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July 24, 2015 at 12:00 PM
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I wake up.
Another beautiful day.
You know the best thing about living in a big city? You can completely reinvent yourself at any time. Become someone entirely new. That’s great for someone like me. I don’t like routine.

I did try living in small towns at first, but the problem with that is everybody knows everyone. Once they see you as someone, you can never be anyone else but that person. I hated that. So as soon as I could I moved to the big apple, New York City. And I love it here. You can be a company executive one day, and a homeless vagabond the next, and no one even blinks.

I get up. The apartment I’m renting isn’t very big, but it has everything I need, including the spare room I use for my projects.

I walk over to my wardrobe, and as I do I ask myself the one important question, the only thing that matters. I do it every single morning. It’s the only routine I can bear. I stand in front of my wardrobe and I ask myself ‘who do you want to be today?’
I was a banker yesterday. I think I’ll be a florist today. I open my wardrobe doors, and I take down the two hangers labelled florist. Hanging on the first one is a bright yellow dress and taped to the top is a picture of the girl who wore it. She’s quite young, not more than 25, and pretty. On the second hanger is a perfectly peeled human skin-suit, kept fresh with my own special balms. And since it’s only a day old, the hair is still attached. I slip it on, and then zip it up at the back. Then it requires only a few adjustments, eye color and teeth shape etc. and boom! Just like that I’m someone else. I’m the girl from the photograph.

The only downside to being a new person every day is that you need to be quick. If the original person goes missing for too long before I become them people start to notice and it becomes difficult to explain where I – where they were.

Being a florist is quite nice. I go to work and chat with my friends and sell some flowers and chat some more. It’s quite a fun day out. But can you imagine doing it every day? That would so terribly boring.

Then after work I go to my home and chat with my mother. She’s upset because grandma has cancer. I nod sympathetically when she tells me this, but I don’t care, not really. I’ve never met the woman. I’m sure the original owner of this skin would care. But dead people don’t have feelings.

My new mother and I eat together. Chinese takeout food. After we finish I excuse myself to have an early night. ‘Busy day tomorrow!’ I say ‘Lots of flowers to sell’
Then I sneak out of the bedroom window and I head off to my real home, my apartment. All the way back I feel like I’ve forgotten something.
When I get back, I really am tired. I think I will have an early night. After all, tomorrow could be a busy day. I could be any of the three different people I took the other day.

I’m just about to crash on my bed when I hear muffled screaming and thumping sounds coming from my project room. And then I remember what I’ve forgotten.
See I was feeling quite tired after taking three people the other day. As you can imagine it requires some effort to capture three people, and then skin them, and put their eyes and teeth in jars. I honestly didn’t need three, but variety is the spice of life, or so they say. But in my tiredness last night I remember thinking that if I only prepared two lives, I could do the third tonight. I guess that means no early night for me.

I pull out a suitcase from under my bed. It contains a collection of my favorite razors and other tools. The muffled thumping gets louder. I sigh. It was the college boy that I didn’t prepare the other night. They always have so much energy.
I get out of the florist I wore today and head into my project room. Time to get to work. He’s gagged, obviously, but he does try to scream for a while. I keep cutting and cutting and eventually he stops, and breathes his last.
Two hours and a bloody mess later, I have a brand new life.
I think tomorrow I’ll be a college boy.

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Beside Mind

July 24, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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Greek: παράνοια (paranoia), “madness”, παρά (para), “beside”, νόος (noos), “mind”

For the sake of protecting my identity, as if it matters at this stage, I’ll tell you my name is Freddie. I’m 20 years old and at the time of these events I studied at a University in Southern England.

It started in December 2014. Being the typical lazy student that I was, more nights were spent socialising in the local pubs, clubs and nearby friend’s houses than actually studying for my course. On a particularly uneventful Wednesday afternoon nearing the holiday season, I spent a few hours browsing the internet for anything remotely stimulating to the mind. Anything to prevent me from having to do my necessary reading anyway. I decided to pull out my phone and check my account on Grindr. For those of you who aren’t in the know, Grindr is an internet based app where men can essentially send pictures of their genitals to unwitting strangers. Sounds sleazy I know but there were a few nuggets of gold buried under this app made up of genuine people, some of whom I had at that point considered friends. It is weird thinking about; chatting to an individual for months on end and learning intimate details about their lives without having ever met them in person. It’s even weirder considering I only lived within a few miles from them but I rationalise that’s how many people use these new age applications.

For the first 18 or so years of my life, I’d have called myself an introvert for lack of a better term. I didn’t really socialise and spent most of my childhood playing video games. When I think about it, I probably spent more time talking to random players over a headset than I did my own friends in real life. Since coming to university and discovering the beauty of the elixir commonly referred to as alcohol, I suppose I came out of my shell more. I could now talk to people I’d never met. I no longer stuttered and shook uncontrollably with a sudden cold sweat whenever caught unprepared in a conversation with a fellow drunk guy at a bar. Plus my general social anxiety became suddenly suppressed under this new found confidence. At this stage I think I’m straying from the story, so I’ll get back to the point.

I looked through the usual messages on this so-called “dating app” which mainly consisted of guys way too old for me asking me the same general questions over and over such as “Hi?”, “How are you?” and “What are you up to?”. As I had many times before, I rolled my eyes at their pathetic attempts to disguise their intentions of having sex with a younger guy and subsequently ignored their messages. Every so often, if I was bored, I would actually answer them. Usually with clear sarcasm or perhaps weird answers designed to disturb the guy in question and get an amusing response. I won’t deny this maybe sounds like a pretty dick thing for me to do but I justified it in my own mind as a natural response to what I saw as creepy intentions. I mean what does a 49 year old man expect from asking a 19 year old for sex? Perhaps I’m just ageist but for the sake of avoiding a flame war over such an issue, I’ll continue.

On this particular Wednesday I was having a few of the generic conversations with my so-called friends. Nothing eventful, just the occasional “lol” and bitching about work when I was messaged by a user I’d never seen before. Seeing that this app is based on location, it seemed a little strange I hadn’t noticed him before. Although at the time I figured he was just new to the area or even the app itself. The message was simply gibberish as if someone had pressed every available button on their phone and just sent it. Before responding, I clicked back and checked his profile. It was blank. Not exactly unusual since a lot of the men on there are in the closet and don’t want to share personal information on a public domain. However he had a username. It was “HaloFiend95”. As an avid Halo player myself and born in the year 95, I figured this guy was a fellow gamer around my age in the local area. The message was a little strange but I figured it must’ve either been a mistake or just an eccentric attempt at a joke. I decided to respond and will attempt to recreate the conversation below to the best of my memory. Bear in mind the time is also an estimation since I no longer have the original messages.

18:55 : (distorted gibberish)
19:05 : “Hi haha, what’s your name? I’m Freddie :)”
21:30 : “Hi Freddie, my name is Fred too”

At this stage I should point out the time gap is not really surprising. I just figured he had gone offline before I had a chance to respond.

21:45 : “Small world eh. How are you?”
21:47 : “I’m ok, hbu?”
21:48 : “Not bad cheers, so you up to much?”
21:50 : “No”

With this abrupt answer and a lack of response asking if I was up to anything, I decided to ask the question most people do on this application. I asked for a face picture. I received no answer for a while and just assumed that “Fred” had gone offline or had perhaps even lost interest in further conversation. Although it’s not a great boost to my own ego to say, I waited online for an answer. It’s not every day you meet someone your own age with an apparently similar interest in video games or at least it wasn’t for me. After about 15 minutes of engaging in mindless and disinterested conversation with my online associates, I received a message accompanied by a yellow star indicating that a favourite of mine had sent it. I opened my message folder and saw that it was indeed sent by HaloFiend95. Once I opened the appropriate chat however I received a strange photo. Expecting a general picture of a bored 19/20 year old guy, I instead received a single image of something I couldn’t quite make out. Pressing on the small picture icon to open it to full screen, my phone was suddenly filled with what I can only say was one of the startling things I could’ve expected. A severely disfigured face. I threw my phone onto my bed and let out a sound I’m thankful no-one was around to hear.

Luckily for me I owned a flip case for my phone made of fake leather which would make a snapping sound whenever I closed it. When I threw the phone the case closed and the screen was blocked from my view. I laid back in bed as my heart raced from the sudden shock. I reached over to grab a cigarette from my bedside. After several attempts to light it with sweating hands, I breathed and tried to calm my chest down. A few minutes passed as I looked down at my closed phone as if expecting it to jump out at me at any second when eventually I decided to take another look. Reaching over I slowly lifted the case at a distance so as not to be visually assaulted with the horrific picture I had previously seen. However I noticed the screen was now black. Annoyed, I realised that during the time I had been having my smoke my phone had gone into automatic lock down and I’d have to manually type in my passcode, meaning as soon as I did the picture would surely jump back up as soon as it loaded.

In hindsight I realise now I would have been better off simply resetting the phone which would put it back to the home page. However I was startled and didn’t think of this at the time. I slowly unlocked the phone underneath the case with trembling hands and as I saw the flash of colour from the picture I instinctively closed it again, allowing myself to view it in my own time. As I slowly lifted the case and more of the screen was brought into vision I realised my fears had not been a simple trick of the eye. A woman. Possibly in her mid-twenties. It was hard to tell from the rate of severe decomposition which had obviously taken place. Her mouth was disproportionately forced wide and her eyes were open in terror. Well “open” is one way of putting it, since the eyelids had been peeled away evidenced by clear cuts above. Her nose was broken and several of her front teeth were missing. What disturbed me most however was the blood, or rather the lack of it. Despite the obvious sagging of her rotting flesh, she seemed spotless as though someone had tended to the skin delicately and cleaned away any blood or fluids.

I won’t exaggerate at this stage and say I leaned over my bed to vomit. Truth be told I’d seen some rather sick shit on the internet before that but after a minute of staring at the gruesome sight I realised I was no longer seeing it. My eyes were open and I was looking straight at it but my mind seemed to fill my vision with blurs and visual thoughts. I suppose that must be some kind of defence mechanism the brain enacts when confronted with a disturbing sight but really I don’t know. Either way, when this delirium had passed, I immediately attempted to exit the photo. This took a couple of attempts due to the moisture attained on my fingertips from my previous sweat attack. Irritated and disturbed I became angry, frantically slamming my thumb onto the quit photo icon in the top corner. Seconds away from throwing my phone out of anger, the screen finally gave in and the photo closed to a thumbnail. During this time I noticed that HaloFiend95 had sent a follow up message simply stating, “Like it? ;)”.

Enraged, I closed the phone but kept the chat open. I reached out for my cigarette once more and took a drag, trying to gather my senses and come up with an appropriate response. My first thought was to call him every horrible word that came into my head but after another drag I realised this was probably what he wanted. Right, that’s exactly it, he’s probably just a troll trying to get a reaction by sending graphic photos he’s found. With this in mind, I simply decided to block him. I figured if I responded I’d just be serving right into his hands. The sick bastard. Soon enough his chats, along with that disgusting photo, were gone. I did my best to put it out of my mind as I laid back in bed.

As I finished the last drag of my cigarette I placed it in the ashtray and watched the embers burn for some minutes before they finally extinguished. I couldn’t get that picture out of my head and realised it was probably best to do something normal and get the whole unpleasant experience out of mind. I got out of bed, surprised at the weight of my feet on the ground and the sweat patch I had left behind on the sheets. My heart beat spiked a little but then receded back, still a slighter faster rate than normal but then again I wasn’t exactly feeling all that calm. I walked out of my room and headed over to my roommate Catherine’s door.

I had two roommates; George and Catherine. George was a pretty laid back guy. A little slow on the uptake as my mother would put it but a nice enough fellow. We usually spent most of our free time together honing our skills on the Xbox or hitting the local clubs where I’d help him hit on girls and he’d help me awkwardly attempt to do the same with guys. Catherine however was another story. George and I had known each other since first year in halls and when the time came to look for a place to live me, he and a friend of his looked for a place together. However his friend Terry dropped out last minute and we ended up with Catherine, who at that stage was a total stranger conveniently looking for anyone with a spare room. We needed a third person quick and she was available so we figured what’s the worst that can happen. What happened was we ended up with an undesirable roommate. Now maybe I’m being harsh. She’d do the dishes, generally tidy up after herself, pay her share of the bills etc. but she wasn’t exactly friendly. First time I met her after moving in I asked if I could call her Cathy. I received a stern “No” followed by her room door slammed in my face. After that George and I never really saw her unless it was the occasional passing by in the hallway or on the rare exception that she’d join us in the living room on gaming night. During these events she’d remain generally quiet except for the odd sigh and simple “no” if either of us asked if she wanted to join in.

