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Willow Creek

May 19, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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Rating: 9.0/10 (250 votes cast)

This pasta was the first place winner of our Gaming Creepypasta Challenge. Congratulations to moonlit_cove!

The second and third placed winners will have their stories uploaded on the 20th and 21st. Thanks to everyone who participated!

A small orb of orange light quickly illuminated then faded back into the darkness as Paul Donovan took a draw from his cigarette. He sat slouched in a plush chair in his living room, the hand that held the cigarette now dangling over the armrest. When he exhaled, the smoke rose and hovered near the ceiling, though it was impossible to see it in the darkness.

After a brief moment of questioning his willingness to continue, he picked up the TV remote in his free hand and pressed the power button. The solid blue screen initially caused his dilated pupils to ache – so much so that he winced and glanced away from the screen for a few seconds.

Once his eyes adjusted, Paul swapped the TV remote for his wireless game controller. He pressed and held the start button until the system booted up. After taking one final draw of his cigarette, he snuffed it out in an ash tray that was resting on a nearby end table. The disc reader inside his console whirred as it spun up to load the game data.

Continue to Level 3? The dialogue box gave him one last chance to change his mind. He initially used the controller stick to highlight the “No” response, and lingered there while contemplating the possible consequences of playing on. But he had to finish what he’d started, and he hoped that by completing the game he could put an end to this madness. More importantly, he wanted his son back, and he was prepared to do whatever was necessary in order to get him home safely. He returned the cursor to the “Yes” option and confirmed his choice.

– – – – –

Being an avid lover of horror and survival games, it was only natural that Paul would accept the challenge to play this game. He had learned of it quite by accident two weeks ago as he was browsing the discussion forum of his favorite gaming site. Someone had posted a topic requesting recommendations for the scariest games. Paul opened the thread with the intention of providing a long list of his favorites, but as he read through the responses he saw how the conversation had turned in a much different direction, beginning with a reply from a user he’d never seen before:

Chameleon01: If you guys are looking for a scary game, I’ve got one for you. I’ll bet no one on this board could even finish it.

GamerGabe: PFFFFFT!! Yeah right! We’ve played everything there is. What’s the name of it then, newbie?

Dark-Shadow957: Low post count + outrageous claim = troll.

00Raven00: Well, what game is it?

RevengeofSephiroth: Let me guess, a Pokemon game?

GamerGabe: (@RevengeofSephiroth) BWAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

Dark-Shadows957: TROLL! Come on guys, don’t feed the troll!

Chameleon01: It’s called Willow Creek.

GamerGabe: Sounds lame.

00Raven00: I googled your little game. It doesn’t exist. Nice try though. Buh-bye now.

Chameleon01: It’s a pre-production bootleg. It’s not supposed to be out until next year.

00Raven00: We still would’ve heard of it as an upcoming release. Besides that, how would you even get a hold of such a thing? Geez, some people!

Chameleon01: I work for the developer. That’s all I can say. Do you want to play it or not?

00Raven00: What system?

Chameleon01: PM me. I’ll get you the version for whatever system you need.

The more Paul read into the depth of the thread, the more his interest was piqued. He wondered whether or not 00Raven00 had gone on to request the game from this stranger. He hovered his mouse over the link to Chameleon01’s profile, then clicked it and began composing his own private message to the unknown user. He was hesitant at first to give out his home address, but he rationalized it away by telling himself it wasn’t any different than the hundreds of random strangers using eBay that had already obtained his personal information over the years.

A yellow padded envelope with no return address arrived in Paul’s mailbox four days after he sent the private message. Inside was the game disc in a paper sleeve. On the disc, crudely written in ink, was: Willow Creek: beta v. 1.0.

“Ah, so this Chameleon guy is in charge of beta testing. That makes a little more sense,” Paul mumbled to himself. His mouth then broadened into a partial smile. “Well, he didn’t have to be so cryptic about it.”

A young boy came running into the kitchen where Paul stood looking over the rest of the day’s mail.

“Who you talkin’ to, dad?” the boy asked.

“Oh, no one, Scotty. Just myself.” He shuffled through the bills and junk mail.

Scotty was ten years old, an above average student, but a typical boy all around. He loved playing the seemingly endless stream of video games that his father was constantly bringing home. They had partnered up for many adventures on most of the multiplayer games (unless Paul deemed the game to be too mature for Scotty), and even when games were single player, Scotty loved to watch as his father solved all the puzzles and defeated the toughest bosses. Paul knew that Scotty’s mother would probably not approve of all of the games that they’d played together, but she hadn’t had a say in the matter for nearly a year now.

“We got a new game,” Paul announced to his son, holding the disc out toward Scotty.

Scotty took it from him. “It looks fake,” he said.

“Well, it’s a beta test. We’ll be among the first players.”

Scotty’s eyes lit up. “Cool! Can we play it tonight?”

“Sure, if we have time. You make sure you get all your homework done first though. Okay?”

Scotty hung his head as he placed the game disc on the kitchen table. “Alright,” he replied in a resigned voice, remembering how much homework awaited him that evening.

It was getting late when Scotty finally finished his school work and came barreling into the living room, begging his father to play the new game.

“It’s already 9:30, bud. You need to be getting to bed soon.”

“Can we at least start it?”

Paul hesitated for a moment. “Okay. But you’re not staying up past ten.”

Scotty’s excitement boiled over as he grabbed the game disc and booted up the console. He handed his father the first player controller. After a brief title screen, there were three level options listed from top to bottom. The only option that was active was “Level One”. The remaining two levels were grayed-out. In the background, behind the text, was the still image of a closed door depicted from inside a dark room with light radiating from the gaps at its edges.

“What’s this about?” Scotty asked.

“I don’t know exactly. But it’s supposed to be scary so I may be sending you to bed if it gets too bad.”

Scotty groaned. Paul confirmed the selection of level one and sat back as the game loaded. “It looks like it’s only one player so you’ll just have to watch me play for a while.”

“That’s okay.”

After a few seconds of load time, a cut scene appeared. Paul and his son watched the animated footage – a first-person perspective as the protagonist entered a door with a frosted glass window into an antiquated office environment. On the window, decaled in thick black lettering, was “Detective Charleston”. Somber ambient music droned in the background. The scene reminded Paul of the way many of the classic film noirs he’d seen over the years had begun. Right away he realized that this would be more of a puzzle solving game. An intellectual’s game.

Paul caught on to the gist of the game relatively quickly. He played as Detective Charleston, traveling all around the virtual town of Willow Creek and finding clues that could be pieced together to advance the storyline. In level one’s mystery he was introduced to the story of James Braxton, a man that worked the third shift at the Willow Creek Steel Mill. One night while having an argument with a coworker, James was pushed into the blast furnace. The perpetrator left the scene and there were no other witnesses. It was up to Paul to find all of the evidence and have the murderer convicted.

During one particularly realistic cut scene of the murder, Paul had ordered Scotty off to bed. Scotty protested at first, but soon relented. Paul finished solving the case by himself, and was pleased with his work when the police finally slapped the handcuffs on the murderer in the final cut scene of level one. The game automatically saved his progress.

Paul’s phone rang. He looked at his watch – 12:37.

“C’mon, you’re going to wake up Scotty,” he whispered as he reached for the phone. He answered it.

“Hello?”

“Thank you for setting me free.”

Paul pulled the phone away from his ear to glance at the screen – unknown caller. “Who is this?” he demanded.

“James Braxton.”

“Who?”

“James. From Willow Creek. You solved my case.”

Paul was taken aback. He glanced at the television screen which now displayed a dialogue box, beaconing: Continue to Level 2?

“Who is this really? And where did you get my number?”

“I told you – I’m James from Willow Creek. I just wanted to thank you for solving my case. Now I’m free. I only had about six weeks left before reaching the dreaded one year mark. Thank God you came along. No one else had solved my case yet. I even-”

“Where did you get my number?” Paul interrupted.

“From Chameleon, of course.”

“What the…” Paul trailed off as the phone slipped from his hand and landed with a thud on the carpet. His mouth slacked open in disbelief. He looked down at the phone. The illuminated screen stared back up at him. He could still hear the muffled voice at the other end. He grabbed the phone and shut it off as quickly as he could.

Paul’s heart was racing and drops of sweat began to form on his brow as he switched off the game console and the TV set. He was bathed in silence and in the darkness of his living room. After a long moment to gather his thoughts and to allow his pulse to settle, he quietly snuck into Scotty’s room where he watched his son sleep peacefully for several minutes. Paul was not able to fall asleep himself until nearly 4:00AM. He could not shake the uneasy feeling of the phone call. His last thought before finally drifting off into slumber was how useless he was going to be at work later that day.

– – – – –

Paul awoke in a fog at first, but then jolted upright when he saw the time on his bedside clock – 10:23. The room was washed in dim shades of gray as a heavy rain beat steadily at the roof and windows. Apparently Paul had forgotten to set his alarm amidst the chaos that followed his completion of level one. After the utterance of a few choice profanities and throwing off the bed sheets, he darted into Scotty’s room. His empty bed was neatly made. In the kitchen Paul found a note:

You were sleeping so well, I made my own breakfast. I have to catch the bus soon. Love, Scotty

Paul sighed and felt like such a failure as a father. It was in moments like these that he wished Laura were still there. He missed her in so many ways, and her penchant for organization, though annoying at times, was something he undeniably needed in his life. Paul stared into blank space as he relived in his mind the accident that took her. Once he snapped out of the vision he decided to call in sick to work. Afraid to turn on his cell phone, he made the call from his land line.

After a quick breakfast, Paul debated with himself about whether or not to continue the game. He finished off a cigarette as he rehashed the events of the previous night. As unnerving as it had been for him at the time, it now seemed like nothing more than a strange coincidence with a wrong number. A very strange coincidence, but how else could it be explained? Besides, Paul was never one to back away from a challenge. He had to finish the game.

The console booted up, the disc spun, and the title screen gave way to the dialogue box: Continue to Level 2? Paul confirmed the “Yes” selection.

The second case for Detective Charleston was that of a housing developer who had dug up human remains while leveling a lot for construction. The site of the discovery was roped off and it was the objective of the player to properly collect all of the evidence and determine who the remains belonged to and what had happened to them. Paul was meticulous in his actions and was careful to think of every possible piece of evidence. He collected samples for DNA testing. He interviewed the former landowner, the construction foreman, and the equipment operator who had made the discovery. He pored over photographs of the crime scene.

Little by little he pieced together the story of a woman that had been kidnapped and murdered. She had been carjacked and a fiery accident was staged to cover up the disappearance. She was then held captive by her abductor until he finally did away with her and buried the remains. The case was solved in its entirety when the DNA test results came back. There were two DNA profiles in the samples – one for the perpetrator, who turned out to be a known troublemaker in Willow Creek – and the other for the victim, Laura Donovan.

Paul threw the controller aside. His pulse immediately increased to the point that he could feel his neck throbbing. His ears rang and he began shaking.

