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Return to Funland

June 13, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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Rating: 8.2/10 (220 votes cast)

Please consider reading Funland, by the same author, before proceeding with this story. Thank you!

I live in a small town in Massachusetts where nothing big ever seems to happen. However, a few years ago, my older brother was in a pretty bad car accident that seemed to leave him more mentally damaged, as opposed to physically. Our parents ended up putting him into the local psychiatric facility, Tewksbury State Hospital. My family has never really talked about it much. I was too young to understand what exactly was going on at the time. All I knew was one day my brother was perfectly fine and then the next day, he was up at that creepy, rundown place they call a hospital. I didn’t even know it existed until then, and I’ve lived here my whole life.
The incident happened when I was a freshman. It had been raining out and my brother was driving on Main Street. He hit a pole in front of our local Domino’s Pizza. But from what I’ve heard here and there, from whispered conversations between my mom and dad, and stories from upperclassmen, the accident had something to do with this abandoned park right next to the Domino’s, across the street from the Country Club. It used to be a mini-golf course called Funland. I never even glanced at the place more than once or twice. All I ever saw were trees and a fence. But recently I noticed some of the trees had been cut down and I could actually see into the park for the first time. What could be in there that did so much damage to my brother? I needed to find out.
My friend Matt knows more about the park than anyone else I know. He’s really into creepy, abandoned places. His girlfriend Jenny has been taking pictures since her first art class. She likes going to these random places and taking photos. The old Funland park has been on their list of places to explore for awhile now. They came to me a few weeks ago and asked if I wanted to check it out with them. Matt is the only one of my friends that knows what happened to my brother, or at least all I know about it. My parents have forbidden me to talk about it to anyone. I’m not even allowed to ask them questions. It’s something that’s been gnawing at me for the past few years. I want to know what happened to him. I want to know what’s inside that decrepit old park.
We finally went there about a week ago now. Matt insisted we go about half an hour before sunset, that way Jenny could take some pictures in the daylight and he could scope out the park for safety purposes.
“You can never be too careful in places like these,” he told me. “You never know what could be there.”
According to him, some local kids have been getting over the fence from the back left side, behind what used to be batting cages. It was a good thing we went during the dry season. That whole area is prone to flooding. Heck, the whole town is. Who’s bright idea was it to build on swamp land?
When we got to the fence, we could tell where and how people have been getting into the park. There were several spots where the fence was actually crushed down or raised up, allowing us the option to jump over or crawl under. We picked the first option, using a convenient pile of boards to boost ourselves up. Matt dropped down first, making sure the area was clear before he helped Jenny over.
Once we were all officially in the park, I sort of just stayed back and let Matt and Jenny do their thing while I looked around. Jenny was off taking pictures of the old batting cages. It was a lot bigger than I thought it would be. There were even baseballs left in the automated pitching machines, but they were rotted and brown with decades of exposure. When I looked over at her, she was beaming from ear to ear, her camera snapping away at one of the machines. It’s coat of green paint was faded, but you could still see the number 6 written on the side. Matt was standing in the central area, just outside the cages themselves. It looked like someone had set up a makeshift skate park. There was even a go-kart sitting there, still intact.
“Let’s go around the golf course first. It looks like it’s still going to be hard maneuvering in there, even with most of the trees gone.” Jenny and I nodded in agreement as we followed Matt further into the park.
The course was even more run-down than the batting cages. The fake green turf at each hole was muddy and covered with old leaves. The first structure we saw was what we assumed, at first, was a shed. It turned out to be a doll house that was even taller than me. It even had a balcony. There were bits of glass from the windows that were scattered around, smashed and cracked, either from decay or vandalism. I was actually pretty impressed that there wasn’t more vandalism. It’s one thing if you want to appreciate an old place by just looking at it and taking pictures, but it’s another thing to break stuff or spray paint over everything. That’s just not right.
If there had been anything in the fake house before, it was all gone now. Moving forward, we saw a little wishing well. The roof was red with real slating and the foundation was brick. We found a huge, white rocket ship that sat at the center of the course with the word ‘Funland’ written on either side of it.
“What’s that over there?” Jenny asked, pointing in the direction of a smallish white building at the entrance.
“I think it was an arcade,” Matt replied. “And that little one in front of it looks like where you get the golf balls and putters, you know?”
“Yeah,” I replied, scanning the area. Then something caught my eye. “What’s that thing over there?”
It looked like a weird little wooden shack with a sort of transparent door. The turf area was inclined and went under the door.
“The 18th hole,” said Jenny, snapping another picture. “It says so right there.”
“Yeah, but what’s it supposed to be?” I asked.
“It sort of looks like an outhouse,” Matt pointed out.
“Oh, I see it now. Weird.”
“‘Ring Bell For A Free Game With A Hole In One.'” Jenny read. “Hey, what’s this?” She bent forward, brushing some of the leaves out of the way of what she was seeing.
“What is it?”
“It’s a cell phone,” she said, turning it over in her hand. The thing looked ancient and caked in dirt. “There’s no use trying to get it to work. At least I can get a picture,” she said, placing it back down on the ground to do just that.
“It looks like something should be inside here,” I pointed out, stepping onto the turf mound as I peered through the transparent door.
“We’re losing sun,” said Matt, gesturing for Jenny and I to follow him as he turned back to where we came from. “I want to take a look at this storage shack.” Jenny and I followed after him.
When we reached the rectangular white building, Matt and I both searched for some way to peek in while Jenny took her last few photos in the twilight. There was a large metal door on one side, but it was clearly padlocked. On the opposite side, hidden behind some brush and one of the batting cage nets was a normal size door. It was also metal but it was a bit rusted and it didn’t have a noticeable lock, just a metal bar that read, ‘PUSH’.
