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Chalk 3 – The Bodies Multiply

July 13, 2014 at 12:00 PM
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This is the third entry in the Chalk series.

The anchorman had completely lost control of the interview. Part of me thought it was funny, but even so, I had a hard time laughing. This whole thing had me worried. I wasn’t sure why at the time, but maybe some part of me sensed that this was only the beginning of a much more enormous horror.

On the surface nothing was out of the ordinary to justify my unease. It was just my usual Friday night ritual. Dinner done, lights off in the livingroom, a glass of whiskey, and the local news before watching a movie with the wife. This was my comfort after a long, hard week of angry clients and angrier bosses. It was time to unwind.

Still, tonight it wasn’t working. Tonight something felt off. I couldn’t put my finger on what it was.

On the news tonight was the latest on a series of killings that had terrorized the city. People were being murdered in their own homes, with rarely any sign of struggle, and never a sign of a break in. They were just found gutted or stabbed or sliced up. The victim was almost always an adult, although there were a few children. Disappearances of other family members were common as well, but there didn’t seem to be a consistent pattern.

The only clue left behind was a bit of residual chalk dust lightly powdered over all of the victims.

“This is a real death cult, alright? The next Charles Manson is out there turning people into murderers!” The shrill woman, I think her name was Gladys something, was a representative for a group called “Family Survivors of the Chalk Murders”. They were a growing group.

She was debating someone who also had a family member that was recently killed. The guy’s mother was butchered in her own kitchen. Even so, he was disagreeing with her. He was some kind of expert on cults, and said that none of it matched the patterns of behavior that these groups usually showed.

“Look, this doesn’t fit with how cults do things. There are no messages left behind, nobody emptying their bank accounts or posting manifestos. None of the active cults in the area are taking responsibility, and believe me, they would if they could. I understand that you need to assign blame, to have someone that you can attack, but there are more important things! We need to stop looking for some cult leader and find the person or persons who are really doing this!”

He was making sense but… I don’t know. Maybe he was the reason I was feeling so uneasy. He was average looking, not really remarkable, but there was just something about him. It could have been that, even though he was yelling, he looked completely calm. His voice didn’t match his face.

Finally the anchor broke in: “Kevin, thanks for that. I’m sorry but we’re out of time, we have to move on.”

Rick Warslen’s face appeared on screen again as he shuffled papers dramatically and the graphic reading “Chalk Murders” appeared over his shoulder.

“Tonight’s grizzly murder of Thomas Greetly brings the total number of Chalk Murders to 38. Greetly was found in his office by the cleaning staff this morning stabbed through the back of the neck repeatedly and coated with a fine layer of chalk dust. The city lives in fear as the number of murders seems to be increasing in frequency, with a murder every day for the past four days. Authorities have yet to comment on… I’m sorry… one moment…”

He seemed to be listening to someone off-screen. I had to laugh a bit. He really did not have it together tonight and it seemed like the whole news broadcast was disorganized and amateurish.

“Don’t laugh at him dear, he’s just upset!”

I was so startled I nearly jumped out of my skin. Kim was standing there next to me in her pink housecoat, backlit in the darkened room by the kitchen light. Weird that she startled me. We’ve been married for 32 years now, and I’m used to being able to hear her coming. I must have been even more wrapped up in this news story than I thought.

“Yeah OK hon, I’ll give the guy a break, his daughter having been killed and all. He’s still a wreck though, really he should have taken more time off than just a month.”

“Well, if I got all hacked up and chalk covered, would you go to work the next day?” She gave me her cute, pouty, fishing-for-compliments look. I knew what that look meant. It meant she wasn’t going to let me watch the news until I gave her some attention.

“Of course not baby, I’d be a wreck for years!” She leaned over and I kissed her with just enough passion to make her feel like I wanted her, but not so much that she would get excited and want me back. This way she can push me away with an “oh you!” and I can go back to the news. Works most of the time.

Rick Warslen had started up again. “… obtained exclusive closed circuit security footage of the murder of Thomas Greetly. Ladies and gentlemen, while this may be hard to watch, it will be important to identify the killer and for your own safety familiarize yourself with how these murders are being done. Children and those sensitive to violence should leave the room. The following footage is very shocking.”

“Whoops, that’s my cue to get out of the room,” Kim said, “Really I have no idea how you can watch that!” She smiled and gave me a head shake of disapproval as she left. I love her, but as soon as anything the slightest bit scary comes on the TV she either runs away or makes me change the channel. I haven’t been able to watch a horror movie in peace in years.

The camera quality was pretty good for security footage; sharp and in full color. You could clearly see the rows of cubicles and into the glass office that Greetly was working in. It was late and he was the only person there. The lights were on in his office area, but the rest of the place was mostly in shadows.

Two people entered from the left. One was a guy with longish hair wearing a vest over a purple shirt with the sleeves rolled up. He had a pair of glasses that reflected the light from the office. The other person was an older lady in a shawl and drab looking dress.

When they entered his office Greetly looked up at them and leaned back. He seemed relaxed; not at all apprehensive about his guests. The old lady walked around the desk to stand next to Greetly while the guy in the shirt and vest stood back by the door.

The anchorman’s voice cut in: “I’ve just been informed that the woman on screen has been identified as Greetly’s mother, Mildred Greetly, an 86 year old pensioner. She… oh…”

He stopped talking when Greetly’s mom pulled out the knife. It reflected the office lights brightly. She held it behind her son’s back, and he never saw it coming when she drove it down into the back of this neck.

I couldn’t help but wince and jerk back from the TV. The utter brutality of it… she didn’t even hesitate. She just pulled out the knife, positioned it in the air, and then put her whole body into the thrust. The force drove Greetly face-down onto the desk, but she wasn’t done. As he went into spasms she wrenched the knife out and then drove it back in with both hands, leaning back to lift the knife as high as she could and then bending at the waist to make the most of each thrust. One, two, three, four… blood splattering up her arms, over her face, everywhere.

The worst part was her expression. That part turned my stomach. She was smiling this big false-toothy grin as she murdered her son.

The man she’d come in with made a slight motion, and she stopped and stood back. He approached the desk and lifted his hands to hover about a foot away from the dripping body, as if giving it a blessing or something. The picture warped then, bulging out unnaturally. It wasn’t a digital interference but more like the lens was being twisted somehow. Then… everything went black.

After a few seconds Mark Warslen’s face reappeared, shuffling papers with shaking hands and a drawn expression.

“Shocking footage of the murder of Thomas Greetly. We’ve been informed that Mildred Greetly has been taken into custody. We have… yes, OK… we do have footage of her being brought in for questioning. We take you live to the 9th precinct headquarters.”

The camera cut to an outdoor scene. It was mayhem as a crowd of reporters was being held back by a few officers. The back door of a police car was being opened. The old lady was pulled out in handcuffs, blood still splattered across her face. No sign of the other guy.

She seemed calm despite the shouting from the reporters. She looked happy beneath the blood, as if all was right with the world and there was nothing to worry about.

A shout cut through the noise of the crowd: “How could you kill your own son?” She said something then, but it was hard to hear. It was something like: “There are more important things.”

They led her to the door of the station and she seemed to be going peacefully, but then suddenly she straightened up, looked around until she spotted a camera, and stared into the lens. She started shouting then: “Chalk will consume you all! Every last one! You’ll rot in the pit, and his presence will be made manifest!” The cops started shoving her faster, so she yelled over her shoulder as best she could: “We are his disciples, and we are everywhere! We’re the people you’ve loved and trusted! And we will kill you, I promise! You will be fed to he that emerges!”

Suddenly the TV switched off. Irritated I looked around and saw Kim standing next to the table putting the remote back down. That’s the second time tonight she snuck up on me! Usually she’s so stiff I can hear her stomping around easily, but there was an unusually relaxed grace about the way she was moving now.

“You been drinking?” I asked.

“You know, dear, I’ve been thinking about taking up a new hobby,” she said. I started to get nervous. First her odd behaviour and now this random phrase. Maybe it was just the crazy old lady on the TV, but all of these little unexpected things about Kim tonight were making me uneasy. I tensed up a bit and shifted in my seat.

“New hobby?”

“Yes. I’ve been meaning for some time to take up art. You’re going to help me with my first piece. By the way, have you met my friend Chalk?”

She points across the room and fear slams through my body. He’s standing there, the guy from the TV. The tweed vest and purple shirt are unmistakeable. He’s smiling at me behind shining glasses.

“Kim, get out of here, he…”

The blade gashes my right hand, pain shooting up my wrist. When I turn to look, Kim is standing over me, tugging at the knife that has buried itself in the chair. She’s wearing a big, toothy grin.

“What the hell are you doing?” I ask. She doesn’t even seem upset that she accidentally hurt me. My fear at the man’s presence hasn’t left me, but I’m more confused at that moment at what Kim is trying to do.