“There’s….no way.” He choked on the words. Tears welled up in his eyes as he recalled the circumstances surrounding Laura’s death. The car had burned beyond recognition. The funeral was closed casket. Had something more happened to her? Had she not died at the scene as this game was suggesting?

“What are you?” he screamed at the television, his face dark red. There was no answer, just the ever-increasing throbbing of his pulse, now audible in his ears, and the prompt on the screen: Continue to Level 3?

Paul rushed over and unplugged the game system. The TV screen shone solid blue. With the exception of the pounding rain outside, silence enveloped the house. He paced around the living room, wrestling in his own mind for answers. How was this possible? There’s no way it was all a coincidence!

The wall phone rang.

The sound of the mechanical bell was jolting, threatening to split Paul’s head in two. He agonized at the thought of the caller’s identity. Most people did not have his home phone number.

“No! Please, no! Don’t do this to me!” His initial reaction was one of terror, but what if it really was Laura calling? What if he’d somehow released her from the clutches of the game just as James claimed that he’d done in his case? Ridiculous! Paul thought, She’s dead! He made his way over to the phone mounted on the kitchen wall.

“Hello?” Paul said this with great caution, the way an intimidated child would approach an angry parent.

“Paul Donovan?” It was a woman’s voice.

“Yes.”

“This is Janice Pendleton from Roosevelt Elementary School. We were just calling to check on your son, Scotty, since he was absent today.”

Paul was at a loss for words.

Janice continued, “We couldn’t reach you on your cell phone, but we found this alternate number in Scotty’s file.”

“You’re telling me he didn’t show up today?”

There was a pause of confusion before Janice delicately replied, “Yes sir, we found it odd since he rarely misses a day. So we wanted to check…” She trailed off.

“He left for school as usual this morning,” Paul said, “I mean, I was sleeping, but…” He realized that no matter what he said next it would make him sound like a negligent parent. He began to weep and tried his best to hide this from Janice, but she was able to pick up on it.

“Mr. Donovan, if you’re saying you don’t know where he is either… Do you want us to notify the authorities?”

No longer attempting to hide his sobbing he managed to blurt out, “Yes. Please!” then wept uncontrollably, dropping the phone receiver. It hit the kitchen wall with a hard thud and swung there by its cord as Paul sank to the floor.

– – – – –

Paul spent the remainder of the afternoon and evening at the police station. He answered a barrage of questions from multiple officers and detectives. He filled out endless amounts of paperwork. He pleaded with everyone he encountered to stop wasting time and find his son. The officers convinced Paul that they would do everything in their power and then persuaded him to go home in case Scotty returned. “That’s how many of these cases resolve themselves in the early stages,” one officer had told him.

The rain had subsided by the time Paul returned home, leaving wet streets and walkways. He unlocked his front door and entered the darkness. The house was silent.

“Scotty?” he called, standing in the doorway. “Are you here?” But there was no response.

Paul knew that if he were to simply sit around the house waiting he would go insane, so he booted up his computer to revisit the message board thread about the game – and to give this Chameleon guy a piece of his mind. As the computer was starting up he gazed at a framed photo on the desktop. The picture was of himself, Laura and Scotty taken at a family reunion during a much happier time in their lives. He fought tears again and then turned the photo face down on the desk. The computer was ready.

He navigated to the message board and found the thread. He noticed two things that had happened since he had last been there. First, the user Chameleon01 was no longer listed. Everywhere he had posted, his username was replaced by an icon with the text No Longer A Registered User. The other item of interest was that the tread had been locked by moderators after the argument about the mysterious game grew much more intense. As Paul was reading the heated exchange he heard the front door open. A sigh of relief washed over him and an impossibly large smile crossed his face.

“Scotty!” he yelled. He ran down the hallway. “Scotty, you’re home! Thank God! You had me so worr-”

Paul stopped dead in his tracks when he turned the corner to face the front door. Scotty had not come home. But Laura had.

– – – – –

Even though she had lost weight and appeared sickly, Laura’s embrace felt like home. It was comfortable and familiar, although it had been almost a year since Paul had experienced it. They lingered in the doorway in that position before either of them spoke.

Finally, Paul pulled back, his hands remaining on her shoulders, and asked, “Laura, is it really you? How is this possible?”

“It’s really me! You freed me! It’s so good to be home.” Paul was awestruck as they resumed the embrace. They kissed passionately for several minutes. Once the disbelief of her presence lessened, Paul led Laura over to the couch to question her about all that had happened.

“I don’t even know where to start, Laura. I was playing this video game and I-”

“I know, Paul. I know. Let me tell you everything that happened to me.”

Paul nodded and listened intently.

“I didn’t die in the car crash,” Laura began. “He took me.”

“Who took you?”

“This ‘thing’ that calls himself The Chameleon.”

Paul’s stomach sank and his brow creased as he tried to make sense of this.

“Took you where, exactly?”

“After he abducted me and burned my car, I woke up in a holding cell. There were hundreds of us in there, stacked in cages lining the walls. I don’t think the place is even in this realm. He told us that if someone solved our case in the game he would send us back to ‘the real world’. And when I was released, I passed through some sort of portal and wound up in the sewer tunnels under Hamilton Square.”

“What in the world? That sounds crazy, Laura!”

“I know it does, Paul. But you’ve got to believe me. It’s happening.”

“But what is he getting out of this? I mean, why not just make a game without the human collateral?”

“I think the human collateral is the point. It’s some kind of a sick game to him. The cages are stacked around the perimeter of a very large warehouse-like room. In the center of the room is a stage where people whose cases aren’t solved within one year are creatively…” she began crying, “…dispatched in gruesome ways.” Laura leaned over to embrace Paul again, her tears dampening his shoulder. “I saw terrible things, Paul. And my time on the stage was only two weeks away.”

The gravity of this hit Paul like a ton of bricks. He rubbed her back.

“You saved me, Paul. Thank you.”

“I have to tell you something, Laura,” he said after a contemplative pause, “Scotty is missing.”

“I know,” Laura replied somberly, “he’s in the game.”

– – – – –

Paul sat in the dark living room and stared at the prompt on the screen. Continue to Level 3? After selecting “Yes” and while waiting for the case to load, he closed his eyes and hoped beyond measure that the case he would be presented with was Scotty’s. Laura watched silently from the couch. The familiar cut scene played showing the entrance into Detective Charleston’s office. Once Paul had control of the game, he opened the last case file and began reading.

He nearly burst into tears of joy when he read about a missing ten year old boy. His objective was to find the boy and have the kidnapper brought to justice.

“It must update through the internet connection,” Paul said to Laura. “The disc is just a gateway into the game. I’ll bet if I went back to level one again it would not be James’ case, but something new – one of Chameleon’s latest victims.” As Paul was saying this, he had the sudden realization that this would never end. He would be compelled from then on to spend every waking moment of his life playing this game, lest someone experience a gruesome death that he might have prevented. His conscience would never let him put it down.

Paul refocused on the task at hand. He worked the level three case as diligently as he knew how, talking to possible witnesses in Willow Creek and collecting evidence from the playground where the boy was last seen. Soon, he was at an impasse. He did not have enough evidence to figure out what had happened and he had no further ideas on how to proceed.

“What’s that store next to the playground?” Laura asked.

“I think it’s like a convenience store,” Paul replied.

“Can you go talk to them? Maybe there’s a security camera or something.”

“Brilliant!” Paul navigated Detective Charleston into the store and spoke with the manager. Moments later he was able to obtain the security camera footage from the time of the disappearance which showed the boy being stuffed into a car with a clear license number. Back at his office Detective Charleston ran the plate number and located the kidnapper. After the handcuffing scene, Paul was treated to a congratulatory message for having solved the case in level 3.

And they waited.

The house remained quiet, and it did not take long for Paul to become frustrated. He paced nervously in the living room.

“Where is he? I solved his case.”

“Give it more time, Paul. Remember, it took me several hours to make it back here after being released.”

Paul nodded, but it did not calm him. He stepped out onto the front porch for another cigarette and to watch for a boy to come running toward him in the distance. When this did not happen, he darted out into the middle of the front yard, gazed out into the darkness with his arms outstretched and yelled, “Give me my son back! Take me instead! You hear me? You come take me instead!”

Dogs barked in the distance. Paul collapsed onto the lawn. When he finally looked up, he saw Scotty moving toward him. He wasn’t running, but walking slowly. He was reaching up with his left hand as if being led by a much taller adult, but Paul did not see anyone walking next to him. As Scotty approached, Paul could barely make out the vague outline of a tall cloaked figure holding Scotty’s hand.

In a moment, Scotty was in Paul’s arms. The outlined figure stood over them. It was not translucent, but entirely solid, yet it took on the perfect semblance of the surroundings behind it. If Paul were to reach out and touch it, his hand would not pass through it, but meet resistance as real as any other body. It stood motionless and silent – and waited.

Laura burst from the front door and off the porch into the yard.

“Scotty!” she called to him.

“Momma?”

“It’s me, baby! It’s really me!”

As they hugged and wept together, Paul turned his attention toward the nearly indiscernible cloaked figure. It was at least eight feet tall by his best estimation. Paul was still kneeling when the figure’s cloak parted at the bottom, revealing a blackness that could only be rivaled by the deepest, darkest cave. The entity stepped forward and absorbed Paul. The edges of the cloak reunited and all was silent.

“No!” Laura’s scream was drawn out and ended with hysterical wailing as she realized that only she and Scotty remained in the front yard.

– – – – –

Somewhere in an inaccessible nether world Paul slowly awoke in his fourth-storey cage. He heard the wailing of all the other occupants in their cells, though he could not see them. On the wall in his small dark cage was a placard with two dates written on it. The first was the date of his imprisonment, and the second was the date exactly one year from then. Suddenly there was commotion below as a slightly overweight man was led by the cloaked figure onto the spot-lit stage in the center of the arena below. The man was manacled to a post with a sinister-looking mechanical device positioned behind him. Paul had already closed his eyes by the time the machine was started up. He did not want to see what it was or what was going to happen to the man. However, the screams he heard would never leave his mind.

– – – – –

Seven hundred fifty miles away from Paul Donovan’s earthly home, a middle-aged man known in certain internet gaming circles as 00Raven00 opened a padded envelope that had been sitting on his kitchen counter for several days. He inserted the plain disc into his gaming system and watched the opening sequence. Once he had control of the game he opened the file folder on Detective Charleston’s desk. Apparently a man named Paul had been pushed in front of a subway train by another person who then fled the station, according to witness statements in the file.

Being primarily an action-based gamer 00Raven00’s patience wore thin quickly, and he spent only fifteen minutes exploring for clues before giving up.

“Psssshh. This isn’t even scary,” he declared, and switched the system off.

Credit: moonlit_cove

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Case File: Smiler Man

May 18, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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I was sitting on some particularly comfortable hallway chairs in this very bare waiting room. The only thing that occupied the room beside me was this clearly fake plant. I had been asked to wait while this particularly clean yet short and stocky man prepared a room for us. After a relatively long wait time the official, who had the appearance of Barney Rubble, came to lead me to where I was going to be spending the next couple hours or so. I followed the cartoon double down a long hallway riddled with doors adorned various official’s names. It was my first time being invited to such a fancy government building with such bland attributes.