“Are we going in?” I asked.
Matt looked around carefully before deciding. “If we can,” he said, pushing down on the metal bar. The slightly rusted door moved about an inch, if that, but with a few good kicks, it slammed open with a echoing thud.
“So much for being quiet.”
“Let’s go,” Matt said, turning his flashlight on as he stepped inside the building. Jenny followed him, her eyes scanning every corner for a photo op. I took my own flashlight and causally looked around.
There was stuff everywhere; clubs, bats, golf balls, baseballs, some go-kart parts, and random pieces of wood and metal. But besides all of that junk, there were plaster and wooden figures, and other pieces from the mini-golf course. A huge gray elephant looked like it had been tossed in a corner, and a giant giraffe with weird, alien-like eyes was shoved on top. They looked so strange just laying there, as if they were dead.
I almost turned back, feeling a little creeped out, to be honest. Then something else caught my eye. To me, it looked like an old mascot costume of some sort, but then I noticed the wires coming out of it, as well as the glint of metal limbs. I stepped close and shined my flashlight right on it. I couldn’t even tell what animal it was supposed to be, the fake fur was just too ratty. The wiring and metal that made the arms and legs were exposed here and there where the fur had ripped away. The head of the thing was sitting oddly on it’s shoulders, somehow making it seem more alert than the figures around it. I still couldn’t tell what the thing was supposed to be, so I knelt down in front of it and shined my flashlight in it’s face. It was a dog; a big, goofy dog in overalls. One of it’s eyes was completely gone, with just wires pouring out of the socket and down it’s face. The other eye was in better condition than I would have guessed; the black dot that was the pupil looked as fresh as the day it was painted. Shining the light around, I could see the entire metal structure of the head. Only the fur on the side with the good eye remained intact.
“Guys, come look at this,” I called out. “I found some kind of animatronic thing.” I reached towards it, wanting to lift the good section of brown material up to see the whole face, I figured Jenny would love to take a picture of it.
Suddenly, the eye moved. I cannot stress this enough, I saw the eye move. I let out a sharp word or two and fell backwards onto the ground, dropping my flashlight in the process. I watched it roll just out of my reach before I turned back to the animatronic. My eyes widened. It was standing up. The weight of it’s head looked like it would fall to it’s chest if it had to look down, but it could see me perfectly with the head cocked like that, I could feel it. I watched it’s jaw creak open as if it were about to speak, but the whole thing snapped down with a clang, dropping a few inches down, barely being held up by the wires in the dog’s face.
Without of any sort of man-made sound from a voice box or anything, the dog spoke. It’s words were chillingly smooth, as if a person were standing before me instead of a hunk of rust and wires. It was angry.
“What do you think you’re doing?” It asked, taking a shaky, clanking step closer.
I was too afraid to move. I was frozen, staring up at the dog in terror.
“Get out,” it whispered, the angry tone still noticeable in it’s voice. “Get out of here. Now.” The ‘now’ was significantly deeper, almost demonic.
“Where are you?” I heard Matt call. “You’re supposed to keep your flashlight on.
I turned my head to call out to him, but no words formed. I heard the animatronic’s eye move in the same direction, before it once again peered down at me, regaining my attention. We stared soundlessly at one another until Matt spoke again.
“I found your flashlight,” he said, having picked it up from the ground just a few feet away, scanning one side of the room with it while passing his back to Jenny. Then I was blinded as one of the beams of light was turned right at the animatronic. It looked even more terrifying standing up.
Then I heard Jenny scream. “Wh-What is that? Why-How did it just move?” I heard the shudder of her camera and watched the flash light up the dog’s face even more. She gasped and the camera fell to the ground with a thud. “Matt! We have to go. Now!”
“C-Come on!” shouted Matt. “Get out! Both of you! Let’s get out of here!”
I clamored to my feet at his voice, only to be stopped just before I turned to leave. One of the arms of the animatronic shot out, the cold metal hand wrapped around my throat in a vice-like grip. I couldn’t breathe. I stared astoundingly into the one good eye of the thing, trying to pry the sharp, metal fingers off. I winced, feeling them pierce into my flesh. Growing weak from the pain and the lack of oxygen, I hung limp in the dog’s clutches. My eyes never left his, until I felt myself fly across the room and smash against the wall, before everything went black.
When I finally gained consciousness, I was lying on my back in the parking lot beside Matt’s car.
“You’re awake!” Jenny said, tearfully. Looking into her face, I could tell she had been crying.
“Get in the car! Get in the car!” I could hear Matt yelling.
Jenny tried to help me up, but she couldn’t muster the strength and I couldn’t manage to move; I’m not sure if it was from the pain or the shock. Matt shooed Jenny away and pulled me into his backseat. He and Jenny got in soon after and we peeled out of there as soon as Matt’s foot hit the peddle.
They took me to the hospital and said that I fell while skateboarding and rolled down a hill. It was totally plausible; I skateboard at the park almost once a week and the hill they were referring to was a man-made rocky hill. Both the hospital and my parents believed the story, so the three of us could at least feel some relief.
After that, the three of us became very withdrawn, at school and at home. I want someone to talk to about this so badly, that’s why I’m writing this. Maybe in some weird way it will actually help. But I have to be quiet about it. I can’t tell anyone what happened in there. None of us can. If we do, our parents will just put us away like they did my brother. Jenny wants to go back so she can find her camera, but Matt keeps telling her to just let it go.
I’ve been having these nightmares every night since. I’m running through the park and the dog is right on my heels. I’ll never forget that clanging sound. I still hear it. If we could get our hands on that camera, maybe people would believe us. Then they’d have to let my brother out. He isn’t crazy. None of us are. I saw it! I saw that dog. …I still see him, standing in the corner of my room. He doesn’t say anything, he just stands there, staring at me with his one good eye. I’ve considered trying to take his picture one more time, but he won’t let me. I can fight him off eventually, I know I can. I’m stronger now. I can get my brother out of that place. I’ll find the proof. I just…I just need to get away from this dog.
I should never have set foot in that old park…

