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A Study In Fear

July 22, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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It seems wrong to imagine such horror beginning so calmly. As I drove to the hospital last night, I remember vividly the warmth of the inside of the car, made all the more comfortable by the snow blanketing the landscape around me; I felt enveloped in the seat as I watched the white flakes gracefully fall around me, flashing passed my windows. The gentle sound of the windshield wiper motor mingled in chorus with the sound of the road rushing by. It seemed, at the time, a perfect moment.

It was the ideal kind of night for the fear study to which I’d been assigned. The volunteers would be comfortable and relaxed when they came in. It was all very fascinating, and I continued despite my aversion to the night shift. I’d managed to avoid night shifts for a long time, by getting into the research division of neurosciences. That was a large part of the reason I’d taken the position in the first place. However, this leg of the assignment was just a week, and I felt I could muddle through.

As I pulled into the lot of the hospital, a state of the art, towering building with lots of windows, I remember thinking how sheepish it looked under all the snow. It usually seemed so dominating. I stepped into the warm lobby and ascended the elevator to my office, where the volunteers were quite anxious to get started. I put on my most formidable expression and strolled into the room, where three men and three women stood.

“Good evening, everyone, I’m doctor Montgomery Thorne.” I took them in carefully, trying to decide how comfortable I really wanted to make them. In the six faces I saw some anxiety, some distant interest, and just a little nonchalance. They all clearly felt a little out of element. “I appreciate your coming,” I said, “let me give you a run through of the night.”
”Four of you will be given a small pill. Two of these are placebo, but two of them should activate your adrenergic receptors and cancel your fear response. The other two of you will be given nothing. You’ll be hooked up to a monitoring machine whilst you watch a horror movie, tailored to what you told us you were scared of, and then you’ll try to sleep afterward and we’ll see what happens to your brainwaves. Questions?”

“What if we can’t sleep?” asked the largest man, in a deep voice. Peter, his name badge read. I smiled and answered, “I suspect that several of you won’t be able to sleep. That’s fine, trouble sleeping is a fear response and just as helpful.”
“How, uh, how scary-I mean, are the movies-“ the young woman with a name badge reading ‘Marie’ stuttered out.
I sighed a little to myself, and cut her off before she could stammer away further. “The movies are simple high rated pre-releases we’ve been allowed to use for the experiment; they aren’t particularly gory, just a nice combination of creepiness and jump scares to get your heart rate up a little. That’s all. Nothing to be worried about, I promise. Anyway,” I continued, ignoring another man who had just begun to nervously raise his hand, “your rooms are this way. Please follow me.”

The hospital was absolutely perfect for this. We ascended several floors, and I chose to take them down the dark stairwell, and through the halls with just emergency lights illuminating the way. The participants made some light conversation with each other, nervously discussed what they were doing and several made mention of how creepy the hospital was. One even mentioned something in the shadows. It was then that I began to get the impression of being watched, but with the dark halls and empty rooms, and so many sick people on the floors around us, I supposed that anyone would be nervous in this place. I led them to a hall with six doors, six rooms, and helped each of them get comfortable. My unease began to get the better of me, as I caught myself uncomfortable for just the few steps I had to take alone between rooms. Alas, I had a job to do. I checked their EEG headpieces and left them to it. An hour after I had arrived at the hospital, I was in the monitoring room, watching tiredly the graphs from the machine and the feeds from the cameras in each room. A half an hour later, despite the creaking walls and darkness, I found myself nodding off. I fell asleep for only a moment, just long enough for that shocking feeling of falling to jerk me back to reality.

Damn, I thought. I glanced over all the feeds. Everything was going well. I laughed as I watched the man in room four practically jump out of his chair from whatever he was watching. The man then looked up at the camera; probably wondering if I had seen him jump. Sure did, I mused, but the man continued to stare. I peered back into the monitor, growing uneasy, and noticed the reflections in the man’s eyes; something was moving. I decided that it must be a loose air vent, or perhaps a tear in the wallpaper. I peered over at the EEG scans for that room and saw, with no small amount of irritation, nothing. The brainwaves had flat lined. I looked back at the camera feed; something was wrong. The man was wearing his headpiece; it just wasn’t reading. I looked deeper still into the monitor, and a chill ran down my spine from a nagging feeling that something about the room was very off. Finally, I shook my head clear, stretched, and made my way toward the door to check on room four. In my tired stupor, I walked right into it with a loud thud.

Damn, I though again. I could swear I left this open. I pulled on the handle, which clicked oddly when it turned, and pulled on the door, but it didn’t open. My irritation grew, and I pulled harder, and saw the door flex back into the frame, as though it were fighting me. Naturally, I thought it was my tired imagination at work. I shook my head again and yanked it open as hard as he could; it came free and I fell backward, right into the computer. The monitors all went out.

Shit! I cursed loudly as my hand fumbled in the dark behind the computer and found a loose cord; thank God, the monitors had just come unplugged. I plugged them back in and looked up to see only static. Static? That made no sense. I sat down and was about to check the wires when I saw a face in the static of monitor three. A chill ran down my spine as I held my gaze to it, studying it; it seemed to be smiling. Its mouth then opened wide, and suddenly the monitors popped back on. Marie, in room three, was now sitting with her back against the wall, staring up at the camera, crying. She looked like she was pleading. I felt bad for her, but she had signed the waiver, and it was my job to make sure the test continued. The woman in room one had her hand down just below the view of the camera, making a motion as though she were petting something. Her eyes were glued to the television in terror. I peered at the monitors closely, unsure of what to do. If I went into the room, I’d interrupt the test. But what the hell was the room one woman doing? Pretending to pet a dog? Maybe that was how she coped with fear. Could be worse, I supposed. I turned back toward the door, this time to check on rooms four and three, and as I did so, a small shadow bolted away from across the hall.

My heart was then set firmly in my throat. Damn it, I thought, I could’ve hooked myself into an EEG. I slowly peered my head out from the doorway, looked both ways down the hall, and saw nothing. I sighed and shuffled over to room four, but as my hand approached the doorknob, I got a terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. Something had occurred to me, and I bolted back into the monitor room and looked at the room four feed again. It was the walls. There was a very faint pattern running along the walls, absent in all of the other rooms; or, for that matter, any part of the hospital I had ever seen; some faint pink abstract lines against the usual green. It was barely perceptible, not something I would’ve even noticed if I hadn’t already been so nervous. With that thought, I headed back out to room four. The same ominous feeling crawled over my skin as I neared the door, and I felt my blood run cold as I grasped the doorknob; steeling my resolve, I twisted it open. An odd sigh came from the door, and then there was a scream and a warm rush of air against me. I leaped from the door in shock, heart once again in my throat. The man within peered out of the room and asked, “everything ok, doc?”

Scream. The movie, of course. Jesus. “Yeah,” I said, trying to hold my voice steady, “something’s wrong with your EEG.”
“I think something’s wrong with my room.” Justin, his name tag said.
“Like what?”
“Well, for one, the TV doesn’t work.”
Surprised, I looked up. Indeed, the TV wasn’t working. Another chill ran down my spine. “Did you hear a scream just now?”
“No.” Justin looked up at the camera. Something about his gaze shook my soul, and I looked up as well, but didn’t see anything. Uneasiness danced in my stomach. Finally, I tore my gaze away, looked over the machine, then unplugged the wire leading out to the headpiece; red fluid trickled out of the plug. Puzzled, and my uneasiness building, I looked up at Justin. “Did you unplug this?”
Justin shook his head. “No, he did.” He pointed up toward the camera. I looked up again, to the empty corner, the shadow behind the camera. I looked back down at Justin. Then at the strange patterns on the walls. “Who did?”
“I think you’re losing it, man. Can I keep watching?”
Now thoroughly confused, I looked up at the dead TV again. “Yeah, uh,” I looked back at Justin, “you want to watch a blank TV?”
“That’s not what I’m watching.” Justin smiled wide, and then gazed back up to the camera. My confusion and uneasiness mingled with fear, and I slowly backed out of the room and shut the door.

As I did so, I heard a bang from room three. I stepped toward the door and for a fleeting moment, begged myself to check the monitors first; but something about seeing Justin staring at me through the monitor was too much for me to even consider. I opened the door to a room in unnatural darkness, and there was the woman within, staring at me as though she expected me to be there. It was Marie, the girl who’d sounded so scared earlier; she was shaking, on the verge of crying. “Doctor, is this part of the test?” She pointed to the wall.

Even in the dark I could see the pink pattern running itself down under the wallpaper. With a sudden, horrified realization, and with what I can only describe as animal instinct, I dug my nails into the wallpaper and ripped a chunk of it away; red fluid spattered out of the opening. Some landed in my mouth, and with a disturbing bewilderment, I tasted blood. Spitting, I turned, and involuntarily leaped back into the bloody wall when I saw Marie standing almost right up against me, the light from the hall illuminating her features sideways and twisting her face.

“What’s wrong, doctor?” Her voice was shaking, and she stepped toward me, then looked up at the camera. My gaze followed, and this time, there was movement in the shadow of the corner behind it. I looked back to Marie, terrified, but she simply pressed her finger to her lips. I then slid against the wall, smearing blood against my back, trying desperately to get away from her, and she just stood, watching. I stumbled out of the room and grabbed the phone across the hall.

“Emergency number,” I mumbled, dialing, and pressed the phone to my ear. I turned around as it rang and saw Marie in her doorway, still wearing her headpiece, looking up at the camera and sobbing. Then, finally, there was a click on the other line, the sound of the phone being answered. “Hello?” I asked pleadingly, but all I heard was breathing.

“Hello?” I felt my eyes tear up in fear. The heavy breathing turned to growls, and I slammed the phone back down. Marie was now looking at me- no, she was looking at the ceiling above me. A cold chill shook me to the core; don’t look up, I thought, I refuse to look up; and, pressed against the wall, I slid back into the monitor room, closing the door behind me, just in time to see the lights in the hall go out, plunging Marie into complete darkness.

Marie’s brainwaves were all over the place, Justin’s were still flat lined, along with the woman in room two. Frankly, I couldn’t make sense of any of the patterns I saw. The woman in room one was now crouched, facing whatever she had been petting before, still off-camera. I couldn’t see her face, and I had the distinct impression that I didn’t want to. The pink was sliding down behind the wallpaper in her room. I wanted to run, just run and get the hell out of there, but I didn’t want to leave my patients behind. The woman in room two was staring at the monitor, facing away from the camera, and she wasn’t moving. As I tried to see what was on her monitor, I saw Peter, in room six, suddenly leap out of his chair toward the door, and the monitors all went out, and I was immersed again in darkness.

