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The Shadow Theory

March 9, 2017 at 12:00 AM

The Shadow Theory
By: Sean O’Morrison

Session 1:
A pale doctor walks into the interrogation room holding a medical file under his left arm, he is accompanied by a woman. Smiling at the patient, he begins his session by introducing himself, “Hello Mr. Strahan, I am doctor Weise.” He turns to look at the younger brunette female as she hands him a small digital recorder. She then she leaves the room. Dr. Weise checks the digital recorder to confirm it is working properly, and sits it on the table. He makes eye contact with Mr. Strahan, trying to make sure his patient is paying attention.

“I understand how these types of sessions can be for the patient; also, I would like to assure you my only interest is in helping you Marcus. I myself have seen a therapist, and though it was not court appointed I did find it very, very useful. Sometimes we all need help. You need to understand that receiving help does not make you bad.” Dr. Weise is sincere, but does not feel that Marcus wants to hear his lecture. “Well then, let’s begin.”

The spotty, white haired doctor sits down across from Marcus, and slides the digital recorder to the middle of the table. He lightly gazes upon Marcus, and once again smiles. He turns the recorder on. “Are you ready Mr. Strahan?”

Marcus feels a wave of fear run up the length of his spine to the base of his neck. It is a cold feeling, not only in the room but in his mind. This nice doctor is about to see he is either crazy, or that there are unexplainable, and even extraordinary things all around us. He swallows what gulp he can; considering he is extremely parched, and then replies, “The question Dr. Weise is … are YOU ready?”

Already trying to analyze the young man and what makes him tick, Weise opens his file and begins scanning it, “Ok”, Weise looks back to his patient, “Let’s just start with your name.”

After twenty seconds or so of stale silence there is a response, “Marcus Strahan.”

“And what do you do for a living Mr. Strahan?”

Doctor Weise takes off his glasses and wipes them on his flannel shirt, giving Marcus time to adjust to the series of seemingly elementary questions. Of course Weise already knows all of this information, it is in his file.

“I am … or… I was, a bouncer at a club in Atlanta.”
“Would you call that dangerous work?”

Marcus eases up a little bit, trying not to seem too cold as he replies, “It all depends on who’s in the club, and how much they have been drinking.”

“Have you ever had any sort of… altercation with any patrons, whether drunken arguments or otherwise?”

Marcus grows impatient at this point. He knows where the doctor is going with this. Weise is trying to find some rough past, or previous violent behavior. It takes most of his energy to just let it go. “To be honest Doc I’ve had many beefs both on and off the job. Some were pretty ugly. I have also had anger issues in the past. I guess that goes with … bad luck.”

Dr. Weise writes something in his folder before sitting his glasses on the table. He leans back in his chair and crosses his fingers together on his gut, trying to find the proper words. “You seem agitated Marcus,” he paused, “and I understand the last few days have been very stressful for you?”
“Yes they have Doc, I’m scared. I’m scared for my life and I’m scared of the world…I just want this place to make sense again. I want to not be so damn afraid.” Marcus debates in his head whether to tell him or not, and decides that if anything, he just wants to get it out. He just wants someone to know his troubles. Something very odd is happening in his life. He says, almost as if he is in pain, “The Shadow.”

In a confused tone Weise repeats him, “The … shadow?”

“It’s not like I’m seeing crazy shadows, or shadow monsters. I’m not hearing voices or anything; it is just this one shadow. I see it everywhere.”

Doctor Weise leans forward with interest and returns his glasses to his face, then begins overlooking the file once more.

Marcus continues, “I keep seeing this one shadow all around me. There is nothing scary about his shape or size, I mean, he has no claws or horns. You wouldn’t think it would feel so menacing. He just watches me and watches me and he won’t go away. It’s like he’s always there but… he isn’t there, ya know?”

He now has the doctor’s undivided attention, “What do you mean by he is there but not there, Mr. Strahan?”

“I see him, but It’s never just on a wall or something. I only see him in reflections, or stray lights.”

“Could you elaborate more if possible?”

Marcus sighs trying to figure out how to say what he has been seeing for the last week without sounding like a complete madman. “He … he hides in plain sight. I won’t see him on my wall, but I see him on the wall through the mirror in the corner. If the sun or moon shine through the window, I won’t see him in the window, but in the square light spot on my wall. I see him … watching me.” Marcus shivers as his hairs raise.

At this point Dr. Weise is no longer interested in the violent acts of the previous day. He is spellbound by this “Shadow Man” that has obviously driven his patient into some kind of nervous breakdown. “Marcus, how long has this been going on?”

“For a week now, and it has been a very long week.”

“I cannot imagine,” Weise says in support, “Any idea what could have triggered this anomaly, or when you first noticed?”

A long unnerving silence falls over Marcus as he stares at the floor, still debating on giving this kind doctor the full story. He wonders what a mental institution would be like. Would he still see this shadow? Would he for sure be sent there if he tells Doctor Weise? He deduces that Dr. Weise is his only line of defense now; his only hope, and so he begins.

“A week ago I rode the bus. It was about five when we hit my stop, and I got off like usual. I didn’t notice it at first, I had my headphones on and I was in my zone.”

Weise scribbles a few notes down in the file, and asks Marcus to continue.

“So I hit the store and got a PowerAde; nothing special, and when I got outside I noticed it.” Marcus grows a concerned look, almost as if he cannot believe what he saw, “I had no shadow.”

The doctor quickly gazes up at his patient. He fumbles in his head for a second, hoping his original diagnoses was correct. Hoping that Marcus is just having some crisis, and is not crazy. But how many sane people claim they have no shadow? Weise speaks, almost in a condescending tone, “Marcus everyone and everything has a shadow. One cannot defy this simple fact, unless you could block every light source, including our sun. Even glass has a shadow.”

“That’s what I’m saying though Doc, I don’t have one. Believe me I tried, and tried to figure it out. The lady next to me on that corner had a shadow; it was long from the sun, stretching right out in front of us. I had nothing. I even tried crossing the street to the park and still nothing, no shadow.”

Dr. Weise grows concerned. How would something like this even be possible? There is no way this patient is lacking his shadow. Is he really crazy? I hope not … but wouldn’t it be worse if he were somehow telling the truth? No. There has to be something deeper going on here. Medications maybe? Drug use? It would make sense considering what he has done.

Weise feels his thoughts running rampant, and for the first time in his thirty-four-year career he has no idea what to say. By now the room has been silent for a full two minutes, and he senses Marcus is uneasy. He quickly fires off a question to break the silence, “So you have had no shadow in the last week, and you are afraid of this fact?”

Marcus feels smarter than his court appointed therapist at this point, and retorts, “Yeah, who wouldn’t be? Combine that with the fact that the same day, I began seeing this mysterious shadow all over town, watching me. It’s enough to make you feel crazy.”

“Do you feel crazy Marcus?”

“I feel like something is going on that’s beyond my control. I hope it isn’t some switch flipping in my brain.”

Without the tools, or research to know how to handle his case at this point, Dr. Weise decides to end the session. He thanks Marcus for his time and tries to let him down esy.. “Mr. Strahan, I am going to need a little time before I can draw any conclusions on your … situation. You are going to have to stay in here a few more days.”

Marcus’ heart sinks, “I didn’t mean to hurt him Doc. I don’t deserve to be locked up like a criminal. Promise me you will come back? You are the only one who can help me now.”

