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March 14, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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I had a knack for fixing things. Trinkets, houses, and buildings, anything that needed fixing in my miniscule town. It wasn’t very ambitious, but at least my parents approved. It made me a modest amount of money that kept me ahead of my bills, but to me it was more than just a way to make a living. Tinkering, making something better with a few twists of my wrench, gave me a satisfaction incomparable to anything else.

Like all young people, I got bored of having it good. My life was broken sink after leaky toilet, and the monotony of it turned my thoughts outward, toward bigger rewards, and the hidden risks that accompanied them.

One Friday in April, 7 years ago, as I dragged myself home, ready for the weekend, something in the mail caught my eye. There was a letter resting on top of the pile, crisp and white. Written on it in looping calligraphy, my name and address.

I raised an eyebrow.

Nobody I knew sent letters anymore, and any family Christmas cards were long overdue. I opened it, and the letter inside perplexed and excited me.

Dear John,
Here at Mentona on Isilad Island, we have heard about your excellent craftsmanship and quality work. The historic Mentona clock tower has been malfunctioning for months. We have called every handyman in the region, but none have the necessary skills, so we have begun reaching out all over the country. If you agree to attempt to fix the tower, we will provide you with a temporary place to stay along with a payment of $10,000. Inside is a check for $5,000 and a plane ticket. You will receive the rest upon fixing the tower.
We will be waiting,
Edward, the Mentona mayor

The check was inside, just as the letter said it would be.

“It must be a scam,” I muttered to myself, but the words tasted bitter in my mouth. Suddenly, the idea of living off a tiny salary for the rest of my days didn’t sound so inviting. Just with five thousand I could do so much: take a vacation to the Caribbean, adopt a dog, maybe buy myself that nice massage chair I had been pining after. With the full amount that was promised to me, the possibilities were endless.

So I packed a change of clothes and headed to the airport to the town of Mentona, following the trail of money like a starved fool.

The first thing I noticed upon arriving was the forcefully cheery atmosphere. The buildings were trim and well kept, plastered with lively child-like paintings on the sides. The people were much the same, overly polite and maintaining constant smiles on their faces.

With the overly enthusiastic help of a few shopkeepers, I headed over to the town hall. There, I was lead to a waiting room, where I sat watching a janitor whistle to himself as he watered a plastic fern.

At last, a stout man with balding grey hair opened an office door and ushered me in. “Welcome to my lovely home town, Mentona.” He grinned. “My name is Edward, the mayor. I am so pleased you decided to visit here in pursuit of fixing the clock tower.” I nodded impatiently, eager to get to the payment options. “How and when will I…be paid?” I attempted to slide in nonchalantly. Edward’s eyebrows raised and he chuckled. “Oh course! If you manage to get the clock running again, you will receive another five grand, as stated in my letter.”

My heart soared. In the back of my mind, I felt a tiny pinch of suspicion tug at me– ten grand, for a clock tower? But my call to riches overpowered it.

“Here is the address of the hotel; it’s not too far, and it’s four star as well. Have a good night’s sleep. I’ll see you working away tomorrow, yes?” He smiled ecstatically, handing me a small piece of paper with his number and the hotel address on it. Frowning, I nodded slowly and exited the building, ready to walk to my hotel.

At last I arrived, checked in, settled down, and fell asleep immediately.

The next morning, I awoke with a small note near my bed. It was the address of the clock tower. Gathering my tools, I exited the hotel and was greeted by a tall, lithe woman with straight black hair hanging stiffly to her shoulders. She wore a long black dress that trailed to the ground, with thick sleeves covering her hands. Confusion blotted my mind; the weather was hot and sunny. A name tag pinned to her chest stated, “Mariyah.” Her eyes seemed to detached from the movement of her body, following me coldly even as the rest of her talked and laughed.

“Thank you for agreeing to do this for us,” she bubbled, her eyes piercing me with their hatred, “we were beginning to lose hope!”

I smiled and hurried to the tower, forcing a small wave over my shoulder and walked out the building as fast as I could. I could feel her stare burning into my neck as I sped away.

When I arrived, I met Edward again and led me inside, wishing me good luck.

“Be careful.” He hesitated, as if he wanted to say more, then smiled grimly and ushered me away. Chilled by the strange behavior of the people, I nervously walked up to inspect the tower gears. The stale air washed over me, the smell was dank and overly metallic. I let out a sigh, already questioning my decision to travel here. Frowning in concentration, I began my work.

I touched the main gear, prepared for the worst. This didn’t stop me from recoiling in disgust when the metal pulsated gently under my fingers. It had been quite a while since I had dealt with something this bad. As I glanced around the rest of the tower, I noticed all the gears were pulsating, deformed, with only a few places being rigid and metallic as metal should be. I couldn’t help but let the unusual mood of the town to get to me- maybe this wasn’t just a wrecked clock tower, that there was more to it. But my logic begged otherwise. It’s just the bad gears, I reasoned. Nothing else to it.

So I struggled through the day, checking gears, oiling, screwing in loose parts and replacing the destroyed.

My experience that day, to say the very least, was a downward spiral of madness. When I pushed any gear at all, a faint wailing noise echoed through the hollow tower. It was piercing, as though something was scratching its nails on a chalkboard. The distressed noises echoed throughout the day until they were desperately blasting in my ears. The sounds swirled around me, every corner of my mentality filled with the horrible cries. My mind was an incomprehensible mess by the end of the day and my ears thrummed with pain. Unable to continue, I raced out the tower, leaving the horrible siren noises behind. I stumbled through the main hall on the bottom floor, the tower around me a blur. Tears blinded me as I slammed the glass doors open, nearly crashing into another person. Breathing frantically, I passed out, faintly recalling black hair brushing my forehead as I cracked my head on the sidewalk.

When I awoke, I was greeted by the strange lady I met at the hotel, still wearing her oversized dress. She ecstatically waved at me.

“Oh good! You are awake.” She cocked her head with an eerie smile. I began to prop myself up onto my elbow, then froze in my spot, nearly choking with my mouth open. Her blank eyes stared into my soul, swirling aimlessly. “I-what happened?” I broke contact with her dead gaze and glanced around the blindingly white hospital room.

With a chirpy laugh, she said, “You passed out in front of me when your work was finished. The nurse deemed it fine that you leave, she said it was just a minor panic attack.” I spotted a flash of grey in the corner of my eye.

“How-I mean, why are you telling me this? Shouldn’t the nurse herself be letting me go?”

Her dead eyes hardened and seethed. “She said its fine. Now go finish your work. We need those gears to get to work again.” Her voice had suddenly changed. It was tinted with a rough screech, becoming demanding and forceful. Panicked, I stumbled off the bed and walked towards the front doors.

“Make sure those awful noises stop.” She called out, the suddenly sweet voice curling around my ears as I raced out the hospital.

When I arrived at the gears again, I tried to work, but the piercing screeches were always there, their mournful wails shaking me to the core.

As the day wore on, I could feel myself losing my sanity. Every time I blinked, I began to see faces in the gears, fighting to be free of the metal. The gears turning felt like quivering muscles of effort. I heard voices, terrified, pleading voices. “Work.” They seemed to say. “Push.”

What was wrong with this place? I thought dazedly to myself, what kind of horror had I let myself into?

Fingers trembling, I dialed up Edward on my phone.

“I-I can’t do this anymore.” I cried. “I won’t be fixing your tower anymore. I have to leave. I’m sorry.”

There was some crackling on the line, then: “Mariyah will be with you momentarily.” Confusion swarmed over the hot mess of emotions clouding my brain. Mariyah? Who was Mariyah?
Then I remembered. It was the woman, the one at the hotel and the hospital.

I dropped my phone and began to lift my hands to cover my ears. The wailing was ever so persistent, so filled with pain…

As I looked at my hands, I noticed were drenched in grey
slime and a red substance. Had I cut myself while working?

The faces, drenched in grey and specks of metal, were constantly appearing and disappearing. I saw them everywhere, always on the top of the gears, accompanied by the wailing, which had gained intensity. Huddled in a corner, I sobbed, my body quivering with every heave.

A mere few minutes passed before I heard the menacing clop of shoes coming to the gear tower. The wailing stopped at once, and the gears began to turn. There was an occasional screech of metal, but for the most part, it ran smoothly.

It was Mariyah. Her long, thin shape stood ominously at the end of the hall, rigid, with one arm behind her back and another holding a bucket of metal scrap. I whimpered, looking into her eyes. They were springing, dashing and swirling with excitement.

“Ah, you got them to work again– it’s been a while since someone’s been able to do it. Ed was right– you truly are special.” She cocked her head, her face devoid of a smile for the first time. She began to walk towards me slowly. I twisted and tripped over the wet floor in my feeble attempts to get away. “Oh, John, why are you afraid? You’re so perfect for this tower…”

“Leave me– I mean, how, I, why…?! What do you want? Please, please just let me leave! I dont underst-wha, whats wrong with this place? What is wrong with you?!” I screamed unintelligently, babbling nonsense. Mariyah’s strange behavior and the horrible situation surrounding had driven me onto the brink of insanity.

Her eyes flamed at my last remark and she snarled, “Wrong with me? I am the foundation of this damned town! This clock keeps us running.” She took a deep breath and twirled around once, gesturing to the straining gears and the ever so prominent faces. “And I keep the gears running.” She breathed shakily, the tone laced with an insane happiness.

“What is that supposed to mean?” I whispered. Oh why, why had I accepted this job?

Mariyah eased closer, her movements stiff and jerk. As I took in her full body, I was terrified by what I saw. She was no longer wearing the lengthy black dress as it was before, rather, the sleeves and most of the bottom had been savagely ripped off. Just like my palms, her legs and visible arm were doused in the strange grey substance. Her bare feet had rough, long scabs of past burns, and her arm was lined with rough bumps and something sold protruded at random location, hidden under the thick sleeves before. Her hair was stiffer than ever, snapping as easily as twigs as she brushed the tangled mess from her face.

She drew out the arm behind her back– what she held was a tool, unlike any other I had seen before. It was s sort of wrench-screwdriver melded combination, with a long, sharp handle and a rigid spiked edge, obviously meant for some serious metal working. My burning eyes streamed with tears again as the horrible stench hit me; the tool was covered in the grey liquid everything else in this damned place was.

I could barely breath as the pounding realization reached me: the giant tool, the metal scraps, the faces melted into the gears…

She watched me taking it in and laughed. “You like it? I made it all by myself.” Her body quivered, and her voice was rushed and cracked.

She smiled and bent down over me. Her eyes burned into me, those wild, crazy spinning eyes, so dark now they were nearly black. My body went stiff as I looked at them, frozen in their trance. Her crooked hand grabbed me with a deathly cold grip and settled the wrench piece of the tool upon my arm.

With a quick flick of her wrist, the tool snapped my arm in half, allowing the blood to spurt around me and the bone to stick out, glowing pale in the darkness of the tower. The pain was unlike any other, it completely overtook all my senses and broke my stare with her lifeless eyes. It was like a stampede of buffalo trampling my entire arm, jabbing their sharp hooves in the same spot over and over. I began to writhe and pound at her back, kicking and screeching fruitlessly. Mariyah wiped a spatter of blood off her face gently, then delicately picked a few pieces of the metal and eased them towards my lifeless arm.

“Someone has to work these gears.”

Now, it’s just darkness. And pain. So much pain. This body isn’t mine anymore, it doesn’t feel the same. I’ve been distorted, changed, no longer fully human, and it hurts, it hurts so badly. My mind is set to only one thing: push. work. Turn the gears.

I hear her now, she’s coming for me.

I can’t believe I didn’t see it earlier. The tower, it was lined with plans. Blue prints. How did I miss it? How was I so ignorant? I ask myself every minute: were all those signs not enough? But it’s too late to care. Just work the gears. Don’t scream. Whatever you do, don’t show your pain.

Someone’s got to do it.

Someone’s got to work the clock.

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March 13, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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Orange light flickered and danced in the center of my vision. The dying heat barely reached me now, but there was no going back out there for more fuel at this point. At least it had stopped snowing. I had always been told not to stare into the fire at night. Keep that night vision sharp. But for some reason, I could help it. Like I needed to make sure it was still there.

The wide-floored canyon, covered in fresh snow, stretched out around me. The only shelter was the large rock in whose shadow I had hastily built the fire. The canyon stretched out into the darkness on opposite ends. One slope was simply a rock face – millennia of erosion had created an almost vertical wall of great sandstone boulders stretching up over a hundred feet. The other slope was a steep hillside, covered in dense trees. Not a bit of the firelight penetrated past the first few trees, and what little light there was created dancing, fading shadows upon the great Ponderosa pines. The new moon didn’t give an ounce of light, but at least with the stars, I could make out the faint shapes on either side of the valley. Atop the rock face opposite the treeline, a lone, gnarled tree trunk, long dead, silhouetted itself upon the ridgeline against the cloudless sky.