I threw myself against the monitor room door, with every intention of this time running straight for the exit. I yanked with all my might, but the door seemed to yank back. I kicked and pulled, kicked again, and my foot went through it. A sharp yell escaped my throat as I tried in vain to pull my foot back through, but it was no use. My leg was stuck. To my horror, I felt hands wrap around my foot and begin to pull; I thrashed against the door, but my leg was being pulled further and further in. Finally I grasped the doorknob again and pulled with all my might; this time it gave way, swung open, but with my foot firmly planted I fell backward into the wall. I kicked my other foot hard against the door and it finally came free, but my shoe was gone. I then leaped up and scurried out of the room, noting that my shoe was nowhere to be seen. The only light came from the green exit sign, casting a sickly glow and deep shadows across the hall. Marie was now huddled in her doorway, screaming at the camera in her room, or the shadow behind it; Justin was out of his room, beckoning me, his face disturbingly calm. I shook my head and slid against the wall, this time toward the exit, until I heard heavy breathing from my destination. Passed the sign, down by the stairs, two orange lights came in to view, stalking toward me. They bobbed up and down, the eyes of an animal, and I suddenly became very aware of the sound of heavy paws touching the ground, the click of claws against tile; I looked back the other way, passed the monitor room, toward the break area, but I knew there was no exit that way. With every bit of resolve I could muster, I ran across the hall, into room one.

The woman was petting the wolf with one hand, while it chewed on her other arm. It had eaten up to her elbow. My mind seemed to seize up; it was too much for me. There was simply too much to process, and I was too horrified to move. The woman looked up at me, sobbing, yet still mechanically petting the evil beast. She then gazed up at the camera above me, and again, I looked up, and finally I saw it; packed into the corner of the room and yet somehow infinite, it glared back at me. I was locked in place as it crawled down the wall, yellow eyes never blinking. Finally, as its first paw touched the floor, I snapped out of my stupor, flung the door away and ran – right into Justin, and fell to the floor. He looked at me with what I can only describe as passive indifference, and it horrified me even more still.

I struggled to get up; my legs wouldn’t cooperate. I wobbled, felt dizzy and sick, and heard abruptly the man in room five begin screaming in what sounded like abject agony. The door of room six burst open, and Peter fell face first into the floor, spattering blood all around him. “Please,” he pleaded to some unseen force, “let go of me! Please let go of me!” Justin turned and watched with nonchalance as the shadows from room six seemed to envelope Peter and drag him back inside, leaving a long streak of blood behind. I then turned my attention back toward room one, to the thing crawling out of the shadows, the twisted, broken figure of a wolf. Justin knelt beside it, and it smiled. It was a smile that made me want to scream, or weep; but I couldn’t seem to move. It crawled up to me, examining me, hot breath pushing hard against my face, the smell of death and rot permeating my nostrils. Its eyes pierced my very soul, and the walls seemed to shake, and sway back and forth with the beast’s breath; the wolf in room one was now up to the woman’s shoulder and the sounds from the stairwell had become wheezing and barking. For all the glowing eyes gazing into me and the horrors around me, I trembled greater still when my eyes fell back on Justin, leaning against the wall, as though he were bored. Where my final burst of energy came from, I’ll never know, but I leapt up and ran to the only place I had a hope of getting to; back into the damned monitor room. I’ve barricaded myself in, and done my best to make sense of all this.

Justin had the adrenergic receptor pills. As I looked through documentation I wasn’t supposed to read, I learned that the woman from room one’s worst fear is being eaten alive, and Marie had a great fear of darkness. Peter listed his fear as seeing his own organs, God help him. I am deeply thankful that the monitors aren’t working, thankful for the faces watching me in the static, for the alternative seems so much worse. I have now only this laptop and the banging and scratching from the hall. I can smell blood in here with me now. I will remain here until they get through the door, or until I’m driven mad.

They don’t know what my fears are. What will they do to me?

Credit To – C.Vox

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The Pit

July 21, 2014 at 12:00 PM
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When I was young, I had a dream. The dream itself was not an uncommon one among those who shared my age, of those on the brink of adulthood. In fact, I would say that it’s a very common ambition for anyone with the capability to imagine and to wonder. And in a way, I feel it is safe to say that we all aspire to accomplish such a dream in some aspect or another. Some seek it on an intellectual level, some seek it on an emotional one and some seek it physically.

Adventure, discovery, love, power, truth. All these words could be used to accurately describe the dream in which I had, in which we all had. Though, I doubt that any one word could completely embody the dream itself for the dream was more than just an aspiration or a wish, it was a destiny; a journey that could only ever be halted by one thing; death. For you see, our lives are the dream and by living we strive towards it.

This destined odyssey that we call life – which originates from that first initial dream – can lead us to many different places. Some of us are lead down a trail of tears; one full of agony and suffering. Others are exempt of this, and live a life of luxury and convenience. Most of us, however, end up following and living by the center road, a road that will neither be plagued by exuberant and overly frequent misery nor an utter lack of misfortune. Some find happiness and love while others only find anger and hate. Some journeys involve the destruction of nations while others bring about the construction of livelihoods which had before been unknown, anything is possible.

And in knowing this, I would gladly trade my destined discovery for any other fate, whether it be one of utter grief or the opposite; for nothing could be worse than what my scarred soul has stood witness to.

————-

The Nevada sun is one of the harshest on the planet; it beats mercilessly down upon all those who expose themselves to it, only allowing breaks from its damning heat during the freezing nights. For those who have not been born and raised in these sweltering conditions, it is easy to understand why they dread the place. Extreme heat is usually only welcome when accompanied by a large body of water, which has always been scarce in the desert wastelands of Nevada. But for someone who has lived there all their life – such as myself – it is home. Not just home, mind you, but a way of life.

To my family, those vast mountains of tanned rock and that beating sun are sacred. We were there before the Europeans first discovered America, before the sound of their thunderous muskets and cannons swept across the lands, before the east expanded into the west. But, try as hard as we did to hide, the world eventually caught up with us.

Along with the settlers came ambition and wonder. As one can imagine, it did not take long for the newcomers to discover the bountiful wealth of gold that lay just inside the mountains of our precious lands. And once the word was out, mining operations became as common in Nevada as scorpions in the sand.

Over the years, the mines dried out, as would be expected. But rather than be sealed off, many were simply… abandoned and left to be buried by time. Most of these old tunnel networks still exist today and are scattered quite abundantly throughout the otherwise sparse land.

It was in these abandoned tunnels that I found joy and wonderment as a child. While others played outside in the blistering sun, I found adventure in the forgotten excavations of those long gone. It was in these places that I felt my dreams of exploration and discovery come to pass. As a young boy, I was limited only to the ones close to home, but as I grew older, I began to branch out further and further until I found myself venturing days at a time in an old pickup to look for traces of these ancient locations.

By the time I was in my mid-twenties, my fascination with the old mines of Nevada had not diminished, rather it had grown. And with it, so had my skill in exploring them.

I was twenty seven when I discovered the ancient mine-shaft that would inevitably change my life forever. I had come to hear about it in a nearby town through a man who approached me while I was fueling up at a gas station. He made a comedic remark about the tools in the back of my truck and asked if I was out searching for mines to explore. Politely, I replied with a yes.

It was then that he spun me an extremely interesting tale. He claimed to have discovered the entrance to an old mine a couple years ago while searching for rare rocks to display in a museum he owned. According to him, it was buried under a considerable amount of brush and foliage in a canyon down the road from the gas station. What really intrigued me, however, was his suggestion that the mine had never been explored or set foot in since the old gold rush days.

Naturally, I was hesitant to believe him due to how unlikely it was that such a place would go undiscovered for so long; every mine I had ever set foot in had been picked clean by those looking for priceless relics to sell for exuberant amounts of money. Which never bothered me; the allure of ancient gold had no an effect on me. However, the thought of exploring a mine which had been completely untouched by anyone besides the miners who made it DID seem quite appealing to me.

I thanked the man and accepted his offer to reveal the location to me, which he did quite eagerly. In my logical mind, I figured I might as well try to find it since it was along the route in which I was travelling.

It hardly took any time to get there, and although it was difficult and time consuming, I did eventually find the entrance concealed beneath a considerable amount of brush and foliage, just as the man said it would be.

By that time in my life, I could have been considered a professional judged solely by the equipment I brought along. Within the large backpack I carried on my back, one would find a couple packs of glow sticks, a flashlight, provisions, water, a knife, and other miscellaneous objects useful for the exploration of such places. Some might say that this was too much, but the old tunnels had a tendency to be dangerous and entirely devoid of light, making it only careful to bring such an array of things.

As I stood before the entrance of the mine (which had undoubtedly been full of money-hungry miners and prospectors long ago), I found myself feeling… strange about the place. It was a feeling of which I can in no way describe fully; I can only say that it was neither positive nor negative. Rather, it was a kind of… anxiety, an understanding that this place would be… different. Looking back, I think that deep down I had known my fate would change that day, that my entire life would become altered by that loathsome expedition into the deep unknown. But rather than take this as a sign to turn away, my excitement twisted it so that I would only expect something marvelous.

In my mind, greatness awaited me in that cursed tunnel.

And so, I turned on my flashlight and began my journey into the core of terror itself.

————-

As I pressed onwards into the mine, I began to become disconcerted by a couple of things. The first of which was how singular the tunnel was; not once did it split off or turn in any other direction, rather it kept going in one continuous path. The second was that there was a distinct lack of relics, which were usually quite common amongst abandoned mines, especially those which had been utterly unexplored. And finally, the entire tunnel was quite steep in its decline, so much so – in fact – that I found considerable difficulty in trying to walk back up. It was as if the miners were digging directly towards something deep in the earth rather than searching for a large gold deposit as was ordinarily the circumstance.

All of these strange details did nothing but pique my curiosity, my mind began to race with ideas as to what awaited me further in the mine.

After a half hour or so, I came to a solidly smooth wall. It stood completely vertical before me without any chips or slants in it what so ever, which I found quite unusual. The obstruction was to be the end of my expedition, I thought.

Oh how wrong I was. For after examining it for a few seconds, I noticed a large… gap. Entirely natural from the look of it unlike the man made mine shaft I stood in. It appeared as if the walls had simply… pulled apart from each other, leaving a perfectly narrow passage through which one could potentially travel if he or she chose to do so.