He opened a door to a rather comfortable looking room. He had me sit on one of the colder looking chairs on one side of the table. It looked like a generic interrogation room minus the one-sided mirror. I planted myself down completely uninterested in reliving the events that brought me here in the first place.

“Thank you for joining me Detective Buchanan.” Soon enough he sat himself down just across from me whilst placing down a recording device.

“I wasn’t one with much of a choice after such an elaborate invitation.” He was parked outside the hospital I was discharged from and informed me I needed to be at a certain address at a certain time for ‘debriefing’.

“Enough with the sarcasm Detective, I would like you to speak clearly and in great detail about every event of your case.” From the rumble of his serious tone, I decided it was probably against my best interest to continue with my attitude.

“To be honest, this was probably one of the wildest cases I was ever on. Granted, I went in with all my digits, then came out missing one with a severe need for a therapist.” I exhaled, relaxing back into the cold office chair that was provided for me. The man sitting across from me leaned in ready to listen.

“Start wherever is most convenient.”

*****

“Good morning, Jarred.” I waved to my entirely too blonde partner. “Did you lose a bet or something?”

“My son went blonde and got bullied, so I decided to dye my hair, too.” He laughed.

“Fair enough.” I shrugged, “So what’s on today’s agenda?”

“New case. There’s been a disturbance downtown in the apartments by Main and 59th. Get on it.” The short, and slightly pudgy, chief of our office informed us.

“I call shotgun.” I chuckled slightly tossing my keys to my partner.

“Dagnabbit.” He frowned as he followed me out the door and to my car.

It didn’t take us long before we arrived at the crime scene. Upon arrival, we parked nearby and did our usual greetings to the cops who were posted at the scene. They filled us in on what they knew and we went on our way inside. When we entered the apartment it was pretty apparent there was a struggle, no signs of forced entry, however. Whoever came in here was let in opposed to breaking in. There were small puddles of blood across the living room and partially down the hall. As we moved farther down the hall the blood increased in volume. The trail lead to the bathroom and the source of its embodiment. Across the floor laid a relatively aged man in a pool of his own cooled and clotted crimson life. The majority of his body was still in tacked however there were parts of him that were forcefully removed; typical sick psychopath work in my eyes.

“Our victim is 43-year-old Kevin Harper. He is a clearly single man given the conduct of the apartment in addition to the lack of feminine products or a roommate. It was a co-worker that called when he didn’t show up for work. He has been dead for approximately seventy-four hours. Someone tried cleaning him up a bit but stopped midway.” A relatively young looking black man informed us before pulling Jarred off to the side.

Jarred stepped aside to talk to medical examiner better known as Arthur Davis. He had a grim look on his face as he looked back at me, I had a funny feeling I wasn’t going to like this case. He wandered over with half a smile and a lowered voice.

“So, Artie here informed me that the body parts were not severed by any normal means.” He sighed slightly.

“I hope you’re not implying what I think you are.” I felt my stomach churn ever so slightly.

“It also looks like we have pieces unaccounted for. Hank my friend,” He placed a hand on my shoulder. “We can talk to the chief about giving this case up…”

“It’s a cannibal case isn’t it.” I felt the churn worsen and my gut tightens up. He only nodded in response as I held back the urge to retch. After I composed myself I looked him right in the eyes.

“I’d rather not be a laughing stock, besides, the best way to face your fears is by beating it.” I shrugged off his hand.

“Yeah but fears and vomit inducing topics are totally different.” He laughed. I was always thankful of Jarred, he’s had my back since I was first transferred over to the precinct.

“My issues aside, any news on evidence left behind?” I veered away from the body to look at some of the broken furniture just outside the bathroom.

“We have some hair and a strange set of fingerprints but we won’t know anything until we get this to the lab,” Artie smiled waving his hand slightly.

“Thanks, Artie.” My partner interjected before I was able to retort with a smartass remark.

While we waited for the lab results, my partner and I decided it would be a good idea to look more into Mr. Harper. Jarred when to go talk to his coworker while I made a request in with a friend in the precinct. She did some digging for me but came up with virtually nothing. He had an ex-wife and a son who moved to the west coast five years back and had kept a steady office job since the divorce. By the time my partner came back I really had nothing to help lead us anywhere, he regrettably had the same issue.

A few days into the investigation we heard back from the lab only identifying the victims prints, hair, and blood. There was one other set of prints but those were nowhere in our system.

Flustered with my draw to nowhere, I decided to hit the bar with Jarred and a few other coworkers. I proceeded to drink the cases troubles away with some hearty laughter and strong beer. We enjoyed ourselves for a few hours before I got a call from Daphnie wondering where I was at. I laughed into the phone and assured I was on my way. I called a taxi not too long after and made my way home.

*****

“Alcohol is the most commonly used depressant these days.” The agent scoffed.

“Hey, I am not getting any younger. One or two nights out with the guys is all good in my defense. I try not to make a habit out of it. Saw a guy once, drunk himself right into the unemployment line.” I crossed my arms.

“I suppose Daphnie wouldn’t let you do anything like that, now would she?”

I felt myself fall into a bit of a guilt trip, “Yeah, my daughter acts like a parent half the time.”

“She sounds like she has a head on her shoulders, now onward Mr. Buchanan.”

“Just when I thought we were opening up to each other you put that wall right back up. So hurtful Special Agent, so hurtful.” I took a deep breath.

“I was two weeks into that dead end when I got a call that there was another attack much like the one from the first scene. I had hopped into my car first thing and went straight over to the hospital.”

*****

I entered the hospital bumping into a rather pretty fair skinned nurse on my way to the elevator. She looked tired and worried despite her nice soft glow. Just as I was going to ask if she was alright, she scurried off murmuring something about an appointment. I shrugged off the opportunity and stepped into the small metal box. I pressed the fifth floor and up I went.

I entered the hall seeing a cop stationed outside the room where the victim was staying. I saw a fairly old male, clearly he still had some spring in his step but I couldn’t see him keeping up with the cop next to him. His hair was thinned and grey in between his dim brown locks. His skin wrinkled with years of disgust and stress. His body was short, squashed even, but had a good amount of pudge clearly from his lack of interest in fitness. His bandaged hand twitched slightly as it rested on his bed sheets. Some of the blood still seeped from the bandages wrapping his arm and from a patch on his face.

I stood in front of my bed and watched as his gaze met mine.

“Good afternoon.”

“Ain’t nothing good ’bout this afternoon.” He hissed back.

“Poor opener.” I chuckled dryly, “My name is Hank Buchanan, I am the detective in charge of finding the person who did this to you.”

“Now’s the part where you ask them questions….well, get to it.” He prodded.

“So I was informed you were assaulted by a rather suspicious party?” I opened my notebook readily to take some quick notes. This was the first solid lead I managed to get my hands on in quite some time so I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity.

“He was a freak! A freak I tell you!” he stammered violently between breaths.

“Sir I need you calm down, please. I want to know what he looked like.”

“H-he had six fingers on each hand.” He lifted his hands as he spoke, “His skin was mixed with these dark brown and white patches all over like a cow. H-he was skinny, unnaturally so…” The man placed his hands back on the bed sheets.

“Anything else? Eye colour? Hair? Any other markings?”

His eyes darted up at me filled with anger I was all too familiar with. “His f-face.”

“Something about his face?”

“Long stitching, it outlined the break between the black skin and white skin on his face. There was just enough space on his forehead to see that it wasn’t a full circle b-but more of a…a smile if you will. Not an expression as much as an outline.”

I saw his gaze lower and the feeling of uneasiness rise. I moved on to asking about the place where he was attacked and if anyone else was there when it happened. He refused to speak to me any further in regards to the man, I at least had something to go on. I gave a call to my partner back at the office and informed him to start a local search for blotchy men with six fingers. At first, he laughed at me, honestly getting a call like that I probably would have done the same thing. After I repeated it a bit more sternly he stopped laughing. We hung up shortly after so I could pick my daughter up from cheerleading practice.

It wasn’t until morning the next day when Jarred got a chance to sit down with me to inform me I hit yet another dead end. There was only one person ever registered with a sixth finger and he went missing twenty-six years ago. He had no known relatives and lived in a foster home that had burned down just a couple years after he went missing. All of the records for the home were gone several bodies were discovered in the building. It was a cold arson case with no known survivors. Honestly, at that point, I needed a miracle.

A few days after I hit my dead end I decided to call it a night. I had spent the last seventy something hours of my life trying to come up with a way to track this cannibal with no luck. I figured a good night’s sleep and a meal with the kids would be a good little break. I managed to beat them both home to bake some chicken and make some steamed vegetables. It was cute the two of them looked so surprised to see me. The little one, Abby, came and gave me a hug when she saw me in the kitchen. I couldn’t help but laugh. Being in my field and them not having their mother makes family dinners hard sometimes.

It wasn’t long before we got a chance to sit down and eat together. My eldest , Daph, often asked me about work. She has shown an interest in getting into my kind of field, so sometimes I tell her what’s going on. She was like my at home helper.

“So what are you working on this time?” She scooped some of her greens onto her fork and ate them.

“I have an interesting case, it isn’t very appropriate for little ears like Abby, so I am not going into detail.” I pointed my fork at her, Abbigale was in the seventh grade so I wasn’t too comfortable with her learning about the dead bodies I deal with.

“Ugh, can you censor it or something! I haven’t seen you in like forever.” She protested pushing some of the food around on her plate.

I gave a deep sigh, “Okay, I can censor it a little. There is a bad guy kidnapping people and then poof they all disappear forever. There was one guy who he left behind and the guy managed to explain the culprit to me but…” I scratched my head.

“You hit a dead end. “ She finished for me.

“Daddy why do people steal other people?” Abby asked, taking a good bite of her chicken.

“If I only knew kiddo, maybe it would help me stop them.” I laughed.

“Sound’s like the guy’s done.” Daphnie shoved another forkful into her mouth.

I paused for a moment and looked at her, she stared at me like I didn’t catch on. For a second, I was confused but that had me thinking. If he had done such a good job with his other victims, having countless times to practice, why did that one man get away? He didn’t look very strong nor did he have any signs of fighting back. It was as if the man that had been kidnapping and attacking people wanted to get caught. But why?

“I wouldn’t know why though, people are crazy. Emotions are crazy. My English teacher told me life is unpredictable and people can go from wanting one thing to another on the turn of a dime.” She shrugged while picking up her glass of water to have a nice long drink.

“Maybe he was sorry for what he did.” Abby added, “I know I would be sorry if I hurt someone.”

Abby was so cute. If all of the criminals in the world acted like her, I think I’d be out of a job. Adorable seventh graders aside, Daphnie really had me thinking. After we had finished eating dinner I cleaned the dishes and tucked my girls into bed. Once I was sure they were asleep I took out my work and set up in the living room. I had brewed a nice cup of coffee and re-reviewed everything I had come across thus far.

