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Misanthrope

February 15, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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Call me a misanthrope, an introvert, whatever. The fact is, I always thought I preferred being alone.

I had a couple of friends. Well, mainly acquaintances. People I worked with. People I lived near. Family.

But I had tried doing the companionship thing, and it never seemed to be for me. I had a girlfriend for two years, but she left me because I rarely wanted to go out with her friends, preferring to stay home, just the two of us. The feeling that was most prominent after she left was relief.

I also tried hanging out with a group of people I met online. As in, hanging out with them in the real world. I did this because my ex-girlfriend told me I needed to get out more, to meet people, to come out of my shell.

I realized after hanging out with them that I liked my shell better. Again, it’s not that I didn’t like them. I’m just not a hang-out kind of person. I’m not an Asperger’s patient or anything. I can have conversations, I can be friendly. I’ve stopped to help strangers on the side of the road who were having car trouble. I’ve helped people move who I barely knew. I’ve donated blood just because I could. I’ve volunteered at a homeless shelter. It’s just a matter of preferring to stay in on a Friday night with a good book, when having a group of friends would mean I’d feel obligated to go out instead.

I say all that to say that the loneliest I’d ever felt was when I was in a crowd of people, and I truly believed that the best feeling ever was the feeling of being alone.

That is, until this morning.

I woke up, and the first thing I noticed was that the power was out. I live in an older building just south of downtown. The kind of place where the carpet in the halls is stained all over with god-knows-what, the paint on the walls is chipped and peeling, in many places the ceiling is just a collection of exposed pipes, the elevators make odd noises like they’re straining on even the lightest load, and the whole place carries the heady bouquet of booze, cigarettes and weed. The power’s gone out before. The last time it happened, it didn’t come back on for two days. I had just gone grocery shopping the day before. Sucks having to throw out stuff you just bought.

So, when I woke, my first feeling was irritation. “They had better not take forever getting it back on this time,” I muttered. Now, where you live, the power probably mostly goes out only after a storm, fire or heavy snowfall. In my building, with wiring that was probably installed during the Ford administration and hadn’t really been upgraded since, the power could go out at any time of the year, and needed no outside catalyst to do so. So it never crossed my mind to wonder why, on a wet-but-not-stormy day in April, the power would go out like this.

I opened all my windows for light, but it didn’t help much, as it was pretty grey outside. The weather had been cloudy all week, with a few light showers, and even with my largest window open, I still couldn’t see much in my house, and my bathroom, which had no windows, was darker than a crypt.

My alarm clock was dead, of course, so I checked the time on my phone. I swore and leaped into the shower, not caring that the water was ice cold, and that I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. Even if I walked out the door this very minute, I was going to be an hour late for work. I hate being late. I usually try to be at least fifteen minutes early. It’s a weird side-effect of introverts that we’re usually pretty anal retentive about being on time.

Throwing on some clothes, I bolted out the door, headed for the elevator. Mid-stride, I turned for the stairs, remembering almost too late that no power of course meant no elevator.

Now, this is probably when I first felt it; that sense of unease. I did my best to ignore it, because I wasn’t a child anymore, and feelings like that are just your mind running away on you. But it was hard to ignore, and not just because of the total darkness of the stairwell. It was because I realized at that point that I had not seen another human being that entire morning.

This, by itself, was not an alarming thing. I had often made it to the elevator before without seeing another person. However, while descending into the dark, holding my phone before me, LED light shining, I realized a couple of things that seemed out of place. First, I heard no noise coming from behind any of the other apartments’ doors, which I should have considering the air was off. Second, I was late. I usually left for work before the rush, but today I was leaving at the same time that a lot of other people should be. On an ordinary day, maybe some of them took the elevator and few took the stairs, but today, they all should be on the stairs with me.

When I got to the ground floor, things got even stranger. When I had first opened my windows, I had failed to notice just how still the morning was. But I noticed now.

The only cars on the street were parked. Not another soul was in sight. The businesses at street level didn’t appear open or closed; they were just dark and empty. I swallowed the lump of fear that was rising in my throat and told myself that there had to be a good reason for this. But my mind was refusing to accept that. It was 8:30 AM on a Tuesday. The streets should be deluged with cars, the sidewalks filled up with people. There should be noise, there should be life. But the only sound was the light wind that wailed between buildings.

The power was out on the block. That had to be it. Everyone was inside still, waiting for the power to come back on.

Well, I thought. If they can all wait inside, so can I. I went back into the building and stood in the dim gloom of the lobby as I called work.

One ring. Two. Three. Several more. Then voice mail. My boss’s bored voice saying “please leave a message” was the first voice other than my own that I had heard all morning.

I opened up a browser and started checking local news. But there wasn’t anything new since yesterday. In fact, my connection was sluggish and eventually dropped out completely. I tried calling a co-worker, the only co-worker whose number I had. He had been the one to offer it to me. Others were always trying to reach out. That wasn’t something I did.

He didn’t answer either. I began to wonder if the power outage was affecting the cell towers in the area. Could the power really be out for that wide an area?

I went back to the stairs, phone LED light on again, and began climbing. My apartment was on the eighth floor. I’m not in the best of shape, and my legs were starting to ache by the third flight. It was the fourth flight, though, when the light on my phone began to fade and then went out completely.

“No, no, no!” I whispered. I thumbed the home button. I then remembered that the phone had not charged during the night as it normally would have. There would have been just enough power left for the one phone call and momentary surfing, plus these trips with the light on. I must have ignored the low power warning, and now it was too late. The phone was a paperweight. “Piece of shit,” I muttered. Somehow I already knew to keep my voice to a whisper. I put the phone back in its clip and stood on the stairs for a moment, calming down.

That’s when I heard it. The sound of another set of footsteps, coming up the stairs behind me.

You’d think I would be glad to know that another person was still around. You’d think that after noticing how empty my world was all of a sudden, that I’d be relieved to know that I was not alone. And for a moment, I tried to tell myself that I was.

The footsteps were slow, inexorable. They echoed through the darkness like the slow drumbeat before a death march. They were somewhat soft, at first, though I could tell the feet that made their tread was heavy. But they were getting nearer. From their sound, they were less than two flights below me.

I didn’t think. I bolted up the stairs. I paused at the top of every flight to listen. They kept coming. I thought of calling out, but every instinct said that would be foolish. I tried telling myself it was just my misanthropy rearing its ugly head again, but this feeling wasn’t a mere wish to be by myself for a while.

Every sense I had told me that in this unnatural stillness, this unthinkable emptiness, that nothing should be moving. I had not heard so much as the bark of a dog from within this building. But something else was here besides me. I knew, at the core of my being, that it wasn’t supposed to be there.

I reached my floor and headed out into the hallway. I paused at the door after pulling it closed and listened. Those footsteps continued, not even having increased their pace. They sounded much closer.

