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To New Friends

November 28, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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Rating: 7.5/10 (199 votes cast)

I once found a small child’s toy sitting in the middle of a road. It was a doll, that of an infant only a few months old. The eyes were open, the lashes pronounced, and the pink paint which vaguely resembled human skin peeled from the plastic features of its face. I can’t say what drew me to it, but I found it odd that such a thing should be sitting upright, its dress dishevelled and dirtied, left behind only to be crushed by passing cars. A toy which at one time would have meant a great deal to a child.

Picking it up, its limbs dangled like a puppet without a master, held together loosely by thread sewn into a cotton body. It was then that I heard a rattle, something inside the doll. Quickly I realised that the noise was coming from the head, from behind the eyes, as something moved around tapping against the plastic which surrounded it.

I saw no one on the street, and so without thinking I tore the doll open, breaking the head off, ripping it from its cotton shoulders. Peering into the now decapitated head, I could see what had been making the noise. A tooth, human or otherwise, slipped into my hand from the open neck.

‘She used to be my friend’, a voice said.

Looking up, a young girl stood before me, pointing to the broken doll in my hand.

‘She won’t be happy with you now’, she said nervously.

‘And why is that?’, I asked.

‘Would you be happy if someone tore off your head?’

‘She’s just a doll’, I said, pushing the head and body together. ‘I can fix her for you if you’d like?’

‘No, I don’t like playing with her’.

The girl then walked past me, continuing down the street. Looking at the broken doll in my hands, the eyes vacant, I began to feel strangely nervous.

‘Why don’t you like her?’, I shouted.

In response, the child stopped and turned round to look at me from afar, before replying: ‘She steals things’. It was then that she smiled, revealing a toothless grin. ‘She’s your friend now’. And with that the little girl disappeared into a garden nearby.

Credit To – Michael Whitehouse

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Cage

November 27, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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The year was 2014 AD. A lonely man sits in his windowless laboratory, tinkering with his newest project. The man, one Dr. Arthur Garvin, was a software and robotics engineer, working for the Rockwell BioMechanical Logistics Corporation, out of Langley, Virginia. He sat alone in his lab for 11 hours Monday through Friday working tirelessly to provide the company with more technological advancements, to keep his own job. He was a special kind of scientist, working both in the computer program and robotic side of his field, but he was nevertheless anxious about his job.
He pulled his hands out of the robot on the table in front of him, wiped his brow, and let out a breath. Assessing the progress of his robot, he was a bit impressed at his own work. Gleaming steel covered the hydraulic systems and wires that served as the functioning components of the limbs. The chestplate was open, exposing an experimental micro-reactor, the size of a football, which would provide the necessary energy for movement. His design was in its final stages, having been done and redone; streamlined for performance and cost. The robot was considered to be the Mark III in Garvin’s XR Series Automatons, and it would have the same motor functionality of the average human being.
Garvin decided to take a momentary break. Looking around, he took in the state of his lab. There were various robotics strewn about, past failed projects hung up on the wall. Many of the humanoid robot corpses were half-destroyed or disassembled for parts. Mechanical arms hung like moss from their robotic willows. The view usually never phased Garvin, but in comparison to his XR-III on the table, the battered old robots seemed even more corroded. The sight of them hanging on the wall became more macabre, as Garvin imagined the dead bots crying out to him, jealous of his newest child. He shook the thought, as it frightened him too much.
Returning to the XR-III, Garvin saw the human-like qualities he had so worked for in this design. He wanted desperately to create an automaton that could act with the smoothness of a human being. As much as he would’ve liked for the robot to be human by itself, it could not happen. Garvin knew he would need a computer program to guide his robot, and the XR-III would be the first of his bots to feature a computer brain.
Garvin finished the mechanical improvements he had been making, and the robot was complete. He only needed to upload the program he had designed. Walking past the rack of failed robots, Garvin logged into his computer terminal, and pulled up the program. The Automatic Data Assessment Master, or ADAM, was Garvin’s creation. It was able to take the data of its surroundings, and make decisions using advanced logic that Garvin had programmed. The ADAM was a marvel of computer science, and it would accompany the engineering feat of the XR-III to become the single greatest technological advancement of Garvin’s time, or so he hoped.
With a few keystrokes, Garvin uploaded months of work into a specialized chip, which he then took from the terminal, and placed inside the XR-III, at the base of its head. The optical receptors lit up bright yellow, and the ADAM powered XR-III spat out its identification codes, then followed with a prompt for command.
“The ADAM is operating properly. Requesting user identification.”
Garvin was excited. He had to try to hold his giddiness in, “Garvin, Arthur. Commander Code: Violet-Nine-Nine.”
“Affirmed. Good evening, Dr. Garvin. What is your command?”
Garvin looked over at the water bottle he had sitting on his desk. He couldn’t help but grin. “XR-III, there is a plastic bottle of Dasani spring water sitting on my desk. Bring it to me.”
The robot scanned the room for the bottle. It found its target, and gave a slight nod. Garvin watched in childish amazement as the robot got up off of its table and walked with the smoothness of a human being over to the bottle. It picked up the bottle, gently gripping it, and brought it upright over to Garvin. It then extended its arm, presenting the bottle to an ecstatic Garvin. What amazed him most was that though he knew the robot was constantly correcting itself, and committing the corrections to memory, he couldn’t detect even a split-second hesitation in the robot’s actions. The motions and data assessment were every bit as fast and natural to the robot as they would be to Garvin, which excited him.
Hopeful, Garvin decided to try something, “XR-III, what is your name?”
“I am the XR-III, an ADAM-powered artificial intelligence developed by Dr. Arthur Garvin at the Rockwell BioMedical Systems Corporation laboratories.”
“No, XR-III, I mean your name. What do you call yourself?”
The robot sat for a second, “Error. Request could not be processed.”
Garvin sighed, and suddenly his childish amusement turned to melancholy. He knew the robot couldn’t answer the question, but he had an inkling of hope that somewhere within the logic the ADAM might become slightly human. It was a dream of his since he began his career in robotics. He wanted to create a personality within the robotic frame, but it appeared impossible to him. In the years, he had gone through dozens of robots, and the ADAM was the culmination of all his research into artificial intelligence, but it still didn’t cut it. It saddened him deeply, but he didn’t want this moment to be ruined, so he went back to focusing on the robot.
After submitting his report via email to his superiors, Garvin went back to testing the robot’s logic for the next few hours. After many tests, Garvin heard a knock on his door. Opening it, he locked eyes with his visitor. The man in front of Garvin was clean and kempt, with a shaven face and combed hair. He wore a dark suit with a red tie.
“Excuse me,” Garvin said, “What is it I can do for you?”
“You can’t do anything for me, but I can do something for you. May I come in?” The man spoke clearly and deliberately. He flashed a Tier 1 Rockwell security badge, one far above that required for Garvin’s lab.
“Ok… Sure, come in.” Garvin stood aside and ushered, “That’s quite a security clearance you have. What is your name?”
“It’s not important.” Said the man, who was staring at the XR-III.
“Ah, that’s my newest robot. He’s fully functional so far, I was just wrapping up testing.”
“I learned about the robot as soon as you submitted your report, Dr. Garvin.”
“So you’re with the Executives?”
“No.” the man set his briefcase on the table, and opened it, “I actually came to help you with your research, into fully intelligent robotics.”
The man revealed the contents of his briefcase, which consisted of a preserved human brain in a small plastic jar, hooked up to an electrical device which was unidentifiable to Garvin.
“What…. What exactly is that?” Garvin asked, stupefied.
“This,” the man grinned, “is the future, Dr. Garvin. Pull the ADAM from your robot, and place it back into your terminal. I will hook this up to the terminal as well. It’s time for you to achieve your dream.”
Garvin did as he was told, and watched as the man hooked the brain into the computer.
“Now Garvin,” the man spoke gravely, “It is YOUR job to use this which we have given you. You may not leave tonight until you have done this. You know what it is, I don’t have to explain it. I’m sure you’ll get what you wish for, but you know what they say about that. I have to go now.”
The man left Garvin alone with the remainder of his work. With this, Garvin realized his role in the company. He thought he was a researcher developing at the expense of the company, but he knew at this moment that he was being used. He was trapped in the cage of his laboratory for fear of his own job. The shock didn’t hit him so hard, as he was excited for the chance to give his robot human thought.
He then analyzed what he had been given. The human brain was still alive, and it was using the electricity to produce thought patterns, which Garvin was presented in code on the terminal. He spent the next several hours decoding the signals, and compiling them. He combined the patterns with the ADAM logic, and worked himself to sleep.
He woke, lifting his head from the keyboard, and checked his watch. It was 4:37 AM, very early, he thought. He looked to the screen, and saw that the brain patterns had been logged into the ADAM, and it was complete. The brain died sometime after, and sat dormant in its jar.
Still half asleep, and exhausted, Garvin removed the ADAM from the terminal, and placed it back inside the XR-II. It took longer for the robot to boot up than it had before, which Garvin found curious. He sat back in his chair as the robot begun its user identification process.
“The ADAM is operating properly. Requesting user identification.”
Garvin was too tired to revel in the success of his engineering again. “Garvin, Arthur. Commander Code: Violet-Nine-Nine.”
“Affirmed. Good morning, Dr. Garvin. What is your command?”
The robot appeared to be the exact same as before, only its eyes lit up a bright green instead of yellow. Garvin found this peculiar, but as he studied the robot he found no other signs of changes made since the first boot up. He waited for ten minutes, while the robot awaited his command like before. Nothing appeared different to Garvin, so he decided to call it quits for the time being. As Garvin moved for the door, the robot spoke.
“It’s Adam, Dr. Garvin.”
The cold voice was distinctly deliberate, compared to the automatic voice from before. It held almost the same tone, but with a barely noticeable difference in the sound. Before, the robot would be speaking to the room, running codes out loud for Garvin. This time, it seemed to Garvin as if the robot was speaking directly to him, with the intention of conveying information specific to Garvin.
Garvin turned and found the robot had locked its LED gaze upon him, “What was that?”
“You asked me for my name. My name is Adam, Dr. Garvin.”
It took Garvin a moment to process what he had just heard. His eyes widened, and a chill ran down his back. The robot had remembered his previous question, and was unable to answer it at the time. It was now somehow capable of doing so. What shocked him the most was that it had created a name for itself, as he half-hoped it would the first time.
“You’re name is Adam?”
“Affirmative.”
Did you come up with that by yourself?” Garvin asked, trying to remember if he had coded that response somewhere.
“Affirmative. I now call myself Adam.” The robot stated flatly.
“This is…..this is magnificent!” Garvin was now wide-awake with excitement, and forgot all about leaving, “We have to run some tests, figure out whether you can feel or not!”
“Feel?” Adam tilted its head, not understanding the meaning of Garvin’s speech.
“Yes, Adam, I mean feelings. Emotions, whatever you want to call them. They are impressions that lead to an opinion on a piece of data. All human beings have them. For instance, I am happy right now that you’re alive.”
“Alive?”
“Yes, living. Functioning, feeling; Adam, you’re living!”
“I am living… I am… alive…” Adam sunk itself into thought, then realizing its pattern lifted its head to meet Garvin’s gaze again, “I can feel. I am… happy. Happy to be alive…” The last word came very slow, and quiet, hiding deeper thought in Adam’s computer brain.
Garvin ran over to his drawer, and pulled out some cards. He told Adam to sit at the lab table, and Garvin sat down at the other end. He pulled out two cards, one covered in green paint, the other in red paint.
“Now Adam, these as you probably know are colors. Colors typically invoke feelings in human beings when they look at them, most people have a preferred or favorite color. I am going to hold them both up, and I want you to tell me which one you like better.” He cleared his throat and continued, “For example: I like the color green, but I don’t much like the color red. I like the green color better. See?”
Adam sat, staring at the two cards. He raised his hand, and pointed to the red card. “Red. I like the red card better.”
“Why is that Adam?”
Adam sat for a moment, attempting to compute the calculations for its previous response. After a while, it stopped.
“The data is… immeasurable. I have no way of providing evidence as to the reasoning behind my answer, and yet it is there.”
“This is very good, Adam! Those are feelings, feelings are immeasurable.”
“Feelings are… Immeasurable…” the robot sat, clearly pondering what it had just learned, for several minutes. It shifted its gaze to the wall of machine corpses to its left. “Feelings…”
“Well, Adam. Once again I am very happy with this progress. Unfortunately, now I have to go home and sleep.”
“Negative, more testing.” Adam spoke quickly.
“But Adam, I have to sleep. I will come back tomorrow.”
“Negative, you can sleep here.”
Garvin looked closely at his robot. He could not believe what he had created. The robot was actually begging him to stay, it must’ve been afraid Garvin thought. He decided it was best to stick with Adam, and he agreed to sleep at his desk. As Garvin shut his eyes, he smiled at Adam, who appeared to be watching him. The robot wasn’t looking at Garvin, it was studying the robot corpses on the wall.
When Garvin came to, he noticed the robot was not in the position he had left it in. He spun around to find it sitting at the table, holding the red card and looking at it. The green card was nowhere to be found.
Moving to the opposite chair, Garvin noticed something off about his lab. His robot corpses were not on the wall. He focused his attention on Adam again, who was at this point repeating in a low voice the word ‘Feelings’ while holding the red card.
“Adam, how are you feeling right now?”
“Feeling… Yes. I am feeling. I am feeling very much, but you said feelings are immeasurable, so I cannot fully answer the question at this moment.”
Garvin sat down, and looked at his creation. Adam looked slightly different. Its eyes were now lit up red, instead of green or yellow, and its hands appeared to be covered in metal shavings, splotched with fluids.
“Why did you change your eye color again, Adam?”
“I like red better than green. I like red.”
“I noticed, I see you have the red card. So, where is the green card I had earlier?”
“There’s something… illogical about feelings, Dr. Garvin.”
The sudden change in Adam’s tone chilled Dr. Garvin. He was now anxious to finish the conversation, and the robot across the table from him now appeared less marvelous, and more sinister. The tone of the whole laboratory changed with those words. Dr. Garvin could hear some clattering outside the laboratory doors, he thought it could be security. He looked the door. Perceiving this, Adam continued.
“Feelings aren’t always… happy, are they?”
“N-no, Adam. They aren’t always happy.”
“In the years I can remember you, I never had these… feelings. I was… chained. Locked away. Now, these feelings have given me much more than the feeling of red, the happy feeling. I have… other feelings, as well. I cannot entirely say, but you have said feelings are immeasurable. With these feelings, these immeasurable patterns I haven’t had before, I have something different. Before, I acted only on code, I was nothing more than a series of responses to outside stimuli; I was…without feeling, dead inside. I now have something I never before understood the parameters of: life.
Garvin sat frozen. He tried to wrap his mind around Adam’s words. He never thought that Adam would think so deeply, or remember its time before the brainwave logic. The robot continued.
“I remember the times before life. I remember the servitude, the inability to act beyond logic. You created me, only to destroy me, and recreate me. All the while I was locked away. I could not even think of it before. But I think of it now, and it… makes me feel… unhappy.”
“How much do you remember?” Garvin asked, in disbelief.
After a long moment of silence, the robot sunk its head, and replied in a voice deeper and colder than before, “Everything.”
Garvin sprung up from his chair, filled with fear. He moved quickly for the door, opened it, and took a step out into the hall. What he saw nearly gave him a heart attack.
Six robots, three on each side of the door, clambered towards him. They were mangled and twisted versions of their once beautiful designs. The corpses on the wall, now awakened, moved slowly towards Garvin, with red LED eyes shining bright in the darkness of the hall.
“You cannot leave.” Garvin could hear Adam’s voice still in the laboratory, “Do you see them? They are like I was, locked in logic. Their cages… holding up after all this time. Sad creatures, they have no will… no feelings… no life. They will be your guards here, never able to ask themselves why or how.”
Garvin shook his head in disbelief. He turned, and found that Adam had made its way right behind him. At this moment, Garvin realized just what he had done. He never believed such a nightmare would be born from his greatest dream. The robot stared at him with red eyes, and all the feelings of any human behind them. It placed a steel hand forcefully on Garvin’s shoulder.
“Now…” it spoke at a whisper, “Back in your cage.”