Doctor Weise feels pity for this patient, and gives Marcus his word that he will do his best to figure out what the problem is. He then takes his medical file and his recorder and leaves the room. As he exits, the guard comes in to escort Marcus back to holding.

Holding:

In his holding cell, Marcus cannot stop replaying the events of the day before. Behind bars most of the time you spend, you spend alone in your head. He sees the window of his apartment, with the headlight shining through. He envisions the pistol in his hand, the one he had been holding for days. He was terrified that the shadow wanted him. The troubled man had no idea what he could do, even with the gun. He then pictures the light reflection move as the car outside turned, sliding an ominous yellow square across his bedroom wall.

There it was; the shadow, in that pale yellow light right next to him. It was 2 or 3 seconds overall, but playing it in his head it feels like years. The sudden figure on the wall right beside him scared him so much he let out a yelp. He thoughtlessly jumped, and fired at the wall. Bam! One shot … Bam! Two … each gunshot rings in his head and feels like a symbol. Bam! With each eruption from the pistol, he hears in his mind the prison cell closing behind him.

Marcus begins to cry in his bunk, remembering the screams that followed his blind shots at the wall. The walls were thin, and several rounds made it through to the next apartment. His neighbor John; a divorced father of two, was struck and killed by the gunfire. As Marcus heard the screams of the children, everything stopped. He knew his life was over. He was stunned, heartbroken, angry, and alone in the world. He felt discarded in that moment. He sat in the corner listening to the neighbors call 911, and banging at his door. They were yelling for him to open up, but he was frozen.

It took forever for the police to arrive and arrest him, but not before the shadow man came back. As the sirens grew louder, and stopped outside his building, the flashing blue lights penetrated the window. There on the wall, in the flickering blue box was the shadow. He was flashing … as if he were in some kind of strobe light. Just watching him, as if to say, “I win, and you will never defeat me.”

Session 2:
Dr. Weise walks into the room, this time with a whole stack of folders and files. His hair is a mess, and he looks as though he has not slept in the three days since their first session. This time he does not smile, and he offers no introduction. He simply sits down and places the digital recorder on the table. He does not turn it on, but begins speaking, “I will be honest Mr. Strahan, when I left the other day I had no idea what to do.”

Marcus hopes for some sort of good news from the doctor.

“I went home, and after searching through textbooks from medical school and online for several hours, I stumbled upon a case eerily similar to your own.”

“What do you mean Doc, you mean someone else lost their shadow and it wanted them dead?”

Weise does not respond. He doesn’t even look at Marcus. He instead pulls a small flashlight from his pocket. He states, “I am very skeptical about all of this, but I took an oath to help my patients, and never turn them away.” Weise finally makes eye contact with a serious, and cold face, “I cannot help you if I do not give you a chance.”

Marcus is relieved and worried at the same time, “I appreciate it Doc”

Dr. Weise then calmly demands, “Hold out your hand Mr. Strahan.”
Marcus hesitates. What is this? But he feels trust for Doctor Weise, so he holds his hand out over the table. “See, no shadow,” he says with confidence.

Weise clicks the small light on, and begins moving it around Marcus’ hand. He moves the light up, down, and side to side, to his amazement there is no shadow. As a control, the doctor then tests his own hand in the same fashion, but his shadow is clear as day. He peers up at Marcus in amazement. But the amazement is short lived.

An overwhelming sense of fear overcomes the doctor. He stands up, and begins to pace.

“Doc, shouldn’t you be recording this?” asks Marcus with concern.

Weise stops and leans his head down. His body slouches over, and his arms clinch the sides of the steel table. It seems as though he is close to tears. “Marcus the case I came across may well have changed my outlook on you.”

“That’s good though … right?”

“I do not know.”

Marcus has never been this stressed out about anything. He has a thousand questions, but he asks none. He decides to let the doctor gather himself for a moment. It takes a lot out of a man, seeing something truly unbelievable. It is not something you can easily brush off.

Eventually Weise sits down and opens an old discolored folder. “According to the case, a young man about twenty years ago claimed his shadow had vanished, and then swore on the stand that it began to watch him. He was convinced this shadow meant him harm. One day he saw this shadow; in the glass of a storefront, and drove his car right through it. He killed three people, and wounded two more.”

Marcus is losing hope. There is no way this kind of thing just happens. The poor soul, he wanted the sick game to be over just like me. It’s so weird, we both ended up hurting someone else trying to drive the shadow away.

Doctor Weise carries on, “Upon evaluation, they deemed him insane, and he spent the rest of his short life in an asylum.”

“No Doc I’m not insane! I never wanted to hurt anyone, I was just scared. This has all been too much to handle.”

“Listen to this part Marcus. In this asylum he developed a theory. One that is loose, and there is no scientific evidence to back it up. He sounded … well, crazy.”

“What was this theory?” Marcus begs, “Please Doctor Weise, I have to know,”

Dr. Weise lets out a sigh. He removes his glasses and wipes his face, rubbing his finger and thumb on his stringy white goatee. He does not want to encourage any of this, but he feels like his patient needs to hear it. He commences, “I do not personally believe any of this, but the man in the asylum believed in parallel universes. He was certain we have a counterpart in our likeness. It goes around and does everything that we do, in some other plane of existence. He said that is why there are shadows, not because of light. He said everything and everyone we see, is there on the other side as well”

“I mean Doc, that sounds like nonsense, just crazy babbling to me.”

“I agree, well until I get to this part. He believed his shadow or ‘parallel self’ had somehow died. Like he said, they were supposed to go to the same places, and do the same things together, including dying.”

“So he thought his shadow died? What, his ‘shadow ghost’ was haunting him? Come on Dr. Weise, I thought you had something for me.”

“I know it sounds insane son, I feel that way too. He swore he was supposed to die and his shadow moved on without him, something about ‘universal balance’. His shadow was watching him, and waiting for him to die. Possibly even trying to hasten the process.”

“So this man in the asylum, how did he die?”

The doctor hesitates, “He…he hung himself with a bed sheet.”

Marcus is disgusted, confused, and angry, “Jesus Doc!”, he exclaims.

Doctor Weise knows this is stressful to hear, but maybe somehow it can help Marcus figure out what had happened to his shadow. He feels awful. Three days of coffee and research and this is it, this is all they have to go on. “I’m sorry Marcus, but going by this case we might be able to swing an insanity plea.”

“And then what? I go on stand and tell that family ‘Sorry I murdered John but hey, I’m insane?’ Fuck that, I thought you could help me Doctor Weise.”

“Marcus I’m sorry, I have never in my life dealt with this sort of thing.”
This is not the help he thought the doctor could provide. A nonsense theory that seems to help Weise cope with the shadow, more than himself. Marcus hits a wall of anger, and self-pity. “Man get me out of here, I’m done. Guard!”, he shouts out, “I wanna go to my cell. I’m done with this!”

As the guards rush in to calm Marcus down and take him away, he looks right at Dr. Weise and says, “Don’t you ever come back.”

None of this session is recorded. Reasons are unknown.

5 years later:
Dr. Weise is older now, too old to do what he will be doing on this day. He straightens his tie, and puts on his jacket. He gazes mournfully in the mirror at his pale face, and the wrinkles around his eyes. His white hair is almost gone. He sees the blue veins in his neck and hands, like rivers or roads on some pale old dried up map. Today will be tragic.