She pulls the blade out of the chair and winds up for another blow. I react, standing up and making a grab for her wrists to hold her back. My right hand is in searing pain and gushing blood. It’s making my arm weak, and the gleaming knife is getting closer to my face. I can’t hold her back, but at the same time I’m worried that if I push back any harder I’ll hurt her. I’d rather let her kill me than hurt her.

Still, I don’t want to die either, and a terror begins to creep in as I realize that she really is trying to end my life. This wasn’t an accident. If I hadn’t been trying to wave her off my hand wouldn’t have deflected the blade and she would have buried it in my chest.

She’s still smiling at me, showing lots of teeth, but seems calm even as the muscles strain and cords stand out on her neck in her effort to push the knife into my face. I don’t understand.

“Kim! Kim wake up! It’s me, it’s Luther!”

“I know dear,” she says, “it would be better if you stopped resisting. I’m going to kill you now.”

“W… why?”

“It’s an exchange of energy. There are…”

The tip of the blade starts to dig into my cheek, and I panic. I shove hard enough to make her stumble back, and suddenly I’m running. My feet take me down the hall, and I slam the door of the bedroom behind me. It’s only then that I realize the stupidity of this move since the door has no lock. I brace my back against the door.

“Come back dear, this really isn’t the way it’s supposed to work,” she calls. My hand is throbbing now, and I wrap a random t-shirt around it that happens to be laying nearby.

I still can’t believe this is happening. My Kim. Why would she be acting like this? Who is that man? Is she really about to kill me?

She tries the doorknob and I press back against the door, my feet sliding on the carpet. Terror wins over confusion then, and all I can think of is survival. I can’t fight back at her directly or I might hurt her, and she’d probably kill me. I need options.

I spot the phone a few feet away, and make a wild grab for it before slamming my back against the door again.

“911, what is the nature of your emergency?”

“It’s that guy from the TV! The one who was with the old lady, the one that’s getting people to kill their families! He’s here and… my wife… tell the police not to hurt her! She can’t…”

“Sir, what’s your address?”

“2654 Chrisland Street. I’m hiding in the bedroom, holding the door closed. Please hurry they’re…”

“Luther?” the operator asks.

What? How does she know my name?

“Yes,” I say.

“Luther, just open the door and let them in. They need to complete their art.”

This can’t be. It can’t be. I start to get dizzy and realize that I’ve been panting. I try to stop before I pass out. Calm down. Think.

“Luther? Luther can you hear me?” Kim calls through the door, “Let me in Luther. Chalk has created such a beautiful piece of art, and I need to bring it into the world. Just come out and sit in your chair.”

“You should do as she says,” says the operator. I hang up.

This can’t be happening. It can’t.

She tries the doorknob again and pushes. I hold it shut, but my feet feel like they just have no grip on this carpet. My heart is beating so hard now I swear I can hear it. Kim had always been a fitness buff and nagged at me to get in shape, but I’ve always preferred the couch and a strong drink. I’m regretting that now. The extra pounds I’ve packed on are going to give me a heart attack before my wife even has the chance to kill me.

She starts throwing herself against the door over and over. She isn’t holding back at all and is hitting the door with more force than I imagined she could. Maybe that guy is helping her, although it’s only one thump against the door at a time and it’s her grunts of effort that I hear. This has to be bruising her up, and she’ll break a collar bone if she keeps up this pace. The door opens an inch every once in awhile, and I keep having to scramble to keep my back against it. I’m sweating now, although more with fear than strain.

In the window across the room a face appears, looking in at me. It’s the man with the longish hair and the vest, the one Kim called Chalk. His glasses are reflecting the light and he’s grinning at me.

Madness took me then. The throbbing in my hand, the roaring of my blood in my ears, my wife… he gave me a target for all of it. I stood and ran at the window, screaming at the top of my lungs some crazy, incoherent thing. I have no idea what I was thinking. All I could think was that maybe, if I could get him, maybe somehow Kim would snap out of it.

Kim opened the door behind me, filling the window with light from the hallway and obscuring the man’s face, but that didn’t stop me. I dove, raising my arms and smashing through the glass with my elbows. I had no idea how torn up I was when I landed, but adrenaline had taken over again and I scrambled up onto my feet in the cool wet grass. He wasn’t out here. Had I imagined him?

When I looked up, Kim was looking back at me smiling from the window. “Come back here, we have important work to do,” she said calmly.

“Don’t do this, don’t kill me,” I blurted.

“Oh don’t worry about that. There are more important things,” she said. She leaned forward then and started to climb through the window, seemingly oblivious to the scrapes and gouges she was creating in her arms and legs.

I ran. Pain raged through my legs announcing the damage that I did them with my dive through the window earlier, but I was too scared to slow down. Across the street and two doors down was Frank’s house. He would know what to do, even if I was too weak and stupid to.

The street was covered in chalk drawings laid out in swirling patterns. I noticed a picture of a rotting corpse hanging from a tree, which seemed to twist and contort into another picture of someone who was being hit by a car. The detail on their broken shin and the anguish in their eyes was unmistakeable.

As I passed over the drawings it felt like the pavement itself was throbbing and vibrating. My head started spinning then, and I wondered if I would even make it across the street.

As luck would have it, Frank had left the garage door opened, and he was inside putting something away. “Frank! Frank help me,” I called. When he saw me his jaw dropped in shock. I can only imagine how I looked.

“What’s going on Luther? Are you OK? Is Kim OK?”

“Kim did this to me! She’s…” It occurred to me then that she was probably almost on top of me by then, and I turned around to fend her off. She was gone. I looked back at the house, but she wasn’t there either.

A heavy hand landed on my shoulder and I jumped, screaming. It was just Frank of course, but it was getting harder to think things through. “Calm down buddy, what the hell is going on?” He took my good arm and started to help me to his house. I allowed myself to limp a bit, wincing with every bloody step at the deep cuts in my legs and feet from the broken window.

“It was Kim, she just went nuts. She came at me with a knife.”

“Kim did that? I can’t believe it!”

“I’m not sure I believe it either, but…” I held up the blood-soaked shirt in my right hand.

“Alright buddy, I got ya. Come on in and let’s get you cleaned up.”

“What about Joan and the kids? They’ll flip if they see me like this.”

“Don’t worry about them Luther. They’ll be fine, there are more important things. Let’s just get you sorted out here, then we’ll figure out what to do about Kim.”

It sounded like a plan, but something he said sent a shock of fright through me. I couldn’t put my finger on it. What was it that he said that had suddenly turned my stomach in knots?

The truth is, I just didn’t want to think about it. I was sick of being afraid. I shoved that cold fear down as best I could and let Frank guide me into the house, all the while leaving a bloody trail behind me. Seeing the red puddles I was leaving when we got to his linoleum floor seemed even worse, somehow. “Oh man, look at the mess I’m making in your house.”

Frank chuckled. “It’s fine buddy, like I said: there are more important things.”

I froze. That phrase. The old lady said it. Kim said it. Now Frank was saying it.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“Where’s the family Frank?” I asked.

“They’re in the living room. Don’t worry about it, come on,” he said.

I tore loose and ran for the living room. I had to know for certain if my suspicions were right. When I got there what I saw ripped the last of my sanity from me, and I fell to my knees in wretched pain and terror. My horrified scream echoed against uncaring walls.

Frank’s family was sitting on the couch. His wife, his daughter, and his son. Their heads, however, were sitting on the coffee table. Their bodies were pale with powder, and blood covered everything else. Just… it was… everywhere…

I could hear Frank approaching from behind at an easy, casual pace. He chuckled a bit before saying: “I’d only just finished cleaning myself up and putting the chainsaw away before you got here. Takes a lot more work than you’d think to get blood out of the motor. Oh, hi Chalk! Found one of your runaways!”

Chalk had suddenly appeared in the moment I had looked away, standing in the middle of the room as if he had always been there. He looked down at me, smiling. The front door opened slowly and Kim walked in with the butcher knife, blood trickling down her arms and legs from wounds she didn’t seem to care about.

She walked straight over to me. I should have run, I should have fought back, but… it was all just too much. I could only weakly paw at the hand that grabbed my hair and jerked my head back. I searched her eyes for some sign of pity or sympathy or something, but there was only a kind of happy determination.

“Kim,” I whispered. It was all I could manage.

She leaned back before driving the gleaming knife forward into my chest. The pain was excruciating, but I lost consciousness before the second, third, fourth, and fifth thrusts.

Death, however, didn’t come. This wasn’t the end.

I was drawn out of myself and down into a dark corridor of rotting flesh and dust. There I joined the dozens of secret victims of Chalk, the ones that his servants had hidden along with the few they had revealed to the world. The boundaries of my identity were split open and my mind was spilled out into the gallery to mingle with the other victims. We think as one now, we the rotting dead.

We feed him from here in this pit of horror and darkness. Our essence decays and powders, feeding him on the surface world, slowly bringing his essence forth. He is so much more than even his disciples comprehend. He is a god beyond imagination, a demon from which Satan himself cowers in fear. The barest hint of him has been shown, a mere shadow. Now, the shadow grows.