The hallway was empty, as I knew it would be. I pulled myself away from the door and listened. My own heartbeat, hammering in my ears, and my heavy breathing were the only sounds I heard. There was a window at the end of the hallway, letting in dim grey light, but it was still hard to see. I began walking left. The hallway had an intersection up ahead. I turned right, the direction of my apartment, and kept walking.

Behind me, I heard the door to the stairwell open. The footsteps, still slow but unrelenting, started down the hallway. I waited. Maybe they had turned in the other direction. But no, they were getting louder. Coming toward me. I turned and walked quickly in the direction of my apartment. I didn’t run. If I ran, I would make more noise. I tried to keep my breathing quiet as well.

I reached my apartment, but still heard those footsteps behind me. At any moment their owner would turn the corner. I reached for my keys, but a new thought struck me.

The footsteps sounded close enough that this…person…could turn the corner just as I was closing the door. Then my one safe hiding place would be exposed. Thinking quickly, I turned and ran as quietly as I could in the same direction as before, heading for the other stairwell on this floor.

I made it there, and felt a moment’s elation as I realized that the sound of the footprints had receded somewhat. I could still hear them, but they were fainter, as though whoever this person was had become confused in their pursuit, or had headed in the wrong direction.

I quietly opened the stairwell door and pelted down the first flight, heading out into the hallway of the seventh floor. My plan was to circle around, head back up the other flight, and make it to my apartment while the owner of those footsteps was looking for me in the wrong place.

And then I began to feel a little silly. After all, why was I so convinced that this person was pursuing me? I was the only person I had seen today, but that was the unnatural thing, not the sudden appearance of another person. Somehow, some incident, a disaster or abduction or rapture, or whatever, had emptied my neighborhood, but left me behind, and if I was still here, why would I assume that no one else was? This person could just be someone else who lived on the eighth floor, likely just as confused and terrified as I was.

I shook my head and laughed at myself, but I stuck with my plan. I circled around the building, headed for the other stairwell. Reaching it, I began to climb up…

And I heard those steps again, coming down. They had found me.

I instantly flew back down the stairs and back into the hallway, running full tilt for the very stairs I had just come down, bolting back up them. I cautiously opened the door back on my floor, listening. No steps as of yet. All thoughts of the footsteps belonging to another confused, frightened person had left my mind. Those heavy treads did not belong to a person who was in the same situation as me. They did not sound frightened, or confused. They were purposeful. A purpose that I knew could not be good.

This time, I reached my apartment and managed to get inside. I locked the door, the deadbolt, and secured the chain on the door. I stood there for a second, feeling like that wasn’t enough, and finally put a chair under the knob. Then I went into the living room and huddled against the large window.

For a very long time, nothing happened. And then I heard them again. There was no doubt in my mind now that the footsteps were coming for me. They trod, persistently, inescapably closer, starting to slow further as they reached my apartment door.

They stopped. Just on the other side of my door, something waited, possibly listening for me, but knowing beyond a doubt that I was inside. I thought I could smell something from the hall. Something that smelled…hot. That’s the only way I can describe it. It smelled hot.

I waited. It waited. The silence was palpable. I felt that the air between us had solidified, waiting, as the world did, for the inevitable.

My doorknob rattled. First a little, then vigorously. I sat there, numb, my breath coming in short gasps, my heart beating so fast it felt like a continuous pressure in my chest.

Finally the rattling stopped. I slowly pulled myself away from the window and fired up my laptop. Unlike my phone, it had not been on all night and the battery was still fully charged.

As I have written this, the rattling at the door has returned three times. The last time was the most insistent, and was accompanied by a loud banging.

I don’t know if anyone is still out there to read this. I don’t even know how long the internet will continue to work. I never needed people before today, but I sure need them now. Being a misanthrope has its oddities, but no situation I’ve been in has been more odd than this.

I was alone, and did not want to be.

Now I’m not alone, and I desperately wish I was.

Credit To – WriterJosh

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Touch

February 14, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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He and his girlfriend weren’t the most romantic couple – their idea of spicing up their relationship was making out in the dark. He came over to her house late one night, when her parents were out of town, and they lay down on her bed together. He turned off the bedside lamp, held her hands in his, and began kissing her gently. The thing about the darkness is that it heightens your other senses.

The sound of her gentle breathing, beginning to quicken.

The sweet smell of perfume at the base of her neck.

The taste of her lips, and the salt on her skin.

The feel of nails beginning to dig into his shoulders.

Despite the darkness, his eyes snapped open as he realised that both her hands were still clasped firmly within his own.

Credit To – September Derleth

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Six Pretty Petals

February 13, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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I woke up that Saturday morning to an unexpected breeze, cool and pleasant, against my cheek. I kept a fan on myself while I slept during the warmer seasons, but the fan was packed deep in my closet during the heart of winter.

I wiped my eyes and looked towards the source of the breeze. A yellow blur blocked some of the blinding light that broke through the sheer curtains. As my vision regained clarity, the yellow blur morphed into a lovely flower with six large, yellow petals.

Before college, I would have been terrified of waking up to a strange flower on my chest, but maturity left me more curious than scared. After meeting my best friend, Chelsea, a female sleight-of-hand magician, I had grown more willing to accept the unexpected. The flower was part of some intricate trick she would surprise me with later in the week. It was the only explanation that made sense, therefore I assumed it to be the correct one.

I made it through high school without uttering the ‘love’ word to any of my boyfriends, as my friends were so hasty to brag about doing. When it came to romance, it wasn’t something I let take over my life. My reputation around campus as an ice queen wasn’t entirely accurate, but it didn’t bother me. It helped me avoid the dating scene and keep focus on my G.P.A. My plan was set, and I was the only one responsible for executing it.

I was not a prude, but I was a realist. No spontaneous college guy would waste random romantic gestures on the control freak. Even if there was interest, a warm fire or a heated blanket were more romantic than any flower this far north. Winter wasn’t for color, it was for comfort. Still, it was a pretty flower.

The flower seemed healthy, but I could smell nothing. My nose was ice cold, and a fresh gust of air made me very aware of the liquid that was dripping from it. The breeze was coming from the window, open about an inch. I closed the window and touched my nose. My hands, warm from being tucked under my pillow, recoiled from the touch of my cold nose. It was no wonder I couldn’t smell the flower.

I set the flower on my nightstand, hoping a long hot shower would clear my head and warm up my nose enough to smell it. I saw a notification for a few unanswered texts from Chelsea, but I needed to wake up first.

Chelsea was the sober sorority sister of Phi Sigma Sigma, and my best friend. She had never touched a drop of alcohol in her life and never planned to, though she had a sense of humor about it. “Why?” was a question she heard often and used as a way to challenge her ability to think quick. She claimed various rules of various religions at first before moving on to secret societies cult tenants forcing her to keep clean for her Master. For the past month, she has used that question as a study aid for her Death and Society class. She would claim that the victims of Insert Serial Killer’s Name Here were drunk and that she didn’t want to make herself an easy target. After recounting some of the more gruesome details from memory, even the most practiced partiers would spend more time eyeing their drinks and fellow party guests with suspicion than imbibing. She was passing the class with flying colors.