Credit: Daron Silvers

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The Call of the Sea

June 12, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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The Call Of The Sea

This one is a slow starter, but it builds to a haunting and some might say terrifying end.

Best to listen alone, with the lights out. Enjoy.

Credit: Morgan M

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Somnambulant

June 11, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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Awake. This time I know where I am, the familiar hum of the bathroom extractor fan brings me back to the world of the living. My shirt is soaked, with sweat? Blood? Water. The tap is running… Looks like I got thirsty.

After participating in this latest sleep study, following years of adventuring in my sleep, I was told it could help to write my experiences down, anything I can remember as soon as I wake up. This has turned into ‘as soon as I work out what’s going on’, initially all I feel when I awake is a burst of sharp, intangible fear. Writing this down is the first step towards getting my brain to accept I am truly conscious and aware of my actions, apparently.

I don’t know how it started, this has just always been with me. My first memory of sleepwalking was when I was on holiday with my parents when I was about four, I woke up in the hotel service lift, cuddled in my duvet with a blistered burn on my arm. I had absolutely no idea where I was, the first face I saw was that of my panic stricken mother; she had, along with police and anyone she could find, been searching for me all night, expecting the worst… I feel what I now think of as dread whenever I think about that day. Dread isn’t a feeling you really know as a child, you live day to day, moment to moment, looking forward to things, but never really looking back.

This isn’t meant to be a diary, I suppose I’m just providing context. The clinicians said they didn’t want to read this, it’s just for me. I’m so unconvinced that anything can work at this stage that I feel I just want my cynicism duly noted.

When you live a life where your partner has to move rooms, then eventually move out with your son and disappear from your life because they cannot live with “the sleeping you”, anything is worth a try.

Awake. This time it took much longer to work out where I was, sitting outside my childhood school a 10 minute walk from my house. Dread, fear, freezing. I’ve started sleeping fully clothed following an episode where I woke up half naked in a railway station. Little consolation when it’s mid-December. That dream everyone has where they’re stood in public having forgotten their clothes; yep, I’ve lived it. I need to think of a new way to keep myself from unlocking the front door, the thought of walking about the streets at night, completely unaware of my actions, even in this quiet town is frankly, terrifying. Maybe a combination lock? Would it really be possible for my unconscious mind to remember a combination? If I can find the key, despite hiding it from myself; maybe it is possible. Anyway, note to self; In hindsight, the cutlery drawer was a terrible place to hide the key, my hands are riddled with fine cuts, like I’ve been raking through thorny undergrowth, or losing a fight to a pit of tiny nails.

Awake. On the sofa! It has been so long since I’ve woken up anywhere without feeling intense pain in some part of my body, cramped up on a bench, maybe having stood for 8 hours straight, huddled in the shower under cold water, feeling and looking like I have wrestled bears. The fear eased so much more quickly today, I even remember part of a dream; the pills they give me are supposed to make me dream more; taking me away from the deep sleep in which sleepwalking occurs. This dream wasn’t pleasant, The floor was made of writhing, cavernous masses and I felt like I was being drawn down towards them, I could hear faint, childlike whispering, which stopped as soon as I became aware of it. Strangely, I felt calm… I knew it was just a dream and that meant I wasn’t sleepwalking.

When I went to get dressed, though, I found that my shoes are caked in dark mud. Maybe I did go out.