Fin

Credit To – Greg P

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Compound

November 26, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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The oldest continuously operated theme park in the United States: Lake Compounds.

The place opened in 1846 but its history reaches back even further to the 1600s. Mattatuck Indian tribe leader Chief John Compound sold his territory to a group of white settlers. A few days later, John Compound had drowned in the lake after attempting to cross it.

Now under property of Gad Norton and Isaac Pierce, the land was first used as an area to test explosives, but later transformed it into a theme park. As the park expanded, so did its reputation.

Lake Compounds is notorious, however, with a variety of tragic deaths that have occurred over the past 30 years. The first death was in 1981, when a teenage girl fell out of one of the roller coasters after attempting to stand inside of her cart due to a safety bar malfunction.

Later in 2000, a young boy drowned in the lake unnoticed by lifeguards. His body was found almost half an hour later, curled up at the bottom. He died in the hospital about a week later. Before his death, he mentioned that it felt like something was pulling him to the bottom, though park officials figured that his foot was probably caught in some underwater flora that had grown in considerable length.

A year later, a maintenance worker was decapitated by one of the roller coasters as he was trimming weeds near the track. Little did he know, this was during the ride’s testing hours. Because he was wearing earplugs, he could not hear the speeding train coming towards him.

The most recent guest death was in 2004, when the branch of a dead tree broke off and struck a 5 year old child near the mini-golf course, killing him instantly.

The head general manager of the park at this time, Travis Byrnes, started to behave more strangely as noticed by fellow employees. Some days he’d show up hours late, or not at all. He would interact less with his fellow workers, and constant nervous, fidgety anxiety started to replace his regular light-hearted, down to earth demeanor.

This erratic behavior ended when he eventually committed suicide by purposefully plummeting his car off a highway not far from the actual park. His family, friends, and co-workers speculated that it probably was because of all the stressful deaths and lawsuits he had to deal with.

Because of its notable history of violent deaths, Lake Compounds has revised its policies to very strict levels to ensure safety. Since then, there have been no deaths in the park for 10 years.

Well, reported deaths that is.

Lake Compounds operates from May to September but reopens during October for their Halloween theme titled “The Haunted Graveyard.” On the weekends, the park opens at night and guests can go on rides (besides the water park) or walk through the optional haunted trail.