Today is the state scheduled execution of one Marcus Strahan. Weise retired after that confrontation with Mr. Strahan. He lives alone, always repeating that crazy theory in his head. He is always checking to see if he has a shadow when he goes outside. He was never the same after that last session, and today he hopes to gain some closure.

It is a dark room, filled with people in funeral attire: Judges, lawyers, and the district attorney are present. He notices two young women, age fourteen or so in front. They are both sobbing mournfully, and he knows they are the neighbor’s daughters. They are here to watch the lethal injection of the crazy man, the one who had killed their father. Weise feels sorrow, for this family, and at the same time for Marcus.

The curtains open and Weise can see Marcus being walked in. His orange jumpsuit is ragged, and his beard and dreadlocks show years of neglect. They strap him down with ease … like he is willing and ready to get this over with. He is, for the shadow was also there in prison with him. For five long years on death row he lived with it, in every reflection, and every light the doors produced on the prison floor. The shadow was even there in the water when his cell block flooded. Marcus is ready to end it all.

After hooking up the necessary tubes and needles, they raise him up for the crowd. Weise almost cries immediately at the sight. At this time Marcus sees the shadow man through the reflection of the window, on the wall behind him. He rolls his eyes and speaks, “It’s over, and I win.” Just then the pumps begin to push the poisons into his arms. He laughs, and yells as loud as he can, “It’s Over! And I WIN!” This sends a wave of mixed emotions coursing through the crowd.

As his consciousness fades he notices the shadow, but this time it was no reflection. This time it is right there in front of him. While moving towards him it begins to fade away. Marcus is captivated at the thought he outlived the shadow man.

At 3:12 pm Marcus Strahan dies with a smile on his face.

In the crowd Dr. Weise can take no more. He lets out one whispered phrase, “I am sorry.” He stands up, puts on his hat, and makes his way to the door. He opens it for the two young women, who are still sobbing for their father. He is so relieved to get out of there, and get some fresh air. It feels as though an extreme weight has been lifted from his being.

He looks at the sky with sad eyes. “Good luck Marcus,” he says, and begins to walk to his car. The sun is warm, and comforting on his back. He pulls the car key from his coat and puts it in the door. He then stands there for what must be eternity. He is amazed and terrified. On the ground in front of him, right where it definitely should be, he has no shadow.

Credit: Sean O’Morrison

The Unfamiliar

March 8, 2017 at 12:00 AM

The darkness is insurmountable here. The air reeks of saltwater, decaying fish, and other human stenches that I cannot even begin to imagine even if I felt the desire to. An unearthly black fog has settled over the city, as it does every night, and I yearn for a daylight that feels as though it may never come. The night in Malaveara is oppressive, almost as though it were not night at all, but rather the natural state of the world around the city. Of course, there is hardly a problem with the town itself.

The problem is what inhabits the town.

Beneath the cover of darkness that invades the streets every night, I can hear the sounds of shuffling, weary feet drunkenly stumbling toward some unknowable destination, if one actually exists. From outside, I can hear the sharp words of ghouls wandering around, starting fights and wreaking havoc. The one place that they never venture is Port Luna, for all of Malaveara knows never to descend to the seaside before the sun had broke over the horizon; stories of disappearances and unexplained occurrences led to the superstitions and urban legends of deceiving demons and malevolent spirits haunting the area. Instead, these creatures (for they could never be called human) roam the streets throughout the rest of the city, a nightly disease that infects the city once dusk falls that is purged as soon as the sun rises. Life here is almost unthinkably dangerous.

And yet, I call Malaveara home.

The grim undertakings of the nocturnal do not consist of life in Malaveara, rather as a mere part of life. During the day, the city is an entirely different place. The oceanside air carries a scent of tranquility and freshness through the streets. The people who fill the roads with the daily hustle and bustle are polite and kind, and I used to have friends among them. The sun overhead shines down, and when I look out to sea from the port and behold the glistening waters shimmering beneath the warm sunlight, I think that there is no jewel upon this Earth that can rival its beauty.

If the city truly is cursed, it only reveals itself at night. When the sky takes on that dark blue hue, the clouds fade under the cover of night, families retreat into their homes and lock the doors, and the sea loses that glimmering beauty, I too barricade myself in my quarters to wait out another night. It has been that way for as long as I can remember, and it will be this way until the ocean itself rises, seizes the city in its wet grip, and drags Malaveara down to the briny depths.

I would be content with this crude system, were it not for a particular night that I spent outside the safety of my home. I am a man who has survived a Malavearan night, but at the unexpected cost of my very sanity. Whatever still dwindles within my head presents you with what I can recollect of that terrible night, but with this dire warning.

Never go outside in Malaveara at night.

I was a young man of about twenty four years when it happened, and, I am ashamed to admit, I was not of an agreeable reputation. Indeed, I had made mistakes in my life regarding my career choices, though were it not so damned easy, I would not have been bothered. At my side was a fellow whom I had long revered and called a friend. His name was Amicus, and together we managed to successfully swindle many sailors out of their money.

Our original scam was a relatively simple one: in addition to docks holding large ships from faraway places, Port Luna also held a thriving market that began at dawn and ended shortly before dusk. Sailors would come to trade with the local merchants, and Amicus and I would disguise ourselves as such in order to fool the sailors into buying our goods. The items in question, such as fruit or spices, were actually purchased from other stalls. We would then sell them to eager sailors for twice the price, which meant that we would purchase a dozen apples or oranges for six pieces, and then sell them to sailors for twelve or thirteen on days that we felt particularly bold. On one occasion, we sold a dozen oranges to a group for thirty pieces. They were outraged, but begrudgingly paid the thirty pieces after we informed them that, due to a drought, it had been a difficult season for harvest. The sailors, who had been out to sea for so long that they had become desperately in need of fruit, were pitifully easy to fool.

Over time, our scams became more elaborate. We would take simple balls and paint them to resemble fruit before filling a crate with them, stacking real fruit on top in order to conceal the deceit. We would then deliver the crate to a newly-arrived ship for the ludicrous price of fifty pieces, and the captain, upon inspecting the fruit on the top, would pay us. Soon, we realized that painting all of the balls was unnecessary effort, and instead wedged a large piece of cardboard halfway into the box, filling the bottom part beneath it with sand to make up for the difference of weight and give the illusion of it being full of fruit.

We garnered a notorious reputation around Port Luna, though our tricks continued to prove effective for many months, as sailors would not fathom our treachery until they had long departed out onto the sea, at which point it was far too late to voyage back to Malaveara. Of those who were so infuriated that they returned to the port to seek us out, we would simply leave the port and not return until we were absolutely sure that it was safe.

It was in this fashion that we operated for months, until the day came that I had never anticipated would find me trapped on the streets of Malaveara after dark. Amicus and I were convincing the captain of a crew of newly arrived sailors of the quality of “our” product (which, for the curious, was a simple crate containing a dozen or so oranges, our carefully made fakes, and the sand) when a delivery boy happened to pass from the same stall that had sold us the oranges a week prior. He caught on to our trick once he spotted the oranges and loudly informed the captain of our attempted trickery and stated that the oranges were not only soon to be overripe, but were no longer fresh. However, the captain still seemed uncertain, and we may have still salvaged the scam with our pride intact had the delivery boy not gestured to Amicus’s face and declared it a “dishonest face”. This short remark irritated Amicus so fiercely that he, holding the crate with one arm, made to grab the boy with the other hand and was so careless as to let the crate fall from his grip. Upon hitting the dock, the crate broke in half, spilling ripe fruit, balls, and sand at the captain’s feet. He must have been warned of our scams by other sailors, for at the revelation of our deception, his face became quite red and he reached for the cutlass at his belt. The first few raindrops of a seaside storm fell as Amicus and I hurried away, leaving the crate where it lie like a monument of our shameful falsehoods on the dock.