The fingers of my left hand were still numb, but at least they had stopped hurting. I had spent too long out there after I had lost the glove, and I knew frostbite had to be setting in at this point. There was no way I was going to stumble through the dark looking for it when I already had a fire going. And the inevitable cracking of branches would give my position away for miles around.

Once more, I checked my rifle. That clunky, wooden piece of shit was like a safety blanket now. Not that I expected to be able to face what was out there with it. But having it close, working the bolt, checking the sight picture, all gave me some comfort. That, combined with the soothing warmth of the fire, kept my panic from boiling over. Breathe. Deep breaths. In… out. Can’t be more than a few hours til dawn. It can’t be. My thoughts, the rifle, the fire. I needed to focus and relax.

Again, I checked the sight picture. Heaved the ancient piece of crap up and pointed at the canyon ridgeline, centering the sights on the silhouette of that lone tree poking up from between the rocks. Still trembled. The front sight danced and swayed, refusing to let me hold it steady on the trunk. Damn this hand. Even if I thought I could harm it, there was no way I could shoot straight.

Something crackled in the treeline behind me and I whirled around. My breath caught in my throat and my skin turned to goosebumps. Something had just moved, God dammit! I struggled to steady my aim at the movement, but the thing had retreated. Leaves and snow crunched and branches snapped as it loped back into the darkness of the treeline. By the sound of it, its strides must have been 6 feet apart. The thing’s legs weren’t that long, were they? Couldn’t have been.

Another rustling. Something flew out of the trees at head height and arced towards me. The firelight illuminated a black shape flying through the air before it came to rest with a wet thud a dozen yards away.

I shuddered. My heart felt like it was about to give out, and despite the heavy coat and the heat of the flames, I felt a chill. I stood, stock still, for what must have been almost half an hour, scanning my surroundings. I felt frozen to the spot. The thing it had thrown was still a dim shape lying atop the snow just out of sight. I decided I had the time to see what it was. It wasn’t that fast, right? No way it could make it from the darkness of the treeline out to meet me before I made it back. I took a few deep breaths, gave one last look around, and steadied myself. Breathe in. Out. I made a break for it.

I dropped my rifle and made a mad dash for the dim shape. As I grasped it in my ungloved left hand, a freezing chill washed over my palm. It was soaking wet. It was a wonder it hadn’t frozen solid already. I sprinted back to the safety of the rock and the fire, scanned the perimeter once more, then examined the thing.

It was my glove. Torn nearly in half and soaked with a viscous, dark fluid. Wasn’t water. Didn’t think it was blood either. Either way, it should have frozen out there. Had to be 15 below freezing at this point. But the dark fluid sloshed over my hand. I threw it back. Useless now. I could picture the thing grinning at its little joke. Bastard. I turned back to my rifle.

There was nothing there. A long indentation of the snow. Nothing more. I had dropped it not ten feet from the fire and I had been out there retrieving the glove for 15 seconds max. It was just gone. No footsteps in the snow other than my own. No noises. God fucking dammit.

I whirled around wildly, scanning my surroundings, as the frantic beating of my heart filled my eardrums. My rapid breaths fogged in the air instantly. The pines were still. No wind stirred their branches. Opposite them, the rock face was silent, its two lone dead trees still watching over me. Both ends of the canyon stretched into blank darkness. I calmed, just barely, and looked over my meager campsite. A tall rock on my left, with the dying fire in front of me, and my pack to the right of the fire.

Except it wasn’t to the right. It was opposite me, across the fire, almost out of its soft glow. I hadn’t left it there. No way I could have. I hadn’t even been on that side of the fire since I had made it back. Maybe I went a little off course when I was running through the trees, came at my camp from a different angle? No. No, I had come out facing the cliff face dead on, and my pack was on the right, where I knew I left it.

Suddenly, my dwindling sense of safety snapped. The warmth of the fire didn’t reach past my skin. My heart froze, eyes wide. I wasn’t safe. I wasn’t safe anywhere. Needed to… to what? The logging road I had been dropped off at was at least 3 miles away, and uphill. And there was no way I’d just happen to run into a passing car at what had to be 4 in the morning, even if I did make it to the road. The sun was coming up soon, right? It had to be. Had to. Just had to hold out a little longer.

The orange glow died. I spun around, already shaking. Nothing but embers.

I whimpered. This was it. No chance now. And so God damned cold. I stopped, sat down, and curled up on the cold hard ground. Maybe its vision was based on motion. If I laid still, it might not even see me. Or maybe it saw infrared. Just had to let myself cool down… Should be easy. Just let the biting cold do its work. Odd… I was feeling warmer already. My breath slowed. My heart was still. I could just sleep. Sleep and I would wake up in the bright daylight and laugh at myself. I felt a the chill finally leave my body. It was replaced by a pleasant numbness, then, gradually, warmth. I still shivered, almost uncontrollably, but that was alright. It was all going to be all right. Relaxed, I opened my eyes once more before I drifted off, staring upwards at the night sky. Odd. I could have sworn there was a dead tree trunk atop that ridgeline.

Credit To – Sam Harper

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My Last Camping Trip

March 12, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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NOTE: This pasta was submitted in dual forms: text and video. I’ve embedded the video below – if it’s not displaying for you, please click the link below the embed space to visit the video’s page on YouTube.

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My Last Camping Trip

One day in September of 1983 we decided to go on a patrol camping trip so that we’d get some prizes at the end of the year. Our scout troop owned a campsite up on top of a big, rocky hill. It was just our rotten luck that when we agreed to meet to start the campout, there had been a steady rain going on all day that didn’t look like it was going to stop for hours. But our parents were all either going away for the weekend or thought rain was no reason to cancel a camping trip. Anyway, it was just barely going to be warm enough for this to be our last chance to have a patrol campout that year.

There were four of us trudging up one of the thin paths on the hill with our limited gear under dismal green ponchos: Me, Eric, Tony, and Sam in that order. We were miserable and irritable except for Tony.

We had reached a point where we enjoyed hurting Tony. Tony was one of those kids that get put into Boy Scouts of America only because they have a parent that wants free babysitting. I imagine most of the time his mom mostly talked to him by yelling at him, and the only way he knew to relate to the rest of us was to annoy us. He was also the youngest guy in my patrol and the shortest so it was fairly easy for us to bully him, especially when we thought he was doing his best to bring it on himself. I think Tony was delighted that the rest of the patrol was already on edge so it would be easier for him to get a rise out of us. At that moment he had decided to focus on Eric.

Eric was a real goody-goody most of the time. He was a pretty good athlete and an A student. I’m pretty sure that at fifteen he’d never had sex, a puff of anything, or any booze. But he loved beating on Tony as much as the rest of us did. That seemed to be his only vice, and frankly, it kept the guy from creeping me out by being too perfect. He’d certainly looked ready to give someone a beating when I glanced back at him during that little hike.

Hey, Eric!” Tony said. I glanced back over my shoulder. Tony had run up next to Eric like a puppy dog cause he knew otherwise Eric would ignore him. There was barely room on the path for him to do that if he turned himself sideways.

“What?” Eric said.

“I can read your mind!” Sometimes Tony would be weird or still like a little kid when he pestered us.

“Okay.” Eric said. I looked forward again.

“Think of a number! I can guess it!” Tony was pitching his voice up.

“Okay.” Eric said.

“It’s thirty!” Tony told him.


“You’re just saying that. Really I was right. Wasn’t I? Huh, wasn’t I?” From the sound of ponchos rustling, I assume that Tony began to push against Eric. He would do that for minutes on end if you’d let him. Sometimes he might even start humping your leg if you were another scout.

“Get away from me!” Eric said. I didn’t see it, but it was obvious even before I turned round what had happened. Eric thoughtlessly pushed Tony away, just wanting the little creep off him. As narrow and slippery as the trail was, he had pushed Tony off it. Tony screamed as he went down the very steep portion of hill, almost catching several trees before having his legs tripped out from under him by a stump. The stump was unfortunately only a little uphill from a large sandstone rock. Tony went into it headfirst with a sound of a loud “crack!” I stared at him for half a minute or so then, and he didn’t so much as twitch from what I could see.

“On my god.” Sam said after a long silence, which seemed to snap the rest of us out of it.

“Let’s go help him.”

“Yeah.” I said. Back then, this meant running down there to carry him to the nearest house out of the park since cell phones for kids were still decades off. I tried to start down the trail but Eric was still standing in the way. He turned to me.

“We’ve gotta tell people what happened right,” Sam stopped and looked over at us. Eric looked down at him. “We need to tell everyone that he slipped and fell, got it?”

“We’ve got to help Tony!” Sam shouted.

“And we will!” Eric said. “But first, we need to be clear that we’re going to tell everyone that he fell, right? You got me, that’s what we tell everyone?”

“I don’t know,” I said, “I didn’t see it happen.” Eric looked and me, and nodded. That seemed good enough for him. Then he looked back at Sam.

“You pushed him. We have to help him,” Sam said in bewilderment. Sam had never been the cleverest guy in the patrol, but I would have thought he’d have the sense to play along under the circumstances.

“We will!” Eric responded. “But first, I need you to say that you’ll tell everyone that he slipped and he fell!” I nodded desperately at Sam, gesturing for him to tell Eric what he needed to hear so that we could get down there to try to help Tony.

“No,” Sam said. Eric stared at him.

“Alright,” Eric said. “Let’s go.” We walked quickly, not about to run for fear of slipping and falling like Tony just had.

“It wouldn’t have done you much good anyway.” Sam said after a little while, apparently trying to help Eric feel better. “Tony still would have told everyone you tried to kill him no matter what.”

“Yeah, but that’s Tony. Who’d have cared if the rest of us had our story straight?” Eric answered, his voice flat. He seemed to speed up from behind Sam.

“Which way do you think would be the fastest to- HEY!” Eric grabbed Sam. Sam yelled as Eric dragged him to the edge of the path.

“Say it!” Eric shrieked. “Say that you’ll tell everyone that he slipped!” Eric sounded more scared than he did intimidating as he held Sam at the edge of the path, seemingly ready to let him fall.

“Fuck you!” Sam yelled and he began to flail. He hurt Eric more than I would have expected, judging by how Eric grunted. Maybe it was pure adrenaline, but Sam got free somehow and began pushing him to the other side of the trail, right into a cliff.

“Jesus Christ, stop fighting!” I yelled at them. I might as well have been speaking Chinese. I took a few steps closer and saw there was murder in both their eyes, so I stepped back. Sam got his hand on Eric’s chin and pushed his head into the rocks behind him as hard as he could. Eric was really trembling then, like an old man with Parkinson’s. It was as if he was experiencing a panic attack in the middle of a fight. Even so he wasn’t going to just take Sam’s beating. He grabbed Sam again and kind of picked him up like Sam was a tackling dummy and then charged forward blindly, Sam’s poncho over his face. He misjudged the distance to the edge of the path and both Sam and he went rolling down the hill. They struck trees with sickening noises as they fell to a level area.

They were much more fortunate than Tony. I could see their movements and hear them screaming when they stopped falling down the hill. But neither of them even tried to get up.

I walked as quickly as I safely could down the trail and then looped back round to where Sam and Eric were. Both were yelling for my help at first, but as I proceeded down the trail, Eric abruptly went quiet.

“My leg’s broken!” Sam told me as soon as he saw me arrive where they’d fallen. “The bone’s sticking out!” It was true. His poncho had folded up and I saw the bulge in his lower left pant leg beneath the knee. Blood had soaked through his pants with the rainwater.

“Hey,” Eric said flatly. His lack of emotion made me look over at him as Sam screamed at both of us. “I think I hurt my spine. I can’t move my legs. I can’t feel them.” From what I could see of how his body was twisted, that might well have been possible. I didn’t know then how Eric could be so emotionless about it, but in hindsight of course he was in shock if not in psychological denial.

“Alright, guys, I’ll go do what I can for Tony, and then I’ll get help for everyone.” I said. Sam screamed at me that that was the wrong thing to do, that I should leave the park to get help immediately. For all my first aid training, I didn’t know if either of us were right. I thought maybe there was something I could do with the first aid kit for Tony, whose injury had seemed the most severe. Maybe Tony had vomited and I had to clear his breathing passage. I had to check on him. I tried to reassure them before leaving. Sam swore at my back as I ran over to Tony while Eric remained quiet.

I ran to where I’d seen Tony’s head hit the rock. I had walked by it on hikes and camping trips numerous times and knew the rocks and trees. I’d seen the rock that Tony had hit his head on numerous times and knew when I’d reached it. When I did, I froze for what felt like minutes.

Tony was gone.