George was out of town visiting family for the Christmas period and Catherine had clearly opted to stay in our student house rather than do the same. I figured she didn’t get on with her family any more than she did with us but wisely never pressed her on the subject. I knocked on her door lightly and received the general, “What do you want Freddie?” I asked to come in and heard her usual sigh followed by, “go on then”. I entered her room and saw her sitting in bed watching something on television. It was a documentary on the holocaust or something morbid like that to the best of my memory. She turned away from the screen to give me a stern look, “you smell like an ashtray” she grunted, looking disgusted. Well, hello to you too, I thought. “Was just wondering if you had any paper?” I said, thinking on the spot of something to say. It had never actually occurred to me till this point that I’d have to make a conversation and that was the only thing that came to mind. Catherine’s face seemed to soften slightly, a move no-one but myself or George would’ve noticed, and she nodded to her desk draw below the television. As I opened the draw I made a comment feigning interest in what she was watching and asked if I could join her. She made the slightest nod of her head and I proceeded to sit down awkwardly at the edge of her bed and watch whatever was on. My mind was still racing from earlier but I felt calmer with the company of another person, even as cold as that company was. A half hour passed and knowing I had exhausted my welcome I then left mumbling a quick “thanks” before closing her door on my way out.

I proceeded back to my room and laid in bed, physically and mentally drained. As an insomniac and generally nocturnal person, I didn’t sleep well at the best of times and that night was no exception. Tossing and turning, I eventually managed to doze off and by the time I woke up I had mostly forgotten about the events of the previous night.

The next week or so passed by slowly as university coursework came to bite me in the backside and I was kept rather busy in the campus library completing various tasks. As the work came to an end Christmas was only a few days away and the strained daily phone calls with my mother finally convinced me to visit home, around 100 miles north of my university’s location. The first few days at home were mainly filled with visiting various elderly relatives I hadn’t seen since the Christmas before. I’d sit and rehear the same bitching about hospitals and ancient stories I’d heard at least a dozen times since I was a kid. Christmas day was its usual dreaded event. My only brother was still the same spoiled brat, bawling over the cost of his presents. My dad’s general explosive temper over the tiniest thing hadn’t subsided in the slightest within the 12 months and my mother’s general overly fake attitude that everything was just dandy was still positively soul-crushing. It didn’t help she spent the whole of my visit constantly worrying that I was underweight and didn’t visit enough. You know, the usual Christmas cheer.

On the evening of Boxing Day I laid in bed in my old room and stared at the walls frustrated and bored. I’d even gotten to the stage that I actually started to miss the exasperated sigh that echoed from Catherine’s room every other hour like clockwork. I pulled out my phone and flicked through my stuff. I was just trying to find something I could use to alleviate my boredom until a time I felt I could go back to uni without upsetting my mum. As I went through my apps I came across Grindr. The memory of that encounter with HaloFiend95 still creeped me out when I thought about it but it’d been a couple weeks and I’d used the app since then without incident. I pressed it open and scrolled through the usual scene of depressed looking guys either desperately or hopelessly looking for love or those creepy thrill seekers with the kind of usernames I don’t think I can post on here. After exhausting all the nearby contacts I sighed before noticing a new one had emerged just recently. Again this isn’t unusual as sometimes a new contact is just located and thrown up into the app. Only this one had a username that made me feel suddenly nauseous. Yeah you guessed it, HaloFiend95.

What the fuck? I thought. I blocked this arsehole. A thought then occurred to me which suddenly made my blood run cold. This app is based on location…so how the fuck is he near me now when I’m 100 miles from where we last spoke? I tried my hardest to think of a rational explanation. I figured this was just some ridiculous prank or perhaps even a new internet trend of some sort. I was never exactly one of those ‘in the know’ people. Internet trends change every week. I mean apparently there was this one a couple of years ago where people just laid on their face and called it “planking”. Seriously, who knows what stupid shit people pull these days? Maybe donning this username and sending disturbing photos was just the new fad. Or maybe I was just being a cynical twat because that was easier than admitting that I was shitting myself that this was the same guy and that he had been following me.

As this raced through my head the number 1 then 2 flickered over his profile icon, indicating that he had sent me a couple of messages. Hesitating slightly but curious I clicked open the chat. This time I had taken a moment to mentally prepare myself for what to come. I saw the thumbnail for a picture followed by a piece of text simply reading “Hello Freddie”. With my chest pumping I decided to look at the picture, only this time by examining the small thumbnail rather than opening it to full screen. At first I thought it was the same horrific photograph but with a sinking feeling I realised it wasn’t. Same angle but a different face. A man possibly in his 40’s but to be honest I didn’t want to get a close enough look. However I do remember the gaping mouth and lack of eyelids just like the last one.

Even at the age of 19 it was easier to come out of the closet than to come out as a smoker to my parents. I was nicotine deprived and more than a little flustered as my fear quickly developed into anger. I sent a barrage of threatening messages to this individual, calling him every name under the sun. After a few minutes I set my phone down and quickly regretted my loss of temper. I saw a simple message pop up out of the corner of my eye and as I grabbed the phone I simply read “I know where you live…” as the message abruptly closed on me. This is what happens when the person you’re talking to blocks you. The full message he’d sent me was longer but I hadn’t had a chance to read it and now that the conversation was lost I guessed I never would. The words I read echoed through my head though. I know where you live… I got up and looked outside my window. I’d read enough horror stories online to know the evil maniac is typically standing there clutching a bloody knife. Then when you blink he vanishes from sight. However there was no maniac. There was nothing out of the ordinary for that matter to indicate any kind of impending danger. I shut the curtains and deleted Grindr from my phone. I then spent the rest of the night messaging George to see how his holidays were going. I even sent a text asking Catherine about hers and though the response was a typical “Going shit” it was nice just to be in contact.

The next morning I promptly made my awkward farewells. I almost entirely missed my brother and dad and when I went to give my mother an awkward kiss on the cheek she pulled me in for a clingy hug that lasted a little too long. I left the house thankful that I hadn’t brought anything bulky to carry for my stay. I readjusted my backpack and turned on some music through my headphones as I walked through town to the station. It wasn’t until I made it halfway there that I realised I hadn’t really seen anyone in town and besides that I kept noticing funny things out of the corner of my eye. I was walking down one road when I swear I saw the shape of a man standing there but when I turned it was just a tree with some inconveniently shaped branches. I rubbed my eyes and tried to blame it on fatigue but noticed that I was walking faster than my usual rate for the rest of the way. My heart nearly missed a beat out of joy when I finally came across the miserable looking ticket salesman who seemed visible irritated at my enthusiasm for small talk when making my purchase.

Once on the train it seemed empty but then again my home town wasn’t exactly busy and I figured that once we passed back through London on the way home people would slowly begin to fill the carriages. The train itself wasn’t one of these creepy old run down things that should have been in disuse. Quite the contrary. It looked rather new or at had least been refurbished in the recent months. I don’t know why but the lack of people in the carriage was exacerbated slightly by its attractive design. Shrugging it off I readjusted my earphones and dulled back into a daydream. Over the next few stops a couple of people had entered my carriage. The first was an elderly lady with a kind face who sat in the row next to me. She was busy routing through her handbag for one of those magazines with all the “real life” stories. I only know because my mother had been starting to read that same crap recently. The other was a young man no more than a few years older than myself. He was carrying some luggage and as he went to place it in the holding area he caught a glance of me checking him out. Embarrassed I looked away and awkwardly avoided eye contact with his part of the train, a difficult feat since he was in front of me. Eventually he sat down and as more stops passed by others came and went on the train.

I don’t know what it is about trains but they always make me tired. I believe it’s the gentle rocking motion and the white noise of gears turning and sure enough I soon found myself drifting off into a light sleep. My dreams were plagued with a low laughter and disturbing faces etched into the base of my subconscious. I must’ve been leaning on my phone because a loud boom of music burst through my ear drums. I awoke startled and when I did the train lights were on and it was darker outside. Too dark. I had gotten on this train around 11am and it was only meant to last a few hours, nowhere near enough time to reach what I guessed now the late evening. Looking out of the window confused I noticed a reflection in the glass window. It was the old lady staring directly at me. Taking a deep breathe I turned my head to find she was indeed looking towards me. I was too terrified to scream and let out a muffled gag as her saw her features. Her skin was sagging and her eyes were buried deep into her skull. Lacerations littered her skin which I could only see now as being nothing less than surgical. Precise cuts made with a very sharp blade, perhaps a scalpel. I thought for the longest time that she was dead before she began making a retching guttural noise from the back of her gaping mouth. “Are you ok dear?” I eventually made out she was saying. She reached a lifeless hand out for me and I finally found my voice again. I shrieked.

“Are you ok dear?” I opened my eyes to find the old lady staring at me once more. Only now she looked normal. “You were talking in your sleep sweetheart” she said in a kind tone although I could tell she seemed concerned. I looked down to see my earphones had fallen out and were blasting with music. I only now felt the ringing in my ears from the loud boom earlier. Disorientated and feeling a little sick and embarrassed I got up at the next stop which was thankfully only a minute away. I left the train doors ignoring the hard look the man in front was giving me and made my way onto the platform. Attempting to compose myself I entered a different carriage a few ones back from my previous seat and found this new one was relatively packed. Confused but with no desire to sit down again in case I fell asleep once more, I stood for the rest of the journey. Every now and then I caught sight of myself in the reflection of the glass doors. I looked ill and I could feel my shirt drenched in sweat. Damn I must’ve stunk and promptly spent the rest of the journey avoiding eye contact with the other passengers and ignoring their scrunched up faces in response to what I can only assume was my obvious body odour.

After a long and arduous journey back home I opened the door to see George and Catherine in the living room. “Freddie! How were your holidays mate?” George exclaimed as he brought me into a hug, which I only half-heartedly returned. “You look like shit” was all Catherine could find the interest to say. “I’m fine mate” I said, only just hearing the shakes in my voice and fully aware of how I must’ve looked. George frowned, “You know, I think you have a point there Cathy, you don’t look good there bud”. I rubbed I eyes and conceded, telling them I was going to get some sleep. As I left the room I heard the buzz of the TV start again and word “headshot!” echo through the house. All the while Catherine was grumbling under her breath loud enough for anyone to hear about how she hated being called Cathy.

After climbing the stairs and going into the bathroom I pulled my clothes off me, getting angry when they stuck to my skin and wouldn’t initially budge. I punched the wall in anger and immediately regretted doing so as I sat down on the toilet lid and held my now throbbing hand. “It’s just holiday stress” I whispered to myself. “And now talking to myself” I seemed to reply. I stood up and ran my hand under a cold tap then proceeded to splash some water on my face. Shuddering a little from the sudden temperature I grabbed a nearby hand towel and dried myself off in the mirror. Ever have that experience where you see something standing behind you in a mirror that isn’t actually there? Well that didn’t happen, but the thought of it sure as shit shot through my mind as I scanned the room. “I’m cracking up” I once again whispered to myself as I observed my reflection. Catherine wasn’t pulling any punches earlier. I did look like shit. My skin was pale apart from dark bags under my eyes, my hair was overgrown and messy and my skin was tight as though it had been stretched back behind my ears. I felt my stomach give a lurch and realised I hadn’t eaten anything that day but I was too exhausted to go back downstairs and engage in further conversation. I hobbled to my room and collapsed in bed, watching the clock go by hour after hour before eventually falling asleep.

The next few days passed as my health became worse. In fact the only times I ever left my room were either bathroom breaks or to collect food I’d ordered to sustain myself in my own little isolation. On the afternoon of New Year’s Eve I received a knock on my bedroom door. It was George wanting to know if I was coming out to a party that night. I said I wasn’t feeling well and he invited himself in. “Jesus, smells like old takeout and…Have you been smoking in here again?” I shrugged my shoulders and avoided the question. “C’mon mate, you’ve been in here for days” he moaned as he sat at the end of my bed. A little irritated at the sudden intrusion I snapped “Well Catherine spends most of her time in her room”. “Yeah well that’s Princess Cathy” he said, making sure to lower his voice for the last two words as he always did whenever calling her that. “And I’m bored. I don’t even really fancy going out but it’s better than doing fuck all-”. “Look, I’m not in the mood” I snapped again, cutting him off midway through his bitching. Looking surprised and a little offended, he got up and left the room mumbling “get better soon” as he closed the door.