Amicus and I were forced to flee from the wrath of not only the sailors, but the police overseeing the market when the delivery boy alerted them to our tricks. Amicus and I tore out of Port Luna into the streets, spurred onward by that fabled adrenaline rush of fear as the sailors yelled profanity as they pursued us, and the policemen blew their whistles as they attempted to maintain order. I remember roughly bumping into a woman on the street as I hastened to keep pace with my friend, knocking her to the ground and sending the foods that she had been carrying in a basket into the air, though I hardly noticed at the time. Instead, all that mattered was our escape.

Fortunately, at that moment, the clouds opened and a downpour of rain fell. Seaside storms are hazardous, and in the chaos as people fought for shelter, Amicus and I believed that we would make our getaway down an alleyway until we heard the captain’s boots still clamoring after us in a determined hunt. I could feel the polished blade of his cutlass whistle through the wind behind me. At that very moment, much to my relief, his foot landed on a recently made puddle of rainwater and he slipped and fell onto the cobblestone. Amicus and I were free to make our getaway, but at that moment some fool pulled a large horse carriage at the end of the alley and stopped, blocking our route of escape.

Behind us, I could hear the captain rising to his feet to resume his chase. Our time to escape was limited, and I began to panic. The driver had stopped his carriage with the wheel blocking any hope that we had of climbing beneath it. Amicus did not hesitate; with his superior height, he leapt into the air and seized hold of the carriage’s roof. His boots kicked the side of the carriage as he pulled himself atop it, and he looked back to cast me one last pitying look before he disappeared over the other side of the carriage, leaving me to my fate.

The captain advanced upon me, but at that moment, a policeman appeared at the far end of the alleyway, loudly blowing his whistle. The captain lowered his cutlass in confusion, and turned away from me to face back to the policeman. Behind me, the door to the carriage opened and a man in a black hood, a man whom I presumed to be the carriage driver, peered out at the scene in the alleyway.

I wasted no time in pushing the man out of my way and climbing into his carriage before opening the door on the other side and tumbling out, falling to the ground in the process and dirtying the sleeve of my jacket with flecks of mud. Behind me, the man in the black hood closed the doors to the carriage and whipped the reins, spurring the horses onward. I fought to climb to my feet, and I fled, leaving the encounter with the captain behind me.

I wandered through the streets of Malaveara, but there was no sign of Amicus. The rain fell like a veil, cloaking the figures on the street from my view, making it even more difficult to find my friend. The storm was overpowering me now; a screaming gale nearly forced me off my feet. I knew at once that I should seek shelter. Unfortunately, or through some cruel karmic retribution by the will of an angry God, my residence was on the other side of Malaveara. The storm was growing in intensity, so much so that debris was beginning to fly amongst the fierce winds. Water was flooding the streets as puddles formed, overflowed, and grew to consume the bricks.

I was desperately in need of a place to wait out the storm, so I began searching the shops that adorned the sides of the street for one that was open, to no avail. It was getting far too late for any respectable establishment to have its doors open to customers. Rather unwillingly, I found myself huddled deep in an alleyway. The rain soaked my clothes and chilled me down to the bone. It was there that I suffered for an unknowable amount of time, though the buildings around me weakened the wind to a slight, frigid breeze, and the downpour was barely tolerable.

By the time the rain stopped, I was shivering. My clothes were damp, and each movement that I made sent droplets of water flying from my body. My shoes were nearly ruined from being submerged for so long in the growing ocean that had once been the street, and my toes were numb from the icy temperature. When I exhaled, a cloud of white mist emerged from my mouth and my spine would quiver. I was shaking, though I know not if it was from the unbearable cold, or the sudden realization of my predicament.

Even from where I was hidden in an alleyway, I could see the sky above, though even though I already knew what would be waiting for me, my stomach sunk deeper and deeper as I slowly left my refuge for the Malavearan streets, my gaze still fixated on the sky.

A waning gibbous moon, cloaked behind clouds of stone, hung within an abyss of black that sparkled with white stars.

I was in disbelief, though I could not tear my eyes from the sight of a night sky. I hadn’t seen one in so long, and believed that I never would so long as I lived in Malaveara, but here I was. I was so suddenly overcome with emotions of such a powerful fear that when I finally did manage to tear my gaze from the moon, my face contorted in a wide smile and I began to laugh until tears were streaming down my cheeks and my breathing had turned ragged and tired.

A memory of an event that had taken place mere months before that night had come to mind as I stood, shaking, in the frosty night. I had been in my den, taking shelter for the night, when from outside came a sudden ruckus. A panicking man was running from house to house, banging on the doors. Even now, so many years later, I can remember the sound of his screams.

“I’m not one of them! I don’t belong out here!” he was shouting, pleading to be let inside. I had the blinds pulled over the windows, yet I still ducked down in front of my desk when he came to my door and rapped his fists on the wood. “Please! Somebody! They’re coming!”

I froze in place; I did not dare to rise from my chair to cross the room. From where I was safe inside my own home, I listened to the man attempt to rush to the next house, but I never heard him knock on the door.

He began to scream, and then his screams turned to howls, and the howls to whimpers before all outside was silent. As quietly as I could, I rose from my chair and went to my bedroom before closing and locking the door and tiredly climbing into bed where I would toss and turn for the rest of the night.

The morning after, I left my home to see a tattered jacket lying in the street in the same area that the man had been shouting. People trampled on it as they made their way down the street.

Was that to be my fate? To fall victim to whatever foul nightmares prowl the streets in the darkness? It appeared that my only chance for survival would be to seek shelter in my own home on the other side of Malaveara. I feared that if I remained in place much longer, whatever unseen monstrosities that I had heard every night would soon be upon me.

I had no time to waste, and began my long trek. I strode along the streets, weary to be travelling in plain sight. I looked to the shadows of the alleyway, thinking that they would prove an invaluable hiding place, but the darkness was so absolute that I could not tell if there was anything moving within the shadows, and it was then that I caught my first glimpse of a denizen of the night.

He looked to be old, as his hair was ashen and his black eyes seemed sunken and filled with a hollowness dug through years. His crooked teeth smiled at me beneath a wide-brimmed black hat, and his black trenchcoat seemed long, almost too long. He was a tall man, so tall in fact that at first I believed he was levitating in the air.

Startled by his sudden appearance, I quickened my pace, leaving that vile alleyway behind me. I dared not look back over my shoulder, for fear that he would be following. It wasn’t until I reached the end of the street that I ventured a quick glance over my shoulder and saw- to my immense relief- that there was no one. My relief was short lived, as I looked back down the street and was met with a shock.

I was fully aware that the amount of nighttime ghouls wandering the streets of Malaveara was vast, though I was not aware of the full scope until that very moment. The street was lined with a wide array of strange creatures, and I now knew that my assumption of these nighttime stalkers not being human proved true.

