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The Fig Tree

November 10, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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Rating: 6.2/10 (144 votes cast)

Farm work was foreign to me, but I needed the money. I was having trouble finding a job since the move to Georgia, and a friend of a friend had mentioned an old estate in the country run by some old woman that their aunt knew. A few strings were pulled and I was to help the old woman with any work that was needed. After working mostly clerical office jobs in the North, I must concede that I did have a slight aversion to outdoor labor, and Georgia in the summer didn’t quell this aversion; it was brutally hot, and the air and plants were teeming with insects.

The night before my first day, I received a call from the friend of a friend’s aunt, with whom I had never spoken. She was pleasant enough on the phone, but did mention that the old farm woman had been acting peculiar in the last few weeks. She attributed the behaviour to old age and only mentioned it so that I wouldn’t be disconcerted upon meeting the old woman. The call seemed out of place to me as I had never spoken to this lady; was the old woman so far gone as to require prior warning?

When I arrived at the farm it was apparent that little care went into upkeep, and, by my estimation, the grass and weeds were overgrown by weeks. I poked into the dusty garage area and was startled by an old woman standing at the rear of the room. She was obviously waiting for me, and my entrance triggered a sort of slow, shambling gait toward me. As she grew closer, I noticed a marbled, mossy glaze over her eyes. I voiced a greeting that went unreturned.

The woman spoke very little, but when she instructed me to pick figs for her, she spoke as if she was uncomfortable with her own vocal ability, and her volume and tone wavered inconsistently. This was odd, I thought, but was reminded of the phone call from the previous night.

I had never picked figs before, and the woman silently showed me how to pick the ripened ones from the bushy,dome shaped tree. She left me to tend to other farm matters, and I was alone, picking figs in the blistering heat; a bucket in my left hand, and a straw hat on my head to keep some of the sun at bay.

My right hand reached in between large leaves and pinched figs by the stem. The very ripe ones would come detached with ease while the lesser took more twisting and turning to snap off. There was no way to pick these without having your body and face inches from leaves and branches. More often than not, the figs would bleed a sticky, milky liquid from their stem which would ooze onto my fingers. It was beginning to attract different kinds of flies to my skin. That, combined with the noisy crickets and hoppers was enough to drive anyone mad. The alternating stutter of their screeching wings was so obvious, and when you’re alone, it can drown out your thoughts.

My left arm grew tired of holding the bucket as it filled with plump figs. The sun penetrated my thin cotton shirt, and I could feel sweat beads running down my back and legs. I could lick my lips and taste salt on my mustache. Sweat beads are indistinguishable from the light tickle an insect creates when it scurries up your limbs. How could I know whether or not a fire ant, or spider wasn’t there? I found it best to swat at every tingle.

Despite the annoying bugs, I continued to pick figs, but my bucket didn’t seem to be filling, and the minutes passed like days; slow and methodical. I wasn’t sure if the heat was making me delirious, or if I was just tired of picking figs, but I began to feel uneasy, and unstable. The world behind me fizzled,and I felt like the fig tree, the bugs, and I, were the only creatures to exist. Each fig, bleeding its milk onto my fingers as I picked it, and each branch, shuddering in pain and with rancor when it lost its fig. That’s impossible, I thought, the tree cannot feel when a fig has been severed and stolen from it.

The inferno in the sky baked my arms and neck. My thoughts wandered as I watched my forearms cook in the sun. My face contorted reflexively to a little green fly biting my other hand. I slapped my hand but the fly escaped. I was not sure how long I had been standing, staring at my arm, but I turned my head to look for the next cluster of figs to pick. The inside of the tree’s dome was dark. Somehow the blinding sunlight didn’t penetrate the canopy. The crickets and grasshoppers were still screaming; screaming for what? Why were they always screaming? For moments I felt as though I was being screamed at; a portentous wail. Little tiny legs and bodies would unnervingly scuttle past my peripheral vision when I tried to focus.

I turned around to gain some perspective, but the sun stabbed my eyes and forced me to shield them until I felt a prick on my ankle. I slapped the spot on my leg, and lifted my pants but did not see a culprit. As I squatted, bent over, I slowly lifted my gaze to the fig tree. Inches from my face, in between two leaves and on a branch, was an arachnid: Opiliones, the daddy longlegs. It sat facing me, and I gazed for what seemed like minutes. What is it doing? Why is it sitting so still in the same spot? I studied it, the way it suspended from those hair-thin legs.; It’s body, a small control room for the entire entity. What an odd creature, I thought, until I caught glimpse of its eyes; pitch black, unmoving, and unwavering onyx. Were those black beads looking back at me? That isn’t that ridiculous, I thought. It would be an evolutionary blunder for a creature so small to not recognize possible large, predatory mammals. But the way it stared back at me made me feel uneasy. It’s just a spider, I reasoned, it doesn’t have a consciousness, though I felt insignificant comparatively. I am six feet tall and you are mere inches, I thought, attempting to express my dominance telepathically. My confidence was a facade, though, and the spider saw through me. Every twitch in my face, every micro-expression I expressed, the spider recorded and noted. I am imperfect. I am faltering and insecure. The spider watches me with supremacy, and assuredness: an abettor for the tree.

I tried to stand and focus on the task at hand, picking figs. My eyes shifted at every scurry in my periphery. My legs felt sore, and my heart raced. I Approached the back side of the fig tree which was hidden in the shade of a large maple, but I felt little relief from the sun. Each little green fly, like a tiny hypodermic needle, sucking blood at my expense.

I hadn’t noticed until this moment, but the leaves of the fig tree all appeared to be facing me, like one of those paintings with the eyes that follow your every move. Why was it so dark inside the dome? The leaves were menacing sentinels. Cosmic, judgmental extremities analyzing my being; tallying up the number of fruits I have stolen without asking. I don’t need permission, I contemplated; man is ruler of this world. You will make more figs in a weeks time, and be plentiful throughout your life, fig tree. As the thought crossed my mind, a large june bug dinged against my forehead and startled me. The crickets were now a deafening howl; a siren, calling to lost sailors.

I heard a rustling shuffle in the grass and turned to see the old woman, roughly ten meters away, dragging her feet and making her way toward the house. Her hands and face were muddy, and she seemed to smile at me as she passed by. But something about her smile had an ulterior expression. Her eyes… Her mouth smiled, but her eyes bore through me; examining. What was I thinking – It seemed like an ordinary, polite smile from an, albeit, senile old woman. But why was it so unnerving?

The moment was short lived when I was forced to switch my sight to my left shoulder: a small green fly, biting me. It was biting my shoulder and staring into my eyes when I turned. I pinched the fly and flicked my fingers to dispatch it; its life taken in milliseconds. The screeching crickets and grasshoppers increased in decibels to become an unbearable shrill, as though metal forks were dragged along porcelain china. I slowly turned my head toward the inside of the tree.

Darkness loomed inside the dome; a black abyss. My ears rang with the cacophonous insect symphony. I dared not blink. The tree knew… It knew me. It wasn’t just the tree; it was all plant life. The tree spoke for all vegetation. They fought and clawed upward toward the sun. their purpose was war and survival, and their means were any. In my mind, I pleaded: it’s just figs… Only food for us… I haven’t violated you.

My peripheral vision caught an unsightly horror. I turned my head and met the gaze of a spider. This couldn’t be the same spider, I thought, I was on the other side of the tree. It’s legs were perched on an emerald leaf. My eyes could not move. I could not look away. It stared into my pupils. The ancient wisdom of a thousand Gods watched me through its eyes like a hunter sees an unsuspecting doe through their scope. I scratched and raked at my oppressively itchy arms. The heat made my sweaty skin sticky and irritated, but I dared not oppose the spider. The fig tree commanded the flies to bite my skin. The spider was its rifle scope. The tree was choreographing the entire dark dance. I am the spider. I am the tree. I am nothing. This is dread and terror. Its figs are precious seed, and I am a villain.

My mind spun and spun, and my eyes fixated. My entire body felt a pressure building; heat and pressure like a thick boiling ooze filling the inside of my abdomen and flowing through my veins until my brain eventually pops. The spider watched, and surveyed. I am imperfect. I am insecure.

Spiraling conical darkness eroded my vision until it burst into a watery, fish-eyed perception. I felt inhuman.

I was paralyzed by what I saw thereafter. My legs quivered; all of them. I was looking at a thin man. A mustachioed man wearing a straw hat, with what can only be described as evil in his eyes, glared at me. I was looking at myself! What am I standing on? The ground felt too lofty, like a green ribbon attached to a post. All of my legs scrambled and my body bobbed, like a fig on a thin branch. How is this possible? I am the spider. A twisted grin on the man’s unblinking face appeared and his hand reached out toward me. I tried to run, but my eight limbs were clumsy, and I was petrified by what I saw; the man’s eyes had the same mossy glaze the old woman’s had. His fingers pressed on my entire body until I felt different again.

I can’t really describe what I saw next, because it isn’t that I saw, in the traditional sense of vision via eyeballs. But I perceived a marbling swirl of light. I could feel the air, as if a chain link fence could feel a light breeze gently push through it. I could not move; my body felt composed of stone… or wood. I could feel them all over me; the insects.

My God, I thought, I’ve become the tree.

The hordes of insects were Crawling, squirming, and tickling my extremities; making homes in my nooks and crannies, and slithering around my roots. How is this possible, I cried; how have we switched places? What kind of dark magic did this tree harness? I felt my figs being forcibly removed by something; like having a bandaid or cuticle slowly ripped off. I lamented, what kind of twisted justice is this? My branches bled. This is the waking nightmare; the verdant wraith.