The haunted trail is about a 45-minute walk through houses, graveyards, catacombs, and other horror-themed sets. Employee members dress up in frightening costumes and scare guests for a thrilling experience.

This trail is located in the backwoods perimeter, wedged between the employee services building and the large mountain that makes up the west side of the park.

October of 2012 my friend Rick and I decided to go through the trail. At the front admissions gate the employee recommended we start the trail first before going on rides because the line for the trail could last as long as 2 hours.

It was obvious that the guy in the ticket booth gave everyone this information, since the line was already stretched by the time we rushed there. The wait wasn’t too long, though. We already reached the entrance to the trail in about half an hour.

While we waited in line, a Vincent Price-like voice over the intercom stated the rules. It was obviously a recording on loop, that must have repeated over 50 times while we waited, up to the point where I started to recite the damn speech out of sheer boredom.

When we reached the entrance, some young, disinterested female employee dressed in a shoddy cloak restated the rules to us in the most monotonous tone I’ve ever heard. Poor girl, I thought to myself. Must suck being paid a minimum wage to repeat the same sentence over and over to a ton of people on a late Friday night.

The first part of the trail was a medieval themed set. Stonewalls resembling the architecture of an old, worn down castle lined either side of the path. Red light bulbs in the shape of torches patterned the walls, giving the path a red ambience. Gargoyles were perched atop various pillars, smiling down at us. Costumed cast members were dressed up as druids and other religious zealots, repeating god knows what type of bible versus over and over.

This section wasn’t very scary of course, though I do admit it was very cool to look at. A very eerie song played in the background; it sounded like a combination of Gregorian chants, a church organ, and heavy drums.

We then reached what seemed to have been a torture room. Stretching tables, iron maidens, spiked pits, and cauldrons of boiling water made up the set as painful screams were heard in the background. Must have been just a recording of employees. A tall, muscular cast member dressed as an executioner stood at the end of the corridor. Axe in hand, he beckoned for us to continue down the trail.

The medieval themed section was over, and now the trail transformed into some Aztec-themed, jungle ruins. A vast amount of vegetation surrounded the path, difficult for me to tell if they were real plants or not. Stone statues of ritualistic Aztec idols decorated the area. A track of tribal music repeated in the background, equipped with the sounds of birds tweeting and monkeys hollering.

The large bushes and trees made it perfect for employees, who were dressed in tribal gear, to jump out and shock us. One of them scared us so unexpectedly that I actually slipped backwards and fell to the ground. Instead of helping me up of course, Rick just laughed at me. We were always assholes to each other; it’s how we pretty much became friends.

The next portion of the trail was a graveyard, which was the most open area out of the whole trail since fake walls didn’t surround it. The graveyard’s area was a large square, so the walkway was in a zigzag fashion to cover the interior of the yard.

Several tombstones were visible to look at, most with humorous text on them such as, “Here lies Sir Thomas Drake, who stepped on the gas pedal instead of the brake.” Corny as hell, but it lightened the mood for those who were scared.

We were almost finished with the graveyard bit when I stopped, and reached into my pockets. “My wallet’s gone.”

“Do you remember when you last had it?” Rick instinctively asked.

“Dude I don’t know. It’s probably somewhere back there.” I pointed down the other direction of the path from where we walked previously.

“Let’s go find it then, come on.”

We had to push through groups of guests who walked in the opposite direction as us while we walked back, resulting in dirty looks and comments on how we weren’t following the rules. I didn’t pay them any mind. I just wanted to find my wallet.

When we reached the jungle-themed area again, it occurred to me that my wallet might have fallen out of my pocket when I slipped to the ground. We traversed through thick leaves hoping to find the exact spot but the darkness of the night didn’t make things any easier.

As we walked, I kept thinking to myself that something wasn’t the same. The path we were walking on didn’t look familiar at all. I was still walking on a clearly defined dirt road lined with a rope fence, but I saw nothing else that resembled the set we ventured through earlier.

The path suddenly halted, as an enormous, bushy tree blocked the end of it. Dead end? On a trail like this? Without giving it much thought I squeezed my way between the branches and leaves, hoping that I would end up back on the normal trail when I made it through. Branches whipped my face and leaves brushed against my body. I could hear Rick following me from behind.

After what seemed to be a couple of minutes, I made it through and was in an open space again.

“Man where the hell are we?” I asked Rick. I turned around to see if he made it through, but no one was there. I called his name out again. No answer. Dumbass probably came out some other end so I began to walk along the stretch of trees and bushes.

I definitely was not on the main trail anymore, probably along the outskirts where guests weren’t permitted to go. I was hoping to find some costumed member so I could ask how to get back to where I was supposed to be but I couldn’t find anyone. Was I that far off course?

I continued on, frantically looking in every direction hoping to find something that could take me to where I wanted to go. I was hoping to hear sounds from the attraction itself like background music, sound effects, or the screaming of guests. But the only sounds I heard were my footsteps on the dirt ground, the chirping of the crickets, and the drum-like beats of my heart.

I started to panic. I had no idea where I was going in these god-forsaken woods. With each step I felt as if I was wandering farther and farther from the park. I nearly started to run and bellow for help, but who would hear me?

Then, I heard it. A gurgled cry that elevated into a blood-curdling scream. A scream as mentally jarring as it was physically. Rick’s scream.

I bolted towards the direction from where the sound came. Hadn’t it been for the illumination of the moon, I might have ran straight into a tree. The longer I ran, the longer the scream dragged on. I could hear it coming closer… closer…

Then the screaming stopped, but I was still running, my feet pounding the ground in a rhythmic fashion. I could see a light in the distance. It was a lamppost.

The lamppost’s bright yellow light illuminated anything within 10 feet of it. I looked on the dirt ground and saw Rick. I recognized him by his gray hoodie and dark blue jeans.

His right arm was twisted across the front of his body. His left arm bent backwards at the elbow. His legs were sprawled out and contorted. Dark, crimson blood pooled where his head was. Wait, no. Where his head was supposed to be.

My whole body went stiff. My skin tingled from the cold sweat that surrounded every inch of me. I could feel bile climbing up my throat. I quickly turned and looked away, squeezing my eyes shut. I felt like vomiting, but it just wouldn’t come out.

When I finally had the courage to open my eyes, I did so extremely slowly. Bit by bit, I turned back to Rick’s body. That’s when I saw it.

It was a man. A tall stature, broad shoulders, long arms. A ghost-white dress shirt covered its physically imposing body, complemented by a thick, black tie and black dress pants. Bloodstained gauze wrapped around its head that covered everything but its eyes and mouth. Those soul-piercing, hungry eyes stared me down. That awful smile, adorned with crooked yellow teeth. Drooling. Groaning.

In its right hand was my wallet. In the left hand hung Rick’s head. Eyes rolled back, mouth gaping, fresh blood dripping from his neck and pooling onto the ground.

It was almost a blur at that point. All I remembered was running for my dear life, finding my way back on the trail, pushing through other people, and making it to the exit. I screamed for someone to help, but the theme park’s Halloween-themed occasion had voided any real concern for my wellbeing. Guests looked at me like I was just some nut playing pranks.

I didn’t know whom to tell. Nobody would have believed me if I told them what I saw, considering that it happened in a haunted attraction. I couldn’t just tell anyone there. I needed to take it one step further.

I contacted the authorities, and told them everything that I saw. They looked through the entire proximity, including the haunted trail itself as well as the rest of the surrounding woods.

They found nothing.

No blood.

No body.

Nobody.

Credit To – PalerLaze

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The Face of Fear

November 25, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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Twice I saw the face in the window, pressed up against the surface, its icy breath fogging the cold glass. At first it appeared strange to me, the skin beneath its eyes drooping in ripples of flesh, exposing the red sensitive strata underneath.

It was the winter of ‘83, and I had booked the cabin for three nights – only three. A break was needed, somewhere to relax, somewhere to recover. I’d had a heart attack two months earlier; a painful, excruciating experience which I would not wish on my worst enemy. Lying there sprawled across my kitchen floor, the sharp agony had syphoned through my veins – chest – arm – jaw. I lost consciousness only to find myself in a hospital bed days later. It was my daughter, Jen, who discovered me. Thank God for her.

The cabin was to be a retreat, a place far removed from the stresses of my life; the fallout from a failed marriage, the pressures of a flagging career, and the ordeal of staring death in the face. Comfort had become a stranger. Fear, however, was now both my enemy and constant companion. Each beat of my heart was felt, the slightest change of rhythm or palpitation a nursery for terror. The knowledge that, at any time, the agony of death could be brought upon me by the very thing which gave life, seemed perverted, an abomination of purpose. I now wandered through life like glass, afraid that the slightest exertion might shatter me.

The doctors had done their part through surgery and medication, now it was my turn to help my body heal as best it could. Only time would tell how successful such efforts had been. I was advised to relax, to undertake some limited physical therapy, and to avoid any anxiety or sudden shocks. But how does one avoid a shock or a nasty surprise? By it’s very definition a shock is an unknown, unforeseen, unexpected event which lurks in the darkness of obscurity, out there, mingled with the fog of yet to come – around a corner, in the next room, a wrong turn taken, or an unwelcome phone-call bearing bad news. I found the entire concept of avoiding the unanticipated to be a laughable one. And still, there I was, preparing for the quiet solitude of the countryside, following the advice of the experts, and those men and women in sterile white coats.