Soon there will be enough of us, and his true face will be revealed. Towering and terrible and all-consuming, he will sweep across the world and consume it entirely with a gaping maw of fear and madness. All of humanity will know this dessication and despair. Suffering will be the only truth.

His power is a juggernaut now. Nothing can stop it. This is only the beginning.

Credit To – Sidney Crawlspace

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The Tea Lady

July 13, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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On the very first day that Sam walked home ‘as a mature teenager’, the sky was overcast and the air wore a chill. At fourteen years old, Sam was at the age where independence called her name at every opportunity, and as her mother had finally approved her desire to walk home from school without parental company, not even the cold could do away with Sam’s good mood.

Pulling her coat a little closer to her skin, Sam added a skip to her step as a fine mist-like rain fell from the darkening sky. The trip home, when by her mother’s side, usually took a good hour as the woman liked to save money wherever she could. Sam herself didn’t particularly mind – she liked the walk, and today she had already decided she would take THAT shortcut – the one she passed every school day.

Sam had always wanted to take the aforementioned shortcut. It went through a towering woodland before passing a clustered array of the town’s farming fields. She knew this from her mother, who firmly denied every single one of Sam’s requests to take the shortcut.

“It’s dangerous,” she had said. “I heard Suzie’s lass tripped and broke her arm in there. It’s best we just stick to what we know.”

Well she couldn’t say no now, and even though Sam loved her mother dearly, Sam’s curiosity was just too strong. She turned off towards the woodland as soon as the opportunity arose.

Confident that she would be able to find her way once out of the woodland, Sam sucked in a breath once faced with the dirt path leading in. She tried to ignore the shivers skimming over her skin – she was fourteen now! Four. Teen. That meant she was a big kid – and big kids didn’t get scared. Not of stupid trees, or of annoying rain, and certainly not of the dark. For good measure though, she turned on her phone’s torch light. She wouldn’t want to trip after all.

Once in the woodland, Sam found that it wasn’t that scary. It wasn’t that dark either. Only an absolute idiot would get lost there, definitely. Her breath formed brisk clouds in front of her face. Sam shone her light on the trodden dirt path, illuminating broken branches and small drooping plants. She would just keep on walking, following the path until she was out of there. No problem. No problem at all.

Only… The air. Sam couldn’t say exactly when it happened, but for lack of a better word, the air was dead. No more misty rain, or cold chill- it was like the air around her had just … died. It lay heavily around her shoulders like a thick woolen blanket. Sam’s heart rate picked up, and she warily looked around. Still surrounded by trees, Sam quickly decided that perhaps, maybe, she shouldn’t have come this way. It was probably a better idea to have just taken the usual route. To have stuck to what she knew. And then she saw it – the outline of a crumbling decrepit shack right in front of her.

Every single horror story Sam had ever heard filled her head like angry insects – the shack was creepy and stood alone in silence. Dead air forgotten, Sam slowly looked left, and then right. Her heart was racing. Nothing. She stepped forward. No monster or beast ran out to greet her. She stepped forward again. She wasn’t eaten by a zombie. She stepped forward yet again. No scary old troll came out to attack her.

Well of course not – honestly, the whole idea was ridiculous. Banishing her childish fears, Sam let her curiosity guide her feet and ignored her thrashing heart. Up close the shack seemed to be standing-room only. Perhaps it held old brooms and cobwebs. Certainly not childish things, like lost treasure, hidden underground paths and unimaginable mysteries. That would be… Ridiculous.

Her hand on the handle to the shack, Sam counted to three and firmly dismissed her childish hopes and fears once and for all. Big kids were cool and rational, and so she would be cool and rational too. The shack would be tiny, filled with dirt and woodworms and…

Gold?

Against every ‘rational’ thought in her head, Sam stepped into a gigantic, towering golden room, fully decorated with a deep red carpet at her feet. Her mouth open in a startled gasp, Sam’s feet moved further into the shack. The door shut behind her with a gentle click.

The wallpaper was host to soft gold flakes against a light yellow background. They swam – actually swam! – right around the length of the wall like tiny little fish, each leaving trails of golden dust that would follow the fishy flakes for mere moments before evaporating into nothing. Hand-crafted oak furniture and plump cushion-covered sofas adorned the floor, along with thick old bookcases and large mysterious boxes, and from the ceiling floated an entire solar-system of glittering stars and planets.

The room quite bluntly was magical. Every potential cynicism and critical thought was destroyed in Sam’s head, leaving only her childish wonder and awe. It was all illogical – impossible, but Sam never felt more amazed, or at ease, in her life.

Making her way to the nearest free space, Sam placed her index finger on the wall, grinning as the gold flakes swam around her finger at varying speeds. She giggled as one or two dared to curiously nudge her fingernail before they darted away.

“They’re all so curious, my babies.”

Sam jumped and swiveled around in time to see a young woman step forward from thin air. She mustn’t have been older than twenty-five, slightly chubby in the face and smiling kindly. Sam was quickly sure that the woman may well have been the prettiest in the world – as if it was a fact. The beauty of the room paled in comparison to her, and it was as if the sun itself would second to the radiance of that peaceful and kind expression.

The lady stepped forward and her eyes crinkled with her smile. Gold flakes like those on the walls floated behind her irises, and golden hair cascaded past her shoulders, curling around her face. Her knee-length dress was covered in twinkling stars, and Sam couldn’t help but feel it was like the woman was something of a finishing touch to the beautiful room, like a painting.

“Where… Is this?” Sam breathed. The woman chuckled, and her voice was warm and sweet.

“My home! Welcome! I was hoping someone would stop by – I must be extra lucky today.”

“I… Oh,” Sam said. Perhaps the woman was new – a neighbour? But she lived in such a horrid old shack… And what about the magic? Witches had magic, but they were old and warty, not young and beautiful. Sam quickly began to feel awkward just standing there in her daze, but she soon found herself being steered towards one of the plump sofas. The material sunk under her weight.

“Tea?” the lady said, and soon a small rounded table sat before Sam. Sam could only nod dumbly, and then the table was home to three delicate teacups, steam billowing from the liquid inside. Sam didn’t even notice her jaw dropping as the steam slowly transformed into magnificent shapes – fairies and butterflies and flowers, all made from the tea’s steam right until the illusions naturally broke apart.

The most fantastical shape for Sam was the dragon. Sam had always loved dragons, particularly partial to tales of fire and scales and great thundering roars. She stared at it, amazed, rudely forgetting about the woman. Before she knew it, the tea was gone and so were the illusions. It was only then that Sam found herself questioning; “Why are there three cups?”

The woman’s smile grew wide and slightly unnerving. “So there was enough for everyone! It’s getting late dear, but please, come again? Tomorrow if you can – you’re always welcome here!”

Sam nodded, suddenly very sleepy. Fully intending to get up and walk home, Sam instead sat back into the sofa, her eyelids heavy as her breathing evened out into that of sleep. She awoke the next morning in her own bed, with no recollection of how she had gotten home.

Realising she may well be late for school Sam grabbed her bag and ran out the door, still dressed in her uniform from the previous day. On her rushed way to school, she was filled with thoughts of that magical shack and of the pretty lady, and it was only Mrs Hull that finally broke Sam’s obsessive train of thought.

Outside the gates of school stood Mrs Hull. She was well-known in the small town, and Sam remembered visiting her more than once (though for what she couldn’t recall). That day Mrs Hull was was looking blankly toward some unknown middle distance, and didn’t even blink when Sam curiously waved a hand in front of her face.

“Are you okay?” Sam asked. She almost didn’t expect a response, until Mrs Hull opened her mouth.

“Something’s… Missing.” Mrs Hull’s voice was quiet and unsure. Sam quickly felt nervous. Mrs Hull then began to walk away, her movements stiff and robotic. Sam didn’t stop her.

For the rest of her school week Sam would walk by that mysterious shack and have tea with the woman, who soon Sam dubbed ‘The Tea Lady’, as the woman in question constantly avoided the subject of her name. When Sam wasn’t there, she yearned otherwise, and when she was there she lived for the visions in the tea’s steam, and most of all, that beautiful wispy dragon. Each time the tea would provide different shapes – of soldiers and bunnies, and jewels and vehicles, but there would always be that dragon, swooping and twirling and playfully pecking Sam’s nose.

Sam never said much to The Tea Lady – neither individual had a lot to say. Sam would just sit in front of the tea provided, and The Tea Lady would wait patiently.

The strange thing was, as the tea’s steam soothed Sam’s mind, that sometimes she… heard things. It was if it was all miles and miles away – raised voices, thumps, and sometimes even what seemed like screaming. The dragon was the only thing keeping Sam from panicking. There would always be three cups, and on some occasions more, but Sam only found this curious once the tea was gone, and the tea lady would never properly answer her inquisitions as to the number. Instead, with that kind smile, Sam would sleep.

