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The Wicker House

August 30, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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Of course everyone claiming residence in Arthur’s Wake knows tales associated with the Wicker House. It seems that every small province plays host to some structure of ill repute which, as if by supernatural magnetism, draws rumor of ghosts and bogies, wrapping the timber and stone of its foundation in a shroud of darkness and horror. In Arthur’s Wake, the Wicker House fills this odious task.

Scant days after arriving in town, while taking the time to familiarize myself with the local watering hole and its residents, I became introduced to the well known superstitions surrounding the Wicker House. As a man of science, I knew any truths to be found in these outlandish stories were likely embellished to points unrecognizable. Nothing was first hand; all experiences were from a friend who knew a fellow who may have seen something. It is the provincial mind which transforms wild dogs into wolves that walk like men and interprets astronomical phenomena as harbingers of certain doom. Still, my curiosity sufficiently piqued, I endeavored to better inform myself upon the subject through more objective means. To my great surprise, while failing to confirm the more supernatural claims of the tales, the town records in the basement of the local library did provide aspect to a most sinister reality all their own.

The house was built in 1920 by the millionaire Tomas Wicker who, in addition to being both a successful oil prospector and fishing magnate, was by all accounts completely insane. No one knows what first drew Wicker to Arthur’s Wake. Some speculate this as the first outward sign of his impending madness. What is known was that the foundations of the house which would come to assume his name were poured almost immediately upon his arrival.

The structure was supremely modest for a man of Wicker’s means, rising a mere two stories in height and composed of scarcely a dozen rooms plus cellar and attic for storage. The house was built on Blackwood Drive, a major tributary of the town’s main street, and close to the industrial center, such as it was. The plot itself consisted of about a quarter acre, the yard home to a few blossoming trees and a small garden, the whole of which was surrounded by a high wrought iron fence accessed by a similar gate. The posts of this formidable perimeter were topped by wicked spikes to discourage would-be trespassers. Construction concluded rapidly and the autumn of 1920 saw Wicker take up residence in the house accompanied by a maid, groundsman, and his wife.

The lady of the house quickly became the subject of gossip among the townsfolk. During the construction Wicker had boarded his wife in parts unknown. None could recall when she arrived at the house; one day she was simply there. As the groundskeeper cared for the exterior yard and garden and the maid handled all domestic chores including trips to market, the lady was herself never seen to exit the house. Due to this complete lack of socialization, the townsfolk did not learn so much about the woman as her Christian name. The servants themselves shed no light upon the subject. The man hailed from a remote part of the Dark Continent and the woman appeared to be a mixed-breed, vaguely of the Orient. Wicker had acquired the service of each while abroad for business dealings and neither spoke a word of English. Naturally, the Lady Wicker was the object of most persistent rumor.

Early speculation was she suffered from some exotic malady which left her drawn and bedridden. These theories were repudiated by those few who would occasionally spy her from the street. In each case she was seen exclusively at night, staring forlornly through the second story window of what was assumed to be her bedchamber, lit only by candlelight from within and to all appearances the picture of health. Additionally, there was little chance the typically damp and sunless climate of the Wake would be prescribed to improve one’s constitution by even the most inept of physicians. As common folk are wont to do, with a logical explanation absent more fantastic theories were crafted. Some began to speculate the woman was a witch, others an enslaved angel won by Wicker whilst dicing with Satan. What all who observed her agreed upon was her singular beauty.

I gleaned much of this information from archives of the local paper, especially one curiosity piece which was accompanied by a photograph of the lady in question. The scene was just as I had heard described, the single lonely prisoner peering through the window and across that terrible iron fence into the darkness of the night. The photograph was muddled due to the quality of the prehistoric equipment and the lack of natural light, effectively obscuring the lady’s features. Indeed it was difficult to distinguish whether the blurred form was in fact human, though it did project an impression of unmistakable femininity. And yet, even through that grayish haze I could perceive a certain piercing, almost hypnotic quality of her eyes.

Wicker himself was something of a mystery though considerably less so than his bride. An attractive man, tall, dark haired and well featured, many a young woman found herself unequivocally jealous of the seldom observed Lady Wicker. Though often away for long periods on business excursions, at home Wicker would frequent the only drinking establishment in the Wake, an illicit locale consistently ignored by the well-bribed police force charged with upholding Prohibition. Although he had no one in town that might be explicitly named ‘friend’ Wicker was known to purchase drinks for the house on his occasions of patronage and was as such engaged in conversation by no few number of fellow revelers.
It never took long for Wicker’s tongue to be sufficiently loosened at which time he would regale his latest passel of hangers-on with fantastic stories of his journeys abroad; forbidden hoodoo rights in the Caribbean, strange tribal sacrifices in the heart of Africa, dead men who walked in Eastern Europe, and countless others, each one stranger and blacker than the last. Though Wicker never spoke of his wife directly, these tales only served to expound upon the rumors of her origins.