Awake. It has been three days since I’ve been fully conscious. At least; sure enough that I am awake to write anything here. Something has changed, the dread won’t leave, I think something terrible has happened. I’ve suffocated, I can’t have done what I think I have. I’ve stopped taking the pills, the dreams aren’t helping. I can’t stop likening this feeling back to the one in the hotel lift, the panicked look that only a mother can have when they feel they have lost their child and I felt like an onlooker, felt like I didn’t understand her pain, her fear, all I could feel was my own.

….That whispering, crying. I followed it last night, not for the first time. It drew me further and further down a rugged pathway in the woods behind the house. The still darkness surrounded me so completely, every step I took echoed with the crush of brittle corpses of twigs and crisp leaves. A cabin. I knew this place. This is my place. I couldn’t help but feel that if I looked inside I would never be able to leave, am I conscious? I know all of this is real… I unlocked what feels like bolt after bolt, lock after lock, 1562, 1908, 2016. Click. Click. Click.

Slowly I shifted the heavy wooden door, shuffling, rats? A dank miasma of disturbed air filled my lungs.

The weathered, hollow face looking back at me is that same face. That same look, that four year old child in the lift. Older now. “Please, I want to go home” Dread. Incapacitating fear. This is where I kept it.

I know now, they’re not trying to stop my sleepwalking, they’re trying to make me remember.

Awake?

Credit: Anonymous

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Tell Them Increase!

June 10, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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Honorable C.S.H.M:

I was there when it started four years ago to the day.

I, the baker and Mathias, my friend the farrier. We walked the quaint cobblestone streets of our town that night as we did most, houses unshuttered,
the trees at ease,
the glow of a far-off lantern or two modest sentry.

The cooler weather we thought better for Mathias’s poor health,
and I myself liked to pick mushrooms along the path.

“Feeling much stronger,” grumbled Mathias.
“Stronger still tomorrow,” I replied, pocketing some fleshy caps while patting him on the back. As he grunted a response I looked up and into the swarthy sky.

This night felt most different.
The usual character it assumed of a silent third companion,
an impish magician who disappeared the day
and could transform its mundanities into newfound mysteries
suggested by the teasing wink of stars at play,
had been vacated. In its place slid a hollow impostor
reflecting feeble constellations.

By the end of our stroll all things had seemed to cease:
The barking of dogs, the roll of the clouds,
the gentle clopping of unseen shoes over the streets,
our very hearts’ pounding.
This night the air loomed pregnant with frozen expectation.

Its delivery was marked by great flocks of Silverbeaks from the south;
Streaking arrows through the moon, they broke a wall of night-mist with unified, alien purpose.

Never do they fly from the south this time of year.

The noise of their passing overhead, jarring though it be, was soon surpassed in alarming effect by another, quieter sound:
That of uneven padding somewhere in the fog.

We stopped, listened, spun, and listened.
Pitter-patter, pitter-patter.
To the left for a spell…then straight ahead.
Pitter-patter, pitter-patter.

The fog spit forth a ghost.

It was a terrific fright the way he came at us,
a mirage emerging from spectral sand,
equal parts crazed and craven,
clothes tattered, boots ribboned, and
dripping with perspiration and fear.

Mathias anchored both hands on the poor bastard’s shoulders trying to keep him still. The man was thin, gaunt, hairy I think; too blurry in his squirming to remember certain details with clarity. He repeated a single phrase,

“Tell them Increase! Increase Mather!”
as he struggled against us.

He spoke in a sonorous, watery accent that sparkled through ears like bells
yet seemed chased across the rolling hills and dells of its rhythmic cadence by Death itself.
The peculiar lilt identified him as one from the villages to the south, a friendly people not yet touched by higher arts
with whom we sometimes traded.
Our eyes locked for a moment, his spelling brief acknowledgement as they scanned each tic of my own.
I wonder what he read in them before I looked away.

And then again from his trembling mouth spilt the words:

“Tell them Increase! Increase Mather!”
before he broke our grip and ran off;

back into the night he faded.

We were left with naught but feeble thought to guess a lofty mystery.
I turned that name in my head over and over — Increase Mather, Increase Mather — being rewarded with precious little. Across seas of lost recognition its syllables might churn —
Few were the juttings of rocky remembrance at beacon’s foot.
Vaguely familiar, the name conjured half-cogent memories of schoolroom lessons,
nigh-mythic tales of town founders and historic deeds
instilled, with luck, in adolescents’ minds
that they should grow as seeds of exemplar morality.

The beacon flared in a trice and was gone.

I so wish I could remain on that spot, content to forever turn that riddle of a name like a fine wine, drinking partner yet at my side!

For what came next was far worse than perplexity until now benign.

You see, it’s a funny thing from the right angle,
that we might consider such puzzling moments to be a mild if persistent gnawing at our being,
when only with retrospection is it seen
that we were, in fact, full ensnared in dragon’s jaws.

Musings be damned — now came the true cause of the Silverbeak exodus:
First the beat of drums, slow and steady,
a throbbing heart waking in darkness,
then the smashing of clashing cymbals,
my dragon’s hissing tongue one instant,
its gnashing teeth the next.

