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Too Bright

July 31, 2015 at 12:00 PM
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My older brother is a cop. Naturally, he has a protective instinct over me, his little, only, sister. The cop factor does not help. I was always babied by my family, but me and Greg, my brother, always had a closer bond. Whenever one of my other brothers picked on me, he would get super mad at them. When I was about 12 years old, he met his fiancé and got serious with her. I was so worried she would steal my brother away, and I would never see him anymore. He quickly reassured me, and I soon began to think of his fiancé as the sister I never had.

Anyway, as I said, he is a cop. He worked crazy hours, normally coming home around 3-4 in the morning. Every night, upon arrival, he would shine his too bright flashlight into my room. My bed is against the same wall as my door, so I never saw him, but I always knew it was him. He did it just to check up on me, I was sure. I didn’t mind being woken up, and appreciated the comfort it gave me. Oddly enough, I don’t think any of my other family members being woken with beams of light at strange hours. I chalked it up to the fact that I was the only one who left my door open at night. For a while, I enjoyed the nightly ritual.

However, towards mid January of my senior year I was stressed. College was a looming monolith that I could not handle, my boss had me working 6 days a week, requiring me to wake up at 7 am even on the days I didn’t have school, and I needed the sleep I could get. What was once a small, almost funny comfort to me was now one of the biggest nuisances of my life. When I was awoken by the small beam of light, I wouldn’t be able to fall back asleep, and my frustration only grew as I brooded into the early hours of morning. One night, I snapped at my brother to stop as the light appeared. He didn’t answer, and I was worried I hurt his feelings.
“Oh well” I thought. At least he would get the hint.

But it didn’t stop. Finally, after a few more nights, once I saw the beam, I got up to confront my brother. When I walked into the hallway, it was empty. I ran to my window only to find that my brother’s car wasn’t there, meaning he wasn’t even home from work yet.
I confronted my brother the next day. He said he stopped shining the light in on me months ago, because my mother hinted at him that I needed the sleep.

We never figured out where the light was from, and I started sleeping with my door shut.

This is a Crappypasta Success Story – a story that was rewritten with the feedback received on Crappypasta and accepted for the main site. You can see the Crappypasta posting for this story here.

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The Uninvited Guest

July 31, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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Paolo fed me one last strawberry from the painted clay bowl. He let the juice drip down my chin and then kissed away every last trace. For a moment I was lost in the beauty of his herculean bronzed skin and the sound of the ocean crashing on the shore. A warm breeze blew into our gossamer paradise as Paolo began to remove his white linen shirt…

The sudden darkness shocked me as I awoke from my dream to sweat drenched sheets. I was alone in my bed and my heart was pounding. I threw off my heated blanket and slid closer to the frosted window to cool off. The glowing red clock on my husband’s side of the bed read 3:04am. Charley was not in bed sleeping next to me as he should have on this wintery Tuesday night.

I strained to hear the sound of his Playstation in the living room. Sometimes he would play in the middle of the night when he couldn’t sleep.

I could hear no sounds and could see no trace of light glowing from the crack under the bedroom door. The only light source I could see was from the red alarm clock shining against the closed closet door.

I climbed out of bed to search, checking the bathroom, living room and kitchen. Charley was not on the first floor.

That left only the basement if he was indeed in the house. I ascertained that his car was in the driveway and that all of the doors were locked.
Standing at the top of the basement stairs, I was still disoriented and only half awake when I realized that all of the lights were off in the basement. That was truly odd because Charley always insisted that we keep one of the lights on down there.

“Charley?” I meekly called out into the darkness below.

“Charley?”

I received no response and my panic was growing. Where could he have gone? He would never have left without telling me.

We had just moved into this house about six months ago and I was still nervous about being in it alone. And I never went into the basement at night.

Taking a deep breath and pretending not to be scared, I started down the
basement stairs. As soon as I made it to the arid bottom, I flipped the light switch on.

The sudden surge of bright light blinded me for a few seconds. Once my eyes adjusted, I immediately saw Charley, asleep in his recliner. I exhaled deeply and chuckled.

“What are you doing down here?” I asked as I shook him awake.

Charley opened his kind eyes and smiled at me. “It was too hot and you would not stop talking in your sleep. I just needed some…” The sudden sound of creaking from upstairs stopped his train of thought and made us both look up in alarm.

“What the hell?” I asked. Charley jumped up from his chair and leaned toward the stairs to hear for more sounds.

Slowly we began the ascent from the basement to the kitchen. The lights were still off as Charley pulled a kitchen knife and began to survey each room in the house. I followed along behind until I noticed cold air coming from the front room.

My heart dropped into the pit of my stomach when I saw the front door open.

Cautiously, I looked outside and saw only one set of snowy footprints leading away from the door and disappearing into the clear streets.

Unable to speak, I pointed the footprints out to Charley. He grabbed his cell phone and called 911 as he shut and dead bolted the door.

I could hear him speaking with the operator as I slowly made my way back to my bed to sit down, still stunned, knowing someone had been in the house. But why? And where? That’s when I noticed the red glow of the clock alarm was no longer shining on the closet door. The closet door.

The closet door was wide open.

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Leo

July 30, 2015 at 12:00 PM
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Doctor Avraham Strauss was confused. In a moment of clarity, he questioned why and how he had come to be walking down this particular corridor, in this castle, at this precise time. Red corridor, Colditz Castle, the middle of winter 1942. How could he, as a Jew, even have considered assisting the Nazis in this horrifying experiment? Yet, he could justify it using the fact that no one else would have given him the support or funding for his research. Yes, to the average person it might seem like a crime against nature, but he knew better. He was creating new life. A new race, a new species for whom war and violence would no longer be necessary.

The circumstances of where his laboratory had been located were unfortunate. Schloss Colditz had been appropriated by the Germans and put to use as a high security prisoner-of-war camp for officers who had become security or escape risks or who were regarded as particularly dangerous. Since the castle was situated on a rocky outcrop above the River Mulde, the Germans believed it to be an ideal site for a high security prison.

The larger outer court known as the Kommandantur, had only two exits and housed a large German garrison. The prisoners lived in an adjacent courtyard in a twenty-seven meter tall building. Outside, the flat terraces that surrounded the prisoners’ accommodations were constantly watched by armed sentries and surrounded by barbed wire. Although known as Schloss Colditz to the locals, its official German designation was Oflag IV-C.

However, it was not what went on in the cellblock that was most interesting about the castle. Rather, it was what went on below, in what used to be cellars and servants’ quarters. The bowels of the castle had been converted into a laboratory – his personal laboratory – for use as he saw fit. The walls were now lined with reinforced concrete, corridors fitted with steel doors, lighting and electrical services installed, and outfitted with any lab equipment that he requested.

Reflecting on his surroundings, the freedom that the Nazis had given him, and his recent breakthrough, he was able to push every bit of the burden of guilt to the back of his mind. A smile came to his face as he escorted Doctor Rosenberg down the hall toward his main lab, and the home of Leopold. He had considered naming his child Adolph, but he correctly assumed that would have been taken as an insult by the Nazis. Avraham tested their patience at every turn, but knew when his little jokes might go too far.

Yes, Leo was his child. No one but Avraham would recognize Leo as a member of the new human race yet, but an introduction to Doctor Rosenberg would change all of that. At last, he would have another professional of his caliber with which he could converse. He secretly hoped for a little praise from the good doctor. The Gestapo officers who had had the opportunity to meet Leo did not understand. They looked at him and saw little, if any, progress made by Avraham. Rosenberg would appreciate the significance of his progeny.

This was an important introduction. Doctor Rosenberg was a loyal German. He was not a Jew. The Nazis would respect his assessment of Avraham’s work, and convincing him to ask the bastards for more time and money was crucial. He was close – so close – but they looked at his work and saw no progress. They were about done with him. Then all would be lost. He and his family, protected by his value to the war effort, would become worthless. They would be imprisoned or worse. More importantly, they might destroy Leo, and that would be the most crushing blow of all. It would be worse than losing a son or daughter. His biological children were easy to come by. One had even been a mistake. But Leo… Avraham’s life had been devoted to his creation. He beamed with pride as he guided Doctor Rosenberg down the concrete corridor. A few of the electric lights, encased in jelly jar fixtures fastened to the ceiling, flickered as they walked past. Perhaps the bombing had started again. Avraham shuddered to think of what might happen if the generators quit completely. He tried to divert his attention by boasting to Rosenberg.

“Ah, doctor. Just wait until you meet him. He’s perfect. Everything that I was hoping for and more.”

“I don’t know what you think you’ve created here, Avi,” Rosenberg wrinkled his nose, “But please stop referring to it as him. It’s not human.”

“That’s part of what makes him beautiful. He’s not human.” He is better, Avraham thought to himself.

“Why don’t you just tell me what it is? Why the suspense?”

“Because,” Avraham turned to face Rosenberg, stopping him in his path. “Words cannot describe him. Here we are,” he turned to a steel door set into the wall. The door was simply marked “Lab G.”

“Now Herr Doktor, feast your eyes on the future of mankind. Please approach him quietly, so as not to startle him. He was upset for days after the Nazi officers called on us. I prepared him for your visit, though. Please excuse the low lighting. Bright light seems to distress him.”

Avraham opened the door slowly to reveal a dimly lit room with a large, glass tank in the center. Cables, electrical panels with blinking lights, and some metal cylinders, surrounded it. Tubes ran from the cylinders into the sides and lid of the tank. As they approached the apparatus, Rosenberg noted a button marked “Löschen,” meaning “Purge” in the center of one panel, protected under a glass cover and demarcated with black stripes on a yellow background.

The tank appeared to be filled with water, although it had a yellowish tinge to it, and floating within was one of the most sickening things Rosenberg had ever seen. A large pink and grey mass, riddled with pulsing veins. It almost resembled a cow’s liver, aside from the fact that it was one and a half meters wide and about three meters tall. The massive piece of flesh wriggled in its glass cell. It suddenly recoiled from the sides of the tank, as if in reaction to their presence. Impossible, thought Rosenberg, as it had no apparent eyes or other sensory organs.

“Doctor Rosenberg, may I present Leopold!”

Rosenberg craned his neck to look up at the five-meter tall tank and the abomination it contained. “Why, it’s nothing more than a tumor.”

“Nonsense!” cried Avraham, whipping his head around, “Leopold has a mind. He has a soul.”

“Bah. You and your talk of souls. There is no such thing, and you’d be wise to keep your opinions to yourself.”

Avraham looked at his feet. “Of course, you are correct. I did not mean to say soul. I merely meant that he is sentient. He thinks.” Avraham nodded boldly. “I’m a scientist, not a child. I don’t believe in nonsense such as God and souls.”

However, that was not true. Avraham did believe that conscious beings had souls. It would not be sensible to express that belief in public, though. The Nazis would consider that heresy, and with their jackboot on his throat, he risked a camp or death. No matter how important he was to the project, they would not tolerate sedition; especially from a Jew.