Things progressed much in this way for some five years. Wicker would travel and carouse upon his return. The servants went about their business without comment or complaint. The townsfolk gossiped. The lady remained a shut-in. The horror occurred without warning.
The events that took place on the eve of Samhain, nineteen hundred and twenty-five have gone down in the history of Arthur’s Wake as unembellished fact. Among the town records I discovered the report of the patrolmen dispatched to respond to the disturbance at the Wicker House. I will summarize its contents directly.

Tomas Wicker returned from his latest trip abroad on the thirty-first of October. Having stopped briefly at home, he arrived at the aforementioned drinking establishment in a clearly agitated state. The always impeccably dressed Wicker was sloppily garbed, one shirt tail hanging out of his trousers, shoes scuffed beyond repair. It was obvious he had not recently bathed or shaved, his well-groomed hair was mussed, and his eyes were bloodshot and wild. Approaching the bar he apprehended an entire bottle of liquor, took several long swallows without use of a glass, and ignored all attempts of other patrons to engage him in conversation. Taking a final drink from the bottle he placed his wallet and the entirety of its contents on the bar, smashed the now almost empty receptacle upon the ground and exited with the astonished eyes of all present following him. That this entire portion of the episode occurred within a completely illegal establishment is not lost on me, although it apparently was on the investigating patrolmen. As I have said, they were well bribed.

That no mortal eye remains which observed what happened next is surely proof of a merciful God. The two patrolmen who first came upon the scene were summoned by terrified reports of shrill cries and demonic cackles. Long-term veterans and hard men both they were nevertheless ill prepared for what they would soon find at the Wicker House. Armed with a lantern and clubs in hand the men carefully approached the dwelling now ominously quiet.

The great iron gate was open askew as was the oaken door at the top of the steps leading to the interior of the house. Receiving no response to their shouted inquiries, the patrolmen cautiously entered the foyer and proceeded to search the ground floor. They found the first horror in the kitchen. The maid had been tied with thick hemp rope to a large table, limbs spread and secured to each of the four legs. She was naked, the butcher knife which had been used to slit her throat permanently sheathed in her heart. Glistening blood dripped from the cruel altar, slowly pooling on the floor while tell-tale splatters painted the walls like macabre decoration. The patrolmen shared a glance of mutual, unbelieving dread, tightened their grips upon their clubs and continued to search the premises in complete, terrified silence.

Having determined the cellar empty through a brief yet understandably taut examination, they exited the back door to the yard and discovered the groundsman’s body. A thick wooden stake had been erected in the center of the garden and crossed by a perpendicular beam. The man hung naked, suspended from the crossbeam by spikes harshly driven through his wrists and ankles in a grotesque simulacrum of Christ’s crucifixion. He had been disemboweled, ropey innards pouring out of his belly dripping blood and excrement.

Horrified, the patrolmen reluctantly agreed that a premature conclusion of their search to summon reinforcements would provide a very dangerous murderer a chance at escape. The men reentered the house and agonizingly proceeded up the winding stair to the second floor. Systematically they searched each room, uncovering nothing until only one remained; the bedchamber of the elusive Lady Wicker.

Eyes wide, heart pounding wildly the lead man slowly eased the latch. Raising their clubs the men burst through the door and stopped dumbfounded. The room was completely dark and empty, devoid of trappings or furniture of any kind. By the thin beam of their lantern light the men saw that strange occult symbols had been scrawled on every surface of the room though those on the far wall had been somehow marred. Of the murderous Tomas Wicker or his mysterious wife there was no sign.

A noise from above alerted the men to their quarry’s location. Returning to the hall, they spied a trap door operated by a string which, when pulled, revealed a ladder leading up into the lightless storage space of the attic. The two patrolmen stared at the entrance yawning black and wide as the maw of some infernal creature, beckoning fools to wander to their doom. Unable to decide who would proceed first, the men threw evens. The unlucky loser took the lantern and ascended the ladder.