Credit To – SnakesAgain

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The Wicked

November 9, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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Rating: 6.2/10 (119 votes cast)

I see my toes peeking over the edge of a perfect, circular hole in the ground. There’s nothing in the hole but pitch darkness in screeching contrast with the smooth beige of the ground I’m standing on. Everything is quiet. I am not here to fall in.

Faint scratching heightens in volume until the distorted light in this world illuminates a pulsating mass of beige flesh sliding up the smooth, vertical wall of the hole—sliding up closer and closer to my toes. I do not fear it.

An arm shoots forth from the throbbing, ever-shifting amalgamation of what appeared to be human appendages. It reaches for the edge of the hole. It wants to get out. The fingers scrabble pitifully for purchase, but the walls are smooth and uncompromising. In desperation, the hand digs its fingernails into the wall, losing them as the bulk of the creature’s mass begins to slide back into the darkness of the hole. With a shudder, the body of limbs lurches upward again, a new arm shooting out, still searching in vain for the edge of the hole. I watch coldly.

Five times it does this. Five times the hands leave a trail of blood on the wall as the body slides back down.

On the sixth try, I lean down and wrap my hands around the wrist of its latest arm, easily pulling the entire amorphous creature out of the hole and laying it down on the ground beside me. I didn’t help out of pity or kindness.

A massive slit appears on the thickest part of the creature’s body, the curvature of lips slowly forming around the slit. It seems to face me, and the mouth opens to reveal pointed, uniform teeth, lips curving in a way that indicated sounds would soon follow. Still, I do not fear it.

My mother abruptly wakes me up for school.

I haven’t seen that dream for 11 years. But I remember it every night.

Because I fear dying among strangers, I didn’t enroll in summer courses at my university. I’m home for the summer, as usual, resigned to the irrationality of knowing that creature will eventually come for me. A flicker of defiance is all that sustains me. In a strange twist of a counter curse, I avoid happiness, believing the sacrifice of that crucial emotion would stave off the inevitable. But I was wrong.

Lately, there have been missing person reports in the news. People just disappear without a trace, vanish without any identifiable motive. Four gone in just a week, all in my neighborhood. The police are neck-deep in a city-wide manhunt, warning residents of my neighborhood in particular to be extremely careful of any suspicious people. I remember the door-to-door visit coming as a surprise in the evening during family dinner and the silence afterwards while the TV blared in the background. No one was watching it.

No one knows about that dream but me. Without reason or evidence, I know it’s coming for me. Still, I do not fear it.

Five gone, one for each of its damaged hands. My turn’s next.

I don’t know the correct way to fear it. I’m a dead man walking, emotions in limbo. This has not changed in 11 years. The ticking of the wall clock has been impossibly loud for 11 years.

The night brings with it a primal fear. I don’t go out at night, ever. At most, I look at the darkened world outside through the false safety of a window. Tonight is a window night because sleeping is risky.

There is a tree in my house’s front yard that blossoms beautifully during the summer. Some small comfort for me to look at through the window. An arm slithers around the tree trunk. I freeze. Some primitive instinct tells me if I move now, I will die. The moonlight is distorted and even the air has stopped moving. There’s no light source in the sky and everything seems to reflect a silvery sheen of light. The shadows are pitch black. A frozen world of high contrast marred by the movement of that arm spiraling upward and around the tree trunk, twisting itself into a knot around one of the branches. I blink. I know that was a mistake.

All along the length of the arm, the flesh pulsates, rippling like liquid. Eyes, noses, mouths, and ears slowly form and solidify into faces. Different faces protrude from the arm to form whole heads attached by a spindly neck. Pairs of eyes search in different directions, mouths stretched tight in a hideous grin. One set of eyes lock on to mine. The mouth opens and the piercing shriek swivels the other heads around until all eyes are on me.

“No,” I whisper.

I hear faint scratching behind me getting louder. I feel hands on my head, my shoulders, my arms, more of them wrapping around me. The arm around the tree slowly uncoils itself and the last thing I see are the heads, eyes narrowed in glee, repeatedly mouthing a word I think might have been, “Free.”

Credit To – January

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The Estate

November 8, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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Every town has its own set of urban legends, or “ghost stories,” if you will; alligators in the sewers, crop circles, cave spirits, the like. I, personally, never believed them. They all seemed highly unrealistic. They were just myths created by adults to scare kids away from certain areas, or created by teens for the fun of it, I told myself. My town, like any other, has its own myths and stories. But the tales surrounding the local forest preserve (the ones I shall now relate to you) seem pretty far out there. Looking back, however, I can’t help thinking how stupid I was not to believe the old stories.
The myths really started to grow only recently, mainly when the Forest Preserve District took over the house of Old Man Peabody. However, the real history of the house has been known around the area for much longer. The true history (the accurate, non-supernatural history) of Peabody Estate goes something like this…
Old Man Peabody (as the locals call him now) was in the coal business. He was a rich man, and rich men need somewhere to live. So, of course, in the early 1920’s he built himself a nice house near a forest and a pond. It was a large house, with many rooms and big gardens and yards for his kids and family to use.
However, his “kids” (or at least one of them) were dead, as was his wife, and they were both named May. No one really knows how they died, but they were dead before Peabody moved in. It was sad for him, to lose his daughter and his wife. Anyway, he named his estate in honor of them; Mayslake.
However, only a year or so after the coal baron built his mansion, he died of a heart attack while foxhunting. He was only 63. Foul play? Greedy relatives? Not likely. His family moved out soon after, and didn’t even keep the house. They sold it.
Of course, the fact that his family didn’t want to stay in thirty-nine room mansion on an estate of over 800 acres is suspicious, but I’ll ignore that for the sake of accuracy. So, anyway, his family left, and they sold the estate to a Franciscan order of monks; the monks used it as a retreat. Now, here’s the interesting part; the monks made quite a few additions to the house once they owned it. They added other wings, away from the main building, which were connected to the house by a labyrinth of underground passages. They also added a memorial chapel for Peabody, which was erected on the other side of the lake.
Now, all these additions gave the monks quite a bit of space. Interesting as the new architecture was, the monks decided to put it to use. As religious men, they chose to use the extra space to help the less fortunate. The main house became an orphanage, and the monks moved into the outer wings.
Over the years, the monks had to sell off acres of the land, eventually leaving them with only eighty-seven of the original 800 or so acres. This was disappointing to everybody, especially because in 1991 the monks finally had to sell the final acres to a contracting and landscaping company, who were planning to tear it down and build a new neighborhood. The townsfolk, hearing about this, decided to band together in order to save the historic house. Together, they got enough support that the village hall granted the Forest Preserve District the money to buy the house from the monks. And so the house passed from another hand to a new one. The monks had certainly left their marks, and now it was the Forest Preserve’s turn.
Things slowed down, now. No big changes, no big improvements, no suspicious deaths or chapels. The house and the 87 acres became Mayslake Forest Preserve, and Peabody Estate remained as it was, per the wishes of the townsfolk. But now the myths started rolling in, full force.
Quite a few of the myths has been in the area for many years, but the change of hands brought the tales back to life. The Rangers working at the preserve especially began to report odd sightings.
There were four main tales surrounding the estate of Old Man Peabody. The oldest tale had to do with Peabody’s memorial chapel. The legend went that anyone who touched the glass of Peabody’s coffin (yes, it was a glass coffin) would have immense luck and fortune for years to come. This tale was actually far older than the Forest Preserve’s ownership of the land; it extended even into the early time of the monks’ ownership. Of course, the promise of luck attracted many teenagers and ne’er-do-wells to property, so this ties right in to the next myth.
The monks were not happy to have a bunch of teens sneaking around and eventually vandalizing their prized chapel, so they hired guards to protect it. At night, as the legend goes, these big, burly guards would prowl the grounds of the estate, looking for teenagers and anyone else who shouldn’t have been there. The thing was, though, the guards wore monk habits, so they were very hard to see at night, and very hard to distinguish as guards. Furthermore, they had dogs. Big, vicious dogs. One encounter with a hooded man and a snapping, snarling, dog, and the crowd heads for the hills. The monks were satisfied, but the guards were not. Legend states that the ghosts of the guards still walk the grounds at night, waiting for their next victim…
But what about the big, hulking, Tudor Revival-style house? Well, of course there are stories about that, too. Stories I still didn’t believe. The tales surrounding the house involved the orphanage era and the monks themselves, but they sounded about as accurate and true as the last few.
The myth about the orphanage went something like this. During the time of the orphanage, the children slept on the uppermost floor of the house. The stairs leading downward had no railing, and dropped off about thirty feet to the floor of the main room. So, predictably, one night a young boy was bouncing a ball down the hall of the sleeping quarters, when the ball started to roll down the stairs. The boy chased after the ball, but he tripped, fell thirty feet off the stairs, broke his neck, and died. Although there are actual records of the event, the legend is that, on some nights, one can hear a ball bouncing down the stairs, and the laughter of children.
The final big story of Mayslake Estate is one about the tunnels under the ground. You remember the tunnels, right? They connect the house to the outlying wings where the monks slept. They’re cement, bare-wire-lighting tunnels, with single bulbs every thirty feet or so. It is said that if you go down into the tunnels alone, you can hear the monks walking around, or even see apparitions and other strange sights.
Interesting tales, huh? Creepy to think about, but not really scary. Like I’ve said many times now, I never believed them. And that was my mistake.