Chelsea was a sleight-of-hand magician, and Penn and Teller were her idols. Neither had ever taken a drink of alcohol, and neither ever would, for no reason other than they didn’t want to. She liked the idea and spent her time practicing sleight-of-hand by herself while other kids her age practiced the handsy stuff on each other. I was the control freak, she was the perfectionist, and both of us avoided deep relationships in lieu of our own personal interests and hobbies. We were best friends a week into English 301.

Chelsea was the designated driver, cock blocker and general care taker when the Phi Sigma Six went to parties. She asked for three things as payment: gas money, permission to perform magic tricks for the guys who struck out with us, and allowance to film any embarrassing shit we did (with a clause that none of it ended up on YouTube). I never got drunk enough to go viral, but New Year’s Eve was the one night of the year I caged the control freak completely. That Saturday was January 1st. I assumed Chelsea was the reason I woke up with a cracked window and a strange flower instead of a cracking headache and a strange frat boy. None of the normal signs of a hangover dragged me down and silently praised Chelsea for whichever of her magic tricks had prevented the normal symptoms. I remembered nothing.

The hot shower was fantastic. The hair on my legs was longer than I expected considering I had shaved prior to party the night before. An ex-boyfriend used to swear that his facial hair always seemed to grow in thicker and quicker after a night of heavy drinking. Not caring much about the cause, I recycled the diagnosis and slathered conditioner on my legs. After I washed and conditioned my hair, I turned the shower head to pulse and stood under the water, enjoying the sensation of water massaging the back of my neck while my hair draped over my face like a hot towel. One of the perks of a private dorm room: no roommate, no sharing the hot water.

After I brushed my hair and teeth, I returned to my bed to check my missed messages when three loud, rapid knocks pounded at my door. After the third knock, a sheet of paper slid through the gap at the bottom of my door. This was how the sorority passed along warnings about secret dorm inspections or frivolous gossip we didn’t trust texting. It was quick and anonymous. No one ever knew who was knocking. For secretive note passing, those three knocks were obnoxious in volume and left a feeling of creeping dread clinging to each and every goose bump that ran up my spine. That cold cape of unease never stayed with me until the end. Much later, I realized what was so unsettling about the situation:

One, my door was the only one that had been knocked on.

Two, I had heard no footsteps approaching (or leaving, for that matter), even though the floors in our building creaked if somebody so much as coughed.

I left the note on the floor, as if to punish it for ruining my calm. I checked that the padlock was in the locked position (a useless, but helpful symbol of safety) before I picked up my phone to check the text messages from Chelsea. The knocking returned most of the pre-shower tension. My subconscious would expect more knocking for hours just to avoid surprise if it happened again. The stress made it impossible to relax.

I paced around the room as I checked my phone. First I caught up on e-mails, the last of which was also from Chelsea. It contained an image that failed to download no matter how many times I touched the retry button. I let it be and scrolled through the text messages instead. These were the last few messages on my phone.

Me: see u in 5, doll! (Dec. 31, 2014 08:29 p.m.)
Chelsea: Who is that guy? Why is he trying to give you a flower? Can I do a trick on him or does he have potential? (Dec. 31, 2014 09:42 p.m.)
Me: says his name is ray! never seen him before, but Ana thinks he’s cute so no tricks yet! (Dec. 31, 2014 09:44 p.m.)
Chelsea: Do his eyes look strange to you, or are you too drunk to notice? (Dec. 31, 2014 09:45 p.m.)
Chelsea: Brit? Where the hell did you go? (Dec. 31, 2014 09:59 p.m.)
Chelsea: Hello? Are you in the bathroom? You need to practice so you aren’t puking drunk after one Angry Orchard! Just tell me if you find a ride or not. This party is L-A-M-E! (Dec. 31, 2014 10:49 p.m.)
Chelsea: Brit, seriously, where are you? I can’t find Melody or Sara. Ray keeps looking at me and his eyes are seriously fucked up. I’m getting creeped out. (Jan. 01, 2015 01:11 a.m.)
Chelsea: Holy fvk BRt I jus foudn melody, shes passd out or smthng. Wher are u?!?!?!?! (Jan. 01, 2015 01:42 a.m.)
Chelsea: BRIT! ANSWR ME!!! (Jan. 01, 2015 01:56 a.m.)
Chelsea:sixlovelypetalsdoesshelovemeordoesshenotsixlovelypetalsdoesshelovemeordoesshenotsixlovelypetalsdoesshelovemeordoesshenotsixlovelypetalsdoesshelovemeordoesshenotsixlovelypetalsdoesshelovemeordoesshenot (Jan. 01, 2015 4:03 a.m.)

By the time I read the last message, the chills in my back had returned ten-fold. My frantic pacing caused my thighs to ache. I made a mental note to call Melody later and make sure she was feeling better, but I needed to see Chelsea.

Chelsea didn’t just lose her cool. Ever. Getting us safely back to our rooms, passed out or otherwise, was what Chelsea did. She didn’t freak out over it, especially not to the point of it silencing her inner grammar Nazi. She had grown used to me shortening a couple of words and not using capital letters, but anything beyond that meant repercussions.

More terrifying than those three knocks were the last three text messages.
The first, broken and misspelled, like a drunk text sent to an ex booty call. She would have ignored me for a weekend on principle had I sent it to her.

The second, all capital letters with exclamation points for emphasis. That would have earned me a public conversation where she yelled at me just so my ears and shame could be uncomfortable as her eyes had been reading it.

And the third message. One long string of lower case letters. Gibberish at first, but after reading it back a few times it repeats the same message six times. ‘Six lovely petals. Does she love me or does she not.’ I had no idea what the fuck that was supposed to mean, or why Chelsea would have sent it.

My phone beeped and I had a fear spasm, as if I’d run into an invisible wall. A small arrow appeared at the top of my cell phone screen signifying a successful download. I forced myself to stand still and calm down before I opened it. The morning was spiraling into some sort of hell thanks to my inner control freak. I hoped a cricket chirping wouldn’t cause me to piss myself at the rate I was going.

The download was the image Chelsea had sent me, called NYE15-6Petals. I don’t know how long I sat with my thumb hovering over that text, unsure whether or not I had the guts left to open that image. I had to talk myself into thinking that it was some elaborate prank on Chelsea’s part to get back at me for disappearing on her last night. It took me longer to open it than I’m comfortable admitting.

The picture proved that Chelsea was not responsible for the flower. It was a picture of the six of us, the Phi Sigma Six. From left to right, we were Melody, Sara, Jolene, Anastasia, Chelsea, and me. All of us had yellow flowers behind our ears, and each one of those yellow bastards had six petals. I glanced at the flower on my night stand for a moment. Perhaps it was the fear, or seeing that all six of us had received one, but it no longer seemed beautiful or special. I sure as hell didn’t have the urge to smell it anymore.