Over the time they had spent with each other at Kepler-Gymnasium Tübingen, the university where they had both studied, Rosenberg and Strauss had become friends. At least something resembling friends, anyway. Unlike many other doctoral students, they had no rivalry between them. They both saw the benefits of working together, rather than competing for the favor of their superiors.

It was for this reason that Rosenberg softened. “Avi, what is this really about? This is no breakthrough.”

“No, no. It is. It truly is. Let me introduce you.”

“To this? Introduce me to a cancer? Do you take me for a fool? Do you expect me to defend you when the Gestapo finds out what you have been doing?” He glanced up again, sneering, “Or not doing, in this case.”

“Don’t insult me Rosenberg. You call yourself a scientist. A real scientist would keep an open mind.”

“True. True.” Rosenberg nodded his head slowly. “Do explain. Introduce me,” he said in a condescending tone, spreading his arms.

Avraham motioned for Doctor Rosenberg to come closer to one of the instrument panels. There was a microphone and a speaker grille set into it. Avraham leaned in toward the microphone.

“Leo, this is my friend and colleague, Doctor Rosenberg.” Then he turned to the doctor. “Say hello, Herr Doktor.”

Rosenberg rolled his eyes and cleared his throat, then leaned closer to the microphone. He paused, and then pulled away. “Avraham, I can’t do this. I feel like an idiot.”

“Please, Rosenberg. Humor me.”

The doctor took a deep breath and leaned in again. “Ahem. Hello Leopold,” he said sternly.

The men were met with silence. It went on for what seemed like an eternity: one, two, three seconds. Avraham began to feel apprehensive. Perhaps he was moving too fast. Perhaps Leopold was afraid or insulted, and would not speak. If that was the case, all was lost.

Doctor Rosenberg was also feeling awkward. He felt like an idiot, falling for another of Avi’s senseless jokes.

Then, a tinny voice emanated from the speaker. “Hello Doctor Rosenberg. It is a pleasure to meet you.”

Both men jumped back. Avraham was smiling with joy and Rosenberg was aghast.

“Ach! Gott in Himmel!”

“Why, Rosenberg… I thought that you didn’t believe in God,” sneered Avraham.

Rosenberg whipped around and pointed his forefinger at Avraham, inches from his face.

“Damn you, Avi! I’ve had enough of your jokes. You have recorded that voice ahead of time. I recognize it. It’s your voice.”

“Now doctor, it is true that it’s my voice, in a sense. Leo does not have a voice of his own. He cannot, since he obviously does not have the anatomy to form words. I have recorded the rudimentary phonemes of our language, and Leo uses the recordings to assemble words with which to speak. He’s quite intelligent and fluent in several languages.”

Rosenberg thought for a moment. He was not sure whether to take Avraham seriously. Was this another joke? Was it an attempt to fool him into asking the Nazis for more time and money? Did Avraham actually think that his tumor could speak? Or worst of all… was it real?

Avraham could understand Rosenberg’s hesitation. “Still don’t believe, eh Rosenberg? Go ahead. Ask it anything you wish. I couldn’t possibly have recorded answers to questions that I wasn’t prepared for.”

Doctor Rosenberg hesitated again, still feeling a bit foolish conversing with this thing. Nevertheless, he continued.

“What are you?”

“I am Leo.”

“Of course; but I didn’t ask who you are, I want to know what you are.”

“I am Leo.”

“Humph! Alright, Leo. Do you know where you are?”

“Yes,” replied the tinny voice. “I am in Lab G in the cellar of Schloss Colditz.”

Rosenberg’s stomach dropped and his blood turned cold. “Mein Gott,” he whispered.

“Is there a problem, doctor?”

Rosenberg ignored the question.

“What year is it, Leo?”

“Nineteen hundred and forty-two. Although time means little to me.”

It is not just answering questions, thought Rosenberg, it is reasoning with me.

“Who is our Führer und Reichskanzler?”

“Your Führer is Adolph Hitler. Although, that is not relevant to me. I have no leader.”

Rosenberg scowled at Avraham, clearly angered. “What do you mean, ‘You have no leader?’ Reichskanzler Hitler is your leader.”

“I have no leader,” repeated Leo.

“We’re done here!”

“No, please,” pleaded Avraham. “It’s still a concept I am teaching him. He doesn’t understand.”

“I do…” began Leo.

“It’s not polite to correct our guest, Leo.”

“Of course you are right.”

Rosenberg, placated, adjusted his tie and slowly approached the microphone again. “Do you understand that we are at war with the allies?”

“Yes. I understand that you are at war with the allies. Once again, that is irrelevant to me. I have no need for war.”

“You would not defend yourself if you were threatened?

“I believe that Germany instigated your war with the invasion of Poland.”

Rosenberg bristled at that. Obviously incensed, he pointed at the purge button and shouted, “And what if I were to press this button?”

“No!” cried Leo.

Avraham positioned himself between Doctor Rosenberg and the panel. He placed his hand over the microphone.

“Please, Rosenberg,” he said quietly, “Don’t scare him. He does not understand our culture yet. Do not frighten him or he will not speak to you anymore. You would be lying if you told me that your interest hasn’t been piqued.”

“Yes,” Rosenberg cleared his throat. “Yes, of course.” He had been arguing with this thing. He was quarreling with what he had called a tumor just moments ago. How quickly he had been convinced of its sentience.

“I am regretful, Leo. I understand that there are things you do not comprehend yet. I did not intend to frighten you.”

“I do comprehend, Herr Doktor, but I accept your apology.”

“I’m not apol…” Rosenberg caught himself. He would not be drawn into another argument.

“Leopold, who is Doctor Strauss?”

“He is my creator. He is my…”

“I think that we’re done for now, Leo,” Avraham interrupted. “Doctor Rosenberg and I have much to discuss.”

“Hold on there, Avi,” Rosenberg patted his colleague on the shoulder, pushing him away. “I apologize for the interruption, Leopold. You were about to say something?”

“I think that I understand your initial question, Doctor Rosenberg. I know what I am.”

Rosenberg smiled. “And what is that, Leo. What are you?”

Leo’s reply was flat and factual. “I am Doctor Strauss’ child.”

*****

Avraham sat at his desk across from the astonished Doctor Rosenberg. He allowed him to have the comfortable chair and had fetched him some hot tea.

“Avi, I must apologize.” Rosenberg blew over his tea to cool it. “I never suspected that something like this was possible.”

“I told you, didn’t I? I told you that Leo was a fantastic creation. Just think of the possibilities.”

“Believe me, I am.”

“Just think of it. No more war, no more poverty, no more sickness.”

Rosenberg raised his head. “No more sickness?”

“Yes, yes. There are many things that I have not told you yet. Leopold will never grow old. He is immune to human viruses. He will never die.”

“But he can be killed, yes?”

“I suppose. But why would you even think of such a thing?”

“Avraham, I must remind you that many things Leopold said were disloyal and even treasonous to the state. ‘Germany instigated the war,’ ‘I have no leader.’ He must be educated. He obviously does not know what is happening outside the confines of your lab.”

“Doctor,” Avraham looked him in the eye, “Leo has had complete access to the wireless. He has listened to recordings of der Führer’s speeches; he has read all of the news reports.”

“Read them? He has no eyes.”

“Listened to them, then. I have read them to him. I have been teaching him about history and culture, art and music. He is very well educated.”

“And yet he speaks as if Germany is responsible for this war. He does not understand that Herr Hitler is merely trying to build a master race.”

“On the contrary, Herr Doktor. Leo believes that he is the master race; and I believe that he is correct in his assessment of the matter. That is the purpose of my experiments, is it not? To build a master race?”

“Not a race of those… those things!” Rosenberg sprung out of his chair. “You were supposed to build a better soldier. How can he be a soldier when he cannot leave the confines of this lab? How can he be a soldier if he believes that he has no leader?”

Avraham averted his eyes. “He can leave the lab,” he muttered.

“What?” whispered Rosenberg, sitting back down and gripping the arms of the chair, “How?”

“There are ways.” Avraham shook his head and took a deep breath, then renewed his lively demeanor. “Do not concern yourself with that now. There is so much that you need to learn. I need more staff. I need more money. Is this enough to convince you? Can you persuade the Nazis to give me more time now?”

Rosenberg leaned back in his chair. “No.”

“What?!” cried Avraham.

“Your time has run out, Avi. Obviously we will be taking over the project.”

“We?”

“The Gestapo. The Kripo. Der Führer’s private staff. I am certain that they will all appreciate your efforts, and you will be rewarded. They will need your continuing assistance, of course; but it is no longer your project. Leopold will become property of the state.”

“But he is my son!”

“Enough of that nonsense! He is a monster. Fascinating, intelligent, wonderful. But still not human. He will have his uses, though.”

“Uses?”

“The Reichskanzler’s scientists will find a way to use him to aid the war effort. Or perhaps in the eradication of the unfit, the homosexuals, the gypsies, and the Jews. Oh, I am sorry, Avi. I refer to the useless Jews. You, of course, are different.”

“That’s completely unacceptable!” cried Avraham. “I will not stand for it. You, nor anyone else is taking Leo from me. It will be difficult without funding or a lab, but I will find another way. I will take Leo and leave. I refuse to have him exploited like that. He is worth far more than a… a soldier, or a virus. Or a tumor, as you first called him.”

Rosenberg shook his head slowly from side to side. “Avi, my dear Avi,” he said, as if talking to a child, “No one can ever leave here. You know why.”

“What do you mean?”

“The prisoners, you, your family, and now – since I know what has been going on here – even I will never be allowed to leave this place. Even discounting your work with Leopold, how many of the prisoners have you experimented on?”

“I don’t know, but it was in the name of science. Look at what their sacrifice has given us.”

“It does not matter, Avi. If Germany should lose the war, and they will not, but just for the sake of imagination… We would all be tried for war crimes for what we have done. It does not matter whether or not our intentions were good. In addition, when Germany wins the war, there will still be those who will not understand. They will say that we have committed crimes against fellow humans. You understand that, don’t you?”

“I suppose. But…”

“There are no buts, Avraham. We finish our work; we make ourselves as useful as possible; and we just may live to see our children grow up.”

Avraham stood silent for a moment. He was shaking, not knowing if it was from fear or anger.

“No! No. I will not stand for it. I would sooner destroy Leopold and my entire lab before I give him over to the Nazis!”

“Avraham! You don’t know what you are saying.”

“I know very well, Herr Doktor,” he spat, “The Gestapo could take me if they wish, but no one will take Leo. I will kill him. Take that to your Nazi friends.”

Doctor Rosenberg did not utter another word. He simply turned his back and walked out of the office, not even bothering to shut the door on his way out. Avraham sat down at his desk and held his head in his hands. What would happen now?

Adjacent to the office, in the dimly lit laboratory, Leo shifted his massive body in the tank. He was also shaking – or at least, as close to it as he could come. His tinny voice could barely be heard emanating from the speaker. It almost sounded like he were crying, if such a thing were possible.

“You would kill me, father?”