There was no sign he’d been there except for some blood had pooled by the rock where he’d struck his head. It was still wet and red on the sandstone. I looked around and called for him. I ran a short distance each way around the rock. I didn’t see a sign of him. Not a footprint in mud, a drop of blood. Anything.

I something else as I searched. Sounds seemed to be fading away. I could hardly hear the rain around me. I couldn’t even hear my footsteps in the shallow puddles on the ground. I couldn’t even hear Sam although I had been seconds before. My own voice seemed muffled to my ears. I had been afraid before, but I’d never known the sound to fade away like that.

I began to feel something. Not the feeling you get when you’re being watched, but the one you get when someone you fear is standing right over you. I turned, and there was no one there, of course. The feeling didn’t let up. It seemed to grow stronger and stronger. There was nothing to hear, not even my own breathing or the beat of my heart.

I ran back to where I’d left the other two scouts, as fast as I’ve ever run towards anything. Slowly I could hear again that Sam was still screaming in pain and cursing out Eric. Eric barely moved his head to look at me when I arrived. Sam went quiet after I told them of Tony’s disappearance.

“How?” was all Sam could think to say. I felt that sensation again of a presence all around me again. It was faint but noticeable.

“I don’t know. Sam, how are your arms? Can I carry you out of here pack strap style?” I had two years and eighteen inches of height on Sam, so I knew I could carry him out. Sam said I would. Whatever presence I was feeling, he seemed aware of it too through his pain and he didn’t need to be sold on being taken out of the park, painful though it would surely be. I got out my first aid kit quickly, left my pack on the ground, and hastily made him a splint. He screamed as I lifted him up on my back.

“Wait! What about me?!” Eric asked, some emotion back in his voice. I glanced over at him. His eyes were wide, and his skin was becoming pale.

“I can only carry one person. We’ll get you help as fast as we can.”

“But, what if whatever made Tony disappear…” Looking back on Eric, I find it hard to fault him now. He was just a kid. He’d made a mistake, meaning only a little if any harm. The a smaller amount of harm that we’d all inflicted on Tony time and again. Then he’d seen all his life, all his accomplishments, his future, all about to be tarnished because of what he’d accidentally done to someone we all mostly thought of as dirt. He overreacted like probably many of us would back when we had little life experience and perspective of a guy in his lower teens. But at the time, I just glared at him for a second as he lay twisted and helpless on the ground, reaching up to me.

“Maybe you deserve it,” I told him. I turned my back on him and began carrying Sam out of the park.

“Hey! I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to hurt Tony! I wasn’t going to drop Sam! I was bluffing! I’m sorry! I’ll do anything you want if you get me out of here! I’ll give you everything! Please! Don’t leave me alone! What was that!? There’s, there’s something out here! Come back! Please! I swear that I’ll do anything! Please! Pleeeaase! Come back!” His voice faded quickly, and the sound of rain and Sam’s pain resumed. As I walked, the feeling of that presence faded as well.

I had almost a mile to go in the rain before there would be a house with a phone, and Sam was moaning and wincing practically with every step. I made slow, frustrating progress for a few hundred yards before I slipped and landed heavily on my left knee. Sam screeched in my ear after his upper chest his my shoulder.

“I think I broke a rib back there! You can’t carry me like this!” I didn’t know how he could have broken a rib and only started to feel it now but I wasn’t about to argue. As carefully as I could in my anxiety, I placed him on the ground in a sitting position and switched the carrying style to firefighter carrying style so that he was mostly over my shoulder.

“Is that better?” I asked him when I’d hoisted him back up. He had winced again as I held him up.

“It still hurts, but it’s better.” We rounded a curve on the trail and were approaching a fairly gentle slope where the parking lot was situated. I thought of it then as the end of the park. Sam had begun to feel easier to carry, so I felt then I’d be able to make it out of this forest.

I remember that since I’d been in the park many times before, and even with another scout on my back being carried like this who was constantly voicing his pain, things were coming back to normal. Whatever feeling I’d experienced over where I had thought Tony disappeared was going away. Things began to feel so normal that the idea Tony had just gotten up and walked away and emergency services would soon find him was believable. I guess what I felt then was that all I had to do was carry Sam and then it would be up to the adults to take care of all this.

“Oh Jesus,” Sam suddenly said quietly. “Run. Run! Run! Fucking Run!” Before I could ask or turn to see what I was to run from, he struck me as hard as he could on the side. He did this again and again, even after I started running. It was difficult to run even a few steps with such a heavy, awkward weight. It became easier when I noticed something that was already too familiar: Sam’s voice became quieter even as he thrashed and screeched more shrilly on my back. He might have said what it was or described anything about it, but within seconds he was as muted as my silent steps in the puddles on the pathway.

I reached the bottom of the incline. Sam was convulsing then, which I felt was a sign that whatever I was trying to flee was getting closer. He was still hitting me in the side, but it was weaker and more erratically.

The path up the hill was full of loose rocks and gravel. In weather like this it was impossible to keep a solid foothold, but by some miracle I was able to run up it and maintain a hold on him even as he practically seemed to be trying to break free and I was trembling. I remember thinking that I faintly heard something then, something like a splash. That had to be a good sign.

Halfway up the hill I felt a horrible sensation in my feet. They were going numb. I remember not understanding why, and even with all the momentum I had built up, my feet landed awkwardly, like I’d slipped on ice but still landed on my feet. I barely had time to feel pain in my ankles because they went numb as well. I was barely able to stumble forward before the numbness climbed up to my knees. My legs were useless then. I fell forward practically face first.

Sam got free even with his fractures, flipped over, and crawled up the hill. I tried myself. I could feel the numbness had reached my ribcage by then, but dragged myself across the rocks. I remember perfectly the sight of Sam dragging himself too while twitching and trembling as he crawled.

A force hit the back of my head that felt like a construction beam dropped from a crane. My face went into the ground, rocks stabbing into my cheeks hard enough to break the skin and I seemed to lose all fight and flight instinct. I just lay there like a breathing corpse. Even if I hadn’t been numb I didn’t have any energy, any hope, any understanding of what was happening to me. I didn’t even have the courage to lift my hood up and see what was happening around me.

I don’t know how long I lay there. The numbness left me, but I still didn’t lift my hood. So little light was coming in under my hood that night might have fallen and I wouldn’t have been able to tell. A long time later, the rain stopped. A longer time after that, I began to hear again. I heard birds tweeting, cars driving by from what sounded like miles away. I didn’t move.

After a long time of only hearing the sounds of nature, I heard footsteps approaching me. They stopped suddenly, and then clearly changed to those of someone running up to me.

“Are you alright?” An old man whose name I don’t remember said as he leaned over and pulled my hood back. I looked up at him, rocks still stabbed into my face. He winced as he saw it. “Christ, kid. What happened to you?”

“I don’t know,” I said.

I still don’t know. I don’t want to. I know that Eric, Tony, and Sam were never found, nor was any trace of anything that might have made them disappear. I learned even that reluctantly. Look for answers? Hell, I don’t even go near forests any longer.

Staying away from forests isn’t enough. I have developed a need for sound. Always. After a minute without the hearing something, I feel anxious. Sleeping without it is impossible. If whatever got my fellow scouts comes for me, I want as much warning as I can get.

That brings me to the reason I’m sharing this: Lately, even with music at full volume and me screaming my lungs out, I’ve been experiencing minutes of silence. At home, at work, out driving, when I’ve gone on visits, I’ve been experiencing it.

It’s been many years since the the end of my last camping trip, but it seems like I’m about to feel that presence again. When it wants, I believe it will make me experience a silence that will never end.

Credit To – Dustin Koski

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The Caul

March 11, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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Content warning: this pasta contains some gore.

He was born with a caul. That was all we knew, and that was all we needed to know. It was a hideous deformity, an extra layer of skin that covered at birth his face at birth and marked him for what he was. I never even learned his name, and I am not sure he had one. He was simply the boy with the caul.

In some places it was seen as a sign of good luck. People would say it predestined wealth, or ensured long life. Old cowls were sold to sailors to protect from downing. They were a blessing, outsiders would say.

But we knew better.

It was the sign of the devil. It was a sign of a creature so hideous, God himself would cover his face. His eyes would be sharp and mesmerizing, they would draw you in like magnets and hypnotize you. They would peer into your soul to see your secrets and possess you. His speech would be luring and tantalizing, it would demand your attention then bend words to trick and control you. His mind was clever, not with the wisdom of man but with the cunning of a fox, designed to outwit and trap you. A thousand times people like him had come into the world, and a thousand times they had used these traits to kill and destroy the lives of innocent people. And for these reasons our God had chosen to hide him from us, and mark him as evil.

When he was born they said he should be killed. The Pastor demanded it, calling the town to arms to take him into the forest and bury him alive. This, he said, was the only way to ensure he’d be taken back to Hell. Many agreed, and surrounded his parent’s house. They lit torches and shouted for the child, demanding he be handed over. They chanted and chanted, calling for his blood. They would not allow such a creature into their village, and would kill anyone who tried to get in their way. If need be, they would burn down the house with him inside then bury the ashes. The mother cried and cried, but knew it was what was best. They all did, and accepted that it must happen. The boy had to die.

For me the story began on a hot Sunday in August. Church had just ended, and most of the families had gathered for a small festival in the center of the village. The several dozen houses and buildings in the town formed a circle around a large field, separating the forest from where we were standing. The Church with its high steeple stood at one end, and the only road in or out was directly opposite of it. Along the road were the farms and lumber mills where the people nearby made their living.

The day in question was an annual celebration. Its date wasn’t set in stone, it just needed good weather and was always on a Sunday when strawberries would be fresh. Piles and piles of them were brought into the central field and shared among anyone who came by.

I was eleven at the time, and was eager to celebrate. I dressed in my best, a brown coat and matching pants, and was lead around by my mother’s hand. I already had a bag full of the berries attached to my belt, and I ate them slowly with my free hand. The red juice dripping down my face and hands, as we walked through the gathered crowds. I suppose there weren’t really that many people there, but to me it seemed like a huge event. I thought anyone who was anyone would be there.

However, when I was there I noticed something I hadn’t noticed before. By chance I had glanced toward a house at the edge of the village. It was a house I knew well, but had never gone in. It was the only one outside the circle, standing at the very edge of the forest and half consumed by it. Many times at night I had heard cries and moans coming from it, sounds that every child heard but every adult seemed to deny existed. I had never seen anyone enter or leave it in the eleven years I was alive.

Today was different. I looked at the highest window of the house. It was shuttered, but a crack in the shutter let me see into it. There I saw seen a face I had never seen before. It seemed to be the same age as me, with a thin face but thick, dark brown hair. It stared wishfully toward the celebration, a look of sadness and desire that comes from seeing something you desperately want but will never have.

I tugged on my mother’s hand. She was a pretty woman, with light brown hair, blue eyes and a face that was used to smiling.

“Momma,” I asked “who is that boy?”

She looked at me with a smile. “Who do you mean, John?”

“The young boy in that window over there.” I pointed towards the window I had seen him.

A look of dread came into my mother’s eyes, and she went pale. “That was… that was no one. Don’t ask about it.”

“But there was someone there! See…” I looked back, but the window was empty. “Well there was someone.”

“Well even if there is he’s gone. Forget about it.”

“But I was sure I…”

“No,” she said sternly. “No more of this. I don’t want to hear any more!” By the end she was almost shouting, and people had turned to look. Embarrassed, she took my by the hand and led my back to our house. I protested, wanting to get back to the party and not understanding what I had done wrong, but she dragged me into my room.

My father was right behind her. He was perhaps the largest man in the village, and was broad shouldered and muscular. His look of anger was enough to terrify anyone, especially me. He grabbed me by the shoulder and pointed a finger at my face. “Look boy,” he said “you better forget what you think you saw. Whether there was something there or not there was no person there. Get it out of your head.” He left and shut the door behind himself.

But I couldn’t get the face out of my mind. It was burned into it, etched into my thoughts. Every time I closed my eyes I saw his. My parents both told me there was nothing there, and ordered me to stay away. Sometimes I wish I had listened, or even could have listened. But I knew I had seen something. I wanted, needed to know what it was I was willing to do anything to see it.

That night I paced back and forth in my room. I had tried to sleep, but couldn’t get it out of my mind. The thought was possessing me, luring me toward the window and the boy who may or may not have been inside.

I made up my mind. Though I consciously decided against it, my unconscious mind that demanded I go, and after hours of fighting it I relented.

I opened the door to my room and stuck my head out, listening. I didn’t hear any movement, and assumed my parents were both asleep. I snuck out of the room, down the stairs and out the front door.

Once I was out I was running. It was dangerous to be out at night, especially near the forest. Wild animals filled it and could attack you at any moment, tear you to pieces and consume you before anyone could come to help. There were even rumours of things worse than animals, things that God could not look at, and we all knew to stay away. However, tonight I had to go through.