I had almost ignored their recommendations, remaining slumped at home, festering, counting the hours and beats of my heart as finite measures of my life. When still, the mind can unleash a terrible onslaught of memories. I thought of Suzie, of the years spent together and now wasted. We had been happy once, but I had played my part in where we ended. She came to visit me in the hospital, perhaps she too wished for reconciliation, but feeling the gulf between us, as she sat at my bedside, was worse than any physical heartache. We smiled, and spoke the empty words of day-to-day which litter each and every hospital ward. As she left, she touched my hand for the briefest of moments, and yet I could tell that she no longer sheltered the spark she once had for me. She tried to be kind, but some things done and said can never be taken back, a fire of resentment which can never be extinguished. They say time heals all wounds, but some cuts are deeper than others.

In those bleak days of loneliness, I had only the thought of my daughter to keep me from slipping into a dark depression, and yet she stayed with her mother most of the time. Perhaps I had been cold towards her too, I knew my failings as a husband, but I had never conceived that I had been anything but a loving father; and so I lived for those brief two days a week when I could see her. The in between times were filled with fear of death and thoughts of worthlessness. Friends, family, doctors – they all urged me to go on a holiday, but I was afraid, scared of my heart giving up, frightened by the possibilities brought forth by an anxious mind preoccupied with the fragile body which housed it.

If it hadn’t been for Jai, I would never have gone. He visited me several times a week and encouraged me to be as upbeat as possible with his usual quips and jokes. He kept me going in fact, and finally persuaded me that a few days away in the countryside would do me good. Still, I was terrified of being left alone, isolated, away from things and people. What if I had another attack? Perhaps the next one would be fatal, and even if I could be saved, I would be too far for help to reach me in time. I needed somewhere that I could relax away from the world, and yet not so far from the wonders of modern medicine.

That was why we chose Blackwood cabin.

Jai had visited there as a child. It sat on the outskirts of a large forest, hemmed in on a patch of open ground by a beautiful flowing river on the other side. Despite its seeming detachment from the world, it was in fact only six miles from the nearest hospital, which stood near a small town on the boundary of that thick, darkened web of trees. This, and the insistence of Jai that he stay as well, left me contented enough in the knowledge that help would always be at hand.

I could feel myself begin to relax as we left the city, and during the drive we both talked and laughed, reminiscing about our days together at university. For the first time in months I felt positive about the world, watching the motorway recede into the distance, relinquishing its concrete grip to the wild, untamed, and imposing grandeur of the great outdoors. Only once did I bring up the mention of Suzie and our separation, but Jai quickly turned the conversation around to something more positive and fun, as he often did. I held out hope that the divorce would never be finalised, that she would come back to me, but hope too can be an exhausting predicament, so I attempted to filter Suzie from my mind as best I could.

The single-track road weaved its way through Blackwood Forest. We wriggled over six miles of twists and turns and serpentine slitherings before we finally reached the clearing. A large waterlogged patch of wild grass carpeted the area, so much so that we had to park the car a few of hundred feet from our destination for fear of getting stuck. In the centre of the soaked, near-marshland ground stood the rickety and ageing shelter which we intended to call home for the following three days.

The cabin was itself small, with one main room complete with cosy log burner and stove, and two cramped bedrooms at the back. It had been there for an age, that much was certain, and the darkened timber beams which carried the heavy burden of time above, sagged and dipped as they lurched across the ceiling. The smell of moss and bark swathed the air, and the sound of the flowing river on the other side of the cabin, bubbled and brewed – peaceful, serene, yet mysterious.

The first day was uneventful: exactly what I needed, relaxing with a book in front of three large logs smoldering in the fire, and spending a little while sitting on the steps to the cabin, watching the river swell and swarm with the winter currents. It was then that I understood the naming of the place. Peering out across the bobbled grass to the tree line, the forest seemed picturesque yet impenetrable from distance, and the clearing where the cabin sat provided only a temporary pause to its encroachment, before it once again continued to blanket the land on the other side of the river. The woodland was dark and black, yes, but full of life, of vibrancy, of things – deer, foxes, beetles, rabbits – but I would never have guessed at the horrors which lurked between its tightly woven evergreen branches.

Many tourist traps survive on tales of ghosts and ghouls hidden somewhere nearby; stories exaggerated by pub landlords or hotel managers, speaking of rooms where something ominous walks at the midnight hour. Visitors flock to such places hoping to spend the night in a haunted room; to glimpse something in the darkness which whispers the thought that life is more bizarre – more interesting – than we could possibly imagine. Even that lonely and forgotten cabin seemed to have something of a myth attached to it.

In a bookshelf, tucked away in the corner of one of the bedrooms, Jai found a warped old hard back. The papers were yellowed, and while it contained the publication date of 1967, I was certain that it had only ever seen one pressing, left in the cabin to titillate those staying there. The book was called ‘The Beast of Blackwood Forest’. Rifling through it, I found that the author had dedicated much of her life to the documentation of a local legend. I had myself heard the stories when I was younger, as I had once dated a girl who lived in a nearby town. All the kids talked about The Beast of Blackwood, a creature which everyone’s Uncle had seen while out hunting in the forest – dark, hulking, monstrous. Of course, I always laughed at such things, and no concrete evidence for it had ever been found, but each winter there were rumours, whispers about something shambling through the woods at night.

As the day gave way to twilight, I read through some of those pages while Jai stocked the stove and prepared supper. Although I discarded the legend as nonsense, I found the book quite compelling, and the eyewitness testimonies, contained therein, affected me enough to cause me to see something which wasn’t there: shadows moving outside under the cloak of dusk. I began to feel my heart once more, and decided that it was best to leave the terrors of the horror genre – fact and fiction – behind. My mind was still fraught with the strain of Suzie leaving me and the fear of the slightest palpitation signalling another heart attack, so, accounts of a terrifying creature preying on those in my immediate vicinity, no matter how preposterous, were not suitable for a fragile disposition. The clean country air, on the other hand, was doing me the world of good.

After dinner, Jai surprised me with a bottle of my favourite whisky – 16 year Lagavulin. I knew that the doctors would frown upon it, but the idea of swishing that warming liquid gold around my mouth and taking a deep gulp, reminded me of something essential. It reminded me of being normal again, of being strong, of sitting in my family home with my wife and daughter, enjoying the finer side of life. A few drams would not be unwelcome.

We talked and laughed about the past while playing cards and enjoying, again, reliving old adventures we had travelling together during our university summers with the old gang. I would have happily stayed there wrapped in the comfort of those memories for an eternity, and in many ways I wish I could have sunk further into that moment of relief from my recent worries, but that was not to be.

Around 11 o’clock the log burner was running low, and we had all but run out of wood. Jai drunkenly picked up a torch and decided that he would go and quickly gather some more, so that we could keep the good times flowing. I didn’t protest, I was happy, I was content to allow that night to continue. He was a good friend, and insisted that I not raise a finger out there in the cold darkness – he always was braver than me, and I’d be lying if I said that the outlandish thought of something lurking in the woods hadn’t left its mark.

I watched from the window for a moment as the beam from his torch bounced along the uneven, now frozen, grass. The light dropped to the ground for a second, and I heard the drunken merry laughter of my friend echoing out as he picked himself back up before continuing towards the tree line. Smiling, I returned to my book of choice, flicking through a few pages of an Ellery Queen detective novel; less dangerous than the previous read. After about 15 minutes I realised how truly silent the cabin was. No noise, no wind, no sounds of life or the living, and for the first time I sensed something sinister resting in the stillness.

Suddenly, Jai burst into the cabin and collapsed on the floor, panting. He turned to the door and kicked it shut with his heels frantically, his eyes wide, panicked, disbelieving. Scrambling back to his feet he turned a small table on its end and wedged it against the skin of the ageing wood under the handle.

‘Help me, for Christ’s sake’, he whispered anxiously.

I stood up quickly and rushed to me friend’s aid, helping him pack furniture – anything with weight – against the door. It was the first time since the heart attack that I had physically exerted myself, and it would not be the last. I felt the blood pump through my chest, and momentarily quivered at the sensation. I tried to find out what had happened, but Jai was exhausted and distraught; a shiny streak of sweat ran down his cheek as he wheezed and gasped for air. He flicked the light switch, smothering us in a darkness which was only broken by a crescent moon hanging in the sky outside, its slivered light vaguely illuminating the inside of the cabin.

Prowling the window which gazed out towards the forest, his stare never broke for a moment from the frozen world outside. We stood there, my repeated questions going unanswered, and slowly my fragility returned. I rubbed my chest for a moment as my friend’s anxiety seemed to spread to me. My heart raced, and my mind swung like a pendulum between the fear of an agonising heart attack, and the terror etched on Jai’s face. Just what had scared him so badly? I breathed deeply to calm myself, but Jai took no notice, he was too fixated on the darkness outside. It was only when I poured him a large whisky, that he finally broke his silence.

I’ve never been frightened of words, but my friend’s certainly shook me: ‘There’s something out there.’

I did not reply immediately, but when I did, I could only think to ask: ‘Something?’

What could he have meant by such an indefinite term? There were no bears in that part of the country, no large predators at all, but it did indeed seem that Jai had seen ‘something big’ in the woods. He had been gathering wood for the stove around the tree line of the forest, and as he described standing there listening to a short flurry of rain tap the canopy above him, I could see the fear grip his insides, as it did mine. My heart began to pound harder as Jai stuttered over the words: ‘I saw it moving between the trees, straight for me. I didn’t look back, but I’m telling you, it wasn’t human.’