Just about all the victims were near the same age. The most that had ever been left behind from the victims were fingers, toes, ears; basically the small parts. Some were cleanly taken off, others were not so lucky. They were all taken in the same five block radius not too far away from the hospital. The only known surviving victim described a man that had been missing for twenty-six years. During all that time there is a possibility that this was not his starting point, and that he presumably had some help. Most likely from someone that knew how to clean up a mess. Everything before hand only left a trail and a hint that the victim was even taken. This last victim threw everything off, not only was he intact ,for the most part, but he was left at the scene. Unfortunately, unless the victim recovers some other memory or a new lead falls out of the sky, I can’t move onto any set of individuals in the hospital.

I groaned leaning back on my couch. The only thing I could really do after this was give Johan Kingston a call and see if he’d be willing to help out any more. Until then I packed up my case and went to bed. I decided it would be a good idea to visit my friend Dr. Peter Totschlag, being a forensic psychologist, he may be able to give me a hand.

During my lunch, I gave him a call to see if he was free. To my surprise. he was and he happily agreed to give me a hand on the case. I met with him at his office after I picked us up come 6 from this cubbyhole joint he fancied.

“Oh, a case, and you actually brought me food? You must be stuck.” he laughed brushing some of his stray brown hair from his forehead.

“Drastic times call for drastic measures, Pete.” I pulled up a seat and handed him his food, as we ate, I managed to fill him in on everything and show him a few images from the crime scenes. Then I told him about the last scene and victim.

“Yeah, that is totally weird.” he slurped up the last of his soda, “Doesn’t sound like the other stuff at all.”

“You wouldn’t believe who got me to look at it this way.” I chuckled.

“Daphnie will be a great detective one day.” He looked at me and pushed some of the photos around. “I have ordered it from cleanest to messiest. Take a look at each of the scenes. Here, all the way on the left, it’s got the tightest job while the far right shows clearly there was no second person.”

“So there were two at the scene.”

“Yes and no. Some of them show there were both, others only one. You said some pieces were prettier than others right?”

I nodded.

“Those were the ones that had two people physically working. As time went on, it does give off the feeling that they were getting tired of doing it.” He picked up the photos of the last scene, “It shows that the killer may have been reluctant to let his assistant help. There could have been a concern that arose or even the killer was just done with her. ”

“Her?”

“Yup, no older male killer would be this caring about another man. Due to the type of crimes and the nature of this killer, there would be a female party or a younger male, I lean toward a female because of this idea of a romantic bridge the killer can construct. He clearly shows some level of acknowledgement of her and as time went on it kinda looks like he gave a damn.”

“Any suggestions of the line of work?”

He let out a rough laugh, “After all this talk of cleanliness you are really going to ask that?”

“I have an idea where she may work, to be honest.”

“Oh?” he leaned back in his chair. “Were you leaning toward hospital?”

“Bingo. All of the abductions were ten minutes from the hospital, if anyone would have the time to step away and come back from a break it would be someone from there.”

“It does make sense I would sug-” My phone cut him off with a loud ring.

“Sorry.” I picked it up and to my surprise, it looked like Jarred was giving me a call, “It’s my partner, one moment.”

I removed myself from the room, he was calling to let me know that the victim had returned to the station and wanted to speak to me. I quickly rushed inside to pick up my file and gave Pete a farewell and whisked myself back to the station. By the time I got back to the station, Johan was already waiting with my partner. Once he had spotted me, he stood using a cane probably provided by the hospital. He grabbed ahold of my arm shaking slightly.

“I heard her Detective.”

“Heard who?” I questioned sitting him down in his chair.

“The woman.” He stammered.

“Mr. Kingston, I am going to have to ask you to articulate what you are saying. I do not want to play the pronoun game with you.” I spoke firmly.

“When I was in the hospital I heard a voice, it was a woman’s voice it sounded like the one I heard before I was attacked by that monster.”

“And she was in the area you were staying at? Did you get any glimpse of her face?”

He shook his head.

“If I could get you somewhere where you could hear her voice, do you think you could point her out?”

“I believe I could.”

I gave a small smile, “Jarred get our warrant.”

It took some time but we managed to get all the women who worked on the floor where Johan was staying. A couple dozen nurses, a few doctors, and one janitor later, we had our line up ready to go.Mr. Kingston was more than happy to sit in, though, there was a mix of fear and rage on his face. I double checked with him to make sure he wanted to do this. He only looked at me for a moment and asked when we could begin. We set up each group accordingly as well as numbered each woman so we could keep track of everyone he thought was the voice from before. After two or three hours, we managed to bring it down to one line of six women. Jarred took care of most of the paperwork while a few other officers dealt with witness statements and escorting the previous ladies out.

“Do you want to take a break, Johan?” I questioned leaning towards the glass to examine the line of women.

“I will take a break once I point out who it was.” He poked back, I gave a small smirk.

We went through the routine one last time and he was able to narrow it down to two women. One was a nurse by the name of Mabelyn Peterson; the other, a janitor named Margaret Coleman. Both women had a very close speech pattern and vocal tones so I could see why he couldn’t point one out over the other. I thanked both him and the ladies for their time, and sent them on their way so we could begin our investigation on the women.

I returned to the office with the new information and sifted through all the clues again… not that there were many to go through. Both women worked at the hospital. While it was likely that the nurse had the medical expertise, that didn’t necessarily rule out the janitor. I must have gone over the evidence four or five times, and each time, I hit the same dead end. I had to get a warrant for the ladies’ records. In the meantime, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to call them in for an interrogation.

I filed for the search warrant and found Jarred. “Looks like we’re going fishing,” I said.

“Catch and release?” Jarred asked, eyes wide with excitement. He enjoyed interrogating suspects.

“Catch and release… for now,” I replied. “All the evidence adds up to these two suspects, but we need something more conclusive.”

“You did remember to let the Chief know, right?”

“As far as you know,” I told him. “Hey, you’re the interrogator this time, you have no reason to look a gift-horse in the mouth.”

Jarred decided to shut his trap after that…

A few hours later, I stood behind the two-way glass, watching Jarred play with Margaret. I could see that he went with the “We Know All” technique of interrogation. The tactic wasn’t doing any good, though; either she was really good at playing dumb, or she really didn’t know what was going on. I considered going in to interrogate Mabelyn, but there were a few problems. For starters, her record was squeaky clean; nothing I could use to intimidate her. That meant we had almost no tactic to use, and going in with a bunch of questions can always be misconstrued by the defense as coercing a confession… which means the case gets thrown out. I’ve always been a little hesitant during interrogations; that’s why I usually let Jarred handle it. In the meantime, however, I did peek in on Mabelyn through the glass, and something about her… it just got to me. She had this peaceful, serene look on her face, as if she didn’t have a care in the world… which was weird, considering that she was sitting in an interrogation room. Even people who are completely innocent will show some level of apprehension. Not one look of nervousness betrayed her features. She was just not right. I mentally scolded myself for letting my biases get in the way.

Jarred came out of the interrogation room. “If we didn’t have so much evidence against her, I’d say she was completely innocent,” he replied, with a puzzled look on his face. “I still have to question the nurse, but that’s just a formality right now. If I was the janitor, I’d plead insanity.”

As he walked away perusing the folder, I went to see the Chief about the status of those warrants, though I probably should have told him about this whole ordeal sooner. I knew he was going to ream me a new one yet again.

As soon as I set foot into the Chief’s office, I knew my partner had ratted me out. “We’ll talk about your lack of communication skills later,” he said, clearly annoyed, but used to me keeping him out of the loop.

“Yeah, well… speaking of communication,” I awkwardly transitioned, “Got any word on those warrants?”

Chief shook his head. “You know how the judge is about warrants,” he replied. “If I had known what you did behind my back, for the fiftieth time, I would’ve told you to hold off, or do more legwork, or something.”

“Great,” I murmured. “Best news on this case, yet.”

As I left the office, I heard Chief yell out, “Next time, be sure you keep me in the damned loop!”

Any investigator, regardless of organization or position, will tell you that busywork is the worst. It’s that stuff you do between hitting a brick wall in a case, and finding that one clue that ties it all together; that’s what I got stuck doing. I grabbed some coffee and went back to my desk. I worked on the board where we laid out all the different clues and tried to tie them together. I went back to my desk and listened to the recordings. I looked back through all of the evidence we gathered – even the stuff we originally thought was useless to the case- and got more coffee. All the evidence still said Margaret was the perp, but Mabelyn’s interview and her attitude before the interrogation, were so…off. In such an investigation, it’s always been my experience that innocent people don’t act so nervous, or so calm; only guilty people hit either of those extremes. Fidgeting, losing eye-contact, stuttering, problems working through timelines… on the other hand, staying completely still, glaring, a stone-faced expression, speech that sounds rehearsed, timelines that fit together too well… each extreme indicates something different, and you can just guess which extreme fits Mabelyn’s performance. Worst of all, there were the subtle cues, the microexpressions, which seemed to show that she had a feeling of serendipity; almost like you’d see in a woman who was covering for someone she loved. Going back through Johan’s story, it was clear that this was a two-person team. It made sense… but then again, the evidence was completely against it. It was like a criminologist had gone through the evidence, and Mabelyn’s record, and sterilized both.

We still had nothing clear enough to hold either of them. At least I could take my suspicions to the Chief and explain to him why I was against what the evidence had to say. First, however, I had to get a more authoritative voice on the subject, and I knew just who to consult…
Harrison was a friend of mine since college. He had been my Criminology professor, before the F.B.I. decided to call him up, and I joined the local P.D. He worked for the Behavioral Analysis Unit in Quantico, profiling psychos for a living. These days, he’s a child psychologist. I hadn’t seen him in forever – between work and family, I had zero time – but this was as good of a time as any.

I pulled up to his house/office, located just five minutes from the police station, with my notes at the ready. It was a beautiful, old Victorian; must have cost him a fortune, especially in the Historic District. I buzzed the intercom at his door and looked at the camera. “Come on, Harry,” I murmured.

“So impatient,” Harrison’s voice spoke from the intercom. “You’re lucky I’m not busy with a client.”

The door buzzed. I took that as my cue to walk in.

Harrison had an affinity for taxidermy and masks. I knew he wouldn’t have any of those decorations in his office, considering his clientele, but I wasn’t surprised to see a few tastefully mounted heads in the parlor, and several masks lining the hallway going upstairs. Many were colorful and garish, ranging from kabuki masks to a few cheap masks he had gotten from his Mardi-Gras vacation, but there were a couple that stood out. These were old, wooden masks, which looked like the kind they featured in old movies about Voodoo and zombies.

Harrison met me at the door to his office. “Admiring the decor?” he asked, with a slight smirk on his face. He seemed to have aged pretty well, for a man in his fifties. The grey streaks in his hair made him look distinguished, and he had just a few lightly-etched smile lines on his face. I patted him on the shoulder as I shook his hand. “Particularly those Voodoo masks,” I replied. “Think you have the time to help with a particularly tough case?”