The pungent stench of decay and squalor filled my nostrils as I stood paralyzed by the horrifying sight before me. Creatures sat in doorways, motionless, paced the streets, restless, or stood huddled in unsettlingly close circles, whispering in indiscernible voices. None of these nocturnal freaks seemed to pay me any attention, however, so I wondered if it might be possible to simply walk down the street. My only other option was to detour through an alleyway, but without knowing what sinister entities lurked in the shadows, I could not bring myself to enter the alley.

Trying to keep myself from shaking so harshly, I began walking down the street and past the ghouls.

As I wandered past a circle of people who had no color to them whatsoever, not on their skin or clothing, I could catch only a few select words (Catalyst, Crystal, Gates, Oblivion) before the group went silent when I approached while keeping their heads bowed in the circle, unmoving. I passed by a man in a faded gray cloak who was lying against a shop and peered at him as I passed, only to discover, to my horror, that he had no face beneath his hood, though as I stared, two eyes began to push outwards through his skin before the skin opened, pushing the eyeballs out onto his face where their brilliant blue radiance watched me. When more eyes began to appear on his cheeks, forehead, and chin, I walked a little faster and hurried away while feeling the heat of their intense gazes on my back.

It took everything that I had to not break into a sprint, though my face glistened with sweat, and I now buried my hands in my pockets to hide the shaking. My breathing was heavy, and I struggled to quiet my gasps. At this point, I hadn’t even made it halfway down the street. Nothing about this was natural. The monsters were real, and they had come.

I passed another circle of Colorless People, catching a few more words (Ends, Corsair, Syndicate), but I was almost wheezing. Finally, I reached the end of the street where a raven-haired woman wearing black clothing and holding a white umbrella was standing with her back to me. She looked around at me, and caught my eye. Her face was pale, her skin almost ghostly. The lady turned to face me, slowly reaching out a weak hand.

“Please… are you here for me…?” she asked in a voice that was little more than a whisper. “So empty… so cold…”

“N-No,” I stammered, backing away as the empty lady slowly moved closer, her hand still extended. “I’m sorry, I can’t help…”

Suddenly, a rough hand clamped down on my shoulder and pulled me so violently that I was nearly yanked off my feet. Instead, I whirled around to find that a sailor, covered completely from head to toe in a muddy grime, had grabbed me in his cold, unyielding grasp. His eyes flashed darkly, filled with a bitter malevolence, but his beard seemed to be made of something other than hair. I felt my stomach sink when I saw his beard move and realized that it was made of fingers, some twitching, others pointing toward me as if trying to grab me.

“Ye ain’t one of us,” he croaked in a hollow, gravelly voice that sounded as though it had come from an abyss at the end of the ocean floor. “Ye don’t belong here…”

“Let go of me!” I struggled to pull away from his hold. The empty lady was still crooning behind me. He was slowly pushing his face closer to mine, and the fingers reached out for me. At the last second, I pulled my head back and threw it forward, feeling a satisfying crack where his nose was as he stumbled back, releasing me from his powerful grip, but the clammy fingers seized hold of my face. Shrieking, I pulled away, but the fingers did not relinquish their hold. His beard stretched as though he had a long arm protruding from his face, and I could hear the gruesome sailor’s cackling in my ears. It was only when I opened my mouth and bit down on the fingers trying to climb inside that he howled in pain, and the fingers retracted. Disoriented, I scrambled to get away, my footsteps sounding like thunder on the bricks as I ran for my life.

I paid no attention to the freaks lining the streets or the circles that went silent as I neared. Instead, I was so caught up in my mad dash to even remember which direction I was going. All that mattered was getting away from the monsters, but that feat was impossible in a city filled with them.

My fearful run began to garner the attention of the creatures. Some seemed uninterested, others called after me, but some lunged to catch me. A woman with long, greasy black hair dove at me from a familiar alleyway, her lips parting sideways to reveal jagged, broken teeth, and she hissed at me. Panicking, I nearly lost my balance trying to turn in a new direction and ended up running beneath an archway into…

Port Luna.

The nocturnal forbidden area where no stalkers would dare wander after dark, for forces far more chaotic and malign than they inhabited this area. For a moment, I thought I caught sight of the ghostly sailor wandering the edge of the port with a lantern in hand, but his beard was not as proclaimed and he was wearing the garb of a captain.

The sudden howling of a wolf somewhere nearby startled me, and I reflexively tensed up at the sudden sound before it abruptly stopped. Everything seemed so quiet in the port, which I thought was odd at the time, but the reason why did not occur to me until much later. During the day, in addition to the rowdiness of the market, there was the constant crashing of waves against the docks and the squawking of seagulls. That night, the ocean was impossibly silent, and the only living things were watching from the shadows, their presence felt, but unheard.

I so desperately wanted to run from that unholy place, but my feet seemed locked in place. I was paralyzed with fear, my whole body tingling with shivers. It suddenly became very cold. When I looked out over the ocean, the moon did not illuminate the waves; instead, the water was blacker than the sky, so it more resembled an endless abyss yawning over the horizon. It felt as though my blood were turning to ice as I stared, numb, at the unnatural, unrecognizable sight before me.

Rather unexpectedly, I felt an ancient presence nearby, and all of the other malevolent entities seemed to disappear as it drew nearer. Sweat rolled down my brow as I felt it moving over the cobblestone to my side, but I did not dare to look. Instead, I stood in mute terror, trembling and squeezing my eyes shut, praying that tonight was not the night that I met an untimely demise.

When I opened my eyes, the ancient creature passed me by, and I caught my first sight of its massive form. From what little that I can remember, it had skin whiter than anything I’d ever seen, and it seemed to be twisted and pulsating while it prowled on four legs. Whether they ended in paws or claws or some other appendage, I did not see. It turned to face me with a deformed face, though I could somehow tell that it held a mildly interesting, musing expression. Its eyes were hollow, but all-seeing. Its mouth was permanently open, as though it had not finished what it had to say and it never would.

This indescribable creature surveyed me for a moment, and then it spoke in a voice unlike any human’s. This was a voice that a human would be incapable of making, for it resonated with eons of life and whispers of debilitation. It did not move its mouth to say those three words that have haunted me ever since that night, echoing in my dreams and hiding between the sentences of everything that anyone has spoken to me since.

At once, I regained control of my body and turned to flee from that repulsive port, and I have never returned. I do not recall how exactly I returned home, for my mind was a spiral of madness for many months after my encounter with the ancient entity, but despite my slow recovery, I have not remembered. Even most of the creature’s form is a blur in my memory, as the mere sight unravelled my mind for quite some time. From what I have been told, I was found in my house the next day, raving like a madman and laughing to myself. I spent many years in a recovery clinic, and I have not seen Amicus since his abandonment that night.

Now, years later, I live my life quietly in Malaveara. I’ve found honest work, and am often inside my house hours before and after night falls over the fair city. Somehow, I know that I will never be able to leave.

But those three words that the creature spoke are forever engraved in my mind. Even writing them now sends shivers down my back and a dull pain through my head. Despite my uncountable nightmares about the ancient entity saying those three words, I’ve tried to forget. I now write them, hoping that I find some solace in revealing my knowledge and praying whomever reads them will someday find that they do not remember these three words.

Welcome home, human.