Unable to keep still, I began pacing again. I glanced at the piece of paper on the floor. I wanted to look at that piece of paper about as much as I wanted to smell the flower, though I knew I would eventually look.

I had to look. To take control.

I looked back to the picture. Six of us smiling, unsure of the shenanigans the night still held. My eyes moved past our flower framed faces to the mirror behind us. In it, I saw the man who had taken the picture. He held Chelsea’s phone level with his chin. The flash in the mirror left little of his face recognizable and made his hand look thin, almost skeletal. His eyes, unaffected by the flash, were completely visible.

Chelsea had been right about Ray. His eyes were as disturbing as Chelsea’s texts described. Something was wrong with them. They whole of each eye looked black. Most people would have assumed the man wore contacts, but the blackness looked like deep, empty holes; the irises floated against the blackness like the rims of buckets floating at the bottom of the well. All six of us had red eye from the flash, but Ray’s eyes were matte. The flash didn’t just not touch them, it seemed to actively avoid them.

It could have been bad Photoshop. I wish I could say that, at any point, I had believed it was bad Photoshop.

Whether it was the growing fear in my gut or a trick from staring at the screen too long, I saw the eyes move, those pale irises staring right at me, and let out a high pitched shriek as I shoved the phone deep within the depths of my pillow pile. I was done with cryptic texts and strange images.

I couldn’t stop pacing. Again, I wanted to convince myself that Chelsea was trying out a new, albeit disturbing, magic trick on me. She had a tendency to surprise me with small pieces of tricks instead of running me through the patter and show of it all.

This was the finale of a good trick. It would explain the black, hollow eyes that light avoided, how the texts set up finding the picture, how the picture seemed to download on its own when I finished the texts. It all made sense if I could accept that Chelsea, as a magician, had secrets that she just couldn’t share. Once I saw the trick pieced together, it would all make sense.

Any other truth would break me.

At some point I had stopped pacing and had picked up the piece of paper. I was staring at the blank back side of it as I left my thoughts. Confused emotions made me dizzy while fear and reason, the angel and a devil on my shoulder, fought for control of my hands; fought for control of that precious, terrifying sheet of paper. The devil on my shoulder cooed that turning it over would reveal the secret and give me the answer Chelsea could not. The angel, meek but loud, screamed that turning it over meant I could never not turn it over.

I had always thought that my controlling nature made me a rational person, if a bit distant, but I was learning that fear turns a person’s every trait into a weapon. I was as naïve and stupid as any horror movie character I had yelled at over the years, because I could not let myself remain naïve and stupid.

I had to know. To take control.

I turned the piece of paper over.

5 CONFIRMED DEAD, 1 STILL MISSING AFTER SERIAL KILLER STRIKES CAMPUS NEW YEARS EVE PARTY
By Neil Palmer

January 3rd, 2015 – It has been three days since the Acacia Fraternity New Year’s Eve Party ended and two more students have been tragically added to the list of deceased. The bodies of Anastasia Higgins and Chelsea Fogg were found in their respective dorm rooms this morning, despite campus being under 24-hour surveillance and closed to all non-police and federal authorities as of January 1st.
The rooms of all six sorority sisters have been secured and are under observation. Melody Simmons and Sarah Rowland were found on the morning of January 1st by pledges assigned to aid them after the New Year’s Eve party. Jolene Robert’s body appeared in her bed the next day. There were no signs of forced entry and no reports of suspicious activity from officers on duty.

Ms. Higgins and Ms. Fogg each had strange yellow flowers on their chests, as with the previous victims. Two of the petals on Ms. Fogg’s flower had been removed, leaving four petals. One petal had been removed from of Ms. Higgins’, leaving five. Though the flower has not yet been identified, the picture below, pulled this morning off of Ms. Fogg’s phone, show that each flower has six petals. Authorities suspect that whoever was responsible for the flowers may have information and urge anybody with information to call 911 or the provided anonymous tip line as quickly as possible.

(In the middle of the page was the picture that Chelsea had emailed me, displaying the six of us smiling with those fucking flowers behind our ears. I wouldn’t let myself look at Ray’s face again. I forced myself to read on, despite tears blurring my vision.)

Britney Davidson is the last member of the Phi Sigma Six who remains unaccounted for. If criminal profiler theories that this is the work of a serial killer can be trusted, Ms. Davidson represents one more potential victim. Finding her is paramount to both saving her life and catching the person responsible for the deaths of her five sisters.

If anybody has any information regarding the whereabouts of Britney Davidson, please call the aforementioned numbers.

A service for the Phi Sigma Six will be held as soon as the campus is re-opened to the staff and students. Until then, free grief counseling and student support is being offered at the local YMCA.

Our thoughts and sympathies are with the families of all six young women and anyone else whose lives they have touched.

There was a picture of me on the bottom of the page, and some phone numbers.

I let the paper fall to the floor as my breath caught in my chest. My sisters were dead. My best friend was dead. The grief I felt for them, and the fear I should have felt knowing that I was next, both punctuated by the date at the top of the page.

It was January 3rd. I had been lost for three days, which meant that I had lost three days.

Somehow, I had ended up back in my own bed, the same as my sorority sisters. I hoped nobody had stuffed a piece of paper underneath any of their doors. I hoped that they had gone peacefully in their sleep. I hoped they had been ignorant to the fear coursing through me knowing that I was next.

Three knocks, much louder than the first, crumbled my nerves. The chills running up my spine grew hot with adrenaline. Tears streamed down my face. I couldn’t help myself from whimpering in short, ugly bursts. I turned towards my bed, ready to leap for the phone under my pillows and call 911.

I couldn’t take the first step. What I saw stopped the chills, the tears, the whimper, my breathing and time itself, for all I knew.

The window was cracked about an inch. The yellow flower with the six pretty petals was no longer on my night table. The yellow flower sat on my chest in a perfect spot to obstruct my vision if I were to open my eyes. Not a single petal had been removed.
The room had become claustrophobic and surrealistic in a hurry. I wasn’t sure if the version of me, who I thought of as the ‘real’ me, was asleep or dead. I wasn’t sure if I was a ghost, a dream, or having an out of body experience.

I had been vulnerable to whatever monster was responsible for the death of my friends the entire time, and I had been ignorant of that until I read that damn article. In trying to grasp control, I had broken the illusion and lost all of it. As vulnerable as the ‘real’ me lying in bed was, the part of me stuck staring at her would be the part that suffered.

I envied her, the ‘real’ me lying in that bed, relaxed and oblivious. She hadn’t spent the morning pacing around her room, slowly losing her mind. She hadn’t learned that her best friends had died. She had no idea that she would never be waking up, if she wasn’t already dead.

The door behind me creaked as it opened. My entire body felt as cold as my nose had been. The adrenaline was gone, no longer warming my limbs. Something more than fear froze me in place. All I felt was cold.

I would not move. I could not move.

Each shallow exhale turned into a thick cloud of fog in front of my face. My eyes were wide open and drying out in the intense cold. The room itself seemed to turn gray the colder I got. I heard a hiss behind me and a large cloud fog flew past my head, overtaking one of my own small breath clouds.