I ran outside the circle of houses and towards the edge of the forest. My heart raced faster and faster as I ran, warning me of the danger I could be in. The shadows of the trees blocked the moonlight, leaving me in near pitch darkness. The branches reached towards me like claws, waiting for any slip or trip to grab a hold of me and pull me inside. Every sound and movement seemed like a creature waiting for a chance to pounce on me.

I ran and ran, and finally reached the house. I looked up at it. There, at the top of the house, was the shuttered window. I knew I needed to find a way inside.

I looked around me. One of the branches of the nearest tree came very close to the window. I ran to the trunk and climbed it. I climbed along the branch and peered through the crack of the shutter. Inside it was pitch black. I tried the latch on the window. The metal on the latch was bent into place and wouldn’t budge, and the hinges were worn and rusted. I climbed down the tree again, grabbed a rock, and climbed back up.

Everything I knew warned against it. I had seen the fear in my mother’s face, and the anger in my father’s at the suggestion I may come here. Even the room itself seemed to scream danger. The darkness inside could conceal anything, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to see what it hid. My parents insisted I hadn’t seen another human, and I didn’t want to know what that implied.

However, I had seen something, and had to know what it truly was. I rammed the stone against the latch, bending it slightly back to how it should be. I rammed it again and again, until it was strait and I could open it. I did so, and yanked at the shutters, only to find they were tied with rope as well. I tore at the string, breaking it piece by piece until it fell down toward the ground. I paused a moment. It was clear that someone didn’t want the shutters open. They must truly have feared whatever was inside. I sat in the tree, shaking with fear for what seemed like an eternity. Every ounce of reason I had warned me against what I was doing, but the desire to see was overwhelming. While my dread pushed me away, the face and my curiosity of it drew me in. I looked back through the forest. The idea of going back was almost as terrifying as going forward. In the end, I simply couldn’t resist it. I pulled at the shutters, causing them to squeak and moan. I looked in.

The blackness inside was impenetrable. The only illumination was a small square of moonlight which came from the window, partially blocked by my own head. The rest of the room was impossible to see. With a gulp of fear, I stepped in.

Instantly I regretted the decision. I stumbled and feel as I stepped, my face landing on wooden floor boards covered in dust. The panic inside me rose dramatically, and I tried to gain my feet but tripped over an unseen object in the darkness. I hit my head against a wall, and remained on the floor for a moment, dizzy.

I became aware of another being inside the room. I could not see it, and had no idea what it was. At first there was only the indescribable sense of something being there, and the knowledge that it was watching me. Though I couldn’t identify it, I feared it, and everything inside me told it was dangerous. I didn’t know what, but there was something wrong with it.

I heard footsteps, light ones which were difficult to hear and impossible to place. My breath caught, and I looked around in the darkness, trying to find out where the footsteps where coming from. However, there was no sign of who, or what, made them. I was left immobile from fear.
“You shouldn’t have come here” a voice said. It was deep and low, with a hard edge that conveyed hate despite being little more than a whisper.

Instantly I scrambled toward the window of light. However, I heard the tell-tale creak of the rusted shutters. As I reached toward it in vain, the light was cut off from me, and I heard the latch go into place. I was left in complete darkness.

I squeezed my eyes shut, praying for something to save me. I begged for forgiveness for my sins, and desperately wished it was a dream. However, I knew nothing would come to save me from my mistakes.

A light flashed in front of me. For a second it was blinding, and my eyes stung from trying to look at it. Slowly it settled into the light of a single candle.

The light focused on the outline of a body holding a club, raised high in the air above me. The face was the one I had seen earlier, and it snarled at me. I cowered, holding my hands up and looking away.

“Please don’t hurt me!” I said “I only came to see who you were!”

“LIAR!” he said. “This is another trick! What were you planning to do while I slept? What would have happened if I didn’t get you first?”

“Nothing! I… I swear!”

“No! You’re a thief and a murderer! You were here for me, but I’ll get you first!” He kicked at my stomach, and I groaned from the impact.

“No, please! I swear I’m not! I’m a friend!” I cried desperately.

I lay still, waiting for the club to come down. I briefly wondered if I would even feel it, or if it would crack my skull on the first blow. I whimpered, wishing I hadn’t come.

But the club never came. I looked up to see him still standing above me holding the club, but he looked confused.

“Friend?” he asked. “Why?”

“I…. I don’t know. I just saw you earlier and wondered who you were.” I replied.

He lowered the club slightly, but still held onto it. As my eyes grew accustomed to the light I saw that it was really the broken leg of a chair. The object I had tripped over was the edge of a cot which was on the floor.

“How do I know this isn’t some kind of trick?” He asked.

“Why would I trick you?” I had suddenly remembered the bag of strawberries that was still at my belt. I took one out and handed it to him. “Here! Have a strawberry” I said.

He reached for it and looked at it curiously. Suddenly he snarled again. “Liar! This is a trick again!” He threw the strawberry at me, and raised the club.

“No! I swear! Here look.” I took one out of the bag and began eating it, then handed him another.
He looked at it for a moment, then took a tentative bite. His eyes went wide, and he said “It’s good!”

I nodded, and he kept eating. For a moment I saw the same look of sad wish fullness I had seen earlier, of longing for something beyond his reach.

We were interrupted by the opening of the door. A grey haired and old but still hard looking man stood in the doorway. He glared at us and pointed his finger toward the boy.

“YOU! What are you doing?” he started to walk towards us.

The other boy, clearly frightened, through away the club and the strawberry and tried to stammer a response. “I… I don’t kn-know! He j-j-just came in! I don’t know who he is!”

The man ignored his words and picked him up roughly by the shoulder.

“You stay right here. We are going to have some words with your little visitor.” With that, he grabbed me by the shoulder and pulled me out the door. I tried to protest, but stopped when I saw my father standing behind him. My father took me to another room as the man walked back into the boy’s. I heard more of the moans and cries I had heard before. He returned a minute later.
“What’s going on? I just wanted to talk to him!” I said.

“That’s not the sort of boy you should be talking to,” he said, sounding as much genuinely concerned as angry.

I looked around the room. The old and frail Pastor was there, as was my mother and a blond woman I had seen before but didn’t know.

“Who is he?” I asked.

“He’s… he’s my son,” the grey haired man said, sounding guilty.

“Yes he is! He is my baby boy and yours too!” the blond woman said, on the verge of tears. “And you should remember it! He doesn’t deserve this!”

“I do remember it! God I think about it every day! But there is nothing I can do about it, is there!?” the man replied in a hurt voice.

“Now now, calm down,” the Pastor said “There is no need to be upset, or to blame yourself. It could have happened to anyone, and you have done your best.” He put a hand on the man’s shoulder, calming him. “And ma’am, you know it is for the best in the end. It may be hard, but you have to be strong.” He repeated the gesture on the woman’s shoulder, and it seemed to have the same effect.

“Now, we have another problem. Little Johnny here decided to meet the… other boy… and caused a bit of mischief.”

“Yes, and after I distinctly told him not to,” my father said angrily. “Didn’t you know how dangerous that was? You’re lucky you didn’t get hurt!”

The grey haired man reacted as if he was visibly struck at the mention of my being hurt. “You could have been, and it just isn’t right that you would be. I’ve done everything I can to makes sure nothing would…”

The Pastor interrupted him. “Alright, its fine. We know you work hard to avoid this scenario, and nothing bad came of it.”

I was getting more and less patient. “Alright, I won’t do it again, but who is he!?”

They all looked at me, then exchanged glances. Then the Pastor spoke. “When he was born, he had a caul. That is an extra flap of skin that covers the face like a mask. Do you know what that means?”
“Yes, I do” I replied in quiet voice. I had heard the stories of what people who were born with cowls could do. “What happened?”

The Pastor continued. “Well…”

After he was born, the families had gathered to destroy him. It wasn’t something they wanted to do, but they knew it had to be done.

However, they were stopped. The child’s mother, a woman named Margaret, pleaded with her husband Tom to spare him. She knew of the legends, but could not bear to part with her son. She claimed they could keep him apart from others to contain his demented nature. She pleaded and pleaded.

And he relented.

Though he knew it would have been for the greater good, he was convinced by his wife. He gave in, and told the Pastor and gathered crowed of his decision. They agreed, on one condition. The parents must watch and control his every move. They could not forget, even for a second, what he truly was. Even acts of kindness and sweetness may only be to deceive them, and he should be met with coldness and harsh discipline. Only in this way could they ensure his true side doesn’t break out. If they fail, they would be to blame for what happens.

They agreed, and the child was allowed to live.

However, his life wouldn’t be much like any other.

It was fairly clear why I had never seen him before. He was kept apart from other children, both because of his own parents hiding him and other parents not wanting their children near him. He was never allowed to attend school, there is no telling what he would do with knowledge anyway, he was banned from Church and didn’t attend any village celebrations. When it came to work, he always worked alone. He wasn’t trusted with an axe for wood or a rifle for hunting, but he could carry heavy objects or smash boulders with a large double handed hammer when digging fields or basements. Other children were either told to avoid him or never saw him at all. When they did see him, they never allowed him to join their games, and would either ignore him completely or taunt him until he left.

Most of his life was spent in the top floor of the house he lived in. The windows were always shut and locked, and the door to his room could be locked from the outside. When he was allowed out, he was constantly watched by his father and others generally avoided him. It was by mutual consent his family moved to the outskirts of town. The parents rarely came out, as they knew they would be blamed for anything that happened if they didn’t watch him. Margaret became constantly depressed, wanting to comfort her son but knowing she couldn’t, and Tom seemed to blame himself, so they didn’t want to leave much anyway.

Discipline for him was always harsh. His parents knew that anything he said may be a trick, and behind his every action was ill will. His father kept a stick near his door at all times to use if he got too out of hand.

The Pastor was another main influence on his life. Though he took no pleasure in causing the boy harm, he saw it as his duty to keep his evil away from others. He often took part in his discipline, or came to pray over him.

After the first encounter, my father too began to see him more. He would volunteer to watch him while he worked, and would get angry at any sign of disobedience. Like the boy’s father, he carried a stick when he was near him, but it was much thicker. When I questioned him about it, he only explained that he would do what needed to be done to protect his family, and he thought he could do that by controlling the boy.

I saw him a few times after that year. I watched him on occasion, and always from a distance. Over the years he became muscular and strong, used to hard work and not much else. Every time I saw him I would pay attention to his face. We were warned against it and most people avoided looking right at him, as he may try to control or deceive you. However, I needed to see his expression. People would pass by him, glancing with nervousness or anger at him. Conversations would stop within his earshot. Every time this happened he would look hurt for a moment, then his pain would become anger, and he would glare back at them. This would confirm for whoever passed that they were right to hate him, and they would continue on.

Over time I saw his looks of anger get worse and worse, harder and harder. The hurt looks all but disappeared, and were replaced with a constant glare that he turned on anyone and everything that he saw. I saw more hate in his eyes then I had seen in every other person I ever met. By the time I was fifteen, I was sure there was nothing else inside of him.

It was that summer when I was fifteen that the worst part came. It was the anniversary of when I had first seen him, and once again we were having the celebration with strawberries.

At first the party was going well, just like any other year. The sun was warm, and people were happy.

However, I began to sense a strange feeling of unease among the people there. I saw more and more upset faces, and people glancing around each other nervously.

It took me a while to find the source of the discomfort. Walking among the crowd was a stranger. Despite the heat, he wore a long coat and had its collar turned up and a hat with a wide brim that he turned down over his eyes. The result was that it was impossible to make out his face.
People watched him suspiciously, muttering to themselves. He walked around without speaking or looking directly at anyone there. Eventually it became clear he realized people were nervous about him. His stride became awkward and unconfident, his shoulders slumped, and he kept his head down. This only made people more nervous, and a wide circle formed around him.

Finally, a black haired man I recognized as a farmer named Rick approached him.

“Excuse me, but who in the hell are you?” Rick asked.

The stranger stopped walking and began shaking, but didn’t respond.

“I said, who are you? And why the hell are you wearing that get up?” Rick asked again, more angrily.

The stranger still didn’t respond, and began to back away slowly.

“Answer me!” Rick shouted, and grabbed the stranger’s hat.

There was a gasp in the crowed as his face became clear. It was the boy, and most of the crowd recognized him. They began murmuring and backing away from him.

“YOU!” a loud, angry voice said. It was my father, and he was approaching quickly. “What they hell are you doing here?”

“I just wanted… I just wanted…” the boy’s explanation was interrupted by a loud SMACK as my father’s fist slammed into his jaw. The crowd gasped, and the boy fell down.