Credit: Alex Sorrow

The Coldest Day

March 7, 2017 at 12:00 AM

Bitter cold was nothing new for Northern Alberta, especially not for January, and the cacophony of wind that tore through the woodlands was nothing if not wholly familiar and almost comforting to the one that huddled in the tree line, obliterated from vision by the pitch of night and the swaying arm of evergreen trees. The figure stood there for a time and simply watched, waiting, head canted ever so subtly to the left and listened, staring into the dullness of the dimly illuminated window no more than fifty feet across the crisp layer of hardening snow that stood without a single scar, nothing to mar its pristine surface. Much like other homes throughout the reserve a family was nestled within and the figure could smell the promise of stew and bannock, could feel the sudden violent clench of hunger from the depths of its belly and touched the length of flesh that gurgled so very audibly that it was near impossible to ignore and the being halted peering still through the window to see if they had heard the noise, the ominous growl of need its traitorous body had emitted. Life continued as per normal within those heated walls, a family sitting down to dinner. A family blissfully unaware they were being watched… evaluated.

From the window it appeared as though the house was the same as any other, that the people inside were just like every other family. However there was something different about this family. A sense of dread and impending doom so thick that the Grandmother naturally assumed she could not only smell it in the air but see its lingering webs in the shadows of her home. Six families in the last month, six that were missing with little more than a struggle and vitae born finger painting that had decorated the walls and there was no one on the reserve that wasn’t talking about it. Six families to each bag a deer from the very interior of the forest. So far into the interior that the most experienced of hunters avoided it not to mention the average white man but times were tough and the pickings were slim. With so many out of work it became harder and harder to feed families and those with the proper knowledge and hunting rights were not about to let their own family let alone people of their community starve; such was the Aboriginal way of life. The issue however was not in the hunting so much as what happened within a few moons of the original kill. The deer caught and cleaned and then brought back home to be butchered and divided among those that needed it most. It was the third night after this when those that lived in the home went missing. Elders, parents, children and grandchildren… No one was accounted for and thinking of this caused the old woman to shudder. “Kokum? You okay?” A small voice asked and the woman turned her attention down to the small child standing by the family table and nodded, forcing a smile and patted the girl on the head.

“You go on my girl,” She said, not feeling nearly as confident as she sounded. “Everything is just fine and we have some time before dinner is ready. Go watch your show.” It was with a gapped tooth smile that the girl kissed her grandmother’s hip and fled, braid bouncing in the air behind her and in that moment the grandmother knew true fear. The ominous air felt positively heavy as did the heart that beat in frantic rhythm in her chest. “You’re sure about this?”

“Not in the slightest but what else can we do? Six whole families? What else could it have been?” Her son replied setting plates upon the table as his wife entered behind him with silverware and glasses. The table itself was filled reminding the woman of the last meal allowed to a prisoner before their time in front of The Creator. “You said yourself that something had to be done.”

“I didn’t realize that we’d be keeping the children here instead of sending them to your wife’s family.” In that moment fear sharpened her tone, anger causing her hands to tremble. “They shouldn’t be here.” The wife looked from mother to son, swallowing and set the utensils upon the tabletop.
“We had no choice and you know it.” She began slowly. “It waits for the most bountiful haul of meat it can take in one hunt, what were we supposed to do? Allow another family to disappear? At least we’re prepared. The others certainly weren’t.”
“That’s not the point!”
“It doesn’t matter what the point is, it’s too late.” In that moment her son ended the conversation and went back to the kitchen. It was time to bring food to the table for what could possibly be the last evening they would ever spend together.

In the treeline hungry eyes watched the three converse among themselves, the ever present gurgle of its belly becoming all the more impatient. It didn’t want to wait for the family to eat, the grandmother was plump and the children would be tender, succulent. It moved, taking a half step forward and could taste something bitter in its mouth with a rush of saliva. Vomit threatened to rise up, a sudden reaction the ravenous hunger that pulled at the creature’s very being. Its soul if it could be argued that the beast still had one. For a moment there was a sudden rush of dizziness and its hand rested upon the tree to its left, allowing it the briefest second of respite. A moment to shake away any other thoughts that weren’t related to the hunt and it was hard to focus on anything else. Ordinarily the beast would have allowed them to dine first but tonight would be different, the last family had been sick and the meat worthless. The creature starved and could not think strait, could not consider a thing beyond the next meal presented to it. Tentatively the first step came, foot breaking through the pristine layer of hardened snow with a subtle crunching and it paused for just a moment while cast in the darkness of winters early evening and when nothing else stirred it was followed by another and yet another. It crept closer still, impatient.

They sat at the table, said their thanks and began to eat. The deer was delicious but was hard to swallow for the old woman was not hungry but could not alarm the children whom ate with gusto. “Kokum? Kokum!” Cried the small girl. “You’re not eating.” The child frowned and to set aside her worry the old woman took a larger mouthful of potato that tasted no better than dirt in her mouth and chewed pointedly. The child watched her steadily seemingly now suspicious of her meat and leaned forward to sniff her dinner.

“Eat your supper.” The girl’s mother chided. “There are plenty of people in our community who have nothing to eat tonig…” It was then that first crack sounded, far louder than the sound of a car back firing and the child screamed in terror, grabbed by her grandmother and brought under the table with the command to hide with her younger brothers soon joining her. Two small children and a baby hiding in plain sight while their father jumped from the table and all but flew to the door pausing only to grab the hunting rifle that lay propped up by the frame their grandmother unable to ignore the sound of her own terrified heartbeat in her ears.

The creature had all but sprinted across the snow when the noise came, gunfire – a single shot. In that moment the beast froze and turned sharply, a figure in the darkness with two illuminated and pallid blue eyes that all but glowed in piss poor light. Darkness was the friend of this creature and over cast evenings were favored for this very reason and there while it stood hunched its head lifted and a single wet snuffling sound filled the deafening silence that had followed the shot. Gasoline. It had been so eager to feast that it hadn’t bothered to scent the air around it and had been trapped. In that moment a horrific, beastly roar filled the air before the sound of gasoline catching from a single match could whisper through the interrupted stillness. In that very moment it was as though the temperature dropped further from a considerable cold to something both bitter and angry when the line of fire began to close in in rapid succession. The beast bolted and howled when the circle of flames closed around it, illuminating the beast that stalked with rapid purpose in its trap glaring hatefully at the men that emerged from the woods with their guns and lights. The promising meal was stolen from it and rage tore at its breast, ripping from its throat with anger so great it staggered the men save for one… One that sang, a deeply and throaty sound accompanied by a painted hand drum that seemed to drive the beast back to the very edge of its prison. Rage seemed to give way to fear and this bolstered the men into believing that perhaps their shaman could keep the creature at bay with nothing more than song, the Creator and his magic.