Normally, I would have decided that it was far too dangerous to travel through such a claustrophobic crevice, but this was not a normal circumstance. I do not know for certain what compelled me to fit myself into the small opening, though I suspect that the draw of a fated destiny I had felt since entering the mine played a major role.

As I traveled through the encroaching rock and stone, I began to become weary that the passage would never come to an end, and if it did, that end would be a solid wall or a sudden and non-traversable narrowing of the tunnel. And on top of that, a strange… sensation began to arouse within me. It was entirely different from the feeling I mentioned earlier, rather it was an inkling much more similar to fear.

At the time, I figured that it was only natural considering my predicament; I was traveling through an extremely dark and narrow passage that could lead nowhere after all. But looking back, I suspect that the source of my dread was far more sinister in nature.

After what felt like an eternity of slowly making my way through the crevice, I finally came to its end. Only, it wasn’t an end. Rather, it was an opening. What greeted me was not a solid wall or sudden narrowing of the tunnel, quite the opposite really; it was an exit, a way to escape the passage. Upon emerging from the crevice I found myself in an immense cavern which impressed upon me a feeling of utter awe.

Darkness enwrapped me on all sides, seemingly relentless in its attempt to consume me. As I shone the flashlight up, the sight that greeted my eager eyes was not dissimilar to the night sky, the only difference being the utter lack of stars or any kind of light. The same scene welcomed me on all sides but two; downwards and behind me. The solid rock on which I stood and the ancient looking stone wall to my rear from which I’d come was all I could definitively see and feel. Everything else was a mystery to me.

Whether it was the horrid darkness or the absolute absence of any kind of noise or smell, I do not know; but something prompted a strong intuition from deep within my conscious that made me feel as though the cavern was of colossal proportion. And try as hard as I did, my meager flashlight did little to illuminate both the cavern and my knowledge of what exactly surrounded me.

I reached down to the floor, picked up a loose pebble and threw it as far as I could into the looming blackness. The sound received by my ears perplexed me for it was not the noise of rock meeting rock; rather it was the loud echoing thud of rock meeting metal. I snapped a glow stick and placed it at my feet, marking the entrance to the cavern. Then, curiously, I began to move forward with extreme caution, aiming my flashlight directly ahead of me while doing so.

It was only after a couple minutes of traveling that the tone of my boots meeting the stone beneath my feet changed to a sound more similar to the metal thud I had heard earlier. I aimed my flashlight downwards to see a metal – which appeared to be bronze – dug into the solid rock of the earth. My eyes widened as I came to the realization that I was standing on solid bronze. Not bronze ore, not some mutated form of rock, no; solid bronze metal, Bronze that had been melted down and shaped this way. I took to a crouching position and gave the metal a soft knock with my knuckles, which emitted a loud echo throughout the cavern. Based on the tone of the knock, I could immediately discern that the bronze was not hollow and that it was indeed a thick layer of melted alloy.

Curiosity overwhelmed me.

I snapped a glow stick and placed it at my feet, marking the rim of the metal. I began to walk along the threshold in which the bronze and the stone collided, but never mixed. And as I did so, I did not encounter a single corner; only a monotonous curve which (after a long while) led me back to the glow stick I had placed earlier. It was then that I understood the outlining shape of the alloy; it was perfectly circular. And not only that, but in my “measuring” I came to have a rough understanding of how truly enormous both the cavern and the plate of metal must be.

Anyone who knows anything about nature knows that perfect circles are not overly abundant in our natural world; especially when in the form of a solid bronze-like metal and as deep underground as this. Needless to say, I was breathless.

Now that had I traced the shape of the metal, I desired to explore the center of the circle. Yet despite my spilling curiosity, I was still cautious; and so my steps towards the core were slow and hesitant. As I moved forward, I shone my flashlight all around the surface on which I stood, and I as I did so I began to notice something… unusual.

There were lumps protruding from metal, finely chiseled and erected by something other than nature. It was only upon closer inspection that I discovered that they weren’t quite lumps, rather they were symbols and glyphs. And their positions were not random either; they were arranged like lines of writing, one after the other, in a circular fashion following the disk-like outline of the metal. They appeared to be hieroglyphs or some form of ancient script.

Growing up, the exploration of old mineshafts was not my only interest; I also had an extreme fascination with lost cultures from long ago. The Maya, the Inca, even my own Native American ancestral roots. I had studied many of the ancient dialects of lost civilizations from all over the world, but none of them were anything like the archaic chirography that lay around my feet. In fact, the dialects I had studied seemed to be derived from the writing before me, for many of their combined letters and alphabets seemed uncannily similar to the glyphs around me.

Lost in wonderment at the marvel on which I stood, I began to understand the impact this archaic alloy could have on the world. My mind raced with possibilities as to its origin, yet I could not settle on any one conclusion. The only thing I felt certain of in that eerily large cavern was that the circular plate of metal predated any known civilization.

Feeling more confident in my safety, I pushed onwards towards the center, more determined than ever to see what awaited me.

Eventually, I found myself standing before a circular pedestal made of the same bronze-like metal as the disc-like plate on which I stood. Its height reached up to my abdomen (I was roughly 5’9” at the time) and within the basin like top of it was a sphere, which appeared to be made of the same alloy as the pedestal. There was more strange writing on the sphere; and even though the hieroglyphs were entirely foreign to me, I was somehow able to read them.

“Carnate, the tormentor; devourer of worlds and father of all misery.”

Upon understanding them I became disgruntled and unsettled; even more so than I had been previously. There was a certain… Allure to those words. I felt the desire to grab the object and pull it from its pedestal, but I refused to give in and quickly turned my attention downwards to the flat face of the otherwise circular pedestal in an attempt to escape the sphere’s power over me.

I shone my light upon the surface of the odd column of strange alloy, immediately noticing the odd carvings that had been etched into it as I did so. What was depicted on that abnormal pedestal I shall never forget; just like the symbols on the sphere, they will forever be etched into my memory. Never before had I seen something so intricate in nature. Yet, despite its beauty, there was a certain terror to it.

Many of the figures and shapes were too bizarre for me to understand, but I will do my best to correlate their appearance to you. At the base was a row of consistent zigzags, which I perceived to be some sort of fire. Erecting from the “flames” were what appeared to be two rectangular pillars which were covered in the same hieroglyphics as those inscribed into the bronze floor. There were many other shapes and lines scattered about the mesh of images, none of which I can describe or identify in any way. All save one; which appeared to be the centerpiece of the network of images.

Although I found it quite baffling to stare at, I could vaguely discern what it was – or what it was depicting at least. It was a humanoid shape topped with an odd head, a head which appeared vastly different to that of a human’s. Its shape was similar to a dog’s skull, yet from both sides of its head protruded goat-like horns that curled continuously.

Even if it was merely an image, it still felt as if all the evil in the world had come together and spawned the horrible thing which sat engraved into that pedestal before me. It inspired nothing but unmistakable fear within me, fear so primal and basic that it felt more like a memory than an emotion – as if distress at the sight of this beast had been hardwired into the basic programming of my psyche. And as I continued to stare at it, I couldn’t help but think back to the strange phrase which had been written into the sphere of the basin.

“Carnate, the tormentor; devourer of worlds and father of all misery.”

Again and again, those unexplainable words ran through my mind.

That strange desire returned to me then, forcing me to turn my gaze upwards toward the sphere in the basin of the pedestal. Out of an unexplainable impulse, I placed my hand over the object and began to softly caress the odd hieroglyphs which covered the strange sphere. It felt warm, like a battery would after being used. That irrepressible urge overwhelmed me then; I gripped the sphere in my hand in preparation to remove it. For but a fleeting moment, I felt hesitant; but only for a moment.

I shall forever consider that simple action to be the biggest mistake of my life.

I pulled the sphere from the pedestal in one smooth movement, relishing the feel of it in my hand. My joy was only momentary, however, for it was only a second after that a loud and terrifying click echoed from beneath my feet, which was followed by a low tremble.

Frightened by the sudden noise and slight shaking of the earth, I began to run towards the crevice through which I arrived so that I could escape. It was only after stepping off of the metal and onto the solid rock that I heard another noise behind me, a noise which I cannot identify for it was in no way similar to anything I had heard in my life until that moment. The noise was so curious, in fact, that I felt compelled to stop and turn around. And as I so did so, I was greeted by a radiate light unlike any other. It was golden in color, yet sinister in nature, for as it washed over me and the cavern I could feel nothing beside fear. And stranger still, it seemed to be originating from the odd hieroglyphics which had been so carefully inscribed upon the bronze-like metal floor.

It was then that the metal itself began to mutate into a rust colored liquid and spread into the surrounding rock, transforming the ancient stone into the same copper-brown tinted metal the liquid once was.

I remember feeling my eyes widen in pure wonderment, for I had never seen anything like that before. Deep down, I believe I knew that it was an omen of what was to come; I believe I had some suspicion trying to convince me that such a beautifully odd sight could only herald something so primordial and awful that I would never be able to erase it from memory.

Yet I continued to stare with awe entirely present in my expression as the brownish metal spread through the rock and stone that made the floors and walls of that dreadful cavern. And as it did so, I could see the familiar engravings forming within the freshly created alloy, just as they had appeared when I first laid eyes upon them.

A loud boom drew my attention from the cavern walls and toward the origin of the metal; the space in which the strange alloy had once so quietly resided. Only now, there was no metal; only a perfectly circular hole in the earth, a pit from which only an indescribably putrid smell emitted.

My wonderment faded, and fear once again became the most prominent emotion within me; it compelled me to move towards the exit, which had – for a reason still unknown to me – not been covered by the bronze-like metal. Yet, despite the desire to run away, my feet remained planted and as immovable as stone. For although fear compelled me to flee, some dwindling fascination with the pit forced me to stay.

All I could do was stare at that terrible pit, eyes wide and flashlight fixed upon its position, which was just within range. My heart climbed into my throat out of anticipation and anxiety – and for the briefest moment – all was as silent as it had been before the loud noise.

Suddenly, a large, red hand with enormous claw-like nails emerged from the pit and slammed onto the metallic edge of the pit, apparently gripping it for support.

Fascination abandoned me then, and fear took full control.

I turned towards the crevice through which I had entered and broke into a sprint, never before had I ran so desperately or desired to return to the fresh rays of the Nevada sun so badly. My legs carried me swiftly and it wasn’t long until I found myself at the mouth of the narrow passage.

