what you think about me?” a voice from behind replied. Wren was paralyzed with disbelief, behind him came a voice he hadn’t heard since he was a young teenager. He didn’t want to turn around and face who was standing behind him, who he knew was standing behind him. But with a sense of uneasiness, Wren eventually turned to see his dead Father standing before him, wearing the same blood soaked clothes as the night they found him in his study with the bullet hole in the back of his head.
“You’re not real,” Wren said, “we found you in your study. I saw you lying dead just as you look now.”
“Does that make me any less of stain on your mind son?” his father asked.
“That’s a good word for you: a stain. You would come home from work and just start drinking like it was New Years. Every night for dinner you would have a bottle of whiskey and you wouldn’t stop till the bottle was empty. You didn’t even talk to us; mom and I would just try to avoid you because we knew how you would get.”
“You ever try running a Fortune 500 business? Do you know how much stress I had to deal with on a day to day basis? I would come home and be exhausted from work; I wanted to relax for a bit and even then I would still get phone calls about operations and concerns. I worked harder than anyone in that house. I put food on the table, I gave you a place to sleep and bathe, and I did all that! What the hell do you know about success you fucking pissant? You’re nothing but a priest who lives a sheltered lie.”
A sheltered lie, it was hard to believe his father saying something like that. Wren began to relive the moments in his head. The night when his father threw an empty bottle at him, only to miss his head by an inch. The night when his father came home and beat his mother so hard he broke her collar bone. He told the paramedics she fell down the stairs, and they believed it too.
“I became a priest because of you.” Wren replied. “I thought there was more to life than having a worthless father and I went out searching for it. You almost killed me, you almost killed mom, the only reason we’re alive is because you happened to kill yourself.”
“I put the bullet in my head because of the stress, the depression. My father built a business and I turned it into a global empire. You ever tried operating an empire, making sure every cog of the machine is turning just as it should? Become the leader of some national church and then come talk to me about stress. My business wouldn’t have gone bankrupt if you would’ve just taken over.”
“I didn’t want to be anything like you!”
“Is that so? How many times did you go into my study and find my gun?”
Wren thought back to his father’s study and the bottom drawer of his desk that held the Smith and Wesson revolver. How heavy and cold it felt in his hands, how quickly it could end his father’s life.
“How many times did you hold that gun and consider killing me with it?” his father continued. “I know that for a year you were contemplating whether you should unload the entire cylinder in me. All six rounds, right into my chest. You came close one night, walked right into my room while I was sleeping and aimed the barrel straight at my forehead. How old were you then, thirteen? You should have pulled the trigger, saved me the trouble.”
“But I didn’t, I put the gun back and went to my room. I cried for hours, lying there under the sheets praying that something would save us from the monster that came home at five every night. Who would’ve thought the monster was going to kill himself? I’m not the one who put the bullet between your eyes.”
“Does that make it any less severe to know you were considering it? What if your mother would have woken up and saw you standing at the edge of her bed with a gun pointed at me? What would she think of you then? After I killed myself you became a religious boy, you thought going to church and bible study could get rid of me. But you never forgot about me, you never forgot that night at the edge of my bed, a trigger pull away from ending my life. Even becoming a priest couldn’t keep me away. Like father like son Wren… you’re no better than me. You’ll find out soon enough.”
Before Wren could reluctantly utter another word, his father inched back into the darkness, removing himself from Wren’s life once again, just as he had so many years before. Turning around Wren was greeted to the sight of Francis sitting on top of the dumpster, his legs swaying like pendulums.
“Was that you disguised as that bastard? Cheap way to make me feel bad about the things I’ve done Francis.”
“If it helps, know that he suffered greatly for what he did. He was condemned; you had a chance to not end up like him. We were willing to forgive your decisions and thoughts towards your father; after all it was around that time that you devoted yourself to God. It was only a few years later that you made the decision to become a priest. If only you stayed on the straight and narrow, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
“What’s next then? Are you going to show me putting my mother in a retirement home, or how I drank altar wine just because I was a little bit curious?”
“Need I remind you Wren that it was you who wanted to know all the marks against you. If I were to cover every single one of them we’d be here all night. Perhaps your old friend Victor could entertain you for a bit.”
The darkness closed in on Wren quicker than he could comprehend. For a brief time everything around him was submerged, he was barely able to see his own hand in front of his face. It was until the sound of chains rattling began that the darkness retreated, and from the darkness Wren could see his old friend Victor, dressed in an orange jump suit with cuffs around his wrists and ankles. This was a twisted game Francis was playing, one that Wren wanted to be no part of.
“Why did you do it Wren?” Victor pleaded. “I thought we were in it together, and yet you stabbed me in the back.”
Victor was a youth pastor and trustee at the last church Wren worked at before coming to Ascension. They struck up a friendship quickly, and when they noticed how easy it was to take money from the church, an embezzlement partnership wasn’t far behind. While Wren was busy pilfering the collection plate, Victor was diverting funds to help pay personal debts. What little they were stealing was quickly adding up, and with the surplus came suspicious eyes.
“We we’re in it together Victor,” Wren replied, “I just happened to notice people catching on before you did.”
“And so you just thought you’d rat me out, save your own skin while I was taken down for what both of us did? Do you know how much time I got for what we did? I’m still in prison to this day, and I won’t get out for another fifteen years. I haven’t seen my wife, my children; I’ve missed their entire childhood because of you.”
“You knew what you were getting into when you agreed to work with me-”
“As did you Wren! We agreed if we got caught we would go down together, and yet here you are on the outside while I’m locked in a cell every day! But you know what the worst part about it all is Wren? I know how you weaseled your way out of getting caught. Seems like Father Alwin was a man of the world just as we were.”
Wren was suspended in a state of disbelief. There was no way Victor knew about Father Alwin, how Wren bribed him with some of the money he stole in order to save his own skin. Only he and Alwin knew of that trade, but it seemed there were more eyes on them then Wren originally imagined, eyes that belonged to things that were not of this world.
“How much did you give him Wren?” Victor continued. “Remind me how much you gave up to save yourself.”
Tears began to stream down Victor’s eyes, falling onto the rusted chains securing his hands from the freedom they longed to seek. Wren could see the despair in Victor’s face, in the tears that rolled off his cheeks, he could see all that he had loss and suffered. He wanted to fulfill his request; he just didn’t want to admit that it only took five thousand to save his skin.
“Fine,” Victor said, “don’t say anything, because I know how much you gave to Alwin. How miniscule the amount was in comparison to what you took overall, and how you said you were just an accomplice to my ‘master plan.’ I know all too well what you did to me; I have to live with it every day. I don’t want your apologies, I don’t even want your sympathy; because I know what you are on the inside Wren, and that will reflect yourself far more than any bribe or lie could. We’re both being punished for what we did; the only difference is that I can see my restraints. Don’t worry though, you’ll get yours soon enough.
With his last words spoken, the rattling of his chains signified Victor’s decent back into the shadows. Wren was left alone, left to wallow in his past actions and current way of life. Victor was sent to prison only eight years ago, but to see his old friend standing right before him again made the years feel like mere months. Francis was sending the best examples to showcase the worst in Wren, or perhaps Francis was the one imitating the subjects. His father, Victor, Wren didn’t want to see what else Francis could become, he had been reminded of his past more then he would’ve liked.
“You don’t need to torment me any longer Francis,” Wren said, “I’ve seen enough.”
As if nowhere to be seen and yet everywhere at once, Francis voice encircled Wren from all directions.
“No Wren, you have not seen everything.”
“Were my father and Victor not enough? Were they not shining examples of my decaying piety?”
Silence filled the space for a time, Francis was nowhere to be seen or heard. At first Wren assumed that his words had stuck with Francis, that the findings were shown and the lesson had been learned. However, Francis had yet to show his entire hand. The tip had been enveloped, the enormity of the iceberg was about to submerge.
The silence was taken over by rhythmic clacking emanating behind Wren. From the abyss came the sound of high heels against the pavement. Their wearer, a seventeen year old girl, emerged from the shadows. Wren knew all too well who she was, for she was the very girl who forced him to transfer from his first church long ago. Jamie Alexis, the girl who wore petal skirts at every one of his Sunday masses.
“J-Jaime?” Wren said with disbelief. “Franics, don’t do this to me.”
“Hello Wren,” Jamie replied, “to afraid to face your past?”
She looked just the same as the day Wren had left her behind, as if she was suspended in time for this very moment, the culmination of more than forty years of immorality.
“I didn’t, I didn’t want to leave you Jamie, but I-”
“You left me without so much as a word Wren. We were going to get married; do you remember telling me that? We went to make love after mass, and you told me how much you loved and cared for me, how special I was to you. I always wore those dresses you liked so much, don’t you remember?”
Jamie gave a quick spin, allowing Wren to take in over fifteen years of repressed denial all at once. It was actually her standing in front of him, it had to be her. She looked just as she did when he left; same pale complexion, same blonde hair, even the same yellow dress.
“It was a mistake Jamie; we should have never gotten together. You were so young and naïve, and I was twenty one, I didn’t know what was right, I was-”
“You never loved me did you? You just used me for sex and lies.”
“I do love you Jamie… I did love you. We couldn’t keep our relationship hidden from the school, Sister Muller was getting suspicious. I had to leave or risk losing my position in the church for good.”
“You’re just a selfish fucking pig Wren, you care more about your fake status then you ever cared about me.”
“I did care about you Jamie, but I was stuck between you and my career.”
“And look what prevailed at the end of the day, you off to another town and me groveling in the dirt. And if you were so scared about our relationship getting out and risking your position, why is it that you’re sleeping with this Heather girl?”
“She’s just-, I needed-, she…” Turning his back to Jamie, Wren hid the shame that formed across his face.
“Your life is a joke Wren, a lie. You can have sex with Heather all you want, but the second someone might suspect something is going on you’ll high tail it to the next town over, or the next, or the next until there’s no one left who can accuse you of anything. You’re no better than a rapist, a killer, a fucking parasite-”
“I am not a rapist! I am not a murderer! I’m… I’m…”
Tears began to form in his eyes as Wren gazed upon Jamie staring back at him, disappointed and embarrassment merged into one cynical look. He fell to his knees and locked his watery sight on the tears hitting the pavement below him. As he quietly sobbed he heard Jamie’s footsteps approaching him from a far. He didn’t want to look at her, come face to face with his sinful nature in human form. Once the footsteps finally reached him however, he noticed that the clacking of the high heels were replaced by the pressing of sneakers. Jamie was gone, Francis was all that remained.
“Ever since you took up the cloth, you’ve been on the downward spiral Wren. You are right in saying you’ve never killed or raped, but you have killed and raped something far greater, God’s faith and trust in you. You indulge in every sinful pleasure you come across without so much as a thought to its purpose. The only time you even consider God is when you’re in church speaking to the congregation. And even then you wonder how people, you yourself at one point believed in such ‘idiocy.’ You hold the title only for the prestige, the admiration that the majority of the community looks upon you with. You are constantly distracted from your ministry, you spit curses as though you were a gypsy, you support no charities except the ones that benefit yourself, and you live a double life where the wrong side of you far outweighs the good. The people of your past and present signify your true nature. Your father, Victor, Jamie, and now Heather.
“Do you have any idea how hard it was to resist her!? How hard it was to leave Jamie behind!? They was beautiful, young, and they wanted me! Me! I know what I did with them wrong legally, and it was wrong morally. But it was consensual! How can God fault me on what I’ve done when she wanted it from me!? Heather was only five months away from being legal when I met her. What does age matter when she was that close to being considered legal?”
“I am not a cop Wren; I don’t care if you started banging her when she was ten. She may be legal in the eyes of the government now but she is still against your position in the eyes of God. And even now, when you’re being convicted of all these things, her safety and her punishment doesn’t even come across in your mind. You couldn’t give two shits about what will happen to your sweet little Heather, just as you didn’t care for all the others. At the end of the day you only care about yourself.”
It was true. For all the rebuttal and debate Wren brought to the table, it was all to save his own skin. Francis knew him, he could see through Wren’s words clear as day. Nothing Wren could say would justify his actions, and even if he did have something to come up with it would have no doubt been a fabricated lie. Pleading for understanding, pleading for guidance, they both seemed to be crafty evasions to deep into the rabbit hole. He wiped his eyes and stood up to face Francis. Pleading for forgiveness seemed to be the only thing Wren could do.
“I am sorry for what I’ve done. For all of it and whatever comes after this.”
“I’m not the one who you should be telling that too Wren. And I’m pretty sure the one you should be talking to is just about done with listening.”
”So that’s it then? You just come down here, label me guilty, and then just walk off?”
“You’re getting ahead of me Wren, I haven’t labeled you just yet.”
“You’ve been calling me a damned man ever since you found me; I think we’ve talked long enough to-”
“You’re right; I think we have talked long enough. Still, there’s one thing left for me to do before I go. Now is when the real fun begins. Don’t blink Wren, because you just might miss it.”
Before Wren realized what was happening, Francis jabbed his right hand towards Wren’s face and gripped it with other worldly strength. His index and middle fingers pressed against Wren’s forehead while the other fingers gripped against the cheekbones. Immediately Wren began to feel an intense burning sensation radiating from his forehead and surging throughout the rest of his body. As though surrounded by a dying mob, he could hear the screams and cries of hundreds of people rattling his mind. He attempted to grab Francis’ arm and push him away, but he found that all his strength had abandoned him, leaving him helpless to the dealings of his self-proclaimed executioner.
“Father Wren Thomas,” Francis spoke loudly as if he was aware of the screams plaguing Wren’s mind, “now is the time of your judgment.”
Between the fingers that gripped his face, Wren could see a grizzly transformation begin to slowly occur within Francis. Like pouring paint over a blank canvas, his eyes became blotted out in a vibrant red, with small wisps of crimson escaping from his pupils like smoke coming off the butt of a lit cigarette. His teeth became a row of jagged thorns, his tongue long and pointed like a viper amongst the newly formed thicket. Blonde hair decayed to an ash grey, two bone fins bore through the sides of his head where his ears previously were, and with each word Francis spoke his inflection seemed to descend in octave range, deeper and deeper, as if his own voice was the bridge from below.
“We have watched you Wren, as we have watched all. From the day you were born up until this very moment. You grew up fallible and we gave you a chance to change, a chance to prove your worthiness to God. Yet you took up the holy mantle only to spit in defiance to the God you swore to serve. You preach the doctrine only to live a secret life of sin and discourse. You are pathetic, you are feeble, and you are a waste of more deserving life. By God’s command you are banished from his kingdom. From this day forward till the day you join us in hell, you will walk the Earth a marked man. A scourge of the earth.”
An erupting white flash occurred, sending Wren onto his back against the pavement. The screams had stopped but his body was racked with pain, the epicenter surging from the center of his forehead. After a few seconds of recovering from his daze, he found himself exerting much more energy with any attempt to move his body. He was weaker than before, a husk of his former self. And against the walls of the alley, Francis, back to his young male form, looked down on Wren with a devilish smile.
“So it is done.” Francis said with malevolence.
“What, have you, done to, me?” Wren asked hoarsely, finding it just as hard to speak as it was to move his body.
“You are now as you truly are, a plague. Your body has become that of your soul. Filthy, stained, rotten. You can no longer hide your true nature. I have marked you this way, as I was tasked to do. This world has no more use for you, and neither does he. No one can save you; your existence is that of doom.”
Wren wanted to jump up from his position and leave his own personal mark on Francis, but he was powerless. To think he was getting away with everything for so long, especially in his position, was a fool’s gambit. It seemed that’s what he was all along; a fool. And now he was suffering for it, the way only a vengeful God could cook up. A God he served for more than twenty years; his God.
“This is,” Wren whispered, “this is…”
“What? Overdramatic? You know, I’m not a big fan of reciting the speech either but the big fella has a way of ‘keeping with customs.’”
Francis began to laugh to himself. Wren wasn’t sure if Francis was laughing at his own sense of humor, or laughing at Wren’s state of anguish. In his pain he could only think of possible routes to salvation, and in his thoughts he only came up with one. He began to drag himself towards the sidewalk beyond the alley, only knowing one logical place to go.
“Where ya going Wren?” Francis asked.
“I’ve, got to, have a talk, with someone.”
“Do whatever you want; you’re a marked man Father. Your judgment has already been passed.”
Francis stood there for a bit as Wren moved like a man who had aged thirty years in the last minute. He watched Wren writhe in pain the only way a demon could enjoy. It was reasonable to say that Francis enjoyed his tasks way too much. It made him happy, it made his father happy, and most importantly, it made the boss man happy. Sometimes Francis would wonder why the boss didn’t just smite down the sinners from His high perch in heaven. But Francis knew that his God was a kind God; allowing his children’s children to have a little bit of fun too. A moan of pain caught Francis’ ears. He turned to see Wren crawling his way towards the streets, every pull of his body a struggling effort. Francis’ grin stretched as far as his muscles would allow; all in a day’s work.
And there he stood, watching Wren drag himself to his feet and stagger around the corner of the building out into the faint light of the streets beyond.