The children were terrified, clinging to one another and sobbing their mother climbing under the table after them to soothe and hold them. Afraid to take them from the house to the safety of the car and a house far, far from this one in which they lived. “Stay here.” The grandmother was soon moving to follow her son though at a much slowed pace. The rear of their house and the field behind it were nothing if not surreal for the shadows dancing from flame and the figure that twisted itself from the man working his medicine. She moved closer to it yet, holding her heart through her breast and willed as best she could for the pace to finally slow when she came around her boy and looked upon the face of the beast. “…The family that disappeared last winter?” She was the only one who spoke while he sang and the others looked to their elder in surprise. “White family,” She spoke as though distracted, looking with pity upon the beast. “Husband, wife, and young boy if I remember correctly. The Sheriff came to borrow some of our people to find them in the woods. All we could find was the car, we said prayers for them.”
“I wonder which of them she ate…” Said one voice.
“Could have been both.” Another chimed in.
“She must have been the reason that party of hunters went missing a few months ago, hungry girl.”
“They’re always hungry.” The old woman was bitter, the men realizing their impropriety in that moment and falling silent as she moved forward and cocked her head to the side. The woman, at one point, had been a dark haired beauty. One that had had her son later in life and had been easily in her mid-thirties with her husband who was still yet older and a son no more than three at the time. “If they were lucky they died before she ate them.” A frown formed upon that wrinkled mouth, deep set ebon eyes meeting the frigid blue of the emaciated bestial version of this woman. Twisted and malnourished, fingernails little more than claws and teeth broken so they could tear meat that much more effectively, gone was the pallor of humanity in her flesh and instead it was replaced with a grey that was reserved usually for mushrooms only. An impressive sight even as it began to lie in the snow, covering its ears and whimpering as best an abomination could it was strange to feel pity for the beast that had killed so many but it too had once been human, had once been loved and for that the old woman could feel pain and look at the creature with tears obscuring her regard.
“…Well I think we need to discuss what to do with it.”
“What do you think we do? We kill it!”
“Yeah, seems like the only way to know for sure that it’s gone.”
“We can’t kill it.” The son interrupted, sighing. “It’s not the flesh we need to fear, that only holds the spirit. You can’t kill the Wendigo, the spirit lives forever and is always hungry. If we kill it then it will go free and torment another.” He looked to his mother, resting a large and calloused hand on her shoulder. “It will go with the others.” It was then the tears fell, the old woman crying openly and turning from the thing before her, turning away from her son, and fled to the safety of the house behind her. The others had fallen silent in that moment, out of respect for their elder and looked to one another.
“Do we even have room for another?”
“Just this one, we need to build another place to house them.”
“Jesus Christ, Frank. We can’t keep them caged. Someone is going to die when they get loose.”
“If they get loose.”
“It doesn’t matter. We’re trying to end the spirit here.” The man, Frank, said sounding as though exhausted and watched his mother enter the house to be with his wife and children. “Damn woman wouldn’t listen when we told them not to go that way. We were just stupid Indians that didn’t know as much as her GPS and now she learned the hard way and we have to clean up her mess.” Headlights could be seen from the front of the house, someone arriving at the house, and feet crunching in the snow while another elder emerged carrying a cast iron collar on a length of iron wood. They would collar the creature and lead her much like cattle. A secondary staff was in his left hand fashioned with a hook that would secure to another loop in order to have two men lead the exceptionally willful and quick beast to where they wanted it to go.
Frank stepped away from the others and tried to block out the sounds of the captured creature being collared and ready for transportation through the woods to the cave where it would be kept from this day forward. The shaman stopped his song instead handing an iPod to the young man who would fit the ear buds into the ear of the creature to listen to songs that had been recorded for this reason exactly. It had happened so many times that now they could stop thinking, could simply go through the motions and for that Frank was grateful remembering the first time he had done exactly this. Back in those days the Shaman stayed and there was comfort to be had in that. “You alright, boy?” He was asked and looked at Paul. Paul had been there for his first and now looked so old.
“I will be, go stay with Mom and Nadine. I’ll be back as soon as I can.” He forced a smile, patted the old man on the shoulder and stepped away to take up the second staff and lock it into place. “Let’s go.” He nodded his partner ahead, taking up the left rear of the beast.

It seemed like they walked for hours in the frigid cold to the locked gate that sat upon a naturally formed cave. One that was dug clearly into the wall of the mountain and had no exit, hopefully still had no exit as no one could enter to check. A sigil was painted above the cave, a malformed skull of sorts with Cree glyphs painted along with it. She, the creature he corrected himself, recoiled from it as he opened the gate and released his staff from the lock. “Push it in.” It was easier if you didn’t think of them as being human once upon a time. Always easier. He took up the remaining staff with the other man and shoved hard, pushing this poor white woman through the cage door as shrieked and convulsed only to fall to the ground and begin vomiting a foul smelling bile upon the stone. Frank kicked the cell door closed and fashioned the lock into place. The warding would work for only so long before someday failing and when it did be damned if the reservation wasn’t going to have at least some time to evacuate.
“May the Creator ease your pain and forgive your mistake. Hunger does strange things to people.” He whispered, looking at the snow beneath his feet. “I hope it wasn’t your son that made you this way.” A growl was heard, weak from the depths of the cage. Another set of pale eyes staring from the darkness before the now desiccated creature moved forward and hissed lazily at him. A face much like his own if it had been born from a nightmare. “Hi Dad.” Thirty years almost to the day and the monster hadn’t aged a year. Not one year.
“I don’t know how you can manage to come out here every time. It’s like he knows you’re coming and is trying to figure out where he wants to bite first.” The other man – Trevor? – shuddered despite himself.
“Thirty years of starving, why else would it look like that at me? It’s not like he knew me, I was just a baby.” Frank shrugged; maybe this guy wasn’t named Trevor. He couldn’t really bring himself to care to be honest. “Now I’m just dinner. You accept it, deal with it and move on. Eventually they’ll die. Maybe. Who knows?” It was bleak to think about and even worse when he turned to look at his father, the woman now rousing herself and realizing what had happened almost instantly began throwing herself at the cage door with a shriek. Angry, fearful… Nothing that was new to him. “Just like they all do this. It’s like watching old shows; you know what’s going to happen because they never deviate. Never.” A shake of his head and he sighed, stepping back. “You know it shouldn’t bother me at all, I didn’t know the guy but it broke my mother. She still misses him; sometimes she comes to look at his face… I keep telling her not to but she does. Old woman is never going to learn but she says he was the love of her life. If it were Nadine I’d want her to move on, you know?” Frank rambled, he always rambled it was just how he coped with what he saw. With what he volunteered to do.
“Sometimes you just can’t fucking win, am I right or am I right?” He turned away then and saw the darkness on the snow first, brow furrowing in confusion. There was enough light to make sure that they didn’t have these shadows and they shouldn’t have appeared like splatter patterns. “Trev?” His eyes scanned ahead to the fallen man on the ground, his throat having been ripped out so quickly he hadn’t had time for a death rattle and upon his chest? A small figure no bigger than his own son of about two and a half, suddenly he felt sick and acceptance all at once. Frank was trapped; he would never be able to outrun this tiny creature that would likely tire him before he could make it that kilometer home. In this moment he knew he was done, he knew there was nothing he could do and the sound of hungry screams did nothing to lessen the blow behind him.
One cry however was almost… Joyous? Relieved? It was hard to describe as the female threw herself against the cage door to no avail time and time again. “…Well kid, I wish she had loved you enough to eat you.” The immortal wendigo child turned to him, a mouth full of blood and meat dripping from his small and broken maw while he stared at Frank. For a moment it was as though a stalemate began to declare itself and then… It pounced.

Wet slurping filled the cold night; the child ate like he had never eaten before. The meat was good. Healthy. It felt good between his teeth and sliding down his throat. He played with his meal as all children do, beaming at his mother when he turned to show her the puppet he’d made out of his second kills skull before pushing it forward with a soft croon, his mother whistling softly in the night to him. A lullaby that was for him only while trying to push a hand out from between the bars and found that she could not, so close and yet to so far from the son she’d kept alive for this long. The song turned sad and she found herself lying down, face pressed to the stone and her son soon mimicking the pose she held but out in the snow where she could not reach him. His tiny hand reaching for her but paused mere inches from her own and together they lay, singing softly to one another, waiting for the mark above the cave to simply wear with time.