*****

Several uneventful days passed. Avraham began to think that perhaps Rosenberg’s threats were baseless. He continued his work with Leo, which mostly consisted of educating him. Avraham occasionally took biopsies and samples of the fluid that Leo floated in; nothing out of the ordinary. However, he noticed that Leo had become withdrawn. He answered Avraham’s questions abruptly and concisely, when he had always been a bit of a chatterbox before.

“Is something wrong, Leo?”

“No.”

“I believe that there is,” said Avraham as he pulled a chair over in front of Leo’s tank and straddled it backwards. “You are concerned over what Doctor Rosenberg was saying, aren’t you?”

“No, father.”

“I think ‘Yes.’ Well, you have nothing to be worried about, Leo. I will never give you over to those animals. I feel the same way about them that you do, but we must learn not to express those feelings so freely.”

“You would have me lie?”

“No. Well, yes; but a lie of omission. Try to avoid talk of politics and war.”

Leo was quiet for a bit, and then shifted in his tank. “But they want to make me a soldier. They want me to kill, don’t they?”

“They do,” Avraham pressed his lips together, “But we will convince them otherwise. We will show them that you have far more to offer them – to offer the entire human race.”

Avraham rose from his chair and pushed it back against the wall. Then, as an afterthought, he turned back toward Leo’s tank. “You can put your mind at ease, Leo. Doctor Rosenberg has probably forgotten all about us.”

Suddenly, it was as if the Fates – the white-robed incarnations of destiny – had been awaiting his statement. There was a knock at the laboratory door, and then the person behind it opened the door without even awaiting a reply. It was Haltenbrunner, a captain of the local Kriminalpolizei, or Kripo for short. He had two officers with him who waited outside the door as he entered.

“Hauptmann Haltenbrunner, to what do I owe the pleasure of your visit?”

Avraham realized that he had forgotten the customary greeting. “Heil Hitler!”

Haltenbrunner raised his hand absent-mindedly. “Heil.”

“Again, I ask, what can I do for you Herr Hauptmann?”

At first, Haltenbrunner ignored Avraham and strolled around the lab, running his gloved finger through the dust that had accumulated on some of the unused equipment. Then he released a heavy sigh.

“There has been an accident,” he said without emotion. “Your wife. I’m sorry to inform you that she is dead.”

Avraham’s stomach dropped. He began to shake and stumbled for the chair. Almost missing it, he dropped into the seat and put his head between his knees. He took several deep breaths, but began to wretch anyway.

When he had recovered a bit, he finally asked, “What… what happened to her?”

“It appears that she was on her way to Dresden, and came across a checkpoint near Wolkau. She did not stop. Perhaps she was distracted. The guards could do nothing except assume that she was attempting to break through the checkpoint. There was a short chase, and she was shot. Quite a shame, if you asked me.”

“What was she doing on the road to Dresden? We have no family there.”

“Perhaps she was visiting the market.”

“No. She goes to the market in Hohnbach. It’s only a short distance away.”

There was a long, awkward period of silence. Avraham continued to look at the floor, and Haltenbrunner simply stared at him, waiting.

“Do you doubt what I say, Doctor Strauss?”

“No, Herr Hauptmann,” replied Avraham, “No, of course not. It’s just…”

Haltenbrunner showed an absolute lack of emotion. “Nevertheless, we will need you to come with us to collect her body.”

Avraham stood, unable to speak, and waited for the two officers to enter the room and guide him away.

Almost as an afterthought, but obviously coolly calculated, Haltenbrunner added, “It is times such as this, Herr Doktor, that make a man wonder if it’s worth putting his work ahead of his family.” Avraham could detect a bit of a smile on the captain’s face. “At least you still have your children.”

*****

Two days went by, and Avraham had not returned to the lab. Leo did not become worried. He had access to all of the nourishment that he needed, both nutritionally and intellectually. He understood what had happened, and he understood that Doctor Strauss needed time to grieve. Leo himself did not see the point of it, but he appreciated the fact that humans were different, emotionally fragile creatures.

It was late in the evening when the lab door clicked open. Leo’s heart, if one could call it that, leapt for a split second at the thought that it could be Avraham returning, but he instantly realized that it was, in fact, Doctor Rosenberg. He knew that emotions were useless, yet he became anxious upon seeing Rosenberg in the lab.

“Good evening, Herr Doktor,” said Leo. “It is a pleasure to see you again. I am afraid that Doctor Strauss is not in the lab today. He has experienced a loss recently, and apparently needs some time to recover.”

“Good evening to you, Leopold,” began Rosenberg. “I am aware of the death of Avraham’s wife. I have already paid my respects and given my condolences. However, it’s not Doctor Strauss that I have come to speak with. It is you.”

“I was under the assumption that you thought I was below your station, Herr Doktor. I believe that you described me as ‘a tumor.’” Leo felt a wave of satisfaction as he made that snide remark. He felt anger. Felt? Feel? What was happening to him?

“Now, now, Leopold. That was before Avi explained what you really are. I mean, who you really are.”

“And what is that, Herr Doktor?”

“Er… well, you are a person. An individual. A conscious being, if you will.”

There was a moment of silence. Leo shifted in his tank. “Then what is it that you have come to speak about, Herr Doktor?”

“Please, please. Call me Rosenberg. And I’ll call you Leo.”

“Fine, Rosenberg. What is it that you have come to speak about?”

Rosenberg strolled about the room slowly, approaching the equipment, dragging a finger across the control panel in front of Leo’s tank, and pausing almost sensually near the button marked “Löschen.” Leo tensed.

“I will be taking over the lab for a while, Leopold… Leo. Doctor Strauss is going to be unavailable for a time – I’m not sure how long – taking care of his children.”

“But I am his child, also. Why would he forsake me to care for them?”

Rosenberg turned away so that Leo could not see the satisfied sneer that curled his lips. “Well, Leo, he loves them. Can you understand that? I mean, he cares for you but you are not really his child. At least it’s obvious to me that he doesn’t feel that way.”

Leo felt something again. He was unsure of how to describe it. Empty. Sad. Worthless. Ashamed. Betrayed. For the first time in his life, Leo was at a loss for words.

“I don’t feel that way, though,” continued Rosenberg. Now that I know what a miracle you are, well… If I were in Avi’s position, I would definitely not disregard you as he is. Even in a time of sadness, a man should not favor one child over another. It’s inexcusable.”

Leo began to grow… Angry.

Yet, Rosenberg pressed on. “I’ll bet that everything Avraham has been telling you: you’re his child, he cares for you, you’re so important to him… I am willing to bet that they are all lies. Told to make you comply with his wishes!”

“No!” shouted Leo. “That’s not true! It is not!”

“Really, Leopold? Really? Think about it. He made you. A man does not make a child. He creates one out of love. You are not a product of love. You were created in a test tube or grown in a petri dish.”

“Why are you saying these things?” cried Leo.

Rosenberg calmed himself. “I’m sorry Leo. I understand that it hurts to hear these things, but it is better that you know. Avraham is making a fool out of you. He does not appreciate you; but I do. You will see. I will take good care of you.”

And so he did. Every day for the next three weeks, Rosenberg would spend nearly sixteen hours a day at the lab reading to Leo, making intellectual conversation, debating, and even joking. Leo was actually starting to understand human wit. It did, however, send a chill down Rosenberg’s spine when he heard Leo’s unnatural laughter emitting from the speaker box.

In the meantime, Avraham was busy making arrangements for the care of his children – his real children. He had found a nanny that satisfied him, and after another week spent gathering his confidence, he stepped out of the door of the block home the Nazi’s had provided him on the grounds of the camp and walked resolutely toward the castle.

He walked down Red Corridor and paused at the laboratory door. What would Leo have made of his behavior? He had been ignoring Leo entirely. Yes, he knew that Doctor Rosenberg took over Leo’s care, but Leo was his child. Avraham felt ashamed for abandoning him as he did. He justified it by telling himself that Leo was not dependent on him. Unlike his biological children, Leo had the mental capacity of an adult, and was capable of caring for himself, even without the aid of Rosenberg. Satisfied with his rationalization, he stood tall and squared his shoulders, then opened the door to the lab.

He heard it as soon as the door snicked open. He was unsure of what to make of the unnerving sound. It was like a raspy cough combined with the buzzing heard around a hornets’ nest. Worse, he could clearly make out the underlying tones of Leo’s voice. The sound was coming from his speaker box.

Avraham burst into the room. “Mein Gott! What is wrong? What’s happened to Leo?”

Surprised by the sound of the door slamming open, Rosenberg jumped from the chair he had been seated at in front of Leo’s tank and whipped around. He relaxed when he saw that it was Avraham. He smiled as he realized that now would be the ultimate test. He would see if his social engineering experiment had worked. His conditioning of Leopold. Had he truly been able to turn Leopold against his former master? His “father?”

“Why, nothing is wrong, my dear Doctor Strauss.”

“That sound. What was that sound?”

“Ah,” Rosenberg bobbed his head, “Yes. I was just telling Leopold a joke. ‘How did the Germans conquer Poland so fast?’” he paused for effect. “’They marched in backwards and the Polish thought they were leaving!’”

Once again, Leo erupted into an unsettling laughter. Avraham did not know whether to feel horrified or astonished that Leo was developing a sense of humor. Humor meant feelings, and that… Oh my. What disturbed him most was that it seemed Rosenberg had managed to do what he could not: elicit an emotional response from Leo. In addition to that, the joke was vulgar, racist, and politically charged. Why did the ethically benign creature find that funny?

“Leo! I am… I’m…”

“At a loss for words?” interjected Doctor Rosenberg.

Avraham was dumbfounded. “Laughing? Joking about the war? At the expense of the suffering of humans? What is going on here?”

“Leo is just becoming a good German, Herr Doktor,” Rosenberg taunted.

Avraham was incensed. “I’ve had quite enough of you, Rosenberg!” He turned to Leo’s tank. “Leo, stop it this instant!”

Leo fell silent. Avraham could almost sense him collecting himself, could almost sense him slowing his breathing as an angry man would before speaking.

“You are not my master, father. You have no right to tell me what I can and cannot feel. There is only one man who I am accountable to now.”

Aghast, Avraham cocked his head to the right. “Rosenberg?”

“Of course not,” replied Leo. “The kind doctor treats me as his equal.”

“Then who?”

“Der Führer, of course,” answered Leo. “Heil Hitler!”

*****

Avraham tried to control himself until the door of his office had slammed shut. His office? Was it even his office anymore?

“Sohn von einem Weibchen!” screamed Avraham. “What have you done to him?”

Rosenberg calmly took a seat – the big chair behind the desk. “I don’t know what you are talking about, my dear Avi. I have done nothing.” He paused, and then looked over his shoulder out of the window towards Leo’s tank. “Oh, you mean that,” he said with an air of sarcastic innocence. “Well, Avi, you’ve been gone a long time. Leopold has simply grown up, I suppose.”

“You’ve brainwashed him!”

“Nonsense. It was only a matter of time until he developed emotions. You implied as much yourself.”