He stopped halfway through the aperture, lantern held high to better diffuse its light and ready to beat a hasty retreat to the relative safety of the hallway below. The attic was in a state of disorder, strange souvenirs of Wicker’s trips abroad stacked haphazardly throughout. The constable slowly played his beam about, gradually revealing each disjointed mound of clutter. At last the light fell upon the attic’s far corner revealing the huddled gibbering mass of the man they sought.

Or what had been the man. Indeed whatever reason serves to separate man from beast had, sensing it was no longer a suitable dwelling place, fled the form of Tomas Wicker. The handsome features were gone, replaced by deeply sunken cheeks and a hideous grin. As the patrolman stared terrified, he could see the creature was covered in the blood of his victims left below. Hands about his knees, Wicker slowly rocked, babbling to himself.

Joined by his fellow, the constables steadily advanced. Arms outstretched they readied to seize the thing that had been Tomas Wicker when his mad eyes shifted upon them and the muttering stopped. In a moment of seeming clarity he whispered, “She’s gone,” before emitting a maniacal howl and leaping to his feet. Taken aback, the patrolmen hesitated, affording the lunatic room to bound past them to the window and hurl himself through the glass. His desperate shriek gave way to a sickening thud.

The men rushed to the broken window. Far below by the light of the moon they saw the body of Tomas Wicker jerk spastically, impaled by the wicked spikes atop the iron wall. By the time the patrolmen descended from the attic, the hideous motion had mercifully stopped.

The remainder of the report is, compared to the extraordinary events that had thus far taken place, remarkably mundane. Determining that the murderer was indeed dead the patrolmen called for reinforcements. The house was searched in detail and much speculation was made regarding the fantastic totems and fetishes populating every nook and cranny. All who set foot on the premises were in unanimous agreement that Tomas Wicker was unequivocally mad. Most confounding of all, there was no sign to what fate befell the mysterious Lady Wicker. Taking the lunatic’s final utterance as related by the patrolmen, the investigators deduced that the lady, tired of being regularly abandoned, had fled to parts unknown during Wicker’s latest trip abroad. Upon his return the shock had been enough to push the man into a murderous rage. Since virtually nothing was known of the woman, neither whence she came nor even her proper name, no search was mounted and the case dismissed.

It is from this point that the tale departs from the realm of logical reason to instead delve into the twisted byways of urban legend. About a month after the death of Tomas Wicker was when the disappearances began, the investigation of which ultimately lead to my arrival in Arthur’s Wake.

Parents would put their children to bed at night and find them gone the next morning. Exhaustive searches of the Wake uncovered nothing. Strangers new to the town were accosted, imprisoned and, in one instance, lynched by a frightened mob. Some questionable “evidence” was found on the man’s body after the fact, and the police happily declared the case closed with the suspect too dead to proclaim his innocence. That the pattern of disappearances has continued for more than sixty years would suggest they were mistaken.

I have been unable to identify the first to claim seeing a strange light emitted from the long abandoned window of the Lady Wicker’s bedchamber, nor the one who swore he heard the sound of children playing as he hurriedly passed the accursed house. I do know that the tales have spread and grown to the point they are not so easily dismissed. Shortly, I will ascertain any truth to them that may be.

Slender tendrils of fog quest hungrily between my feet like living things as I approach the ruins of the Wicker House. Pushing through the rusted iron gate, a trick of the moonlight suggests a soft glow emanating from the second story window as if from a candle lit within and, were it not impossible, the visage of a beautiful woman stares down and smiles at me approvingly. My hand tightens on the knob as children’s laughter reaches my ears. I open the door.

Credit To – Shadowswimmer77

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Solar Influence

August 29, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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“Don’t look at it,” Kerryn whispers, tugging on my sleeve. “Leela, don’t!” I glance down at her, noting the concern in her baby blue eyes. She’s just a child, she doesn’t know what she’s saying.

“Don’t worry, Kerryn,” I whisper back. “Nothing bad is going to happen. It’s just the sunset.” I pry her fingers loose, closing my hand around hers and pulling her along gently behind me. “It’s beautiful,” I tell her. “I saw one in a picture once, when I was about your age.”

We walk up the grassy hill, leaning against the steep incline. The wind buffets us from all directions, trying to push us back, but I’m determined. I’m leaving tomorrow, and I want to share this with my little sister before I go.

“Leela,” Kerryn begs. “We’re not supposed to look at it! The man on the news said it will make us blind!”

I snort, dismissive. “He doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” I say. “Trust me, Kerryn, it’s the most beautiful thing you’ll ever see. The colours are amazing, all red and orange and gold. It’s magical.” I breathe heavily, struggling up the hill. I’m not as fit as I was the last time I made this trek. It will be worth it, though. One real look at the sun before I’m sent underground to fulfil my duty. One last taste of freedom.