I could not react to whatever was behind me. Rather it was out of fear or something the thing behind me had done to me, I would never know. My bladder let loose to punctuate my lack of body control. The fresh piss felt like ice water as it flowed down my leg. It didn’t even take a cricket chirping.

A yellow blur slowly crept over my shoulder from my left peripheral. As my vision regained clarity, the yellow blur morphed into an ugly flower with one large, decayed yellow petal. My entire body was ice cold, but this time I could smell it; something like nail polish remover and moldy bread and sweet rot.

Holding the stem of the flower was a pale hand that looked thin and skeletal at first. I was wrong. The hand wasn’t skeletal; it was a skeleton’s hand.
A voice behind me spoke, a deep whisper louder than any of the knocks.

“Six lovely petals. Does she love me or does she not?”

No control.

I looked at my body one last time and offered a silent apology. I was going to be the reason we died, and I could do nothing to stop it.

I was powerless.

Powerless to resist the second skeleton hand as it grabbed my wrist and raised my hand to the flower.

Powerless to stop my fingers from pinching that last yellow petal and plucking it off.

Powerless to stop myself from saying “I love you not.”

——-

I woke up that Saturday morning to an unexpected breeze, cool and pleasant, against my cheek. Somewhere within the whoosh of the wind blowing through my window, I swear I heard a deep whisper.

“Good choice.”

Credit To – Rob E. Nichols

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Shut That Damned Door!

February 12, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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My parents died in a car crash when I was fourteen.

Don’t feel bad for me or anything. I’ve made my peace with that years ago. Life with them was never great, but I do miss them. It’s just that if they taught me one thing it’s to not sit around wallowing in self-pity.

I just wish they hadn’t sent me to live with my Aunt Louise.

Anyone have that one family member that’s just a little strange, a little cut off from the rest of the family? Aunt Louise was ours. She was also our closest living relative. Dad’s family lived on the other side of the continent. Mom’s parents were both dead and she was an only child. Aunt Louise, her mother’s sister, actually, so my great-aunt, lived just an hour from where we did.

When my folks were alive, we rarely visited Aunt Louise, and to be perfectly honest, I half expected her to refuse to take me in. I was fully prepared to become a ward of the state, or move across the country, as soon as I heard that Children and Family services had contacted her about taking me in.

But she accepted. I’m not sure how willingly, or graciously, because I wasn’t privy to the phone conversation where she agreed to take me. I was surprised, though, at how nice she was to me the first three days I was there.

I want to make something clear; while Aunt Louise was cranky, odd, eccentric, uncouth, and several other less-than-flattering adjectives, she wasn’t a complete bitch. She had a rather abrupt, even abrasive, way of speaking, but she wasn’t cruel. I had never taken the time to really get to know her during my initial fourteen years, but I could tell that she mostly kept to herself and didn’t particularly like people, so naturally I assumed that she was a reclusive, curmudgeonly bitch.

Really, what surprised me most when I first moved in, it was how normal everything seemed. At least at first. Aunt Louise cooked, cleaned, watched TV, talked to neighbors on the phone, etc. just like anyone else would, and she told me right away that she had little in the way of expectations from me, or at least, none that my parents wouldn’t have; don’t stay out too late, let her know if you’re going to be late coming home, finish your homework before you watch TV, clean up after yourself, etc.

There was one rule, however, that was strange. And it stood out from the other rules in how strange it was. At first I tried not to worry about it; old people sometimes have peculiarities. I initially thought that was all this was. I was wrong.

She insisted that any time I entered or left a room, I was to shut the door behind me right away. It didn’t matter if I was only going to be in that room for a few seconds. If I entered a room, I was expected to immediately shut the door, and the same was true if I left it.

I often forgot this rule in my first week or so there. She never failed to remind me of it. “Shut that damned door!” she would yell, any time I forgot. It never seemed to matter where she was in the house, she could always tell when I had not shut a door just after opening it.

Her house was old, and my understanding is that she was not its first owner. She had lived in it since Mom was a girl. I had no idea how old it was. It could easily have been over a hundred, judging by its design and layout. It had two floors, a basement and a sub-basement. That last floor threw me for a bit of a loop when I discovered it existed. I was washing a load of my clothes when I noticed a door, closed, naturally, in the far wall of the utility room. The basement was unfinished, with mostly dirt flooring and bits and bobs stacked or piled or shelved everywhere. The only room you could really walk through without fear of stepping on something or knocking over a stack or pile was this laundry room, which was also the only tiled floor down there

The door I found in the basement had a board laid across it, easily moveable. It was as if Aunt Louise wanted a border there but not one that she couldn’t get past, if need be. My curiosity overtook me the second time I saw it, and I slid the board away from the door and tried it. It was locked.

This didn’t strike me as all that strange right away. That is, until I realized that this was the only room in the house, other than the doors leading outside, that Aunt Louise kept locked.

I asked her about it one day. She was cooking.

“The door in the basement?” she answered. “That’s the sub-basement. Not much down there. I mainly keep my preserves down there. It’s cool enough for them to keep.”

“Right,” I answered. This didn’t really explain why she kept it locked. “So if I ever wanted to take a look around down there…”

“For the love of Christ, boy, why would you want to do that?”

I noticed with that response that her face had changed. Aunt Louise mostly wore the same expression; a scowl like someone had just tracked mud onto her freshly-shampooed carpet. Again, she wasn’t as nasty as her expression indicated, but it was the expression she was most used to making, apparently.

But when she responded to my desire to see what was behind that door, her eyebrows raised and her mouth quivered for just a second before answering. It was so slight, others might not have noticed it, but by that time, I knew enough about Aunt Louise to equate that with a scream of horror.

I knew then that I had to see what was behind that door.

I’ve always been a curious type, you see. I’ve never been able to stay away from something that aroused my curiosity, even if my good sense told me better. I wanted nothing more after that than to see what was in that sub-basement.

But how was I to get around the lock? That was going to be an issue. Aunt Louise kept all her keys on a single ring. There weren’t that many of them, but I figured if the door to that sub-basement was anywhere, it was there.

I just had to find a way to take it from her.

This turned out not to be so simple. For one thing, it was not possible to get around the house without being heard. I couldn’t sneak from my bedroom to hers in order to sneak the keys without opening and closing all doors in between us; mine, the door in the far part of the hallway, and hers. Believe me, even if I simply left all doors open, she somehow knew. I once had to go to the bathroom in the night, and I forgot to close the hallway door. I had just made it to the bathroom when I heard her yell, even while asleep, “Shut that damned door!” I hurriedly turned back and went to close the hallway door, forgetting to close the bathroom door, and I heard it again: “Shut that damned door!”

For that matter, Aunt Louise’s room had a squeaky door that also had a catch to it, so when she opened it, it sounded like a choom-creeeeeeeeeeeeak. There was no opening of her door without her noticing.