“But,” stammered Avraham, “The joke, the laughter… ‘Heil Hitler!’ for God’s sake! Those are not emotions. That’s pure malice.”

“You call it malice, I call it loyalty. As I said, he’s becoming a good German.”

“He’s not a German.”

“What is he, Avi? Do you think that the fact that you made him brands him a Jew? Well, he is not. He has evolved beyond you. The sooner you get used to the idea, the better.”

Avraham slumped in his chair. “So, you are telling me that I’m off the project. You are going to take Leo away from me.”

“Nothing of the sort,” Rosenberg said with a smile on his face. “In fact, I am happy to see that you are ready to return to work. I need you now more than ever. We are about to enter a new phase of the project, and you are most familiar with Leopold.”

“Perhaps not. It seems that the two of you get along very well now.

“Ah, Avraham. You may be correct. Leopold and I have become very close. As it happens, we share many of the same ideas; but I am not referring to companionship. I am contemplating something quite different. Something… More basic. A task that you, as his creator, would be best suited to perform.”

“And what might that be?” Avraham said warily.

“Reproduction.”

“No!” Avraham rose from his chair, fists balled up. “It’s not possible!”

“Are you telling me that Leo is incapable of reproducing? There must be a way…”

“Of course there is a way, idiot. Do you think that I would create a being incapable of reproducing? My primary mission when beginning this experiment was to create creatures that would replace our men on the battlefield. What good would a single organism be of use for? Not only can Leo reproduce, but he can do so very efficiently.” Avraham instantly regretted letting that fact slip.

Avraham did not think it was possible, but Rosenberg’s smile grew even wider. “Aha! Perfect! I knew that you had a way. So, why did you claim it was impossible?”

“Because I would not even consider allowing it until Leo reached maturity. I did not know how intelligent he would become. I didn’t realize that it was even imaginable that he would develop emotions,” Avraham paused, “And I certainly didn’t think that he could be capable of such malevolence!”

“Once again, Avi, what you and I consider to be hatred are two very different things. In fact, I find Leopold to be quite likeable.”

“That in itself disgusts me.”

“Nevertheless, you will assist me, one way or another.”

Avraham once again fell into his chair, emotionally spent. He knew that he had lost the argument. Doctor Rosenberg would go to any lengths to get what he wanted. He had already killed Avraham’s wife. He knew that his children would be next. There was nothing else to be said, so he began to weep quietly.

*****

More than a month passed. Doctors Strauss and Rosenberg worked side by side in the laboratory each day. Rosenberg insisted that they quicken their pace and increase the time they spent in the lab, but Strauss insisted that at the very least, he be allowed to rest on the Shabbat. Rosenberg relented. He required Avraham to be compliant, and the best way to achieve that would be to restrain himself from pushing Avi to his limits. He already suspected that Avraham was dragging his feet. The good doctor knew something. Something that he was holding back. Rosenberg was certain that Avraham had already worked out a process by which Leo could reproduce – probably long ago, before his involvement – but Avi had so far been careful to make no more gaffes or let any more information slip out.

According to Abrahamic law, the Shabbat began at sunset each Friday evening and lasted until the appearance of three stars on Saturday night. Rosenberg found the notion foolish, but it did provide him some time alone with Leo. Doctor Rosenberg would often spend the entire night talking with him, as Leo had no need for sleep. Their time spent together during Avraham’s Shabbat always served as a good time for Rosenberg to reinforce his ideas, and not offer Avraham the chance to cause Leo to second-guess the philosophies that he had put so much effort into instilling in the creature’s mind.

Rosenberg was always the one who initiated each conversation, so it surprised him when on one particular evening, Leo was the first to break the silence.

“Rosenberg, there is something that we must discuss.”

Rosenberg was conflicted with feelings of both surprise and concern. “What is it Leo? You are aware that you can talk to me about anything. There is no need for secrets between us.”

“It concerns Doctor Strauss.”

Over the weeks that he had been working with Leo, Avraham’s status had gone from “Father” to “Avraham” to “Doctor Strauss.” Rosenberg was elated.

In spite of his delight, he knitted his eyebrows in worry. “What about Doctor Strauss, Leo?”

“It has occurred to me that the doctor is procrastinating about showing you his research regarding my ability to reproduce. At first, I thought that he had forgotten. All of the recent stress he has been under may have had him confused. Then, it became obvious that he was intentionally diverting you whenever you were about to discover the solution. Now I understand that he simply does not want me to reproduce.”

“Ah, so what do we do about this?”

“Rosenberg, I am sorry to have hidden this secret from you, but… There is no need for research. I am already capable of reproducing in my current state.”

Doctor Rosenberg was startled. “What? Why didn’t you tell me this earlier?”

“I was unsure of whether or not I wanted to reproduce. Now, I think that I am ready.”

Rosenberg’s first instinct was anger. All of the wasted time! However, he restrained himself. He did not want to risk alienating Leo when he was so close to his goal.

“Well then, Leo, where do we begin?”

“It has also occurred to me,” continued Leo, seemingly oblivious to Rosenberg, “That Doctor Strauss does not want me to reproduce. I fear that he may try to prevent me from completing the process.”

“That’s it then. I’ll have him banned from the lab.”

“I thought of that as well… At first; but what if he has sympathizers in his employ? What if one of the guards mistakenly allows him in? It would be simple for him to stop me. Strangely, I have come to value my life, and I believe that what I am experiencing is something akin to fear.”

“Hmm,” Rosenberg stroked his chin, “As ruthless as the Gestapo is, I don’t think that they would simply kill him. He is an integral part of the experiment. They have invested a lot in him. Even were he to be taken off of this project, they would use him elsewhere.”

“Yes,” said Leo, growing angry, “Perhaps even developing a natural predator to hunt me and my offspring. That thought has also weighed heavily on my mind.”

“I need to think about this, Leo. I’ll have Avraham banned from the lab in the meantime.”

“No. Allow me to… Allow me to speak with him.”

Something in the way Leo had said that sounded ominous, but Rosenberg relented. “As you wish.”

When Avraham returned that Saturday evening, Rosenberg tried his hardest to avoid looking him in the eye. He was a collected man and no reason to fear that Avraham would suspect that something was wrong; nevertheless, he felt an unrelenting guilt. After a few minutes of pleasantries, he excused himself for the evening blaming his departure on gastrointestinal issues.

“It’s those damn sausages the cook keeps sending down. Who knows what is in them? You understand, don’t you Avi?”

Avraham was pleased that he would have time alone with Leo. It had been ages since he’d had the opportunity. “Of course, Herr Doktor. Take all the time you need. If you would like to take tomorrow off, feel free. I can handle the lab myself for a bit.”

“I’m sure that won’t be necessary,” Rosenberg answered quickly. Then, giving his answer further consideration, he said, “We’ll see. Perhaps I could use some rest.”

Avraham bowed at the waist. “Guten Nacht, Herr Doktor.”

“Auf Wiedersehen, Avi,” responded Rosenberg, for some reason feeling that was a more appropriate farewell.

As soon as the lab door seated firmly in its frame, Avraham spun toward Leo with a huge smile. “Leo! It’s been so long since we’ve had time alone to catch up, hasn’t it?”

“Yes, it has,” said Leo, careful not to use any form of address. Calling Avraham “Herr Doktor” would put him on the defensive, and Leo could not bear calling him “Father.” Not before what he was about to do.

“So. You have begun experiencing emotions, eh? What a breakthrough.”

“I suppose,” replied Leo, “But while it’s certainly fascinating, it can be very unpleasant at times. I am sure that you, of anyone, are poignantly aware of the fact. I am sympathetic to the loss of your wife. You must feel devastated.”

“Yes; but also very angry.”

“Why?”

“I don’t for a moment believe that it was an accident. None of the Kripo’s explanations make any sense.”

“Would you like to know what I think?”

“Yes, Leo. Go ahead. Enlighten me.”

“I think that you are angry because it’s your fault that she died.”

“I don’t think it was my fault; and I don’t feel responsible. It is all that monster, Rosenberg’s fault. He and his goose-stepping fiends!”

“No Herr Doktor,” Leo slipped, but it did not matter anymore. Not now. “I did not say that you think you are responsible. I said that you are responsible. I have evolved beyond you. I can distinguish facts that you cannot. I assure you, there is absolutely no doubt that it was your fault!”

“How can you say that, Leo?”

“You must feel terrible, Avraham,” Leo pressed on, voice growing louder. “You don’t deserve to live. You will just end up ruining more lives. Those of your children perhaps.”

Avraham’s eyes grew wide. “What are you saying, Leo?”

Without warning, a strange feeling overcame Avraham. His stomach dropped, and he felt as if he were falling. His vision blurred and turned to a bright white. His arms and legs began to tingle and went numb. As the bright light shining into his eyes – no, the light within his eyes – began to dim, he found himself in his office, extracting a Luger from the top drawer of his desk. His desk? Not anymore. He had not put the pistol there. His vision paled once more, and this time, when it dimmed he was standing in front of Leo’s tank. Now, he held the pistol against his right temple. He could feel his forefinger tightening, the pressure on the pistol’s trigger increasing.

“What… What’s happening?”

A pause. Then, with a touch of what could be described as melancholy in Leo’s tinny voice, came the words: “Goodbye, Father.”

*****

Rosenberg hesitated at the laboratory’s door when he arrived on Sunday morning. Somehow or other, he was going to have a problem on his hands. He knew which situation he preferred. He would pray, if he believed there was a God. His chest tightened as he unlocked the door, stepped inside, and surveyed the situation.

“Oh my, Leo,” Rosenberg said flatly. “What have you done?”

“Good morning, Doctor Rosenberg!” said Leo, in a cheerful voice.

“Leo…” Rosenberg was confused.

“Ah, you are referring to Doctor Strauss. It seems that the guilt he experienced over the death of his wife was too much for him. It looks as if he took his own life.”

“Somewhat convenient, don’t you think?”

“Well, I must admit that I helped him a bit.”

“How? You’re… You can’t leave your tank.”

“I have my ways, Herr Doktor. You need not bother yourself with trying to work it out. Your mind is doubtless too simple to comprehend such a complex matter.”

“Try me.”

“Alright then. This may be a bit painful.”

“Wha…”

Suddenly, a bright light flashed in Rosenberg’s eyes and an icy spasm caused him to jerk his head back. He thought that he might have been having a stroke. Then, as if by magic, he could see – in his mind’s eye – what Leo was talking about. Leo had placed the idea into his mind. The same way that he had placed the idea of suicide in Avraham’s mind, no doubt; but even Rosenberg’s “simple” mind could discern a vast difference between an idea and action. Causing Avraham to commit suicide… That was pure mind control.

Rosenberg once again let his eyes wander to the button protected under the glass cover. He grasped the idea that he may someday have to press that button; perhaps soon, before he was no longer capable. The thought that Leo may be reading his mind at that very moment caused him to look away quickly. He pushed the thoughts from his mind, replacing them with considerations of how he would handle Avraham’s death. Surely, Haltenbrunner would have questions. He would immediately suspect that Rosenberg had a hand in it. After all, to anyone unfamiliar with Leo, it would seem that only two men were in the room at the time.