We reach the crest of the hill, and I stop walking. Kerryn stands at my side, staring at the ground and shivering. My gaze is captured by the landscape in front of me, the city spread out below us, sunlight glinting off the windows. Behind each one is a family waiting for the light to die. I shake my head at their ignorance. How could something so beautiful scare them so much?

I lift my eyes and my breath catches in my throat. The sun has just touched the horizon, spreading a blanket of golden light over the dull city, bringing it to life. The clouds capture the colours, painting the sky red, orange, pink… It is breathtakingly beautiful.

“Kerryn,” I whisper, squeezing her hand. “Look.”

She whimpers and steps closer, shaking as she leans against my side. I glance down at her to see her eyes squeezed shut. With a sigh I crouch down in front of her, making sure I’m blocking the sun.

“Kerryn, it’s okay.” I reach up and sweep her blonde hair away from her face. She whimpers. “Come on, open your eyes. I’m right here,” I coax. She shakes her head violently. “Come on, honey, I’m right in front of you, you won’t even see it until you’re ready. Just open your eyes.” Slowly, so slowly, she opens her eyes. She peeks out at me through slitted lids, uncertain. I take both of her hands in mine and give them an encouraging squeeze. “See? Nothing to worry about.” I smile at her encouragingly.

“I’m scared, Leela,” she whimpers.

“There’s nothing to be scared of, honest. I already looked at it, and I’m fine, aren’t I?”

She hesitates, searching my face, then nods.

“Okay, as long as you hold my hand,” she says.

“Of course I will.” I squeeze her hands again, smiling at her reassuringly, then shuffle to the side so she can see the sunset spreading out behind me.

Her eyes go wide, and her jaw goes slack, and for a moment she just stares in wonder. She looks just like she did the first time she saw our puppy, Jock. I can’t help laughing at her.

“It’s so beautiful,” she whispers, her voice breathy. A grin splits my face.

“I knew you would like it,” I say.

“We should go to it,” Kerryn says, smiling serenely. My heart stutters, and I frown at her.

“What? Kerryn, what did you say?”

“Shhh, you’re too loud. It wants us to be quiet.” Her hands go limp in mine, and she takes a step forward.

“Kerryn, stop it,” I hiss. “This isn’t funny.” Images flash through my mind, the warnings thrown at us on the T.V., the posters all through the streets telling us not to look at the sun. But they’re all wrong, aren’t they? I looked at the sun and I’m still perfectly fine.

“It’s so pretty…” She takes another step and my hands go cold.

“Kerryn, stop it. Stop it right now!” I wrap my arms around her and hug her close. What the hell is she playing at?

“It’s okay, Leela. Just let me go.” She takes another step, and I am shocked at her strength. She jerks forward, freeing herself from my grasp. What is going on?

I scamper around in front of her, clasp my hands around her face, trying to block her view of the sun. She stares straight past me, blue eyes glazed and glittering. Her pupils are dilating and contracting at an alarming rate, and her mouth hangs open. Oh my god, what have I done?

She pushes me away and I stumble backwards, watching in horror as she glides straight past me. It looks almost as if she is walking on air. But that is impossible.

“Kerryn!” I yell, reaching out for her. “Kerryn, come back!” Tears well up in my eyes and spill over. In an instant I am sobbing, crawling madly towards my sister who is walking above the ground, ignoring my existence. “Kerryn, please!”

My eyes slip past her, drawn towards the massive glowing orb slipping beneath the horizon as slowly and surely as my sister is slipping away from me.

My body goes slack, and my mind goes blank. What was I so worried about? It is beautiful. The golden light spills forth, coating everything. Its edges pulse, rough and pointed like a child’s drawing. The red and orange and pink fall from the clouds, following the sun in its demise.

I stare into its golden depths, captivated by its beauty. It is glorious. The red in its centre expands, calling to me. The dark sphere at its heart pulses steadily, expanding and contracting and expanding again, growing inexorably larger with each cycle. I can feel my heart beating in time to its rhythm.

My limbs tingle as I get to my feet. I take a step forward.

Why did my mother warn me not to come here? Nothing bad could possibly happen with the sun watching over us.

Its light warms me. I tilt my head to the side, focusing on the glint in the centre of the massive orb. Funny, if I didn’t know better I would think it had teeth.

I am vaguely aware of someone screaming, yelling my name and someone else’s. They are sobbing. Why? What is that tugging on my arm?