I felt a little bad but pushed it out of my mind and tried to get back to sleep. As usual whenever I was faced with any kind of confrontation, I spent the next few hours replaying that conversation in my head and thinking of clever remarks or excuses I could’ve used which would’ve ended it on a friendlier note. I mean I could’ve just told him what had been happening but I figured he’d think I was going crazy. I mean it’s not every day you imagine disfigured people on the train, not for me anyway. With that final thought the image crept back into my head and it was like seeing it for the first time again. My heart gave a jolt and I stared paranoid around the room for any movement. My eyes found their way to the wardrobe. I hate wardrobes. They’re so eerie and obvious in all the horror stories I’d read. Always the hiding place of the serial axe murderer who skins children alive in their beds at night. I shuddered at the thought, fucking hated those things. Lost in that thought for a moment the door knocked once more and I swear I thought my heart was going to jump out of my chest. “Yes?” I called out feebly. The door opened and I gave a sigh of relief when Catherine came in. I mean who did I expect, Genghis Khan? She looked around the room and gave her usual disgusted look. “You need to air this place out…hang on, have you been smoking in here again?” I rolled my eyes and with my fear passing I was starting to feel a little annoyed once more. “Was there something you wanted?” She took a moment to answer, looking at me expressionlessly, “Yeah, George decided to just order pizza and play video games, you in?” “Well actually I was planning to-” “Cool, see you downstairs” as she closed the door behind her abruptly.

I lifted myself out of bed and groaned as my feet hit the ground. A sensation of pins and needles swept through my legs as usual whenever spending days at a time in bed. I threw on some pyjamas and a robe for warmth and headed downstairs. George was lounging back on one sofa with a controller in hand, playing some online video games while Catherine was curled up on the other, watching the screen intently. She reminded me of a cat sometimes, silent but always staring in a manner which suggested she was analysing everything in her field of vision. The stoic and general anti-social behaviour didn’t help much to refute this comparison either. As you may have already guessed, I’m not a cat person. In fact I’d say they’re on the same list as wardrobes for me.

I sat next to George and apologised for my earlier outburst. He told me not to worry about it and offered me a second controller. Over the next 40 minutes we opened some beers and proceeded to have a laugh playing some online matches. Even Catherine joined in, but promptly quit after her poor playing abilities produced childish sniggers from me and George. She didn’t seem to mind though and on more than one occasion I swear I thought I saw the outline of a smile on her face as me and George messed around. Eventually a knock on the door signalled that our food had arrived. “Mmmmmmm…Pizza…” George jumped from the sofa and imitated a monkey as he left the room. As I said, a funny guy but not exactly Isaac Newton. I sat there laughing for a moment as Catherine merely rolled her eyes at me when I heard a loud beep coming from the console followed by a notification reading “HaloFiend95 has sent you a message”. My heart stopped and my face froze mid laugh as I physically felt the colour drain from my face. I was broken from this phase as I heard George wish the pizza delivery man a happy new year followed by his footsteps back into the room. I looked over and saw Catherine staring me down with a suspicious gaze.

George walked back into the room and offered me some pizza. I shook my head but heard Catherine ask him to bring her a slice. I felt her eyes burning into the side of my head and when I looked over I saw that she had adjusted her position to look at me more clearly. Even as she ate her slice her eyes never once ventured from my face. It was the kind of look you’d expect a scientist to give to an ongoing experiment, studying every detail for the slightest change. George himself took a few moments to take in the tense situation he’d walked in on. “Erm…what’s going on?” When I didn’t answer he asked again. Half way through his third time asking in a now worried tone Catherine raised her free hand to silence him. She took her time to wipe her mouth and place her pizza slice on a napkin, never once looking away from me during. She gave a final swallow and cleared her throat before finally asking, “Who was that Freddie?” in a monotone voice which gave no clear indication of worry. Just cold clinical interest. “Who was what?” George interjected, now visibly confused and a little startled. Catherine once more raised her hand and George fell silent. When I didn’t answer she told him to open the messages and look at HaloFiend95’s. It read:

“Saw you on the train the other day. You didn’t say hello :(
That was rude wasn’t it?
Happy New Year xx”

George and Catherine spent several seconds staring at the screen. I looked over at George, whose confused face suddenly erupted into a sly smirk. “Oh…I get it. This your boyfriend or something?”. “George, shut up” interjected Catherine which quickly wiped the look from his face. “Freddie look at me”. We made eye contact and what surprised me most was the look she gave me. It was empathy. I don’t think I need to explain that was wasn’t an expression I was exactly used to seeing her make. I attempted to say what had been going on in the last few weeks but I kept stumbling over my words. “George get him a cigarette from his room”. While he was gone Catherine and I were left alone for an awkward minute or two. It was strange seeing her like this, for a moment I felt I actually preferred her cold side. Thankfully George came down soon enough and I started smoking. He sat down on an armchair and shot a look at Catherine to carry on. I told them everything that had happened, only now realising how crazy it all sounded once I said it out loud. George attempted to interrupt once but was quickly hushed by Catherine, who remained quietly in thought as I said my story.

As soon as I was finished talking George looked to the TV still displaying the message and then back to me. He stood up and pulled his phone from his back pocket and sat back down. “What are you doing?” It was the first thing Catherine had said since I started talking. George looked amazed, “I’m calling the police! What the fuck do you think I’m doing? Jesus, Freddie says this guy’s been stalking him for weeks and now he messages him here!” He looked at me and then Catherine. Catherine sighed and rubbed her forehead, “I’m sure Freddie has already called them about this. Right?” But one look from me was all she needed. George groaned and muttered something under his breath. Half an hour passed after George called 999 and the pizza remained pretty much untouched when a couple of police officers arrived at the house. They took some details from me about the texts and the images but claimed since I didn’t possess any of the latter and the only message was the one I had just received, I would probably be better off blocking this person on any social media. They said they’d use the information I had given them and told me to immediately report any further incidents.

Catherine showed them out after they had everything they needed and returned to the living room. George was furious, “They barely took any details!” he began pacing the room, “If you ask me they’re more interested in getting pissed for New Year’s than actually solving cri-”. “George!” Catherine shouted, “The reason they didn’t take many details is because they are barely any details Freddie can give!” George sat back down, looking scolded. She turned on me and I flinched expecting the same treatment. Her face softened but her tone was firm, “they’re right though, you have to report any further contact with this guy”. I nodded and we all returned to our original seats. I don’t know if 10 minutes passed or an hour before George finally asked if anyone wanted him to reheat the pizza. I half expected Catherine to storm out but with a sigh she actually agreed. I spent that night being convinced to pick at my food by Catherine while George shook off his earlier spike of anxiety and continued to play his games. I had long since lost interest in any such activities but joined in simply to maintain appearances in front of the two. Hours passed and the New Year had begun, not that we were celebrating. By 2am George had crashed on the sofa after having drank most of the beer we had. He’d never been one to handle his drink well and Catherine and I figured it’d be better to let him sleep it off downstairs. Covering him with a blanket and heading upstairs, we made our silent farewells and retreated to our rooms.

I laid in bed for hours, slowly allowing my eyes to adjust to the pitch black scenery as time rolled by. My eyes flickered every time a gust of wind blew through my window and disturbed the curtains, allowing traces of light from the outside lamp posts to dance across the room. Eventually I got out of bed and slammed the window shut but the low thud of it closing was drowned out by a sudden noise echoing through the house. A noise which made my blood run cold. An animalistic shriek, like a fox being torn to shreds. Without thinking I grabbed the nearest blunt object to me which happened to be a small steel weight bar. Sounds convenient I know that it was just lying around but maybe I’m just a paranoid fuck at the best of times. Regardless I wasn’t exactly cursing my luck as I flung my door open and found Catherine standing on the landing, eyes alert. I guess she hadn’t gotten any sleep either. I dashed down the stairs with the bar outstretched. Truth be told I was never exactly a fighter so how I planned to use this weapon if confronted with something remained to be seen. I turned the corner at the bottom of the stairs to see George huddled up on the sofa sobbing and nursing his face with his hands. The back door leading through to the garden was wide open and there seemed to be signs of a struggle littered all over the place. Glasses smashed, cupboard doors torn from the hinges and an overturned table. I placed the bar on the counter and ran over to check on George but found he didn’t have a scratch on him. No marks, bruises or lacerations. Nothing to suggest he’d been physical attacked at any rate. We tried to get something intelligible out of him but he only sobbed and ignored our pressing. At one point he lunged at me and it was only Catherine and my bar that she’d picked up that caused him to stop and retreat back to the foetal position and begin sobbing once more.

Catherine called the police to the house for the second time that night plus an ambulance for George. “Catatonic” was the word the paramedic used once they’d finally gotten him to enter the vehicle with them. The police remained for a short while after and only once the questions began being asked did we realise just how confusing the situation was. “So you heard this noise and woke up?” the officer in charge asked us. “No” Catherine replied, “We were both awake and when we heard the noise we came down to investigate”. “So when did you hear the glass shattering, was it before or after?” We looked at each other and I realised Catherine was thinking the same thing as me. This room looked like a bomb had gone off in it and we had both been wide awake just upstairs. How had we not heard any commotion? “We-erm…we don’t know” I replied weakly. The officer looked visibly perplexed and slightly irritated, “Have you been drinking tonight sir?” he asked me in a firm manner. “Well, yes…” his eyebrow raised, “but that was hours ago I swear”. “So how long after hearing Mr. Milligan in distress did it take you to come down?” At this stage Catherine thankfully interrupted before I could answer. “It was immediately, and I told you when you first came in that George didn’t make that noise. It sounded like an animal or something.” The officer wrote something down in his pad as his colleague stood up from examining the door and turned to us. “Sergeant, there’s no sign of forced entry. It seems to me that either the back door was unlocked or Mr. Milligan let the intruder in.”

The police sergeant and his constable left soon after followed by a few investigators who took some samples of the scene and scoped the furniture for any kind of prints. By the time Catherine and I were alone in the house together, the sun was already coming up and even the traumatic events of the last 24 hours couldn’t distract me from the fact I had barely slept a wink during this time. After doing a thorough sweep of the house and ensuring every door and window was securely closed and locked, I told Catherine I needed to get some shut eye. She told me she wasn’t tired and asked me if she could stay in my room for a while and do some work. Although playing it casual, I knew it didn’t take a genius to work out she was frightened and didn’t want to be alone. I won’t deny, I wasn’t too keen on the concept either and with relief agreed she could. She set up her laptop on my desk as I got into bed and closed my eyes, exhaustion quickly doing its part to send me to sleep. Only the low constant clicks of Catherine’s typing to fill my mind.

I dreamed I was walking downstairs to get a late night snack when I saw George on the sofa. He was huddled and shaking, making occasional whimpering noises and covering his face. As I approached him and asked what wrong he turned to me and let out the loud shriek from earlier. His eyelids appeared to be surgically removed and his mouth was gaping open as if his jaw had been forcibly dislocated, giving him a permanently terrified look. I awoke with a start and found Catherine prodding me. Apparently I’d been groaning and turning in my sleep and she wanted to see if I was ok. “Bad dream?” she asked in her usual monotone voice. “Yeah, something like that”. I rubbed my eyes and tried my best to ignore my sweaty hands and forehead. “What’s the time?” I yawned. “Just gone noon. Listen Freddie, you should know something happened earlier and I didn’t want to wake you at the time. You looked like you needed the sleep.” I sat up in bed as she continued. “I heard your phone beeping earlier and as I checked to turn off the noise I saw what it was. It was an email.” She had a pained expression on her face with that last sentence which said more than words ever could. “Was it him?” I asked. She nodded and sighed, “That sergeant from last night gave me his office number and I called to tell him. He told me the account has been deleted.” I swore under my breath. “What did the email say?” Catherine’s eyes seemed to fill with tears and for a second I felt time stop. I had never seen her this scared before. I tried to make the most comforting expression I could without revealing just how scared shitless I really was. I looked her in the eyes which for once weren’t staring directly at mine, but darting around anxiously. “Catherine. What did the email say?” I asked softly. “It said-” she took a few breaths and managed to compose herself a little, “It said George is going to die”.

I felt sick. Catherine and I spent several minutes in silence before I shot up out of my bed. “We have to see if he’s ok”. I pulled off my sweat soaked pyjamas as Catherine shielded her eyes. “I’ve already called the hospital and they said he can’t have visitors yet. I tried getting some information but all they said was that he was in some kind of shock.” I pulled on a shirt and went to grab my keys and wallet from the desk when Catherine grasped my hand firmly, “I know you’re worried for him Freddie. I am too. But the police are involved and they can handle it”. I snatched my hand away from hers with a little more force than I intended, though being Catherine she barely seemed to register it. “Well what should we do?” I asked in a defeated tone. She sighed and after a long pause looked at me, “I guess we wait”. 10 minutes passed before Catherine packed up her things and left the room. I didn’t blame her, she looked like she do with a nap at any rate. I supposed now some time had passed and the initial shock had worn off she felt safer on her own.