Feeling assured of my escape, I turned for what could only have been a few seconds to see what had inflicted so much terror upon me. Concerning what met my eyes in that horrific moment, I will say little; for I do not wish to dwell on the memory too long lest my torment grow further.

What greeted me was… Unfathomably horrific in every aspect imaginable. It seemed to be the upper half of an incredibly massive and red skinned humanoid looming out of the pit. Its entire body appeared to be coated with some sort of burgundy tinted slime, which dripped in massive globules from its body. And beneath its skin I could see writhing shapes and figures. Upon seeing them, I could just… Feel that they were alive within the beast and that they were all gripped by a pain far more severe than anything any man alive or dead has ever experienced.

And connected to the torso was that familiarly hideous dog-like head which had been engraved upon the pedestal; only now I could see it clearly and without confusion. Its spiraling horns were tremendous and seemed to seep with nothing but agony, and its eyes… its eyes were indescribable. They were a color I had never viewed before, and never wish to view again. By merely looking at them, I could feel pain course through my body, pain unlike anything I would have been able to imagine before. Its head was, as the pedestal had foretold, incredibly canine in nature. Only there was no fur or hair of any kind, only blood colored skin crawling with tormented shapes and burgundy slime dripping from its impossibly large teeth.

That brief eternity of staring at one another ended, however, when the creature opened it large lipless jaws to let out a roar so intense in volume that it knocked me and my flashlight backwards into the passage through which I had come. A loud noise followed the roar, and as I perked my head up to peer out of the narrow tunnel I could see the familiar rust colored liquid spreading over the mouth of crevice in which I lied; transforming into that same bronze-like alloy covered in strange hieroglyphics and creating a barrier between me and the thing from the pit.

And then I ran.

Concerning my escape through that ancient tunnel, I remember little for I was in such a hazy and panicked condition that I can hardly recall a thing. Apparently, I was discovered sprawled out on a road near the mine by a night-time driver and was promptly taken to a hospital. I was treated for a couple broken bones and minor cuts there and thereafter questioned as to how I had ascertained such injuries. I could provide no answers, only a blank stare. When I was finally released from the hospital, I was given all of my belongings back. Among them was the horrid sphere which I had recovered from that retched abyss.

————-

And that’s it. That’s my story, my encounter. That’s my recounting of the day I came face to face with genuine evil, evil so true in its form that no man could fully understand it. I know neither what it is nor where it came from, and I don’t want too. Though, I feel certain that both the metal and the giant were not of this world; earth would never be able to conjure such things naturally.

For the past six years I’ve lived in misery because of what I experienced in that damned cave. Whenever I close my eyes I see that terrible face with those horrible eyes and those awful horns… and every time I do the fear I felt in that moment fills me once again. I don’t sleep anymore. I just lay there with my eyes open, too afraid to close them. And I can still hear that roar, every second of every day, reverberating through my memory; as if I were still there in that horrid cave of nightmares.

That’s not the worst part either. The worst part is that I know I’m not insane, I know that what I saw was real. I know it’s still out there, pounding away in its metal prison. And I know that a day will come when it is freed once again, and that day will be our last. That day will be the one in which we join the writhing shapes beneath its skin, when our blood becomes the burgundy slime that drips from its unnatural body. And although that day can be eternally delayed, it can never be prevented.

Whether you perceive me as a raving madman or as a prophet preaching our doom, I do not care. For these words are to be my final, these thoughts to be my last. Every man has a breaking point, and I have reached mine; there is a gun in my hand and I intend to use it. Not on anyone else, mind you, for they yet have hope and reason to live in their hearts; they have not seen what lurks beneath. This weapon, so commonly associated with sadness and war, is to be my salvation. I find it oddly heavy.

Do not waste your time searching for the sphere either; for I have stowed it away in a place where it shall never be found.

Consider this last request to be my will in its entirety; seek neither the mine nor its inhabitant for you will only find a nightmare more horrific than anything you have dared imagine. And then the beast, Carnate, will be free.

Credit To – Zyon J.

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Home Improvement

July 21, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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Jim and Mary couldn’t wait to buy that house up in North Hill. They lived in it for one day and then they couldn’t wait to get outta that town, and they told me they’ll never move into another house for as long as they live. I couldn’t believe it when I heard it, ‘til Mary gave me the details. Jim won’t talk about it even if you threaten him.

It was a gorgeous old house like somethin’ out of a 1950’s suburban family show. Single story, two bedroom home with walk-in closets and a small cellar. Cozy, stylish. They weren’t sure if they were gonna buy at first, but the place was so cozy they couldn’t resist.

First night in the house they were sittin’ in bed, readin’, when they heard this racket in the neighborhood like somebody tearin’ concrete up with a sledgehammer. Whack whack whack whack. Jim and Mary worried it’d go on all night, but it only lasted five minutes. They figured a neighbor was doin’ a little home improvement before bed, shrugged and went back to readin’.

A while later they heard a spade shovelin’ dirt. That went on for almost an hour. Mary cracked a window but she couldn’t pinpoint where it was comin’ from. Then it stopped.

Not long after came a hammer drivin’ nails into wood, and the sound of a woman cryin’. She was beggin’, too, but the words were muffled like she had somethin’ in her mouth. Mary started gettin’ scared, but Jim assured her the neighbors were probably watchin’ a movie with the volume up real loud.

After ten minutes the hammerin’ stopped, but the cryin’ rose to miserable, terrified weepin’ and it sounded real close. Well now Jim was worried and he and Mary went out to the front yard, but they still couldn’t pinpoint the sound. They just got back inside when the woman started screamin’ at the top o’ her lungs. When the deafenin’ roar of a portable cement mixer echoed throughout the entire house, it finally hit Jim and Mary that the sounds were comin’ from their cellar.

Jim panicked. He grabbed his .357, ran to the kitchen with Mary at his heels, flipped the cellar light on and leapt down the cellar stairs. He got halfway down and froze.

The cellar was empty. And it was quiet.

They packed their things and left.

Not long after all this happened, Jim and Mary did a little research on the house’s history hopin’ it’d put their minds at ease. They found a headline from 1992 what dripped ice water down their backs. The last man to own that house was a quiet, timid carpenter who found out his wife had been sleepin’ with her party friends behind his back and laughin’ about it. When she came home one night the husband bound and gagged her, nailed her in a makeshift coffin, and buried her alive beneath the concrete cellar floor.

I’m not sayin’ I believe in ghosts or anythin’. But maybe houses got memories like people, and maybe they have a hard time forgettin’ certain things.

Credit To – Mike MacDee

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Those We Dare Not Speak

July 20, 2014 at 12:00 PM
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People often think they are sure of what’s real and what’s not, they think they know the difference between reality and something that’s otherwise made up. The question however is where does one draw the line drawn, when does a story someone tells you cross over from being seen as true to something that’s obviously false. Until recently I’ve never really thought about this sort of thing, before now everything just seemed so simple. The sad truth of the matter is that even now as I’m typing this I’m not sure if I’m dreaming or if I’ve already begun to lose my mind.

It started about four days ago when I was rummaging in one of the countless boxes that were being sold off from an estate sale. The owner had apparently died and their effects were being sold off by the family as they themselves didn’t really want anything to do with them anymore. The thing is I’m kind of a collector of objects that happen to pique my interest, usually old or antique, and have noticed that these sorts of sales are much better in price then if you were to go to an actual shop.

Over the years I’ve found some pretty good stuff, not always, but sometimes, and have been able to get away with only paying a fraction of what I would otherwise. However, recently I managed to find something that made me increasingly curious, a book bound in leather. The cover of the item was blank, and after flipping through the pages I found that everything inside was hand written. At first I thought it was a journal, that is until I went to the first page again and looked at it more carefully in which case I found that it read, “Notes on Folk Lore” written in black, nicely done handwriting. I had begun to wonder how old it was but could not for the life of me find any sort of date or indication of when or by who it was made which only made the book more mysterious. While I was never big into that sort of topic I none the less thought that between the unknown age and interesting look of the tomb that it would be worthwhile to purchase it.

After paying for it I then brought it home and immediately opened it up at my desk before beginning to slowly paw through it. At first, inside the pages were notes on story’s and creatures that one would expect to find inside your standard book on the subject. However, as I read on I noticed that some of the things written inside were pretty frightening or otherwise downright grotesque in the detail given on specific legends. Still I was unfazed, they were just stories after all, just like any other one would read, story’s researched and catalogued by whoever had happened to have taken the time to write them down. It only took about two hours before making it to the end of the relatively small volume which brought me to the last piece of notes on a group of creatures I had never heard of.

It was entitled “Those We Dare Not Speak” and described beings that lived in the realm of dreams. The book said that when a person sleeps their souls enter another world, that this is the world where our dreams take place. It indicated that these creatures, while usually not interested in interfering with humans will sometimes become mischievous and interact with them if they see fit, but that’s when the story began to resemble a fairytale strait out of Grimm’s. It said that there were some who were not simply mischievous but downright sadistic, that some of them if they happened to find someone that they took a liking to would torment and torture them every moment they were asleep.

The section went on to note that in some cases these creatures, especially the more powerful ones would be able to leave their own realm and enter a person’s waking life in order to induce madness and even death, all for the sake of their twisted enjoyment. As I read this it made me shiver like none of the other entries had for it seemed to strike a nerve, although at the time I was not sure why. As I read on, the book noted that it was the individual names of the creatures that if spoken enough could somehow lure or attract them to the one who was willing to speak their name. Apparently it was this fact that made the few names that may have been known by whatever culture that had originally believed in such things taboo, and eventually forbidden to say or write in an attempt to minimize the chance that one could intentionally or unintentionally draw one of these things to themselves.

While it was still a bit creepy, the idea that just by saying something out loud could somehow make an inter-dimensional monster attack you in your dreams or something of the sort was actually somewhat comical, so much so that after I read that line I began to laugh, if only a little. After getting that out of my system I looked to see if there was any more of the entry only to realize that the only thing left was a scribble made in the margin which read, “Note: It was very difficult but I managed to find one name belonging to one of these supposed beings ”. Underneath this was a circled word which was apparently the name that the author of this book had found. I looked closer at it, trying to see how it would be pronounced as it seemed to be written in some other language which should have been obvious given that the tale itself was probably from some distant country.