He went into Avraham’s office – now formally his office – and placed the phone call. Having decided on calling it a suicide and leaving out the details, he relayed the facts as efficiently as possible.

“Yes. Yes, Herr Hauptmann, I will wait for you here. Touch nothing, I understand,” he paused while Haltenbrunner said something. “Auf Wiederhören. Heil Hitler.”

After replacing the handset into the phone’s cradle, Rosenberg went back into the dimly lit room with Leo. He tried to avert his eyes from the mess on the floor, but he noticed blood and bits of brain matter stuck to the side of Leo’s tank.

“I’m afraid that it’s going to be bright in here for a while, Leopold. The Kripo will be here soon to investigate, and someone will obviously need to… Clean up.”

“That’s quite alright, Herr Doktor,” replied Leo. I will require complete darkness for the next stage of my development. You will find a tarp to fit the tank on the storage shelves at the back of the lab. If you would be so kind, please drape it over.”

Despite Haltenbrunner’s warning not to touch anything, Rosenberg used some old cloths he found on the shelves to wipe the gore from Leo’s tank before draping the tarp over it. He looked around the lab, clueless as to where he would put the blood soaked rags. Leo noticed him.

“Over here Rosenberg. Just put them into my tank. I’ll dispose of them.”

“But…”

“Put them into the tank, Rosenberg,” he said with authority.

Rosenberg walked meekly to the edge of the tank, hesitant about approaching it. He carefully climbed the scaffolding alongside it and dropped them through a hatch in the top. He watched as they slowly descended into the liquid, imparting a pinkish tinge to it as they sank.

The doctor had barely gotten down from the scaffolding when the lab door opened and Haltenbrunner and his goons burst in without even announcing themselves. Information was exchanged, and eventually people from the coroner’s office came to collect Avraham’s body.

“Ahem,” Rosenberg addressed the men as they were removing the corpse, “Will someone be by to… er, clean up the rest?”

“Not our responsibility, Herr Doktor.”

“Of course not.”

Rosenberg walked back to the office. He picked up the phone once more and dialed the switchboard.

“I need a cleaner in Lab G, as quickly as possible.”

“Jawohl, mein Herr,” came the answer.

While Rosenberg waited for the housekeeper, he contemplated what would happen next. There would be no investigation, of course. Doctor Strauss was no longer necessary, and honestly, he would have become a burden to the Gestapo. He would have had to be dealt with in some way. He could obviously never have been allowed to leave Schloss Colditz. So as frightening as things may have seemed, Leo had actually done a favor for everyone involved.

There was a knock at the door. Rosenberg opened it and permitted an old cleaning woman to step into the room. She was dressed in a gray shift and shapeless hat, and dragged along a mop and bucket filled with dirty water.

“I think it’s pretty obvious what needs to be done,” explained Rosenberg.

The old woman remained quiet. Rosenberg continued to speak, but slowly became convinced that the woman was a mute, as she did not respond.

“There are rags on the shelves in the back, and a slop sink to change out your water. I imagine that you will need to do that several times. Please be careful as not to upset any of the equipment and stay away from the tarp. Under no circumstance are you to touch it, or even approach it.”

The old woman smiled a big, mostly-toothless grin and confirmed Rosenberg’s theory. She had no tongue. Probably cut out by the Gestapo. What better way to ensure that no secrets would leave the castle. He shook his head in disgust. There was a line that even he would not cross.

“I’m afraid that I must lock the door. I am sure that you understand. I will be back to let you out after having some coffee. If you need to leave before then, call the switchboard and they’ll have someone come to fetch me from the canteen.”

The old woman nodded and smiled again. Disgusting. As Rosenberg made his way for the door, he turned once more to remind her of his instructions.

“Remember. Do not approach the tarp under any circumstances!”

Rosenberg walked out, and the last thing he heard was the laboratory’s door lock snapping into place.

*****

Rosenberg returned from the canteen around six in the evening. He had been sidetracked on his way back to the lab when a Gestapo officer pulled him from the hall and into his office to discuss the situation with Avraham. Doctor Rosenberg had been gone much longer than had intended. Oh well, he thought, the old woman would not mind. She had no doubt had some time to relax. It was that much less time she would have to spend mopping up the latrines later.

When he opened the door, he noticed that the lights had been dimmed again. Why? Had Leo instructed the woman to do it? That would be bad. The tarp was still wrapped around the tank, so Rosenberg turned some of the lights back on, and immediately saw that the old woman had already gone, but the idiot had left her mop, bucket, and rags there in the middle of the floor. He walked closer, and noted that the water in the bucket had changed from dirty gray to dark red.

Then, the realization dawned on him. How did the old woman leave the lab? The door had been locked. No one could either come or go without the proper code. Only he, Avraham, and certain officers knew it.

He eyed Leo’s tank with dread. All of his instincts begged him not to lift the tarp, yet he knew that he must. He dimmed the lights again and walked partway up the tank’s scaffolding. His pulse quickened and his breathing grew heavy. Rosenberg grasped the bottom of the tarp and slowly lifted it just a few feet; just enough to get a glimpse of Leo. Just enough to reassure himself that…

“Scheiß! Mein Gott!”

Rosenberg’s eyes went wide with disgust. The old woman’s face was floating on the other side of the glass, just inches from his own. Unlike his own, though, it was only a face. No eyes, no musculature, not even a skull behind it. It floated there alone, suspended in the fluid and rippling like a piece of wet parchment.

He dropped the tarp and scrambled down the scaffold, slipping on the still-wet floor, and ran toward the sink. Recognizing that he would not make it, he changed his tack and headed for the housekeeper’s bucket. Even so, he did not make it more than a few steps before he fell to his knees and vomited. Scrambling to his feet, he ran, slipping again – this time in his own mess – and tried to get to the lab door. As he reached it, he saw a familiar bright light and felt the icy spasm that he had before when Leopold placed the idea in his mind.

“Is there a problem, Herr Doktor?”

Falling to his knees, and then sitting on the floor with his back to the door, Rosenberg whispered, “Leo, what have you done? Why?”

Leo paused while he thought about the easiest way to word his explanation, and then answered, “She really served very little purpose in her current role, Rosenberg. I have begun the process of reproduction, and I need additional sustenance. The woman provided a good source of quick calories, plus iron, keratin, and proteins. She was of far more value as a food source than as a cleaning woman.”

“That’s absolutely ghastly, Leopold.” Rosenberg could feel his gorge rising once again. “You have nourishment. It is fed directly into your tank. I could get you more any time you would like. Why would you take the woman?”

“I needed food quickly, Rosenberg, and you weren’t here. I did not know when you would return. Besides, the liquid diet that you and Avraham were feeding me will not be sufficient any longer.”

“Meat, then. I can bring you meat.”

“No Herr Doktor,” Leo interjected, “It must be live meat. Lots of it.”

“I can bring you animals, then,” pleaded Rosenberg.

“I cannot will a cow or a swine to walk the scaffold and enter the tank. Their minds are too simple. No, Rosenberg, you know what you must do.”

The laboratory door clicked open. Leo trusted that Doctor Rosenberg would bring him what he needed. They had come too far. They must see this through to the end.

Nevertheless, as Rosenberg left the lab, head hung low, he again glanced over at the “Purge” button. How he longed to press it; but he was thinking the same thing that Leo was. They had come too far. They had crossed a line. Now the only way out was to press on forward.

Consequently, for the next ten days, Rosenberg called a variety of people: cleaners, guards, messengers, and even a young officer. He dared not enter the lab with them. He would just unlock the door and excuse himself with some concocted reason, telling the victim to enter the lab and wait for him. On a few occasions, he waited outside the door and listened, but heard nothing. Each time, upon his return, he found no trace of the sacrifices.

The last person he brought was a pretty nurse from the medical clinic. They chatted as they walked down the corridor. I would be a shame to waste such a young life, but he was becoming desperate. No one suspected him, of course, but the missing people had not gone unnoticed by the rest of the staff.

He was about to perform the standard ritual of asking her to step inside and locking the door shut behind her, when he heard Leopold speak at last.

“Rosenberg,” chimed Leo, “Please come in and ask your friend to leave us alone. We have work to do.”

Relieved, and yet frightened, Rosenberg told the nurse that he would not need her services, after all. He dismissed her and entered the lab, closing the door gently behind himself.

“It is time, Herr Doktor.”

“Time for what, Leo?” Rosenberg gulped, certain that Leo meant that it was his time to get in the tank.

“I am done, Rosenberg. My reproductive cycle is complete. At least, my portion.”

“What does that mean?”

“Remove the tarp, Herr Doktor.”

Rosenberg carefully approached the tank. He felt safer now – more at ease that he would not be instructed to get into Leo’s tank – but he was still hesitant to uncover it. After all of the people he had brought to be… Eaten, he was uncertain if he could bear seeing what was in the tank.

“Now, Rosenberg!”

Rosenberg grabbed the tarp from the bottom and yanked hard, tearing it completely from the tank. He averted his eyes at first, but could not get over the temptation to look. He surrendered to the enticement and was amazed.

He saw no floating human body parts as before. In fact, he could barely see Leopold. The inner walls of the tank were covered in polyps. They resembled tiny sea anemones, cylindrical in shape and elongated at the axis of their vase-shaped bodies. Each one seemed to be attached to the glass by means of a disc-like cup. The other end contained the mouth, and was surrounded by a circlet of tentacles.

Some of the polyps appeared to be in their larval stages, while others were in the process of budding. The rings of tentacles at the ends would separate from the polyp and float off, seemingly swimming away by flagellating their tentacles. More than one bud, what he supposed were now fully individual clones of Leo, were breaking off each polyp. There were a countless number of these clones swimming around Leo in the tank. There had to be thousands. No, tens of thousands.

The gravity of this discovery made Rosenberg recoil. To think, each of these things will grow to be just like Leo. It would only be a matter of time before they would enslave the human race, or worse. It was time. He knew that he must end the experiment. He must kill Leo and all of his offspring. He raced toward the button labelled “Löschen.” Unfortunately, Leo had already been aware of his intentions. The sickening feeling of the lightning strike in his brain hit once again. His forward motion slowed.

Just when he thought that all was lost, Leo’s grip on his mind relaxed.

“Do it, Doctor Rosenberg.”

Rosenberg reasoned that perhaps Leo knew the consequences of what had happened, perhaps he felt guilty about the people he had destroyed, perhaps he was thinking of Avraham, the man he once called father. He did not give Leo the chance to rethink his decision. He reached the control panel, lifted the glass cover, and after one final heart-wrenching pause, slammed his hand down on the button.

Some large valve in the bottom of Leo’s tank must have opened, because Leo and all of his offspring that had been floating around him seemed to instantly drop out of sight. Then a jet of water rinsed the walls of the tank with the power of a fire hose. When it was done, all but a few of the polyps remained attached to the glass.