And finally out of the fog spilled a medley of white shapes, hazy edges congealing as if molded from the stuff like clay.
Silhouettes, boxes — closer they came — people now, marching, cages in tow, movement within — closer they came —

Beating, clapping, hissing, ringing, closer they came, this unruly procession of untold numbers…

Bestial dancing animated the spaces separating bars, but human were they —
just barely. We saw how they crouched and squirmed, and shook their jails,
or flailed their arms or beat their heads and breasts — for they were all of them women displayed in cages,
a vulgar mockery of the floats in the annual harvest parade.
We could only stare at these frail, wispy things with eyes of coal that refused all light,
viscous globs dropping from misshapen heads — flesh or hair, impossible to tell —
naked, emaciated bodies caked in filth, surely leprous,
a horrible sight.

We stepped aside to make room for the macabre column. Cage after cage rolled past, flanked by steady streams of marchers, and each of these clad in violet monastic habit with drooping cowl and golden sash,
some with their drums and cymbals, others holding torches,
all assuming stony scowl.

We were ignored at first, which gave us ample time to gape, until three broke off from the line
with the swiftness of a spider’s twitch
to confront us
face to solemn face.
One kept eyes locked upon mine, while two presented open palms to Mathias and asked,

“From whom do we come?”

“Who the devil are you?” he retorted, batting down their hands. “What is this vile pageantry?”

The palms rose again to open with surreal calmness. “From whom do we come?”

Mathias wiped his brow and shook his head. “How the devil should I know? Tell me man, what is this?” He made another, half-hearted attempt at the hands.

“From whom do we come?”

He spat at their feet. “I do not care to know! You stink of piss and lies anyhow!”

The sweat beaded at his eyes. I lowered my own, heart sinking to match.

It happened in the span of a blink: a confused blur of hands and fabric, followed by a sharp crack. Mathias stumbled backward, and were it not for the red trickle at his temple, I’d have never known he’d been struck.
But now I saw the blunted clubs as my friend hobbled,
saw all too well as he raised his arms to check their attacks,
but they beat them down,
then beat his head,
then beat his body to a lifeless pulp, crumpling,
and watched his oozing blood fill the spaces between the cold cobbles
with disturbing fascination.

They returned the clubs to their robes, then leveled attention on me.

“From whom do we come?”

Their hands opened, revealing a queer brand of interlocking snakes and crosses rising from the surface of each seared palm.

My head reeled. The scene did not register. How could it?

“From whom do we come?”

In the flicker of fire the snakes appeared to writhe beneath the skin.
Echoes of the southerner’s voice bubbled through my mind:

Tell them Increase! Increase Mather!

So I did.

A pause. “Excellent,” they responded at last in lavish, sibilant tones. “It is good.” The hands lowered, their veins continuing to pulse with quiet fervor. “We are the new intendants of this town and its people,” intoned the nearest figure. “We bring with us witches, powerful witches, and seek others of their kind.”
The second chimed in, hushed: “The wicked shall perish. The ignorant shall perish. God alone prevails. You have nowhere to go, so stay.”
Then the third: “We are the intendants of this town now, and it is good that you do as we say.”
They clasped their hands and melted back into the procession. The cages rolled on. The clamor dimmed to a low buzz as I felt something in my hand —
the forgotten mushrooms I’d picked, squeezed to a mash in clenched fist, and I thought of
but could not turn
to Mathias’s body.
I let them drop.

There were others like me — thank providence, thank the southern crier, the schoolman’s lessons, sheer dumb luck — who carried on as best we could. Undeniably though, a pall had been thrown across the land,
a cloak of fear and doubt in the wake of tyrannical cleansing.
No one could resist the intendants’ strange influence, cast as it was on long lines through our streets and our homes,
invisible strands to hook our minds and keep us near.
“One more day,” we repeated in vain. “Just one more day.”

The days added up, and they were colder from then on. The wind blew harder, ripping right through us, biting skin and rattling every bone as it went. Owing not entirely to the elements however, we felt a coldness that seemed to radiate beneath our very feet wherever we stepped,
a coldness that seeped into our clothes
and slept with us under the blankets,
sapping the will to resist in ways I can neither describe nor understand.
Cries of protest faded faster than the clouds on our breath,
replaced by faces of hardened indifference.

The new masters made good on their vow of retribution
with terrible industry.

The witches were hung from the trees that lined our cobblestone streets,
swaying softly in the autumn breeze.
But they were not dead,
for they were powerful witches.

They lifted drooping heads on crushed necks as I walked the main avenue,
pointing and laughing and spitting curses in my direction.
I kept my own head down, hands stuffed in pockets,
feet
moving
brisk

to set greater distance from them. But it mattered little, for their cackling traveled far, farther than was wholesome, and stung about my ears like gnats.

By night their bodies were doused in kerosene and set ablaze so as to hasten their passing, and to act as torches for our benefit. The evil of devilry makes for potent fuel, our intendants told us. Truly they burned well,
their dark cores thrashing about within halos of righteous brilliance.
But they did not die,
for they were powerful witches.

By morning the charred remains, still smoldering, would stir and snicker at my passing. Accusatory fingers would be raised,
black and white with ash and bone.
From them came noxious fumes to chase after me down the road, wriggling through the air like vaporous snakes.