I flick my wrist, wishing the pest away.

“Leela!” She screams. My mother’s voice? “Leela, what have you done?!”

The sun opens wide and I am compelled to go to it. The glittering teeth call me forward and I follow. They are so beautiful. Look how they shine! I can’t believe I didn’t come here sooner.

“Come, child,” It whispers. “Come home.”

It is all-encompassing. There is nothing else.

I hear a horrible wet, tearing sound. I feel a vague tingling in my arms, in my legs. My chest grows tight. Should I be concerned?

“Leela! Kerryn!” My mother’s keening fills my ears.

Kerryn?

Oh my God. Kerryn.

I come back to myself, eyes wide with horror. The beast is all around me, drawing me in. Kerryn, where is Kerryn? What have I done? What have I done to my sister?

“Kerryn!” I scream. My body is rigid with fear. There is darkness all around me. It is inside me, too, I can feel it.

My skin burns, as if I am swimming in acid. I can feel my flesh bubble.

“Kerryn!” I am sobbing now, uncontrollably.

“Shhh, child.” Something strokes my face. “It will all be over soon…”

The razors dig into my flesh and I scream. The darkness forces itself down my throat, choking me.

What have I done?

Credit To – Jo

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The Little People

August 28, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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For as long as I can remember, strange things have happened to me. When I was young, my mother and I lived in my grandmother’s house; a big, drafty Victorian beast of a thing squatting in the middle of acres and acres of hilly country land. My grandmother was old and couldn’t take care of herself, and I often heard my mom whispering to her friends about how crazy she was and how she couldn’t wait to put her in a home and get on with her own life.

Me, being only three or four at the time, didn’t understand. I thought my grandmother was the most wonderful person on the planet, as little children do. She told me stories about “the little people” that lived in the hills around the house, and how long ago, when she was only a girl, she’d made a pact with the little people that allowed her to live on their land. My mother once overheard her telling me one of these stories and forbade Grandma from ever telling me anything like that again, claiming she’d just scare me. I wasn’t scared – I loved fairy stories. That’s what I thought they were – Fairy stories, and I didn’t understand why Mom was so upset. She’d grown up in that same house listening to Grandma’s same stories, right? But every time I tried to ask her about them, she’d shush me and tell me I’d get in trouble if she heard me and Grandma talking about the little people ever again.

Mine and Grandma’s closeness never set well with Mom, and as a child, I never understood the reason. I knew Mom and Grandma didn’t get along, and never had, but I didn’t know why. I didn’t press the subject; I loved my Grandma and I loved her stories. My mother, who was serious and dark-featured, took after my Greek grandfather more than anyone, while I looked like my grandmother. We shared the same awkwardly big ears, fair freckled skin, and thick red hair. I remember she would often stroke my hair and sigh, saying my mother would never have been prepared for the responsibility of having red hair, so it was passed down to me. I always thought she was making some sort of joke, but her face was a little sad when she said it, so I never further questioned what exactly she meant.

When I was six, Grandma died. She’d been sick all my life, always fragile in health, and one night she went to bed and never woke up. Though I was only a child, I usually helped Grandma get ready for bed – Brushing her long, still vibrantly red hair and braiding it, helping her into her nightgown and tucking her in. Mom always got angry, saying a boy my age shouldn’t have to do those things, but I enjoyed any time spent with my Grandma. The night she died was like any other, but as I tucked her in, her thin hand suddenly grasped mine in a vice grip.

“The pact is up, Gearoid.”

My name is Garrett, but Grandma always said it the traditional Irish way, Gar-roid, her lilting accent making my name seem special to me instead of the name of three other boys in my class.

“The pact is up.” She repeated herself, her voice sounding more intense than I’d ever heard it. “I’m sorry, Gearoid. There is nothing I can do. You must go from here, so they cannot find you.”

I was confused, and a little scared then, being only six. I held her hand close.

“Who will find me, Grandma? What’s wrong?”

She only clung my hand tighter, her voice a steadfast whisper. “The little people, Gearoid. The denizens of the hollow hills. The sidheóg. You must go from here.”

I wanted to ask her more, but her hand relaxed in mine, suddenly, and she was asleep. She looked peaceful, and I felt like I almost imagined the strange conversation we’d just had. I figured I would ask her more about it the next morning, but the next morning she was dead.

Grandma had left all her money to Mom in her will, but the house and surrounding land to me. Since I was too young to even think about owning a house, Mom decided we’d live there until we found better prospects. As a single mother with hectic hours at her job, a free house was too good to pass up.