Mrs Hull was sent to a care home not long after Sam saw her outside school. Not only that, but more and more people were quickly showing Mrs Hull’s ‘symptoms’ – men and women of any and all ages would stand outside in silence, looking at nothing, evenly claiming that something was missing. They wouldn’t sleep, or eat, or smile – only wander until someone took them away. Sam’s town gained notoriety fast for the ‘madness’, gaining many tourists and visitors and specialists from right around the country in mere days. Sam didn’t pay much attention to them, her thoughts usually stuck only on The Tea Lady.

In mere weeks Sam had completely fallen into her routine. School, The Tea Lady and then home. The weekends couldn’t pass by fast enough – it was like Sam was living in a bubble, keeping her distant from the town’s spreading madness, her teacher’s constant confusion and the odd gap or two making themselves apparent in her memories.

It was only on the third week on a Thursday that Sam experienced something… different. Despite her class being recently cancelled due to her teacher not showing up, she visited The Tea Lady anyway and was soon sat before her tea. In the background, Sam vaguely noted more noise than usual, but then her beloved dragon lifted its head up from her teacup and began to take flight, turning and twisting and dancing, and Sam could only grin widely as she became entranced yet again … and then her teacup toppled over.

A long and tormented howl tore at Sam’s ears in what she quickly recognized as The Tea Lady’s voice, and the dragon burst into flames. Startled, Sam looked up just in time to see Ryan’s horrified face as The Tea Lady wrapped her hands around his neck.

W… What?

Ryan! How could Sam have forgotten?! Her cousin had come to visit from the city the previous day, and so Sam had asked Ryan to visit the shack with her. Why did she forget? How?! And then she began to remember them all – the other kids. Mary, who liked fairies and flowers. Kyle, who adored vehicles. Damien, who loved rabbits. Even some of the tourists’ children of whom Sam had made fast friends with – Hannah and Kayleigh, Frank and James… And yet she had managed to forget about every single one of them.

She could even remember Laura – her own best friend, who had warily met The Tea Lady with Sam on the very first day Sam was allowed to walk home on her own. Tears prickled at the corners of Sam’s eyes – she had been tricked, leading all her friends right into The Tea Lady’s hands. What did that woman – that horrible witch – do with them?

Ryan struggled against The Tea Lady’s grip. Jolting away from her returning memories, Sam grabbed the fallen teacup and threw it at The Tea Lady’s face. Squealing, she released Ryan and glared at Sam. Her eyes were sparkling so brightly that Sam couldn’t even look at them, and the woman was still smiling – but her teeth were pulsing as if alive and her gums were writhing like slugs, her smile large and unnatural. Warts had burst from beneath her yellowed skin, and her hair was like broken straw above a tattered dress.

The worst thing was, that she was still beautiful. A woman – a creature – so fundamentally wrong struck a planted awe deep inside Sam, and it was as if The Tea Lady was effortlessly pulling her closer, her arms wiry and twisted as her bulbous fingers twitched and her broken legs creaked. The Tea Lady was beautiful, wonderful, but in a way that proved horrific and wrong.

Fear guiding her, Sam grabbed Ryan’s hand and The Tea Lady roared an ear-rending screech. Roots crashed up from a suddenly dirty floor, the walls bled a horrid-smelling sludge, and The Tea Lady countinued to scream out in a language Sam couldn’t understand. She was glad she of that part – those guttural sounds in themselves made Sam’s hair stand on end.

Before she could understand how, Sam and Ryan managed to get to the door and made it outside, and so they ran and ran and ran and ran…

Sam soon stood outside the woodland with a panting Ryan. They were safe. They’d be okay. They had escaped. It was -

“I always make enough tea for everyone, dear.”

Arms wrapped around Ryan’s neck, and he was dragged backwards into the woodland without even a yelp. In that moment, Sam was sure she would never forget his last horrified expression.

And then Sam woke up in her bed, confused. Did she fall asleep again? She sat up and saw her schoolbag at the end of her bed, right by the pyjamas she had forgotten to put on. She lay back and smiled, sweet memories of that lovely shack and The Tea Lady’s magic filling her thoughts like honey. Sam couldn’t wait to see it all again – the wonder of that beautiful friendly place. But perhaps, for once, she could try and bring a friend – it was all much too great to experience on her own!

Credit To – Ginger

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Fear Always Finds You

July 12, 2014 at 12:00 PM
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“Never go into the forests, child,” my mother used to say to me when I was little. “Horrible things lie within those forests. Horrible, horrible things.”
“What kinds of horrible things, mother?” I’d ask in return.
“In the forests lie fear incarnate. For anything that you fear, that any of us fear, you may find it embodied in the forests.”
“Has anyone ever been into the forests?”
“Yes, child, many have tried to brave the forests, hoping to find something on the other side.”
“Has anyone ever made it through?”
“I don’t know.”
“Has anyone ever returned?”
At this question my mother would sit pensively for a moment, her expression becoming darker, more fearful and depressive. “A few folks, yes.”
“What did they say? What had they seen?” I would ask excitedly.
“Rarely did they say anything,” mother would say as she looked away from me, down at her lap. “They were changed men. Not all lasted long back in the town.”
“Did their fears find them, mother?”
“Fear always finds you.” she’d say as she stood up. The conversation always ended here.
Mother and I had this conversation many times over the course of our years together. It always went the same way, always ending with that final phrase. “Fear always finds you”. Those words haunted me as a child.

In a way, it also inspired me. I lived in a small village, very small, though I never had other villages to compare it to. It was surrounded by thick forest, massive silvery trees fencing us in. From one side of the village you could see the trees growing next to the other side as clearly as if they were the trees next to you. Around the perimeter of our land we kept our crops, and our houses were condensed to the center. The number of villagers never went higher than 75; births were usually followed closely by deaths. Children went to school during the day and stayed inside for most of the rest of their time while their parents worked the farms.

This modest life was never quite enough for me though. I felt as though I were in a box, with nothing to do and nowhere to go. The town was my prison, the forest the bars. I was never satisfied with what I was told in school. My curiosity could not be contained. It was always, “How could we know anything about anything if all we had ever known was this small patch of land?”; “What had come before then?”; “What was in the forests that kept us from expanding, from leading better lives?”

Alas, my teachers never knew. My mother was the only one who would give me anything regarding the forests, and even she gave me so little. I knew not what she meant by “horrible things” or “fear incarnate”. I had to be satisfied with what I had been given. Going into the forests was taboo – everyone knew that. And yet I still wanted to see for myself.

When I reached the age of 17, I could no longer wait. It had been another night of quizzing my mother about the forests, again ending with “fear always finds you”. Exasperated, I ran to my room and started to plot my escape. It was a simple plan – run away. That’s really all I could do. No one here sympathized with my curiosity. The only way to accomplish anything was to go into the forest myself. Maybe there was something on the other side of the forest. Maybe even more people! This was such an exciting prospect to me, especially seeing as how I had grown so weary of the people there long ago. If this didn’t pan out, I could always just turn back to the village. “Mother said people before had made it back,” I told myself, “and as I seem to be a bit more competent than any of the people here, I’m sure I’ll be fine.”

I grabbed a sack of some vegetables and, in the middle of the night while mother was asleep, I snuck out. The village typically goes to sleep at sundown; nevertheless, I made my way towards the forest with extreme caution. Reaching the edge of the crop area, I turned my complete attention to the woods. The seemingly impenetrable mass of trees was striking, almost freezing me in place. I realized with a jolt that I was scared: scared of the darkness before me, scared of the unknown, scared of the trees themselves and all they symbolized.

I thought back to my mother’s words. “For anything that you fear, that any of us fear, you may find it embodied in the forests.” My fear was only reasonable, I thought. This is unknown territory. If I fear the forest itself, what else could find me within it?
“‘Fear always finds you’,” I muttered to myself. “Bah.”
With that, I marched into the forest.
It was a bizarre feeling at first, being entirely surrounded by trees. Only ever had I seen them from one side, enclosing my village. I trekked onwards through them, trying to keep myself going in one direction, only able to see by the light of the moon. Even that light was largely hidden by the thick canopy above me that seemed to stretch on to touch the sky itself. The only sounds I heard were that of my breath and my footsteps.

After what I took to be an hour of walking, I decided to stop and sit by a tree. I realized that in my anger earlier that night, I had forgotten to eat supper. I pulled out some food and stared into the darkness around me. There was no movement, no more sound at all. It was surreal, serene but ominous.
“‘Fear always finds you’,” I whispered to myself again. “I’m doing fine so far, thank you very much mother.” My fear of the forest had abated over the course of my walk. “It’s just a bunch of trees,” I said, fixing my gaze on a tree about 10 feet in front of me, where a beam of moonlight was falling through the dark.
Suddenly something caught my eye directly to the left of that tree. I could hardly make it out, as it was still dark, but something in the darkness had moved. I jumped up to my feet, brandishing my meal like a weapon pointed at the dark spot.
“Hello?” I called out, “Is someone there? Have you come looking for me?”
There was no more movement. I stood there for a few minutes, completely frozen, waiting for a response. I eventually resolved that it had been nothing – perhaps wind hitting a lower tree branch – and so I moved to sit back down.
As I was turning back around there was another movement, larger this time. I whipped back around to glimpse it; something there had moved closer, to be standing at the tree in front of me. I still could not see it. I flattened myself against the tree I was on, breathing heavily now. Timidly, after a moment, I spoke: “Who, or what, is there?”