“I just wanted to try the strawberries! I swear I meant no harm!”

“Oh yeah? Then what was with that disguise? What were you trying to hide boy?”

He had no answer, and fumbled around with his words. “I uhhh… ummm…. I don’t…”

“I don’t care what lies you have to say. Get out, get out now!” My father shouted and pointed away from the celebration. The crowd began to shout their agreement.

“But I… I just wanted…” the boy began, but was constantly interrupted by the shouts and jeers from the crowed. As one the people of the village condemned him and demanded he leave.

Once again, his had a pained expression, but it quickly turned to one of anger. He stood up and pointed at the audience, his eyes cold with hate and a snarl on his face.

“You….. You bastards!” He shouted “Every last one of you! I’ve done nothing to any of you, and yet you condemn me every day.”

“Don’t give us that! We’ve all seen you glaring at everyone as if you’re going to kill us. Why do you think we don’t want you here?” A voice said, and most of the crowed shouted in agreement.
“You LIARS! It was all from you! I don’t just hate you all, I despise you with the depths of my heart. And how you deserve it… I will show you all! And especially you…” he swept his finger around the crowd, then settled on my own father.

He turned away and walked through the crowed which opened up in front of him. He began running, and was pelted with bad berries until he was away from the celebration. Soon he was back at the house near the forest. His parents and the pastor followed close behind him.

The celebration ended soon after. Everyone had a sour taste in their mouths from the events, and didn’t feel like celebrating. It ended early, and everyone went home for the night.

Later that night I was sitting at the wooden dinner table in my home. The room I was in served as our kitchen, dining room, and living room all at once. However, it was simple, with furniture consisting of a stove, the table, and a few chairs, along with a few shelves on the walls and plain wooden flooring. The front door was at one end, a staircase leading to the bedrooms was at the other, and a few pair of windows were on the other two side walls.

I was attempting to read by candle light, and my mother was sewing. My father was out at a meeting with other members of the village.

Suddenly he burst in the front door, and closed it quickly behind him and locked it. I could tell by the speed with which he moved and the rare fear in his eyes that something was wrong.

“Alright, listen up you two,” he said. “We’ve got to lock up the doors and windows.”

“What’s wrong?” my mother asked.

“That caul boy is gone.”

“What?! Where?!” she said. She ran to each window, closed the inner shutter, and locked them.
“We don’t know. The Pastor and his parents locked him in his room after he went down to the celebration. However, when his father checked tonight, he wasn’t there. We don’t know where he went, or what he is up to. The advice for now is to lock all doors and windows. Don’t leave for any circumstances, he may play tricks to get people out of their homes.”

“But what if he comes here?” I asked.

“If we lock the doors he won’t be able to do anything. Anyway, I have my rifle.” He pointed to the corner of the room where it was kept.

We sat for a moment in silence, looking at each other. A nervous pit formed in my stomach, making me feel almost nauseous. That boy was out there somewhere, and we didn’t know where. I kept thinking back to the celebration. He had threatened everyone, and pointed around the crowed. However, in the end it was my father he had settled on. I knew he had more hate for my father then for anyone else in town, I could see it in his eyes. All those years my father had been the roughest on him, believing it would protect his family. Now it may have condemned us.

Time passed slowly as we waited for what we all half knew was coming. Then I heard a click at the door. Not a knock, a click, like something metallic.

We glanced at each other again, wondering what it might have been. Finally I stood up and walked toward the door, put my hand on the handle, and pushed.

“Wait! Don’t open it! It may be a trap!” My mother said, panicking.

Not that it mattered if I did anyway. It took me a second to realize what it was exactly I was feeling. The nervousness I felt in my stomach was replaced with fear, then outright terror
The door had been locked from the outside.

I turned back toward my family, eyes wide and mouth hanging open. I saw my expression matched with in their faces as they realized what had happened.

“Help help help!” I screamed, but suddenly realized no one would be coming. We had all been told not to leave for anything, and that he may try to trick us out of our own homes. Any call for help, unless there was an obvious danger, would just be treated as a trick. Even if they were almost sure it was real, no one would want to risk it with him out there.

We heard footsteps running around the house. A dark shadow passed by one of the windows, and the footsteps came behind the building.

We heard scratching at the back of the house, behind the stairwell. We backed away from it, not knowing what it was he was doing, and not wanting to find out.

Soon his actions became clear. Smoke began to drift into the room, and a fire began to build until the back wall was in flame.

“GET OUT!” my father screamed, and tried to push against the door. He rammed his full body against it, but it wouldn’t budge. From the small bit we could see through the crack on the side, he had rammed a steel bar against it and wedged it in place.

We glanced around in panic. The windows were glass, but that could be broken. My father opened the shutters, grabbed a chair and threw it through one of the windows. He helped my mother through, then myself.

I turned around to help him from the outside. However, he wasn’t coming. I looked in and saw him staring toward the corner of the room where the rifle was. The entire area was covered with flame, and the rifle was invisible behind it.

“Don’t do it Dad!” I said. “You can’t!”

“I know,” he said “but I need too!”

“No! Come on!” I shouted back. The room was completely full of smoke, and it burned me to even be close to the house. The roof was creaking and could collapse at any moment.

He relented, and began climbing out the window. I helped him through, and began pulling. However, he was much larger than either of us, and struggled to fit. As he came out, his leg ran along a sharp blade of glass, cutting a long gouge on his calf and ankle. He screamed, and collapsed to the ground.

“GO! Run to the sheriff’s house and get help!” he said. My mother and I looked at each other. “GO!” He shouted.

I began to lift him up by the arm. “Run and get someone, I will help him” I said to my mother. She nodded, and began to run.

Despite his protests, I balanced his weight across my shoulders. He stumbled beside me, leaning for support whenever he used the injured leg.

We moved as quickly as we could. The darkness of the night was even starker when compared with the fire we were just in, and our eyes couldn’t adjust. Everywhere we heard more screaming and shouts for help, and people ran about us in panic. At least three other buildings that I could see were burning, one of them the church.

We walked into the center field of the field, heading toward the sheriff’s home which stood across from ours. It occurred to me he likely wasn’t even there anymore, as he would be the only one to respond to the cries for help, but my mother had run in that direction and I had nowhere else to go. I strode on, pulling half the weight of my father along with me.

“Going somewhere?” a voice asked.

I turned to see who had spoken, and screamed as loud as I could. I was instantly filled with terror. There, outlined by the moonlight, was the boy with the caul. He stood up strait and held his hammer in his hands. He raised it up into the air and came towards us.

We both began running way. Forgetting all plans of seeing the sheriff we ran and stumbled randomly into the darkness, calling for help from anyone who could give it. I turned back again and again to see him chasing us, each time getting closer and closer. The tip of his hammer seemed to be within inches of my head, and he had it raised, ready to swing the instant he could. Every door we passed was locked, and every cry for help we raised went unanswered. I kept calling, though I knew anyone who would be willing to leave the safety of their homes would already be fighting the fires. I was losing my breath from helping my father, and couldn’t run any more.

“Where are you going? No one is going to help you! You’re all mine!” he screamed.

Finally we came near a house, and found the door to be unlocked. I pushed inside and stumbled into a living room much like our own. We both slammed the door shut then locked it. Not satisfied with simply locking it we leaned against it and pressed to keep it shut. We looked around. There was no one in the room. It occurred to me that the family who lived here must have been one of the few to respond to a fire or a call for help and had left the door unlocked.

Suddenly I heard a loud banging noise and felt the entire door shudder. The noise came again, this time accompanied with a crack as some of the wood began to break. It was him, smashing the door with his hammer.

“I know you’re in there!” He shouted, almost tauntingly. He slammed the door again and again, and it cracked more and more. “I’m coming to get you! This won’t protect you for long”

Each swing of the hammer brought the door closer to breaking. I could feel the swing of the hammer get harder and harder as there was less between me and the assailant.

Finally the door gave way with a massive crack and burst into splinters. I was thrown back from the force and landed hard against the ground. My father held himself against the table and tried to charge him, but the boy swung his hammer hard against my father’s knee, splintering it like the door. I tried to get up and grab him. He saw me coming and jabbed the hammer into my gut, winding me and forcing me down. He grabbed a cabinet and pulled it down on me, pinning me to the ground.
As I lay on the ground trying desperately to breath, I saw him stand over my father, his eyes filled with hate.

“Oh how long I’ve waited,” he said “how long I’ve waited for this day.” He kicked at my father, who moaned helplessly at him and grasped his useless knee. “All those year you treated me like I was nothing… well look at us now. Now look who really is nothing.”

He began kicking my father in the gut. “You will pay for what you did to me.” He said, still kicking. He grabbed the unbroken leg, and pulled it strait. My father tried to kick him off, but was too injured to fight and overpowered. The boy took a rope and tied his foot down to a floorboard he loosened with the hammer, then repeated the process with each of his arms. This left him with one leg broken and the other three outstretched.

He raised the hammer up and brought it down on the outstretched knee. My father screamed in pain. It was an almost unnatural sound, coming from a pain beyond anything I had ever experienced.

“You wanted to fear me? I will give you a reason to fear me!” the boy said. He raised the hammer again and swung it at my father’s arm. There was a loud crack, and the bone jutted out from his skin. I watched in terror as my father’s screams turned into a horrid gurgling noise unlike any I had ever heard a human make.

“I want you to feel as I always felt. Helpless, useless, with nothing you can do to ease the pain.” The boy raised the hammer again and smashed my father’s second arm. He didn’t even scream this time, he only convulsed and made the same inhuman gurgling noise.

“And now, I am going to kill you. I will kill you for all you ever did to me,” the anger in the boy’s voice had peaked, and he stepped toward my father’s head. I tried to call out to him and beg him to stop, but I could barely breathe and he ignored everything I did.

He stood over my father for a moment, the anger in his face become a twisted, triumphant smile. He raised the hammer again. I saw my father’s eyes open, staring at the end of the hammer with fear. But there was nothing he could do. His body was ruined and he had no defence against the onslaught. He turned his head away.

The boy shouted and swung as hard as he could into the side of my father’s head. It smashed into it with a terrible gushing noise. The hammer went completely through his skull and slammed into the floor beneath. Blood splattered around the floor, along with bits of his face skull. When he lifted it again, there was nothing left recognizable as a head. The boy snarled, and swung the hammer again and again into the body, causing it to break and burst.

I was beyond tears, and tried to call for him to stop. Finally he looked over at me. The same twisted smile was on his face, mixed with an unending well of hate. He came toward me, lifting the hammer up. I tried to speak to him, beg him to stop, but I couldn’t raise my voice.

He stood over me, looking down at my face. He kicked me in the chest, and I grunted.

“I don’t know who you are” he said “but you were one of them. All those years you rejected me, hated me, abused me… You deserve to die like the rest.” He raised the hammer again, and I cowered beneath him, holding my hands up and looking away.

The hammer didn’t come down. I looked back up at him to see him standing in shock.

“It… I-It’s you!” he said. “From that one night…” For the third time he had the look of sad wishfulness, a desire for something and a knowledge he could never have it.

He dropped the hammer, and backed away slowly. Finally he ran out the door.

I was found the next day by the owner of the house I was in and helped up. It was then I found out the extent of what had happened.

In totally he had burned down four buildings. Aside from our house it was his own, the Pastor’s, and the Church. It seemed he was targeting people who had affected him the most. Along with my father, the Pastor had been killed in the fire, and he had killed one other man who had tried to stop him. His parents, however, had managed to escape unharmed except for a few burn marks.
However, that wouldn’t last long.

The boy with the caul was soon found hiding in the forest. He was grabbed, tied up, and dragged back to the town to be charged. Along with him went his parents. They had argued for his life and refused to kill him, and were trusted to keep him in check. When they failed, they were guilty. They brought the evil into the world and failed to contain it.

I wanted no part of the events that followed but they were almost unavoidable. The crowds gathered again in the center of the village, but this time for a much more sinister purpose.

The parents, for the crime of bringing evil into the world and not controlling it, were sentenced to be burned at the stake. That way, their souls could be cleansed. The screamed and begged as they were dragged out and hoisted onto the poles of wood, but they were ignored. Sticks were piled around them, and a torch was brought. Margaret screamed and wept in fright, Tom only stared with an empty look in his face, knowing full well what he had brought into the world. Even from where I was, far away and sitting in another house, I could smell the flesh burn and hear the screams. The smell of smoke remained for days, and the sound of their screams never left my mind.

The boy, however, could not be redeemed even with fire. He was evil from birth, and nothing could save his soul. Instead, he was to be returned to the hell he came from. The method of doing this was clear. He was tied up and wrapped in thick, white cloth. A hole was dug, far deeper than any grave the village had dug before. They lowered him in, careful to ensure he didn’t die from the fall and lived through his full punishment. They began to shovel dirt on him and buried him alive. He shouted and swore, cursing those around him with his last breathes, and screamed in terror the entire time. However, he didn’t beg for mercy, as he knew there was no one there who would give him any. And that was the end of the boy with the cowl.