The rain came down steadily as Father Wren Thomas approached the steps to the Ascension Catholic Church. He had no idea how long he had been walking. At some points he ended up in the middle of the road, unsure of how he got there. Other times he staggered along the sidewalk, using building corners to support his weight when he himself was too weak to carry it alone. He was drained, exhausted by the sudden loss of all his strength and will, and yet he was so close to the church that what little hope he savored had seemed enough to carry him just a few steps more.
At times during his staggering voyage he ran into pedestrians, some who recognized him through appearance rather than his rugged shambling through the streets. But even the ones that Wren recognized avoided him, as if his skin was a plague no one wanted to catch. And maybe it was, for Wren had been marked by one of the devil’s own. No one would go near him; no one would give him refuge or comfort, not even Heather Wilson. Wren gave out a sadistic laugh fit for a lunatic, ignoring the saliva dripping down the corners of his lips.
As he finally reached the steps of the church, Ascension loomed above him like a colossal monument; a monument to all his sins. He exerted what little strength he could muster, dragging his feet up the steps like a tranquilized slug. He would repent, pray all night if he had to. Pray to a God who he had turned his back on multiple times before. Who had declared him to be punished for all his selfish deeds. Who had marked him as impure, a scourge of the earth.
Upon reaching the top step, Wren hesitated before the massive doors of the church. He mustered a hoarse breath and moved his right hand towards the handle. A second chance was all he needed, a second chance to prove his worth to God.
He heard the sizzling before he felt the pain.
A surge of agony shot through his entire body, the worst of it coming from his right hand. He dropped to his knees and let out a tormenting scream. His right hand was shaking uncontrollably, his fingers locked and bent towards his palm as if he was gripping a cup that never existed. He turned his hand to examine the damage, and let out a sheepish cry when he was met with the sight.
As if he had grabbed an iron railroad spike drenched in magma, his palm was exposing the red muscle that hid underneath the now searing skin. Around the streak of red the flesh of his hand bubbled and blistered from the contact with the door handle of the church. His hand had been scorched, worse than any burn he had ever seen in his life, a burn worthy of the fires of hell. Though the pain from his hand was too immense to comprehend, he felt a sharp pain in his forehead, like a pulse, throbbing with the weight of a sledgehammer.
He fell onto his back, lying across the top of the church steps as the rain pummeled him from above. He was wheezing, unable to move any ounce of his body in any direction he desired.
“Tainted,” Wren whispered, “so unclean.”
The tears from his eyes mixed with the falling rain, the two becoming unrecognizable. Father Wren laid still in agony, the doors to Ascension shut firmly before him.