The shape moved closer to me, stopping just before being past the tree. It shifted itself so that, slowly, it emerged into the moonlight. I could only see its face – if it can so be called. What I had thought was darkness concealing it was actually just the thing’s flesh, dark as the night itself, if not darker, pulled tightly around a slender rectangular skull. It bore three glazen, pearly white eyes set like a triangle above a lipless mouth, stretching as far around it’s skull as I could see with flat yellowed teeth. The lack of lips gave it the impression of smiling at me, though whether or not it really was looking at me I could not quite tell. A thin two-fingered hand stretched itself in my direction through the light. The thing made a noise like a high pitched laugh through its closed teeth.

I dropped my food and bolted around my tree, running in the opposite direction. The laughter grew louder and more pronounced as I heard a whooshing sound from behind me. Looking back I could see it sprinting after me, running at a ludicrous speed on what I could just make out to be two gangly legs supporting a gangly body. I ran as fast as I could, dodging between trees trying to lose it, but it always sounded so close behind me, like it could just reach out with its long black hands and snatch me. When I looked to my sides I saw it running beside me, never looking forward but staring at me. It never overtook me, but matched my pace exactly and seemingly with ease.

I ran for as long as I could and as quickly as I could. Finally I could run no more. I slid to my knees on the dirty forest floor, holding my head up, screaming at the canopy above me. When I had run out of air and had to stop this screaming, I heard the thing saunter up to me from behind; with surprising strength it gripped me with both hands, lifting me off the ground and turning me to face it. I struggled to fight it but my energy was gone. Its laughter grew louder and louder, deafening – but then suddenly stopped. I stared into its eyes. Slowly it opened its horrifying maw to reveal an inside as dark as the rest of it, tongueless, like a void. As I began to scream again, it shoveled me in.

I awoke with a jolt at my tree, where I was still clutching my meal with both hands now. It was still dark. With a sigh of relief I took a bite out of my food. It had all been a dream, thank goodness. I was safe.

I turned to my right to reach for the sack with the rest of my food in it. Less than an inch from my face was that same pitch black face, all three eyes widened and gazing into mine. I yelled and threw myself backwards, landing on my back in the moonlight. Before I could get back up it was on top of me, mouth already widened this time. It screeched laughter as its huge teeth closed around my head.

Sometimes I wake up again at that tree. Other times I wake up somewhere else in the forest, or already running from it. Once or twice I’ve been on the fringes of the forest, gazing out at the other side, when it jumps from above me and swallows me, starting everything over again. It’s always the same monster chasing me, with those pearly eyes and teeth and skin like the night sky.

I thought that I would be fine in the forest. “For anything that you fear, that any of us fear, you may find it embodied in the forests.” I thought that I was fearless, that I would be safe in the forest. How could a fear of the forest persist within the forest itself?

I was wrong. My fear stands just as strong, if not stronger here. It’s that monster. I struggle with it over and over. I never escape. The monster always finds me.

Fear always finds me.
Credit To – Felix A.

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Blood of the Swine

July 12, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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And the pig, because it parts the hoof and is cloven-footed but does not chew the cud, is unclean to you. You shall not eat any of their flesh, and you shall not touch their carcasses; they are unclean to you – Leviticus 11: 7-8

-

‘She is just around….’ Henrikkson lifted one hand from the wheel and twirled it slowly in the air, a puzzled frown creasing his broad features. ‘How do you say…twist maybe? Yes, that is it. Just around twist in trees, Mr Garett. She is not further now, five more minutes, ja?’ The man’s English was forced and stilted; Jake often had difficulty understanding what he meant. So instead of replying, he merely nodded and turned to gaze out of the rain-beaded window. The forest opened up briefly on his right, and he caught a glimpse of the Swedish countryside as it meandered past. Windswept and misty with rain, scatterings of spindly trees and mossy rocks marred an otherwise desolate hillside that stretched as far as the eye could see. Then it was gone, obscured once again by a great wall of black trees, leafless and densely packed, which ran the length of the rutted dirt track along which they now bumped.

Jake squinted into the murk, hoping to catch of glimpse of an elk, or perhaps even a wolf. Instead, his eyes found only long thin shapes stretching upwards into the withered branches. He frequently thought he caught glimpses of a dark bulk slipping between the thin trunks, seemingly keeping pace with the battered red Volvo as it snaked its way through the forest. But closer scrutiny always revealed nothing more than insubstantial shadows.

Henrikkson’s ‘’five more minutes’’ was closer to fifteen. The trail narrowed towards its end, and the foliage whipped at the windows, it scraped at the doors and snapped against the bonnet. Just how long had it been since the Swede had last taken a client to view the property anyway? Jake considered asking him, but thought better of it; it would only initiate another awkward conversation that he would have trouble understanding. Instead, he stared at his shoes, and wondered why he’d taken the time to polish them when he would no doubt end up traipsing through mud and who knew what else.

He glanced at his cell phone. No signal. No surprise really; it had been that way for hours now. The forest was silent around them; the only sounds the steady purr of the Volvo’s engine and his own heavy breathing. It was so isolated out here. Even with Henrikkson beside him, Jake felt completely and utterly alone.

Henrikkson looked at him curiously. Jake flashed the Swede a reassuring grin. It was an effort to mask his growing unease.

In truth, he was unsure why Mannsen & White, the London-based chartered surveyors he was interned to for the duration of the summer, had been so eager to fly him out to Strängnäs to view Brääkänburg Ranch. He’d seen a photo of the place – the one and only photo the company had on file – and the dark wood, sagging moss-covered roof and tiny shuttered windows had only served to heighten his confusion. Sure, the place was big, and there was the location to consider: the house was nestled deep within one of Sweden’s largest forests. But whether that last was a potential selling point or not, Jake didn’t know. He supposed it would depend on the client.

‘She is arrived Mr Garett.’ Henrikkson’s deep baritone voice interrupted Jake’s reverie. He looked up just as the car emerged from the ocean of trees into a relatively large clearing. The ranch slouched in the center; a dim, dilapidated structure that looked like it hadn’t been touched in a hundred years or so. It was comprised of two interconnected buildings: the main house, which consisted of two floors, and a narrower building of the same height, but with an overhanging and windowless upper floor. The structure joining the two was low and flat-roofed, only a single floor with one tiny window.

The sole window in the second building was unshuttered, the only one of its kind on the property, and as his gaze slid over it he felt a sudden awareness of scrutiny, as though unseen eyes were watching through that tiny pane of glass. Did the darkness suddenly become a shade lighter, as though a bulky shape that had been obscuring the window had just slipped away?

Off to the right of the house, an overgrown paddock teemed with leafy ferns and tall swaying grasses. Jake tried to imagine horses grazing there, but found he was unable to picture any animals in such a dreary environment. A withered tree was barely visible around the side of the house; small objects, shrivelled and brown, hung from its blighted branches.

A ramshackle, broken-down fence encircled the ranch. As the Volvo drove through the gate, which was hanging forlornly from one hinge, Jake was unable to suppress a slight shudder. It was as though they had left the real world, where cell phones worked and people actually existed, passing through into a forgotten place, forlorn and abandoned to the ravages of time.

‘Mr Garett?’ Henrikkson was holding the passenger door open for him. Jake hadn’t even realised they had stopped.

‘I’m sorry. I was lost in the…well, just lost in this place.’ The words sounded stupid even as they left his mouth, and he felt his ears turn red. Henrikkson, however, merely smiled and nodded his assertion. ‘Ja, she is…handsome, as you say in London England, ja?’

Handsome wasn’t the first word that sprung to mind for Jake. Neither was it beautiful or picturesque. As the Swede led him through the unkempt garden towards Brääkänburg Ranch, there was a single word resonating in Jake’s head.
Alone.

-

Henrikkson’s mother was dead. An eighteen-wheeler had lost control and ploughed through the front of a grocery store. She’d been killed instantly. He received the call – and how he managed to get a signal out here Jake couldn’t begin to fathom – about ten minutes after they arrived at the property, turning his red Volvo around and heading straight back to Strängnäs – without Jake.

The original plan had been to spend the afternoon mapping and extensively photographing the ranch’s interior. In the morning, they would have combed the property for structural defects or weaknesses before finishing up by photographing the exterior and examining the surrounding land and establishing the boundaries. Obviously things had changed now. Jake understood completely, and he almost accepted the distraught Swede’s offer to reschedule and return to Strängnäs.