I rode my bike up the road to Mayslake Forest Preserve. The forest on either side of the road was dark, and cars only drove by once in a while. It was past midnight, and there was no visible moon out. I wasn’t scared, though. It was just an old house with a pond and a chapel. No biggie.
Earlier that day, our Social Studies teacher had brought up the topic of local legends in class. I knew about Old Man Peabody and his estate, and although I didn’t believe the stories, I brought it up anyway. My teacher was rather impressed with my knowledge on the subject, but then a few other kids brought up other topics, and I was forgotten. C’est la vie.
But my friends didn’t forget. Later at lunch, one of the jokingly said,
“I bet I could get to Peabody’s coffin and touch it without freaking!”
“Nuh uh!” I exclaimed, laughing. “You couldn’t if you tried!”
The conversation slowly turned from joking to angry, after a while. We almost had a row, but we decided to settle it with a bet in order to avoid trouble from the teachers. I bet my friend that I could go to Peabody Estate, get into the house, use the tunnels, and make it to Peabody’s coffin, taking pictures all the way. If I failed (I was fairly certain I wouldn’t), I had to pay up and give my friend my snack money for a week, and then my friend could take a shot at the same challenge. If he succeeded at the bet, he got my snack money for two weeks. If I won, I got his for a week. It was no big challenge, really. I was fairly certain I could succeed with flying colors.
And that lead me to the Forest Preserve at one in the morning. I noticed that as I entered the parking lot, there was a sign that read, “No entrance after dark.” Too bad for them, because I just did.
I parked my bike in the lot closest to the house. Off to one side, I could see the chapel across the lake. On the other side, there was one of the wings that the monks had slept in. The mansion stood in front of me. I took a deep breath, readied my camera, and walked towards the house.
The field surrounding the house was dark, all the windows of the house were dark, and the parking lot was dark. The only light came from the stars overhead, and the streetlights back by the road, but those were farther away. If I had brought a flashlight, however, I probably could have been seen by the neighbors across the road. I couldn’t risk that. I crossed the field to the house’s entrance.
Finally, after what felt like an eternity of walking, I reached the door. I had never realized how far apart the buildings on the estate were. I grabbed for the handle, but I stopped short. I got the odd feeling that I was being watched. I turned to my left and my right, but saw nothing. I steeled my nerves, and turned around. But there was nothing. The field was empty.
I could hear, though, faint footsteps, like a man in heavy boots walking over pavement. It was probably a man back by the road where I had come from. I shivered, though. The walking continued, but slowly faded away.
I reached again for the door, and grabbed the handle. It was locked. Why wasn’t I surprised? Well, I should take a picture now, I thought to myself. Might as well. So, I raised my camera to the door, and snapped a shot.
Damn it! I had left the flash on! I was temporarily blinded, and I feared that someone might have seen me, but I still heard nothing. Once I got my sight back, I checked the camera. Everything seemed in place. Wait, what was that in the window? Better zoom in…
I nearly screamed. In the picture, in the window next to the door, I could clearly see a child’s face. It was lit up by the flash. But that was impossible! The house was deserted once the preserve closed for the night! It must have been a trick of the light. I shuddered again, and put the camera in my pocket. There was no one at the window.
“Trick of the light, trick of the light…” I muttered to myself. I began to walk around to the back of the house. I knew there was a large backdoor that opened to the huge, main room of the mansion. The house was sometimes used to host parties, but more often than not the backdoor was the one used. I figured that might be open.
When I got around to the back, I saw that there was, in fact, a door, just as I knew there would be. It was mostly glass, and it allowed me to see into the large, main room of the house. Off to one side of the room was a set of stairs leading up, still without railings. Gee, that had to be a liability!
I reached for the doorknob on the back door, and to my surprise, it swung open easily. Almost as if I was expected. Nah, that’s insane! I thought to myself. Who would be here to expect me? It’s completely emp-
I stopped mid-thought. I could clearly hear a bouncing sound from inside the house, like a toy ball falling down stairs. I wasn’t even in the house yet, and I was already hearing things! At least, that was what I wanted to believe. Come on, ghosts don’t exist! I thought. They can’t! Right?
I snapped a quick picture of the door I used, with the flash off, but I refused to look at the image. I was still a bit jittery after the first time. It couldn’t possibly have been a kid, but it sure looked close enough. I would look over my camera later.
I walked into the house, quiet as possible. The bouncing had stopped now. I looked around the mansion’s interior.
“This isn’t so bad!” I said aloud. It was certainly nicer in daytime, but still. It really wasn’t too bad.
“You sure?”
I whirled around as fast as possible, but there was no one there. It was a very faint whisper, almost like it was said at the top of the stairs in a quiet voice, but I distinctly heard it. It was so quiet, so airy, though, that it could have come from just about anywhere. I was sure I heard it! I mean, hearing bouncing is understandable, but hearing voices? This was getting freaky.
I snapped some images of the inside, but one particular picture I decided to look at. It was a picture I had taken of the stairs. Nothing is going to show up! It’s just stairs! That was where I was wrong. Again. And I wish I had never taken the picture.
In the picture, on the floor in front of me, was a kid, with his neck at an odd, twisted angle. I quickly looked up from the camera, but the floor in front of me was empty. The dead kid was only in the photo. It was clear he had snapped his neck when he fell from the top of the stairs. In the corner of the photo at the bottom of the stairs was a blue, toy ball. This couldn’t possibly have been a trick of the light. Now there was something seriously wrong.
“What a sad way to go,” I said aloud, not even thinking. It was a waste of life, the kid, but I had to find the tunnels now. So I moved on, trying to erase the image of the young boy’s lifeless body from my mind. It was all in my imagination, after all. It had to be.
I should have left then. But I was stubborn. I had to win the bet.

I knew by heart where the entrance to the monks’ tunnels was. I had taken countless tours around the house with my dad (he’s a bit of a history buff). It was in the basement, around the corner. Down the dark stairs, in the dark cellar. Thankfully, I knew where the light switches were. I could turn them on in the mansion, and turn them off in the monks’ wing.
Once I had turned the basement lights on, I worked my way through the network of old storage and pipes until I found the door leading to the tunnels. I reached for the door, and stopped, because I half expected there to be something terrifying behind the door. But that’s when I heard the rustling of robes. Like a monk walking towards me, through the basement.
That sound, even if I convinced myself it was my imagination, forced my hand. I turned the handle of the door, and shut it behind me. I breathed a sigh of relief when nothing tried to open the door behind me. But now I had the tunnels to face.
Ahead of me was a straight, narrow cement tunnel. It was completely bare of anything except for light bulbs and wires hanging from the ceiling. It was dark in some spots, and light in others. It was quite terrifying to look upon, really. But there was nothing in this old house! Nothing! There couldn’t be!
I walked along quickly, taking a few pictures along the way, and I was nearly to the end of the tunnel when I heard a sound that chilled me to the core. It was the sound of a pop can being kicked over.
Now, I know that sounds really stupid. But that sound singlehandedly convinced me that there was something wrong with this place. I turned around, and saw nothing, once again. Until I looked down. About halfway back to the basement of the house, there was a pop can, knocked over. I was positive it hadn’t been there when I first entered the tunnel. And what’s worse was that it was a really old pop can, too. It was rusted, and the design that I could make out was practically ancient in style. My brain worked fast, and to my dismay, it concluded that these ghosts (if they exist! I countered) could, one, interact with objects, and therefore people, and two, they were following me.
I ran down the rest of the tunnel. I barely stopped to turn the light switch off, and I snapped a very hurried picture of the monks’ quarters. I didn’t bother to see what it looked like, because I could have sworn I heard a group of people praying as I left the building.
I should really head home! I thought. I was either really tired, or I had passed out completely in some corner, and this was all just a dream. Well, I sure hoped it was a dream. It all seemed very, very real, though. I could feel the earth beneath my feet, and if I reached my arm out I could feel the wall of the monks’ quarters as I leaned against it, catching my breath.
But I was so close to winning the bet! But does the bet matter that much? I asked myself. Well, no, not really. What, so I lose cookies for a week or two. So? If this is all real, I got some pretty good trick-of-the-light photos. Those would easily make up for the cookies.
Then I heard growling. Deep-throated, animalistic growling. But there was a wall behind me! Where could it be coming from? I turned to my left, and saw nothing. I turned to my right, and saw noth- no. There was something, way out by the woods. I saw a figure move, I swear! I could feel my heart beat faster as the shadow returned to darkness. I would have to run over that way eventually to reach my bike, though.
No! There was nothing there! This was crazy! Now I really was seeing things! I could still finish this, though. I just have to visit Old Man Peabody! I thought. If I touched his coffin, maybe it will all go away! So, thinking this, I ran towards the chapel at the far end of the lake, away from the house and the monks’ quarters. I ran as fast as my legs would carry me.
It was a good one-hundred yard sprint at least, maybe more, to the chapel. I had never run so fast in my life. Now, though, as I calmed down, I wasn’t even sure why I was running. Sure, I heard some things, and saw a shadow move, snapped some pictures, but that was all part of my imagination! Right? RIGHT?
I sprinted to the chapel. I was right there! RIGHT THERE! I was by the door when I decided to take a breather. I was running from nothing. There was nothing here at all except for an old house and a pond. I was sure of it now; there was nothing scary about this place. But then I heard the footsteps.
They were quiet, treading silently, much quieter than they should have been, for a man that big. I turned, half knowing what I would see, but dreading it all the same. My fear overcame me as the dog leapt at my throat. I tried to scream, but the weight of the dog on my chest as it knocked me over cut out the sound. Then it bit into my throat, cutting my windpipe and spilling my blood on the ground. I felt nothing. I said nothing. I did nothing. The last thing I saw, though, before everything went dark, was a very large man in a monk’s habit, with the hood pulled over his head. But there were no guards on the Estate! Not anymore! There hadn’t been for over twenty-five years! This was… This was… imp… imposs…