In the midday sunshine the city streets were lined with activity. Cars drove down the roads and intersections while civilians walked the sidewalks with personal conviction. Leaning against one of the buildings stood a lone man with graying hair and tan skin. Judging from his appearance he looked to be in his late fifties, but his clothes suggested that he had some sensibility of what the popular style was. He examined the people and the city around him, how much it had changed since the last time he was here. How quickly things could change in a matter of twenty years.
His train of thought was interrupted by a buzzing noise coming from his pocket. Taking the phone out he gave one glance at the caller I.D. labeled across the screen and answered as quickly as he could. Knowing who he would be talking to, the low rumble of the voice on the other end, like a cat’s purr, didn’t startle him in the slightest.
“Taking your time as always I see.” The voice on the phone said.
“I don’t see the point in rushing these things, besides I can see her just fine from where I’m standing. She’s wearing a yellow petal dress and kissing the guy she’s been seeing behind her husband’s back. Get this; she didn’t even take her wedding ring off, it’s like she has no issues sleeping with others behind his back.”
The voice gave a slight chuckle. “That’s why she was chosen and that’s why you’re there. Speaking of which, don’t you think that form you’ve taken is a little against your style.”
Francis formed a subtle grin before returning to the voice on the phone.
“It’s perfect actually,” Francis replied, “from what I remember she was in to older guys.”