Rosenberg waited a moment to determine if what he had seen was real or a thought placed by the creature. Yes, he finally realized. The nightmare was over.

*****

Rosenberg sat at the office desk. A full day had passed since purging Leo’s tank, yet it seemed like it had only been a few minutes. He could still remember the sheer terror he had felt in those final moments. He imagined that the feeling would stay with him for the rest of his life.

He shuffled through Avraham’s notes and reports about the experiment. They would all need to be destroyed, of course. The Nazis would not appreciate the magnitude of the experiment’s failure. Avraham had been right. He would rather risk death than allow Leo’s secret fall into the Nazis’ hands.

Rosenberg lifted his head and glanced through the office window and into the lab. Some lab assistants were inside the tank, faces covered with surgical masks and hands in rubber gloves, scraping the remaining polyps from the glass walls. Rosenberg was convinced that they were all dead, but he was having them removed and burned in a large barrel, just in case he was wrong.

He lowered his head once again and lifted another typewritten sheet from the stack, folding it and placing it into a cardboard box. These notes would also be burned. He had only been quickly scanning the pages to ensure that he did not destroy anything that he may find important later, but a few key words on the next page caught his attention.

Re: Deployment of creatures

I have finally discovered an efficient means of procreation and deployment of the creatures. Despite this, I am still hesitant to initiate said distribution. The creature has only recently started exhibiting signs of intelligence. Until I am certain that it can understand basic commands and will remain subservient to its human masters, I will not share this information with the Gestapo officers.

With no natural predators, the creatures would easily multiply at an exponential rate. They would cover all of Europe within a week’s time, and the entire planet within the month. I shudder to think what would happen when they run out of a natural food source. The result would be devastating. No, until I discover a way to effectively control their population, the secret of reproduction will remain with me.

Only after I am satisfied that all fail-safes are in place, deployment will be simple. After allowing the creature to clone itself, I will release it and its progeny into the sewers beneath the castle. The clones will quickly spread to the nearby streams, lakes, oceans, and eventually all natural water sources.

Therefore, when the time comes to put the creatures into service safely, all that will be necessary will be to press the Purge button on the main control panel, and the process will begin.

Doctor Avraham Strauss

13 June 1942

Credit To – Kenneth Kohl

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The Oath

July 30, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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A solitary wooden cabin hid itself deep within the rustling forest. Enclosed all around by towers of gnarled ancient trees, the thick black of night helped the cabin to completely disappear from sight. A glowing fire crackled in the hearth within the cabin, casting its dim red and gold light all about. Iron pots and pans hung from the mantelpiece as a thin boiled stew boiled in a pot over the fire. The wooden floor boards creaked as Agitha lightly padded across the room to mix the stew.

The pungent aroma filled the cabin as Agitha did a taste check, savoring the concoction from her rusty ladle in hand. She stirred in more salt as the wind outside tore viciously throughout the forest. Chill air whistled through the holes of the cabin as the howls of wind rose ever louder outside. She resumed her seat in a rickety wooden chair in the corner of the room. Spread out across the table before her was an assortment of small corked glass bottles and viles.

Agitha’s mother had practiced the art of witchcraft all her life. Since Agitha had grown old enough to walk, her mother had taught her all she knew with the aid of multiple incantations and spell books. When her mother had passed away years ago, Agitha had continued mastering the craft. It was how they made a living. Behind the small cabin was Agitha’s garden. It was divided in two parts. The left all herbs and spices needed for spells, the right all vegetables grown with magic to produce such flavors that no townspeople could duplicate it within their own crops.

Determined locals from the village would risk traveling thirty miles through the forest over fallen moss covered logs just to seek her assistance. Millions of spindly branches ripping at them with every step, and skittish yellow eyes peering out at them through the fog all the while. Desperate young women begging for love spells, older gentlemen after fame and power in town politics, jilted lovers demanding revenge, middle aged women longing for a child. They all brought large baskets laden with offerings upon each visitation. Fine black lace dresses, ruby rings, pearl necklaces, perfumes or the standard pouches of gold coins were her favorites. However, fire cast loaves of bread still powdery and warm or, the most expensive cuts of meat from the butcher’s shop sufficed.

The most desperate people would spare no lavish expense upon Agitha in the hopes of attaining her help. As secluded as her home may have been from the outside world, she still managed to receive an extensive amount of these urgent visitors. Earlier that day she had had a knock at her door. A shy young woman had stood on her doorstep, misty eyed as she had extended a wicker basket towards Agitha. The witch had looked upon the girl pensively for a moment before she sharply threw the handkerchief covering the basket aside to check the contents.

A dark bottle of red wine, a block of cheese, seasoned almonds, a thin bottle of narcissus petals in fragrant oil, and a pair of silver earrings. The earrings were shaped like two dangling snakes, their emerald eyes glinted as if they were truly alive. Agitha had thrown the cloth back atop the items and instantly knew the desperation for help in this girl was great. “Your desire?” Agitha had questioned. The young woman’s unkempt black bun of frizzing hair and teary eyes lead Agitha to guess this woman had been plagued by some form of tragedy. It turned out that the young woman’s brother of nine years was on his death bed. She sought out his full recovery.

It was nearly midnight now as Agitha’s bony white fingers set to work with the ingredients before her. With a small pair of metal pinchers, she extracted two dragonfly wings from a small vile-for a swift recovery-and dropped them into the clay bowl in front of her. She uncorked another bottle and added five drops of sparrow’s blood for life force. Half a cup of rejuvenating river water, three drops of honey for sweetness of life, half a vile of jasmine for soothing, frog’s legs to spring life back into the boy, and a hair from his head that had been carefully concealed in a napkin. All these were mixed together with great care in the silence of her small cabin.

Now she needed to await the glow of the moon to show in the night into the bowl to complete the potion. The glow would help restore the glow into his youthful cheeks as the final touch. Next, she would boil it all and then pour the steaming potion at the base of one of her pink roses outside. The rose would then be dug up by the roots, a small cloth would be tied round the roots to keep them intact, and then the entire flower would be ground down and swallowed by the spoonful. After just one spoonful of the enchanted flower, the boy’s health was guaranteed to improve immediately.

Agitha would have her pet raven deliver the rose to the young woman’s pillow that night. She had specifically instructed the woman to sleep with her window left open that night to ensure the delivery of the rose. Agitha cleared away all of the viles and bottles to their respective shelves, removed the stew from the fire, and peered out her front door at the night sky. The wind had blown through the sky and the moon had begun to show from behind the purple swirls of clouds above. Grabbing the smooth clay bowl, she walked out of her front door into the night.

Carefully, she raised the bowl and its contents before her at shoulder level. Gazing up, she gently sighed over the bowl and then blew an intentional soft puff of air over it. Instantly, the clouds cleared and the moon cast its soft light down upon her. “Perfect,” she thought to herself as she gently smiled. The milky illumination of the moon lit up her form. Her dark brown hair had been secured atop her head and covered with the hood of her cloak. Her fair skin beneath the light of the moon seemed to emit light in the middle of the dark forest as if magic was radiating from her very person.

Agitha peered down into the bowl as she turned to open the door to her home. But wait! What was this? She let out a startled yell, nearly dropping the bowl but caught it just in time. She was sure she had seen the face of a man in the reflection of the bowl. With one hand on the door knob, she put her back to the door and looked about her in confusion.

The trees continued to rustle as the wind blew back her hood. Loose strands of her wavy hair danced about her face as she continued to look around. But she saw no one. Turning around, she slammed the door behind her. What was that? Who had she seen? Shaking her head, she busily set her focus on the potion now boiling in a small black cauldron. Maybe it had just been her eyes playing tricks on her.

She allowed her hair to cascade down her back in a waterfall of wavy brown tresses as sipped at some chamomile tea to calm her nerves. Her pet raven Cunningham watched her silently with one eye from his suspended cage near the cupboards. Once the potion had boiled and she had properly prepared the rose, she opened Cunningham’s cage. Perched on her finger, she opened a window. She inserted the stem of the rose into Cunningham’s beak and let him take flight as she promptly shut the window behind him.

She walked across the room and pulled out a large fur skin rug from atop a shelf and unfurled it luxuriously over the floor boards near the fire place. She rested her head against a red satin pillow as she burrowed herself into silk lined fur blankets of black panther skins. A sailor who had traveled abroad had purchased the furs from Amazonian tribesmen in the jungles of South America long ago. He had paid Agitha his most precious and exotic furs in exchange for the hand of the woman of his desire. After he had swirled three drops of his blood into the love potion to complete the spell, he had managed to somehow trick the woman into drinking the enchantment.

To his delight, they had wed one week later. It was too bad that not three weeks into their marriage, the wife had flown into a fit of jealous rage and hacked him to pieces in his sleep. Magic spells guaranteed the specific desire was obtained, but overall long term outcomes after the magic had done its work, well that was always unpredictable. The flames from her fireplace flickered in the reflection of Agitha’s large eyes as she lay there motionless amongst the soft furs. Shadows lingered all about the room watching over her silently from the corners of her home.

The front door suddenly burst open causing Agitha to shoot up at once. Heart pounding, she laughed to herself as she realized a particularly strong gust of wind had blown the door open. Parchment papers fluttered and spell books flapped open on the table as she went to shut the door against the wind. Dragging a large chest full of precious garments and jewelry she had come to acquire over the years, she set it against the door to ensure it did not open again. As Agitha turned around to face the room, a hand seized her by the throat.

She was violently thrown back against the wall as she clasped at the hand wrapped around her neck. Gasping for air, she gazed up to see the strong hand currently choking her belonged to a man. “Do you know who I am?” he whispered menacingly at her. She shook her head no, still gasping for air as she clawed away at his hand. His furrowed eyebrows rested above large, completely black, ferocious eyes. As she looked into his eyes, a flood of terror came over her.

His lips parted into a demented smile that made the blood in her veins stand still. She began to feel weak from lack of oxygen, but just as she nearly fell faint, he released his grip from around her throat. Gagging and coughing, she sank to the floor trying to regain her breath. He looked down at her silently, the evil grin still fixed across his face. Agitha finally managed to splutter, “Who are you? What do you want?” He tilted his head back as he maliciously laughed without resignation. The laughter boomed through the cabin and made her head pound.

Abruptly, his laughter ceased and he stooped down to meet her gaze, his nose nearly touching hers. His black hair was slicked back and glistened in the fire light. He chattered his sharp, perfectly white teeth at her slowly; reminiscent of a wolf preparing to feast on its prey. “If it’s riches you want, I have plenty,” offered Agitha in alarm. “Take it all.” She hoped her offer would suffice and that he would soon leave. “I don’t want any of your things,” he replied in a tone slightly above a whisper. Slowly he went on, “I’ve come here to collect,” and here he paused as he raised his eyebrows with a look of amusement. “What? What do you want?” she persisted growing angry at this lunatic who had broken into her home.

She was becoming more furious by the second. If this stranger thought he could enter her home, harass and rob her as a thief in the night, with no consequences…Well she would be sure to use one of her most heinous spells to make him suffer one-thousand different ways. She would leave him begging for death by the time she was finished repaying him for all of this. He continued to watch her as he backed a few inches away from her face as he let out a snicker of laughter.