I went downstairs and found the living room still in the same state as the night before. I stood up the knocked over furniture and examined some of the cupboard doors. Most of them seemed fine besides minor paint work damage but a few had nearly been completely torn from the wall. It must’ve taken something strong to do this kind of damage. The kitchen had only been refurbished a few months before and a lot of the scenery was brand new, not exactly old and decaying. The landlord’s going to be pissed off that’s for sure. I got to my knees and scoured the floor, sweeping up all the broken glass scattered around. I worked my way towards the sofa where we’d found George and noticed there was glass underneath. Groaning I pulled the furniture out and away from the wall to get a better look. However amongst all the old mothballs, bottle caps and other bits and pieces that had found their way under here in the previous months there was a scrap of paper. I picked it up and saw it was an old receipt from the local newsagents for a load of frozen pizzas. George, I thought amused, he’d never learned to bloody cook and always ate this processed crap. For a moment I’d almost forgotten reality and allowed myself to smile a little before I realised there was writing on the other side.

“It lives in the walls. Preys on those alone. Don’t think about it and don’t look at it.”

Now I won’t deny that creeped the fuck out of me. I mean it was definitely George’s handwriting, albeit heavy and rushed like he’d scrawled it in a hurry. But what did he mean? It lives in the walls. I scanned the room slowly. Did he mean it was inside the house? Preys on those alone. My eyes shot open as I stuffed the paper into my pocket and sprinted towards the stairs, taking two at a time until I reached the top of the landing and burst through Catherine’s door. Expecting a scene similar to last night I was instead greeted by a panicked scream and a blunt strike to the head. “Freddie! What the fuck!?” I heard Catherine shout. Panting from the quick sprint from downstairs and now nursing a headache all I could manage was, “Downstairs…thought you were…in danger. Ow did you throw a fucking book at my face?”. “Psychology for second year” she replied in a disinterested tone, though I could tell she was trying to mask a layer of amusement in her voice. She stood over me as I sat on the edge of her bed and she lifted my chin to get a better look. “Hardback edition” she added with the hint of a smirk. “You’re bleeding a little but you don’t seem concussed”. She walked over to her desk and brought out a first aid kit. “Now what was so important you had to storm in here?” As she tended to the cut on my forehead I read her the note that George had written but to my surprise she didn’t seem taken aback. “I don’t know Freddie” she frowned. “George wasn’t exactly in the right frame of mind when he wrote that.” I argued that we had to find out what he meant by it. “Well you can ask him yourself” she said with a small smile. “Got a call from the hospital a little while ago. They’ve said we can visit him tomorrow.”

The visiting times for the local wards was 9am so Catherine and I woke up a couple of hours earlier to get there as soon as possible. It was a tense breakfast. Neither of us had any particular appetite and although the mess had been cleaned up and the cupboards were temporarily back in place, there was an unsettling feeling in the house. Somebody had broken into our home and even now life was meant to be carrying on, all I could feel was violation and humiliation lurking in the walls downstairs. I could tell Catherine felt it too, which was why she waited for me to get ready and accompany her before taking a single step down the stairs that morning. Eventually we gave up picking at our food and after checking and then double checking that every window and door was closed we decided to waste no time setting out.

A cold gust of winter breeze kissed my face and I realised that I hadn’t actually left the house once since getting back just after Boxing Day. Several days of being trapped indoors with nothing but artificial light had taken their toll on my vision and it took several minutes for my eyes to adjust to the sunlight. Ignoring the initial sense of nausea, we quickly made our way through town without incident. Eventually we arrived at the hospital to find we were still early. A nurse directed us to sit down in a waiting room as minutes of watching that loud morbid clock that every hospital room seems to possess ticked slowly by. At 5 minutes to 9 the nurse led another person into the room to join us. “Freddie!” was all I heard before being pulled into a tight hug. When released and finally able to breathe I recognised the figure of George’s mother. Although a kind woman, Mrs. Milligan was often the subject of horror stories by George who would talk for hours about how his mother’s over protective attitude and general hypochondria had often kept him out of school and generally disturbed the happier days of his childhood. However it was difficult not to feel bad for her. The death of George’s father many years ago had clearly taken a toll on her mental wellbeing and her over-protectiveness of her son seemed to be result of him being the only family she had left. I’d given up trying to trying to explain this to George though, since he’d just start rambling about the time she pulled him from school for a month because she was worried about E.coli breaking out in Southern England.

After several minutes of hearing her rapidly speak in a worried tone to the attending nurse, who was doing her best to explain that George was ok, we were eventually told it’d be alright to go and see him. Initially Catherine and I remained seated in the waiting room since we didn’t want to impose on George’s family visitation. However when I tried to explain this to Mrs. Milligan she simply brushed me off and dragged me along with her as the nurse lead us to George’s ward. Catherine simply followed behind silently, enjoying the view of me being essentially manhandled by a 5 and a half foot tall, 52 year old women. As we arrived at George’s bedside the curtains had been drawn and he was upright in bed, a big goofy grin on his face. The pair of us exchanged nervous glances at what appeared to be a pretty rapid recovery. After George battled off his mother’s barrage of hugs and kisses, he greeted the rest of us cheerfully. Catherine opened her bag and pulled out a gaming magazine. “Here” she said softly, “It’s the January edition. Figured you hadn’t gotten it yet and thought you might get bored so” her voice trailed off sounding a little embarrassed, though her face was just as stoic as ever. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes as George blushed a little and thanked her. Fuck me I thought, do they put something in the water in student accommodations? After a few awkward seconds, George piped up. “Mum, would you mind giving me a few minutes with Freddie and Catherine?” “Why?” she replied sternly. “Because I’m a fucking adult” he snapped back. Looking annoyed and a little disheartened, she shot a dirty glance at Catherine before leaving the ward.

We told George about the email I’d been sent the previous day. “I know” he said, surprisingly unfazed by the news. “Coppers don’t reckon it’s anything to be too worried about. Apparently they’ve got someone here keeping an eye out just in case Freddy Kruger pops by.” I pulled the paper out of my pocket and unfolded it. “What’s that?” he asked. I ignored the look Catherine was giving me and handed it over. “I found it yesterday. It looks like your hand writing mate”. George studied it for a moment, his eyes darting back and forth over each word. I swear I saw a flicker of fear for just a moment before looked up giving me a blank expression. He shrugged, “Sorry man, I don’t remember writing this”. He scratched his head and handed me back the paper. As the more the three of us spoke the more we discovered how little George remembered of events of that night. According to him, the last thing he remembered was passing out in our living room and then waking up in hospital the next night. We figured the nurses had been keeping him sedated on account of his obvious shock, making a lapse of memory an easy side effect to consider. We spoke for a few more minutes before Mrs. Milligan arrived back to see her son. Catherine and I made our leave promising to visit again the next day, when we figured we’d be able to stay longer without interruption. George looked gloomy at the prospect of being left alone with his mother but seemed happy enough when he heard we’d visit again.

The next day we kept our word and arrived early once more, this time spending almost the entire visiting section of the day in George’s ward. We joked around, played cards and discussed what games we were going to buy when our University loans came in. We did this again for the next few days and before we knew it things seemed back to normal. Although he seemed fine, the doctor had wanted George to get a few days rest while some tests were made to determine the cause of his “seizure” as they were now referring to it. Although sceptical myself, it was hard to doubt when seeing George back to his old self. He didn’t seem to mind having to stay in the hospital. In fact I’d say he was rather keen on the idea. I don’t know about you but I haven’t met many people who like hospitals, let alone staying in them when they have their own house nearby. It occurred to me that perhaps George felt safer in the hospital than at home. It made sense for him to show some anxiety when having to return to the place of an apparently traumatic event. Even though he claimed not to remember his particular incident.

We had first visited George on a Friday, then every day after. However on Tuesday evening as we were getting ready to make our farewells, the nurse who usually came by to kick us out was replaced by George’s physician. Smiling, he informed the three of us that all tests came back negative for epilepsy or any kind of neurological anomaly. As a result George could discharge himself the next morning and come home. Catherine and I both gave sighs of relief and couldn’t keep the grins off our faces. However when I looked over to George he seemed lost in thought, like he was trying to work out a complex maths equation and his student loan repayments at the same time. I caught his eye and after a second he smiled back at me but I couldn’t help feeling it looked forced. “We’ll come by tomorrow morning and help you bring back your stuff” smiled Catherine. He nodded, looking pained as he tried smiling once more. “See you guys tomorrow”.

Those were the last words I’d ever hear my friend say. The next morning we were woken by loud thumps at the door followed by, “Police. Is anyone home?” After quickly throwing on jeans and a hoodie I opened the door and it was the police sergeant from the week before. I invited him and his constable into the living room and put the kettle on. Catherine soon made her way down too, looking like she was half way through putting her morning face on. She wasn’t exactly one to care about appearances though but on any other occasion I would’ve sniggered at the sight of only one half of her face with any make up on. As I brought through the constable’s tea and sat down in the armchair sipping my own the sergeant began speaking. “I’m afraid I have some bad news.” My heart sank and I began to hear static in my brain as my vision blurred and my mind prepared itself for what I’d hear next. The Sergeant’s mouth was moving but I could barely hear the words “…body found in the woods…” I didn’t need a brain to work out there were talking about George. Tears swelled in my eyes and I felt my insides churning as I hung my head and shifted it, the only thing I could do to stop myself being sick. I saw the officers’ stand up as the Sergeant thanked us for our time. Once they’d shown themselves out I looked over at Catherine. Her expression looked passive but I could see the muscles in her face were tense and she was grinding her teeth. She didn’t look sad, she looked angry.

Neither of us said a word to each other for two days. We were still technically in our holidays so there was really no reason either of us had to leave our own bedrooms. A few days after George’s death I was lying in bed and staring at the ceiling when I turned my phone on. An instant buzzer displayed another anonymous text dated the night of George’s death. By this point I was angry. Boy, was I angry. I looked at the text icon and clicked it, “I told you it would happen didn’t I?” I clenched my fist around my phone in rage and threw it against the nearest wall. I screamed. I screamed until I thought my lungs were going to shrivel in my chest and pop. I felt my vocal chords stretch to the point of tearing and when I was done I laid back, too tired to even cry any more. It’s hard to believe Catherine didn’t hear me, though if she had she didn’t give any indication. I left my room and went downstairs and sat down. I picked up the TV remote and turned on the television. I nearly threw the fucking thing too when it took what I felt was too long to start up. I flipped through the channels to find the regional news. They were still covering George’s death like clockwork, interviewing random arseholes who never knew him but just wanted to be on television. They’d have these shit eating grins on their faces as they talked about how much they missed him and what a good friend he was. I felt my blood boil again but as they began to talk about the ongoing case, I sat up and listened intently. From what I understood at this stage, it was a simple suicide. George had left the hospital after lights out and hanged himself in the woods. In the morning some poor bastard walking his dog discovered him. A note had been found but the details of it hadn’t been revealed to the public and that was the end of that.

“Despite initial police claims that the victim, 20 year old George Milligan, had committed suicide” the news reader stated, “newer reports speculate that foul-play may be suspected”. The anger died in me as quickly as it rose and my blood froze in my veins. I watched the report for 2 hours, by which point they had begun to repeat themselves for the fifth time and I didn’t want to hear any more. Based on what I could make out from what they said was that before the police were able to cordon off the scene someone had sneaked in and taken a picture of George’s body. They had subsequently posted it online to several of these shifty gore sights. Fucking people with their fucking cameras. Cunts. If you’ve read this far into my story I’m sure you can predict what was in the picture because at that stage I knew before the words even came tumbling out of the news reader’s mouth. My mind was once again a blur only occasionally penetrated by terms such as eyelids removed, dislocated jaw, broken nose and teeth missing. I suppose now you may be wondering whether George was murdered or if he had indeed killed himself. Did he mutilate his own face and leave a note before hanging himself? Truth be told is I don’t know and if the police knew then why the fuck would they tell me.

The next couple of weeks were the hardest of my entire life. Catherine and I said very little to each other the entire time, even when sharing a car to George’s funeral. There was plenty of media attention at the event and I had to physically hold back Catherine when one reporter made a comment about the two’s relationship. The hostilities didn’t end there. One day in late January our landlord had stopped by to talk to us. He wanted our help finding a new occupant for what used to be George’s room and the answer was a right hook to the face courtesy of Catherine. She left the next day, wishing me well in life and giving me a hug. I returned the short and awkward farewell and watched her leave in her parent’s car. They looked like nice people. Now alone in the house of ghosts I wandered the halls and rooms, seeing strange shadows flutter in the corners every now and then. A trick of the eye most likely although it didn’t bother me. Indeed, I almost felt like I’d become one of them. Just another of the ghosts in this house.