Credit To – Mike Kane

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The Dentist’s Schedule

April 16, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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A friend of mine, Jon, had just opened his own law firm. By some miracle he managed to land a pretty big fish for a client. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t have the resources to really deal with the case. The lawsuit regarded a property management company and a strip mall occupied by several businesses some of which worked with the confidential documents of their customers.

The client claimed that the management company entered the property without permission, after hours and read or otherwise accessed sensitive information. They then used this information for various, nefarious purposes (that were never explained to me and probably never existed). My opinion of the whole thing was that some people were mad about the management company coming into their offices and thought they could get more money if the management company looked through their file cabinets.

Part of the review, aside from sifting through tens of thousands of emails and financial documents, was to review footage from surveillance cameras that the management company turned over to Jon as part of his discovery request. There was hundreds of hours of tape, and Jon could not possibly watch it all in time for trial (and still do the rest of his job).

Enter unemployed lawyer friends. Jon was fortunate to know me and four other unemployed lawyers and to have a client willing to pay them, (keep in mind, if the client could show the management company looked through one sensitive document it would be like hitting the jackpot when it came time for damages to be awarded). There were five offices with sensitive areas and the footage was broken up between the five of us (Jon did not participate in order to give us, his friends, some much needed cash infusion and to do his real job).

The period of time in which the claimed activity took place was during the night but not every office in the building closed at the same time. For example, the CPA that occupied Suite 3 kept his business open late January through April 15th to handle the excess work during tax season .