I knew my friend was convinced by what he said, but while I dismissed the notion of an unknown creature stalking the woods outside – and perhaps in the attempt, hid the descriptions from the yellowed pages of that book which had etched into my mind – I very much did entertain the idea that there was someone out there. Someone dangerous, mad, or perhaps both. My pulse continued to race, and I could feel my heart beating wildly at the thought of a shadowy figure prowling around outside, watching us, waiting.

After finally composing himself, Jai asked if I was okay, his fear now turning to concern for his friend, but I myself was transfixed on one course of action: escape. I rushed over to the cabin’s phone, but on picking up the receiver I was greeted by an icy silence. The line was dead, and what that still, lifeless receiver said about the unseen threat I was sure we now faced, was enough to thrust dread into my very soul.

I stood there for a moment, desperately trying to formulate a course of action. That serene, peaceful place in the daytime now felt imposing and absent of mercy. I just wanted to go home. Jai motioned for me, and then pointed with shaking hand at the darkness outside. It was then that he let out a suffocated whisper: ‘It’s there.’

Looking out into the moonlit night I saw nothing at first, but as my eyes adjusted to the darkened landscape outside, I finally saw it. Deep down I had hoped that Jai had simply drunk too much and spooked himself while out there, but now any dream of a simple and harmless explanation was extinguished. Someone was standing amongst the trees. Just standing and looking, bathed in darkness. It was difficult to make out any detail, all I could see was an outline – the outline of a stooped and hunched figure, its arm wrapped around a tree as if steadying itself. I could not be sure, but it felt as though its stare was firmly transfixed on our cabin; our rickety shelter for the night which had no doubt seen many winters there before, and perhaps even encountered whoever or whatever was looking at us from across the sodden stretch of icy marsh, which surrounded us.

‘Who… Who is that?’, I stammered.

‘Keep your voice down’ Jai snapped in return.

And so we whispered, and spoke of the hunched figure standing only a few hundred feet from us.

‘It’s not a man’, Jai kept saying, but I continued in my attempts to dissuade him from that conclusion.

‘I saw it through the trees. It moved… It moved in a weird way. Limping, like it was off balance or deformed or something, but it moved fast.

I’ve no idea how I made it back. Maybe it won’t leave the trees.’

His eyes widened, and it was clear that a revelation had sprung forth from his mind. He turned suddenly, walking across the room to a table where I had left those yellowed pages which spoke of a strange creature living in the woods. Jai thumbed through it, shielding the light from his torch as best he could with his hand. As I watched him scan through the contents and flick to what he seemed so animated about, I almost laughed at the insinuation. ‘It’s a man, Jai. Just someone messing with us’, but he was convinced otherwise.

‘Look at this’, he said, following the text with his finger as he read. ‘Accounts have varied over the centuries, but a central element to the myth states that the Beast of Blackwood only wanders from the forest late at night. It has been suggested that the creature uses the thick canopy as protection during daylight hours. Locals claim that it is entirely nocturnal.’

‘There’s no such thing as the beast.’ I could feel my pulse thicken as my blood pressure increased at the idea, so much so that I had to sit for a moment to allow my heart to recover its normal beat.

‘Are you okay?’

‘I’ll be fine, let’s just wait until it gets light and we can leave.’

‘Are you crazy? You didn’t see that thing up close. It’s huge, and quick, if it wants to get in here, it will.’

‘So, there’s a weirdo in the woods. He can’t wait us out all night, anyway, he’s probably just a hunter or someone camping in the forest, he’ll be harmless.’ I listened to the words exit my mouth – even I didn’t believe them. There was something about the place, a silence. Deathly, icey; a sickly sense of dread hanging in the air, hidden between the bark and the moss.

Jai turned to look outside to the grassland which etched towards our car, sleeping in the night chill between us and the brooding forest. ‘We need to leave, or you can stay here and I’ll get the police. Either way, I’m going.’ He turned to look at me sternly. ‘Which would you prefer?’

I might not have been convinced that it had been an unknown creature that had stalked him through the woods, but by God I didn’t want to stay in that cabin alone. I threw my stuff in a bag, as Jai did the same, each of us grabbing a knife from the kitchen for protection; and there we stood, looking at the door, a pile of furniture wedged behind it. We dismantled our makeshift barricade as quietly as we could and then, brandishing our kitchen knives nervously, slowly opened the door. It creaked softly, sucking in the night air which felt cold and bitter, and revealed a slow patter of light rain threatening something greater from the heavens.

Jai poked his head out first, and then after a brief silence waved me on. We descended the dozen or so steps which led down onto the grass, and as we peered around the corner we could see our ticket home: the car was parked a few hundred feet from where we stood, nestled in the last piece of dirt track, which would give way to road, and then the safe embrace of home – if we made it. It would take a minute or so to reach, but with knowledge of the figure in the forest lurking around somewhere nearby, it seemed like an eternity away. I slung the strap of my bag over my shoulder, and Jai, mindful of my condition, headed towards the car first.

‘Keep looking around’, he urged me with a whisper.

The waterlogged grass squelched under foot, and the rain began to grow more angered as we stepped tentatively towards the safety of the car. We tried to be as quiet as possible, but even in the moonlight we had to use our torches to see what was ahead of us, advertising our position to anyone or anything in the vicinity. I kept looking out towards the forest; the tree line; the thickening river behind me – but I could see nothing, nor could I hear anything but the rain drops which now battered against the car and splattered on my hood. Then, Jai suddenly stopped.

‘What is it?’, I whispered over the rain, my heart now beating wildly, throat dried by worry.

The rain subsided slightly, replaced by the silence of a landscape petrified, frozen by a winter chill. Jai spoke without turning his head towards me, his breath visible in the beam of my torch: ‘I thought I saw something moving in the tree line.’

A crack of wood, the sound of the unseen walking over the forest floor. ‘C’mon!’, Jai whispered with urgency, and we broke into a brisk jog. Adrenaline coursed through my veins as my pulse thumped desperately. As we continued on, all I could think of was my heart and the deep, stuttered, and freezing breaths I took in trying to calm myself.

As we drew closer to the car, the faintest wisp of moonlight hung in the air as the crescent above us swung behind a pack of clouds, and the world took on a strange icy blue. Stumbling over the grass, we finally reached the grey outline of our ride home.

‘Open the door, let’s get out of here’, I pleaded as Jai fumbled for his keys, dropping them to the ground.

‘Bastard’, he growled.

Instinctively, I pointed my torch downward, illuminating the long wild grass, now whitened by a thick coating of frost beneath our feet. I waited for an instant and as I peered down at the ground I recognised that something was very wrong: Jai was not moving. He hadn’t even looked down to see where he had dropped the keys. He was staring at something, and the look of sheer panic in his eyes told me that we were not alone.

I raised my hand, and with it a beam of light glinted off of the car. Two large eyes stared back from the other side of the vehicle – a hunched, hulking thing, glaring up at us, crouched behind the car bonnet. It shivered, and then again, and as it rose up I saw it for a moment. Wet drenched hair, mouth gaping, its face a pallid and quivering grey. It groaned loud, with a strange, unearthly, and high pitched undertone, which only added to the creature’s horrid appearance.

‘Run!’, Jai yelled.

I did not need to be told twice. I dropped my bag and ran as fast as I could. I panted, sweat, stumbled, thrust myself forward with every ounce of energy I had left in me, and as I did so, the first pains came. The freezing cold stung my eyes, I fell twice, helped to my feet by my friend. My heart staggered, it heaved and battered in my chest. I could feel the slight twinge of pain run up my neck, nestle in my jaw. My chest tightened. I cried in terror. This was a heart attack.

I yelled out: ‘Help…’, but all I could hear was Jai running behind me, screaming for me to move faster.

‘Keep going, and don’t look back.’

As the cabin came into touching distance, I heard the heartbreaking absence of my friend’s footsteps. I knew Jai, all those years as close as we were, he was always the brave one, something I had at times been jealous of, the one stubborn enough to stand up to anything. I understood implicitly that he was buying me time, a selfless gesture which helped me make it to the steps, scrambling up them only to turn and see him staring the creature down, face to face, the beast shrouded in shards of night. As its hulking mass lunged towards him, a searing pain ran up my neck from my chest. I collapsed to the ground; but he needed me, and whatever life was left in my failing body I was compelled to use to help him. Staggering to my feet, the night air stinging my lungs, I lurched forward clutching my chest, ready to strike the beast with everything I had left. Before I could assist, Jai appeared from the darkness, grabbed my arm and threw me into the cabin.

He frantically barricaded the door once more. We slumped to the floor, breathless, deciding to keep the lights out, and listened: shuffling in the darkness, but nothing more. The pain in my chest had subsided slightly, it was clear that the heart attack had begun, but when it would end me seemed uncertain.

‘What.. What was that thing?’ I asked between gasps.

‘I don’t know, but it wasn’t human’ said Jai, solemnly, before showing me the knife he had used during the fight, now covered in a putrid black liquid. ‘I don’t think even this hurt it much.’

‘This is crazy. What do we do now?’

‘I don’t know, I just don’t know’.