So I forgot about the sub-basement door for a while. I placed my curiosity on the back burner and just tried to get along with the taciturn old woman for a while. Life got a bit easier. As long as I remembered to keep all doors shut at all times, the two of us got along famously. She didn’t get in my face about things, and I didn’t get in hers. It was a pretty silent house, but one that I got used to living in. I didn’t even think it strange anymore that every part of the house that one accessed through a door always had its door shut. It would have struck me as more odd if any doorway was ever left open.

Which brings me to the day Aunt Louise fell asleep while watching The Price is Right. It was a summer day, and pretty hot. Louise was slightly less worried about windows being open than doors, but she still tended to only open one at a time, and today she had just one open, one that wasn’t doing much at all to cool down a boxed-in house that had zero room for airflow thanks to Aunt Louise’s chief eccentricity. So, naturally, she fell asleep. And I saw my chance.

Her purse was at her feet. I was sitting in the chair directly beside hers, reading an Avengers comic book and trying to ignore the repeated calls of “Come oooooooon doooooown!” from the TV. I looked over at her, and saw that she was in a deep doze. Her hearing wasn’t the greatest even when she was awake, though she was far from deaf, but I figured in her snooze, there would be little chance she would hear the tiny noise of me rifling through her purse.

I found her keys almost immediately and headed for the stairwell. If she woke up when I opened the door, I would just claim I was doing a load of laundry. But she was unlikely to wake up unless I forgot to close the door, which by now I never did.

I headed down the stairs, for some reason tip-toeing even though I wasn’t yet at the place I had been shut out from. I felt absurdly guilty, despite the fact that Aunt Louise had never expressly forbidden me from doing what I was now doing.

The door to the basement was closed, of course, but unlocked, as always. I ducked through and closed it, waiting a few minutes, listening for a shifting of Aunt Louise’s frame in her chair, indicating she was getting up, or perhaps her voice calling to ask why I was in the basement.

Quietly, I crept for the laundry room, opened the door and closed it just as quick, slipping inside. I felt for the chain-pull for the light and pulled it. Low, eery light flickered through the room. I had never thought of the lighting in here as eery before, but I did now. There was something about this entire endeavor that felt wrong.

But my curiosity overrode my sense of caution. I crept toward the door and slid the board away from it. Aunt Louise had apparently put it back in place after the last time I had done this. The question of why she had done so played in my brain for a moment, but I ignored it and brought out the key ring.

I found the right key on the third try, and heard a loud chuck of the lock sliding away. I froze, heart beating in my chest, waiting to hear a cry from upstairs. Nothing.

The door opened silently as a ghost. There wasn’t any light to illuminate the staircase beyond. I didn’t even see a chain-pull for a light on the stairs. My brain was screaming at the rest of my body to turn around and forget this little adventure, but I paid it no heed and crept down the stairs, feeling along the wall for guidance.

It turned out there was a tiny amount of light, coming through vents in the ceiling. It wasn’t much, but I could see that there was a pull-string light, just a few feet from the foot of the stairs. Stupid place to put it; it should be right at the landing. But I walked down what appeared to be a fairly compact hallway and pulled the string. If possible, the light that flickered on was lower than the light from the laundry room. I could barely tell I’d turned it on.

I looked around and saw that, indeed, Aunt Louise did have rows of preserves down here. I was somewhat disappointed at the mundane answer to the mystery. For a moment, it seemed that the secret sub-basement was exactly what it was supposed to be.

Except…I could feel a puff of a warmish breeze that should not be possible down in the hard-packed earthen walls and cooler, subterranean air. The sense of wrongness was still there, and still strong, and I realized that the long row of shelves holding jars ended in a doorway at the end. A doorway that didn’t have a door.

I crept forward, arms in front of me, stepping carefully. The room beyond the door was dark and smelled musty. I couldn’t feel a source of the slightly warm air that was brushing against my skin. But I was noticing that the closer I got to that room, the warmer the air became.

By the time I was at the mouth of the tunnel (somehow I had started thinking of this place as a tunnel by this time), the air wasn’t just warm, it was humid. Fetid. The smell went from musty to moldy, to something even worse. I was assailed by that sense of wrongness stronger than ever. I had to get out of here. Why was I walking even closer?

There wasn’t much light, but I could see the outline of another door on the other side of the room. It was ajar. Seeing a door ajar in Aunt Louise’s house was like seeing a shattered window in anyone else’s. It was wrong. It was not meant to be. But then…I wasn’t precisely in Aunt Louise’s house anymore, was I? This tunnel was not built for this house. I knew that in my soul. It was here before. Long before. This was a place that had only become attached to Aunt Louise’s house by short-sighted builders, unaware of what they had unearthed. What they should have left buried.

It took me a moment to realize that the room beyond, the very room I was about to step into, was moving. The light was too dim to really see what was happening, but there was motion beyond it. Unceasing, slow, lazy motion. All along the walls, the floor. I could hear a slight squelching noise from its every corner. Things were crawling, expanding their pulpous flesh.

And looking at me. Daring me to cross that floor and shut the door on the far side, forever closing out what might be coming through it. I heard sucking sounds. Some formless, gelatinous presence stretched and flexed in the darkness.

In that moment, a sense of understanding came to me. I was not the first person to stand at this door. This door that could not be closed. Not the first person to see that other door, the one that was not meant to be, standing open on the other side, and knowing that it always would, until someone worked up the courage to cross the threshold and close it.

Aunt Louise had not had the courage, so she had fled, and kept every door in her house closed at all times, hoping against hope that keeping her doors closed at all times would alert her when whatever was beyond that damned door finally came for her.

I didn’t have the courage, either. I turned and fled, and never looked back. When I was sixteen I moved out of Aunt Louise’s and into a Halfway House. Once I was eighteen I got a job upstate, and moved there. I never went back to Aunt Louise’s and never called her, tried hard to not even think about her.

But I haven’t been successful. I still think back to the day I stood at that doorway, about the squelching, wriggling things that waited in the dark. And I wonder if Aunt Louise ever found the strength to cross the room and shut that damned door.

Credit To – WriterJosh

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Not All Secrets Are Taken To The Grave

February 11, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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I’ve always found it particularly difficult to start a story. It’s easy to end one, but ever since grade school when my teachers would make me write a short story, I could never make a good start. I suppose I’ll start by saying this is a story. A story about my best friend. He died about 2 years ago. He was in his living room, sitting, watching tv, and he had a heart attack. And boom. Just like that he’s dead. Gone. Bye bye. See you later. It was really shocking when I found out.

He was a hard working man who was a mechanic. He always was sweating from physical labor. It didn’t make any sense how he could have possibly died from a blocked artery. But I guess somethings aren’t always what they seem in this life. We went to his funeral. It was a simple service, family and friends of his showed up. We said a few words about him. We cried and all the usual stuff at a funeral. Then we put him in the ground. And we left.