Harrison’s face suddenly hardened. “I had hoped we could converse under more pleasant circumstances,” he said, in that passive-aggressive way of his. He had quit the B.A.U. during a case involving the ritual murder and cannibalization of ten young children. That was five years ago, and the look in his eyes still screamed that he wished he’d gotten that one profile right. In spite of all the other profiles he had gotten almost perfect, that one case both ended his career busting the worst criminals in America, and took a piece of his soul.

“Harry, you know I wouldn’t bother you with this unless it was important,” I tried to reassure him. “You’re the most experienced person I know when it comes to this sort of case. I’d hate to sound like this is some kind of story or something, but lives are, literally, on the line.”

Harrison rolled his eyes at my choice of words. “Alright,” he conceded, “Let’s have a look…”

A few minutes later, Harrison and I were both pouring over my notes. He shook his head. “My professional opinion?” He said. “I think this Mabelyn Petersen is your accomplice. She’s smart, dedicated, and shows signs of sociopathy.”

“So, why does she work for somebody else?” I asked. “I thought psychopaths were-”

“Times have changed, Hank,” Harrison replied, cutting me off. “Take a look at the newest issue of ‘Psychology Today’, and you’ll see that there is a technical difference between psychopathy and sociopathy. For one thing, psychopathy is generally believed to be hereditary, due to an underdevelopment of loci of the brain that control emotional and ethical development; sociopaths are made by a variety of childhood trauma. Furthermore, while psychopaths are meticulous in their actions, and detached from emotional states, sociopaths can form emotional attachments, even going to obsessive extremes; the only thing that doesn’t fit is, sociopaths are generally disorganized and erratic while psychopaths are accurate and detail-oriented.”

“So, what are you saying?” I asked. “Is she a sociopath, or not?”

“I believe she has formed an emotional attachment to a sociopath,” Harrison deduced, putting down the notes and moving towards the window. “She, herself, is not a sociopath; she’s found a way to rationalize her role as the sociopath’s accomplice. He may have manipulated her into falling in love with him, which would cause a strong emotional attachment so strong, she might be willing to do whatever it takes to make him happy.”

“Why a cannibal, though?” I asked.

Harrison stroked his clean-shaven chin. “I’m reminded of a case that, believe it or not, was featured on ‘Maury’,” he said. “There were two young boys who were severely abused and neglected by their parents. They had been forced into a diet of dog food to survive. A couple of years later, the Department of Children and Families took the boys out of the home, but for an entire month, they had to be slowly weaned off of the dog food and reconditioned to eat a normal diet. Their systems had become so accustomed to dog food, it was impossible for them to stomach too much of a typical human diet at any one time. It caused them to vomit whatever they ate.”

Looking back, it seems like an oddly specific thing to say, but at the time, I thought nothing of it. I did, however, take Harrison’s statement back with me. Chief would have a lot to complain about, but it would be worth it…

I decided to look in on the interrogation of Mabelyn again. This time, I could see that my smooth-talking partner was really laying on the charm. This was another technique in which you make a personal connection to the suspect. Make them like you, make them trust you, make them identify with you, and they might just be talked into opening up more; maybe, even relying on you to save them, which, of course, requires that you tell them the truth about everything. The only problem was, Mabelyn was really good at playing dumb… or maybe, she really was that dumb. Then again, how would a nurse, with all that medical training, be stupid?

Chief called me into the office shortly after I returned from taking a glance at Margaret in the interrogation room. Just outside his office there were two cleanly dressed men, they had the aura of ‘I’m higher up so back the fuck off’. He sat me down and gave out a rough sigh.

“Hank, I know you saw the two men outside.” He waved his hand in their direction, “I’ve been informed the kidnapping case we have you on will be given to those two.”

“Wait…wait, what? Why now? I am so close to finding this guy!” I protested. He gave another sigh as he picked up his coffee.

“I am not doing this because I want to Hank, they came to me about what you are working on. I was just picked to let you know. Please leave all your information with them and take the night off, you look like you haven’t slept in ages.” He took a sip of his coffee.

“I will have a new assignment on your desk when you come in tomorrow.”

Angrily, I stood and left his office. I walked over to my desk and packed everything into a manila folder for the two fantastic parties taking the case I’d been slaving over. Once everything was packed away, I happily handed over my work and left to go find some drive-through on the way home.

I sat in my car completely flustered with the case being taken from me. I had been so close to finally getting to the light at the end of the tunnel, then BAM, a cave in. I sighed deeply before taking a bite of a burrito I picked up to suffice as my dinner. I know Abby would get mad but I stayed out a little later to cool off. I had a sick feeling the killer would try to go after someone tonight so I had to at least listen for anything that could remotely fit the M.O. About mid-burrito, I overheard the radio call out a disturbance call for one of the houses in the neighborhood I was close to. I picked up my walkie and confirmed I’d go check it out since I wasn’t too far off. I set my food back in the bag and drove off to the address, just because my case was taken doesn’t mean I wasn’t going to give it one more go. It wasn’t until I stopped outside I noticed it was the nurse’s house. Her car was still in the driveway running but all the lights in the front of the house were off. I stopped my car and made my way to the door. I lightly grabbed the knob to test if it was open or not; once I confirmed it was unlocked I slowly opened the door.

I made my way into the house firearm drawn. I stopped dead in my tracks spotting the vitiligo cannibal eating in the dining room. Blood dripped onto the floor from the nurses freshly mangled body. With a short gag, he stopped what he was doing. His head turned to me part of her flesh being sucked into his mouth. My gun was drawn and aimed right at him. To be honest I was shaking for a moment, as I watched him chew I felt myself become queasy. Right before me was the nurse I had spoken to not more than four hours before, gutted on her own kitchen table.

“I think you forgot to say ‘freeze’ good sir.” A quick gulp and he had emptied his mouth and smiled, “You look positively green would you like a bucket?”

His voice was deep and crisply filled with joy to see me. He straightened himself out patting out the bloodied apron. “Pardon my table manners.” Laughter soon followed as his head and eyes scanned the room. My gun was still pointed at him. I was able to keep myself from throwing up for the second time in the last few minutes.

*****

I groaned a bit changing positions in the chair I was sitting on. The suited man across from me looked displeased with my sudden pauses and verbal complaints regarding my seating arrangement. Honestly I was just stalling, I don’t know if he saw it, but I was particularly uneasy about the next part.

“A homicide detective with a weak stomach? That’s a bit ironic, now isn’t it.” He looked amused for a moment while I frowned.

“I can handle anything else, but the idea of a person eating another person gets me a little sick okay.” I grumbled in response.

“Continue Detective.” He urged.

“I am, I am. These chairs are not very guest friendly, now are they.” I kept moving about my seat.

“Detective.”

“Okay…Basically, he asked me to listen to his story.” I exhaled. “He took a seat on a really comfortable, cushioned chair, and asked if I could listen to his story before I arrested him.”

“And you did that?” He spoke in disbelief and partial annoyance.

“I was stalling for backup on the verge of throwing up my snack. Now can I continue? Or are you going to pull up a nice seat and ask more questions?” I may or may not have growled at him just a bit with my side comment.

“What did he say to you?”

“Well…”

*****

He sat back next to the body, my gun still pointed right at him. I only nodded in response to his question. He threw me an eerie smile, pulling at some of the stitching at the corners of his mouth.

“I was twelve….or somewhere around that age. Honestly, with the place where I was stuck at, I lost most of what little memories of my childhood I had. I was a foster kid. No mom, no dad just a bunch of other kids. It’s vague but I do remember a level of acceptance from all of them.” He stared at the ground while he pushed himself onto his feet as if he were dazed, lost in his own thoughts. “Then I was taken.”

“You’re missing person poster is still sitting on my desk. Who took you?”

“No clue, all I know is that his name is…or rather was..Jack.” His gaze connected with mine. “I took his name shortly after eating him.”

“S…so you ate the man who kidnapped you? At twelve?”

“Don’t misunderstand, I was not twelve when I ate the man that ruined me. Have you ever had everything you know, everyone you see, just…disappear? It makes you lonely. It drives you crazy. Now on top of that, you add on being trapped in a basement with a man named ‘Jack’ force feeding you humans after days and days of starvation. What do you think that does to a child? The torture of a man pinching and clamping the skin on your face until there’s nothing but a flap of skin much like when you become overweight and the rest of you hangs there once the fat is gone. I remember him taking the scissors out one day, he sharpened them and grabbed at the flap. He started on my forehead and cut his way down to the corners of my mouth. There was nothing to numb that pain but after what he would put me through, I don’t think I ever remember screaming. I just remember the blood and stitching he did to make my face whole again. He stretched out this white part here, it’s so tight over my nose and eyes.”

He lightly touched the center of his face then drug his fingers down to touch some of the stitching he had on his top lip. “He called me ‘Smiler’ from that day on. I don’t even know why he did it to me but hey, life’s a bitch now isn’t it.”

“And her?” I moved my head slightly directing it at the ever cooling body on the table.

“Ah yes…the Peach, she was a rather nice partner. I met her after trying to move back into society. As you can see.” he opened his arms wide as if he were showing himself off to me “I am not exactly appealing to society these days. So, I decided to just go back to the way that man made me; a monstrosity. She, however, thought she could reverse what he did to me. I told her it was a terrible idea to let a cannibal in the house.”

“How’d she persuade you…not to do what you just did to her sooner?”

“She promised me a good meal and a place to stay, come now you know the only way to a man’s heart is his stomach. In my particular case, I go through the chest cavity.” He laughed a little, “To tell you the truth, she reminded me of someone I once knew, but I came to realize I was living a make believe life. You just conveniently got to me today.”

*****

“I was honestly rather engaged with his story…so much so that I hadn’t really realized he was getting closer until he had enough range to knock my gun out of my hand. Then we got into a good fight for a couple moment. He bit off my finger when we both landed on the floor.” I lifted my hand showing him my sudden love for the number nine. “After that, I managed to grab my gun and caught him right between the eyes.”

There was silence between us, as if he was expecting me to say more.

“Is that all detective?”

“Yes, sir.” I nodded leaning onto the table to give my back a break from the chair. “Is there supposed to be anything else?”

“I suppose not.” He sighed leaning forward for the device. Click. The recorder was turned off. He overlapped his fingers between his knuckles and rested them on the table between us. There was an awkward silence left between us before I cleared my throat.

“So Agent…?”

“Special Agent Jackson.”

“So Agent Jack, why take such an interest in this case anyway? It was just another twisted man gone off his rocker.” I lightly patted the table. The man across from me removed the sunglasses shielding his eyes and stared at me.

“Detective Buchanan, I would heavily advise you to forget any of this ever happened.”

“Huh?” that caught me off guard, I spent months putting that case together just to get it taken then told to pretend it didn’t happen.

“You have two daughters at home correct?”

“Yes sir, I do.”

“Abbigale and Daphnie wouldn’t want to live their lives without their parent.” He replaced the glasses on his face and stood to open the door for me. “Have a good afternoon Detective.”