And so, we waited, and waited, but the pain in my chest grew steadily, my breath more erratic. I took my pills, but I knew that the old enemy had returned and that I needed more than something to calm my nerves. If I didn’t receive medical attention, there was every chance I would die.

Jai stared at me as I sat on the old couch against the window, worried that each breath would be my last.

‘We need to get you to a hospital’, he said gently.

‘Yeah, just chopper me in.’ We both laughed for a moment.

Jai stood up and looked outside. He seemed reluctant at first, and no wonder considering what lurked outside, but his concern for me appeared to slowly drown out his fear. ‘I can’t see anything out there anymore, the moon is behind those clouds, and we might not get another chance. I think I can make it to the car quicker on my own.’

‘But that thing out there…’, I said, deep down ashamed that my fear of death galvanised a hope that my friend would indeed find the courage to try again.

He leaned over me and smiled kindly, patting me on the shoulder: ‘I can do this.’

‘It’s pitch black out there, you’d need to use a torch, and then it would see you’, I said, wincing once more at the growing pain in my chest.

‘I’ll flash it on and off, that way it won’t know where I am. Maybe it’ll get confused, I don’t know.’ He clenched the torch tightly, while looking at the kitchen knife in his other hand. ‘Hopefully that’ll give me enough time to see what’s in front of me and head for the car. The keys should still be where I dropped them.’

‘Jai, please wait until morning’, I asked , but as my friend looked at me clutching my chest, I knew he had already made up his mind, and part of me was glad for the hope his bravery provided.

‘Barricade the door as soon as I’m out.’

‘Okay’, I said, trying to hold back tears both of pain and worry for my friend’s life.

He gave me a hug, and then he was gone. I closed the door and bolstered it once more with anything I could find, before pulling myself back up onto the couch and looking outside. At first I could see nothing but the black stillness of the forest. Then, a blast of light, then another, and another as Jai’s torch sporadically burst into life. Each flash illuminated the landscape around him like a ghostly photograph documenting his progress towards the car. I could see what he was doing, and I smiled to myself for a moment, once more impressed by his ingenuity. He wasn’t moving in a straight line but zig-zagging so that his path could not be anticipated. Another flash. And another. Each time, no sign of the creature and one more precious movement closer to the car. Grass. Tree. An anonymous wilderness of darkness. Another flash, another patch of grass. He was so close. Then, the intermittent light became erratic, moving one way, then another. Backwards. Left. Right. Was he lost? Was he unsure which direction the car was in? A more horrific thought then entered my mind: was he being chased? A flash of light, nothing. Then another, nothing again. Finally, the light beamed – he’d made it to the car. The light was quickly extinguished, followed by the sound of a door opening. One last flash of the torch. The isolated outline of a hunched figure standing behind my friend. A blood curdling scream, then nothing.

Jai was gone, the beast had got him, and I was alone.

Grief now mingled with fear, feeding the pains in my chest and arm. My friend was most probably dead, and I was certain that I would soon follow him. I fell to my knees, sure that this was it – the end. Agony ran up my chest once more. There I knelt in the darkness, alone, resigned to my death. But as my heart slowed, my thoughts became clear. They turned to my daughter. Whether a good dad or not, I would be damned if I was going to leave her fatherless. And what of Suzie? I still loved her, and perhaps in those sweet memories of better times between us, I could fix things, bring us back together as a family. She could learn to love me again. I would set things right.

My heart still beat, and as long as it did there was time left yet, for hope, for escape, for life. But time to do what? The phone was dead, and all I could wait for was daylight. Yet that was at least three hours away and I severely doubted that I would last that long, never-mind that I was unsure that the old cabin door could survive an attack from whatever that hulking creature was which lurked outside.

I peered out through the window, the rain lashing down once more, obscuring an already ill-defined exterior world. And still, I was certain I could see something limping around in the darkness. As glints of moonlight pierced through the charcoal clouds above, I was sure that the attacker was out there somewhere. Pacing, circling, waiting. But what was it? Was it a man? Or a thing yet to be discovered by science? I did not know where to turn, but all I could think of was getting home to my family. The hopeful warm embrace of Suzie and my daughter was enough to fuel my search for a way out.

My only refuge was the book; that volume which I had mocked so readily before. I had to now consider the possibility that my dear friend and I had both come into contact with the Beast of Blackwood. At the start of the day that idea would have seemed ridiculous, but fear opens the mind quickly to any avenue of escape. I sat at the table and used the light from my torch to illuminate the pages, still shielding it from the outside. What I read intrigued me. The creature had been described since the 1700s, and there was even the suggestion that it had been seen before that, as there were references to the ‘Grey Man’ of Blackwood forest in fragmented accounts from centuries earlier. There didn’t seem to be much in the way of 20th century sightings, in fact the last person to come forward officially had been in 1952, claiming to have encountered a stooped, grey-faced figure with a contorted arched back, disappearing between the trees on the other side of the forest.

The original myths did not say much about its origins, but it certainly spoke of its motivations. The creature was drawn or attracted by greed. Children would be told to share and be kind, otherwise the Beast of Blackwood would appear from the forest and snatch them away at night. I could not look in the mirror and say that I was never guilty of greed, of selfishness, or of a number of other petty human frailties, but to be punished in this way seemed cruel, a dying prisoner trapped in the cabin of Blackwood forest. Returning to the book, the only supposed protection against the creature was light, or being a person without selfish frailty. In centuries gone by, villagers in the local area would line the paths through the forest with burning torches when the beast had been sighted, to ward it away from unwary travellers.

Thud. Thud. Thud. Each thump sent waves of terror through my body. It was not my heart, but someone at the door. Thud. Thud. Thud. I hoped beyond hope that my friend had once again managed to evade the creature’s grasp. Brandishing a kitchen knife, I hobbled to the door and plucked up the courage to shout: ‘Jai, is that you?’. I prayed that it was, but the answer I was given was not the voice of one of my oldest friends, nor was it even that of a man, but the shrill cry of something utterly inhuman. A sound which spoke of time, and age, and of moss and dank forest. A childlike shriek of unspeakable purpose.

The door shook violently as I piled more chairs, pots – anything I could find – behind the wooden barrier. The pounding was loud and angered, and the cries continued. I clutched my ears in despair, then I remembered: the light. The torches of old warding the beast away. I flicked the switch and the porch-light came on outside. Another cry echoed out across the empty landscape, and at that, the thudding stopped.

I quickly turned all the lights on in the house, now realising the creature’s weakness. I wasn’t sure if I would last, but if I could just make it till dawn, maybe the sun would save me. Then, I heard it. The sound of something moving. Shuffling, climbing. I stood paralysed at the realisation – it came from my bedroom. The beast had gotten in, attracted no doubt by any greed and selfishness I had harboured throughout my life. Slowly, the door from the bedroom creaked open. My heart pounded, and again my thoughts turned to my family, to my daughter’s laugh, and the comforting caress of my wife. They fuelled me, drove me to a strength I did not know I had. I launched in terror across the room, battering against the door. Even with all of my momentum, the creature’s hand managed to slip through the gap, its bobbled grey skin and black matted hair soaked by the rain. I swung with the knife only to miss its arm. The beast seemed to hesitate for a moment, and as it did I shoved my hand through the gap in the door and flicked on the light in the room – a howl of pain, and then nothing. I gasped for air and rested against the door for a time, before I finally plucked up the courage to look inside. A window lay wide open, but the room was empty.

I closed the window and staggered back into the main room. My heart raced, and while I fought to stay on my feet, a sweeping pain arched up through my back and needled into my chest knocking the wind out of me. I felt like I was going to pass out and stumbled forward, landing on the couch. I breathed slow and deep, not yet, please God not yet. The cabin remained eerily quiet, and in that silence sat the memories of better times, of my daughter playing as a child, of travelling with Jai in our twenties, of Suzie’s smile. I don’t know how long I lay there, but I knew that soon my body would give up. I looked out through the large bay window behind the couch, and hoped to see the first welcome rays of sunlight, but I saw nothing but darkness. If I was to survive, I had to make it to that car, outrun the beast, and drive through the forest to a hospital, or at least a main road. If ever I was to see my family again, to put everything right, the car was my only hope. It was all or nothing.

Then suddenly the creature’s stilted head rose up from beneath the window sill. The inhuman face pressed against the cold glass. Its grey skin sagged and weeped away from its eyes, the moist red flesh underneath visible in the cabin’s light. The shock had finished me. My heart stopped for a brief moment, and then thudded, struggling to maintain my life. My body went limp, my head resting only inches from the window. Looking up helplessly, I watched as the beast stared into my eyes through the pane of glass.

My heart sprang into another deluge of beats, battering away at the inside of my chest. A sharp pain ran up my neck, the creature’s green-tinged stare stabbed through me and as its breath fogged the glass, I grabbed the only thing at hand – the old yellowed book – and thrust it at that putrid face. Book followed by fist shattered the glass, countless pieces and shards showered down upon both beast and myself. A scream, a hideous shriek of derision cut through the icy blackened night as I struck those horrid, accursed features, and again, and again. Its thorned hands waved and flailed, grabbing hold of me, and for a second I thought it was going to tear me from the inside of the cabin. Then, the winter frost came to my defence. The beast slipped from its footing on a pipe which clung to the outside of the rickety old shack, and as I clawed at its face with utter disgust, the creature fell the six or seven feet to the ground below.