I don’t quite recall what happened after that. I know I woke up, exactly where the dog had pushed me over, but now the sun was shining and someone was telling me “In God’s name, get up or I’ll call the cops!” My eye flickered open, and I saw a forest preserve ranger standing over me, a scowl on his face. He offered me his hand, and then yanked me up forcefully. He had short, black curly hair on his head, but very little facial hair. He was easily half a foot taller than me, maybe more.
“Do you know how much trouble you should be in? I know why you’re here. Try to spot some ghosts, would you? Pf, haven’t seen ghosts here in a long time. Not since… Well, not for ten years, now. But that’s none of your business. Ghosts don’t exist. But you know what does exist? Cops. And your parents. And let me tell you…” The park ranger rambled on for a bit about how my parents ought to chew me out over this and he could report me to the authorities. I zoned out while he talked, mostly, but finally he said, “Well? You have anything to say for yourself?”
I did, actually. “Will you let me off the hook if I show you some real ghosts?”
The man took a step back. “Are you crazy? Did you not hear what I just said? Ghosts aren’t real! What, you’re trying to convince me that you had a right to be here after hours?”
I shrugged. “My friends made me come here on a bet. They bet I couldn’t stay here overnight, but if I did, I had to get pictures to prove it.” I widened my eyes for effect. “But boy, did I get some great pictures! I’ve got proof of ghosts!”
The ranger rubbed his stubble in thought. “You’re either delusional from thirst or you’re just seeing things.” He seemed to change his mind, then, and he stopped rubbing his face. “You know what? Let me see these pictures. Then I’ll make up my mind.”
I gleefully, maybe a little too gleefully, pulled my camera out of my pocket and hurriedly flipped to the pictures I had taken. The man looked at them and sighed.
“You got yourself a faulty camera, man,” he said to me with a hint of disdain. My eyebrow twitched quietly at what I saw, and I nearly dropped my camera. All my pictures were white.
Not like the white you get from overexposure or too much flash or something, but white as in photographed-some-paper white. Blank. Not a change anywhere to be found. Of every picture I took of the house.
I knew for a fact that those pictures had turned out perfectly fine when I took them. Heck, I checked half of them over myself after I took them! How could they possibly be whi-
I nearly jumped out of my skin when I heard the child’s laughter. I looked past the park ranger, towards Peabody’s house, and saw, through the glass door, a small child, waving at me. He smiled a ridiculously large grin, and then turned away, into the house. Was it just coincidence, or could it have been…
“Hey, what time does the park open?” I asked.
“Nine o’clock. Why?” the ranger responded.
“What time is it now?” I asked.
The ranger checked his watch. “Seven thirty. What, you got a hot date or something?”
Great. So all my pictures were crap, I would lose the bet, and to top it off, even if I told the truth, nobody, absolutely nobody, would believe. Except that kid in the window.
I almost swore aloud.

Credit To – Andrew Sova

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The Missive of Jeriah Dowd

November 7, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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It was about a year ago, in June of 1928, that I entered the New England convalescent’s home where I sit writing this missive. I do not wish to record its exact location, for if this manuscript somehow reaches the outside world I do not want unsavory and foolish callers questioning me about what I am about to write, about the things I saw in that jungle.

I arrived in Bolivia in February of 1928, landing at Arica in Chile and traveling overland to that country’s high inland plateau. With me I brought only one companion, the illustrious Doctor Aleister Braithwaite of Miskatonic University. The good Doctor was one of the leading experts in linguistics in the country. He knew tens of languages both currently living and millennia dead, and, especially pertinent to this expedition, specialized in the languages of the natives of South Africa. While convenient, this area was not where we both expected him to truly flex his skills. His research into old tongues had also given him an appreciation of history and archaeology, and we were on the track of something much older and stranger than South African language. With the combination of my own intrepid abilities in exploration and bushwhacking and the Doctor’s quick linguistic wit, we believed there was no way our quarry could evade us. Not a day goes by that I do not regret that our belief was right.

Shortly after our twosome arrived at our La Paz apartments, we began to inquire after our goal, and after the actions and whereabouts of a talkative white man in a bicorn hat. This man was my good friend Charles McAlister, known back home in Providence for his effervescent manner and signature archaic headgear. It was McAlister who had given us the information that precipitated our trip. He had spent three years in Bolivia, both in the cities and among the small jungle villages, where often old languages and customs run deep. It was from the latter that he first heard rumors of an ancient city deep in the primeval jungles of the Amazon. Supposedly, this city was ancient beyond the memories of man, built of Cyclopean blocks of basalt covered with indecipherable decisions. Supposedly the place’s original inhabitants had died out millennia ago, but such were the rumors of their sacrilegious dark arts and disgusting acts of cannibalism and human sacrifice that none of the locals had ever tried to enter the place or make it their own. In fact, the ancient inhabitants of this supposed city were so feared that it was a taboo to speak of them or their now-overgrown home. McAlister only managed to obtain so much information by plying the locals with expensive whisky.

McAlister had related all this and more to me in a letter which I’d received a few months ago. Besides the information above, he informed me that the rumored location of the ancient city was a day’s march from a southerly village called Yaku-Sumaq, literally meaning good water in the local dialect. McAlister concluded by saying he was departing to Yaku-Sumaq the next morning in search of the nameless city. The date next to his signature was from several weeks before I received the letter.

I was vaguely interested in the matter of the ancient city, and awaited correspondence from McAlister regarding his mission. However, nearly two months passed without a peep from him. However, at that time a letter from Bolivia arrived in my mailbox. Its writer was an English expatriate called Samuel Browne, who lived in La Paz. Charles had left my address with him, along with instructions to mail me were he to go missing. According to the letter, this condition had been met: McAlister had not been seen since a few days after he wrote the original letter. After a short internal deliberation, I decided that I must go to Bolivia to find him. However eccentric he was, he was my good friend since childhood. Due to the ancient mysteries that potentially figured in Charles’ disappearance, I decided it would be necessary to bring along an expert, and I found an eager one in Dr. Braithwaite. As soon as I related the rumors of the ancient city to him, his eyes sparkled in scholarly fervor and he agreed to take ship with me to Bolivia.

As I said, Dr. Braithwaite and I began searching for Charles McAlister as soon as we arrived in La Paz. The final location we visited was the home of Samuel Browne. Browne welcomed us in, poured some tea, and asked “Mr. Dowd, I presume? You are here to inquire about the whereabouts of Mr. McAlister?”

“Yes, I am,” I replied. “Have you seen him since mailing me?”

“I’m afraid not,” Browne said. He was here months ago in that ridiculous old hat to give me your address, and since then I have seen neither hide nor hair of him. I believe it’s been more than month now. A few weeks ago I heard rumors of an oddly-dressed foreigner out in one of the jungle villages, but that’s it.”

This was disquieting news. I had entertained a feeble hope that Charles had turned up sometime between receiving Browne’s letter and our arrival, but it seemed this was not the case. “When he visited you last,” I asked, “what did you notice? Any strange behaviors? Stranger than normal, I mean?”

Browne rubbed his hand against his chin, as if stroking a nonexistent beard. “Hmmm…He was talking quite animatedly about some sort of ruined city when he visited. He left on an expedition to find it the next day.”

“Did he mention any sort of planning for his expedition? Buying provisions? Hiring porters or guides?” I said.

Browne frowned. “Nothing of the sort. Only that he hoped to be at his destination in less than a week’s time.”

I sighed. It was just like McAlister to go haring off into the jungle without the slightest preparation. I dearly hoped we would find him safe and sound, but I did not let myself entertain much hope. Dr. Braithwaite and I thanked Browne for his time and took our leave.

It took us a week to get to Yaku-Sumaq, seven stinking days in the back of a donkey cart. As much as I’d mentally admonished McAlister for not adequately preparing for his jungle trek, we had not done much better. In the interest of haste, between the two of us we had nothing but some long-keeping provisions, bushwhacking supplies such as machetes, hatchets, and rope, firestarting equipment and some camping pots to boil water and cook in. It was our plan to try to hire a guide who knew the local jungle in Yaku-Sumaq itself.

We arrived as the sun was setting on our seventh day on the road. To our surprise we found not the squalid collection of thatch-roofed hovels we had expected, but a relatively modern set of muddy streets lined with wood-framed buildings, which we later learned had been funded by logging companies interested in the area’s trees. The one closest to us was a tavern, with a barroom on the ground floor and lodgings above. Braithwaite and I walked in, eager to wash a week’s worth of dust from our throats.

The barroom was at about three-fourths capacity, split near-equally between white men and natives of the area. Sitting down at the bar, Braithwaite ordered a pint, and I asked for the same along with two fingers of whiskey. After resting for a few minutes, we began to ask the other patrons about bicorn-wearing McAlister and his mythic, cannibal-haunted destination. No one we asked about McAlister had seen hide nor hair of him. Similarly, none of the whites we asked about the ancient city knew any more of it than we did. Most hadn’t even heard of it before we questioned them. In contrast, the natives said nothing when we queried them, only shook their heads or stared levelly at Braithwaite and I with dark, hooded eyes.

Our information-gathering fruitless, we bought a room from the proprietor. We were about to ascend the steps and prepare for sleep when a voice called to us. “I heard you asking about Qu’xtl earlier.” The voice came from a dark corner of the barroom. “Your friend was asking about it too, weeks ago.”

“Q-Qu’xtl?” I said, mouth stumbling over the weird, almost inhuman syllables.

“The city in the jungle. All built of basalt, and cursed. The one you were asking about. Qu’xtl,” came the gruff reply.

Even the name of our previously unidentified target sent a chill down my spine. The archaic, unnatural syllables conjured up visions of horrid rites perpetrated in darkest night, of fell ceremonies honoring nameless gods forgotten by civilized man.

I paced over to the corner, with Dr. Braithwaite close behind. The cryptic speaker sat at a poorly-lit table, an untouched mug of ale in front of him. His face was as tanned and lined as an old boot, speaking of a life spent out in the elements. He was missing several teeth, and a dull iron ring pierced one ear. We sat down in front of him. “Do you know where this Qu’xtl is located?” Braithwaite asked, his trained mouth pronouncing the name much better than I had. “Did our friend go there?”