The way the cameras worked was that during normal business hours, (9 am to 7 pm), the cameras were shut off to save room on the storage device and to maintain privacy. After 7pm, they were activated only by motion sensors. The fact that some of the offices were open and the cameras were capturing potentially sensitive material was another aspect of the lawsuit.

The period of time for all video footage was approximately five years, but because it was such a limited amount of actual filming time for the cameras there was only a few hundred hours of footage. Each suite had three cameras and, in order to make it easier for me and the other reviewers to learn all the important players (and thus know who wasn’t supposed to be in the suite after hours) we were each assigned a suite.

I was assigned to Suite 5, the corner office in the strip. It was a medical office with a camera over reception, one in the examination room (which always seemed odd to me until someone told me how much the equipment there was worth) and one in the records room between the examination room and the reception area. The office was set up such that the reception was at the front of the building with a door leading out to the parking lot, behind it was a hallway with the records room and the examination room each opening to the left side. There was no camera in the hallway and, besides the front door, the only exit was a fire door at the back of the hallway.

Why was this job so terribly boring if the camera only came on when there was movement, you ask? Well, the extremely intelligent and hard working receptionist who worked in Suite 5 loved celebrating holidays. She would do so by hanging things from the drop ceiling on paperclip hooks and strings. She had one for every holiday to decorate her area in reception, hearts for valentines day, witches for halloween, etc. etc. These decorations would flutter slightly when the air conditioner or the heat turned on and activate the cameras (usually for about forty-five minutes to an hour).

Hence, I spent most of my time staring at a screen where literally nothing was happening. The worst part was I couldn’t just fast forward through the tape. On the off chance that something did happen and I missed it, it would totally screw my friend (who was essentially paying my rent by giving me this job). So I sat and watched hour after hour.

It wasn’t always boring. Stuff did happen. A fire alarm went off in the building and firemen came in to mess with something in the reception area. Another time there was a mouse, which took me five or six views to figure out what the motion was, so that was exciting. But that was pretty much the first two years of the office’s recordings.

The strange stuff didn’t start happening until October of the third year. On the face of it,what I saw wasn’t really all the strange at first. The witch decoration was up again, a black silhouette of a woman in a pointed hat riding a broom. I figured it was this that activated the camera until I noticed the doctor.

He was a middle aged man, about fifty or sixty if I had to guess, lank and tall with a bald pate that reflected the fluorescent lights and was ringed by sparse white hair. It was difficult to see his face well from the angle of the camera behind the reception desk, but I did notice he wore glasses and had a pushbroom mustache.

He strolled in the front door, quite casually, tossed his coat on the chair behind the reception desk and put on his white coat. I assumed this was a late night appointment (late night being 9 pm in this case). Sure enough, after about fifteen minutes a woman arrived. She was younger than the doctor by perhaps a decade and dressed in a pantsuit over which she wore a trenchcoat. The coat was wet at the shoulders presumably due to rain.

The doctor hung up her coat and led her into the examination room. There she sat on the examination chair and the doctor began to clean her teeth. I remember thinking there was something odd about the chair, but not really being able to put my finger on it. Two things occurred during this episode that I probably should have found odd. First, there was no hygienist (something that would change in future late night examinations). Every time I went to the dentist, no matter how small of a practice, the hygienist was the person who cleaned my teeth.

The second thing was sinister and, I must admit, I didn’t pick up on it until future viewings, when I was already keyed in to look for odd happenings. The doctor, who was seated on a low stool as he worked in the woman’s mouth, continually rubbed the crotch of his pants. Aside from being super unhygienic, this was highly inappropriate. However, because the stool was low and the woman was facing the ceiling (not to mention the fact that she had the bright examination light in her face) she didn’t seem to notice anything amiss.

After the examination and cleaning was complete he ushered the woman out of the office. It took him longer than it should have to return to the examination room. I didn’t even notice this on the first or even the second viewing, but I wonder what he did in that short time. I think, but don’t know for sure, that he let someone in through the back door. And I think, but don’t know for sure, that that person stood at the doorway to the exam room watching.

He returned to the examination room and cleaned up the implements and equipment. It was while he was doing this that I first noticed something strange about the doctor. While carefully removing his tools, he paused on the dental explorer (that hook shaped metal instrument dentist use to poke around in your teeth). He held it very close to his face, his eyes closed and seemed to be smelling it. On future viewings I would notice that he was again rubbing the crotch of his pants.

I made a note of the incident in my ledger (part of the job was making notes for my buddy to refer to) but didn’t really think much of it. I continued to watch hour after hour of video. Not much happened for the next several months other than the occasional fluttering decoration. That changed on a night in December.

It was December 6th at 10:59 pm according to the time stamp on the video and a paper snowflake hung from the ceiling. Again the dentist came in through reception, this time wearing a thick parka. After removing his coat, he retired to the examination room carrying a briefcase.

Shortly thereafter, another person entered. She too was wrapped in a thick parka and had a scarf wound around her face. At first I thought this must be the patient, but as she removed her coat I saw that she wore scrubs. She moved out of sight and only reappeared in the examination room sitting on a stool across the examination chair from the doctor. Unlike the doctor she wore both gloves and a surgical mask. They did not appeared to speak with one another.

I watched with some interest as the doctor removed from the case several familiar instruments. There was a dental explorer, one of those small mirrors on the end of a thin handle used for examining inside the mouth, and a mechanical instrument attached to a power source. I would later learn that this was both a drill and a cleaning device depending upon which head was attached to the end. His assistant never spoke during this time, instead she sat by and stared across the room motionless, as if in a daze.

He placed the instruments on a small, metal table next to the examination chair. And then nothing. For thirty minutes he just looked at the tools laid out in front of him. Although there was no sound on the tape, I could see by the rapid rise and fall of his shoulders that the doctor was breathing heavily. His hands were folded neatly on his lap, his feet were planted on the floor on either side of the small stool he sat upon.