I gathered myself and made my way out of the room, back down the hall I went, and out the front doors. I took a few steps down the front marble stairs and pulled out a cigarette and a lighter from my jacket pockets. I stared back at the building as I lit it then went on my merry way. It was at that moment, that what that Smiler guy told me about made complete sense.

*****

“This is the part of my tale that you keep to yourself, Hank. This type of information could endanger you and anyone else you hold dear.” Smiler sat right on top of me lifting the gun, placing it in my good hand and putting the barrel between his eyes.

“What is it?” I stammered, the pulsing of my missing finger ringing with pain.

“I want you to describe me as a terrible and twisted man, throw smiles and taunting. I shed no tears in front of you and Peach’s face must be riddled with fear. They will find out and want to know everything you know about me, please lie to them with every fiber in your body. I…I was not random. I was not alone. They wore suits. They broke us and they are making more.”

Credit: Tobi
Credit Link: http://chibi-works.deviantart.com/

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The Blood shall open the Door

May 17, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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The Blood shall open the Door

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

Credit: Michael Vrazitoulis

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By The Light of a Dying Fire

May 16, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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Ever since history began, mankind has been fascinated by fire. In the days of the caveman the hunter’s campfire was often the only thing that protected our prehistoric ancestors from the predators that prowled the dark. The scenario must have been terrifying as the cavemen sat around their fire knowing that death watched from the shadows. Something about this experience must have imprinted itself upon the human race back in those days, for even today a campfire can bring a chill to most people’s spine, given the right circumstances, and one of the favorite pastimes on camping trips is to sit around the fire and tell scary stories. Many may find this tradition old fashioned and cheesy, but I always felt a small thrill whenever the talk would turn to tales of the dark and disturbing while I was in the Boy Scouts. There is one night in particular that sticks in my memory, and when I tell people about it they are surprised that I am not in therapy.

People sometimes ask me what the scariest thing I have ever experienced is. They are usually surprised when I tell them that I have to think about it for a while. I may look not look like the sort of person that strange things happen to, but I have had far more than my fair share of weirdness in my life. This is one such story.

To begin with, I have to provide some background information. I am the oldest son of a large family and I live in the north-eastern United States. (I have had to fudge the names of people and geographic locations, although some people may be able to recognize the places and people I am referring to.) One of the greatest joys of my high school life were my activities with the Boy Scouts. I am an Eagle Scout and a Brotherhood member of the Order of the Arrow, scouting’s honor society, so I am no stranger to the outdoors. In fact, I so loved scouting that, once I was old enough, I joined the staff of Six Hills Scout Camp as a summer camp councilor. Like most summer camp workers, I had coworkers who were among the most awesome people that I have ever met, some who I wish I had never met, and a whole lot of people in between. The two people that I hung out with the most were my friends Topher and Joe. I actually ended up going to the same college as Topher and our camping experiences were how we became friends, but that is another story. Topher was a very logical guy who loved studying the plants and animals of the wilderness and frequently expounded upon them at length, while Joe was more bookish and shy. The three of us were about the same age, and after our Junior year of college Joe found himself a girlfriend named Ann who frequently visited camp.

Unfortunately, for every Topher and Joe there was a Kyle. Kyle was one of those people who made my skin crawl and yet for some reason most women found him irresistible. Kyle would frequently string along several lovesick girls at once, use them for what he wanted, drop them in the dirt afterwards, and then brag about it. Needless to say no one could stand him and the only reason he was on camp staff was because his uncle was camp director.

The last person on camp staff to play into this story was Bert. Bert ran the camp’s health lodge and was primarily responsible for giving out medications to the campers that needed it. The fact that Bert was in charge of the health lodge was a source of great amusement to most of the campers as he was very old and not in the best shape. In fact, he often drove around the camp in a golf cart as he couldn’t walk long distances very well. In spite of this, Bert was actually a pretty cool guy once you got to know him. He was an Eagle Scout and had traveled around the world a good deal, although he was very reticent about why he traveled so much. If you got him talking he could tell some fascinating stories about the things he had done or the legends that he had heard.

As the last week of summer camp drew to a close that year there was a sense of melancholy among the staff members. As much as the kids had driven us crazy, we would miss them. The last of the scout troops had left that morning and Joe, Ann, Topher, and I were sitting around a campfire as the last of the evening light faded. As usual, the talk turned to scary stories, but we found that we had run through most of the classic ones already. The tales of Hook Hand, Don’t Turn on the Light, and the Licked Hand had already been told and we were running short of ideas. It was Ann who finally came up with a solution.

“Hey,” she said. “Why don’t we tell each other the scariest true story that we know?”

“Here we go with BaronVonRuthless91 and that Aztec Idol again,” said Topher.

“Don’t even joke about that.” I replied. “That is a long story which I am not going into right now.”

“I’ll go first,” volunteered Ann. “Have you guys heard about those murders that happened up on the mid-state trail a few miles from here?”

We agreed that we had. The campers had spoken of little else for the last couple of weeks.

“Well,” continued Ann. “You guys don’t know the full story. The cops are treating it as a homicide because one of the guys was tied to a tree before he was killed. The strange thing is that that other man and woman who were with him were practically torn to pieces. They found parts of them up to a mile away from where they were killed. What type of man could do something like that? They also say some other hikers on the trail have been hearing strange sounds in the night.”

“Probably a coyote or a fox,” suggested Joe. “They make pretty weird sounds sometimes.”

“Not like this they don’t,” said Ann. “That’s how I found out about all this stuff. My dad is a zoologist and they brought him a recording of the sounds the hikers heard on the trail. He said it definitely wasn’t any animal he had ever heard. The strange thing is this. If some kind of animal killed those three people, how did that one guy end up tied to a tree before the bear, or whatever it was, disemboweled him?”

The thought was unsettling. We sat in an uncomfortable silence for several minutes and we nearly had a heart attack when a twig snapped it the night. There was a short huffing sound and the antlers of a large deer poked over the top of a bush. We breathed a sigh of relief when we saw the antlers. The deer was just as scared of us as we were of it and after a minute we heard it move away through the bush.

“You know,” said Topher. “For some reason that reminds me of something that happened to me a little while ago. “ Topher turned to me. “Do you remember that weird guy at the Order of the Arrow ordeal?”

“Vaguely,” I replied. “I remember you talking about him, although I never actually saw him.”

“That’s right, you didn’t actually see him because we were on different work crews. Anyhow, we were at our Order of the Arrow ordeal.” Topher turned to Ann. “It’s kind of an initiation ceremony where we spent the weekend working. We weren’t supposed to talk unless absolutely necessary. To make a long story short, there was this strange guy who showed up at my work crew and just watched us. Since we couldn’t talk we couldn’t ask him who he was or what he was doing there. He just stood in the trees by where we were working and looked at us. It was really creepy. I had to run back to the dining hall at one point to use the restroom, and he actually followed me for a little while until I ran into one of the scoutmasters. I probably should have told someone about the guy but I thought I would get in trouble for talking.”

“Well that is a little creepy,” admitted Joe. “I probably wouldn’t consider it to be the scariest thing that ever happened to me though.”

“You didn’t see this guy,” said Topher. “It was the way he looked at you. He looked at us the way a snake watches a rat before eating it. The reason I thought of this story just now is because of those noises that Ann mentioned. That night when we were walking back from the big campfire, I remember hearing some kind of weird animal. It sounded like a cross between a lion and a hyena. Is that what those hikers recorded on the trail?”

“I’m not sure,” replied Ann. “The sound my dad heard really gave him the creeps. He wouldn’t let me listen to it.”

At this point there was another sound in the forest. This one was unfortunately all too familiar to the four of us; it was the unmistakable sound of Kyle’s voice followed by a feminine giggle from whoever was with him. A minute later Kyle stepped into the firelight with a dark haired girl who was clearly drunk leaning against his shoulder.

“Well, helllloooo everybody,” exclaimed Kyle in a voice that was just a little bit too loud. I was fairly sure that he had been drinking as well. “I hope I am not interrupting anything.” When he said this Kyle made sure to leer at Joe and Ann. Ann narrowed her eyes angrily and looked as if she were about to reply with a snappy retort until Joe placed his arm on her shoulder. After a second she relaxed. Kyle had spent the previous summer trying to seduce Ann to no avail. Then, at the very end of last summer, Ann’s little brother, Tyler, had died in an accident. He had been two years younger than us and had worshiped the ground that Joe had walked on. He had been at camp with us and had been one of the kindest souls that I had ever met. He had gone out on a walk late one night, and had fallen down a ravine where he broke his neck to the point where he was almost decapitated. I still remember seeing the paramedics take out his body the next morning. The strangest thing about the situation is that the most vivid thing in my memory was the Captain America t-shirt that Tyler has been wearing. The shirt was all torn up and covered in blood, and the image still haunts my dreams. In the aftermath of the tragedy it was rumored that Kyle had taken advantage of Ann’s emotional state for his own purposes, although we never dared to ask her if this was true. Ann had only just started to recover a couple of months previously when she had started dating Joe, and every lecherous look that Kyle gave her was like a slap in the face.

“What are you all up to?” Kyle asked, pretending to not notice the death glares we were giving him. “Oh and by the way, this is Whitney,” he said gesturing to the girl hanging onto his shoulder. “She was hiking along the trail and got lost. I offered to put her up for the night until she can get her bearings. After all there is a murderer on the loose.” Whitney giggled again and the rest of us tried not to visibly cringe.

“We were kind of telling each other scary stories about things that have happened to us,” Joe said quietly. “I guess it’s my turn now.”

Kyle let out a harsh guffaw. “Is this going to be about poor baby Tyler again?” he jeered. At this point even I started to stand up to show Kyle exactly what I thought of him. Thankfully for my well being (Kyle was pale and scrawny but surprisingly strong) Topher stopped me.

“He’s not worth it,” he said quietly.

“What is Kyle talking about?” asked Ann. “Did something happen between you and Tyler?”

Joe winced. It was clear that he had not been planning on telling this particular story. “It’s kind of complicated,” he began. “The thing is…I suffer from something called sleep paralysis. It’s when you wake up from a dream and are conscious, but you can’t move. Sometimes you also see strange hallucinations. The most often hallucinations for me are long fingered shadows with way to many teeth. I would wake up at three in the morning and not be able to move. After a few minutes I would hear my closet door open, or something move under my bed, and then the shadow creatures would appear. Sometimes they would actually touch me. Even though I know they aren’t real I can still feel them brushing against my face or sitting on my chest. I had one of these episodes the night Tyler died. I woke up but couldn’t move or talk. I saw Tyler sit up in bed. I saw him look at his phone and then go outside. He must have gotten a text message or something. The point is that I saw a bunch of the shadow creatures follow him outside. I know it doesn’t make sense. There was no way I could have warned him. I just feel like I could have stopped his accident and I couldn’t”

By this point in the story there were tears streaming down both Joe and Ann’s faces. Ann gently put her arm around her boyfriend’s shoulder and the two of them quietly wept. The silence lasted for another minute before Kyle interrupted again.