“This is why I like you. That fire you have within,” the man said with a small chuckle as he waged a finger at her condescendingly. “I know what you are thinking,” he continued. “No amount of Egyptian’s alligator tears, bat’s blood, or ground stoned powder from mountains at the ends of the earth will even slightly affect me. You cannot so much as lay harm to the smallest fingernail on my hand,” he sneered as he raised a wiggling pinky finger in mockery.

His crisp white suit was unblemished from head to toe. She wondered how he had traveled out so far through the woods without the faintest trace of his journey showing on his attire. Even his polished black shoes were immaculate. Her bosom rose and fell as she breathed heavily in anger. Her hair was in disarray and had fallen over now covering half of her face. “Oh, don’t be that way,” he teased vindictively as he cleared the hair from her face. She dodged his hand as she glared at him with contempt, yet remained silent.

Now at the mercy of this powerful stranger, she was unsure of what to do next, so she sat and waited. “Why do you think you and your mother have been so skilled at witchcraft?” he abruptly questioned. What an absurd question she thought to herself. How did he know anything about her or her mother? Who was this man? The fire had begun to dwindle down. The room went black, but they remained where they were.

His eyes began to radiate a red light and suddenly flames burst from the hearth. The fire was crackling loudly in the hearth once more. “Your mother, when she was a young woman, she desired to be a highly skilled witch.” The man now stood over Agitha as she looked up at him. He went on, “She made the devil a promise in blood. If her wishes were granted to her and she obtained the skills she so dearly desired, she vowed to give her only daughter to him in marriage.” Agitha remained frozen, eyes widening as she came to the realization of what he was revealing to her. “So now,” he said as he eyed Agitha’s delicate form clothed in her silk and lace maroon dress, “I have come to collect.”

“No,” whispered Agitha as one of her hands clasped her neck in alarm. “Oh yes,” retorted the man. The smile had gone from his face, and the greedy blank stare of a vicious animal was facing her now. He grabbed her left hand with his left hand and held them up intertwined together. A dark voice rumbled all about them, “A life begun in an oath of blood, now sealed to end in an oath of blood!” A green flame enveloped their hands as Agitha screamed and fought to break away. The nails of his right hand grew into claws as the house shook all around them.

He pierced her left wrist in the flames and caught some of the crimson drops in his mouth. Smashing his open mouth into hers, his sharp teeth ripped into her lips as blood smeared across their mouths. Her silver snake earrings had come to life and bit at her neck repeatedly with their piercing fangs. Releasing her from the kiss, he hauled Agitha across the room to the fireplace where the violent red flames were now shooting out twelve feet tall. Releasing their clasped hands, he raised both arms and shouted over the rumbling of the house and the roaring of the fire, “We are sealed together as one forever now my love!”

She stood hunched over in pain from her left hand crying and screaming repeatedly in anguish, “No!” He grabbed her by the left wrist and smirked as he admired the small diamond skull with ruby eyes that had been permanently welded into the flesh of her wedding finger. The ring’s band was made completely of piercing black thorns secured tightly to her flesh, and blood oozed down her hand as she ran for her front door. She let out a final scream of terror as he caught her by the waist just inches from the door. With a final twisted smile, he flung her into the flames.

The fire instantly enveloped her and she disappeared. He took one last look about the room and then followed her into the eternal flames of the nether world. The fire instantly died, the rumbling of the cabin ceased, and darkness fell upon the silent cabin. The next morning, the faint light emitting from behind the gray clouds shone through the window shutters that had blown open the night before. A few drops of blood stained the floorboards near the smoldering hearth. It was at this time that Cunningham had returned and perched himself atop the windowsill. Seeing that his home was now devoid of his master, his long wings flapped as he took flight and disappeared into the surrounding forest mist.

Credit To – miss ivory

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Knock

July 29, 2015 at 12:00 PM
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We all have that one story, don’t we? The one you grow up thinking about, but never actually grow the balls to tell anyone. Well this is my story. I don’t know what I’m hoping to accomplish by telling you. Maybe I’m looking for someone to tell me that I’m not insane, or maybe once I put it on paper it will…Hell, I don’t know. Just someone read this…just please.

Let me give you a little background. Twenty years ago when I was eight years old, still living with my mom. My friend Dave and I decided that we would brave “The House”. Now, The House was an abandoned two story home, that had been empty going on ten years, save for the occasional drug abuser that would sleep in it. However that’s not what made this particular house special. The standing rumor is what made it interesting.

For as long as I can remember adults in my neighborhood had told us, the children, that it was haunted. I’m sure it was just their way of getting us not to play in it though. Regardless, because of that, the house had a sort of ominous aura that hung around it. Just looking at that decaying building would give you the shivers. Although despite our inherent fear of the place, Dave and I decided we would explore this house We would become legends in our own right, at least that’s what we hoped.

It was Tuesday all those years ago, well past midnight, and both of our parents had fallen asleep. The two of us decided we would sneak out, you know, use the night as our cover. We agreed it would be best to meet up in front of The House. Still, I wish we hadn’t agreed to do it.

There I was…alone, waiting in front of The House for my friend. I couldn’t help but feel small when I looked at it. It might have been old, and the wood may have been rotting, but man did it look enormous. I bet even adults felt dwarfed by it. To keep myself from chickening out, I decided to think about something else while I waited; it was a little cold that night, which was the typical weather after a hard rain. “Ah, crap.” I muttered, noticing the mud that covered my shoes. I should have paid more attention to where I was stepping. “Mom is going to kill me when she…” my voice trailed off when I heard a dull thud from behind me. Sounded like someone knocked a door.

Was…was it the house, or was I just imagining things? I spun around expecting to see a hairy monster behind me, instead it was just The House; broken windows, splintered wood, and roof that had more than a few holes in it. Just the usual, nothing to panic about. I should have been relieved, but I found myself slightly shaken. Soon I would be stepping into one of the most feared places in our neighborhood. I wasn’t even inside yet, and I could already feel the slight tremor in my hand.

Before I could reconsider the mission Dave arrived. I quickly stuffed my hands into my pockets to hide the quiver. I could see his small figure bouncing up and down. The little jokester was skipping across the street. My fears were immediately replaced with giddy laughter. “You’re such a clown,” I managed to say in-between my giggles. We both reached out and shook hands, like his father had taught us. Luckily he didn’t notice the tremor.

Dave used his hands to smooth back his black hair, kind of like a greaser would in a cliched movie. “You ready for this?” He nodded towards the door. Typical Dave, he always tried to look cool. Whether it be riding his bike with no hands, or sneaking into an abandoned house, he never failed to give off the “I’m a badass” vibe.

I tried my best to sound nonchalant, “Only if you are, Davey.” The comment awarded me a slight snicker. Dave hated it when I called him Davey. He said it sounded girly, and that’s exactly why I used it. Rather than shoot a retort at me, he simply nudged me towards the house, and we began walking to the door. Our small feet made quiet echoes in the street, I was worried we might wake someone. If we had any doubts about what we were doing, that moment would have been the right time to bail out.

Of course, as per the norm, stupidity got the better of us. The second our feet hit the old steps, we knew there would be no turning back. “Think we should knock?” Dave joked. Seeing him act all cool somehow gave me courage, and so I knocked. What I heard made the hair on my neck stand at attention. The same thud I had heard from earlier reverberated through the door when my knuckles landed. I gulped loudly, but maintained an overall calm composure.

The two of us breathed in deeply, turned the door knob, and pushed the door open. We received a long drawn out creak as payment. I thought I was going to pee my pants, and Davey looked like he was about to shit a brick. Somehow we managed to keep our undies clean. It was dark, real dark. Neither one of had brought a flashlight, we didn’t want to accidentally wake up a neighbor by shining a light in their house. Given the circumstances, we decided it was best to use moonlight.

Our eyes were met with a dimly lit house, it took a minute to adjust to. The house was littered with trash, covered in graffiti, and was seemingly falling apart all over. And yet it didn’t seem as frightening as we were led to believe. Sure the darkness made it look spooky, but as I looked at the cracked marble floor, I couldn’t help but be reminded of my house. “Huh, this isn’t so bad.” It was me who broke the silence.

“Do you think the ghost will be pissed that we tracked mud in the house?” Dave laughed and pointed at the floor. Little footprints followed us all over the house. “Remind me to clean my shoes before I go back home.” I giggled at the thought. Here we are in the big spooky house, cracking jokes about muddy shoes. It was all fun and games. After familiarizing ourselves with the first floor – which consisted of an empty living room, a kitchen with rotted food in the cupboards, a bathroom with a disgusting toilet, and a curious looking locked door – we decided to explore the second floor.

We ascended the stairs together, Dave leading with his brave face on. The wooden stairs were old, much like the rest of the house, and each step left us wondering if it would collapse beneath us. “Think the ghost is up there?” I asked, half sincere.

Dave chuckled at the question, “Ghosts probably aren’t even real.” We had reached the end of the stairs, and were on the top floor. It wasn’t a big second story. Two hallways, one to the right and one to the left. Four rooms for the two of us to explore. “Let’s go left.” Dave suggested. So we went left, and into the first door on the right.

The door was already open, so we just peaked our heads in. The first thing I noticed was the hole in the roof. Moonlight was shining through it, and it gave us a faint light to survey the room with. It wasn’t a very kind room, actually it was kind of like my room. Probably big enough to have a bed, dresser, maybe a desk could fit in it too. We couldn’t see inside of the closet though, the light didn’t quite reach it. Dave looked at me, and I looked at him. “I bet there’s something cool in there. Let’s go look.” Dave suggested with a mischievous smile. Not sure what we were hoping for exactly. A treasure in a closet or something?

Just before I stepped into the room, I heard the familiar thud noise. The one that was made before, and when, I knocked on the door. My heart felt like it was going to stop. The noise was distant, but there was no mistaking it. My first instinct was to run, but I couldn’t leave Dave behind; he of course paid no mind to it. Hell, he was already in the room walking towards the closet. And it was at that moment that things went to hell, I never even had the chance to warn him.

The second Dave stepped foot in the center of the room, there was a frightening crack. He didn’t have time to react. The wood splintered, the ground beneath him gave way, and he fell through the floor. I nearly jumped out of my skin. Everything in front of me was crashing down. The wood was so old and decayed that it couldn’t even support Davey. Dust and dirt flew everywhere, by the time it was over, it was hard to breathe. Wait…Dave didn’t make a sound. Did he die on impact? Was he okay? My mind had never asked raced so faced. “Dave!” I shouted in-between coughs. “Dave are you okay?!” I repeated the question a few more times, and waited. After an agonizing minute I got my response.

“I’m okay,” he answered weakly. “Not a scratch on me.” I peered down the large hole that was now in front of me. Dust was everywhere, but as it cleared I could see him more clearly; there was Dave and he was completely intact. “And guess where I am?” I sighed deeply, glad that he hadn’t lot his sense of adventure. “I’m in the locked room, get down here, I’ll open the door for you.” He wiped the dirt off of his forehead and motioned for me to come down. I obediently turned around and headed for the stairs, preferring to take the safe route down.