I was as transfixed with the doctor’s trancelike state as he appeared to be with the instruments laid out before him. Seconds ticked by, turning into minutes, after thirty or so minutes had passed a patient opened the front door. It was a young woman, much younger than the last patient. She poked her head into the suite and appeared to call out.

The doctor, shaken from his daze stood and hurried to the reception area. He met the patient there. As she removed her coat I was surprised to see the timestamp now read 11:36 pm. The woman was oddly dressed. She wore a uniform that I can only describe as that of a candy striper at a hospital, a white dress with red pinstriped apron over it. She couldn’t have been older than twenty and may well have been much younger.

In the back room, the examination was infinitely more bizarre than the previous one. The girl took a seat in the chair, she seemed nervous, her hands clenched into tight fists at her side, she bit her lower lip. As the assistant affixed a green paper bib around the woman’s neck, the doctor placed a hand on her bicep. It may have been meant to comfort the girl, but his touch lingered so long that it seemed somehow inappropriate.

The girl laid back in the chair and appeared to relax, though I sensed an air of anxiety about her. As I watched him work, I remembered a statistic I’d heard about dentists having a high suicide rate. It didn’t surprise me. The job seemed tedious (and this is coming from a guy who spends his days staring at paper witches floating in the A/C breeze).

He continued to work slowly and methodically, dental explorer, mirror, waterpik, mirror, waterpik, dental explorer. All the while the girl lay on the chair breathing heavily. The doctor, as he cleaned the woman’s teeth leaned closer and closer, until his face was mere inches from the girl. I noted that he was breathing heavily and would occasionally lick his lips. It was a hungry, needful expression. There was no reaction whatsoever from the assistance.

I was watching this examination especially closely. Not only was it utterly bizarre, but it was also one of the few instances of something interesting happening in the hours and hours of video I had watched. I would come back to this video several times in the coming weeks, but it would never affect me the same way again.

In that first viewing I noticed two things that caused the hair on the back of my neck to stand on end and my throat to tighten with fear. First, I saw the dentist place the palm of his left hand on the girl’s stomach. This action was so inappropriate, given the girls age, it made me shiver. Then, I noticed something else. Although she hadn’t flinched, nor tightened, nor shown any indication that she was in pain, the young woman was crying. Tears rolled down her cheeks in steady streams.

I noted too the way the assistant behaved. She was interested, her body language led me to believe there was no distaste or fear at the dentist’s action. She even joined the doctor in leaning closer. A few strands of lanky, gray hair fell loose from the bun of hair atop her head and dangled against the young woman’s cheek as she cried.

After the examination the woman briskly exited the office. The assistance was not long behind her, exiting the examination room and reappearing in reception. She was once again bundled against the cold, her scarf trailing behind her . The dentist, meanwhile, cleaned his instruments. This time he relished the cleaning, his fingers played over the tools. He rubbed the various implements across his face and even lips. It was during this odd ritual that I noticed the man rubbing himself.

The cleaning had taken him a little less than an hour but the actions with the tools took him twice as long. It was very early in the morning when the man finally left, taking with him the briefcase.

I made a detailed note of the incident in my log book. I also considered calling Jon. In fairness he had a right to know about this strange incident, however, it was his client so it didn’t really help him to know about it. Additionally, it didn’t seem that bad. Sure the dentist had put his hand on the girl’s stomach, but it wasn’t like he was ripping her clothes off. And yeah, the girl had cried, but I’m sure lots of people cry at the dentist’s. Maybe that wasn’t it, maybe I just wanted to keep it to myself because it was so interesting, if not completely disturbing.

The grind of my video review went on after that, but I always kept a sharp eye out for the dentist. He was back several times in the ensuing days. Once he cleaned the teeth of a man in his seventies. The appointment began at 8:45 pm and concluded less than an hour later. All was normal except the way he held the man’s head, running his fingers over the bald scalp. It was during this encounter that I noted the dentist did not wear gloves, something else that made me shudder. I thought I noticed a shadow near the doorway to the examination room, but it could have been my imagination.

I wondered about the assistant quite a bit during these days. What did she know about the dentist’s activities. Apart from the woman crying and the dentist’s hand on the woman’s stomach, she wasn’t present for any of the stranger things. But is it possible to work closely with someone and not know this was happening?

The next significant event occurred in June. The tape began at 2:13 am. The office was completely dark but for the light from the parking lot outside filtering between the closed blinds. I knew something was afoot because June was the one month of the year when the receptionist didn’t hang any decorations, but at first I didn’t see anything of interest on the screen.

Seconds ticked by without anything. The tape shut off. I was about to rewind when the next segment of video began, it was 2:15 am, same date. The door was just closing, but something was different in the reception area. It took me a moment to pick it up but I realized there was a small shadow near the door, as if someone had dropped something off and let the door swing shut behind them.

The tape shut off again, this time for less than a minute. When it came back on the dentist was standing in the doorway with his brief case. He flicked on the lights and I was able to identify the shadow. It was a small, metal canister, like a scuba diver’s oxygen tank, on a wheeled cart. Attached to the top was a small hose with a triangular shaped cup on it. I recognized it as a Nitrous Oxide container, with an attachment designed to fit over the nose of the patient.

The doctor took his briefcase and NO2 to the examination room, donned his white coat and began to set out his instruments. There was no long interlude as in previous experiences, before the patient arrived. It was a woman in her mid thirties. She had a severe face and graying brown hair pulled up into a tight bun, perched precariously close to the end of her thin, blade-like nose was a pair of cat’s eyes glasses.