“Well,” he said. “That is all well and fine but I have a real story to tell. It is the tale of what really happened to RON GRAYSON.” Kyle paused dramatically to let the words sink in. Ron Grayson had been a local lawyer ten years previously who had one day vanished off the face of the earth. They found his car abandoned in a supermarket parking lot and his cell phone in the river a few miles away, but there was never any body found. The incident was one of our areas biggest mysteries and, even ten years later, just about everybody had a theory about what had happened to him. The prevailing theory was that he had either committed suicide or run afoul of some inner city mob boss, but there was no conclusive proof either way.

“No one knows what happened to him,” I said. “The man could have been abducted by aliens for all we know.”

Kyle smirked. “That’s what you think. See this is the thing, remember two years ago where I had to spend a couple of days in jail on those drug charges?” We remembered. The charges had eventually been dropped. “My cellmate was this guy who worked for the mafia as a hired killer. He was there waiting for trial.” We raised our eyes skeptically. “I’m serious, this guy was a hardcore killer. He was a mess though. Apparently there was this hit that went wrong a few years back. He and his partner were supposed to off this lawyer who was filing charges against his boss, so his boss sends my buddy and his partner to make the problem go away. The thing is, my buddy’s old partner is like a cat. He likes to play with his food before he eats it. Anyhow he convinces my buddy to kidnap this kid. They found some homeless kid up in Pittsburgh that no one would miss, and they bring him down here. They have this lawyer tied up in the woods and they tell him they will let him go as long as he shoots the kid. Sure enough, this lawyer guy shoots the kid to save his skin. The problem is that the lawyer is a horrible shot so this kid doesn’t die right away. He starts screaming bloody murder and then something in the forest starts screaming back.”

“My buddy gets spooked, so he gets in the car and leaves his friend to finish the job. The thing is, his friend never comes back. My buddy goes up to the place they had the lawyer the next day, and there is nothing there. No lawyer, no kid, no psycho killer for hire, and no monster. Anyhow, that’s how this guy told me the story. The next day he hangs himself in his cell. I get out and I look up any disappearances around the time this guy says this stuff happened, and I see that Ron Grayson disappeared around that time. So there you have it. The lawyer was eaten by a monster. Maybe it was the same one that killed those hikers.”

Once again there was a sound in the bushes and we all jumped. Off in the distance we heard a faint howl. At the time I figured that it was a coyote, but now I am not so sure. A second later a light shone through the tree branches and there was a strange rumbling sound. We all let out a breath of relief when Bert’s golf cart came puttering around the bend in the trail. Huffing and puffing as if he had just run a marathon, Bert heaved himself out of the golf cart and sat down by the fire. Reaching into his pocket he pulled out a peppermint candy and tossed it to Kyle. Topher held out his hand for a candy as well, but Bert seemed not to see him.

“Well that’s that,” Bert sighed. “I just finished a run through of camp and everything is more or less in good shape, although Troop 83 did leave a giant archway in the middle of their campsite for some reason.”

“I guess that means we should be able to get on the road pretty early tomorrow then,” I said. “I’m looking forward to a few days rest before I head back to school for the semester.”

“I think it’s your turn to tell a scary story.” Joe said to me, and so I began my tale.

“Kyle’s story actually reminded me of something,” I began. “I think I actually saw Ron Grayson at this very camp a year or so back.”

“Uh, he’s dead,” interrupted Kyle. “Didn’t you hear my story?”

“Well it must have been his ghost then,” I continued. “It was really weird at any rate. I was doing a night patrol of the camp last summer and I thought I saw someone down by the trading post. I just caught a glimpse of him as he walked around the corner. I thought it was weird, and I didn’t recognize him as one of the scoutmasters, so I decided to investigate a little bit more. I walked up onto the trading post porch and there was this man standing in the corner looking out over the lake. There were a few scouts on the other side of the lake and the man was watching them. We stood there like that for a while; him watching the scouts and me watching him. Then he turned around suddenly and saw me. Then, I swear I am not making this up, he grew a giant pair of antlers, screeched at me, and took off into the forest. I thought about telling someone about this at the time, but I thought no one would believe me. The point is, I was reading the paper a few months ago and I saw some news report about Ron Grayson and they had a picture of him. I realized that he was the man I saw on the porch. Well, at least before he grew that pair of antlers and did his best Nazgul imitation in my face. I actually have a picture of the article on my phone if you guys want to see it.”

I passed my phone around to the others in the group and when it reached Topher he went as white as a sheet.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Nothing,” he replied. When he saw that none of us believed him he reluctantly continued. “It’s just that that lawyer looks an awful lot like that guy who was following me around in my story.”

“My turn! My turn!” called Whitney, still very much intoxicated. “I was hiking the mid-state trail last year, just like I am doing now in fact, and one night I tried some new…” She cast a suspicious glance at Bert and then continued in a quieter tone of voice. “Stuff, I tried some new stuff. It gave me the biggest high of my life but it also made me see some strange things. So anyhow, here I am in the middle of the woods and I have to go take a crap. So I go off by myself and take care of business. Keep in mind during this entire thing the trees are trying to tell me the meaning of life. Anyhow, I am on my way back when I see Count Dracula fighting with Captain America on top of this hill. I realize that this is just the drugs of course but I still don’t want them to see me. I can hear them yelling at each other. Captain was telling the Count to ‘stay away from my sister’ or something like that. It was weird. Eventually, Count Dracula hits Captain America over the head with a stick and then throws him down the other side of the hill. At this point I decide to get out of there, so I slip away. On my way back to the campsite I see all kinds of crazy things. The trees started trying to attack me, these little goblins would laugh at me from behind the rocks, I think I also remember a bunch of bears and deer ballet dancing. It was a weird night. I’m tired, I think I am going to go to sleep now.”

With that, Whitney lay down and began to snore. None of us quite knew what to make of that story. Bert philosophically stared into the fire before tossing Kyle another peppermint candy. For some reason Joe seemed particularly disturbed.

“She said she saw Captain America getting thrown down a hill by a vampire,” he mused. The image of a bloodstained t-shirt sprang into my mind. “You don’t think that…?”

“Oh for crying out loud!” yelled Kyle. He seemed to be very unnerved by the story as well. The look in his eye resembled that of a frightened rabbit who has just detected danger. “You guys aren’t taking that load of bullshit seriously are you? She had ingested enough drugs to kill Charlie Sheen, nothing she saw had any basis in what was really going on.”

“Are we sure of that?” murmured Bert. “There may have been a kernel of truth hidden in her story.”

“Come on Whitney, we are leaving.” Kyle said roughly shaking Whitney awake.

“Not now Edward. I want to sleep.” She replied and then promptly went back to snoring.

This response seemed to anger Kyle even more. Swearing at all of us, he stormed away from the fire into the night.

“Did he really kill my brother?” asked Ann quietly.

“We will probably never know for sure,” said Bert. “Whitney probably doesn’t recognize what she saw consciously. No jury in the world would convict based on something that may have been a drug hallucination. Although the fact that she just called Kyle ‘Edward’ is telling. I saw Kyle and Tyler having a heated discussion the day before he died. I mentioned this fact to the police, but the coroner ruled the death an accident, and that was that.”

“So he is just going to get away with murder,” said Topher angrily. “Where is the justice in that?”

“Sometimes there is no justice in this life,” replied Bert. “Sometimes we have to wait for the next life for our reward or punishment. In this case, however, I think the situation will take care of itself. It’s getting late and I have a scary story to tell you as well before we go to bed. It is about a creature that was once called the Wendigo.”

As Bert began his story the fire seemed to die down and a cold wind sent a chill down our spines. Whitney let out a whimper in her sleep and curled up into a ball close to coals of the fire. The shadows at the edges of the light seemed to stretch closer, and the insects and night birds fell silent as if they too were listening to Bert tell his story.

“The Native Americans would tell their children tales about the Wendigo. They sometimes called him a Forest Giant. The story goes that the Wendigo could change his shape so that no one could see him coming or kill him. The legend also goes that a man could become a Wendigo if he ever ate human flesh. That is how the old stories used to go. When I was a lot younger I met a Medicine Man when I was doing some work on a reservation. He told me some more stories about these creatures. He said that a man didn’t have to be a cannibal in order to be turned into a Wendigo anymore; although that was still a good way to become one if anyone ever wanted such a thing. The man said that the Wendigo was in constant pain as a result of the curse. As the years went by, the pain would get worse and worse until it drove the Wendigo into a frenzy where it killed anything in its path. The Medicine Man said that there was only one way for the Wendigo to stop the pain; and that was for the Wendigo to attack someone who had been as wicked as it was, someone with innocent blood on their hands, and turn them into a Wendigo. Then the pain would fade for awhile, and eventually the original Wendigo would die after it had created a few new Wendigos. It is very difficult to kill a Wendigo although there are certain things that attract them or repel them. They don’t like light and the smell of garlic for example, while fresh blood, peppermint, and the sound of young children will attract them like moths to a flame.”

“A few years after the second World War there was a little boy who claims that he saw a Wendigo. He had gone out on an overnight backpacking trip with his troop when he became very sick. One of the scoutmasters had to drive him back in the dark along with one of the other scouts because of the buddy system. Now this scoutmaster was not a nice man. He had only recently come to the United States and he claimed that he was Dutch. However, a lot of people who were actually German claimed to be Dutch in order to come into the United States. We were not that friendly towards Germans seeing as we had just fought a war against them. The rumor in the scout troop was that this particular adult leader was one of these Germans who had pretended to be Dutch. The rumor further went that not only was this man a German, but he had been a Nazi. At any rate the leader and the two boys were driving along the back roads towards the hospital when all of a sudden they see this man standing in the center of the road.”

“The adult leader swerves the car to avoid this guy and ends up crashing into a tree. One of the scouts was knocked unconscious in the crash but the leader and the sick scout were still all right. The leader gets out of the car and goes over to where the man is standing and starts to yell at him. The man doesn’t say anything. He just stares at the leader and the two scouts. The sick scout is back at the car and managed to drag his friend out of the wrecked vehicle where the scoutmaster had left them. At this point the man in the road grows this big pair of antlers and opens his mouth wide. The scout can see that all of the man’s teeth are at least three times the size of a normal man’s teeth and are very sharp. The strange man jumps on the scoutmaster and begins to tear him apart before coming after the boys. Luckily the one scout managed to find a large hollow log and pulled his friend inside before the monster could get to them. The Wendigo spent the rest of the night clawing at the log trying to get at the boys. Around dawn it went back up to the road and crouched over the body of the scoutmaster. The boy then swore that he saw the dead leader stand up and follow the monster into the woods. The sun came up and a search party found the two scouts a few hours later. The little boy spent the rest of his life looking up information on all kinds of monsters, and travelling the world to hear the various stories about them, so he could find out what happened to him that night.”

There was a long silence after Bert finished the story. Finally Whitney let out a drunken giggle. Apparently she had woken up part way through the story.
“The scary stories were supposed to be true stories that actually happened to us,” she said.

“Sorry,” said Bert after a slight pause. “My mistake.”

“Well we should probably turn in,” said Joe. “We have a long day tomorrow.”