I left University a month ago in the first week of February and moved back into my parent’s house. My mother was thrilled of course, she had her little “pickles” back. Without coursework to keep me occupied I started working in my dad’s construction company managing finances. I was always good with numbers and it kept the old man off my back about not contributing to the household. I read in the news the other day about Mrs. Milligan’s funeral. Apparently they’d found her in bed a few weeks after her son was laid to rest, clutching his photograph next to a bottle of gin and an empty packet of sleeping pills. There was no note but I guess she didn’t have anyone to leave one for. I can sympathise with that. I often wonder how Catherine is doing. You know I never even knew what part of the country her parents lived in and with her lack of social media combined with my destroyed phone, I supposed there was no real way to contact her. It wasn’t as though I had anything I could say to her anyway. I still occasionally suffer from nightmares, waking in a cold sweat and hearing the beeps of messages that aren’t there. Sometimes I wake still thinking I’m in my old house and it takes me a few moments to realise Catherine and George are not there. It’s weird that even here in the walls I grew up in I struggle to think of a time I’ve ever felt more alone.

Writing this story has brought me some solace at least and I hope those of you who have suffered through to the end can appreciate that. It’s funny really, in all the horror stories you read the main protagonist always solves the case of the mysterious figure. Or he’s just another victim of a murderous psychopath. “Anti-climactic” is the phrase often used but sometimes life is anti-climactic. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to make sense of those events. It’s now been about two months since I was last contacted by whoever that person was. In that period I’ve gone over the events time and time again to the point of madness. Sometimes I even wonder the validity of their supposed malevolence. They never actually threatened me, nor George for that matter. Perhaps they were trying to warn me, and the graphic photos and creepy messages were just their fucked up way of doing so. I don’t know if this was an isolated case to me or if it’s happened to anyone else. Truth be told I’ve reached the stage where I don’t want to know. The only one for sure who knew was George, and whether though suicide or murder that truth died with him.

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Help Needed

July 23, 2015 at 12:00 PM
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As I am typing this, I am trying to be as calm as possible. As calm, as possible. I am hoping to God it cannot read what I am writing.
I have acquired a… new friend. He is a very nice one. He stays with me all the time. He stays with me everywhere.

He terrifies me.

Nothing I do can get it off my back. It started around a month back. I and my sister had gone to Digha. It isn’t very far from where we are but it takes quite some time. There area is divided into two places- old Digha and New Digha.

A month ago, I and my sister landed in New Digha with hopes to have a few days in the beach and enjoy the waters. It wasn’t a particularly smart decision seeing that the humidity made it really difficult to as much as breath in normal air. It was hotter than in here but I think we enjoyed the nights. It was cool. That’s the thing about being with my sister. When we came together, every dumb idea started seeming like the smartest idea in the world.

We were there for a week. On the fourth day of our visit we decided to (very dumbly) walk from Old Digha to New Digha. It is quite the distance and the path we chose was quite secluded and hadn’t been used for quite some time after a new and clean path had been constructed for easy travel by car. Due to this reason, an overgrowth of trees surrounded the path and the path in itself was full of shrubberies and creepers.

We two sisters walked from there, without any heed to the numerous dangers we could have in. There could have been burglars, psychopaths, animals… things, but we, being the foolish sisters that we were, we decided to walk the path and call it an experience. We decided that we were the strongest people on Earth and we could tackle whatever came our way. Do you know what our only weapon was? It was a flashlight.

So with an extensive chuck Norris-like attitude we had set off down the dark road guided by our flashlights keeping a positive mentality and sure enough we didn’t encounter any ungodly things till at least mid way. Halfway through the road we came across this awkward smallish structure on the side of a road. My immediate thought was it could be an elaborate dog house. It was made of a reddish stone and had carvings around a tall (at least according to the height of the structure) domed doorway. Its conical roof came till our thighs and it seemed to be a pretty interesting structure.
I and my sister made a stop there and I stooped and looked inside it. Obviously the inside was dark and even though I shone the flashlight in it, I saw only darkness, maybe a few creepers to add to it. Deeming the structure nothing unusual, we set back in our path.

I think it was then that it all started. As we walked, I heard footsteps behind us- very hushed footsteps, like someone was trying to sneak behind us. I had turned back but obviously there was nothing. Only a slight breeze.

My sister heard it next and she told me about it. We called out in the darkness behind us. Nothing. Obviously we got slightly scared there because it was then that the possibility of rogue psychopaths finding refuge there had occurred to us. I still can’t fathom how it didn’t occur to us right in the beginning.

We kept hearing the footsteps, which by the end had turned into a hushed slithering, throughout the rest of the path and it only stopped when the woods ended and we were in New Digha. Do you know what we did all the while we kept hearing the muffled footsteps? We ignored it.

The rest of our stay was uneventful and after we came back, almost a week had passed. It started off somewhere in the middle of the night. I couldn’t tell what time it was but I kept hearing a slithering in the room. I wasn’t the squeaky and easily scared kind of girl so I flipped on the switch and looked around in the room for snakes or any holes they might have escaped into. Nothing. I dismissed it and went back to sleep.

The next night when I heard the slithering, I flipped on my torch light to check the room. I checked the whole room and was just going back to sleep when something odd caught my eye. My desk was directly in front of me and the chair was pushed into it neatly. The desk was placed in a way so that when I sat on the desk, I had my back facing the bed. From beside the chair, I saw a weird glint. At first I thought that it might be something metallic, which is until it moved and very deliberately so.

At this point I was scared. I calmly got off my bed, pretending I didn’t see it and left my room. I went straight to my sister’s bedroom, woke her up and told her what I saw. At first, she was sceptical, naturally, but then she decided to check my bedroom for me. When she did, there was nothing under my desk or anywhere, in that matter.

The next night I awoke to a peculiar whining. Creepy as it was, it didn’t stop me from turning on the flashlight. This time the light fell directly on its torso and my heart jumped to my mouth. There was a creature in the room with me and as soon as the light fell on it, it slithered towards me, slowly but surely. At this point, I was paralyzed, mouth agape and horror-struck eyes.

I never really got a good look at it, since as it got closer, the light concentrated on a smaller part of it. But its torso looked like it was veiled, or maybe it was made of liquid smoke, I don’t know. It slithered closer and closer blocking out the light from my flashlight and I felt something very close to my face. It wasn’t a breath, but I remember being terrified beyond imagination. It was very very close to my face and it whispered only one thing in the creepiest sound I have heard till now.


I’m sure that is what I heard before I passed out. You would think it had stopped coming to my vision but no. It comes to me every night. It creeps on me when I am working with my back to the bed. I sometimes feel like it’s lying next to me in the dark, while I lay quietly paralyzed with fear. When I had tried to tell my sister about it, it created a distraction in the kitchen and very fleetingly, showed itself. I knew I was to stay quiet. I couldn’t talk about it.

This has been going on for a month now. I think it thinks it is my friend but it terrifies me beyond anything. I don’t know how to get rid of it. It really terrifies me. I don’t want it around. I know I can’t talk about it, but I am hoping to God it cannot read. It aksdhvf;liadh ;osdkj;’ihdsfh’ivbviu8f7


Credit To – Royale D. Ross

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Crying Numbers

July 23, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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The first week.

It’s all in the numbers. That’s how you understand anything of real value in this world.

At this point, we don’t need the baby monitor anymore. But even after all this time, I still need the static to fall asleep. It was a while ago when the baby started sleeping through the night, and I needed it through that transition. The monitor has one of those screens, too, that turns on if there is movement in the room. It really doesn’t turn on anymore. But sometimes I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and press the on button. Just to look.

Just to remind myself.

A healthy male in his prime will produce anywhere from around thirty million to an excess of one billion sperm during an ejaculation. Of that group, only so many make it to the fallopian tubes—fewer than twenty sperm ever reach the egg. Sometimes none make it.

I had met my wife in high school, but we didn’t date until after college. She went her way, I went mine, and for some reason both of us backwoods kids ended up in Panama City at the same beach during spring break. It was the kind of scenario we both completely hid from our parents, but that was the beginning. The first kiss escalated into a lot of other firsts that we just sort of blew right through that week. We had come so far since then. Getting married, the honeymoon in Florida. We decided to put our careers on hold and spend a few years together. It was a good call. But that was also before we started doing the math for everything. Realizing that we’d be in our fifties once the kids left the house. And that was if we had the first kid nine months after we started trying.

When it comes to trying to get pregnant, ovulation is at the center of everything. Ovulation is only a little window. Certain religions even track cycles so they can have unprotected sex around the ovulation cycle to prevent pregnancy. Even if a couple has unprotected sex and is trying to conceive, the odds are only stacked so much in their favor. A couple trying to get pregnant can still find themselves without child after a year. Something like 10-15% will take longer than a year to get pregnant.

You know, the real irony of having children with my wife was that we were actually both in the same health class together. Mr. Schuller was this old conservative values man from the middle of the century. He didn’t teach us much, but he did manage to tell us interesting anecdotal tales that had nothing to do with sex or reproduction. He never did tell us the odds of anything. None of the real numbers.

Like the odds for miscarriages. Most people don’t ever look these up, so they don’t realize that a spontaneous abortion can take place at any point during the first twenty weeks, but mostly just the first thirteen. And the numbers get smudged on this one, but the odds of a miscarriage are around one in five. Some experts believe the odds are three out of five. If it happens early enough, an uneducated mother-to-be will think it was just a late period.

When we finally decided to have children, it took us two years to get pregnant. And not just two years of trying to not try. We were actively trying. Two years of almost treating it like our part-time job. It took a bit of the fun out of it, actually. But we knew we both wanted it. We were more than ready for that next phase of our lives. When it finally happened, we were so happy. My wife was the one who told me we had to wait a few weeks. She told me how common miscarriages were and that’s what got me started on the numbers. On knowing the odds.

Most mothers don’t know to wait. They take the pregnancy test and they let everyone know they got the pink little circle or the triangle or the double lines. Then the doctor visit takes place and the baby’s gone. They never did the research to know how frequent it all is, how often things don’t work out. And the reasons are countless. Sometimes the body just rejects the baby. Other times, the mother smoked or drank too much caffeine or some other drug. Or maybe the mother is over 45 years old, in which case their odds jump up to a fifty-fifty chance of keeping the baby to term. Sometimes, it just happens. No one’s to blame and something just doesn’t line up.

We also went through a few false alarms in those two years. We made it pretty far at one point. We were a week away from telling our friends and family when my wife had another period. It was a rough point in our life together. But we kept trying. We knew it would happen, eventually.

Once your child’s born, there’s a one in 1,500 chance that it will pass away from SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). They just fall asleep one day and never wake up again. No one has completely figured out why. If the mother is seriously ill, the odds go up that the child will have difficulty. Any number of external factors limit the chances for the baby: smoking, drinking, eating wrong, drugs, even getting the flu. In America, the child mortality rate of children that don’t make it past their fifth birthday is around five for every one thousand. In some countries, it’s above a hundred for every thousand. America’s current population is around 310 million.

When we finally were able to tell our friends and family, I was so happy. We were making it; when we found out it would be a boy, happiness grew into pride. We took classes; pride turned to paranoia. We bought padding for everything, stocked up on band-aids and medicines and bought enough diapers to last us a year.

All those odds.

All those numbers stacked against all of us. And it has even gotten better over the years. That our species has survived this long is always a wonder to me, when I sit down and consider it all.

I guess you could say I was a nervous father. During our pregnancy, every day felt like a miracle. The idea that life was being molded in there. That our bits of protoplasm were forming into something that we would later shape in other ways, and which would shape us, was the most amazing feeling I had ever experienced.

Through the screaming and the drugs and the sleepless nights, there he was. The more perfect version of ourselves. Still pure from his lack of experience with the world. Not yet touched by the harshness.

We did our best to be informed. It was pretty hard stepping up to the plate with that. Cynthia was too drugged up to say yes or no to things, so there I was, remembering the classes and remembering what to say no to. What to say yes to. They try to sell you anything in that moment. Most of the time they just want to get off shift early. You can’t blame them too much, I guess. A job’s a job. And I have no reason to be bitter about our experience at the hospital. But there were a few moments where I thought they were trying to get over on us. I just had to keep reminding myself about everything. You can learn a lot from history. I mean, up into the 1950s doctors were still telling women to smoke while they were pregnant and they took x-rays of the babies.