She didn’t wait for the dentist to come greet her but immediately disappeared behind reception only to appear a moment late in the examination room. The doctor’s greeting was met with a curt nod. She took her place on the examination chair and the work began.

I wondered what type of woman required dental work to be done at nearly 3 am. I had long since ceased wondering what type of dentist would accommodate such a strange request, this particular doctor was the definition of strange.

I noted that this visit was different than the previous ones I’d witnessed. This one started with the doctor placing the NO2 cup over the woman’s nose. The stern look on her face faded, relaxed by degrees with each rise and fall of her chest. As the woman slipped down into unconsciousness I noted the doctor’s excitement rise. He licked his lips and rubbed his hands greedily together.

There were new implements this time as well, strange metal devices whose purpose I couldn’t decipher until they were put into use. The first looked like a cross between a wire hanger and a muzzle. He inserted this into the woman’s mouth and fiddled with something on the side, effectively locking her mouth open.

Next he attached something to the electric device. I couldn’t tell what it was at first, but had I heard it, I’m sure I could have identified it immediately. It was a dental drill. He held it before his eyes, presumably watching it spin and listening to the sickening sound it made. His attention was focused on the drill so sharply, it seemed as if he was unaware anyone else was in the room.

But eventually, he leaned forward over the patient and began to apply the drill to her mouth. More so than ever before, the dentist was excited, to the brink of mania it seemed. He leaned ever closer to the woman, his hand gripping her shoulder so hard his knuckles were white. Leaning this way and that, he ground away with the drill.

After shifting his stool about, the dentist grabbed the woman’s forehead and tilted her head back into what looked like a very uncomfortable position. His head leaned so close that his face was practically touching hers. Frustrated, he slammed the woman’s head back into the chair. He placed the drill on the table. I was completely shocked when the dentist, in a state of frenzy, climbed upon the chair, straddling the woman’s chest.

Now, his legs on either side of the woman in what I would describe as a lewd position, he relished at the drilling. He leaned in close to her mouth, his breath was coming in mad hitching gasps. When he leaned back I could see that his eyes were alight with intensity. It seemed to take forever. My mind dredged up the sound of the drill and the smell of teeth being ground into powder.

An eternity later and it was finished. The time stamp read 3:42 am. I can’t even imagine how much of the woman’s tooth was devoured by the drill. It must have been quite a bit though, considering how long she lay there.

After drilling, he climbed off of the woman and took a seat in the stool again. The process of filling it was surprisingly short. The dentist seemed to have little interest in that aspect of his work and slopped the filling material in haphazardly.

I continued my review of the tapes. Time passed without much of note, but always I struggled with the essential question: When do I tell Jon? That I would have to tell him eventually was obvious. But, at the same time, I hoped that the videos would somehow reveal an explanation to all the madness.

A year’s worth of video passed; a red, white and blue star stirred on the breeze for thirty minutes, the paper witch fluttered through the air, a turkey, a christmas tree, a heart, a clover, all made their brief appearances. But no doctor, no patient, no assistant. I wondered if it had all been some mistake or maybe the dentist had been arrested for his insane drilling episode.

September 28, the timestamp read 12:01 am, in walked the doctor accompanied again by his assistant. Behind him he wheeled his NO2 container and in his hand he carried his briefcase. The assistant wore a light jacket and had a scarf once again wrapped around her face. I thought it must have been a cold night, though the doctor wore only a sports coat.

The familiar ritual was repeated. The doctor donned his white coat and disappeared into the hallway, reappearing in the examination room a moment later. The assistant vanished into the area behind reception for a much longer time, coming into the examination room only once she was garbed in scrubs, gloves and a surgical mask.

The person that came in was a man, about my age with a thick beard. On his head was a baseball cap partially obscuring my view of his face. He hesitated by the door and then called out. In the back room the dentists head whipped around toward the door and he grinned. He must have also called out because the man in reception made his way toward the exam room.

I could tell by the guy’s body language that he was nervous. Under normal circumstances this would have been perfectly normal, but given what I knew about the doctor it seemed even more appropriate. I wish I could have yelled at the guy to get out, but there was nothing I could do.

He took a seat in the chair, his feet fidgeting against the floor. The doctor exchanged some words with him but the assistant merely sat by looking out towards the door, saying nothing and seeming in a trance. The young man removed the cap and put it on the floor next to him. It was then that I realized I knew who it was.

I’d never seen Jon with a beard before, I never knew he wore facial hair at all. The tape was from a year or so before I met him, but once the cap was off I was sure it was him. He laid back in the chair and the dentist put the NO2 over his nose. I felt my stomach lurch with fear. The dentist’s eyes showed a type of lunatic glee, a mania more intense than I had ever seen. He wore on his face the grin of a madman.

He used the tool to prop Jon’s mouth open. This time, however, he did not go right about his work. Instead he seemed to savor the moment, running his fingers over Jon’s lips, resting his palm on Jon’s chest. He even stole a glance at the hygienist who continued to look on with a bored expression in her eyes. The dentist leaned his face close to Jon’s, his nose just over his mouth, and seemed to sniff Jon’s breath with some relish.

I hadn’t noticed at the time, as I was too distracted staring at the hygienist, but there was a new tool on the dentist’s table. I’m sure there exists a fancy medical term for the instrument, something efficient and scientific, but if there is I do not know it. The tool the dentist picked up can only be described as a pair of plyers.

Now the hygienist moved around to the head of the chair as the dentist stood and held the plyers up to the light, examining them carefully. She gripped Jon’s head between her gloved hands as the doctor leaned down and began to work the plyers into Jon’s mouth.

There was mania in the manner of the dentist’s work, a lewdness to the way his free hand rubbed up and down Jon’s chest. He would occasionally pause at his work to look up at the hygienist with a wanton, needful expression on his face. All the while she remained neutral.