I got over his death ok. I was sad for quite a while but I knew that he wouldn’t want me to sit there sad all the time. “Stop being a wuss and get on with your life,” he’d say. He was just that kind of guy, a tough, skinny guy, with a mouth full of lemon juice. His name was Tom. You could see him from miles around walking around with his big ego flaunting himself ’round like his sh*t didn’t stink. Hilariously enough, it usually didn’t.

As you can guess by that joke we were real close. As kids we were inseparable. We’d spend our nights and days causing trouble around our small town, ding dong ditching and throwing eggs at random old ladies and such. We grew up and I got married to a beautiful wife. He stayed single, preferring to be a one-night stand kind of guy. He even made me a special promise a long time ago.

“Percy,” he said, “if either one of us goes off to the big yonder before the other, the one that goes should come back and tell the other what it’s like up there in heaven.” I wasn’t to thrilled with the idea. “But I wouldn’t want you to come back. I want to find out for myself what the light is.” He grunted in annoyance.
“Ugh…fine. I still want one of us to come back though.” He scratched his nose in thought. “But only if we have something really really important to tell the other person. Like if they’re going to be in an accident or something.” We agreed and shook on it. It was a promise I know he couldn’t keep. But for a while I really wish he could. As I said though, I moved on with my life. He did however, keep his promise.

At sunset on a summer day, I sat in my living room, like I usually did, with my gorgeous wife cooking dinner in the kitchen. I had just finished an episode of Seinfeld and was lazily looking out my window at the oranges and dark pinks the sun was making on the clouds. Suddenly, I got a knock on my door. It was slow and quiet, and if I wasn’t paying attention, I would have thought it was a tree branch hitting the side of the house due to the wind. KNOCK. KNOCK. Plain as day. After about 4 knocks I got up from my chair and yelled, “I’m coming!” at the door. As walked toward it something didn’t feel right.

Like. Like I shouldn’t open the door. Like if I did harm would befall me. I ignored my feelings and went up to it and turned the knob. No one was there. Great. It was probably the damn neighbor kids. I stepped outside cautiously, looking for any sign of the little intruders. I was shocked out of my mind when I saw him standing there. It was my friend.

Albeit, not at all like he was when he was alive, but it was definitely him. He stood there, one leg shorter than the other, still wearing the suit he was buried in. His suit was torn and caked with dirt and moss. It was faded and smeared with stains of various body fluids. As for his body itself, it was literally skin and bones. His skin was no longer tanned from hours out in the sun, but now it was gray dry and cracked. It covered his bones and looked like someone had outlined them with sandpaper, and parts were curled up like cinnamon, revealing the red and white of his aged bones. The contours of his body were distorted like he had been molded out of wax, and his face was a shadow of what it was originally. It was a skull, the hair wisps of thin string and tangles of matted mud and old pieces of wood shavings. His ears and nose had decayed away, revealing morbid holes that looked like caves. His mouth was exposed, his lips long since parted, showing off his teeth and tongue. Entire parts of his lower set were completely gone, and I could see the divots where the teeth’s roots had once been.

But the eyes were the worst part. They had only partially decomposed, the water having seeped out long ago, but his irises and the white stayed behind, each eye looking like a deflated beach ball. The pupils stared blankly at me, as if they could steal my soul at any moment. I stood there in absolute shock and fear, completely paralyzed. He spoke, breaking the silence. “You didn’t think I could do it, did you.” His voice was weak and raspy like a smoker’s. And yet, even with him being so far away it was as if he was speaking right in my ear. When he opened his mouth, what should have been his tongue was replaced by a gob of black goo that squeezed out of his mouth flowed down his neck soaking what remained of his white undershirt.

I breathed out heavily, still looking at him, and said, “That isn’t possible. You’re supposed to be in your grave.” “I know you’re afraid,” he said, “but it really is me. We need to talk. Can I come inside?” I stepped aside and pointed my arms towards the door. He walked up slowly, his short leg dragging his long leg behind him. His arms swung around him. He struggled to breathe, his breath long and wheezing. I opened the door, resisting the urge to throw up as I got the first whiff of his odor. It wasn’t exactly like rotten meat, but more of a mold and dead rat smell mixed with a household cleaner. It burned my throat when I breathed it in. He went in, and fell upon my couch. My wife called from the kitchen. “Hon, who’s at the-”

“Nobody.” I said quickly cutting her off. “Just an old friend.”

“Ok dear.”she said, returning to her work.

I turned and walked back into the living room where Tom was waiting. “Well, well, I’ve been DYING to see you.” He said. He burst out in laughter at his pun. His laugh sounded like an old man choking on cotton.
I looked at him unhappily.
“Why are you here, Tom.”
“Funny you should ask. You remember our agreement, don’t you? Well I’m keeping it.”
“Yes, I can see that but how did you-”

“How did I come back? Well it’s simple really. If you want something bad enough you’ll get it.”
He turned towards the door and sighed.
“It’s time I tell you the news now. What I’ve come here to warn you about.”
I tapped my foot impatiently. “Well, what is it?”
He began to speak, but then he paused for a moment. He looked at me, his prune-for-eyes glinting. His eyes began to glare, and felt a great malevolent force emanating from him.
“You know Percy, I’ve been real lonely in that coffin. It’s cold. The bugs crawl all over you. And it’s boring lying there all the time. I’ve been hoping for company. You know, someone to lye with.”
I felt extremely uncomfortable at that moment.
“Tom, I have to live my life. I’ll go when I go. For now I need to say here with my wife.”
“No, no I’m aware of that. That’s the thing I’m going to warn you about. You see, I won’t be lonely for long.”
I stood there in confusion. “What you mean?”
“It’s your wife, Percy. She isn’t happy. Do you know what she’s doing right now?”
“No.” I said, looking at him concerned.
“She has a pistol, Percy. She’s planning to kill you with it. Then collect the insurance money.”
“How dare you.” I said accusatively
“It’s true, Percy.”
“She would never do that!”
“Fine. Don’t trust your friend. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

He got up from the couch, pieces of his hair falling on the floor. Clumps of mud joined them. He went to the door and opened it. He turned around before leaving .”See you soon.” He croaked. He went out and slammed the door. I sat down angrily on my recliner. I sat there and thought a while about what he said. How could he say such a thing? My wife! The woman I had been married to for 15 years, kill me? Impossible!
I looked up and saw my wife come out from the kitchen. She stopped and smiled at me. Then she drew out a gun from her pocket and cocked her head.

“Percy dear, dinner’s ready.”

Credit To – Evilkenevil77

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Dragon’s Fire

February 10, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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Tessa stepped onto the stage. Her whole body shook as she walked across it to the podium. She had to hold onto the hard mahogany structure to keep herself from falling. Her hands were slick with sweat. She looked over at the president, “I’m not sure that I can do this Mr. President.” She managed, her voice meek and catching in the back of her throat. He gave her a reassuring smile but she knew his stomach was doing the same jerky somersaults as her own.

“Mrs. Donbahlt, you’re going on air in 5.” Her boss informed her. She smoothed her military uniform and took a deep breath.