Without even considering the fact that any of what was written was true, I slowly said aloud the name with little in the way of hesitation. In retrospect I must admit I regret it, it’s something I should have never done but this is where the so called knowledge of fact and fiction comes in to play, I thought it was fake, that nothing could possibly come of it. After speaking the name a number of times while at the same time trying to get the pronunciation right I noticed that the more I said it the smoother it became and that in fact the name itself had a rather pleasant sound to it. I attempted to think of the region that such a name would have come from but was unable; I suppose it was just too foreign.

After I finished reading I noticed it had gotten late, and with me having work in the morning decided to shut the book and get to sleep. After slipping into my small, but cozy bed before I knew it I was fast asleep, the thought of the book that still lay on my desk only a fading image as I drifted off. Slowly I awoke, only to find that I was no longer in my bed. Looking around I saw that I was standing on some sort of scorched earth. The ground was dark and cracked, while in the immediate vicinity there was nothing, no trees, buildings, just desolation. Even the sky itself was a swirling mass of dark clouds moving faster than I had seen them ever do before.

It became clear that this was a dream, but I had never before been aware of anything while actually being in one. The first thought that came upon me was that maybe I was in some sort of a lucid dream, that I was now conscious and could perhaps make this world suited to my own desires. I tried multiple times to change my surroundings but nothing worked. It was then that a chill ran up my spine as the feeling that something was watching me began to take effect. I looked behind, towards the source or the feeling only to find what I first thought was another person standing about ten feet away. I immediately started too backed up, almost tripping on a slightly raised piece of the parched ground beneath me but managed to catch myself before falling.

Seeing me in this state seemed to amuse the thing that now stood before me as I could see a smile curling on its pale sickly skin, a menacing smile that seemed to make it clear that maybe it wasn’t human after all. Until that moment I had never felt such a strange amount of fear, it was at a level that I can’t explain. By sheer instinct I wanted to run but my legs would not move, as if I was a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car. With me being frozen in place the creature began to walk towards me, its white hair covering its eyes leaving only that terrifying smile plastered on its face.

As it walked, everything about it started to cause my fear to increase. From its thin, malnourished looking body, to its slender hands which had small but sharp looking claws at their ends the aura that seemed to emanate from it grew more and more the closer it came. During all of this I had begun to forget that I was sleeping, that everything I was seeing was nothing but an illusion, it all just seemed so real that I began to think that this was the end, that I was going to die here and now in some unspeakable way. With all my strength I managed to regain control of my previously paralyzed legs and turn around but not before the creature was able to speed forth, grabbing me by my neck with one hand while piercing my eye with its other.

The pain was beyond anything I had ever felt, something that made me think even more that this had to be real, as far as I knew one wasn’t supposed to feel pain in a dream but here I was in total agony. Using its two fingers I could feel it twisting inside my eye socket, its claws scraping against my skull, while the signature smile only widened, showing off its slightly pointed teeth. Even with it being so close its eyes remained unseen as its thick white hair continued to veil them. Still, I could feel them staring, gazing past the surface into my deepest thought. I cried out in desperation, “Why, stop, please stop it, I didn’t do anything, why are you doing this!” and with that the creature came closer, its mouth closing in on my ear and said in a gleeful tone, “You called upon me, didn’t you? You’re all mine now”.

In an instant I woke up in my bed, dripping with sweat, and my heart pounding. The pain continued to persist although I was able to see out of the eye that the creature in the dream had attacked. Running into my bathroom I turned on the light and checked the area fervently, trying to find some form of damage. To my relief there was none, and soon after the pain dissipated as well. I washed my face, and walked back to my bed, sitting at the edge. Looking at the clock on my bed stand I found that there was still about two hours before I normally got ready for work. Deciding I needed to relax I got dressed and left my apartment, thinking that by walking to a nearby diner for an early bite might help my nerves.

As I made my way there, the images of what transpired ran through my mind. Trying to piece together a logical explanation I then came to the conclusion that it must have been a lucid dream gone awry, a conscious nightmare brought on by that stupid book I had read earlier. Yes, that had to be it, or at least that’s what I was thinking. It made perfect sense after all, like watching a horror movie and eating junk food before bed, nothing more. The rest of the day went as I had planned, the diner helped to relax me, and work was relatively peaceful although boring as it usually was. When I returned home I was somewhat drained, all I wanted was to sleep but the thought that I would fall into another miserable nightmare kept me from doing so. At first I watched some TV, then moved on to messing around on the computer, I did anything I could to stay awake even though I had to get up early again tomorrow.

I did this until around two in the morning which was when I unknowingly began to doze off. Feeling myself slipping away I pinched myself hard on the arm which briefly gave me a shot of energy. I asked myself what I was doing, why I was letting such a stupid fear control me, it was fake, it wasn’t real, this is what I told myself over and over again In order to keep myself thinking logically. However, all of the sudden that familiar feeling that something was nearby filled me once more, the same ominous aura from before began to permeate the room. I didn’t care what it was, whether it was simply my mind playing tricks on me or if it was indeed happening, all I wanted was to escape the suffocating miasma that began to engulf me.

In a flash and without further thought I bolted out of the room and shut the door behind me but the feeling persisted all the same. Clutching my head, I leaned up against the adjacent wall, staring at my door, not knowing what was happening to me. I wondered if something was truly in there, if it was waiting for me to come back or if I had snapped, if I was literally going insane. Looking to either side of me I noticed there was no one, the hall was empty, nor were there any sounds from the various rooms located within. It was silent; everything was too quiet except for the sound of my breathing and the dull thuds of my heart which beat faster and faster as I began to lose my grip on reality.

Just then, the squeaking sound of the doorknob in front of me cut through the air as it slowly turned, causing me to scream out as loud as I could. I don’t know why I did it, maybe it was hopefully so someone would hear me, or maybe it was just an uncontrollable response given everything that was happening, all I know is that everything disappeared and I again woke up in my bed. I couldn’t believe it, was all that a dream too? Everything seemed so vivid which only served to confuse me further. I sat up, ripping off the blanket before staggering into the bathroom. Their I stood; looking at myself again in the mirror not knowing if I was still asleep or awake.

Slumping against the door I laid on the ground, not caring about work, or the time, or anything. I think I finally realized that I don’t know anymore, I don’t know anything. Sure, there may have been a logical reason for everything that was happening, maybe I fell asleep again, I mean I was definitely tired so it’s not outlandish to consider it as a possibility. Maybe I just had another nightmare; maybe I was becoming overly stressed. Sure, these were good reasons why everything was happening as they were, but they failed to help me regain my composure. It’s been two days since then, two days since iv slept, or at least I thinks that’s how long.

Since then I buried that terrible book under some junk in my desk, right now I can’t even think of looking at it again. I wanted to put everything behind me, but still, I often feel like something is watching me, that something is coming for me but is just dragging things out for its own entertainment. I try to find where it’s coming from, the source of this presence, I try to get a glimpse but I never catch sight of it and before I know it the feeling is gone in an instant leaving me wondering if I really felt anything at all to begin with. I want to tell my friends what’s been happening, to have someone to talk to about all of this but I know they’ll never believe me and maybe their right not to. I haven’t even been to work since everything began to break down, I just can’t figure out what to do anymore. I’m tired now, so tired, but I can’t sleep, I can’t let myself do that again, but seeing this all in words makes me doubt myself even more, it’s crazy, this can’t be what’s happening.

Thinking about all of this now, after writing it all out I’m closer to the realization that maybe I’ve already lost it, but then again perhaps this has all been a series of bad dreams, maybe I’m in one right now and soon that “thing” will come out once more to haunt me, to torture me. I just…want it all to be over.