The dentist’s work became more intense, he twisted and yanked with the plyers, at times hard enough to pull Jon’s head off the padded chair. The hygienist responded by holding him tighter, her hands curling into fists in Jon’s hair yanking him back down against the doctor’s forceful tugs.

The dentist threw his leg over Jon, straddling him as he had the previous patient. This time it was even more lewd, more grotesque as the man moved his hips ever so slightly. The hygienist’s eyes widen and she leaned over Jon’s head, until her face was close to the doctor’s. He leaned his own face towards her’s his lips puckered but then stopped short and pulled back. Instead, he pressed his lips to Jon’s forehead before giving one, final yank of the plyers.

Blood streamed down Jon’s chin to be wiped up by the hygienist. The dentist, in the meantime, held the bloody tooth up in front of his eyes, as if it were a trophy. His mouth hung open, his tongue lolling out to the side. He looked like a wild animal.

I paused the video, deciding that I could wait no longer to contact Jon. Did he have any idea what his dentist had done to him? He couldn’t have, he never would have let me review these tapes if he had even the slightest clue that this bizarre, invasive assault had taken place.

I punched his number and he picked up on the third ring. “Jon,” I began, “uh, how’s it going?”

“Fine. You?” he replied.

“Okay.” I didn’t know where to begin, how to start. “So, I’m working on this video review still,” I said.

He perked right up. “Did you see something good? Was VCH in there after hours?” VCH was the management company. I had almost forgotten about them.

“No, uh nothing yet. I have a question for you though.” I was staring at the paused video on my computer, it showed the dentist holding up the tooth to the light, a look of manic glee in his eyes as Jon bled in the background. “Did you ever go to this doctor?”

“Why would I?” he asked confused.

“Well, maybe you needed dental work,” I suggested.

“What are you talking about?” he asked. “There’s no dental office in the building. That’s an OB/GYN.”

I froze. The chair. I remember thinking that there was something weird about it. And when Jon told me it was an OB/GYN I realized just what that weirdness was. At the foot of the chair were two metal pieces. I noticed them right away but never really thought to question what they were for. Now it seemed obvious. They were stirrups.

I mumbled something to Jon about being confused and thanked him for his time. Turning back to the video I pressed play. The dentist lurched back into motion. He took several deep breaths his chest rising and falling. The hygienist too was panting, causing her mask to puff out and draw in against her face over and over again.

The dentist ran the bloody tooth over his lips, and the crimson blood made it look as though the man were wearing lipstick. He even ran his tongue over the tooth, cleaning the last bit of red from its surface. The hygienist was staring at the tooth, looking hungry and eager. The doctor smiled at her and nodded.

She dropped Jon’s head, which fell with a bounce against the chair. Reaching up to her face she slipped her fingers under the edges of the surgical mask and pulled it down. What it revealed was an unspeakable horror. Her mouth, if it had ever been something which could accurately describe as a mouth, was a ruined abomination. A mockery of the very core concept of a mouth. There were no lips, only a rotting hole of blackened, diseased flesh riddled with sores that weeped pus. This thing, this monster had no teeth, only black gums and bits of exposed, jagged jaw. Her tongue was a round, searching thing in the cavernous, unclosing mouth.

The dentist smiled at her, lovingly and held the tooth in the pliers next to the ghastly hole of this thing’s mouth. She looked eager, as a puppy looks when offered a treat. Her tongue shot out reaching for the tooth. After a moment of teasing the doctor dropped the tooth into the monster’s mouth where it disappeared forever.

What the dentist and hygienist did next was indescribably perverse, a horror that haunts me to this day. It took them the better part of an hour to complete. They straighten themselves up once their disgusting act was concluded. The hygienist monster thankfully put the mask back on and removed the NO2 from Jon’s nose. He got up, groggy but seeming to be of his right mind, and left. The dentist and hygienist followed soon after.

I was so disturbed by this, so frightened that I spent the rest of the day sitting in my chair in front of my computer staring blankly into space. I still had another six hours of video to watch but I was too anxious to continue. I decided I should learn some more about this place and the other people in the video before I watched any more.

I discovered that the office actually belonged to a woman named Dr. Svetlana Yagnenok, M.D. She’d been working there for more than a decade and never had a partner, nor did she ever rent the office out to any other doctors (especially not dentists). It was impossible to figure out who the dentist was as I had no idea what his name was, but it occurred to me that perhaps the patients worked in the same strip mall.

I decided to contact the other document reviewers. The first person I reached out to was a friend of Jon’s who was a homemaker with a law degree. I asked if she could meet up with me for coffee so I could ask her about the review. She agreed to meet me the next day. I printed out the best pictures I could of the patients and brought one of the dentist too just in case.

It was pointless. My heart nearly stopped when I walked in the cafe, the woman I was there to meet was all too familiar. She was the first patient. I asked if she’d ever frequented any of the businesses at the strip mall and she assured me she hadn’t.

That wasn’t all. The candy striper, the old man, the librarian, they were the other reviewers. From what they told me, none of them had ever been to the strip mall before. None of them knew anything about a dentist, nor had anything strange been on the tapes they were reviewing.

I was even more horrified by what I found on the last six hours of tape. December of last year, timestamped at 1:15 am. The doctor and hygienist arrived and repeated their normal routine (if anything the horrorshow duo did could be called routine). The hygienist seemed different this time, more hungry, more eager. After a time the door opened and a young man walked in.

I poked my tongue around and confirm what the video had just revealed. I was missing two molars, the same two the dentist ripped from my mouth to feed the horrid woman. The worst part is, I could almost still taste the slimy flavor of her mouth as I watched the video of her kissing me.

Credit To – Louis Nattick

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