Many times, people asked why it happened, and how anyone could commit such horrendous acts. The people from the village always give the same answer.

He was born with a caul. That is all we knew,and all, or so they’d tell you, we needed to know.

Credit To – EricAMBM

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On the Disappearance of Aaron Barclay

March 10, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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On the Disappearance of Aaron Barclay

There was an interesting item in the Oakland Tribune some time ago. Apparently a young man, one named Aaron Barclay, had gone missing. Mr. Barclay had been attending the Golden Gate University School of Law in San Francisco and vanished a week before final exams. Some say he killed himself due to the pressures of law school. Such a thing is not uncommon, after all. The proximity of the Golden Gate Bridge, one of the most popular suicide destinations in the world, lends some support to this theory. Others, however, believe Barclay to have run away and point to the lack of a body as evidence. Furthermore, the apartment identified by the police as Barclay’s was left in a state of disarray. The room apparently looked as if the occupant had left in a hurry packing a few things for whatever journey he intended. Nevertheless, no sightings of Mr. Barclay have been reported and police say it is far more likely he is actually dead. Other more imaginative individuals insist that this was all a stupid prank, that Mr. Barclay is fine and probably living in some backcountry town away from the prying eyes of the city.

The subsequent investigation uncovered next to nothing regarding Aaron Barclay’s whereabouts. Only one clue, if it can be called that, was ever found. This “clue” consisted of a multi-page, handwritten letter stashed underneath the seat of a charter bus bound for Salt Lake City, weeks after Mr. Barclay first went missing. Though thoroughly questioned, the bus driver could not provide any information regarding the circumstances of the letter or the whereabouts of Mr. Barclay. This was partly due to the many stops the bus made in Sacramento, Reno and other cities. Many still wonder he ever actually boarded the bus. Forensic analysis of the handwriting later confirmed it to be Mr. Barclay’s though there are naysayers who insist otherwise. Fortunately, handwriting experts later confirmed that the handwriting truly was Mr. Barclays. Now, the letter itself is interesting. The writer, presumably Mr. Barclay, insists he is sane; however, the contents of the letter suggests otherwise. Mr. Barclay was clearly too ashamed to admit the peculiar fixation he had with a certain female professor and too paranoid to have correctly interpreted the events of which he writes. The letter is likely an attempt to rationalize his obsession with the woman. Mr. Barclay’s letter is transcribed in full below.

The Letter of Aaron Barclay

My name is Aaron Barclay and I’m not crazy. Really, I’m not. To anyone who reads this, please understand at least that. I don’t suffer from some childhood trauma that makes me see things that aren’t really there. Schizophrenia or any other major mental problems do not run in my family. I don’t do drugs and drink only occasionally. Please remember that as you read what I’ve written down… My god, I miss my life from before… before I knew. See, ignorance is a beautiful thing. It really is bliss. I didn’t realize that until it was too late. Now I’m on the run from those eyes. I see them in my dreams, in the dark, in the mirror. I know how this all must sound, but bear with me. Ask yourself if some lunatic can recall and write down their recent experiences as coherently as I will.

It started with civ pro, short for civil procedure. I just started my first year of law school and civil procedure is one of the required classes for first year students. The class is about lawsuits and how they work. It’s also famous for being one of the most boring classes a law student can take. Seriously, the class should be patented as a cure for insomniacs. Making it even worse was the fact that my specific class began at 8:30 pm. I heard it was the only class that met so late which made it that much worse. I had all my other classes in the morning and early afternoon; so when Tuesday and Thursday hit, I was stuck in school killing time until my civ pro class started. I usually spent the time studying and relaxing at a Starbucks close by. That wasn’t the only difference between civ pro and the rest of my classes; criminal law, torts and contracts were all much more interesting. We spent time learning about murder, celebrity contracts and negligence, things that would spark any student’s interest.

Civ pro, on the other hand, sucked. Learning about personal jurisdiction, proper venue and discovery limitations made it hard to stay awake in class. I hated it. I never paid attention to the Professor Dunn in Civ Pro. I spent the class browsing the latest news to make the time pass by faster. I even got away with playing computer games a few times. Dunn would post the power point slides on the internet; that’s how I got away with the lack of attention in class.

My current situation started one day when I heard some chatter about Professor Dunn. I think it was some time towards the end of September, the half-way point of the semester. I was walking past the 2nd floor student lounge where other law students came in to socialize, read for class and eat an occasional lunch. I will always remember gripping the metal handle of the door leading to an adjacent room and stopping to hear Kaitlyn gossiping with her friends. Kaitlyn was the obligatory suck up every class had. She probably still is even now. Every day, Kaitlyn would torture the entire class with the sound of her voice as she constantly sucked up to Professor Dunn. Always raising her hand with something meaningless to say. She obviously enjoyed the sound of her own voice which made it worse because she had this stupid high-pitched voice of a 3 year old girl. I don’t think there was a single person in our class who could tolerate Kaitlyn except her own posse.

Anyway, I remember overhearing Kaitlyn talking to one of friends about Professor Dunn that day. Only she wasn’t so much as talking as whispering. She had one hand up to her mouth and constantly glanced around to make sure no one could hear her. I don’t know if it was embarrassment or something else but she obviously didn’t want what she said becoming common knowledge. I let go of the door handle and leaned in a bit to catch what she was saying. I pulled out my phone and pretended to text someone as I listened. She was locked in a conversation about Professor Dunn, giddy with the excitement of a teenager on prom night. She talked about Dunn’s eyes, hair and voice with a breathy whisper. One of her idiot friends nodded in agreement and mentioned something about many other students also feeling the same way about Professor Dunn. Kaitlyn threw the girl a dirty look as if annoyed at the thought of competing for Dunn’s attention. In fact, everything about her suggested she would have had Dunn’s baby right then and there if her biology allowed her to.

Something about that scene that still rubs me the wrong way. Like cold fingers touching my spine. Maybe it was the way that murderous look distorted Kaitlyn’s face at that moment. Or the way Kaitlyn tightened her grip on her pen and held it like a knife for a split-second. Either way, the scene chilled me. I wanted to listen some more, but I suddenly noticed Kaitlyn and her posse glaring at me. I jerked around and stumbled out of sight. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the girls picking up their things and marching towards the exit. I rolled my eyes and ignored them as I continued on towards the school library. I deposited that scene into the back of my mind and didn’t think twice about it for some time. It hadn’t clicked yet.

A few weeks later I experienced a bizarre incident with two buddies of mine. The three of us decided to book a study room in the library to try and get some studying done for the upcoming midterm in our criminal law class. I was running a little late due to some stupid delay on BART. I walked down past the empty study rooms towards the only lit one at the end of the hall. As I walked closer, I began to hear the voices of Connor and Mac. At the mention of Dunn’s name, my feet suddenly froze as my back pressed up against wall next to the room Conner and Mac were talking in. Every study room in the library was fronted by glass window enabling those within to see outside. For some reason, almost by instinct, I did not want either of them to know I was there. I set my backpack down and clung against the wall making sure I couldn’t be seen. Both Connor and Mac were discussing Dunn’s looks. Kaitlyn’s conversation from a while back sprung to mind as the discussion drifted toward Dunn’s eyes, hair and voice. Weird thing was, they spoke in the same breathy whispers Kaitlyn did. I tried convincing myself that this was just simple sexual attraction despite a curious tone of obsession in both their voices.

I decided I had heard enough. I picked up my backpack and walked up to the glass door and opened it. Mac and Connor’s heads jolted up as their hands fell from their mouths. After realizing it was just me, they immediately flipped opened their textbooks and began talking about the felony murder rule. I mentioned hearing them talk about Dunn and joked that I wouldn’t judge them. Neither one of them really denied it but they didn’t really admit it either. Mac just sat there shaking his head while Connor blubbered something about liking her as a teacher and quickly changed the subject back to felony murder.

I never really thought much of Professor Dunn’s looks, I mean, she definitely didn’t have super model looks but she also wasn’t ugly either. I was letting them know what I though when they both looked up at me and just stared, unblinking. I sat across the table looking back and unsure of what to say next. The moment didn’t last long and I finally relaxed when both Mac and Connor let out slow breaths. I told them to forget about it and asked that we continue studying. I noticed both of them unclench their fists under the table as the creases on their foreheads disappeared. I thought of a leopard changing its mind about pouncing on its prey. I wonder now just how close I was to getting a few limbs broken.

After Mac and Connor, I never really heard any more similar conversations. But I don’t think it was because they stopped happening. I began to notice more conversations in hushed tones and the occasional glance in my direction. I’m sure I saw a finger or two pointed towards me a few times as well. Conversations about Professor Dunn seemed oddly absent. It was now that she began to intrigue me. I realized I never really paid any attention in civ pro much less to Professor Dunn. The class was just too dry for me and I had better things to do. I resolved pay more attention to and observe Dunn more carefully. I wanted to know what was so enthralling about her.

The next class, I came a little earlier than usualand sat down waiting for 8:30pm to hit. This time, I did not bring my laptop, choosing a pencil and a notebook instead. Professor Dunn swaggered into class at exactly 8:30. She calmly set down her notes, turned on the projector and began to lecture on amending complaints after they were filed with the court. Despite the boring subject, I managed to keep my head up and began to study Professor Dunn from my seat in the back of the room. As I thought before, she didn’t exactly have super model looks, but she was definitely not ugly, more like plain-looking. She was fairly skinny but not curvy. Her straight brown hair seemed almost too straight and when she walked up towards the back of the room, I noticed a curious lack of any skin blemishes. Not a zit, freckle, mole, or any other kind of mark whatsoever. It seemed almost inhuman, as if she were a living barbie doll. She also had no makeup on. Her skin, her face… everything was naturally flawless; they were not just hiding behind sheen of makeup.

I almost didn’t realize I was staring until she turned her head in my direction while lecturing. That’s when I really noticed her eyes. It felt like the heat of a desert sun blasting down on me. That’s the best I can describe them. Her eyes just stared too, with aimless purpose and completely devoid of life. My head twitched as I turned back toward my notes and still felt the heat blaring down on me. I wonder if that’s how a mouse feels when confronted by a cat.

Dunn finally turned away and walked towards the front of the class; it was then that I noticed my shivering hands and the beads of sweat forming on my forehead. John, the guy next to me looked at me and quietly asked if I was sick or something. I responded by standing up and staggering out the back door toward the bathroom. I opened the door, stood in front of the mirror, and steadied myself against the counter. At that time, I just couldn’t put my finger on it. I’m not that kind of guy to just collapse under someone’s stare like that. I used to win those staring contests all the time as a kid. Why was Professor Dunn’s stare so different? Those eyes. My god, those eyes. The way she stared at me, I felt molested, violated in some way. I knew I had to go back into class, but my feet cemented themselves to the floor. There was just no way I could go back in with class in session.

Luckily, I ran out just a few minutes before the end of class. I checked the time on my cell phone and decided to go back in a minute or two after class ended. I marched towards the class, opened the door and without looking at anyone, picked up my notes and backpack and nearly raced out of the classroom. Good thing it was Thursday, I didn’t have to worry about going back to class for another five days. Too bad Professor Dunn began to invade my thoughts after that class. I wasn’t able to study felt like I failed the midterm when Saturday came.

Our midterm grades were posted the following weekend and gave me some hope; I got a C.. Sunday night, I decided to go to Dunn’s office hours and ask for some tips to prepare for the final. I managed to somehow rationalize this meeting by minimizing what happened the previous Thursday. I told myself to grow some balls; after all, it’s just Professor Dunn. What’s she going to do? Rape me? I pulled out the class syllabus and looked up her office hours. Her only office hours were Monday evening, same time as our class met on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I worried about my grades. About a third of the students are automatically failed the first semester; I didn’t want to be one of them. Also, my scholarship would last only so long as I maintained a B average.

Now here’s the thing. I can’t remember exactly what happened that night. That memory feels like a fog. I remember walking up to Dunn’s office, knocking on the door and being invited in. I also remember having a… pleasant conversation. I don’t remember exactly what happened. But it’s not like I lost my memory. I remember her office perfectly. I remember the books lining the shelf behind her. I even remember what Dunn wore that night, black slacks with some fancy white top and a black tie. But other than that, I just can’t remember exactly what happened; I just remember having a pleasant conversation with Dunn.

That’s the other thing. Describing that meeting as a pleasant conversation is too perfect, almost as if what happened that night is the exact definition of pleasant conversation. It fits too well. I don’t know. It doesn’t make sense to me even now. The funny thing is that that’s exactly how the memories of all my subsequent visits to Dunn’s office feel. I can remember what happened after and before but not what happened during that meeting in Dunn’s office. And only the words “pleasant conversation” come up when I try to remember what happened during those visits. That’s about all I know even now.