“Go there he did, no matter that I warned him not to a hundred times,” the grizzled man replied.

“Why didn’t you tell us earlier?” I barged in. “And I don’t believe I got your name.”

“Haas,” the man said, and stuck out his hand.

I reluctantly shook it. “Jeriah,” I said.

“To answer your other question,” Haas continued, “Qu’xtl is not something that’s talked about in this town. It wouldn’t be good for me to be seen speaking of it.”

“What can you tell us about it?” Braithwaite asked quickly, returning the conversation to the topic at hand.

Haas finally took a swig of his drink. “Them who as built it were an old people, older than anything else here. They’d been dead and gone for eons before the Incas got started. They worshipped a jungle-god whom required human sacrifice, and they ate each other too.”

“Yes, quite scary,” I returned. “We’ve heard it all before. But you say the place’s been abandoned for millennia. Why is it so dangerous now?”

Haas breathed out a long sigh. “Them as go there, don’t return. None of them.”

At this point I practically exploded. I was tired of the man’s cryptic antics. “Then why did you tell McAlister where it was? You’ve killed him!”

At this, Haas met my eyes for the first time. His eyes were old, that much was plain, and full of sorrow. “I warned him,” said Haas in a desperate, almost pleading tone. “ A hundred times and more I warned him, but he wasn’t having it. I believe every man has the right to make his own choices, and your friend’s-McAlister’s-choice was to go to Qu’xtl and doom himself. I…am sorry.” He sagged back in his chair, looking spent and broken.

Braithwaite, who had been ready to intervene after my outburst, relaxed after seeing me do the same.

I sighed and paused a minute to clear my head. “I am sorry as well. You are not to blame for our friend’s disappearance. But still, I would like-“

“A day’s march northeast of here, down a ravine,” Haas interrupted. “You’ll know you’re on the right track when you see the standing stones,”

“Er-thank you,” Braithewaite said. “But aren’t you going to warn us away?”

Haas looked at him. “You wouldn’t listen. You need to find your friend, yes?”

“Yes,” I said firmly. “Now, Doctor, let’s get some sleep.”

Braithwaite looked at me, then Haas. “Er-Thank you,” he said, and the old man nodded. Braithwaite followed me up the stairs, and we both fell asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow, exhausted after our overland journey.

We woke up bright and early the next morning, and set off to the northeast. For a little while the two of us were able to stay in the cleared area near Yaku-Sumaq, and the going was easy. Then, we reached the edge of the jungle. This part of the forest was relatively young, and our progress was dramatically slowed due to the thick undergrowth. The masses of bushes and vines were tough and spiny, and full of many insects and noisy small animals. We took turns on point hacking our way through with machetes and hatchets, but even with the trading-off going was slow for a few hours. However, after scraping our way through a particularly thick patch of thorny vines we found a reprieve as the underbrush thinned.

We had entered an older part of the rainforest, where the trees had grown so high they had blocked most of the sunlight and prevented it from reaching any plants lower to the ground. Compared to the close-up tangle of the younger section, this area conjured ideas of a huge, natural cathedral. The calls of the animals practically echoed in the spaces between the massive tree-trunks.

It was only a few minutes after entering the older growth that we spotted the first sign of our destination. I would have missed it in the arboreal gloom, but Braithwaite’s keen eyes spotted it. “Look!” Excitedly, he pointed. “That must be one of the standing stones Haas told us about.”

Indeed, it was. Braithwaite was pointing to a tall basalt pillar, about fifteen feet in height. It was as big around as the wheel of an automobile at the bottom, and tapered parabolically to a sort of point at the top. Its great age was evidenced by the thick patches of moss and lichen covering much of its surface.

“Quite impressive that it’s managed to stand this long. But what is that near the top?” I pointed to the metal plaque set into the stone near its apex. It was dark green, as it tarnished, but the verdigris was no color I’d seen before. The moss and fungus on the rest of the stone seemed to have grown around it. Deeply graven into its surface was an odd symbol. It was a five-pointed star with long, wavy arms that reminded me of tentacles. In its center, there was a wide, staring eye.

Braithwaite stared at the plaque for a while, then spoke. “Hmmm. I’ve never seen a pentagram drawn quite like that. Perhaps it represents growth, of plants, or of territory? It could stand for a land feature, like some kind of way-marker.”

“What about the eye?” I said, a bit disappointed with his vagueness.

“That’s a bit easier. The eye is a symbol of vigilance and guarding. It is a mark of warning, one that keeps things out. Or perhaps in.”

I wished I hadn’t asked. Braithwaite’s ominous answer had sent a mild chill down my spine. For the first time, the strange circumstances surrounding Qu’Xtl , combined with the cryptic stone, were making me consider the possibility of the rumored “curse” being in some way real.

Dr. Braithwaite and I continued our march through the old forest. As the sun sunk lower in the sky, we passed three more markers, one leaning over, one toppled by tree roots, and one standing like the first. Each was made of the same black basalt, and each was capped with the star-and-eye symbol on a dark green plaque. I touched the plaque on the toppled column, and the strangely-colored metal sent a strange, undefinably wrong feeling up my arm when I touched it.

Soon after passing the third standing stone, we happened upon a ravine. “This must be where the city is,” said Braithwaite, still managing to sound excited, though both of us were sweating profusely in the Amazonian heat. I gave a nod in response, and we began the treacherous descent into the valley. Most of the time, we got by carefully using trees as handholds, but for a few very steep sections, we had to use the rope. We left segments of it at these steep sections in anticipation of ascending the same way when we left.

It was when we reached the valley floor that the first true sign of horror reached us. Braithwaite was the first to reach the bottom, dropping off of the rope from about three feet off the ground. I, up above him, heard a disgusting squelch closely followed by a yelp of surprise. I jumped down and saw Braithwaite, back against a tree, pointing silently with a look of horror on his face. I looked to where he was pointing and nearly retched.

There on the ground was an abomination, an utter affront to the natural order of the world. It was a patch of human-like flesh, spread on the ground like moss. It had peeling skin burnt red by the sun, and was studded with coarse black hairs. Gangrenous wounds and suppurating lesions mottled it with discoloration and pus. The stink coming off it was astounding, and as I stared at in in terror I realized its surface was slowly moving up and down, as if it was respiring.

From my left, there was a choked sound from Braithwaite. “Wh-wh-wh-wh-“

“Stop!” I cut him off. “Hold yourself together. Remember our mission. Remember McAlister.” At this Braithwaite took several deep breaths and calmed himself. “But what is-“

“It doesn’t matter. That’s not why we’re here.” Despite my stoic outward appearance, I was at least as shaken up as Braithwaite. That thing on the ground was [i]wrong[/i].

We started moving up the valley. We saw more and more patches of the flesh-moss, on the ground and once crawling up a tree. All of it was an unhealthy and reeking as the first patch. We also began to see evidence of ancient structures. There were foundations and toppled walls and stacks of Cyclopean blocks, all made of the same basalt as the standing stones. Finally, we reached an arch of the same material, about twenty feet high. Beyond were buildings more intact than any we had so far seen. It was the entrance to Qu’xtl proper.

Braithwaite and I went through, studiously avoiding patches of the flesh-stuff growing under the arch. The only sounds were the strange, choked calls of the monkeys in the trees. They sounded somehow…off to me, though at the time I did not know why. Immediately after passing through, we noticed the evident sophistication of the buildings. They were built of massive basalt blocks, cunningly joined without mortar and even reaching two stories in some places. There were what we surmised to be residences, granaries, offices of government, and a paved square that could have been a marketplace. Evident throughout it all was great age. The buildings were far too old and weathered to be as sophisticated as they were, at least according to conventional archaeology. Despite the oldness, none of the buildings seemed to have any sort of plant life on them. Instead, the loathsome flesh-moss crawled up walls and around doorways like the fat surrounding a glutton’s heart.

Set into some of the walls were sunk reliefs made of the same dark green metal as the plaques on the standing stones. The ones in the residential buildings showed a wide variety of scenes, from farming and hunting with slings and what seemed to be relatively modern plows, to scenes of cannibalism and ritual sacrifice to horrible to describe. Nothing significant could be learned from these reliefs until we reached what seemed to have been Qu’xtl’s Capitol building.

While it had originally been two stories, the top floor had blown over in some storm and its pieces scattered. It was among these we found the most significant relief. It showed the tentacle star and eye symbol that had been on the standing stones, but much larger. Under it was incised some writing in a strange alphabet I had not seen before. Braithwaite’s eyes, however, lit up when he saw it. “Why, it looks like a degenerate form of Sumerian cuneiform! No, a protoform! Though, how could it have gotten to Mesopotamia, hmm, perhaps-“

“Can you read it?” I interrupted, gently as I could under the circumstances.

“Er-yes, just a minute.” He stared at the dense writing. “It says ‘Thus it is, and so shall it be, for YOG-SOTHOTH is and shall be, and He is the spawn of YOG-SOTHOTH. He grows, and rots, and grows again, for he is the Hungry Pestilence-just a moment, this next word is odd-for he is the Hungry Pestilence, N’HOR-N’TH.’”

At this last word, this hellish name, my blood ran cold. I had seen these names once before, in an often-banned occult tome owned by an acquaintance named Pickman. It was the Genus Caelestia Sphaera, the Lineage of Celestial Spheres, and it purported to be a list of the incomprehensible and horible gods that even now slept and warred throughout the cosmos and the darker spaces outside of it. If Braithwaite was reading the name correctly, and the book was to be believed, the so-called “curse” of Qu’xtl was all too real.