Rhythms are quickly established during the first few days. Sleep when the baby sleeps. Anyone who doesn’t do that deserves to be tired. Babies are like cats with regards to the number of hours they sleep. Once the newborn wakes up, you just go through the motions. Change, feed, burp, rock. Sleep.

But, then, last night happened. I had the monitor on and I fell asleep to the static low hum with the volume set at 40%, just in case. At four o’clock in the morning, the baby started screaming hard. It was the loudest, most terrible scream I had ever heard him put forth. There’s something inside you when you become a parent. Something inside that doesn’t make those screams annoying. Instead, when it’s your baby, you just feel the screams like blows to the gut. I would do anything to soothe my little guy. Anything to make him feel better.

I would do anything to hold him. To give him that comfort.

To hold him, again.

It was all in the numbers, somewhere. That’s how it always was and how it always is. Anything of real value has to be measured. And life is the most valuable of all things.

He screamed for thirty minutes over the monitor. The motion sensor even came on, he was so active. My wife and I just laid there.

The baby had passed away two weeks ago.


The second week.

Mr. Schuller was the type of teacher that tried to tell stories to make points that never related to the lesson. He was always trying to teach clumsy ethical lessons during health class, pushing his opinions and way of life with the cavalier arrogance of a Bible-thumping illiterate. To be honest, most of us just let all that stuff flow in and out of our ears. But in hindsight, some of those stories were good for a young teenager to hear. They must have made some sort of imprint, I can still remember them.

Mr. Schuller once spoke for forty minutes about the future of wireless technology. How the future would be all about wireless this and wireless that. This was around a year or so before any of us had heard of WiFi. Dial-up modems were still the way to access the Internet, and we all had to wait a hot minute for the static and noise to run its course while we dialed in. Mr. Schuller told us how wireless was not a new thing. How an inventor named Tesla had done experiments with electricity that spanned miles and only consisted of wireless transmissions of energy. There was a whole strange point to the story, but that part has since been lost to me. All I remember is visualizing the light bulbs turning on at such a distance. It’s the image I think of every time the baby monitor hums.

When that screen pops on from the motion in my son’s room, I think of Tesla. I think of the wireless transmission to the baby monitor and I wonder how the energy is used.

Last night was the night I decided to stay awake. Four o’clock was always the time the motion began, when the movements in my son’s room would turn the monitor’s light on. When the noises would start.

Same exact time.

Every single night.

But last night, I decided I would change one of the variables. After three weeks, I needed to know. I was ready to start dealing with the loss and ready to start understanding what was happening. That’s what I told myself, how I rationalized.

The night dragged on, but I was able to stay awake. There was a low level of adrenaline keeping me on the edge, like the feeling kids get when they know Christmas is in the morning, except devoid of the joyful anticipation. I was blindfolded on a rollercoaster, going up a hill, and I had no clue when I’d take the plunge or how steep it would be.

I thought of my son and the last months he was alive. How we used to play around. I had gotten him a small stuffed fox with deep orange fur and beady eyes. He loved the thing and would tackle it to cuddle against its plush fiery fur. For the life of me I couldn’t find it anywhere after his death. It had just disappeared.

I stared at the clock on the night stand until it clicked over. Four o’clock. Right on schedule, my son started to cry. Last night was the first night I considered the numbers involved. Four was never a time that he would normally wake up. My son was always asleep until at least six. I tried to remember if he cried the night he passed away. If maybe he warned us and this was a way for us to finally get there in time. A way for us to do the right thing.

Parents sleep so little in those first months. It was entirely possible for us to sleep through him crying at four if he woke up several times throughout the night. I couldn’t remember. But thinking about it made me feel guilty. I shook my head and sat up to look at the monitor. Three weeks of listening to my son cry and I never had the guts to pick up the monitor to look. I wasn’t sure what I would see. I licked my lips to get the dryness out of my mouth. I reached to pick up the monitor and took a long breath. The room was so dark that looking at the screen was blinding for a few seconds. I had to let my eyes adjust, and when they did, I was gazing right into the crib. The sound of crying continued coming from the piece of plastic, wirelessly transmitting its way into my hands.

There was something there, something dark and blurry, but it wasn’t my son. I couldn’t tell what it was. It was almost like it was canceling out the pixels on the LCD screen. I had been waiting for so long to see him again, I never thought I would be staring at something that wasn’t a child. At a crying black blob of nothing. Was I crying, too? Maybe. I was having a hard time rationalizing what was happening, having a hard time breathing. My hands were shaking. And a tingling feeling kept creeping up and down my spine.

I had my finger on the power button, just to check. I needed to turn off the monitor for a moment. To let go. To say goodbye to my son. Three weeks of listening to the hum and then the cries was enough for me. My son was gone, and I needed to be able to accept that. Then, the black blob shifted and turned. It had eyes that radiated light, and the eyes looked right into the camera. Right into me.

I turned off the monitor as quickly as I could and tried to make myself continue to breathe. My brain wanted me to hyperventilate; my body wanted to do nothing except retreat into itself. I didn’t know what the blob was, or what it being there meant. I was trying to figure it out when I realized that the monitor was off, but the crying sounds of my son hadn’t stopped. The cries were real, and still coming from the other room.

I was shaking from the tingling feeling in my spine. But I decided to look. I needed to see. I looked over to my wife. She was still asleep. She always was. A part of me didn’t think she even ever heard the monitor. But the sound was clear and audibly coming from our son’s room.

He was still crying.

I got out of bed and made my way to my son’s room. The cries got louder as I got closer, as though they were being amplified. I reached the door. A part of me hoped to see my son again. To hold him. For everything to be a dream or some strange hallucination. He was still alive and well. SIDS never happened. What were the odds of that? I didn’t know. For once, I didn’t care. I forced myself to take a breath and I opened the door.

The second the door was open the sound of my son’s cries escalated to an intensely high pitch. Whatever was in the crib shot up to a sitting position. The eyes glowed with fire and they turned to look right at me. My ears were burned with the sound. The creature’s mouth was moving to the cries. It was the source of the sound. It had replaced my son. I couldn’t understand what was happening.

My wife was the only reason I woke up this morning. She found me on the floor outside my son’s room, the door to his room still closed. My clothes were gone and dried blood caked on the sides of my head, rivers of crusted red flowing from my ears. My body was covered in scratches. I asked my wife if she heard any of the noises from last night.

“What noises?” she asked.

The third week.

It’s been a rough week. I haven’t woken up in my own bed for a few days now. Sometimes I remember getting into bed. Sometimes I’m going about my day and I simply wake up and it’s morning. The stress has started to force me away from my wife. Or maybe it’s her distancing herself from me. We never talk about it, leaving me to assume that this is just her own way of coping. It’s logical.

People react to things differently. Her reaction has always been to sleep. To roll over. To zone out. She would do that all the time back in high school. Health class would start to get boring and she would go to the bathroom, do her thing. For some reason, I find myself thinking a lot of those days. How I used to stare at her in class. Fantasize about her when I’d get home from school. How much of my life started in high school? Why would those days never leave me? What if we had just never had a son?

Every day I wake up, it’s to the sound of myself screaming. Just like the sensation of urinating in your sleep, the dream revolves around the scream. A slow fade gradually brings the scream out of the dream and I realize I’m the one making the noise. Making the bed yellow. Bleeding on a carpet somewhere in the house. Some mornings I’m downstairs. Most mornings I’m at the door to my son’s room. The door is always closed. The last few days it’s been locked.

I’ve asked my wife about it, about the door, but she persists in giving me the silent treatment. I’ve been getting mostly stares instead of conversation. I feel like I’m back in high school, passing notes to try and communicate and having girls look at me like I’m a fool for asking them out.

My wife has even changed her clothes. Like she doesn’t want to wear the things I bought her. Or maybe the clothes remind her of our son. That would be reasonable. Sometimes I notice. Sometimes it’s like the clothes change in the middle of the day. Nothing extreme, just a color here, a hat there. It throws off the day just enough to be devoid of sense. Sometimes it takes me an hour to pinpoint it.

Sometimes she reminds me of Alice, another girl that I sat near in health class back in high school. Alice was something. She always wore white. My wife was Cynthia, though. Cyn. She is Cyn. We used to have fun. Back when we were dating. We would take turns DDing and we would just tear up a town. Sometimes we’d go out parking, even though we each had a place. And when it came to serious adult life, she was wonderful. Every time I got sick, she was there for me. Ice cream, back rubs, the works. It was enough for me to propose. I knew I wanted to spend forever with her. To be the one to dote on her when she’d get sick. The good old days. It wasn’t that long ago, but it feels like it was a lifetime.

Sometimes, when my son was inconsolable, I would turn on the TV. I was always lucky and found the right channel with the same shows. The dumb coyote never did win out. Always had an anvil or a ton of bricks landing on him. He seemed to have all the money in the world for gadgets, but lived out his life as a poor man. Never understood the meaning there. I suppose it was something about what’s right in front of a man—how that stuff should make him happy. Either way, my son ate up the vaudeville. Every time.

Tangents. I never seem to tell a story straight through.

Last night, I didn’t leave the monitor on. At least, I didn’t remember keeping it on. Maybe I did and I just lowered the volume. The nights have started to blur. It’s been a few weeks, now. It didn’t matter, either way: the cries started at the same time, and I heard them all the same.

For me, the most haunting part of this experience has been that I was the worried parent. I was the one who couldn’t sleep through him crying. I just couldn’t take it. I was paranoid about everything. I’d wake up every hour or two and walk into my son’s room and just check up on him. Check the thermostat to ensure it wasn’t too warm or too cold. Leave the nightlight in the hallway on. The things that reasonable parents do.

I remember now. The night my son died, he cried out in the middle of the night. Some time around four, I think. But I was too much of a zombie. Something had happened and I was at work late. By the time I got to sleep, I just wouldn’t wake up. Couldn’t transition from the sound in the dream. But I knew he was crying. A part of my brain knew it wasn’t the dream making those sounds, but I ignored the cries. I just wanted to get a few hours in. My wife was always a sound sleeper. She never even knew. When I asked her if she heard the sounds the night prior, all she could say was the same thing: “What sounds?” We were both hysterical when we realized what had happened.

Last night, the cries happened at the same time. Four in the morning. The same exact time as the night my son passed. Except last night, the cries ended early. Instead of half an hour, it was only five minutes. And then a pause. Silence. I thought something had happened. Maybe the cries would start if I turned on the monitor. But the monitor was already on. Like I said, I didn’t remember turning it on, but there it was. Glowing with the speakers crackling.

I took the monitor off my nightstand and I rested it on my chest. I gave myself a few seconds to adjust to the brightness. There it was. The dark blur. My son. Sitting up in the crib, looking at the monitor with the glowing eyes. There was no crying, though. We both sat there, looking at each other through the miracle of wireless technology. Through time and space. Through the crackling.

I tried to speak.

I couldn’t find the words.

The dark mass stood up and seemed to slide over the railing of the crib and out of the frame of the monitor camera. Something was about to happen, but I kept staring at the monitor. I started to hear sounds coming from my son’s room, just off camera. Whatever it was knew how to open a door, because the next thing I heard was the creaking sound of my son’s door swinging out into the hallway. It wasn’t a loud creak. Just enough for me to question whether or not I heard the door moving. Then the nightlight in the hallway went out.

I tried peeking my head over the edge of the bed, but staring at the monitor for so long had made everything else darker. I couldn’t see it, but I could hear it. Something was there. I held my breath to see if I could hear it. I could feel the air in the room shift with the air conditioner. But whatever had been moving had stopped. Maybe it wasn’t there. Maybe I was starting to lose it. Maybe my wife was right to be distant.

I took a long breath to steady myself. It was just the AC. Just the hallway light burning out. But then I heard something shift. Something was in the room, and it was resting directly next to my side of the bed. Everything fell silent. I couldn’t even feel my heart beating. My eyes teared up.

I clicked off the monitor’s screen and then I twisted the monitor around in my hands to use it as a flashlight. I moved slowly. I stopped breathing. I couldn’t hear it, but I knew it was there. I peeked my head over the edge of the bed to where I knew it was. I pointed the monitor.

Half a breath.

I clicked on the screen.

I saw it before the screen had reached its full brightness. Rusty orange and night’s gray blurred with the few rays of moonlight slicing through the blinds to color the plush face of a stuffed animal. The face of a fox with the body of a child. Glowing eyes of fire shot up from the edge of my bed and into my face.