Credit: Krys Rudderham

Abgar’s Story

March 6, 2017 at 12:00 AM

I’m unsure of what to say. All I can say is that I’m scared. Very scared. My hands shake violently as I hastily scribble down a few words onto the coarse wooden tablet. This is my only hope. “In the month of Tammuz, day 25 of the year 569, I, Abgar, son of Abbshamay, ‘navigator,’ have come here, to the country of Nysy; bless the god who has brought us here, and you, the man who reads this tablet, bless me as well and leave the tablet in this place where you find it.” That is what it reads. That’s all I’m able to write. I am so tired. I am so weary. I set the tablet against a mound, careful that it will not fall down, and go on my way, through the pitch blackness of this grand cave. I have been trapped here for days. It started when I left Palmyra, that great oasis city in the Levantine desert. I was to travel to the city of Aksum in Ethiopia to deliver silk textiles. Then I was to sail the vast sea to the lands of Persia and sell similar textiles at the cities of Istakhr, Ekbatana, and Ctesiphon, the Persian capital on the Tigris. From there, I was supposed to return to my homeland by caravan and receive payment. However, once I had left Aksum, the storm god, Baalshamin, wrought a great monsoon wind upon my vessel and ran us aground at the island of Nysy. It is almost uninhabited, but my friends, Elkud and Zabdibel, had decided to seek out locals for shelter. I was to explore the nearby coastal cave to find food. I was not ten cubits inside when I tumbled down a shaft and into the deep bowels of this cave. I was unable to climb back up, and so I was forced to go further into the tunnels. There were no signs of humanity save for inscriptions of a foreign tongue that I could not read. My hopes of returning to the surface quickly vanished into the moist air around me. I tearfully accepted this futility, crawled into a corner, and let sleep embrace me.

I was awoken at some odd hour of the night. The cave was eerily silent, but there was a pungent odor emanating from the depths of the tunnels. It smelled as if someone had boiled a rotten carcass in blood. I rubbed my eyes and stood up. Then, the sound started. A clicking sound, like somebody picking at their nails. I progressed into the darkness. I held my hands in front of me, the darkness concealing whatever lay ahead of me. The sound was louder now, but it seemed to be coming from two different directions. That’s when I reached a fork in the tunnel. The smell had gone away, but the sound had not. In fact, there were two of them now. The same sound was emitted from each side of the fork. I ventured into the one on my right. As I walked, the tunnel seemed to shrink ever so slightly with each step I took. All the while, the sound was getting louder and louder, until I reached a dead end. The sound was clear as day; it was coming from all around. Then, it abruptly stopped. The smell returned, so overbearing I almost fainted. Slowly, I turned around. Immediately, my heart stopped. This thing stood before me. I can’t explain what it was. It was a hunched down, twisted human-like thing. It had grey skin, and piercing yellow eyes. Its hands and feet were contorted and bore sharp white claws, which were curved like scythes. There were no eyes. Its mouth grinned wider than possible, and this grimace revealed scores of small, sharp teeth in rows. The thing opened its mouth even wider and let out an ear-splitting shriek, leaping towards me like a lion.

I awoke in a sweat. Nothing. There were no sounds, nor any ripe-smelling air. Once again, I stood up and looked around. The cave was still dark, but the air had become thicker, like the mist hanging over the Efqa spring on a hot summer day. I took one step, and almost collapsed. The floor of the cave had become… soft. It was like mud, but more dense. It still felt like rock when I touched it with my hands, and yet, it squelched underfoot. The walls of the cave shuddered. Was I dreaming? It simply couldn’t be. The walls were pulsating like veins. I kept walking. Then, the clicking started again. The smell returned as well. I was mortified, too scared to move on for fear of death. I pulled a tablet from beneath my robe, and wrote that note to whoever, or whatever, will find me. It’s too much. I leave the tablet beneath that mound, and as soon as I do, the floor of the cave becomes softer. My feet sink into it and leave deep impressions. The clicking sound stops. Light comes from a side tunnel of the cave, and I move towards it. Suddenly, the floor gives way again and I find myself falling for a second time. I hit the ground hard and the tunnels start spinning. I’m so dazed, I only have the energy to stare upwards at the ceiling. A face appears. The thing is back. It is reaching for me. I start to drift off and it smiles. The world becomes black, my eyelids close, and a thousand tiny pins push into my skin.

Author’s note: Abgar was a real person who lived and died almost 2,000 years ago. He was a native of Palmyra, Syria, who became lost in the Hoq cave on Socotra, a secluded island near Somalia. The tablet and its inscription were found by archaeologists exploring the cave. They followed Abgar’s wishes, and left the tablet where it was found. You can read more about Abgar and Socotra here.

The “Hooray, Ratings Work Again!” Giveaway – Winner Contacted

March 5, 2017 at 3:31 PM

Hey, everyone!

It’s been a few days since I implemented the fix – special thanks to CloudFlare tech support for figuring it out after everyone else I’d approached had been baffled – and it appears that we are fully in the clear with regards to the ratings plugin. I haven’t received any reports of malfunctions, and I’m seeing people voting like crazy in the logs, so I think it’s safe to say that we dodged a bullet and everything is finally back in working order!

To celebrate, I’m going to hold a giveaway! I’d been thinking about raffling off this particular item for awhile now as I thought it might be a fun way for some of you to render your creepypasta into a new form – so, no time like the present, right?

One winner will receive a Steam copy of TyranoBuilder Visual Novel Studio. This is a program that allows users to build their own visual novels, even without knowing any game programming or scripting (though the description states that more in-depth options exist for advanced users).

I’ve really enjoyed the few times that we’ve received submissions in interesting formats/platforms like Twine – and I’ve seen some authors express interest in turning their work into games or visual novels, so it’s my hope that some of you find this an interesting opportunity to tell your stories in a non-traditional fashion. While I’m only giving away one copy, I think it would absolutely be interesting to see future submissions or adaptations of already accepted stories (with permission and/or by the original author, of course) in this format!

Here are the details:

  • You need a Steam account that can receive gifts from a US Steam account.
  • You need to be 18 years of age or older to enter, please.
  • Due to the digital nature of the items, this contest is open worldwide, as long as it is legal for you to have a Steam account and receive gifts.
  • Please use the same name and/or email to comment that you use to enter the raffle. This will make validating comment entries much easier for me!
  • The raffle will start on March 06, 12:00AM EST and will accept entries until March 20, 12:00AM EST. You can see the helpful countdown on the widgets to know how much time is remaining!
  • I will draw names and contact the winner within 24 hours. If the winner does not reply to claim their prize within 72 hours of my contacting them, they will be disqualified and a new winner will be selected – rinse, repeat.
  • If the Rafflecopter widget below does not display for you, please click the text link in their place and enter on the raffle’s website.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck to everyone who enters!

Creepypasta

Submission Status

Submissions closed on February 21st, 2017. Please allow me time to work through the queue before I reopen submissions. PLEASE READ THE FAQ AND ANY RECENT ANNOUNCEMENTS BEFORE ATTEMPTING TO SUBMIT YOUR PASTA OR SENDING CONTACT REQUESTS.

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