I did not tell Braithwaite of the horror that struck me, as he was an academic and did not put much stock in the supernatural. We merely continued up the ravine until we reached its end, still with no sign of McAlister. The end of the valley was a cliff of stark black stone. At its base was a wide doorway, its frame and jamb made of precisely chiseled basalt. Above it, cut into the cliff, was a strangely asymmetrical five-branched symbol. The workmanship was very rough and primitive, as if the chiseled symbol was even older than the rest of the city. Perhaps this tunnel was the mine from which the basalt was quarried. The darkness inside looked cold and foreboding. Even more troubling, though, was the fact that the flesh-moss made a solid carpet inside the tunnel. As much as it revolted me, I was going to have to go in there to look for McAlister.

“Stay here,” I told Braithwaite. “If I’m not out in half an hour, get the hell out of here and try to get help.”

“Are you really going to-“

“Yes. I have to.” I removed the flashlight from my pack and plunged into the darkness. My feet sank into the fleshy substance coating the floor, and I thought I could feel it breathing faster as I passed, like it was angered or upset. The stench was so thick I worried I would ignite it with the torch. Luckily, the passage was relatively short. It widened into a massive cubical room cut into the mountain itself. I exhaled in relief to be out of the close confines of the tunnel, but by reprieve was short-lived, for I then laid eyes on the thing in the center of the room.

It was a massive lump of flesh, higher than a man and three times as wide. Its skin was oily, scabrous, fishlike. Weeping sores and tumorous, malignant lumps covered its entire surface. As the light of my torch fell upon it, it shivered with a jiggling motion that nearly made me vomit. The lumps and tumors upon its skin shifted and swirled, until a sort of crease opened and a massive, pus-filled, weeping eye peered out from within. It focused on me and in that instant I know that I nearly went mad at the knowledge it filled me with. Mercifully, I have forgotten most of it, but I still dream of what’s left. Even in the waking world, I imagine the fields of graves and coruscating swirls of blackness on darkness that it showed me, and I nearly faint.

After a moment the eye closed, but the crease that had concealed it soon opened again. This time, something new was behind it.

A mouth.

It was thirty feet of lesion-crusted horror, the thousands of blackened teeth in multiple rows relatively tiny. Human.

Stuck in some of them, I saw a chewed, sodden, bicorn hat.

It was then that I broke and ran. Behind me the thing gargled in its cave, and I felt a tug on my pants as I sprinted. I dared the briefest of glimpses downward and saw that the flesh-carpet beneath me was studded with mouths. I somehow managed to avoid them until exiting the tunnel, where the flesh thinned out. “RUN!” I screamed to Braithwaite, but he was already doing so. We tore through Qu’xtl as if the devil himself was behind us. I knew it was actually something worse. The air was filled with the choking and gargling of the flesh-moss. I dodged the patches as best I could. At one point Braithwaite briefly fell behind with a cry before catching back up. I looked down and saw blood running down his leg. Finally, we reached our ropes and scrambled up the wall of the ravine as fast as we could.

There is not much else to tell. We did not stop in Yaku-Sumaq, only re-hired our donkeys and rode back to La Paz, taking half the time the first trip has. During this time, Braithwaite’s leg began to turn gray and break out in sores. By the time we reached Arica, he was delirious with fever and the tumors had turned his leg into a 150-lb cylinder of diseases flesh. The ship’s surgeon cut it off, cauterized the stump, and had the vile thing thrown overboard, but it was too late. Braithwaite’s entire body greyed and developed lesions. He lasted two weeks. He weighed a quarter ton in tumors and his flesh was sloughing off his bones at the end. I myself spent the rest of the journey too drunk to think or even remember.

Soon after my arrival home, alcohol lost its effectiveness and I turned to morphine to forget. That worked for a while, but then stopped just like the rum had. Hopelessly addicted, I checked myself into this convalescent’s home. I’ve been saving my daily ration for nearly two weeks, and tomorrow it all goes into my veins. I’ll finally forget for good. But first, I wrote this manuscript, and will soon post it to the Miskatonic University library as a warning. It is too late for me, but not for you, reader, so here is my advice: do not dig too deeply in the old places of the world. The things inhabiting them do not die, but merely dream, and it is all too easy to wake them.

Credit To – Turiya

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Metroid 2: Secret Worlds

November 6, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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A few months ago I was busy preparing to move to a new house when I came across something from my past.

I was going through my belongings, trying to figure out what to keep and what to discard, when I found an old shoebox stuffed down the back of my closet. Curious, I opened it up and found that it was full of CD’s. I flipped through them and realized that these were backups of files from over ten years ago.

I remembered that this was how I used to back up stuff before external hard drives became affordable enough for me to just start backing up with them.

I stopped packing and started checking out the CD’s on my computer. They were mostly full of stuff I’d collected off of the net like mp3s, roms and animated GIF’s.

I then came across a CD that was labeled ‘Conversations with Pahn’. I stared at the CD with some reservation for a moment before loading it into my computer.

The CD contained a bunch of images, a couple of audio files and some text dumps from a message board.
Looking over these files made me recall an incident that had occurred many years ago. It was an incident that had slipped from my mind until I saw that CD again.

Honestly, I was glad to have forgotten about it. It was a pretty freaky experience and to this day I still don’t know what to make of it.

It was 2004, I was in my last year of high school and I spent most of my free time being an admin for an emulation message board.

It wasn’t a particularly taxing job, I was one of three guys who were admins and the board itself was pretty niche, so we usually didn’t get a great deal of traffic.

Back then there wasn’t the bot problems you find on boards these days. Most of the time I just had to log in, check my messages, then browse through the forums to see if anyone was breaking any rules or just being a dick.

It was a pretty fun gig, I got the most enjoyment out of messing with persistent trolls.

Being an admin allowed me to change their avatars(I had pics of crying babies for such occasions) or edit their posts.

Usually I’d have them say stuff like “I suck”, “I cry into my pillow at night” or my personal favorite “I left my brain in the womb”.

Basically I used to get a real kick out of administrating justice on the board.

So one night a new guy registered to the forum and created a thread called “Need help to pull apart my nes”.

The following is from that thread:

Metroid 2 - Secret Worlds - 1

I was slightly mystified by his question and I had some time to kill so I thought I’d ask him.

Metroid 2 - Secret Worlds - 2

I almost laughed at this. I explained to Pahn what roms were and he got really excited.

Metroid 2 - Secret Worlds - 3

I got the gist that he really wasn’t very technically savvy. Which was fair enough, we all had to start from somewhere.

After explaining to him about roms and emulators I didn’t hear back from him for a few days.

He then came back to the board and became a bit of a regular. He would mostly start threads in which he was asking questions about emulation problems he was having.

A lot of people didn’t have any time for him.

They felt that he was just an annoying person who asked dumb questions. I remember one night he started a thread about how he couldn’t get an emulator to read games he had downloaded. We then had to explain to him what a zip file was and how it worked.

One of the other admins was thinking of banning him. He didn’t like the fact that Pahn was starting up new threads about stuff that had been already answered in earlier threads.

I told him not to do that, I’d have a word with Pahn.
I don’t know why I decided to step in, I sort of felt bad for the kid I guess.
 I also felt a bit of a connection to him because he was one of the few people I’d run across who was also a fan of the RPG Suikoden.

So I told Pahn to check through the board before posting any questions that might have already been asked and answered. I then told him if he got really stuck to just private message me.

It wasn’t long before he started messaging me. At first he would just ask me questions.

Lots of questions.

Fortunately he seemed to be a quick study, I didn’t find myself having to explain things to him over and over again. So I wouldn’t say he was stupid, just green.

Soon enough he asked me for some game recommendations and this lead to us talking about what games we were playing. It was from there that we started having a correspondence over the next few months.
We only really talked about games and movies though, the only personal stuff that I knew about him was that he was 16 and he lived in London.

One night we were having a conversation about Metroid games. I’d just clocked Super Metroid for the millionth time and was thinking about dusting off the original Metroid and giving that a go.

Metroid 2 - Secret Worlds - 4

It was a pretty well known glitch. Basically how it works is, if you are falling down a long shaft in some places in the game and then press the select button repeatedly really fast, you can make wall tiles disappear. If you go through the tunnel that is created you’ll end up outside the map.

You can then find rooms that are tile swaps of regular rooms, rooms that scroll repeatedly forever and rooms that look like they have been randomly thrown together.

Apart from using it to sequence break, it’s pretty pointless. It’s more of a novelty then anything else.

Some people started up a website devoted to the ‘Secret Worlds’. They were obsessed with mapping the whole thing out. Like they were explorers braving uncharted territory or something.

I tried it out myself once on my gameboy. I quickly got frustrated though after I kept getting stuck in walls when I moved between rooms.

Metroid 2 - Secret Worlds - 5

Metroid 2 - Secret Worlds - 6

I didn’t hear from Pahn for a couple of days after that. Then one night he sent me a message.

Metroid 2 - Secret Worlds - 7

I taught Pahn how to take snapshots and upload them so that he could show me the stuff he was finding.

A few days later I got a message.

Metroid 2 - Secret Worlds -8

Metroid 2 - Secret Worlds - 9

After that I didn’t hear from him for about a week. Then one night I was on the message board and got the following message:

Metroid 2 - Secret Worlds - 10

Pahn sent me the links and I looked over the images he had uploaded.

Metroid 2 - Secret Worlds - 11

I knew straight away that this wasn’t a glitch.

Metroid 2 - Secret Worlds - 12

I asked him where he had got the rom from and he gave me the address. When I checked it out, the page wasn’t there anymore. Which wasn’t really surprising. Back then rom websites were frequently popping up and being taken down almost immediately.