I woke up screaming to my wife giving me CPR. My face was marked by a large, scabbed gorge.

The fourth week.

When I was a much younger man, being raised by my father, I was often told a story about a fox. My mother wasn’t around often while I was being raised. She was there, but that was just her body. Her mind was somewhere else. My father was the one who raised me, and every year that I remember being alive we went deer hunting. Those have always been some of my favorite memories. Ones and zeros that have always stuck around and reminded me about the best days of my life.

Out in the woods of upstate New York, you could walk for miles without ever seeing a trace of man. Just the trees and the wildlife. The animals we were hunting would always be the last things we would ever see. The math involved in it all was amazing to me. The odds. The numbers. How long we would spend in the woods compared to the encounters with our prey, sitting in a tree stand, walking through to try and push the animals one way or the other.

It was when we sat in the tree stands that my father would start talking, always at a whisper. He’d tell me about the fox that he would see when he was a boy, same fox in the the same woods. The actual woods that we would be sitting in while he was telling me the story. He saw the fox for years and never understood what it was doing out there or why it always seemed to find my father. My father explained it in his own way. He would always say, “A fox never dies. Not really. You can tell when you look in their eyes that some are thousands of years old. They carry knowledge in those eyes. They’re old. And if a fox finds you, they’re looking out for you. Sometimes that’s a reason to be worried. Most times, it means you’re doing something right with your life.”

I was never afraid of foxes, listening to those stories. I always thought they were lucky. A guardian type of animal. And as long as I was my father’s son, I always had a stuffed fox lying in bed with me. The same fox I gave my son the day he was born. Same fox that was in the crib the day my son left us.

Most of the time, when we would finally get a deer, it would go down pretty fast. My father would give me the first shot and if I missed he could usually get a hit. We’d look out into the woods, climb down the tree and head over to the deer. Most of them died with their mouths open, so they could get their last gasps in. I was lucky to never have to watch the last breaths, but I could always imagine how it must have felt. How those final pulls of air didn’t quite reach the lungs. The emotions that must have been within the mind of a creature that doesn’t understand the reasons behind what has just happened.

I was the one who found my son that morning. I stood there longer than I should have, but I didn’t need to pick him up. Not to know that look. The glossed eyes, the jaw slack with his mouth open. He looked just like the deer. When I finally held him, he was as cold as metal in the snow.

Memories. The more we gather, the more they seem to attach themselves to objects. I look at a rocking chair, and I remember being a boy. I smell a flower, I’m reminded of my wife. I see a fox, and… well. There are a lot of things I think of when I see a fox. Just like last week. Whatever it was, I wasn’t dreaming.

Life in the past week hasn’t been easy. I’ve been waking up in my own bed again, but the nights are still the same. Every night, the baby monitor is turned on and I hear it. When it all first started happening, I tried to get my wife to go with me to a hotel, so we could escape and not have to go through it all. I even had the car packed, and she still wouldn’t go. Wouldn’t even talk to me. She had a blank look that I’d never seen on her before. She was staring at me like I was insane.

A couple of nights ago, the volume of the crying was unbearable. Even with that, my wife never woke up. She just laid there like a pile of pillows. Her answer to everything. Alice was always like that.

Cyn, I mean. My wife. Always wearing white.

Eventually, all came to a head for me. I decided to end it all, and spend the night in my son’s room to settle everything. I brought the baby monitor with me and locked the door. I was going to stay there the entire night, no matter what happened.

I couldn’t sleep. I just sat there in the rocking chair, looking around my son’s room. The wooden toys, the polaroid photos we lined on the walls, the drawers of clothes, the table we used to change him on, and the crib. The empty crib. Midnight came, and then one and two o’clock. There was enough light from the moon to see the shadows of the clockface on the wall. When the clock came closer to four o’clock I stood up and held my breath.

The baby monitor turned on in my hand. I looked down for a moment and saw my son through the screen, standing there at the edge of the crib.

I started crying.

When I looked up, my son had the head of the fox with his eyes glowing. My heart started racing and I realized that I should take a breath. I took the air in slowly through my nose. There he was, the fox. The child.

The fox opened up its mouth and cried a loud human cry. I looked back down to the monitor and saw it was my son on the screen. I dropped the monitor and looked back at the crib, but the fox had climbed out of the crib and was standing in front of me.

I felt my nose start to bleed. My ears were on fire from an intense pressure. I knelt down and felt the weight of the world in my legs. My body wasn’t mine. My son wasn’t mine. My life was no longer mine.

The fox started to walk toward me, the eyes getting brighter and brighter.

I could feel the room shaking. My legs were numb from squatting down. I held my arms out to my son. He was beautiful. I closed my eyes.

Then it happened. He was there, in my arms. It was him. We stayed there for a long time. Until the sun began to rise.

I had to look. I couldn’t stop myself. I wanted to see if the fox had left. But when I pulled him back to look at him, he was gone. There was no fox. No child. I was alone in the room. I stood up and my legs buckled. I started to shake, and that’s when I woke up.

I woke up from everything.

I looked around. I was lying in my bed. My son’s fox was lying next to me. My fox. I raised my arm and saw the IV stuck in me. It was my bedroom, but monitors were next to the bed. I turned to see if my wife was there, but she wasn’t. How could she be? The room was bright. It was the morning. White walls, white ceiling.

Nurse Alice walked in. She always wore white scrubs, always clean. I made her tell me the truth. What had happened to everyone. My son, my wife, my father. She had a look on her face—how many times had she told me the truth?

That it had all happened years ago.


I was in hospice. My son had died decades ago. My wife had been gone for nine years. I had dementia and the moments where my lights turned back on were getting farther apart.


It was just a moment. A break from the fog.

I’m just like the coyote, chasing that dumb roadrunner. Living every day the exact same. Repeating the mistakes. That dumb coyote. Always getting the anvil dropped on him. There was no monitor. No coyote. No fox. There was nothing. Just a bunch of ones and zeros buzzing through my head, confused as to the order they’re supposed to stay in, mixing and matching to muddle up my memories. Just numbers floating around in an empty space. It’s all in the numbers. That’s how you understand anything of real value in this world. How many days did I have left? Did it even matter? Counting down to the end.

Credit To – Ashley Franz Holzmann

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Men Imitating Things

July 22, 2015 at 12:00 PM
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You live on your own, and you tell yourself this is by choice, but really part of the reason is you were never that great with people. Which is also part of the reason you live about ten miles from the nearest town. “The land was cheap” you’ll say. “The view is beautiful” you’ll insist, even if no one is around to ask. There is the benefit of the fact that out here you don’t get nearly the amount of traffic or noise that comes with surrounding yourself with people, which is always a plus.

So it surprises you a little, as you prepare your dinner one night, when you think you hear a man in the woods. You stop for a moment, setting the knife down so you can hear it clearly. The sounds remind you of dogs, but the tone is not quite right. They sound more like men imitating dogs, and as time passes more join. Then, just as suddenly as they came, they were gone. You shrug it off. Coyotes, probably. Drunk men far from home wandering the woods, possibly. You don’t really care to know, though you do lock the door this night, something you don’t often do.

It’s later this very same week that it begins raining, and you notice that once more that something sounds off. You can see the rain, you know it is there. You can see the woods, you know no one is around. And yet you find the rain sounds not as it should, but like a man imitating rain. Unlike the dogs, you find this rather soothing. You leave the door unlocked, and you sleep in the living room, watching and listening to the off-key rain.

The very next day you notice deer tracks in the mud as you enjoy a cup of coffee on your porch, well rested from the night before. You finish your cup, suit up, and follow the tracks. The nearest market is so far away, you rather prefer to hunt and gather what you can to avoid the trip. Staying as hidden as you can, you spot the deer from a distance. You also spot what looks like a bush at first, but a harder stare tells you it is a man. A man imitating a bush. This is private property, and from the way he looks you gather he’s here to hunt. But he’s too close. He’s standing not ten feet from your prey. You see he hasn’t drawn any kind of gun or bow, and decide to beat him to the punch. You aim, you fire, you kill your target with practiced ease. Quickly, you start to get up, eager to see if the other man has startled, but stop when you see he has not.

He instead slowly turns his head to the deer, stands, and makes the short walk over. And thats when you realize something is very wrong. He moves as if he has no defined bones or joints, very fluid and bendy. You can see now that he’s at his full height that where the leafs don’t cover there are no clothes or human limbs, only thin branches bunched together in a poor replica of what they are meant to be. He shuffles over the deer for a moment, before reaching down, sharp branches growing out to form too many fingers, and bringing the whole thing up to consume. You realize, struck motionless with fear, that all this time it was not men imitating things.

It was things imitating men.

Credit To – LaLaLuma

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July 22, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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I’m driving maybe a bit too fast and smoking probably a few too many cigarettes.

I love this… this part of the tale. The story can go anywhere from here. You know nothing until I go on—whoever “I” may be to you. Sometimes I wish the story would go anywhere else but here—and that I could be anyone else but me.

But I’m not. I’m Dylan Adams, and I’m driving a big-ass Buick Century down interstate 89, away from my home in Concord, New Hampshire. I don’t know why I left or where I’m going.

But there’s a 9mm handgun in the seat beside me.

To answer the first and most obvious question: Yes, the gun is loaded. But to answer the second, less likely question: Yes, the gun is loaded with silver bullets. No, I’m not hunting vampires or werewolves. I may not be even hunting at all. Still, with what I do, you need to have something you believe to be unique—with the remote possibility of the metaphysical—to contend in this arena.

Keep in mind as you read this—stop every now and then, and remember that the story can still go anywhere from here. It’s important.

I try to keep my eyes lowered, focusing on each white line between lanes rushing at me and swooping under the hood of my car. I know that doesn’t sound necessarily safe; it’s actually not. However, in my case, it allows me to just focus on where I’m going rather than catching a glimpse of a pulverized car or truck, or of an eviscerated corpse splayed across the road.

No, the world hasn’t ended. The cars, the bodies; they’re not actually there… but they were. There’s something wrong with me, with my brain. There’s a lot wrong actually. ADD, schizophrenia, OCD, and at this point, definitely PTSD. And that’s only to name a few pieces of baggage. I couldn’t tell you how many doctors I’ve seen, how many different medications I’ve been on…

When I was a child, I was considered a rarity. They told me I had a photographic memory and an overactive imagination. That was putting it lightly. I would see things from memories, projected right in front of me as if I could touch them again. For example, I had this toy F-16 fighter jet. It was my favorite toy. Somehow, between moving from one home to another, it got lost. However, when I thought of it, remembered it, and wanted to play with it again; I would see it sitting wherever I looked next. The catch to that power was that the jet was never there. I would go to grab it, and my hand would pass through it like a hologram. Typically, once the illusion was revealed, it would disappear.

It wasn’t always fond memories that would re-emerge into my reality, but the deep dark fears that imprinted themselves into my subconscious. Things I saw on television, or instances from nightmares I had, would suddenly and without warning become very visible—very real—at the precise instant my brain pulled them into consciousness. The images, or projections, would appear before my mind had the time to realize they weren’t necessarily real.

Time passed, and my condition seemed to recede. The doctors told my mother this would happen. We were both so relieved. Finally, the night terrors and random panic attacks could finally end. But that’s not where my story went. No, whatever functional error in my brain was causing the eidetic projections to appear never went away; it only changed. Suddenly, it wasn’t just my memories I was conjuring. Eventually, it wasn’t memories at all.
For example, right now I’m passing mile marker twenty-eight, and as I glance up to look at the sign, I can see in my peripheral vision that someone is in the seat next to me. I know better than to look to see who—or what—is there. You see, as I have matured from a child into an adult, so has my condition matured from a brain dysfunction into something much more… complicated. Acknowledging the being next to me would trigger it to be something more than a projection, something tangible and lethal.

Without any reason I could offer you, I flip on my directional and begin to pull off Exit 12a leading into a town called George’s mills. From there, I take a left towards Sunapee. I then fish another cigarette out of my rapidly diminishing pack and slide it between my lips. Wherever I’m going, I’m almost there.

The road is mostly pitch black. Above me, dark clouds occlude any light the moon could offer, leaving me alone in a murk of shadows. Understand that for me, there’s no such thing as pitch black. Images of all kinds, beauties and horrors, come pouring out. Each new image overlaps the last one, and I have to shut my eyes and will them to be gone. It works less often all the time.