“Sounds good to me,” said Bert. He turned to Whitney . “Do you have somewhere to stay tonight?”

“I have a campsite a few miles up the trail,” she responded.

“You know what?” said Bert. “You can sleep on the sofa in the health lodge. Something tells me that tonight isn’t a good night to be out in the woods alone.”

Bert helped Whitney into the golf cart and the two drove off down the trail. In the distance there was a very faint sound that could have been a human scream that was suddenly silenced. Shortly afterwards there was a strange call that sounded like a cross between a lion’s roar and a hyena’s laugh. Topher, Joe, Ann, and I decided to share a tent that last night. I had a funny feeling that we would never see Kyle again and we didn’t. Topher claims that it is probably because he ran away for fear of getting arrested for murder. I am not so certain. That last night in the woods I remember drifting off to sleep with dreams full of antlered men and peppermint candies.

Credit: BaronVonRuthless91

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Roommate Troubles

May 15, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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This actually happened to me a few years back at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.

My sophomore year, I roomed with a girl named Kara. She was a jazz vocalist, but her main interest was opera. We had a small room on the sixth floor of a dormitory called Juniper Hall. The walls were thin, and her late night singing and voice practices would keep me up late. After a month or so of lost sleep, I convinced her to move her late night practices to the music studios in the Merriam theater building a block away.

Around eight o’clock one evening, Kara announced that she would be practicing late for an upcoming recital and probably wouldn’t be home until around midnight. Great, I thought, that means I can go to bed early (I was beat… I had a horrible day in acting studio, and was ready to pass out as soon as I had dinner). She said goodnight and left, coffee and sheet music in hand.

I made some grilled cheese and soup, gobbled it down, and immediately began to prepare for bed. By the time I got out of the shower, my eyelids were so heavy I could hardly brush my teeth. I pulled on my PJ’s and crawled into the top bunk of our bunk bed. I was out as soon as my head hit the pillow.

I should take a second to describe the layout of our apartment. When entering the apartment, the bedroom was through a door immediately to the left. Our bathroom was inside the bedroom, just past the bunk beds (UArts is nice in the sense that you don’t have to share bathrooms).

Anyway, I woke up to the sound of the apartment door closing. I opened my eyes, and groggily checked my phone: midnight on the dot. I rolled back over and closed my eyes. I heard Kara enter the room and stop in front of the bunk bed. Checking to see if I’m actually asleep, I thought. She flopped down on the bed below me, which was strange, as she was a stickler for brushing her teeth and washing up before bed. Then again, exams were just around the corner, and we were all exhausted. The mattress below me creaked, and then was silent. I couldn’t even hear her breathing.

I started to drift off again. I was just on the edge of deep sleep when I was startled awake again by a noise.

A key in the lock. The door opening.

And Kara entering our apartment, humming an opera tune.

The mattress below me creaked.

Credit: Jessi Cosgrove

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Prometheus

May 14, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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There was nothing about the old library on the corner of South and Second Street to stamp it as anything out of the ordinary, save for its size. The library was so enormous that it was possible (and not infrequent) for visitors to become lost in itfor hours at a time. With so many shelves to roam through however, the patrons seldom minded an occasional misdirection.
Unmolested, readers borrowed books, returned them, stole them, and guiltily replaced them with a regularity of a well-constructed clock. Every bookcase in this nameless library was an amiable companion to this cycle. Every bookcase but one. Most readers overlooked it because it was the smallest bookcase in The Library, housing only five shelves just wide enough for five books apiece.
The first five books were fairly well-worn, clearly having been devoured by some multitude of avid readers. The five on the second shelf were significantly less worn. The third shelf had gathered a respectable layer of dust, as though the books on it had been read but rarely. The last two shelves had never been touched at all.
It was here that the Librarian presided, never speaking a word or blinking an eye unless a reader came to ask for a book from this case.
Fame of these guarded books spread as fame always does; in whispers behind closed doors, mutters buried in coffee mugs at chic cafés, drawled through the fog of post coital cigarettes. The tales in the books were marvelous! Singular! Masterworks that could be found nowhere else in the world. The last ten books remained untouched.
nowhere else in the world. The last ten books remained untouched.
Those brave enough to go after them came in droves, offering up jewels, checks, tax exemptions, even Swiss bank account numbers in vain; no bribes would change the Librarian’s counteroffer. When bribery failed, they came with legal threats, city ordinance slips, guns, gas cans and matches. The Librarian’s answer remained unchanged: “One year per book.”
In sheer desperation most acquiesced in the end. Quite a number of them offered up five, and a brave handful volunteered for ten. Only three individuals ever opted up for fifteen, reaching with trembling hands for the first of the three shelves they had earned.
In mingled fear and triumph they would read while the Librarian sat like a monstrous frog, digesting silently.
One day a woman came into the library, wasted no time scouting the larger shelves or safer classics, and strode instead straight to the little bookcase. The Librarian eyed her with dim interest; she carried neither a gun nor a checkbook.
Business was business, however, so it simply grunted: “One year per book.”
The woman scanned the shelves, moving her lips as she silently counted twenty-five books.
“One year per book?” she repeated doubtfully.
The Librarian blinked. It was unused to being asked to repeat itself.
“From which direction?” The woman pressed. At the look of vague puzzlement she got in response, she clarified, “Are you taking the years that I have already lived, or the years I have yet to live?”
The Librarian had not truly considered the point before, but after a moment of deep thought (and oh how the poor thing had to strain its limited vocabulary!) it managed to proudly sound out, “Un-lived years.”
The woman frowned and chewed her lip as she scanned the shelves again. “Can I offer up one rather than the other?”
The Librarian’s head was beginning to ache a little, but dutifully it pulled up The Old Rules from its memory and answered at last with a vaguely surprised: “Yes.”
The woman did not hesitate. “I will offer up twenty-five of the years I have already lived in payment after I have read the last word of the last book.”
The Librarian once more dragged out the Rules from the dusty archives of its memory, and finding post-payments to be permissible, heaved its massive body out of the way of the shelf. Lips faintly trembling, the woman pulled down the first book.
For twenty-five days the woman sat nearly as motionless as the Librarian itself, moving only to turn the pages of the precious books or to fetch the next in the series. Tome after tome she devoured eagerly, finding that the vibrant contents nourished her body as well as her mind. Knowledge grew like fire behind her eyes.
The Librarian settled comfortably into its cushion of flesh. Along the slow singular thoughts that made up its brain, it began to wonder if lived years tasted differently than the unlived. Perhaps they would be more flavorful and satisfying.
At last, on the twenty-fifth day, the woman closed the last book with an abrupt snap and stood up to face the Librarian. Even the Librarian could not bring itself to look directly at her, so brilliantly did the light burn inside her. Into endless unrepeated colors and patterns it fractured like a kaleidoscope. Thus burning the woman approached the Librarian.
The Librarian was almost eager as it grasped the woman’s shoulders. Slowly it lowered its great toothless maw to bear on hers and began to draw the years out. First one year, and then another and another until her college years, boyfriends, hiking trips and birthdays blurred together into one great rush of scent and taste and color into The Librarian’s gulping mouth.
The Librarian’s stomach roared in triumph. The lived years were as full flavored as a well-aged wine. Greedily, it sucked them down.
The woman flinched under the onslaught as great ragged chunks of her life disappeared in bite-shaped rips, leaving only the books behind. The Librarian continued to draw, satisfied for the first time in its long life as the twenty-first of the twenty-five years was digested.
The flood of color became brighter, more flavorful. Eagerly, the Librarian latched on tighter to the limp woman, gorging itself until it swelled up like a great snake. Then all the color ceased midway through the last year. Color and sound was replaced by dimness, muted measured beats swallowed into a great pinky-wet blackness. At last the flood stopped, and the woman vanished beneath The Librarian’s meaty hands.
All the years she had lived stripped away, the girl kicked happily back in her mother’s belly. Her head swum with such wonderful stories, companions in the waiting darkness. When she was birthed a few short months later the doctor remarked that he had never seen a newborn with such brilliant eyes. She nursed greedily and grew quickly.
Her primary school teachers reported that she showed signs of creative genius. The praise of her teachers was disturbingly intermingled with disciplinary notes for the frequent theft of other student’s lunches. Hunger grumbled like a half-wakened bear in her belly when she lay in bed at night. Her mother remarked that she had never seen such a good child at the dinner table – she never wasted a single bite.
She began to write down the books in between lessons during her freshman year of high school. She was touted as an internationally celebrated author before she was thirty, beloved for her twenty-five book series. And if any eccentric elderlies recognized the first few books in the series, they never let on.
In the old library at the corner of South and Second Street, the Librarian began to feel the first stirrings of alarm. In the months since the wide publication of the new books, the few brave souls who came for the guarded books only read a few pages before returning the books in disgust.
Apparently the word must have spread. Within a matter of weeks, the years that had flowed to the Librarian slowed to a trickle. Then they stopped completely.
As the Librarian sat alone in its little corner, unease gave way to fear. A great emptiness yawned within its belly. When the hunger had grown to true desperation, the Librarian heaved itself to its feet with a wordless grunt and dragged its massive form to the bookshelf. One by one, it seized the books and stuffed them into its drooling maw.
When the bookcase was empty, the Librarian sat down again, staring stupidly at the blank shelves. The defiled books sat like sodden ashes in its belly. It whimpered once, clutching its belly. Starvation swept like a desert wind through its body. It shuddered once and then never moved again.
The newly famed writer was suffering in her own right. She hired on three full-time chefs; hunger never stopped twisting in her belly even as her flesh began to mound up like risen bread dough. A great black crevasse widened by the day in her belly.
Even as her stomach emptied, her mind swelled with desperate understanding of the possibilities of the world. Strange thoughts that she barely understood bled through the levels of her consciousness until they clawed at her sanity. Hunger and truth and wisdom and fear battled like crazed beasts inside of her until the fabric of her mind stretched to the breaking point.
One day, as her pregnant mind swelled like an overripe grapefruit, one last idea of self-preservation surfaced; her very last. She retreated into her private study, sat down at the typewriter her parents had given her to celebrate her first book, and began to hammer away. On and on she went, emptying all the terrible beauty in her head into their pages until there was nothing but idiot white peace at last.
Twenty five manuscripts lay innocently on the table. She contacted a professional book-binder with mechanical pleasantry. She used childlike, single syllables to explain her request. He came and bound the new books in simple leather covers, numbered one through twenty five. Only once out of sheer curiosity did he crack one of the books open.
Between the power of the words he found there and the weight of the writer’s hungry gaze on him, he firmly shut the book again. When he finished binding the last book, he dutifully carted them and the writer to the massive library on the corner of South and Second Street.
Together they trundled the precious books to the smallest shelves in the library. The writer easily kicked aside the withered husk of the old Librarian, which crumbled into dust at the first blow. She settled herself down beside the shelf.
She would never be hungry again, she knew now. When the visitors realized that there were new books to be read, she knew just what to do, and she was happy. With the first new readers, she proudly offered them a new trade:
“Two years per book.”

Credit: MJ

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