Credit To – Auctor

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Mermaid

July 20, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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I knew it, my friends all knew it, and everyone at school knew it. But, no one would believe us. School was quiet with the truth hanging everywhere. The other students silently drifted from class to class, no one really spoke all that much anymore. Between each period, there was a brief and hushed march of bodies before the halls died again.
All but a few teachers seemed to not really care- they enjoyed the silence. The teachers who did care did not know how to help, or even what to say.
It had started a few days after Zach Thompson drowned. His girlfriend, Mallory Andrew, said that someone dragged him into the sea; pulled him right off their boat. No one was there to see it, and she could not tell anyone what the person looked like, so when Zach’s body floated in, drowned but unharmed, everyone wrote her off. A few days later, Mallory went missing. No one had seen her since.
I did not really know Zach or Mallory. A few of my friends new them though, and they seemed nice enough. No one should ever have to drown. The thought of falling into the Atlantic, the darkness everywhere, the liquid pouring into my lungs… It terrified me. I hated to think what Zach felt as his legs flailed half a mile above the nearest ground. Did he just breathe in to get it over with, or did he keep holding his breath as long as he could?
My friends who knew them joined the first wave of mourning zombies that populated the high school. They all remembered listening to Mallory’s tear-stained story of the hand, and the splash, the screaming, the eyes.
A few days later, Matt Miller was found caught in the framing of his parents dock. Apparently, Matt had gone out in the night to look at the water and fell over. The police say that is when his shirt got caught.
I did not know Matt Miller that well either. He was never that nice to me. To be honest, he was an asshole. But you never hear about that stuff after the fact. You only get to hear the nice stories about what a great person they were. It was then that the school moved in a small fleet of councilors and social workers to help with feelings. The lines to talk to someone stretched out into the hall, at first.
It was maybe a week before Aubrey Strong drowned. She was found naked and bruised along the beach. Her lungs were filled with water. Her sister, Tammy, had been there when something attacked them. She told the police it had grabbed Aubrey and ran off. A few days later, Tammy’s story had changed from “something” to “someone”. Her body was found the next day at the same beach as her sister, still wearing the same clothes from school.
The city began hiring more lifeguards, strict curfews were put in place at all beaches, and students were questioned mercilessly by police and teachers. Students stopped going to the councilors. The meetings began to feel more like interrogations than anything else.
Then, Mark Sawyer and Ashley Corry died on the same night. I was with Mark Sawyer. He was my best friend. We were playing Call of Duty and eating pizza in his bedroom. He was winning. I had been tracking him for ten whole minutes across the desert and my sight was lined up on his guy’s back. Then, the lights went out. The T.V. made a weird whistling noise before falling black and silent.
“What the hell?” I said to him as he stood up and began messing with the light switches. He never had a chance to respond. I froze in terror when I heard it slap up the stairs and saw its hand reach around the door-frame. The smell- like under the docks. Mark could not move either as the net fell over him. I listened to him scream as he thudded down the stairs, one step at a time.
I ran home. I slammed my bedroom door shut behind me. I never said a word. The next day, Mark Sawyer and Ashley Corry were added to the list of people. Both of them were found in the shallows by a fisherman. Amanda Stoner had been with Ashley Corry when it happened. She spent all day being tossed around by councilors and police officers. Amanda told them about a man who ran at them and how they had struggled with him on the beach.
I could not speak to anyone; the words refused to leave my lips. Whenever I tried, I saw Mark fall beneath the net, his fingernails scratching at his bedroom floor, and then I saw him drowning, his legs kicking in an endless void of darkness. Did he breathe in, or did he hold on for as long as he could? The teachers looked on me with pity. They did not know what I had seen. The councilors made sure that I knew their doors were always open. They did not know I had been with Mark Sawyer.
I could not say a word to anyone, anyone but Amanda.
“Hey,” I said to her at a lunch table. We had never met. She was very pretty with dark hair and brown eyes and large, gorgeous lips; the kind of girl I would usually have to build up my courage to talk to; the kind of girl I probably just wouldn’t talk to.
She looked up at me- dismissive. Then, she saw a look in my eyes. She reached out and took my hand in hers. “You saw them,” she whispered.
I nodded. Again, Amanda told her story. It was just like mine… The hand, the screaming, the eyes…
From then on, the two of us were inseparable. I sat next to her with my beige lunch tray and that was that. We waited for each other on the bus in the morning, we met again after school. At night, when we had to leave for our own houses, we sat on our phones. Eventually, we even began to talk about other things, we tried to forget… We had seen them. Everyone who saw them disappeared.
As the month went on, the drownings turned into disappearances. For some reason, the creatures were no longer happy just killing. They now took their victims away, never to be seen again. The sea left us with a new empty desk every other week or so. Amanda and I were not sure why the creatures from the water left us alone. Maybe it was because both our houses were inland, or maybe because we were the only survivors who banded together.
Fall came and the leaves transformed into brilliant New England reds and golds, leaving a sad magic in the air. When our town’s annual October Festival arrived, most people could not find the heart to attend. Our tragedy had become so long lasting, we barely even made the news anymore when a new child went missing, and a melancholy sunk its fingers into the entire town. But, Amanda and I went.
We walked close, passing beneath the large banner that hung above the boardwalk. Pumpkins and gourds and bundles of straw festively adorned the walkway, placed along the streetlights and the porches of the homes that looked out over the sea. Fishermen worked at large vending stalls, and craft displays sold wares all the way down to the docks, punctuated by the occasional carnival game or food stand selling funnel cakes and grease. But it was quiet…
Amanda took my hand and pulled me along to everything she wanted to see. We had both seen it every year before, but that day was different. When she took my hand, I felt my heart leap back to life, and when I won her a giant teddy bear, I could not stop smiling; neither could she.
Then, something happened. We began to laugh. The people around us smiled, and the moment of happiness infected everyone. The vendors began shouting to the people passing by, proclaiming their fish was the best, or how you could not find a necklace like theirs. People began coming out of their homes, the carnival games had lines stretching back into the streets, little children laughed as their parents swung them between their hands, and everyone forgot…
That night, as the sun set behind us and people began heading home, Amanda and I sat on a black bench, barely big enough to fit us both and her teddy bear, looking out across the water. I did not even realize that we had been holding each other’s hands all day. Then, she leaned in and kissed me…
It was short and sweet and when she stopped she gave me a shy, embarrassed grin. It was the best day I could remember.
In the coming weeks, the temperature began to drop and the first flurry of snow descended on our town. The disappearances began happening more frequently and sadness evolved into pure terror.
With the attacks growing in frequency, many people began to leave, some not even waiting for their homes to sell, and others leaving everything behind. I came home one day to my parents beginning a stack of cardboard boxes in the living room. Neither of them said anything, we all understood. But, all I could think about was leaving Amanda behind.
That night, awoken by the sound of a frenzied dog, I saw something from my bedroom window as I looked out across an increasingly desolate town. The front gate of the yard had been opened, its lock twisted off, the black iron smacking into the fence as the wind swung it back and forth along its creaking hinges. It walked like a man, with a slow, heavy stride. The creature was tall and bulky, its wide torso resting on legs as thick as tree trunks. I could not get a clear look through the darkness, but its eyes, the size of a small dinner plate, reflected flashes of light from the street.
I dropped to the floor and peered from the corner of the window. I watched as the thing walked towards the front door, quietly fiddled with the doorknob, and then began pacing along the first-floor windows. At each one, it tested their weights, figured out which windows were locked, and which ones were not. Then, satisfied, it walked back through the gate, back to the water.
I told my parents I had seen someone sneaking around the house in the night. They called the police; the police took my statement and a description of a large man in the shadows. My mom began packing faster that day, and my father put a hand on my shoulder, looked me in the eyes and promised he would protect me.
I knew it would be back for me… Later on, just as the sun was beginning its decent, I packed a backpack, left through my fence with the broken lock, and headed for Amanda’s. The creatures had never attacked an adult, my parents would be fine. But for me, my home was no longer safe. They would drag me away like Mark…
“They scouted my house last night,” I said as Amanda let me inside. She was scared, we both were. She led me to her bedroom where we talked about my parents getting ready to move and she told me that her parents were planning to head up to New York.
“I can’t leave you,” she told me as we wrapped our arms around each other.
After dinner, she told her parents that I had left and hid me away in her bedroom. We stayed up late, lying on her bed, watching the movies she had on her shelves, and kissing whenever either of us built up the courage. Periodically, I would stand and look out her window to the town where the ocean fog obscured lights that lit empty streets. No one walked the stone pathways and most of the homes had all gone dark. If I stood at the right angle, I could spot the water from the ocean peacefully washing into the shore.
When we fell asleep, my arm was wrapped around her waist, and her fingers curled over my hand and rested in my palm…
The room was dark when I woke up to a dog barking in the distance. The light from the television cast the room in a pale, flickering glow. I reached out to touch Amanda, and when my hand felt nothing but the blankets, my heart began to pound in my chest. I shot up from the bed, the room smelled like stale water and the carpet was wet. I darted to the window, where along the beach I could see several figures dragging another…
Without a second thought, I raced down the stairs and slammed through the front door. By the time Amanda’s parents were flipping on the light in their bedroom, my desperation had carried me half way through town. Ahead I could hear the whispering roar of the waves, and Amanda… she was screaming.
“No,” I cried as my feet touched the sand. “Leave her alone!”
The creatures turned to look at me, stopping only a few feet before touching the water. Amanda struggled beneath the tangled weight of an organic looking fishing net, the rope of which resting in the clenched fist of the last creature. They were all large, muscled humanoids with massive webbed feet and hands. They stared at me with fish-like eyes and flattened faces; the cross between man and piranha. Each one carried a large spear that they aimed at me as I approached.
I stopped and lifted my hands into the air when one of them let out a hollow call like a whale and threatened me with a long, barbed weapon. The creature with Amanda protectively lifted her over its shoulder like she weighed nothing and held her away from me. One of the monsters moved towards me, its feet thudding against the ground and kicking up a wave of sand with each step. It stopped a foot in front of my nose and bared a row a sharp teeth, and with one of its great arms it motioned towards the net and then pounded its clawed fist against its scaled chest.
“No, no please.” I clasped my hands together and fell to me knees.
My begging did nothing as the creatures turned and continued their slow march back towards the water. I screamed for someone to help. When I saw Amanda struggle, digging her nails frantically into the sand I lunged forward only for the one who denied me to hurl my body away.
I smacked into the sand, shouting and screaming at them. Tears flooded over my face that twisted in rage.
“Take me,” I roared over the thunder of the ocean. “Take me instead.”
The creature I spoke at before turned to see me with my hands held out in front of me in surrender. It gave another hollow call halting its party.
“Take me,” I demanded again. It paused a moment, staring at me with its gigantic eyes. Then, it took a sharpened blade of corral and sliced through the rope that its companion held. Immediately, Amanda rushed from the net and flew into my arms. I held her for as long as I could, breathing her in, before the creature grabbed me by the arm and pulled me away.
Amanda screamed and chased after us only to be flung back by another of the terrible creatures. When she tried again, the one holding me aimed his blade towards her.
“Amanda, it’s OK,” I told her as my feet hit the water. “It’s OK.” The water came to my waist. “Promise me you will leave this place.”
She fell to her knees, sobbing.
“Promise me,” I yelled. She promised beneath a shower of tears and helpless screams. The water lapped at my chin as the monster continued to drag me below. I tugged back one last time to cry out above the cold blackness, “Amanda, I love you.”
Instantly, the surface shot away above me. I remembered Mark and so many others; how they fought helplessly as they vanished beneath the sea. Did they breathe in, or did they hold on for as long as they could? As I watched the world above me rip through my fingertips, falling deeper and deeper into the ocean, I could only think of Amanda. And I held on… I held on for as long as I could.

Credit To – Ryan Austin Gray

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Bound in Blood

July 19, 2014 at 12:00 PM
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“This can’t be the place they were talking about,” I said as I eyed the dingy antique store.

It was wedged between an old, closed movie theater and a barber shop. Its wooden, faded red sign read “Antique Bargains” and seemed it could fall off the storefront at any moment, crushing Morgan and me as gawked at the strange, rustic store.

My best friend Morgan and I were on the hunt for summer jobs, motivated by our desire to raise money for a spring break trip. We hadn’t had any luck until some of our friends told us about a “hiring” sign they had seen in the window of a “cute little shop.” From that description we had pictured a trendy boutique of some sort, not a suspicious, abandoned-looking shop.

“I guess it’s worth a try. But, Cassie, if this doesn’t work out, let’s head home for the day, okay?” Morgan’s shoulders slumped. She threw her long, dark hair over her shoulders. With her gorgeous, olive-toned skin and high cheekbones, she looked like a model even when she was exhausted. Morgan tired easily and I didn’t want to be a pest, but I had had a feeling that today would be the day I’d finally get a job.

“Yeah, okay.” I let out a small sigh and looked at my faint reflection in the store’s glass door.

My reddish blonde hair that had been neatly curled this morning was now disheveled. I had applied a modest amount of makeup to my heart-shaped face in an attempt to look presentable. I tried to smile at my reflection to prepare myself for the casual, friendly banter I knew was waiting behind that door.

I grabbed the cool, metal door handle and it felt like ice had shot through my veins. I gasped and let go for a moment.

“What was that? Did you shock yourself or something?” Morgan’s delicate features contorted with worry.

“It was nothing…the handle just felt really cold,” I said nonchalantly.