I pass by Otter Pond. Don’t ask me how I know where I am or what anything is called. While I go by, I look over and see a figure standing on the other side of the guard rail. As I approach, the headlights reveal it to be a woman in a nightgown, with long scraggly hair and blackened hands. Her eyes are gone, leaving large vacant sockets to stare back with. I don’t slow down, but accelerate instead. Just as I’m about to pass by her, I see her whirl in my direction. I hear her scream with rage. I pass by, and I don’t look back… but I know she’s running after me with everything she has. She won’t catch me. She’s probably already gone. If I remind myself that I’ve seen her before, that she’s just a projection of a memory, she’ll vanish into thin air.

If I were to doubt myself, however, and look in the rear-view mirror to check; she would be in the back seat behind me. She would be very real. She would probably kill me before I could grab the pistol in the seat next to me. That’s why I don’t keep any mirrors around. The projections tend to be stronger because of the innate anxiety people have towards reflections. When it comes to the game I play, my convictions have to be solid. I can’t doubt what I know is real or not, and I can’t let fear fuel that doubt.

That’s not always easy for me.

Now you might be starting to understand the silver bullets. If I believe in, or imagine, them working, then they will. Those conditions only work here and there, but I’ve been able to test that one so far.

The actual town of Sunapee is dimly lit against the night’s darkness. I drive through, surrounded by a small handful of houses and tiny businesses. As I drive through the town, I can see silhouettes in nearly every lit window, figures standing—watching me pass. Who knows which of them are actually there? I can’t guarantee that every one of them is just a projection.

You see, the most recent and dangerous side effect of my condition is that I can see… the impossible. My own mental projections are already maddening, however my damaged mind has given me the ability to see things that shouldn’t exist. There are monsters, true monsters, in this world; and they hide behind the lens of reality like invisible radio signals simply waiting for reception to make themselves known. Consider the opposite of color blindness; where instead of not being able to see existing shades of color, I can see shades of color that no one else has ever seen.

I can’t say if what I see is the supernatural or extra-dimensional or however one could explain them. All I know is that some of the things I see are more real than others. In fact, some of them are things I’ve never encountered or imagined in my life—they didn’t come from my head.
These are the enemy. They know that I see them, and they hunt me for it. Or maybe they need me to see them to become real in this world, and that’s why they seek me out. I can feel them coming. It feels something like the electricity in the air when a storm is approaching.
I know how crazy this all sounds, but if you keep reading, you might just understand.

Sunapee is disappearing behind me, and I find myself not in as much of a hurry as I was on the highway. I won’t speed anymore for the risk of being pulled over.

Another thing I’ve learned is that the enemy take advantage of positions of authority. A few months back, I had a flat tire, and a cop pulled up behind me. I figured it was to see if I needed help. Instead, he issued that I had a warrant for my arrest, and despite my protests, promptly detained me. I was in the backseat of his cruiser, hands bound with zip-cuffs, when a passing streetlight illuminated the inside of the car. The cop was staring at me… with completely blackened eyes in a head turned back 180 degrees. The look on his face was more analytical than anything leering. Still, I freaked, trying desperately to pull my hands free of the restraints. That’s when he swerved, there was a flash of headlights, and then I blacked out.

The car had rolled several times. The cop was killed in the initial head-on collision. I was alive, saved by the seatbelt the officer had insisted I wear—he even put it on for me. The doors to the cruiser had opened as it rolled, and they were pulled off like the wings of a fly. Luckily, I was able to make my escape.

That, so far, had been the closest they had come to killing me. But now, looking back: Why didn’t he just do it once my hands were bound? And why did he buckle me up if he was trying to kill me with a car crash?

After a few miles of darkness, I emerge into an armpit of a town called Newport. Here, it is hard to tell the difference between my personal living nightmares and the actual scenery of the town. Trash everywhere. One lawn has an old, stained toilet marking the end of its driveway. I had to laugh at the absurdity of it. No wonder this corner of hell has been calling me.

I drive through town along Sunapee Street, turning onto North Elm at a set of traffic lights. I look around when the light was red. On the corner, there is this clown. His jaw is hanging open, much wider than any man can possibly stretch. He doesn’t have fangs, but there is this long, black tongue protruding from the cavern of his mouth, twirling and lashing throughout the air. He’s holding balloons of all colors. My blue eyes meet his glowing red orbs, and he begins sprinting towards me. I close my eyes, and focus on the instance I had where I dreamt of the clown before. I open my eyes, and he’s gone. I take my corner slowly.

I go by a McDonald’s on my left. It’s on fire. People, families with children, are inside writhing and clawing at the windows, desperately trying to escape the flames that already have them enveloped. I turn on the radio to take my mind away from all that. Flipping through stations, I hear some country music—change it; talk radio—change it; then the next station is all static. I leave it, and let my thoughts be lost in the ungraspable white noise as I turn left onto Unity road.

There’s a vibration in my joints, and I feel like if I were to lightly clench my teeth together, they would hum with the sensation I am feeling now. I’m extremely close.

About a mile and a half down the long, empty road, I see a clearing to the left. Logging operation. There’s an entryway leading in, bordered with cement barriers. Between the barriers is a rope with a Do Not Enter sign strung on it. I pull my Buick in and let it hit the rope, which snaps effortlessly. I pull in and to the right, where I stop. I’m here.

I light a cigarette, grab my pistol, and step out of the car. The engine is still running, and the lights are still shining bright across the sandy clearing bordered by tall pines. I stand a few feet in front of the car, far enough so that my shadow doesn’t take up too much of the light shining in front of me. The pistol is in my hand. The safety is off, hammer pulled back. Whatever I had come to meet was almost here.
That’s right, whatever I was about to face has been coming my way just as much as I have been going to it, and probably from just as far away. That’s the gift to my sight. I know when they’re coming, and I can meet them far away from home.

In my head, I was expecting anything to materialize before my sight, because that’s how it works with them. They may be here, there; everywhere around us, but I finish the job of bringing them into existence with my tainted sight, and then I stamp them out with my fist and a loaded gun.

At this point, I urge you to pause. Remember me saying how the story can go anywhere from here? By now, I’ve limited the number of avenues it could take, but in this moment—as I am waiting for whatever dark horror will appear in front of me—anything could still happen. The same goes with what comes after it arrives. I have to be ready for anything.

“Hi, Dylan.” A voice chirped behind me.
I whirl around, stunned that someone had gotten the drop on me.
Behind me, like literally right behind me, is a small girl, probably eight years old. She is blonde, with a pink sweatshirt and tiny jeans on.
“What the fuck!?” I shouted. “I didn’t see… I didn’t make you!”
The girl giggled, an insidious little sound, and said, “Do you really think you’ve made any of us? What if we made you?” As she asks her question, she smiles to reveal a mouth full of jagged, metallic teeth. Her arms stretch out to her sides, and I hear her bones cracking.
I don’t think. Instead, I begin to raise the pistol to point towards her smiling, innocent little face. Then I blink, just once.
It takes an average of 300 milliseconds for a human eye to blink. My eyes were closed for that tiny, miniscule amount of time, and when they opened, I saw a monster—pale, hairless, and naked with reptilian eyes and sharp fangs—flying through the air towards me.

The pistol never lines up, and I don’t fire. The little she-beast hits me like a freight train and I fly backward through the air, landing hard on my back and shoulders. The gun falls out of my hand, landing somewhere nearby. The air is forced out of my chest, but I have no time to feel it. As fast as she had changed, she is on top of me, screeching like a pair of fighting wild cats. One clawed hand has me pinned down, the other she raises high above her head, lashing down in a wide swipe. My neck and face suddenly feel like they’re on fire. She raises her hand again, but this time I grab her wrist on its way down. Before she can move her other hand, I grab that wrist too. She lunges down with her face, screaming in what is now a deep roar. Vile spit flies off of her twisted teeth. She is leaning down to bite my throat like an animal.

I respond by surging my own head forward in a brutal headbutt. It works. The impact knocks her back, and I feel strength diminish in her thin, waxy arms for just an instant. I seize the opportunity to push forward, raising her back up straight. I then pull hard on her left arm. As she loses balance, I release her right wrist and proceed to deliver the hardest punches I could muster against her bald head. One, two, three… four brutal strikes and she’s off of me.

I know better than to try to find the gun yet. Instead, I take my turn to pounce on the creature. The second I’m on her, she begins to roar. When I say roar, I mean it was an ear-piercing, deafening howl, something impossible. I feel as though my head might explode at any second. The maddening scream coupled with the pain of headbutting her almost makes me black out, but I fight through it. One blow after another, I beat upon her face. Dark, putrid blood coats my hands as bone and sinew clash. Wet, meaty squishing noises begin to overcome the volume of her defensive howl. I raise my fist up high, and with everything I have, bring it straight down into her face. Her hands, which had been tearing my skin to shreds trying to fight me off, fall limp to her sides. I don’t let up. I take both of my thumbs and I press them into her black and amber eyes. They pop like grapes, and more dark blood rushes out as if her sockets were geysers. This time, her screaming is high pitched and full of pain, full of terror. The sound lionizes the fucked up gorilla that I am, and I find myself smiling despite my firmly clenched teeth.


I pull my hands back and jump off of her. The way she thrashes in her agony and newfound blindness is reminiscent of an insect’s death throws. The pistol takes me only seconds to find. I reach down and scoop it up. When I turn around, she’s airborne again. We collide, and I am slammed back onto the hood of my car. My head crashes so hard, it dents the steel hood and I nearly bite my tongue in half. Even blind, she takes a swipe at my chest, and this time it’s deep. I scream out in shock from the searing pain. Also, this time, she has me pinned down. Her skin begins to surge, and hundreds of thin black tendrils start to poke through the flesh of her face. Each one, like the clown’s black tongue, curls and stretches towards me.

However… this time, I didn’t drop the gun.

As she goes to lunge her claws into my throat, I fire. The hole that the silver bullet leaves is impossibly large for a 9mm. The edges of the wound are cauterized. She stumbles back, holding her stomach in a sweet disbelief. The next shot is aimed at her knee, and it blows her leg off. She falls, wailing. Still, she claws at the sand, trying desperately to reach me. I shoot her arm off at the shoulder. Now she rolls onto her back, weak but not defeated.

She tries to claw at my legs, but misses. I stand on her wrist.
“What are you?” I demand, practically choking the words out.
Between labored breaths, she says, “I-I—am unstoppable. I—will—kill… all of you.”
I say nothing more, and put the five remaining bullets through her head and torso.
I nearly fall over, stumbling back towards the car, where I lean upon the fender. I’m bleeding badly, but I won’t be able to go to a hospital anywhere near here.

Panting, I look up to find that I’m surrounded.

Freaks, monsters, zombies, burned corpses of children, the clown, savage wolves with glowing eyes—claws, tentacles, fangs, and blood; horrors of every kind all around me. They are silent and staring.

I’m done, I think to myself. But I won’t let them enjoy seeing my fear. Grimacing, I push myself back up until I’m standing tall. I reach into my pocket and pull out a loaded magazine. Looking at every terror around me, I load the gun and take a few defiant steps towards my kill. Their eyes never leave me, but they don’t approach. A silent moment passes. Then, simultaneously, the all back away slowly, receding back into the ebony abyss of the forest.

Were they all projections, or something more?

I’m alone again. I waste no time getting back into the car. I’m hurt badly, and I’ll have a ways to go before I can see a doctor. The cuts in my neck hurt, but they weren’t bleeding like my chest was. I needed stiches, and maybe a transfusion. Most importantly, I still need to keep my wits about me.

I’m driving maybe a bit too fast and smoking probably a few too many cigarettes.

I lead my big-ass Buick Century away from Newport, New Hampshire towards interstate 89. Aside from fighting to not lose consciousness, my brain is tangled on the fact that the monster had seen me before I saw it. That’s never happened before. Then I thought of what the monster had said. She said she would kill all of you.

I never disposed of any bodies of the creatures I’ve slain. I leave them where they are in hope that someone will find and report them, but if they do—nobody hears about it. The enemy doesn’t come from my imagination, but somewhere else. Somehow they become tangible through my vision. But now I wonder if it’s that exclusive. Could someone else have conjured that little girl?

I won’t pretend to understand any of this, or hope that you will. I need to find a hospital. Afterwards, a computer. I will post this blog everywhere, explode the internet with it if I have to. Someone out there will see it, not just the words and the story, but the monstrous truth behind it.

I am Dylan Adams, and I am not a witch-hunter, I am a soldier. The game is changing, they are changing, and I have to modify my tactics as well. This story isn’t over; it can still go anywhere from here.

I never asked for this sight—this curse of fucked up synapses— but I have it, and it’s a responsibility. If you have it too, then find me. Clear your mind, imagine me, and you’ll know where to go.

By Spencer Jackson

Credit To – Spencer Jackson (sjack072)

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