One thing I do remember is a slight twinge of disappointment while walking out of her office after the meeting; the meeting ending too quickly for me and for some reason I wanted it to go on longer. I wanted the pleasant conversation to continue. What really bothers me now is from that point, I began to look forward to my civ pro. I never liked civ pro and the thought of that class sickened me. Yet there I was getting butterflies in my stomach at the thought of going to civ pro. I didn’t even realize how weird that was at the time. Only when looking back on it now can I see it. The days passed by and I began to enjoy going to civ pro. Not just enjoy it but long for it. It got to a point where going to the bathroom during class or being late to class felt like a death sentence. I’m thinking of one Thursday evening as I’m writing this.

I was riding BART into the city and apparently there was a delay. A dog or a cat was on the tracks and some person thought it was a good idea to chase after it. The train was moving slowly in an attempt to keep from running over anything. I checked the time every couple of minutes; the thought of being late unnerved me. When the train began to slow down at my station, I grabbed my backpack and text book, stood up and started to walk toward the train doors. My heart fell into my stomach when I saw this old handicapped woman in a wheelchair right in front of the door. The train stopped and the doors opened up. The woman decided now would be a good time to start picking up her shopping bags up off the floor. I watched her trembling hands move slowly as they picked up one bag, made sure nothing was missing, set it onto her lap and moved back down to pick up the other bag. I checked the time and saw that class would start in one minute; it was about a five minute walk to school. The thought of missing even four minutes of Dunn’s presence produced a huge lump in my throat.

It’s hard to explain what happened next. My hands began to move without my command and they both latched on to the woman’s wheelchair. I kind of grabbed, kind of shoved the wheelchair over to the side and then kicked it away. There was a gasp from bystanders as I cleared my way and .raced out the door. As soon as I escaped the train, I ran up the escalator barely noticing the old woman sprawled out on the floor and the string of four-letter words that followed. The whole situation just didn’t register to me as inappropriate. In fact, at the time I blamed the woman for her misfortune. Didn’t the old hag realize I was late? She had no right to keep me from Professor Dunn’s class. It was later that night that my assault on the old woman came back to haunt me. What the hell was I doing? Why was I so obsessed with Professor Dunn? I felt like I had no idea who she was even after all the office visits and lectures.

I later found out more than I wanted to, though it was by accident. About a week ago, I walked out of Professor Dunn’s office with a huge smile on my face. The kind a six-year old has Christmas Eve. In fact, for the first time, this office visit seemed upgraded from the “pleasant conversation” level of the earlier visits. Coupled with feeling of ecstasy was the knowledge that this was the last time Professor Dunn would be holding office hours this semester. We would have a week off to study before finals.

I walked out of the office and toward the bathroom; I didn’t want to end up pissing myself on the train ride home. Sitting there on the toilet, my mind drifted once again to Professor Dunn. Even then I couldn’t say I was attracted to her. Attraction implies something sexual and this just felt different, more like being pulled by gravity. Smaller objects gravitate towards bigger objects in space; the moon towards the earth and the earth towards the sun. I felt like the moon caught in Dunn’s orbit. The thought of not seeing her again made my chest beat harder and my teeth grind.

It was in this state of mind that I began thinking of following Professor Dunn home to see where she lived. Despite myself, I decided this would be a good idea. Dunn did mention that she was living in the city for the time being. I opened the bathroom door only to see Professor Dunn strut out of her office and turn in the other direction towards the door leading to stairs to the first floor. I pushed the bathroom door wider and walked out leaving globs of sweat on the door handle. I crept out of the bathroom toward Professor Dunn’s direction trying to stay in the shadows. I didn’t think it would be a good idea for her to see me. It was bad enough dealing with this weird obsession without having others catch on; wearing the stalker label wasn’t something I found very pleasant.

Dunn reached the exit door, walked through and began descending the staircase. I pulled my hoodie over my arms as I caught up to the door and nudged it open. I heard the clacking of high heels on the stairs below. Slipping through the door, I half walked and half crawled down the stairs in an attempt at silence. I heard the exit door slam shut a floor below me and just barely conceal a low growl. At first I thought the growl came from right below me. My feet froze in place and I halted for a few seconds waiting to throw up my fear. Now that I think about it, growl isn’t really the perfect word. It was more like the grumbling of a stomach or something growling from inside a stomach.

Some deep breaths later I pressed onward down the stairs with some speed in order to keep up with Dunn. I arrived at the exit door and waited for Dunn’s clacking outside to distance itself. When I could barely hear it I opened the door and stepped into the alley. The alley was empty as I walked toward the corner of my school building. I noticed the absence of the security guard that usually stands by that corner during the day. I guess they aren’t paid to stand guard late at night. I could still hear those heels in the distance and I leaned over and peeked around the corner.

I saw a young woman walk past Dunn in a hurry and almost missed the way Dunn slightly reached out and just barely touch the woman’s hand. The clacking of the high heels stopped as the woman jerked around to meet Dunn’s stony gaze. The two stared at each other and I saw that look again on Dunn’s face, that predatory stare of cat having cornered a mouse. Without a single word, Dunn’s hand shot out and grabbed the woman’s arm. There was no scream, no gasp of surprise, nothing as Dunn led the woman onto the darkened terrace of a closed up shop. I snuck across the alley towards the shop to get a better view and crouched down behind a stone bench. I leaned over to one side and watched the unfolding scene some distance from the shop.

The woman looked mesmerized and, except for a slight smile, her face was blank. Dunn’s arms wrapped themselves around the woman as she began to kiss her. Or at least, that’s what was supposed to looked like. From my vantage point, the woman’s head was turned at too awkward an angle for a kiss but any other person walking by would have only seen two women kissing. The odd angle of the woman’s neck made me wonder if Professor Dunn had snapped her neck or something. I swallowed the lump in my throat and fought the urge the jump up and run. They stood in that position for a few seconds when Dunn pulled her head back and I watched her mouth open. And open and open and open. Her mouth was opened wider than was humanly possible. Like a snake with its jaw unhinged. I swear I saw more teeth than I was supposed to. It was… wrong.

Dunn’s open maw inched closer toward the woman’s head and my ears picked up a slight gasp paired with a low growl. It was too much. I winced at the sight and inadvertently banged my knee against the bench. I had this metal pin in my knee from an accident I had as a kid and it shifted when I banged my knee. A shotgun blast of pain knocked me to the ground as my phone fell out of my pocket and clattered onto the cement. Dunn’s head jerked in my direction, her jaw still open. Her eyes, God, those eyes, they zeroed in on me with laser precision, like she knew all along I was there. I swear I would have been devoured at that moment. That mouth and thousand teeth would have come after me if the suited man hadn’t been walking down the street. As soon as he came into view, the thing that was Professor Dunn closed her mouth and began to actually kiss the woman to avoid suspicion. This was my chance. I scrambled to pick up my phone as I jumped to my feet and hobbled toward the BART station. Somehow I managed to escape the scene.

Now, I don’t know who or what the hell Professor Dunn is but I know that I’m not going anywhere near that school or even that city. I don’t care about finals, I don’t care about law school; I just want to get away. Whoever Dunn is, she can find me if I stay here. She can probably find out where I live; she probably already knows where I live. Who knows what I told her during those goddamn “pleasant conversations”. I can almost feel her eyes on me, staring, watching even now. Hopefully this message gets out to someone who cares. I’m not staying in this area for another second. Even now I wonder if she was playing me, making me think I had snuck up on her. I can’t help shake this feeling that she wanted me to see that, so that I will know what is coming for me. Fuck knowledge, Fuck my curiosity. Ignorance really is bliss.

-End of letter

The attention surrounding Aaron Barclay’s disappearance died down after months of no progress. However, about a month ago, another newsworthy incident appeared in the Sacramento Bee. Some of the more conspiratorial followers of this case insist this incident reported in the Sacramento Bee is linked to the disappearance of Aaron Barclay. Apparently, a hotel owner in Placerville, California had discovered a collection of bones in the dumpster behind his hotel. The bones were said to belong to a young male. According to the finder, these bones were also picked clean and littered with teeth marks. The bones were sent to the local coroner who believed the teeth marks belonged to a wild animal. The coroner then concluded that the victim had an fatal encounter with a bear. Unfortunately, the bones were somehow lost or misplaced and local rumors mentioning a metal pin lodged in one of the bones could not be substantiated.

The professor mentioned in the story, Jamie Rebecca Dunn was questioned by the police shortly after the letter was discovered. She was quickly ruled out as a suspect for undisclosed reasons. As a visiting professor to Golden Gate University, Dunn eventually moved back to her hometown in Texas at the end of the semester. Further attempts to contact Ms. Dunn have gone unanswered. And of course, there is the usual group of so-called “paranormal investigators” that draw the worst possible conclusions: Mr. Barclay was silenced for seeing too much or Mr. Barclay had an encounter with some kind of paranormal creature. These conclusions are best ignored as products of ignorant and overly imaginative minds. Unfortunately for Mr. Barclay, the lack of any evidence regarding his whereabouts will likely doom him to a footnote in the growing list of unsolved missing persons cases.

Credit To – Jacques LaQroix

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March 9, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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There’s a girl in my class.

I mean, I swear she is there. Every day, she walks in, three and a half minutes late, like clockwork. Her skin is pale and sickly looking, and it appears as though she hasn’t eaten in weeks.

Her ghastly figure stumbles slowly into the room, a sort of bone chilling void surrounding her. And I don’t mean that figuratively . . . I mean, you could faintly see the air around her distorting and warping, turning horrible shades of black.

I’m sure everyone would’ve thought this was weird as well . . . that is . . . If they could turn to look at her. Every time the door swung open and that ghastly creature stepped inside however, the class would freeze. Their faces would frost over, the color all but draining from the room, as the air decayed into stagnation.

Looking to the people beside me, I could see their irises, normally bright and shimmering with colors, now appearing flat and dull; a single shade of grey. My classmates weren’t truly frozen, however. I watched them breathe slowly, their overcast eyes shifting between the professor and their notes. Pencils faintly, yet hurriedly, carved away at papers all around me. And yet, despite these incredibly slight movements, their bodies always stared straight ahead, never shifted in their seats, never spoke. Before I could blink, the entire class had become a perfectly synchronized, uniform, grey mass.

Then it would all stop, the color would rush back into the room, the air once again being filled with the hum of the fluorescent lights as my classmates regained their life and shuffled around lightly, as if nothing had ever happened. The clock had advanced ahead several minutes in what only felt like seconds.

I used to think that the girl had sat down, but I was never really sure.

Sometimes I watched her twisted form slowly stagger towards the class, eventually reaching the furthest back desk in the corner and pulling out the chair, looking as if she was going to sit . . . but what happened next? I could never make it that far. Something about watching her move made my head swim and my vision blur. It was as if I had to concentrate as hard as I could to stay conscious: like I was constantly fighting an invisible force trying to shut me out. The longer I looked at her, the harder it became to focus on reality, and I would start to drift in and out as if I was falling asleep without closing my eyes.

The whole encounter only ever lasted about ten seconds from the time she walked in. For the first several times, I didn’t remember the incident at all, rather, I would just feel a strange sense of déjà vu when it happened again the next class. Any time I looked back to where she should’ve been, there was never anyone there, just the desk that nobody ever used, largely broken, scratched, blackened, and falling apart in silence in the dark corner of the room. I wasn’t even really sure what I was looking for, I had no real recollection of any of the events, the girl, the stillness, none of it stuck with me.

But things have been changing lately.

As if exercising a muscle or something, I’ve been getting better and better at staying conscious when she walks in. I’m now able to watch her for extended periods of time. The headache I get is excruciating, and each time I see her, this horrible feeling washes over me, like a sickness. I say that I’m getting better at staying conscious, and while that may be true, it certainly doesn’t feel that way. Rather, it feels as if I’m being trapped in the horrific stillness for longer and longer.

Clearly, as I’m able to tell you this story, I began to remember the events too. They were just fuzzy memories at first, but soon, as I snapped to my senses when the stillness ended, I immediately searched around wildly, trying to locate the girl. I knew she must have been in the room somewhere!

It was quite clear that I was the only one who could retain consciousness in the stillness. Despite lobbing repeated questions about the three and a half minute mark after class started, I could only ever watch confused expressions scratch across the faces of my classmates.

“What girl?” they say.

About a week after this began to occur, or at least a week after I began to remember the daily event, it ceased to be mysterious. It instead instilled nothing but fear in my chest.

Three days ago, for the first time ever, she looked at me.