Almost.

But his sense of responsibility prevailed, and he sent Henrikkson away with assurances that he’d be ready and waiting for the Swede to collect him at nine the next morning.

And then he was alone in that dreadful place. And it was truly dreadful. The interior was completely devoid of light, forcing him to rely solely on the thin beam of his LED card torch, and he was unable to force the shutters open, so damp-engorged and swollen was the wood.

The exterior was deceptive; the main house consisted of only two large rooms. The room on the first floor was empty save for three small box beds on either side, as well as a jumble of rags and sticks piled in one corner. A dark purple drape was drawn across the bed furthest from the staircase, but Jake couldn’t muster up the nerve to cross the somehow mournful room and pull it aside. Instead, he closed and latched the door – why was there a latch on the outside? – and returned to the ground floor room, which was furnished with ancient, rickety chairs and a long table that bowed in the center. There was another bundle of kindling stacked beneath it, bound in a tattered sheet. A closed fireplace was set in the far wall, and there was another box bed, this one larger than those above, on the left wall, with a dust-caked vanity and a small circular table nearby.

An ancient claw-footed bathtub nestled in another corner, the site of which made Jake uneasy. Something dark dangled over the lip, but he dared not look. He imagined shining the beam of his torch only to have it reflected back at him from a pair of jaundiced yellow eyes. He shuddered at the thought of something curled inside in that dreadful tub, waiting in silence and observing his every movement, with a single waif-like arm dangling over the edge. Just what had he seen at the window?

He hurriedly pushed the thoughts to the back of his mind before they could form, lest he allow his fears to fully take root.

Henrikkson had mentioned during the drive that they would be staying in the guest bedroom, which was apparently situated on the overhanging second floor of the other building. Even if it wasn’t, Jake would have rather spent a night in the forest than sleep in the funereal room above him, with its tiny beds and sombre drapes.

With that in mind, he hurried through the tunnel-like connecting structure, his shoes crunching on things he didn’t want to look at. Wooden crates were stacked all about him, and splinters tugged at the sleeves of his jacket like sharp fingers as he squeezed between them. The window here wasn’t shuttered after all, just thick with grime and dirt. Rubbing at it with his fingers did nothing except leave them stained black. At what he judged to be about halfway, he came across a stout wooden door. It looked out of place amidst the disrepair; the thick bar keeping it closed glinted in the torchlight, and felt smooth in his hands as he slid it aside.

He’d put the torch on a nearby crate to unbar the door, and as he snatched it up the slim beam slid across something huddled in the corner behind a stack of crates, an emaciated form crouched on stick-thin limbs. He screamed aloud and staggered away, the back of his legs colliding with a crate and sending him tumbling backwards.

The torch dropped to the floor, revealing the stack of crates and an empty corner.

He considered turning back, getting out of this terrible place before it drove him insane. He retrieved the torch, thankful that it hadn’t broken, and shone it on the closed door through which he’d entered. It seemed a mile away. No, to retreat through that oppressive darkness was unthinkable.

Come to think of it, hadn’t he left the door ajar? If so, why was it closed now?

‘Old houses,’ he whispered, shaking his head. The whole fucking place was probably listing. More than likely it was fit to collapse at any moment.

‘Fuck it.’ The loudness of his voice in the empty ranch surprised him, shocked him even. Unwilling to linger any longer in the lightless hell of the connecting building, he eased the door before him open and stepped through.

Jake flashed the torch across the walls and drew in a sharp breath, pressing himself against the door. A long, lupine skull snarled down at him from a hook above the window. On a three-legged table in the center of the room, the fleshless head of a great elk gazed impassively past him with empty eye sockets the size of snooker balls. Something brushed his shoulder, causing his heart to flutter like a trapped bird; a string of tiny, avian-looking skulls hanging from the doorframe.

In the corner to the left of the door, another of those curious piles of sticks and rags: this one was piled high and almost completely swathed in clothe, with only a two bone-white pieces of kindling protruding from the bottom. He gave it a wide birth as he moved into the room.

Then his gaze fell on the largest skull of them all, nailed above a lopsided doorway on the far side of the room: a monstrous boar, its snout ending in a pair of enormous yellowed tusks that curved upwards and out before turning back on themselves to point at the eye sockets. Dull snatches of light filtered through a small spot rubbed clean on the filthy window, throwing a dour grey blanket across the floor.

Something glistened wetly on the wood, a sporadic trail leading from the window to the doorway.

Jake approached the doorway, a listing frame curiously bereft of an actual door, fixated himself upon it, ignoring the hideous trinkets decorating the room. It led to an extremely narrow staircase; he would have been forced to stoop had he wished to proceed. That, however, was something he now had no desire to do. A rotten stench, a mixture of decay, urine and soiled hay wafted down, and the walls were curiously scuffed and chipped, as though something far too large for the cramped passage had regularly descended it.

Or ascended it, Jake thought. And perhaps whoever it was hasn’t come back down. Once again, he thought of the perceived shape at the window and failed to supress a shudder.

Then he noticed the book, resting on a battered stool in the corner of the room. It was thick and leathery looking, and as he approached it he realised it was resting atop something. He reached for it, wincing as his fingertips brushed the surprisingly smooth cover. The book felt…swollen, somehow. Like a latex glove filled with water.

What was beneath it caused his jaw to sag and his eyes to bulge: a cassette player. Blocky brown plastic with a pair of chunky headphones, it looked about thirty years old. But to see something even remotely technological, no matter how antediluvian, in this archaic place gave him pause.

There was a tape inside. If there had once been lettering on the buttons it had long since worn away, but his thumb lingered on one that was slightly larger than the rest.

Against his better judgement, Jake popped the headphones over his ears and pressed the button.

A chorus of shrill, inhuman shrieks howled in his ears, an impossibly fast rhythm accompanied by a relentless crashing and beating. It sounded like the world was tumbling down around him.

He was scrabbling to yank the headphones free, to silence the tearing dissonance, when the music slowed to a sonorous crawl. A voice, a deep baritone much like Henrikkson’s, began a slow intonation.

Jake’s Latin had been mediocre at best when he’d graduated university, and had only grown rustier since. But he was still able to recognise a couple of words being chanted, the pair preceding the main verse: terram porcum. Porcum was pig; that he did know. But terram…some reference to soil…to the earth perhaps?
A pig in the earth? Or a pig of the earth?

He looked down at the book in his other hand, clenched in a white-knuckle grip. He removed the headphones and set the cassette player back down on the stool without bothering to stop the tape.

Clamping the thin torch between his teeth, he stretched the strange cover taut to try and make out the tilted slew of lettering adorning it. His thumb brushed something in the top right corner. There was a number stitched there – how had he missed it?

3930.

Now what the hell did that mean? Jake returned his attention to the lettering. Even after stretching out the pliable cover, parts of the words remained missing, erased forever by time’s gnarled fingers.

Pulli eius la…ent sanguinem et ubi…ue cadaver fuerit …atim ade…

He flipped the book open to a random page near the middle and his jaw clenched, his teeth grating against the metal torch. The photograph was grainy and old, with yellowing corners and washed-out colours. But there was no colour anyway, not really, not in here, and its absence in no way detracted from the image – the main subject had been shot with unerring precision, and the angle was perfect.

Jake only wished it wasn’t.

The photograph had been taken in the room with the claw-footed bathtub. And now Jake understood why he felt such discomfort when gazing upon that battered relic, and more of its insidious purpose in the room.

Looking at the remains of her body, he thought the girl had been young; full breasts and shapely legs were stained with gore. Her arms were bound with a length of chain looped over a ceiling joist, from which she dangled above the bathtub. Matted ringlets fell to her shoulders, and her collarbones were sharp and pronounced.

Her face was hideously bruised and swollen. Had the photo been taken in better lighting, Jake was sure that her face would have been shaded all the hues of a setting sun.

But it was the ruin of her stomach that made him want to retch. It looked like a hollowed-out watermelon. Great chunks of flesh had been torn away, and pointed splinters of bone protruded from the remains of her abdomen.

The wound tapered inwards, as though whatever had inflicted this atrocity had been unable – or unwilling – to gnaw through completely. A memory of early childhood flashed through his mind. Standing in the rain, wearing his red wellingtons and holding his mother’s hand, watching as his uncle’s pigs wallowed in the mud. They’d been given pumpkins. The largest of them had gotten its snout stuck attempting to scoop out every last string of the gooey innards.

Then, they’d laughed until tears ran down their faces. Now, Jake wanted to cry for another reason entirely.

As if one spontaneous recollection of childhood had led to another, the meaning of the numbers on the book’s cover suddenly became clear. Staring at the gruesome photograph, unable to tear his eyes away, the verse ran through his head, the voice of his pastor reciting it like clockwork, again and again.