How I detested such unnatural fruit our once-beautiful trees had borne! But time’s touch, if overdue, proved merciful:

They blew away in the wind, even as they blinked. Their wretched ashes spread across the bark of their gallows, thereafter causing the branches to grow to gross proportion and in contorted directions,
forms suggesting the ossified corpses of monstrous ogres.

These trees were forever cursed. It soon became apparent they were the only things our intendants feared. They leered at them from afar,
seared palms turned heavenward as cryptic prayer escaped their lips.
Well-attested rumors spread
that to touch the wood of a witch-tree spelt certain death
for any member of Increase Mather’s secret sect.

Where now was their special brand of faith? Where indeed had resounded but into the unbounded aether that once-galvanizing cry, “I will not fear; what can a Satan do unto me?” Among the Devil’s mille nocendi artes, surely one at least had manifested in souls weaker than mine!

Our intendants gave us axes that we may chop them down.
They did not instruct us toward the method of disposal, so we devised plans of our own.

We’d grown stronger.
We waited patient,
ever so patient,
cutting,
shaping,
hoarding,
waiting.

And then we built.

The masters gladdened at the sight of the houses. “Good,” said they. “It is good that you stay productive. Take root, children.” We smiled, grew cordial. Why should we not? Time and familiarity ought to soften chains,
blunt throat-held blades,
slacken line between pole and fish,
ought they not?

We invited them into our homes.

They seized the opportunity for closer scrutiny and walked about the rooms with all the pomp befitting a foreign dignitary. They clustered in the corners to whisper and titter at our insipid presence, right in front of us. We smiled.

And they soon began to wither. One by one they grew ill;
sores speckled their leathered flesh,
joints popped and festered,
thick secretions of viridescent pus oozed from their pores,
and hair came out in fat chunks:
At last from chaff had true sin been threshed!

Still they prayed for salvation,
tried to govern according to their god’s will,
but too few were they
and left as quick as they’d come
on charnel winds,
their sickness weighting the air with starless promise.

Likewise did the tainted housing rot, and with it the final vestiges of our intendants’ collected witches. As you well know,
honorable young Mather,
I tried to invite you to our town, to the last of the witch-wood houses. Most were content to begin anew and forget the past, but I could not.

I could not forget Mathias and countless others who suffered at the hands of so misguided a lineage as yours,
its corrosive scope yet growing through forking lines of odious descent.
I could not forget the million tears that sowed our lands with endless grief,
nor the blank expressions worn by those too numb to favor hope,
not in light of things I learned over the course of those insufferable years.

For I know what truths stay hid from history books, to turn a man from crook to myth.
I know how he can steer the wheel of time, who charts the course with grim design.

How fortunate then that I —
I! —
traced you through the ages, found your name betrayed by a simple book of genealogies.
How fortunate I was able to write you.

But you politely turned my invitation down in courtly correspondence, scorn peeking furtive from your every cursive word,
complicit in your denial.
This you know.

Let me tell you what you do not know.

The last of the witch-wood houses is no more. It collapsed in a great cloud of fungal dust. I retrieved some of the timber, enough for my purposes.
I pulped it, pressed it, laid it on a frame,
rolled it, squeezed it,
and cut it such that it became paper
onto which I have written this letter you presently hold.
So you see, young Mather, since you would not come to the witch-wood,
the witch-wood has come to you,
and you shall know it,
for they were powerful witches.

Reflect well on what you have read
so long as you breathe.
Know that your kind shall abate. Know that I still walk these quaint cobbles at night,
alone,
to pick mushrooms by the moon’s white light,
and with each cry of Silverbeak,
grieve.

With warmest regards,

A humble baker,
Taker of vengeance,
“God” forsaker.

Credit: alapanamo

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Construction Site Entity

June 9, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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To this day, I have no idea what I saw.

People I tell seem to not believe me, but I swear this is true.

A little background before I get into it.

I am a 29 year old construction worker. Been doing it since high school. Metal framing and sheetrock mostly. I’m in decent shape, no history of mental disorders in my family. Only problem I have developed over the years is a mild case of tinnitus from being stubborn and refusing to wear ear protection. It comes during times of silence, like when I’m trying to sleep. So I try to keep the TV or a fan on to cancel out the ringing.

Work was getting very slow where I lived, so I decided to move to Virginia. I was staying with a friend who got me a sweet gig with a local construction company on Norfolk Naval Base. Huge job. Five story building, complete buildout from the ground up, good pay, not exactly close to where we were staying, but the drive wasn’t bad as long as I made it in before morning traffic. Only thing wrong with the job was the foreman was a complete asshole; always talking down to us workers in that sort of passive-aggressive tone that made me want to punch him in his face. But as long as we stayed busy, he didn’t bother with us for long. It was a huge job, and he had a lot of people to bug.
About 4 months into the job, I injured my right hand. Sliced my middle finger on a piece of metal. It didn’t hurt at all. The doctor stitching me up said it was because I cut so deep, it severed the nerves.