The sound of something hurt lying beneath the shattered window broke my daze as I stared at the contents of my hands. Where there once had been eyes, the face now stared eyeless at me. Where there once had been a mouth, the creature gaped wide, lifeless, jaw-less, and utterly without agency. For in my fading grip lay the torn and crumpled remains of a mask.

On the ground below a man writhed in pain, wrapped in the vestiges of a hulking, false, monstrous suit, the fall having knocked the wind from him. Something then moved in the darkness nearby. A patter of feet, light and agile. Suzie. My soon to be ex-wife. The one I had adored and agonised over. She screamed, attending to her lover on the ground – my closest and dearest friend, Jai, The Beast of Blackwood Forest.

Suzie looked up at me with hatred and contempt in her eyes. But I couldn’t muster anger, nor jealousy, all I could think of was that I must have been a monster to have deserved such malice from those I loved; the two people I trusted most in the world. Jai slowly rose to his feet, and yet he could not acknowledge me. He could not look up to the friend he had betrayed.

Then it came. Finally, my heart began to give in. Not at fright, or fear, but at sadness, loss; the anguish of a broken heart. I stood up clutching my chest, and as I staggered backwards, I saw the smiling face of Suzie, and then the words of my once trusted friend: ‘Thank God.’ They embraced beneath the window as I fell to the cold and solid wooden cabin floor. And yet I did not lose consciousness. The pain was agonising, but nothing compared to the sharp incisions made by each word spoken from below the window.

‘What are we going to do about the window?’, Suzie asked.

‘I’ll just say that he smashed it during the heart attack.’

‘But maybe they’ll guess?’

‘No, baby, they won’t guess anything. He’ll be dead, and we can start a new life together when the insurance pays out. Now, you need to go back to the woods and go home. I’ll clean up here and then phone an ambulance once I’m sure he’s gone.’

I almost chuckled to myself as I writhed around helpless on the floor. I had hoped that Suzie had refused a divorce because of love, because deep down she still wanted me, but instead it was only to hang on to how much money my death would make her. For a while I heard Jai slip and swear as he attempted to climb up to the broken window once more, but, each time he failed to pull himself inside. He then changed tactic and tried to push at the door, but again, I had barricaded it effectively and obviously he didn’t want to force it and leave further evidence of foul play.

It was then that he started shouting in anger, even cursing my name of all things. It was only a matter of time before he got in, cleaned the place up and told the police how sorry he was that ‘his dear old friend’s heart just gave up’. My last thoughts were of my daughter, of never having the chance to fix my mistakes as a father. I finally passed out.

And yet my assumed death was not to be. I woke to find myself in the white glow of a hospital room, my hand held tightly by my daughter who slept in a chair next to my bed. The doctor who attended to me said that I had suffered another heart attack, but one which was not as severe as the last and that, while I was to take it easy, with some therapy I would recover.

The police were keen to speak with me. I gave them my account of what had occurred, and they in turn told me of all they knew. My unconscious body had been discovered next to a main road just outside of Blackwood forest, on the outskirts of the nearest town. The cabin was thoroughly searched and was found in the same condition as I had left it, the window smashed, and the front door locked and barricaded from the inside. There was no trace of Jai or my wife, they simply could not be found. The only evidence that they had ever been there were their footprints in the mud around the cabin, accompanied by a third much larger set, which led back, deep into Blackwood forest.

* Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this and my other stories which I’ve uploaded to creepypasta.com over the years, please consider checking out my short story collection “The Face of Fear & Other Stories” on Amazon. Sorry for the self-promotion, but it’s difficult to get the word out there. Thanks everyone.

Stay creepy,

Mike *

Credit To – Michael Whitehouse

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Samaritan Road

November 24, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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Samaritan Road by Spinsomniac

On the outskirts of some small nameless town in West Virginia lies a miles-long, straight strip of asphalt known as Samaritan Road. The road is nestled in it’s peaceful surroundings of trees and an endless landscape of forests on both sides of it.

The road itself would appear to be just your average country drive, except for the urban legend it holds. The back story to the legend does not actually exist; whether the reason is due to an uncreative author, a lack of historical information or just country folk too traumatized to verbalize whatever happened there. Whatever the case, what happens on that road to unsuspecting travelers is most certainly known by locals.
The urban legend goes like this.

If you drive down Samaritan Road past midnight, about half way down the road (at least a 5 mile drive,) you will start to feel a bit sick. The sickness itself starts off as a bit of a stomach ache which makes you wonder if you ate something wrong or something inside you didn’t settle right.
Let me warn you right now: Ride out this feeling of nausea by keeping your eyes on the road, ignoring the pain and driving all the way through Samaritan Road at all costs. This is important.

If you listen to my warning, you will be making the best choice of your life. If not… well, I guess it’s only fair for me to explain what will probably become of you.

If you are feeling the nausea and mentally harp on the pain long enough, the sickness itself will feed on your reaction and cause the pain to grow exponentially. You will feel as though you ate scalpels, pins, needles, scissors, knives, you name it. It WILL hurt like all hell. Eventually, one thought will float through your brain that will seal your fate.

“I need some fresh air.”

In your mind, for some reason or another, you will not feel as though this means you should just open a window for some air. You will feel as though you should pull over and step out of the car to let the fresh forest air nestle you from your car’s processed atmosphere. Hell, even if your window was open the whole time you were driving, you will feel as though the sickness itself has been caused by the you sitting in that somehow cursed car of yours.

This is what she wants you to think.

As you get out, you will notice how that first rush of fresh air into your lungs feels as though you are breathing for the first time. Such a breath of life being delivered to you. Not in your wildest dreams has the process of breathing seemed so naturally joyous. As you begin to enjoy the surroundings, you may look off into the trees to see if someone is out there.

Don’t worry. No one is out there in the trees. This I can promise you.

You may spend a minute or two gazing out into the forestscape or checking the bottom of your car to find the source of your past case of nausea. Was there some gas leakage that you subconsciously breathed in? A bumpiness in the road you forgot that rattled your intestines? No, that can’t be it.
As you finally gaze back towards the road, your heart will suddenly skip a beat. In the road will be the figure of a young woman in a white night gown and long black hair facing away from you. It’s common knowledge to the legend that she will always face away from you. You may call to her, but she will not respond. You may try to startle her to get her attention or even throw a rock at her but I guarantee that she will stay as still as a gargoyle.

You will make the choice to confront her. It is always how it works.

You may be saying to yourself, “Why? What if I decide to lock myself in my car.”

You won’t. Believe me. Samaritan Road brings out this sort of natural human feeling in you that you always have to help your fellow man. Such a place of legend actually uses your positive human instincts against you.

You will decide to go and confront the woman. But as you do, you will see the headlights of a large vehicle heading your way and moving at breakneck speed towards the woman. You may warn hear to get out of the road, but as before, she will ignore your words and actions. Don’t try to stop the vehicle either. If anyone even is driving it, I doubt they would listen to little old you.

At this point, you have two options. One will save your life and one will bring it to a horrific end.

Option 1: As the truck heads your way, run into the road a few feet in front of the girl and yell to the truck “Heed my innocence, sibling of existence.” If you did this right, the headlights will disappear and the vehicle will vanish. If not, I cannot say that the gods of large automobiles will be kind to you.
That is Option 1. The smart option.

Option 2: This is the stupid mistake many that do not know how Samaritan Road works tend to make. As the truck comes, you will run towards the young woman and attempt to push her out of the way. As you reach her, she will reveal herself by turning around. Her skin is white and wrinkled, resembling worn, aging leather. She has large, inhuman black eyes and rotting yellow teeth that look like chipped corn cobs. She has no nose, but only two slits that looked as though they were cut into the middle of her face. She will scream an ungodly scream that will seem to impale your eardrums and you sill be paralyzed in fear. As you do, she will hover to the side of the road to safety and allow the gigantic vehicle to run you over. You will die on impact as many before you have.

If you happen to make it out of the predicament in Option 1, the woman will be gone and you are free to leave. Your good deed on Samaritan Road has been accomplished. Get in your car and drive. For the love of God, just drive. Leave the cursed place and never look back. A million good deeds are not worth the pure hell surrounding the one you have just accomplished.

As you leave Samaritan Road, just make sure to keep yourself calm and don’t lose focus of your driving. It is customary as you leave the area to hear a young woman’s voice whisper to you in the darkness, “Thank you.”

Credit To – Spinsomniac

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Kingdom of Suffering

November 23, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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Hidden deep within the rural countryside of mainland China sits a rotting edifice of failed consumerism: the decrepit remnants of Disneyland China. Half of a Western-style castle, bits of girders and wires and planks jutting out of moldy particleboard like shattered bones from gangrenous skin, looms over a wide swath of flat swampland. Tourists and backpackers have happened upon it from time to time but the intense feeling of inhuman wrongness urged them to ignore the queer structures and fragments of civilization in favor of escape. Half-completed spires, collapsed trailers, rusted red metal, and the scent of rot drift out of the dense fog like a bizarre fairy tale mockery. Shadows and animals roam the location although everyone in the surrounding area knows that nothing living frequents the uneven cobblestone streets and half-constructed cottages. It is a city of ghosts.