The book of Job, chapter 39, verse 30: Her young ones also suck up blood: and where the slain are, there is she.

That was God, talking about one of his creations. But which one? Who? Jake couldn’t remember.

He slammed the book shut, unable to bear the thought of hundreds more terrible photographs crowding the flimsy pages. The feel of the binding made him cringe. It was so soft, so smooth. So…fleshy. The despicable thing fell from his suddenly limp grasp as waves of realisation and revulsion crashed over him.

The cassette player screeched in the background, but it was the erratic beating of his heart that seemed to deafen him. Something was terribly, terribly wrong here. He had to get out. Now. He’d start walking back to Strängnäs, and Henrikkson would come across him in the morning and drive him far, far away from this terrible place.

A faint glimmer of hope began to sparkle somewhere deep inside of him. He was getting out of here, right now. This was the twenty-first century. Things like tourists and foreigners being strung up and butchered by xenophobic locals just didn’t happen anymore, unless it was in horror movies like The Hills Have Eyes or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

In the room above, something snorted, and Jake’s hope guttered and died.

It was a soggy sound, like water-on-the-lung, ripping through the veil of silence like a sharp blade through damp cardboard. A great bulk shifted on rotten timbers. Urine ran freely down Jake’s leg, the smell of it mingling with the sickly odours wafting through the doorway. As if in response, something stomped hard on the floor above, dislodging swirling clouds of dust from the ceiling.

Jake slumped against the panelled wall. His body was shaking and numb with fear, and tears streaked his dusty cheeks. The book lay open at his feet, just as a muscular Caucasian hung above the bathtub in the dull sepia photograph. His innards were hanging from the rafters like tinsel. The cassette player continued to drone from its perch in the corner. Around him, the ranch groaned.

Clack clack thud. The hollow knocking from above continued, echoing through the empty corridors of the darkened house; the sound of a mallet slamming against wood, or the solid tread of cloven hooves on ancient boards.

A thick, wet snuffle, halfway between a snort and a grunt, rolled down from above. An animal. There was a wild animal up there. A hungry animal, one which he would do well to get as far away from as possible.

He turned towards the door and choked on his next breath. His torch, the previously bright LED flickering weakly, slid across a skeletal form rising from the corner. Jake caught the merest hint of paper-thin skin stretched taut across sticklike bones, and thin legs which bent the wrong way at the knee, before the shape slipped through the half-open door in a flutter of black cloth.

The piles of rags and sticks. All around him. All over the house. Oh God.

A metallic clunk announced the replacing of the metal bar.

He was trapped.

Demanding his attention, a coarse scraping emanating from the tilted doorway, bare flesh dragged across mottled wood. The barnyard stench hit him in waves; the same scent he’d noticed earlier, now sickeningly rich and overpowering.

The very timbres of the house bellowed in protest as something forced itself between the narrow walls and down the tiny staircase. Jake flailed in desperation, and the torch slipped from his sweaty hands, hitting the wooden floor with a hollow clunk. There was nothing, no way out. No escape. He was going to die here, torn limb-from-limb in this tiny, lightless box, alone and pissing himself with fear.

He scrambled for the fallen torch, although it would do him little good except to illuminate the thing from above. But before his fingers found the handle, his outstretched palm brushed against something circular: something metal. Keeping the hand in place, he used the other to grab the torch and direct the beam at a rusted handle, almost invisible against the dark wooden floor.

Under closer scrutiny, the sides of the trapdoor swiftly resolved themselves. It was narrow, and he’d barely be able to squeeze through, but at least whatever was having trouble passing down the staircase wouldn’t be able to follow him. He hoped.

He set the torch down on the floor and eased the trapdoor open, wincing as the hinges squealed in protest, a noise which was immediately drowned out by a frenzy of movement on the stairs.

A stampede of motion followed by a huge thud as something cleared the last stairs and moved into the slightly more open hallway. Bone clacked against bone as the thing drew closer; a thick wet squeal, followed by a series of snuffles and grunts announced its immediate presence.

Jake was through the trapdoor up to his chest now, supporting himself on his elbows. He reached for the torch and, in the scant few seconds before he dropped through the hidden door – completely oblivious as to what was below – the beam of light languishing on the twisted doorway threw into hideous clarity a thing that was horror and grotesqueness given corporeal form.

Its vast bulk filled the hall completely. A hulking bear was his first thought, enraged at having somehow become trapped within the close confines of Brääkänburg Ranch. Its shaggy haunches supported this theory; its legs did not.

Bears didn’t walk on trotters, didn’t sway on spindly legs that bent backwards at the knee.

And bears didn’t have bony arms, longer than those of an orangutan, which ended in pale four-fingered hands. Swollen, engorged teats dangled from the thing’s hairless underbelly, speckled with lichen and moss and dripping with brine. Its stiffened ears scraped the low ceiling.

It lowered its snout, and Jake glimpsed rows of yellow incisors protruding from beneath its upper lip. A pair of curved tusks jutted from its lower jaw, their surface chipped and gouged. Its face was too terrible to behold, and dark eyes glinted with a malign intelligence.

It came at him faster than he could have imagined, dropping its head and thundering across the room, kicking up huge clouds of dust in its wake and bellowing in primordial rage.

Jake dropped backwards through the trapdoor. The back of his head cracked against stone. His vision swam. Somehow, over the shrill, bestial squeals emanating from above, he heard the steady drip of water. He tried to stretch his arms, but found only hard walls on either side. The space was tiny; he was unable even to fully extend his legs. The unyielding stone was slippery and damp beneath his fingertips, buried beneath layers of moss and mould. Darkness encroached on his vision, mercifully obscuring the hellish snouted face peering down at him.

The last thing he saw was a pale white balloon, leaning over the edge of the trapdoor. Why, it looked just like –

-

‘Wake up.’ Henrikkson spat. It was refreshing, no longer having to feign ignorance of the English language, but it remained a barb in his heart that he was forced to continue speaking it; it sullied his tongue, left him unclean.
No matter. The Swine would cleanse his tainted soul, as She had done so many times before.

‘Wake up.’ This time he followed with a savage backhand to the Englishman’s face that sent bloody spittle flying from his lips. Henrikkson leaned in close, so that he was inches from the Englishman’s face. ‘Your time has come, Jake Garett. Mannsen and White send their regards – your internship is quite obviously at an end.’

He yanked the Englishman forward and looped the chain around his wrists.
‘Now your blood is for Her. The Sow Who Dwells Beneath the Soil. The Bloody Swine, come forth anew to baptize us with her divine filth.’

All around him, the hoarse whispers and laughter of Her disciples echoed in the darkness. Their ancient bones creaked with the exertion of frantic movement.

Something snuffling and wet pressed against the back of his neck. Her heavy musk filled his nostrils, and a limb filthy with bristles brushed the small of his back. Henrikkson shivered in ecstasy, rejoicing beneath Her unholy touch.
It was time.

-

Jake’s world was pain and darkness. His head throbbed like a tooth blackened by decay, and his shoulders felt as though they were on the verge of dislocation.

Because he was strung up by his arms – tight metal bit cruelly into his wrists. The floor was cold beneath his bare feet. No, not the floor: he was dangling above the bath, the balls of his feet barely touching the dirt-encrusted metal bottom.

Was that Henrikkson talking? If so, why was the Swede naked? Jake tried to call out to him, but found that his tongue was unwilling to cooperate. Something rattled in his mouth, and he tasted copper. His lips were crusted together.

The world swam again. Pain flared in his face. Henrikkson was standing before him, grasping Jake’s jaw with one hand and holding his own shrivelled penis with the other. The Swede grinned and fell to his knees, prostrating himself before some unseen deity.

Straw; filth; excrement: the barnyard scent hit him like a tsunami.

Thin forms scurried in the shadows, chittering and cackling but remaining always just out of sight, giving only fleeting glimpses of withered limbs and wisps of hair. He could barely hear their lunatic laughter over the high-pitched screams and violent shredding coming at him from a pair of battered speakers set up on the far side of the room.

Then he saw it rise from the shadows. It regarded him for seconds that felt like hours, snorting wetly and clacking its teeth.

It dropped to the floor with a thud that shook the room and came at him on all fours.

Its tusks gored his ribs, but he didn’t feel the pain. And by the time its damp snout snuffled against his navel, Jake didn’t even have the strength to scream.

Credit To – Tom Farr

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Nightmare Walking

July 11, 2014 at 12:00 PM
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Have you ever had one of those dreams, where you dream you’re doing something, only to wake up and realize you’re almost acting out your dream in real time? The most common instance of this is the ‘it’s completely normal’ wet dream, though there are many other common instances, especially in sleepwalkers, where you see yourself walking along a path, only to wake up and find yourself actually walking somewhere, and other similar scenarios. I, despite no longer being a sleepwalker, have one such story myself, from my childhood.