The next day, I had to file an injury report and everything. My boss said he was going to put me on light duty, and that I didn’t have to do anything except sweep until my hand healed. I was all for it. Same pay for easy work. For the first week, things were alright. But then it started getting boring. I mean, really boring. The days dragged on, and I wondered why they didn’t just pay me to stay home. So, naturally, I started wandering the job to kill time. Checking out all the hallways, and there were plenty of hallways. Really long and gloomy looking when they were just grey brick all around. Some at the very top didn’t even have temporary lighting, and would have been pitch black if it weren’t for the huge window cutouts on each end letting in sunlight. I stayed away from those hallways. They creeped me out.

One day, I was feeling bored, so I decided to go walking around the fourth floor. Most of the work had been finished, and there weren’t any other trades doing work there at the time, so I had it all to myself. It was around that time I noticed my tinnitus was acting up worse than usual. I figured someone must have had a generator running or something, so I started moving towards the other end of the hallway. About three-quarters of the way, my ears start painfully ringing. I tried sticking my fingers in my ears and humming, which usually does the trick, but the ringing was so intense. I started feeling nauseous, and I fell over on my hands and knees. I was slapping my ears, trying to make the ringing stop. My eyes started watering at one point because I was slapping my head so hard. I got up on my knees, still covering my ears, trying to get to my feet so I could make it to the stairwell, but the ringing was so intense, every move I made sent my head spinning. Moving slow helped, but not much.

As I turned around, I noticed someone standing at the other end of the hallway near one of the window cutouts. The sun behind him was so bright, all I could see was a silhouette. I started yelling “Help! Help!” as loud as I could, but the guy didn’t move. I thought maybe he had ear plugs in and couldn’t hear me, so I started moving towards him, slowly so my head wouldn’t spin. As I got closer, I started noticing things I hadn’t before. First, this guy was huge. Like, impossibly huge. His head was small in proportion to his body and near the top of the window. His shoulders were really wide and high, almost like he was shrugging.

His arms were long, hanging down past his waist, with really long fingers on each hand. I still couldn’t make out any facial features because of the bright sun behind him, but as I started realizing this person wasn’t normal, I slowly backed away. He just stood there, looking right at me.

I was almost to the stairs when this thing slowly cocks its head to the side, like a dog does when it’s confused, and the ringing in my ears just goes crazy. It was extremely painful. At the time, I thought my ears were bleeding. I was pressing my hands into my ears and yelling, but it was so loud, I couldn’t even hear myself yell. I dropped back on my hands and knees and threw up on the floor until I was puking air.

I looked up to see if this thing was coming after me, but I caught a last glimpse of it as it walked into a nearby room. The instant it disappeared around the corner, the ringing in my ears just stopped. Like someone hit the mute button. Needless to say, I ran the fuck out of there and didn’t look back.

I stayed away from the fourth floor for the next couple months. I told a few people what I saw, but they only pretended to be interested. It was about five months after it happened when I decided to go back up there.
I checked every room. If there were any signs of this thing, they were long gone. I went to the window where it was standing and took a measurement. The top of the window was ten foot nine inches.

I still have tinnitus. There have been a few times when I’m laying in bed at night, and the ringing gets painful, and I freak out and check every room in my apartment.

But it never gets as bad as it was that day. I really hope it never does.

Credit: OJ

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Triumphus de Immaculata

June 8, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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“Shit” I said to myself, as I poured out the last bit of water in my three liter Poland Spring jug into the pot above my portable gas range. I tossed the empty tube of plastic aside and it clattered against a mess of garbage in a corner, making a hell of a racket when it hit the floor. The amount of water filled the pot barely over a quarter of the way, very much under the least amount necessary to cook most things. I opened the cabinets of my recently new home’s kitchen in desperate search for food, finding only the empty wrappers and boxes of morsels previously ingested in the dusty compartments.

Buried among old plastic cracker sleeves and rat shit was a box of pasta. I feverishly pulled it to me and embraced it as if it were my own child. I returned to my pot, only to see that there was still almost no water in it. I dejectedly put the box of pasta next to the pot’s lid on the kitchen counter, and sighed deeply; staring at me from the floor where I threw it upon first moving into this home, that wasn’t my own, was a can of old dog food, the label scratched off over the months or years it’s been in this home before I. Feeling the pangs of hunger in my gut, I took my hunting knife and cleaved the can in twain, voraciously yet reluctantly eating the contents to get something in my stomach.

After finishing my impromptu meal, I curled up in a ball on the floor. I looked up at the front door just a few feet in front of me, still boarded up to hell and back as I left it, and began to let my mind wander. ‘You’ll have to go out there sometime’ I told myself. I shuddered at the thought, letting my own case of sudden agoraphobia prevent me from once again entering the Outside World. Since the world was engulfed in the flames of nuclear war, I found myself inside the home of a no-doubt doomed family that was on vacation when the bombs fell. The terrified screams of mothers clutching their children as the bombs falling in the distance grew ever closer bolstered a nail in my psyche and a nail in the door of this home, to prevent me from going Outside ever again. There was nothing out there for me. But now, against all of the notions I believe in, there was- survival.