Metroid 2 - Secret Worlds - 13

Just before I was about to go to bed I looked at the pictures again. It occurred to me that the words might form a sentence. I wrote the words down on a piece of paper and started trying out combinations. Eventually I came up with;


I thought it was a rather strange sentence. I couldn’t figure out why anyone would even bother hacking that message into the game, I didn’t even understand what it meant.

A few days later I got another message from Pahn.

Metroid 2 - Secret Worlds - 14

I taught Pahn how to capture the audio and gave him my email address. I told him to attach the file there if he did manage to record any sounds from the game.

I thought about what Pahn had described to me and I had to admit that I was pretty impressed by the hack.
I also agreed with Pahn’s reasoning. If someone had bothered to put this much effort in, then it was likely that they had done more. It was just a matter of finding it.

Though I was surprised that I had never heard of the hack before. I started browsing through rom hack sites, trying to find the one that Pahn was playing. I didn’t have any luck so I asked around in a few IRC channels but no one had seen anything like what I was describing.

The following night I was browsing the message board when I noticed I had a new private message. I saw that it was from Pahn and opened it up.

Metroid 2 - Secret Worlds - 15

The audio file finished downloading and I listened to it while I waited for Pahn to come back.

I didn’t know what to make of it, I’d never heard a gameboy make that kind of sound before.

At first it just sounded to me like a foghorn, but then another sound started to play over the top of the foghorn noise.

The other sound did seem familiar to me somehow, but I couldn’t quite place it. I found myself getting spooked so I quickly closed the file.

I got up and made myself a cup of coffee and a snack. By the time I got back to my computer 15 minutes had passed.

Metroid 2 - Secret Worlds - 16

I waited a few more minutes but I didn’t get a response from Pahn. I got worried for a moment but then just figured either a friend or family member had come by and he was busy.

I surfed the net for a bit, did some Admin duties then checked my messages again. Pahn still hadn’t come back. I was pretty tired by that point so I shut down my computer and went to bed.

I got up early the next day and checked to see if Pahn had left me a message.

He still hadn’t gotten back to me.

I headed off for school and didn’t get home till the evening. After I grabbed a bite to eat I sat in front of the computer and checked my email and private messages. There was still nothing from Pahn.

I left a few more messages and waited for his response. Over the next few days he still didn’t get to me and I really started to freak out.

I skipped school for a few days and stuck pretty close to my computer. One afternoon, after performing some minor admin duties, I re-listened to the sound that Pahn had sent me.

I still couldn’t make out what it was so I started playing around with it in sound recorder. I sped it up a few times and realized that the foghorn sound might be the the music that plays right before you fight the Metroid Queen. As I continued to speed the sound file up I realized what the other sound was, someone was talking over the music.

I had to speed the sound up over ten times to get it to sound like it was playing at the right speed. Once I had done that I tried to make out what the voice was saying. I had to listen carefully a few times before I got it.

The first part was an introduction. Someone was saying “I am…” and after that was presumably their name. I couldn’t catch what it was though, it wasn’t an English name.

The second part of the sentence was clear enough though.

“Knock Knock, I am here.”

Needless to say I was quite unnerved at that point.

I hit the internet again, trying to find out anything I could about the version of Metroid 2 that Pahn had been playing. I emailed people at the “Secret Worlds” website, I posted messages on numerous emulation websites and I spoke to people on various IRC channels.

Most people though I was joking, the rest thought I was crazy.

It seemed no one knew what the hell I was talking about.

Then one night I got a private message.

Metroid 2 - Secret Worlds - 17

I was a bit startled. When I’d been going around asking questions about Metroid 2 I hadn’t been using Pesmerga as my username. Nor had I mentioned what message board I was from.

I replied back to the message, wanting to know who was messaging me and how they had found me. But the user never got back to me. After that night I kept an eye on the logs of user activity to see if he came back to the site, but he never did.

I then took the message’s advice and looked up the name Gunpei Yokoi.

It didn’t take me long to find out who he was.

It turns out that he was hugely influential at Nintendo. Some of the games he worked on included the original Donkey Kong, Mario Bros, Kid Icarus, Metroid and Metroid 2.

But what he is best known for is arguably his greatest creation, the Gameboy. It’s often described as his legacy.

I kept reading the article in fascination when I got to a section that was about his life after leaving Nintendo. Not long after he left Nintendo and started his own company, Gunpei Yokoi died in a car accident. I glanced at the date of his death and that gave me a shock. It was October the 4th, 1997. The same day that I got my last message from Pahn.

I listened to the sped up version of the audio Pahn had sent me and that’s when I knew that the first part of the message was “I am Gunpei Yokoi.”

It was after this realization that I went through a period, which went on for about a year, in which I flat out refused to answer a door unless the person identified themselves.

Over the next few months I scoured the internet for any news stories concerning a missing teenager in London.

There were several stories that would pop up but the details were so vague that any one of them, or none of them, could have been Pahn.

There was one story that did catch my attention. It was about a missing teenager who had been last seen at home.

His mother had left for work and she said that he had been on the computer in the lounge room.

When she returned several hours later the lounge room was empty but the computer and various other electrical appliances were still turned on. At first she thought that he might be in another part of the house, but when she checked she found that it was empty.

She then tried to call his mobile phone and that was when she discovered that his phone and wallet were by the computer. It was at this point that she called the police. They investigated and found no sign of disturbance in the house and nothing was missing, well except for the teenager. He had vanished without a trace.

I looked for more information online but couldn’t find anything else.

I contemplated getting in touch with the police in London. But one thing stopped me, there was no way I could think to word my story without sounding like a crazy person.

Even if I could figure out how to word it properly, and if this missing teen did happen to be Pahn, there was no information that I could give them that they wouldn’t get off of his computer anyway. And if it wasn’t Pahn then I would just be wasting their time and possibly end up in some sort of legal trouble.

The words ‘hindering a police investigation’ popped into my mind.

I went back through my conversations with Pahn to see if there were any clues to his real identity that I hadn’t noticed before. But there was nothing there that revealed anything I didn’t already know about him. It was then that I realized that I always just assumed that he was a ‘he’ in the first place.

But there was nothing in our conversations to dismiss the possibility that Pahn had been a female. The possibility of Pahn being female instantly made the task of finding Pahn twice as hard.

In the end I had to give up, I just didn’t know what I could possibly do. I took screenshots of all of my conversations with Pahn, copied the pics and sound files he had emailed me and burnt them onto a CD, just in case I ever needed them again.

Not long after that I finished high school and then started working.

Within a month I stopped being an admin. I still stuck around the board for a few more months, but by then I no longer had the free time to post with any regularity. Over the following years I got busy with life and everything that happened with Pahn drifted further and further from my mind.

I decided to write this all down and put it online in the hopes that after all these years someone might know something about what happened to Pahn, or know of the version of Metroid 2 that he found.

As I said at the beginning, I honestly don’t know what to make of this.

Is there a copy of Metroid 2 floating around the internet that’s haunted by the ghost of Gunpei Yokoi? And if you have the misfortune to stumble across it does he come to your door, angry that you have dared to defile his legacy?

I try not to think too much about it.

When it does cross my mind now I like to imagine that the whole thing was an elaborate hoax perpetuated by Pahn. That he set the whole thing up months in advance. He created the images and the audio files. He came onto the message board, pretending to be a technically inept teenager, when really he was brilliant with a pc.

He was user12345, he was the one who told me to look up Gunpei Yokoi.

I like to imagine that he is somewhere out there, still laughing about the wonderful joke he pulled all those years ago.

Sometimes I can almost convince myself that it was just a hoax.

I think that was how I was able to get to sleep at night in the months after I lost contact with Pahn.
And I think that telling myself that it was all a hoax now is going to come in real handy on those restless nights in the days to come.

Credit To – Yuber Neclord

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Something Else

November 5, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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Okay, so I’m not going to start with one of those disclaimers where the writer assures you that what you’re reading is true. It really doesn’t matter if you believe this. No one does.

I just want to write it down before I convince myself that it wasn’t real, in case there is someone out there who will take me seriously.

I started college this fall, at a university a couple states away from where my parents live, and it went pretty much how it does for most people, I think. I missed my old friends and even my parents, after a little while, but I settled in quickly and focused hard on my classes. I have two older brothers – one is a lawyer and the other in law school. Both were top of their all their classes in college and earned enough scholarship money that they practically put themselves through school. As the youngest, and as the only sister, I’ve always had high standards to live up to, and I would be damned if I was going to be the one sibling that was just average. So I got a job on campus to save up for grad school and I committed myself to getting straight A’s.

So, as you can imagine, I didn’t sleep much. I got used to pulling all-nighters on essays and lab reports at least once a week. My roommate got used to waking up at five-thirty (she worked the opening shift at a café near campus) to see me staring blearily at my laptop, putting the finishing touches on some assignment or other in my clothes from the day before.

Now, my staying up all night wasn’t too much of a problem for my roommate. She kept the lights on at night anyway. Our dorm was supposedly haunted and a lot of the girls got freaked out at night.

Some guy, an upperclassmen, told me about it at a party during my first couple of weeks there. “Oh yeah, I remember hearing about that: Some girl who lived there killed herself in the showers last year,” he explained. “Like, took the blades out of a disposable razor and cut herself up. And not just her wrists, I heard she sliced herself open all the way up her arms and legs. Massive fuckin’ gashes from her thighs to her feet. I heard there was an inch of blood covering the whole shower room floor. But they never found the blades she used.”

At this point, his (drunk) friend chimed in, “Yeah, that’s ‘cause her fuckin’ ghost has ‘em. So make sure you don’t see her while you’re in the shower or she’ll chop you the fuck up!”

I didn’t make much of it. For one thing, the more sober one kept trying to put his hand on my leg and I had a feeling he was hoping I would be so scared that I wouldn’t want to sleep in my dorm that night and decide to follow him to his. For another thing, the blades in a disposable razor are sharp, but they’re pretty small. I was fairly sure they couldn’t get that that much blood out of someone. And if that part was bullshit, then chances were most of it was.