She had always seemed like a distorted projection or something, a tape player constantly rewinding and playing back her entrance in the exact same way, but on that day, I did something I shouldn’t have.

The clock struck three and a half minutes after class had begun.

The room fell silent, colors flattening and being smudged into the grey background as my classmates froze. She stepped inside slowly.

I had been afraid to watch her before, partly due to the crippling feeling of horror it gave me, but mostly because I didn’t want to stick out, surely if I moved, I would be flat out announcing that I wasn’t like everyone else in the room.

But on that day, I didn’t care. I don’t know why, maybe it was because I was tired of just sitting in silent horror, stealing faint glances, maybe it was because I felt that I needed to know, needed to figure out what the hell was going on, but whatever the case . . . I gripped the sides of my desk and slowly rose to my feet.

And then it happened. Her form stopped, flickering and wavering in and out of focus like a poorly broadcasted TV signal. Then her head turned as her gaze slowly fell on me.

My heart seized up, and I nearly fell to the floor in terror. Her eyes, at first grey, suddenly glowed a dull, dark green, and they radiated a sort of sickness. Invisible, poisonous waves seeped out into the motionless air like slithering eels.

I felt nothing but utter despair. Pain and sorrow formed on my soul like jagged ice crystals, strangling whatever life I had and smothering out all hope. My legs grew weak, and I slowly sunk down to my chair in silent agony as my heart slowed to a horrible, sluggish pace. My vision split in two, and I lost my ability to refocus.

Then she started to approach me, her mouth moving as if to speak and then . . .

I snapped my head upwards and glanced around in bewilderment. The color had returned to the room. The stillness had passed, with me having lost several minutes of memory. I must have been taken by the stillness before I could hear her speak.

The girl was gone, of course. The only thing I had to prove to myself that it had ever happened at all was the sickness I felt in my heart.

No matter what I tried, I just couldn’t break free of the sorrow. It gathered like a dense fog in my mind, and each time I thought back to her eyes, I felt a stabbing pain in my chest. I often nearly vomited from the queasiness.

The next day, my fears erupted into absolute horrors as the clock ticked past three minutes and thirty seconds. The door creaked open slowly behind me as the class fell into the stillness, and I could already feel the horrific presence entering the room without needing to look.

When I did finally force myself to steal a glance however, my blood crystallized and my breath caught.

She was mere feet from me, walking deliberately towards me, her dull eyes fixed on mine. At our eye contact, I felt yet more of my happiness being torn away, my soul shriveling and icing over. This time, as she approached, she smiled, extending her cold dead hand out before her. She was trying to touch me.

I cried out in horror and leapt up from my desk, backpedaling across the room. My heart had begun to decay, my mind getting blotted out and filled with a dark sludge of hopelessness and despair. It swirled and warped my thoughts as I tried to keep moving but found myself too weak: too weak to try and run, too weak to think I would ever make it out, too weak to hope for anything.

There was no hope in this world.

I felt a ghastly void began to materialize in my chest. Something important was beginning to be torn away from me. Something I knew I could never replace.

Suddenly, I looked up to see the class staring at me in shock and confusion. The colors had returned, and I was left standing in the middle of the room, panicking like a paranoid psycho and looking at nothing: an empty space where the girl had once been.

“Are you ok?!” someone asked, “Dude, you look pale as hell!”

I’m sure I did. I’m sure I looked awful, I’m sure they could see me shaking, I’m sure they could see that I was sick with horror. But damn, I felt worse.

Worse than they could imagine.

I mumbled softy that I was alright and walked back to my desk. I slumped into my chair and fixed my gaze on the floor. They all stared at me for a while longer as I sat in utter agony. I felt as if there was nothing left, nothing on this earth for me, nothing that could possibly fill this hole that had begun to grow inside of me. The feeling grew with every sluggish pump of my tired heart: so incredibly tired, straining to beat at all as the despair clung to it like a heavy ooze.

Then, slowly, they began to forget me.

During attendance the next day, the teacher didn’t call my name, skipping right over it and moving on to the next. No one noticed his mistake either.

When I stood up and asserted that my name hadn’t been called, the teacher just looked at me with dull eyes and mumbled to himself, “Yes, yes, of course, my bad.”

None of my classmates turned to look at me however, and the teacher never fixed the attendance sheet after my confrontation. He just continued on to his lecture, as if instantly forgetting that it had happened.

I tried to talk to kids, but their attention was always diverted after looking at me for a few seconds. It was as if I was but a fleeting thought in the back of their minds, always being overwritten by something more important.

This only made me feel more helpless, casting me further into the gruesome despair.

Then, that day, the door creaked open again, and something horrific happened. The stillness that normally lay waste to the room and rendered everyone stagnant . . . didn’t quite happen at all. The air grew heavier and some colors faded away, but the people didn’t freeze as much, didn’t fall into silence or become a still grey mass.

And then I heard the laughter.

A quiet giggle, out of place and filled with pain.

I turned to see the girl walk in, but she wasn’t quite the same. Her form was sharper this time, her image less distorted, and she walked with a new pace. There was some more cheer in her wobbly steps as her sickly giggles filled the room.

I quickly looked away, averting my eyes to the ground.

But then one of my classmates slowly shifted his weight, and his head turned to look back. He nodded his head slowly in the direction of the girl, acknowledging her presence for the first time.

I was aghast and confused, how could he see her now? I watched some other students glance behind themselves as well, confirming that they knew she was there.

I stood up and shouted, “What the hell is this?!” But no one even looked at me. Not one of them met my eyes.

Then I felt a tap, a light hand against my shoulder. I was filled with sudden relief, someone knew I was here after all! I whirled around to face them, only to stagger back in shock. It was that girl, her face smiling wide, her eyes looking deep into mine, I noticed that her skin had become less pale, her form less sunken and more animated than before.

At seeing her face, I shut my eyes, squeezing them tight and turning away. But I could feel her movement as she shuffled close to me. I felt hands being placed on my shoulders, and I knew her face was inches from mine, waiting for me to open my eyes, take just one little peek.

Slowly, my mind began to slip just as before, but this time I waited, curled up in horror, trying not to look for nearly thirty minutes. Finally, after I could hear the hum of the lights grow stronger and the faint stillness lift, I slowly opened my eyes and she was gone.

I had had enough of this. I left that classroom. Convinced that I would never come back.

On the way out of the school, I passed by a mirror. What I saw in the reflection made me seize up in repulsion.

A ghastly, haunted face stared back at me. I was now beginning to look like how I felt. The despair had sunken my eyes into their sockets, the pain draining the color from my skin. I looked as if I hadn’t eaten in many days.

I walked right out of the school, not a person looked at me as I brushed past them, I doubt they even knew I was there.

I finally reached my apartment near the campus, owned by me and three others guys. I opened up the door.

One of my roommates sat, but he didn’t acknowledge me. I closed the door hard, and then slammed it once or twice, but his gaze never lifted, he didn’t even flinch.

I walked up to him and tapped his head, knelt down to catch his eyes.

“Hello?!” I practically cried, sorrow consuming me. His gaze shifted to meet me and then slowly fell away.

“Welcome back . . .” he mumbled quietly, his voice quickly trailing off.

I’m sure I could’ve kept bugging him, but I had no will to try. I was consumed by despair, and all the excruciating sensations it contained. No one would ever acknowledge me, my existence had faded far too much.

Late that night, I sat alone, curled up in my ruffled bed. I slowly drifted off as desolation lulled my heart to sleep.

That morning I woke and lay in silence. I had no will to move. I was never going back to that class.

Not with that creature there.

I watched the clock tick slowly, the machine components forced to carry on. The gears spun and churned, although they had no reason to. Just like my heart, the apparatuses were simply part of a machine, keeping something useless alive.

The clock reached 12:00 and kept slowly carrying on.

Class would’ve just started, I thought to myself. I doubted that anyone even noticed that I was gone.

The light tried to enter through the window, being obstructed by the heavy wooden blinds, casting faint lines in the dim, dusty room, the interior almost looking as if it was filled with a dark haze.

The clock ticked quietly in the background, seemingly muffled and far away. I watched it reach three minutes past twelve and the second hand continued ticking, reaching 30 seconds past.

The air suddenly fell into stillness and my heart froze. I heard it, the door to my room slowly creaking open.

“No . . . No, NO!” I shrieked to the lengthening shadows of my surroundings.

The ghastly creature slowly staggered into my room from down the hall, a horrific smile ripping its face in two.

Except she wasn’t really ghastly at all . . .

Rather, she was nearly entirely normal. The air no longer distorted around her, her face had some faint color, and her eyes glowed a brighter green than I had ever seen.

I screamed, trying to shield my face and shrieking, “No! You can’t be here! Get away from me!”

She didn’t stop however, I could hear her slowly shuffling across the floor, eventually reaching the foot of my bed.

There was no running this time. I slowly peeked open my eyes to see her face inches from mine with a demented cheerfulness distorting her features.

I tried to close my eyes, but her hands suddenly rushed forwards, nearly jabbing out my eyes as she scratched and clawed my eyelids open. I tried to fight her, tried to grab at her arms, but I was too hopeless and weak to move much of anything. As her eyes stared into mine, I felt my body go limp and I couldn’t even twitch a finger.

This was it for me.

I felt the last shred of humanity being torn away from my heart, and the air rippled with dark hideous smudges as she cackled with glee. I felt hot blood running down my face, and I could feel the hole inside my chest consuming me.

As I watched, her face regained all life, her ghostly distortions all but fading away. Suddenly, her glowing eyes dimmed, ceasing to radiate light and becoming utterly plain. The horrific smile faded, and she stopped looking at me, rather looked through me now, as her face went placid. She slowly stepped away from me and wandered around the room as if looking for something, forgetting that I was even there.

My heart had stopped.

I no longer felt it beating in my chest.

I couldn’t speak . . . but quickly realized that this was because I wasn’t breathing.

Speaking required me to consciously breathe in and exhale air. This was something that was no longer a reflex.

I could breathe if I wanted to . . . but I didn’t need to.

For the first time in a long time, however, I did feel something. Something related to pain and sorrow, yet refreshingly different and powerful in a different sense.

I felt . . . entirely consumed by hatred. It mixed into the gruesome vat of sadness and despair already inhabiting my soul, all of the dark emotions swirling around inside of me. My body was too small to physically contain all of them, and they erupted out of me in hideous tendrils of blackness, distorting and warping the air around me.

I rolled off the bed in agony and slammed to the floor, lying and staring at the ceiling for hours after that. The stillness never faded, rather, it grew stranger and stronger the longer I lay. A small area around me was consumed by stagnant air and grey-scale smudges. I was now the one creating it, although it was confined to a small bubble around my broken form. The girl never looked at me again, she didn’t recognize me anymore: she couldn’t even see me anymore.

She was human now.

A trait she had stolen from me. She had taken my life.

One of my roommates walked in at some point and said hello to her as if she had lived in the house the whole time. They recalled and laughed about some memories together, memories that should’ve been about him and I, not him and her.

The picture on the nightstand of my four friends and I, was now horribly smudged and grey. Even as I watched from the floor however, it slowly refocused into the image, her figure standing where mine should’ve been.

I lay in that room, watching in despair as my life was lived out by someone else. Nothing I did made anyone see me anymore, not even the half-assed remarks came my way anymore, no matter how loud I screamed.

Days passed like this until the rage and despair inside of me finally exploded, and my mind reached a breaking point.

One day, the house was deserted, all of my once friends off at class. I slowly stood, my body sickly and crooked. I looked at my hands to see them flicker in front of me like a poor signal as the surrounding air burned black with hatred and sorrow.

I stumbled out of the room with a new horrific determination.

The stillness around me grew the more I felt and accepted the hatred. By the time I exited the house, it was filling up entire rooms around me.

I reached a college auditorium just slightly after class started.

Using all of my feeble strength, I was finally able to force the door open after several minutes. As I stepped inside slowly, the entire room was consumed by the hateful stillness around me.

The people froze and turned away instantly, something I now realized had been a subconscious defense tactic. One that I hadn’t been able to employ.

I was the weak link in my class. The whole time I had been fighting to stay awake, I had really been fighting what my body was naturally trying to do: trying to save me from what I had now become.

I slowly staggered into the class, going to the furthest back desk to sit down when I noticed . . .

. . . one of the kids wasn’t quite like the others.

His body wasn’t quite as grey, not quite as lifeless. His gaze shifted nervously around the room. I probably wouldn’t have even noticed his slight variations . . . if I hadn’t been looking for them.

A horrific smile broke out across my face.

The kid didn’t last long, he quickly faded into the stillness like everyone else as his mind went blank.

I hadn’t been able to make eye contact with him today, his gaze was too unfocused, but that was okay.

I would just have to try again tomorrow.

Credit To – Liam Vickers

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