The year was 1996, I was 5 years old, and had recently lost my great grandmother. I was having these weird ongoing nightmares at the time, where someone would call my name, I’d get up, and walk in their direction, only to be brutally murdered in any number of ways. I remember being strangled, stabbed, hung drawn and quartered, fed to wild animals, and my personal favorite, being pushed into a wood chipper. Often, the voice calling me would be someone I actually knew, whether it be my parents, a friend from school, a teacher, my sister, or Lenny Kravitz asking me “Are you gonna go my way?” Even at 5, I had an appreciation for good music, but I’m starting to get off track.

Anyway, there is one particular nightmare that will forever haunt me. This time, it was my recently deceased great grandmother calling to me. “Wookie” she called… I was a really hairy baby, so that nickname stuck for a while with the grandparents, and aunties and uncles… “Wookie, come give Nan a hug, I have to go now.” I remember getting to my feet, and lazily dragging myself out of the room, in the direction of her voice. Like I said, my nightmares seemed to have an ongoing theme, so even though I was walking toward my great grandmother, I was expecting her to transform into a dragon and bite me in half, or for a ninja to leap from behind a wall and put countless shurikens into my skin, or even a tank just to drive through the wall next to me and crush me under its treads. I usually woke up instantly after dying anyway, so it had stopped being overly threatening. Anyway, I continued to walk down the narrow hallway toward the frail old lady, arms outstretched, when suddenly a loud explosion woke me from my sleep.

I woke with a start, standing in the hallway outside of my room, peering into the blackness of the quiet family home. I turned around, stumbling sleepily back into my room, remembering the dream like a far off memory, and directly in front of me, the window that once sat above my bed sat empty, shattered, with its glass fragments dug into my mattress, exactly where I would have been had I not been sleepwalking…

To this day, I don’t know what caused the window to shatter, nor how the glass had managed to embed itself so deeply into the bed, nor do I know if my sleepwalking was a lucky coincidence that saved my life, or an intervention from another being. If you’re looking for a nice clean ending where everything is wrapped up and explained nicely, I’m sorry to disappoint; I’ve been searching for the answers too. Regardless, sometimes the things that scare us most, are those that we’ll never be able to rationally explain.

Credit To – Uforia

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The Bicycle’s Trip

July 11, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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It was a beautiful morning when I woke up that day. The sky was clear and the weather was perfect. It had been a hot summer, much more so than usual, and I like so many other residents of my town had decided the best place to be was inside an air conditioned room. It was around midday when I decided to go out for a bike ride. It had been a long, cold winter, and I had sworn to myself that when summertime came I would make the most of it. I decided to act upon that promise. I forced myself to put down the book that I was reading. I was just pages away from finishing it, but I desired to do something else, something new. I told myself that these solemn, inactive activities were to be best left to days not as fine as this, and so I set off for a bike ride. I had purchased a new bicycle a couple of years before, and since that time it had mostly rested indoors, much like me. The bike was a reproduction of a vintage model made before my time and its rustic appearance had stroked my interest.

When I had got outside I noticed that the morning’s beauty had been replaced by cloudy skies. It was not a matter of significance to my determined mind, as I had a craving that could only be satisfied by the fine looking burgundy coloured bicycle stored in the back of my garage. I took the bike down my driveway and past the forested area that surrounded my isolated house in the countryside. The wind shook my hair and blew my clothes against me as I rode down the hill towards the town beneath the mountainside. I had walked down this road many times in the past and had even biked down it before when I had first bought the bicycle two years ago. I reckoned the ride would take me less than fifteen minutes. I coasted down the hill, managing the curve in the road with controlled braking. Geese called above me as I rode past the cliff side to my right. From atop the mountain I could see the clusters of houses and buildings which formed a town at the bottom of the valley. It was an incredible sight on a summer’s day such as this, and I was only interrupted from its beauty by the sudden drops of rain upon my body. I watched the water seep into my clothes before my vision was contorted into a series of blurred images.

I was sent forward from the blow. Something had struck my bike from behind and thrown me from my seat. My mind didn’t have time to process what had happened, and I was barely able to react. I was falling, and I instinctively raised my arms ahead of me to break my fall and keep my face from hitting the concrete. My body hit the pavement and I was tossed into a roll down the steep mountain road. My hands, legs, and arms drew blood when scraped against the rough pavement. I rolled for what seemed like miles before I stopped. My mind felt fuzzy but I remained conscious, and after a few brief moments of confusion I managed to summarize what had happened in my mind. I realized that I had been hit by something, a vehicle of some kind and had been thrown to where I was from the collision. As I was sitting there, for the first time since the accident I felt the unbearable pain from the scrapes on my bloodied body. When I opened my eyes and looked up, all that I could see was darkness. It had been midday when I started my bike ride, and I couldn’t comprehend how nigh time had fallen so quickly. The country sky, which was normally packed with the bright lights from the heavens, was devoid of any such light, not even the moon. Living in this part of the country, I had had my fair share of eerie outdoorsman experiences, the kind you would tell around a campfire over a couple of beers, but those stories paled in comparison to this. My confusion was broke from the surges of pain as they shot through my body. I could not see anything in the pitch black around me, but I could vividly feel the stinging pain. My shirt and shorts had protected my body to some degree, but I felt most of it as being bruised and bloodied. I remembered memories from my childhood then, experiences of being lost and alone in the woods around my house, and those painful memories of fear and helplessness surrounded me like they had once before. I knew this area off by heart, yet in the darkness I could sense nothing familiar.

I was sitting in the fetal position, fearful of the dark abyss which had surrounded me, and scared of causing myself more pain through movement. I could not see, but I knew I had to do something, anything. I needed to find help. The town below had a local clinic, but it was miles down the road. I knew it would be faster to walk to my home; I had a first aid kit there. My hands and legs burned in excruciating pain as I tried to push myself up onto my feet, and my right leg buckled under my weight before I could do so, sending me falling back onto the ground. My hands burned at whatever they touched and I could not feel whatever it was they fell upon. I couldn’t feel anything besides the raindrops which poured down upon my agonizing face. I was at my limit and I broke down into tears. I cried so hard that my sobs replaced my agony with silence. I called for help, knowing no one was there to hear me, but my voice was caught within my throat. I tried to scream, but could produce no sound. When I moved my hands to my throat to coax the voice from my breath I found I could not do so. I could not express my agony through words and so I pounded the ground in frustration. My foolish actions were met with pain and pain only, and it was then that I discovered I could not hear, too. I was deaf, blind, and crippled, and my body panicked at the thoughts as ran through me. My mind processed a life of nothingness and immobility, and those thoughts of helplessness sent my mind into a state of terror. My sanity returned when I saw the hope which was a light at the bottom of the hill. My pupils retracted and my eyes struggled to focus the image of blurry light in front of me. I was relieved that I could see something, anything. The light grew closer and brighter as it advanced upon me, its faint gleam growing slowly taller to reveal the blurry image amongst its dim yellow glow.

The image before me was a person, what I had believed to be an angel. However that thought was soon erased from my mind as I comprehended the horrible image in front of me. A pair of grotesque horribly mangled legs limped towards me, and blood lurched from the beings legs as it stalked its way to my direction. I blinked when I saw this, not wanting to believe what I had just seen, but the image was still before my eyes and shaking body. The figure slowly revealed itself from the darkness as it grew nearer. I could see more blood, more gore, and for the first time in my life I experienced absolute terror. I tried to get up, to run, but I could not muster the strength to do so. My outstretched hands tried to pull my body back away from the body of pulsing blood and guts that was coming towards me, but I could not do so, and that helplessness was what drove me from my sanity. As the body drew closer, the light revealed the figure’s torso and lower chest. The horrible figure wore a tattered and bloody white dress which was draped upon its boney and pale body. The sound of static accompanied by falling rain flowed into my eardrums as the now headless figure limped towards me. I was shaking uncontrollably in terror as the body’s face was unveiled from the blackness, and I felt the splash of rain brought from the figure’s step in front of me as I caught a glimpse of the pale face and piercing blue eyes of the monster. I closed my eyes then, unable to bear seeing these last few moments of my life. Cold hands tightened around my shoulders before I opened my eyes from the grasp of tightened hands… As my eyelid coiled back I saw a flashlight shining into my eyes and the face of a paramedic behind it. I felt the rain fall upon me as I was lifted from the ground and placed gingerly into a stretcher. I could hear the raindrops hit the pavement around me and the static of a paramedic’s radio as he spoke into it.

After weeks in the hospital I was finally released. I had a friend drive me home after I had been discharged, and when I arrived back home he presented me with the bicycle I had lost in the accident. He told me he went to retrieve it after he had heard what happened, as he thought I would want it returned. He said apart from the scratches, the bike still seemed to be in good condition, but what couldn’t seem to get off was a pair of small hand prints on the right side of the bike’s frame. They seemed to have been stained on with some sort of chemical, and that he had found it this way when he found the bike near the edge of the cliff, where the girl who fell to her death ten years ago had supposedly fallen from.

Credit To – 9753

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