I knew the basis was real though – the suicide that is. A bunch of my floor mates pestered our RA into telling us what happened, since she had lived in the same building the year before. The kid who found the body had dropped out (understandably traumatized) and the school officials didn’t tell the students many details, so what she was able to tell us was this: there was a suicide, it was in the shower room, and there was definitely blood – though I still didn’t buy that there was a whole inch.

Either way, the dorm staff decided not to house anybody on the third floor – where the suicide had happened – after that year, so the third floor shower room was always still and dark and empty. People would get dared to spend a night in there or try to do shit with Ouija boards, but no one was dumb enough to try actually showering in there.

Except for me. But to my credit, it wasn’t some stupid dare.

It was finals week of my second semester and I was even busier with schoolwork than usual. Luckily, the next day was the last of the school year, and all I had to do was turn in an essay for one class. I had stayed up all night to finish it and only gotten a couple hours of sleep the night before, and because caffeine can only get you through so much, it was getting hard to stay awake. But I needed a good grade on this paper and a part of me wanted to see how far I could push myself before I mentally collapsed.

At one point, I caught myself snoozing at my desk, my chin propped up against my hand, for about the fifth time. I glanced at my alarm clock, then at my laptop screen. It was 5:00 A.M. – that left a good four hours until my class started, and all I had to do now was write a few more conclusory sentences and proofread.

Well, a short break wouldn’t kill me, I decided, and I needed a shower anyway. So I threw on my bathrobe and grabbed a towel and the little basket where I had my shower stuff. I shut the door behind me quietly, so as not to wake my roommate. She only had half an hour or so before she had to be up for work.

When I got to my floor’s shower room, I was unsurprised to hear one of the showers already running as I shuffled into a stall and hung up my robe. It was finals week, after all and I probably wasn’t the only one on my floor who had just pulled an all-nighter. Still rubbing my eyes, I turned the shower knob three quarters of the way around and was jolted awake as a spray of freezing water hit me head on. I stood there for a few shivery minutes, shifting my weight uncomfortably and waiting for the water to warm up, but it didn’t change, even when I turned the knob to the hottest setting.

The hot water must be used up for this floor, I thought, with a half-hearted swell of admiration for my unknown floor mate, who was showering anyway, in the cold water. I turned my own shower back off, but as I walked out of my stall, shrugging my bathrobe back into place, I noticed that all the shower curtains were open. The shower on the end – empty – was spouting a tepid stream of water onto the floor.

So, no hot water because someone was stupid enough to leave without turning their shower off.

My annoyance fueled my determination to get clean. I adjusted my robe and climbed one story up to the third floor, trying not to think too hard about what I was actually doing. Everyone in the dorm had a key specific to their floor so that we could only get into one shower room, but as I had hoped, the one on the third floor was unlocked. This was a stupid move on campus security’s part, I observed as I went inside to see the mirror smashed and the walls crisscrossed with graffiti. But either way, it benefited me. I was doubtful that this floor would actually have hot water, or even any water at all, but it was worth a try. I went into a stall and hopefully turned the knob toward hot. There was an awful screeching noise from inside the walls, which I chalked up to the moving of rusted and under-used pipes. But then, there was a gush of water from the shower head. Surprised, I hurriedly jumped out of my bath robe and hung it on a hook on the wall, though not quickly enough to keep it from being splattered with the water, which was bitingly cold and orange with rust. As I waited though, the rust color faded out and disappeared down the drain, and the water temperature rose to an almost-warmth that was acceptable, if not pleasant.

I’m not going to lie, I was creeped out in there. Not terrified – I hadn’t believed in ghosts since I was five – but definitely creeped out.

There was a smell of something dull and metallic in there, something old and festering. ‘The plumbing in here must have fallen to shit, that’s gotta be where the smell is from,’ I reasoned, though a voice at the back of my mind whispered, ‘blood’.

I decided to finish my shower as quickly as possible and then get out of there.

I was feeling better though, by the time I finished washing my hair and skin. The weather was finally starting to warm up and I felt like wearing shorts today. So why not spend an extra few minutes shaving my legs? Anyway, I was almost done with my paper and my first class of the morning wasn’t for another two hours. And the only vaguely scary thing that had happened so far was a faint scraping sound coming from the floor drain.

Again, I chalked it up to rusty plumbing.

As I was shaving, I started thinking about finals coming up, about how badly I wanted straight A’s and how some of my grades were right on the borderline. I guess not concentrating was what caused me to cut myself.

It was just a little nick and definitely nothing I wasn’t used to, but the unexpected twinge of pain made me drop my razor. It skittered across the slippery tiles and as I bent to pick it up, I noticed something.

There was something caught in the drain. It didn’t look like a hairball or an earring someone had dropped, it was something else. It was about the size of a small fist, child-sized, and it was pale white, webbed with hair-thin black lines. I thought it might be marble. Or maybe some kind of stone?

In a moment of curiosity and what I can only guess was stress-fuelled stupidity, I knelt down and started to pry the grate off the drain. I thought the thing was maybe some sort of brooch or necklace that someone had somehow dropped in there.

It really was stupid of me. Even as I pried the grate off the open hole of the drain, I could already see the thing inside starting to move.

I tossed the grate aside with a feeling of triumph, and saw the pale thing begin to rise up toward me. It seemed to be writhing with a force of its own and I thought I could see thin protrusions below its surface. Almost like bones.


With a growing sense of fear roiling in my stomach, I stood up and backed away a couple steps, but my sheer unwillingness to believe in a stupid ghost story kept me rooted to the spot.

As the thing reached the top of the drain hole, it somehow unfurled. I don’t know how else to describe it. Four spindly protrusions curled outward from the top of it, revealing a flat underbelly covered with oily, purple sores. One side was sticky with something that looked like grey-ish pus coming from the end of a knobby stump where there should have been a . . .

…a thumb.

I recoiled as I realized that this thing was a hand.

The palm wasn’t much bigger than a toddler’s, but each of the remaining fingers had to be at least six inches long, with bulging knuckles and, at the end of each one, a fingernail.

Actually, ‘claw’ might be a better word for them. The one on the little finger was broken off at the base, leaving only a few jagged fragments lodged in a gooey nail bed. But the others added another three inches in length to each finger. They hooked inward grotesquely and the edges glinted in the rusty water pooling around the drain. They looked razor sharp.

Now, by the time it took me to observe all this, I didn’t really give a shit anymore about how childish it was to believe in ghost stories, or how this might be my imagination blowing some easily-explained thing out of proportion, or even that I was completely naked with one leg still smeared with shaving cream. I was getting out of there.

I started to scramble backward, one hand reached out behind me to yank open the shower curtain, but the tiles were slick and I didn’t manage to back up more than a couple steps before my ass hit the floor. As I fell, one of my ankles brushed the palm of the hand. It felt clammy and soft, like something left too long at the back of the fridge. The fingers twitched at the contact.

I flipped over onto my hands and knees, thinking I would crawl out, but as I tried to shuffle away, I felt the long fingers wrap around my left ankle. A jolt of pain went up my leg as I felt the claws bite into me.

I looked back to see several inches of arm now outside the drain, and still rising slowly, millimeter by millimeter, out of the floor. I could see the outlines of warped bones and tendons beneath the sagging skin, and the very beginning of a knobby elbow. And at the other end, the hand was still grasping my ankle, trickles of blood dripping down from where the claws pressed into my skin.

I tried to pull my leg back toward my body, but the thing’s grip only tightened. I felt a sickening scraping sensation and another bolt of pain as the claws met the bone of my leg. And the screeching noise was back. And the arm was still rising slowly out of the drain.

It was my roommate that saved me – her and that early café shift she hated so much. She said she found it strange when she woke up at dawn to find me gone, but my laptop still on and opened to my almost-finished essay. Mid-paragraph, even. Also absent were my bathrobe and the basket of shampoo and other shower supplies we shared, but she didn’t hear any water running in the second floor shower room. So, following a hunch, she checked the one on the third floor.

The paramedics said that I’d probably been unconscious for twenty minutes or so; I had lost a lot of blood. When they found me, I had a series of gashes going all the way from my ankle to my hip on my left leg, and up to my knee on the right. Some of the cuts were shallow, but most were deep and jagged. The worst of it was in the area of my left ankle. The doctors spent hours stitching me up.

They asked me about my history of illegal drug-use and mental illness and I told them – truthfully – that I had neither. They asked me if I was sure about ten times, then had a psychiatrist come talk to me.

I was more than a little bit hopped up on pain meds but even so, it took me a few days to let my guard down enough to ask my psychiatrist about the hand. She said that nothing else out of the ordinary had been in the shower room when they found me – just me, naked and bleeding on the floor. She said that disturbing hallucinations were a common symptom of sleep deprivation.

“But then, how did I get all those cuts?” I asked.

She didn’t sugarcoat things, I’ll give her that: “You did that yourself, hon. You were stressed and you were tired, and you’re not the first college student to become unstable during finals week.”

Like I said, I’m starting to believe her about the hand being a hallucination, but I know I wasn’t the one who gave me those cuts. There wasn’t anything sharp enough or big enough to slice me up like that – not in the showers, not in my room, nowhere in the vicinity. They thought I might have taken apart my razor, but when I asked my roommate, she said she saw it lying beside me, exactly where I had dropped it, completely intact.

Which is why want to put this out there for other people to see. I know that what I remember happening makes no sense and shouldn’t be possible, but I just wouldn’t feel right staying quiet about it. I want people to know: I don’t think that girl killed herself in the shower room last year. I think something else did.

Credit To – Juliet

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