Before the bombs, I lived for many years as a drifter, knowing how to survive by rendering garbage and the little I found into sustainable nourishment to keep my twenty seven year old body going. But now that the world has ended, finding what was once everywhere would be nearly impossible. Markets and small stores would have been cleared out by my fellow tribesmen in a desperate attempt to cling to existence. Worse yet, I fear that those that survived and are now, like myself, without food have turned to a… different, form of sustenance. The slim prospect of survival has driven others in better situations than I to the forbidden territory of human flesh, so I fear who, or what I suppose, may lay Out in the world beyond my door.

But as my stomach growled, not sated by the lackluster meal of various processed animals meats pressed into a can, I knew that I soon would have to leave my comfort zone. While being homeless for a long time has made me quite resilient, I am nothing more than a skeleton without proper nutrition. I worried that I would bumble into a much stronger survivor and be easy prey, or perhaps worse yet, have someone break into my sanctuary whilst I am away. ‘You can do without what lies on the other side’ I said aloud to myself, clutching my stomach, now in knots. I can do it. I can. I must.

These positive thoughts were cut short when the bile in my gut manifested as a pile of putrid regurgitation on the wood floor. Now completely empty and slightly dehydrated, I had no choice. I dug through my satchel next to the range for my hammer, and started yanking out nails, one by one, from the boards pounded against the door.

All of my love, all of my kissin’
You don’t know what you’ve been missin’, oh boy
When you’re with me, oh boy.

The song I had heard many years ago escaped my lips as I toiled to get the door open. The name of the singer faded from my memory, all I remember were the glasses. I get the last nail off the last plank in the door, and stack them next to the entrance, now only inches of wood shielding me from the Outside. I took a deep breath, and opened the door. The hazy sky was a dark green, ash and small debris dancing in the wind. The temperature was both warm and cold at the same time, and I was immediately sick to my stomach. Clenching my teeth and my fists, I stepped out, eyes shuttered intensely as I lurched forward, one very deliberate step at a time.

I moved forward until I hit the street, and I slowly opened my eyes. Not another soul in sight as far as the eye could see. I gradually opened my eyes until they were fully revealed. The house I was in sat right in front of the remnants of the Grand Central Parkway- or was it the Jackie Robinson? Below on the roadway were dozens of immobilized, abandoned cars, rusted and depressing. I stared down at them for a long moment, leaning on the chainlink fence that kept me from plunging over, before my growling stomach prodded me to keep going. The hellish sky was a baroque nightmare; no gods or angels, as the dark air was the perfect embodiment of harm and evil itself. I clutched my hunting knife in my waistband as I moved forward, the world feeling as if it were a thick sheet enveloping and suffocating me as I strolled. In the distance, I saw what looked like a crashed car. Intrigued, I began moving slightly faster toward it, hoping someone else’s tragic loss was my tragic gain.

All of my life, I’ve been a-waitin’
Tonight there’ll be no, hesitatin’ oh boy,
when you’re with me, oh boy.

Upon reaching it, I could see the fender of the sedan wrapped partway around a light pole, the partially decayed corpse of the unfortunate driver wrapped in a deflated air bag, the trunk popped slightly open from the sheer force of the impact. I looked at the deceased motorist for a moment before I opened the trunk, hoping to find something good, or, at the very least, something. As it had been stuck in this position for an unknown period of time, the boot took some effort to open. Upon doing so, I squealed with glee: the back was filled with bags of food and water, almost all of the former in bags and cans. I took my satchel and emptied all I had in it: my favorite book, a baseball cap, a pair of sunglasses, and an old locket my mother had given me when I was but a child. I began stuffing my now empty bag with as much as I could stuff into it, which was about 60% of what was there in the trunk. I put the satchel back on, and carried the rest in the plastic bags they came in back to my new home. I stepped on the book as I turned, smudging the second word in the title with dirt and grime, leaving only ‘Dante’s’ visible as I began my walk back.

Stars appear and shadows a-falling
You can hear my heart a-calling.
A little bit a-lovin’ makes everything right,
And I’m gonna see my baby tonight.

I slowed my singing to a hum as I opened my door, closing it behind me. I piled the wood up in front of it, to board it back up after I had ate. I unpacked everything, and a few Poland Spring bottles among the groceries, that I used to fill the pot up the rest of the way for the pasta. I happily tapped the top of the box of rigatoni as I passed it, organizing the food into a corner. Finishing that, I turned the range on to let the water boil, pulling my knife from my waist and laying it across the top of the pot, an old trick I learned to avoid water boiling over. I went upstairs to the bedroom to put on a robe I found in the closet, gleefully eating a chocolate bar as I did so. When I got the comfortable garment on, I finished my bar and crumpled the wrapper in my hand. I heard a noise from downstairs, and thought the knife slipped off and into the pot, because I didn’t properly position it.

I went down the stairs and entered the kitchen, to see the knife gone, but nowhere to be found, much less in the pot. But, it turned out, the noise I had heard before was actually the pot lid from earlier, spinning on its handle gently against the hard plastic countertop, combined with the sound of a slight breeze coming in from the wide open door.

Credit: Elias D. Tavarez

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