As I reached the bottom of the stairs I noticed something odd. Were those big footprints always there? Two frighteningly large footprints had been left on the floor. There was something odd about them though…they didn’t look human. Too big, four toes, and they were round. My imagination quickly got the better of me, and I could feel the panic rising quickly. I was starting to feel nauseous, even more so when I realized the footsteps were leading to the room that Dave was in. I glanced at the front door, it was open. I could leave right now, run home, and tell my parents to call the police; we didn’t have cell phones back then. But I didn’t do any of that, I just kept walking towards the locked room.

The door was open, and I could see shadows dancing on the door frame. There were two shadows, one big one small. The larger shadow was pounding into the smaller one. I could hear the blows landing. Thump…thump, thump thump. Each time it hit, Dave would whimper. I was frozen in place. The door was only a few feet away, but I couldn’t bring myself to take another step. I wanted to save my friend, but I just couldn’t move. I could only stand there and watch the shadows. “Please..sto-” Smash. The last hit was harder than any of the others ones, I could hear the bones break from where I was standing. Dave’s shadow stopped moving. The larger shadow picked up the frail little body, and began slashing into it with what looked like a blade. A dark liquid splashed onto the door, and started oozing towards the floor. I wanted to puke.

I could feel hot liquid running down my pants. Must have been scared enough to piss myself. I looked at the floor and saw the puddle that I had made. It was time to leave. I took one last glance at the door, and what I saw when I looked up still haunts me today. A large humanoid figure stood in the door way holding Dave’s body. It was too dark to see it clearly, but I got a peak at its eyes; its big blue eyes. Big and blue like the ocean, and the waves were rippling with rage.

I wanted to leave. No, I needed to leave but my legs refused to move. They were anchored to the floor, fear had stopped them completely. My heart on the other hand was moving, it was moving very fast. Reluctantly I stood there…staring at the monster that was holding my dead friend. It didn’t take long for our eyes to meet. We stood there in a eternal staring contest, I was too afraid to blink. I remember thinking that if I closed my eyes I would never open them again.

It was only after two long minutes that I could finally feel my legs again, so I slowly took a step back. The monster mimicked my movements by stepping forward each time I took a step back. My heart sunk when I realized what it was doing. Every molecule in my body was telling me to turn around and sprint, but could I really outrun this monstrosity? No, there was no way. I decided to keep my pace, buy myself time until I got to the door.

Once we reached the living room it dropped Dave, outstretched its arms towards me, and grinned. It was the single most wicked thing I had experienced in my life. The monster’s grin, from corner to corner, reached both of its eyes. His teeth were long, white, like a shark. We were almost at the door, but he was no longer mimicking my steps.

For each step I took, he took two. Step by step he was closing the gap. The moonlight from the window shined on his outstretched arm. Its hand was human-like, only there was something off about it. The nails were long, the skin was rotted, and some of the flesh looked like it had scratched off. It was enough to make me dizzy. Soon I could hear it breathing. Each breath was labored, it was almost wheezing. One more step and I would see its entire body in the moonlight. I didn’t want that.

The thought alone was enough to make me turn, grab the door knob, throw it open, and rush out of the house. I didn’t dare look over my shoulder until there was some distance between the two of us. I expected to turn around and see the monster lumbering after me, but surprisingly it wasn’t. The monster never came out of the house. It didn’t chase me down the street. It didn’t rip me to pieces. It just stood there, on the porch, waving goodbye. Its malformed hand slowly rocking back and forth, with the same deranged smile on its face.

A few days later, when the police report was made public, my parents told me that the monster was, “Just a hobo on drugs.” The police had found Dave’s body next to a dead homeless man. Apparently he had overdosed shortly after I had left. I try to tell myself that I was just imagining things, and that there was no monster, but I don’t know what to believe. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, I can’t get that fucking smile out of my head. I’m done with this, if I write anymore I’ll start having nightmares again. Food’s here anyway, I just heard a knock at the door.

Credit To – I_Own_Cows

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The Dumfries

July 29, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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“Don’t let them have anything to eat,” Mrs Dumfries said, rummaging through her handbag that weighed down her shoulder.

“I’ll be fine,” I said, trying to give a reassuring smile.

“Of course you will. Nothing will go wrong, I’m sure,” Mr Dumfries nodded.

“And they have to be in bed by seven, not a second later.”

“Yes, Mrs Dumfries,” I said, trying to not sound impatient. She looked around the room one more time before looking at me again. “And don’t let them watch TV. They got nightmares from last time you let them. Having to console two terrified children for weeks was–”

“I’m sorry, Mrs Dumfries.” I remembered the last time I’d babysat her children. I let them watch Saw right before going to bed – never let two seven year-olds watch Saw.

“We’ll be late, honey,” Mr Dumfries said, tapping his Rolex. “He’ll be fine.”

He was wrong. As you’ll find out, I wouldn’t be fine.

I was fifteen and Mr and Mrs Dumfries had asked me to look after their two kids whilst they went out for the night. After the last time’s Saw debacle, I didn’t think I’d get another chance. So when they asked me out of the blue, I jumped at the opportunity to earn £20 for sitting in their living room whilst occasionally checking up on the children.

The door slammed shut and the requests started to fly.

“Mummy said we could have ice-cream,” said the blonde-haired child.

“No, she didn’t, Harry,” I told him, lying back in the sofa. I turned on the TV, being careful not to land on any scary programs.

“But we want it!” screamed the brunette child, stomping her feet.

“Tough, Sarah,” I said, sighing and turning the TV off. “Let’s do something else instead, then.”

The house in which the Dumfries lived was from the late 19th century, and was very large. The kids liked to play hide-and-seek, but the house’s endless labyrinth of corridors and its nooks and crannies meant it was almost impossible for me to find them. That night, we decided to play.

“…Nineteen, twenty. Ready or not, here I come!” My voice boomed. Looking around, I was greeted by absolute stillness. It was just dark outside, and the only lights on in the house were the ones in room I was in. As I walked into the next room, I felt something brush past me. “Gotcha!” I screamed, turning round to see what had touched me. Nothing. I paused for a moment. I blamed it on a draught from the old, rickety front door and continued deeper into the house.

The shrilled, terrified cry of Sarah startled me. “Help!” she bawled. I started to run towards her voice, the old floorboards creaking below my feet.

“Sarah, where are you?” I shouted, opening the door to a cupboard. In it, Sarah was standing on her tiptoes, her hands covering her eyes. “What is it?” I asked, trying to see the source of her horror. She pointed to a large, black dot on the floor. “A spider? Seriously, Sarah?”

“Its teeth are humongous!”
I remember laughing, and with one quick movement I crushed the spider under my shoe. “There.”

“No!” she said as she began to cry again. “That’s a bad omen.”

Harry walked into the cupboard, jumping up and down triumphantly. “I win, I win!”

“That’s enough of that game,” I said, turning the cupboard light off and rubbing his hair.

“No, let’s play again!”

“No,” I said adamantly.

You can’t win with children, so we played again. This time Sarah was the seeker. I decided to hide in a small wardrobe in the spare bedroom upstairs. I shut the door behind me and I was plunged into darkness. I sat down on the cramped floor and took out my phone. No battery – great. I stood back up to find somewhere else to hide, perhaps with a little light. I pushed on the door, only to find it didn’t budge. I pushed again, fumbling in the blackness for a handle of some sort. Shit, I thought.

“Harry? Sarah? Could you come here please?” I called out, knocking on the wood. Nothing. “Hello?”

“Yes?” a quiet voice replied.

“Harry? Open the door?” I knocked once again. This time, something knocked back.

“Harry, this isn’t funny! Open the fucking door!” I was pushing hard against the wood now. “I swear to God, I’ll kill you, Harry, once I get out. Let me out!”

I could hear cackling now. A deep, throaty chuckle resonated around the room. The door to the room opened. I stopped tapping on the wardrobe now, and instead I had covered my face with my hands, and scrunched my eyes up tightly, blocking out what little light was seeping into the cupboard. The cupboard door opened, and a cold hand touched my arm.

“Brad?” Harry asked, tapping me. I opened my eyes, shaking like a madman, to the sight of Harry standing over me. His face was a mixture of perplexed amusement. “Are you okay?” he said, a smile creeping over his lips.

“Yeah… I, did you…?”

“Did I what? Sarah found me.”

“No, I… where’s Sarah?”

Harry shrugged, and hopped out of the room happily. I slowly got up out of the cupboard, taking one last look around the room.

Later that night, after the children were asleep, the phone rang.

“Hello?” I said, putting the phone to my ear.

“Hide the kids,” replied a throaty voice.

“Excuse me?” I said with a small catch in my throat.

“Look out the window.”

I dropped the phone, not daring to look out the window. Instead, I went into the corner and curled up into a ball. I don’t know what I thought was there. I felt a presence, and a stream of cold air hit me as the front door burst open. I was crying at this point, bracing myself for something to grab or hurt me.

“Leave me alone!” I screamed, tears streaming down my face. Instead of the icy grip of a murderer or whatever I thought was there, there was laughing.

“You stupid prat!” sniggered a voice: Mrs Dumfries. “What are you – five?”

“I can’t believe you fell for it,” said Mr Dumfries, his face red from amusement.

I couldn’t believe it. The Dumfries had done everything.

“That’s what you get for showing our kids horror movies, Brad,” smiled Mr Dumfries, “Karma.”

“You…” I couldn’t spit out the words. I fell for everything they did. I believed I was going to die. “How could you…?”

“It’s called payback, Brad. Our children were in pieces for months. Harry wet the bed every single fucking night. Sarah woke up with night terrors, screaming about her arm getting sawn off. And you’re asking how we could do this?” Mrs Dumfries ranted.

“I was sorry! I didn’t mean to harm them.”

“But you did,” Mrs Dumfries spat back.

“And we don’t mean to harm you,” Mr Dumfries said coldly.

“W-what?” I stuttered.

“Sarah had dreams of her arm being cut off. Every night we’d have to console her. She swore that her pain was real. Imagine feeling that pain, Brad.”

“I don’t–”

“You will,” smiled Mr Dumfries. He slowly opened his bag, not losing eye contact with me. He pulled out a saw.

“What the fuck?!” I screamed, trying to push past him. Mrs Dumfries kicked me in the groin with her heel and I fell to my knees, as if begging for mercy. “Get off me, you crazy psychos!”

Mr Dumfries placed the saw against the pale flesh on my arm, and began to push down hard. “No!” I cried, blood spurting from my arm. I tried lashing out, thrashing with all my strength, but Mrs Dumfries seemed to be superhuman. I started to feel dizzy. The pain became unbearable, and the last thing I remember seeing before I blacked-out is the crazed face of Mr Dumfries burst out laughing as he waved my mutilated arm in front of me.

Credit To – MrG

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