“Mhmm. I know the tough Cassie Warren better than anyone, you don’t squeal about little things. That’s my job. Maybe it’s a bad omen. Why don’t we go ahead and leave? We can grab pizza from Benny’s.” Morgan smiled.

“Don’t worry about it.” I laughed. “Come on, we’re not letting any bad omens scare us off.”

I pushed the door open and shuffled in with Morgan at my side. The musky smell of old books immediately assaulted our senses, provoking a small cough from each of us.

I glanced around and saw that the dimly lit store was home to hundreds of aging books, porcelain sets, and old furniture. In the far left corner, the cashier station sat unattended. Confused, I walked toward the station.

“Can I help you?” a faint voice whispered from behind me.

Startled, I spun around, heart racing. A slender woman with stringy, black hair stared into my eyes, smiling wistfully. Her tiny frame and pallid tone made her look like a skeleton- even her cheekbones jutted prominently from her face.

“Ah, yes, I’m sorry, you surprised me.” I laughed nervously.

The woman said nothing and continued to stare at us. Morgan shot me a nervous glance.

“Anyways,” I began awkwardly, “my friend and I were looking for a job and we saw that you’re hiring. Could you give us some details?”

The woman’s eyes lit up and she ushered us to the register.

“Of course! We are definitely looking for employees. How early can you start?”

“As soon as you need us!” I said enthusiastically.

“But don’t you want to interview us or have us to fill out applications or something before we’re hired?” Morgan’s voice was skeptical and it made me feel uneasy, especially considering the woman’s hasty job offer.

“We just had many people quit. They all moved far away. We’re looking for any help we can get. We’ll pay you well- ten dollars an hour, and you’ll only be expected to perform normal retail duties. We also allow you to be very flexible with your hours.” The woman’s energy increased as she talked, and she seemed very excited.

“Wow, that’s exactly what we’re looking for!” I grinned at Morgan. “Told you this would be the place.”

“It seems a little too good to be true,” Morgan whispered sharply, too low for the woman to hear.

I ignored her worry. Everything had fallen into place so easily. I knew this was the perfect job.

“Excellent. I just have a legal agreement you need to sign and everything will be ready to go.”

The woman handed each of us pens and forms with x’s that marked where we needed to sign. I clicked the pen with my thumb and cried out in pain at the same time Morgan did.

“Ouch! I think your pen stuck me.” I looked at the small pool of blood that formed on the tip of my thumb and winced.

“Sorry about that,” the woman murmured, seemingly preoccupied with something in the room behind the counter.

Morgan and I finished signing our documents at the same moment. As I set the document down I looked around for the woman, who seemed to have disappeared.

“Excuse me, m’am!” I called.

“Ha ha ha.” The woman’s laughter trickled from a closed door behind the counter.

She burst through the door and at first I didn’t recognize her. Her face was warped. It was as if her features had suddenly rearranged to the most grotesque position possibly. She was much thinner than before, and her black dress hung off of her like a sheet.

“It was exhausting keeping up that form for so long. Luckily you girls signed right on time.” She smirked and scooted toward us. “I didn’t think it’d be that easy. Most people are skeptical like Morgan.”

“I don’t understand what’s going on.” My voice was shaky.

“That’s not surprising.” The woman chuckled. “I wouldn’t expect you to realize that you signed your soul away for eternity.”

The seriousness of the woman’s voice juxtaposed with her ridiculous statement made me laugh hysterically.

“You had me worried I had signed something legally binding.” I laughed again as I headed for the exit. “Come on, Morgan, we’ll call it a day.”

Morgan hesitated for a moment and then followed me to the door. I looked back and the woman was still smiling. She snapped her fingers as if to signal someone.

“Agh!” Morgan screamed in pain.

Before I could comprehend what was happening, I felt sharp stings in my back, shoulders, and arms. I was tugged up in the air and the pain worsened. I glanced at Morgan to see that she was hoisted in the air by strings that had shot out from the ceiling. They were tied through glass shards that dug into her flesh, causing blood to trickle down her body.

I began to scream for help. I twisted my body, trying to rip out the shards, but they only dug deeper. My favorite teal shirt clung to my back, sticky with blood.

The woman watched in silence with an amused smile on her face. She waited until we had tired ourselves out and then launched into what she called our “orientation.”

“I’ve hired you onto my cult’s staff of eternal servants for the worship and comfort of our masters.” She smiled eerily. “Your bodies are bound to this through a blood contract. That pen drew your blood and filtered it into the ink. You literally signed your names in blood.”

I felt my eyes widen and I glanced at Morgan. She looked defeated as she gazed into the distance. I knew what she was thinking because I was thinking it too. This was all my fault.

“Every day you will spend your time doing tasks such as cleaning, performing ritual sacrifices, and maybe even luring in more workers like yourselves. Here, I’ll just give you a sneak peek of what’s in store!”

The woman pulled a lever by the register and the wall behind her started to shift. It opened to a room full of shackled workers. Some were making food, some patrolling the area with cleaning supplies, and some of them doing things even worse. One teenage girl with sad eyes cradled the bloody carcass of a dead lamb, carrying it to an unknown but surely awful destination.

“Don’t worry, this is only one area of workers! We’ve got dozens of other rooms you’ll be laboring in. I should also mention that you will be forced to attend our mass ceremonies, dedicated to our masters. These help keep our workers more… compliant with our ways. Oh, and one last thing. Our masters’ forms are a bit unsightly to newcomers because of their otherworldly nature. If you’re caught defaming them or expressing disgust in any way, your punishment will be much worse than hanging from these measly little threads.”

She reached around my back to strum one of the strings attached to me, sending a wave of fresh pain through my body. I bit down on my lip so I wouldn’t cry.

“Alright, time to send our newest little workers off! Good luck, ladies.” The woman waved and grinned again.

The strings tugged us toward the room like marionettes, shredding more of our flesh in the process.

“Morgan!” I yelled through the pain. “I promise you I will fix this. I promise I’ll find a way out. I just need you to hope with me, okay?”

I looked at her, hoping to find a hint of support in her eyes. Instead, she stared at me with accusation and hostility, tears forming in her eyes.

“It’s okay if you hate me. That doesn’t change anything, I’m still hoping for the both of us. I swear to you.”

My heart fell as our strings dragged us in different directions, pulling Morgan off to a place where I couldn’t protect her.

The strings finally unhooked from my back and dropped me to the ground in a dark room lit only by a single ceiling light. A mop and broom leaned against the peeling, off-white walls. I assumed that meant my duty was cleaning. I heaved the mop and began to mop in the center of the room where it was easy to see. I wasn’t quite sure why I was mopping- the tiled floors were surprisingly immaculate.

“Over here, child,” a chilling voice called softly from a dark corner of the room.

I squinted and realized that there was a faint outline of an inhuman figure squatting in the darkness. I remembered the woman’s warning and a shiver crept up my spine.

“I-I think I’m just supposed to be mopping. I’m not allowed to wander off.”

“Ha ha, I know that. I’ve left a mess over here that needs to be cleaned up. Don’t make me repeat myself.” The creature’s voice was unsettlingly soft. It reminded me of a cat’s purr.

“Ah, okay I’ll come get that. Sorry.”

I slinked over to where it was crouched and it took every ounce of willpower to keep from recoiling at the sight of what it wanted me to clean.

“Those… Is that-?” I stammered, unable to ask a question I truly didn’t want to know the answer to.

“Yes, those are the human remains of one of the workers here who was a little mouthy to me. Come to think of it, he was the last cleaner in this room. I guess you’re his replacement. What great timing.” Its chuckle was rough and gravelly. “So you can see what’ll happen to you if you don’t obey me this instant.”

“Yes, right away.” I hated the submissive tone of my voice.

I leaned in close enough to see the gelatinous substance that covered the dismembered body parts of the former worker. It looked like the creature had ingested him and then vomited the poor man onto the floor.

The smell and appearance were nauseating. While scooping a piece of torso up with a dust pan, intestines poured out of the gaping hole in the abdomen and I reflexively reached out to catch it. I squealed and dropped the squishy organs into the waste bag but my hand was covered in human tissue and the gooey substance.

The creature chuckled again. “Here, child, let me help you.” It started towards me and I backed up into the center of the room.

It followed and I gazed incredulously at its form in the light. Its legs were bent like a frog’s and they were thin and short with talons jutting out of its feet. Its body was massive compared to its legs. Its hulking shoulders and bulging chest connected to a short but wide neck that propped up its large head that resembled an anglerfish. It was on all fours, resting slightly back on its hind legs so it could extend its long, muscular forelegs.

I fought to maintain a blank expression, trying not to offend it. It leaned toward me and extended its pink tongue to lick the grime off of my left hand. It felt like sandpaper sliding across my palm. I smiled weakly.

“Thank you,” I managed to mutter.

The creature only smiled and crawled out of the room, its talons clacking against the floor, making the same sound as high heels strutting across the room, leaving me to clean up the rest of the remains.

*

“All workers must report to the room of worship immediately. It’s time for a mass ceremony.” The woman’s voice blared on the intercom system, startling me while I was cleaning another creature’s mess.

I had no idea how long I’d been in the building. The lack of hunger or fatigue made me think it had only been a couple of hours, but my intuition told me it had been much, much longer. I had cleaned several different rooms and ran into many more creatures, each of which always seemed to have a mutilated body for me to dispose of.

I hadn’t been to a ceremony yet, at least not that I could remember. My memories had begun to run together, leaving me with a fuzzy recollection of the past. I had only one consistent thought- escape.

I hadn’t realized how fortunate my cleaning job was until it dawned on me that I had to clean every room of the horrific labyrinth, meaning I was able to observe the patterns of the monsters’ and the cult members’ movements.

The monsters tended to cluster in the sacrifice rooms, which were also the messiest rooms. They gorged themselves on the sacrifices workers brought, occasionally growing bored and lurking the halls to taunt workers.

The cult members posed the biggest threat to my plans of escape. They were like security guards for the place, constantly patrolling to ensure that workers weren’t talking and that the monsters they worshiped were satisfied.

Once, I had encountered another worker alone in a room.

“Hey,” I whispered,” do you know anything about how to get out of here?”

The brunette female worker cowered away from me and refused to even look at me. After that, I assumed the cult had scared the workers into submission enough to make them afraid of each other. I noticed something else odd about the workers as well. They behaved like puppets- they were expressionless husks. I was on my own.