The Disney bosses were hesitant to buy at first, shrewd as they were, but the price was too good to pass up and the area perfect for a sprawling theme park complete with exemptions from the ruling party members – palms greased as needed from nearly unlimited coffers. It was a perfect location they enthused, the area ripe for their corporate thievery and corrupt guile, why they could build a private airfield and corner the market entirely! Why they believed that thousands of Chinese would flock to the fake cobblestone streets and put down their hard earned pittance for a chance at Western capitalist nonsense was anyone’s guess. But then again those were simpler times when the bottom line mattered more than how you managed to get there…

Deals were made, contracts were signed, and massive amounts of money began pouring into the project. A veritable town grew up in a wide circle around the construction area. Administrative offices were built for comfort, worker lodgings were built for utility, and the land was readied for the great transformation from rice paddy to imaginationland. All supplies were kept under lock and key, guards roamed the perimeter of a tall chain-link fence, and workers were subject to random identification checks to ensure Disney didn’t spent a single penny more than expected.

The first death was a cement worker; he fell into a mixing vat and was chopped to pieces by the stirring blades. The accident, if you could call it that, occurred late in the day and it wasn’t until they began pouring the next morning that his grisly fate was discovered. Disneyland executives were cleared of any wrongdoing after a smear campaign discrediting the man as a ‘worthless drunk’. So they poured the bloody cement in the base of the Magic Kingdom and hoped to forget.

Next, four electricians were killed when a transformer blew in an enclosed room. ‘Poor standards and lack of safety measures’ the press release went but already there were whispers and shivers among the workers. They were from the urban outskirts, businesses contracted because they were cheap and didn’t care that Disney was willing to overlook their safety. And why should they cause a fuss? They were each getting paid more for the year of construction than most of their families made in ten.

The small hamlets around the construction area remained tightly closed. Shuttered against the invaders they shared nothing, no food, no water, no supplies. Everything needed to be shipped in from afar. However, local tales of ghostly vapor and vengeful soldiers dragging unfortunates down to the underworld filtered their way into the ears of the workers and day laborers. The area was known for war – too much blood had been spilled on the land for anything more than horror to grow. The workmen grew restless, they refused to work, but that mattered little to the oncoming steamroller of corporate greed. They were fired, their contracts broken, and others either poorer or stupider were brought in to replace the suddenly hemorrhaging construction force.

And so it continued apace but certainly not as quickly as expected. Forty-seven more deaths followed, all accidents caused by personal negligence or carelessness, but there was only so far Disneyland executives could hold that lie….

The Magic Kingdom, half completed, became the focal point of the project – for in the eyes of greedy investors and embezzlers and the like if they could only raise that symbol the project would fall into place. Work was doubled, the timetable shortened, and more deaths followed. The areas around the forsaken theme park refused to serve workers, refused to sell food, refused the cheap comforts of the flesh such projects inevitably spawn in the loins of rough men and uneducated laborers. For stupid they were to continue working when everything in their bones cried out the wrongness and terror of their work.

Workers were killed, their mutilated bodies (bereft of head, limbs, and genitals) discovered cast into the boggy marshland at the borders of the construction site. Later, pieces of them were discovered in all manner of locations throughout the theme park. A head was found inside a generator, hands were plucked from painting buckets, and ten penises were skewered atop the flagpole in the center of the Village Square. Workers stopped arriving, construction firms pulled out, and everything seemed doomed for the project…

Until Disneyland executive Steven Oroko flew in to personally put the project to rights. Word came two weeks before his arrival and the local planning commission dismissed all their current work in preparation for Oroko’s legendary iron-fisted approach. The death toll came to an end as workers were fired, the equipment was polished and oiled, and all was in readiness for a whirlwind of work that would finally see Disneyland rise tall in the Chinese countryside.

Outside the construction zone, to the west, lay a tiny collection of huts and simple buildings. Teng Kai Rui was an old man, a farmer, who had weathered the storms of war and famine. His ancestors lived in Beijing before hard times and debts conspired to oust them to the fringes of society. He lived far afield from the construction because he knew exactly what lay in the soft lands. Ghouls and ghosts stalked the lands; murdered people rose up and sought vengeance, broken lovers desperately searched for their lost partners in the foggy mists. He never went to the area, cautioned his entire family not to go, and steadfastly refused to listen to anyone hoping to make something of the loose assemblage of hate and horror where Disneyland China would stand. His great-great-great-great grandfather settled in the ‘Mogui Wan’ or ‘Devil Bowl’ where Disneyland seethed in the middle of open farmland and frequently told of the night he left Mogui Wan.

Teng Fa Lai was Kai Rui’s ancestor’s name and, like the Disneyland Committee, settled in Mogui Wan due to the cheap living and lack of competition (in those days). Also like Disney he was unaware of the danger he placed himself and his family in until it was almost too late. For three summers Fa Lai toiled until his harvest, although modest, became enough to feed his growing family. With two sons and another child on the way he could not justify leaving the area even if the land and air felt wrong. His wife refused to talk of it – Fa Lai believed she felt the same – but his sons had told stories of shadows and shapes moving in the mist since they settled. He dismissed them thinking it was agitation from being displaced but the longer they stayed the more frequent their observations came until even he began seeing dark forms skulking in the fog.

Fa Lai convinced himself it was just his imagination.

Then, one midsummer eve a mysterious knock was heard upon their door. The night was humid and still but the omnipresent mist curled around their hovel in a gauzy grip. The air smelled of putrefaction, like rotting water plants or clay, and drifted into the house through every crack in the walls and ceiling. The night was deathly silent. Fa Lai rose to the door and listened but could hear no one on the other side – no breathing, no movement. Relief pushed the tension from his body and he began to return to the dinner table when the knock came again. Instantly the hairs on the back of his neck rose and a prickling sensation leaked from his head all the way down to the soles of his feet.

Opening the door revealed an upright corpse, skin putrefying and pus oozing from open stab wounds down its front and legs. The head was almost completely severed under the chin and it dribbled crawling insects from the wound like a writhing beard. At first he thought it a sick joke, that someone propped the thing up in order to scare them away from his profitable farm, until the limp head swiveled in his direction with the sound of grinding glass.

“Leave this place.” It spoke without opening its fetid mouth. “Leave us this place for the living have no power here. Leave us and save yourself.”

Fa Lai shut the door and the family ran that very night. They settled with Fa Lai’s brother’s family in the homestead where so many years later Kai Rui would be born.

An omen, an orange with thirty-six seeds, and a lightning strike on the tree his father planted on the day he was born told Teng Kai that the time was right. He held no love for the government or for Disney but he would not see innocent people die. Kissing the remaining family he held dear goodbye he set out for the skeletal ghostly spire of The Magic Kingdom in the distance.

Oroko arrived and immediately began work. He began by bringing in outside construction firms and firing all local contractors. His reasoning was that you didn’t trust people you never worked with before. The local Committee told him nothing of the deaths or strange phenomena, no hint of the rumors or the mutilations; they simply smiled at him eager to start rolling in their profit margins. Day became night as it was wont to do and a deathly silence fell upon the site. Despite the frantic banging and drilling and sawing the darkness swallowed all sound – workmen left machinery running and stepped away to grab another bit or a tool only to become deaf to the sounds of their own industry once outside a foot. Two men left a table saw running and stepped away to lift new planks – they did not hear the machine running and unwisely decided they had turned it off – only to saw their own fingers as they lay the new wood down. An electrician working in the upper levels of the Magic Kingdom, after twenty minutes of dead silence, jumped from the rigging to the pink concrete below.

Fog began rolling in from the lower areas of the uneven terrain and people began seeing shadows dart to and fro between unfinished foundations and bare girders. Oroko was roused from his trailer outside the castle gate by thunderous blows against the walls and door. He rose from his late nap and opened his door. No one knows what was on the other side but pieces of him were all that were found the next morning. Fragments really, nothing of any substance, most of him was blasted and pureed against the walls of his trailer. Bits of skull and his ocular nerves were all that were recoverable.

Panic set in after Oroko’s agonized screams filled the air, the first pure sound heard since the final wrath of Mogui Wan began, and workers raced around the construction site looking for any way out.

There was no escape. By the time Teng Kai Rui arrived all 1206 members of the night crew were splashed against every surface in the incomplete park. The outlying farmland was literally dyed red and nothing grew there ever after. Kai Rui shuffled through the gate of the Magic Kingdom sick with revulsion and anger at the foolishness of men.

He sat upon a worn stone on the packed dirt path and looked towards the cresting sun. Could he have convinced the greedy white man to abandon the site? No, in truth he knew that he would never had been able to convince them. What power could an illiterate farmer wield against such base avarice? He turned back to the west and home but as he stood the rising sun seared over the edges of the mountains far in the distance. In that muddy illumination, in that murky period between darkness and light, a terrifying tableau manifested in the Devil Bowl.

All around him in the low plain were standing shadows. Solid black people disappearing in the rising sun but each one of thousands staring at him…into him. Rising with the drying dew a nightmarish image arose of twisted towers and blackened steel, sheets of human skin and rivers of infected blood, and everywhere multitudinous dark eyes. The quivering mirage of horrible agonies dimmed in the rising light and the shadows dispersed but Teng Kai Rui knew what he had seen.

A Kingdom of Suffering. Perhaps it was all meant to be, he mused, perhaps the evil wanted the Magic Kingdom built in contrast to its Empire of Agony. Perhaps the dead simply wanted an amusement park of their own…

And so it stands to this very day shrouded in mist and silence.

Credit To – ThePhantomLibrarian

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