The broadcast was going out over the entire world and as such, the translators who would be talking as she did lined up in front of her. At least their presence made her feel slightly less alone. As the room fell into silence she adjusted her cat-eye glasses and took a swig of water before the red light above the camera flicked on. The cameraman gestured for her to begin.

She opened her mouth to speak but for a full minute, despite the report between her perfectly manicured hands, she couldn’t find her voice. The thought of the billions of eyes in the world that were watching her about to announce the atrocity that her and her team had unleashed consumed her. The guilt made her shake more than the fear. It threatened to collapse her knees. One of the translators cleared his throat snapping her attention back to the matter at hand. The president gave her another fake smile and signaled with his hands for her to start.

Finally, she spoke. Her voice seemed to shatter the silence of the room like a hammer, “Please forgive the interruption. This is a public service announcement, please be sure you stay tuned. My name is Tessa Donbhalt.” She stopped to glance at the words written for her and decided to ignore them. The world deserved the truth.

“Before I explain what has happened, I have to tell you all: I am so very sorry for what is about to befall us all. My team and I, truly thought what we were doing would be for the benefit of our country. We thought we could control it.”

She noted the Presidents disapproving glare and continued despite him, “Five years ago a research party returned from the northern most part of Norway. With them, they brought an amazing discovery. A mummified reptile. One that they thought may still carry DNA. The moment they discovered that they were right, I received a call from the Secretary of Defense. After he saw it and was convinced it was real, he hoped we could use it. It was unbelievable. A reptile that we have all been told was a fairy tale and yet, there it was in my lab. The mummified remains of a young dragon. Not only did these remains prove the existence of these creatures but the gold collar around its neck implied that it was tamed. After running more tests, I confirmed what Mr. Hagel hoped to be true. This seemingly tamed creature could, in fact, breath fire. It took several trials and more failures than I can count but eventually we were able to grow a stable, living dragon. As I was doing so, the research team had been excavating the area near the dragons remains for any more information. They eventually found scripture that they believed would help our personnel train and tame our monster. The best scholars in the world were commissioned to translate these scriptures and as my team was bringing this horror to life, the military was training solders to tame it.”

“We called the dragon Nyx and she grew in leaps and bounds. Of all the solders trained, in the end the dragon would only allow one handler to be anywhere near her. That man was my husband, Guy. The countless men and women who died in attempts to train it should have stopped us, it should have been a sign, but we were too fascinated. In too deep I guess you could say. Things were going so well with Nyx and Guy that I was commanded to grow more dragons. In less than a year we had a small army of dragons. We had even developed a strategy to more safely match up handlers and dragons. The mission was a dream becoming a wonderful reality. Or so we thought. It became increasingly obvious that the legends are real, the dragons were indestructible. Unfortunately, the only thing we could focus on, the only outcome we could imagine is how our country would rise with these magnificent beasts backing our every move. It was too late before we realized how wrong we were.”

“The stronger Nyx grew, the more distant Guy became. He spent more and more time with her until they both occupied the same habitat. They slept together and ate together. Eventually he even stopped cooking his portions of meat. We would put a bear in with Nyx for dinner and she would kill it and the two of them ate from the same raw carcass.” Her voice had reached a fever pitch. As she recalled the instances from memory, she could still scarcely believe them. She closed her eyes and shook her head.

“Before we lost him entirely, he told us he could hear her thoughts, feel her fire in the pit of his own stomach. Few believed him. We ignored it as a joke, and those that took it seriously foolishly thought it was a good sign. That they were becoming one. Before we knew it, all the handlers were withdrawing from us, claiming they could hear their dragon’s thoughts. The matter was becoming widely recognized as progress. I was one of the idiots who thought it was a splendid progress for them to connect so deeply. They were able to fly their dragons, with ease, through the most difficult agility courses we could imagine. They could command their dragons to use their fire with pinpoint accuracy. It was so overwhelming to watch the power that flowed between handlers and dragons and, yet, so intimate.” She realized she was getting off topic but allowed her mind to briefly remember her husband, sleeping against Nyx’s beautiful iridescent wings. Tears welled up in her eyes and she struggled to choke out the next part.

“Three days ago, they all went out for their daily fly and never returned. I can not express to you the confusion we felt. The agonizing worry. It shouldn’t have been the first inkling that something was wrong- but to us it was. Hind sight is 20/20 as they say. Two days after their disappearance, the base we were working from was attacked. I was the only member of my team, to make it out alive. In all, only 10 people in the entire base survived the attack. Hours after the attack a message was left for the President and Secretary of Defense. It was then that we realized the dragons weren’t becoming one with the handlers but that the handlers were becoming pawns of the dragons. The message- the warning- was to lay down and allow them to reign over us as they rightfully should have centuries ago. I was put before you all today to ask for a world wide call to arms. They don’t just plan to take over this country, no. They have plans for the entire world. We can not let this happen. I know I have said that they are indestructible but there must be a way. Humans beat them before and as a species we must work together to take them down again.”

As the last words fell from her mouth an ear-shattering screech shot through the building. The walls shook and windows splintered before clattering against the linoleum floor in trillions of pieces. An enormous eye peered through one of the windows. Tessa knew in the pit of her stomach that it was Nyx.

“Open fire!” The President cried to the Secret Service officers that surrounded them. Before the bullets left their guns the eye was gone. Teeth, each the size of a grown man, came into view. Bullets ricocheted off of them, hitting officers, translators and politicians a like. Tessa ducked behind the podium. When the sounds of gunfire and ricocheting bullets subsided, she peeked out. No one was unhurt, save herself. Everyone in the room lay in their own pools of blood. Those that weren’t dead, moaned in pain. When one person tried to move, she realized it was the President.

“Don’t move Mr. President!” Tessa’s voice came out like a hiss. The President froze as Tessa pulled out her phone and dialed 911.

When the operator answered she whispered their location and told her, “The President is down, you need to get the paramedics here now.”

Getting down on her stomach she belly crawled to the edge of the stage. She could still hear Nyx’s heavy breathing just outside the window. She knew it was her responsibility to lure the beast away. The emergency exit was just to the left right of the stage. She quietly slid off the stage and shimmied to the floor. When she opened the door she was driven by pure adrenaline. Nyx was nearly as tall as the building and even more breathtaking than Tessa remembered her. Her head was low enough that, between the beasts shoulders, her husband was visible.

Their eyes met for a moment and Tessa could see no evidence in his face that he recognized her. He notified Nyx of her presence. Had she not needed to run, she would have started crying. She used her grief to push her as he ran. She ran not only from the dragon, but from the mistakes she made. From her own stupidity. From the fact that she alone could be blamed for the monstrosity bounding behind her. The end of the world, it was her doing. She felt fire licking at her heels, it was enough of a distraction to cause her to trip. As she felt the molten flames devouring her, she could her Guy’s hearty laugh. The laugh that had always comforted her now rang out with the triumph of watching her demise.

Credit To – Mrs. Amaya

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