My thoughts returned to the announcement the woman made on the loudspeaker. If everyone was heading to the ceremony that would leave the exit wide open for me. The other workers were clearly bound by some power that inhibited their free-thinking, yet I still possessed full power over my mind. A thousand questions swirled in my head about why I was different. I pushed them aside. I had to hope that the cult members weren’t prepared for noncompliant workers like me. I prayed that they had left the exits unguarded.

I tiptoed into the hallway, walking softly across the long, weathered red rug that ran for what seemed like eternity. I reached its end and peaked around the corner, clinging to the peeling, puke-green colored wallpaper.

There was another long hall that led to a closed door marked with strange, red symbols. They appeared to be circles with different numbers of lines and dots in each circle. I began to round the corner until a cold hand closed around my wrist.

“Did you get lost little worker?” A male cult member in a black cloak said as he smiled at me. I couldn’t tell if it was genuine or sarcastic.

He must’ve been my age, about twenty-one. He had short, wavy amber hair and a chiseled face. Another cult member with blonde hair walked beside him and smiled sinisterly at me.

“Elian, wanna toy around with her a bit? There’s punishments for getting lost,” the blonde man said in a hard voice.

My heart pounded at his suggestion. In a place like this, toy around could mean anything from mild harassment to brutal torture.

“No.” Elian’s voice was stern. “We can’t screw around with ceremonies. You know how important they are. She looks new too, that’s probably why she’s not in formation with the rest. Let’s just shoo her along.”

I sighed with relief.

“Okay, head on that way, it’ll take you on the path to the ceremony room. Got it?” Elian asked.

I nodded and headed back down the hallway I had come from, eager to escape the prying eyes of the two men.

I sluggishly wandered in an attempt to blend in until I found other workers heading towards the same room. Their blank expressions and delayed movements made them look like zombies.

The room we gathered in was a huge auditorium, filled with movie-theater style seats that we filed into. I struggled to the back to grab an open seat by Morgan, but there was pain in her amber eyes and she refused to look at me.

Strange, even if Morgan hated me, she wouldn’t be able to resist talking for this long. I searched for another seat in the crowd and saw Elian’s familiar wavy, brown hair. A seat to his left was open and I hopped into it, too curious to stay away from the only cult member who had showed me a modicum of kindness.

I settled into the scratchy fabric of my chair and watched several cult members dressed in all black come onto the stage. They began to chant in a language I couldn’t identify as they lit candles around the stage. Smoke poured through the room, low to the ground, creeping through the aisles. It seemed to affect everyone somehow and they began chanting the same language as the people in black. Confused, I looked across the room and saw that, to my horror, Morgan had joined in the fervent chants as well.

Frantically, my eyes scanned the crowd for someone who wasn’t chanting.

“You’re not alone,” Elian whispered.

Puzzled, I faced him and noticed he had resumed chanting with the others.

“Hey, why were you awake too?” I yelled over the roar of chanting. “And why did you save me earlier?”

Immediately after the words came out of my mouth, the crowd became silent and stared at me.

“Now you’ve done it,” Elian muttered under his breath.

“Done what?”

The crowd suddenly began to close in around us with outstretched arms and I thought of my zombie observation from earlier.

“Sorry,” I apologized nervously while eyeing the encroaching group of brainwashed workers.

“You can apologize later, right now we’re leaving!” Elian shouted and grabbed my arm.

He stuck his left shoulder forward and used it to barrel through the hordes of brainwashed workers. I sprinted behind him, elbowing and kicking anyone who got too close. We were fortunate that all of the monsters were at the stage along with the cult members. I couldn’t imagine pushing through hordes of scaly flesh and jagged claws. We burst through the auditorium doors and dashed through hallways and corridors until we finally arrived in a room I had never seen before. Its door glimmered faintly in the darkness as if it were radiating heat.

“What’s going on with the door?” I asked as we entered the room.

“This room has been shielded from the darkness of this building using the powers of my people,” the man replied while shutting the door behind us. “We can find refuge in here for a short time. In case you didn’t catch it earlier, my name is Elian.”

“My name is Cassie. Aren’t your people the other cult members? Why would you want to help me?” I looked around the room. It was the first well-lit room I had seen in a while and I had to squint. It looked the same as the various rooms I had wandered through in the building.

“I abhor these monster-worshipers. I would never be a part of them. I infiltrated this place so I could help liberate these workers. It has been the goal of my people for generations.”

“Okay who are these people and why should I trust you or them?”

“I don’t want to waste time with stories, but I can tell you a little. My people are a clan of warriors known as the Enochli. We are bound by blood to each other and protecting innocents. We use a simple, protection-based form of magic, much different from the dark arts they practice here.” Elian scowled. “Thousands of years ago when this strange dimension opened and spilled into the dimension that you and I call home, monsters poured out from it and attempted to subjugate humans. The monsters gathered human followers and taught them dark magic. These people eventually became the cult members you know today. However, some cult members escaped after they realized what they were worshiping. They taught others the magic they had learned, but only after they performed a blood oath to swear they would only use it to protect humanity. From this group, the Enochli were born and they forced the dimension into smaller and smaller factions. This place is one of the last rifts between dimensions. My people have observed it for generations, searching for a way to penetrate it and rescue the souls trapped here. I was the only one to make it in, posing as a cult member who escaped from another dimensional rift that had been closed.

“Why didn’t either of us fall under that trance? My friend Morgan and I haven’t been here very long but she joined in the chanting.”

“That is because of the prophecy written on a scroll that was stolen from us by this cult. One of my people used magic to foresee the fate of this place so that we could end it. He had a vision of a worker who would rise out of the fog of the spell that binds them and become immune to the trance that ensnares the others. This worker is supposed to be a descendent of the Enochli with our same magic bonds running through their blood. He claimed that if this worker made a willing blood sacrifice by signing their name in blood on the scroll that contained the prophecy, that would free the other workers and force the otherworldly creatures to flee this dimension. Because of the willing agreement that workers sign with the cult, another willing agreement to end the slavery is required from a worker. Unfortunately, the cult prepared for this and used dark magic to brainwash the workers so that none of them could ever use their free will. That is what makes you so special. You’re the only worker who can make your own choices. However, the scroll is hidden and locked by magic that, again, can only be broken by the blood of a worker.”

I nodded, soaking in the information, steeling myself for what I would say next. A part of me cowered at the uncertainty of it all. Exactly how much blood did a sacrifice entail? Enough for me to survive after? I pushed the doubts to the back of my mind and focused on my promise to Morgan. I vowed to free her.

“Sounds like I’m your willing sacrifice then. Where’s this ‘magic scroll’?”

“I’ve been searching for it for a while now, but I think I finally found it. Oddly enough, you managed to find it after only staying here for a couple of days.”

“The door with symbols at the end of the hall. I knew I was on the right track earlier. How do we get there without getting caught? Everyone must be looking for us by now.”

“Now that we have the time to draw a few runes, I can finally be of service to you. What good is an Enochli without his magic?”

Elian pulled several small stones from his cloak pocket, laying them on the floor. He withdrew a small knife and cut his thumb. He then smeared the blood across the stones in the same circular patterns I had seen earlier on the mysterious door.

“These aren’t much, just illusion runes. Hold onto them and they’ll make you look like a regular cult member. If you let go, the illusion is broken. Understand?”

“Yes. Let’s find that room. I’m ready to end this,” I said with newfound courage.

We walked swiftly into the hallway, following the red rug’s maze to the locked door. The halls were eerily silent until we neared the room. I saw the woman from the antique store, standing a few yards in front of the door, talking quietly with another cult member.

Panicked, I clutched the cool rune stones in my palm, and attempted to walk past her without drawing her attention. Elian followed me, staying back a few paces.

I made it to the door and stared at it for a moment. I had no idea how to open it.

“Take this,” Elian whispered as he passed a knife to me. “Cut your hand and turn the doorknob with it.”

I fumbled with the blade and dropped a rune stone as I cut my palm. The stone clattered on the floor. The woman looked directly at me for a moment and then sprinted at Elian and I.

“Go Cassie! I’ll take care of her,” Elian yelled.

I nodded and flung the door open. Before me was a set of wooden stairs. I sprinted down the stairs that creaked under my weight. As my foot left the last step I spotted a large, beautiful scroll on a pedestal in the left corner of the room.

The room had wooden walls and a low ceiling. The floors were wooden as well and nothing was in the room aside from the scroll.

I readied my knife to slash another wound across my hand, but a pained cry from Elian that echoed down the stairs stopped me.

I ran up the stairs in time to see the woman gouge Elian’s shoulder with a dagger. She kicked his body backward and he tumbled down the stairs, knocking me down in the process.

Struggling, I shifted Elian’s weight off of me and readied my knife. The woman came flying down the stairs, lunging at me with her arms outstretched, her nails elongating into claws.

I leaped out of the way but she hopped on top of me, pinning me to the ground. I flicked my blade up and stabbed her chest, spraying blood across myself.

“You can’t kill me, dear Cassie. You might as well give up now.”

I couldn’t kill her, but I could trap her. With my remaining strength, I grabbed her hands and forced her claws through her throat, pushing until about half a foot her claws stuck out from the back of her neck. Blood poured out of the wound like a geyser.

I shoved her into the wooden wall and her nails dug and lodged into the wood, trapping her.

I used my knife to slice my left palm and dipped my fingers into the blood, using it to write my name across the blank space at the bottom of the parchment.

As I finished, I heard a gurgling noise and gasped as I saw the woman dying. Her life must have been tied to the scroll. Signing my name had taken her life.

“Elian! Are you okay?”

He nodded weakly from the ground. The woman had wounded him more severely than I had thought. I helped him off the ground and checked to make sure his injuries weren’t fatal.

“I didn’t even have to die and everyone was still freed,” I said with a small smile.

Elian nodded encouragingly.

“I’m honored to be part of such a moment, Cassie. You made history here and I’ll make sure the Enochli remember you as a hero.” Elian’s face glowed with pride.

I smiled sheepishly. “Before we talk about future glory and everything, I have to find Morgan!”

We quickened our pace and encountered several former workers who were wandering about and looking disoriented. After pushing through the last wave of people, I saw Morgan’s confused face.

“Morgan!” I called and we made eye contact.

She ran forward and hugged me, muttering an embarrassed apology about how she had resented me.

“It’s fine, I am the one who got us into this. I think we should stick to your original plan and give up the job hunting for now. If this is what the working world is like, I can stand to wait until after college.”

Credit To – Rachel Campbell

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