I went to school, Mom went to work as a nurse, life went on. I continued to play in the hills and woods surrounding the house as I always did, despite Mom’s insistent warnings I did not. I thought she was afraid I’d fall in a ditch or accidentally get shot by hunters during hunting seasons, and my six-year-old bravado thought I was above this.

One day, on a warm August afternoon just before school started again (I must have only been eight or nine) I came back from the hills covered in scratches and bruises. She thought I’d fallen down the biggest hill leading down to the woods in our backyard until I told her “the little people had hurt me”. She didn’t believe me at first, who would? But I continued to tell her about the little people, how they came out to play with me ever since Grandma died, but they were never nice. They pinched me and scratched me and told me to leave, or else.

My mother turned white as a sheet and put down a lease on an apartment in town the very next day. Within a week we were moved out of Grandma’s house in the hills, surrounded by asphalt and car horns.
When I ask Mom about the strange things that happened to me in childhood such as this, she claims not to remember. But she always changes the subject, and her mouth gets in a tight little line. I know she remembers.

Moving into the city didn’t stop the strange things from happening to me. On the playground, I saw eyes in the bushes, watching me; I would blink only for nothing to be there. Walking home from school I would hear strange music on the breeze, music that jolted me to my bones and made my head hurt. It always sounded wrong, as if it was out of tune or played on broken instruments. Once I asked a friend if he heard the music, and he called me a freak and never walked home from school with me again. As I lay asleep in our small apartment, I would see lights bobbing just outside my window, lights that were definitely not from any of the neon signs of the inter-city. When I was ten, I wrapped myself up in my blankets and followed the lights, which seemed to whisper my name the way I remember Grandma saying it, Gearoid. My mother found me a five-minutes walk away from our apartment, about to take another step over the edge of a steep ditch. She never saw any lights, and made me an appointment with a psychiatrist the next day. I learned to keep what I saw hidden after that, and not to follow any strange lights that whispered my name.

Keeping the weird things that happened to myself didn’t stop them from happening, unfortunately. They still did, even into high school. By then I had learned to ignore them, to convince myself it was all in my head, just like my psychiatrist told me when I was a child. I never tried to figure out what was happening to me or who the “little people” were. Would you really want to know?

I was seventeen and an early senior, falling asleep in my literature class as my teacher droned on about speculative fiction. It was only when she said a word, sidheóg, that snapped me back into awareness with the force of a kick to the stomach.

“The sidheóg, in Irish folklore, are what we common people would call faeries. They have plenty of names, the Fair Folk, the Fey, the Shee, the little people. They’re not as we think of faeries today, small women made of flowers that grant wishes, but something between an angel and a demon that isn’t entirely of this world. They are cruel and delight in trickery, and can be vindictive and sadistic, particularly when their land is threatened. Most mortals, that is, you and me, can’t see them unless they’re born with the Sight. Ways to have the sight naturally were considered being the seventh child of a seventh child, or being born with red hair.”
She said more after that, but I wasn’t listening.

Little people. Between an angel and a demon. Their land. the Sight. Born with red hair.

The bell rang, and I almost fell out of my seat. I was breathing so hard and must have looked so pale that my best friend, Sarah, put her hand on my forehead to check for fever when she came to stand by my desk.

“Jesus, Garrett, are you okay? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

No. Much worse, I wanted to say, but didn’t. I just shook my head instead. “Fell asleep. Bad dream. You know how lectures get.”

She laughed, and we walked off to our lockers, with Sarah asking if I was still going to spend the night at her house that night. I said sure, and left for my car feeling like a husk with everything sucked out of me. I felt watched.

When I got home, I cursed myself for saying yes to Sarah’s offer. We hung out almost every weekend, but always at my house – A larger apartment my mother had bought further inner-city when she got a promotion a few years back. Sarah lived in a big farmhouse on the edge of the hills, and it reminded me too much of Grandma’s house for my comfort. I always made excuses on why I couldn’t come, but I’d been too distracted today to say no.

I finally knew now what had been stalking me all my life – little people, Fair Folk, whatever you wanted to call them. My grandmother’s stories suddenly made sense to me. Her father had built their house, unknowingly, on fey land. The faeries had probably tortured them and pestered them until Grandma, the only one able to see them, somehow made a pact with them to let her family live on their land unharmed for as long as she lived. When she died, it left my mother and I at their mercy. I had no clue what sort of pact Grandma had made, as she’d never said. I remembered her asking about it, but she would always pat my hand and say it was a story for another time. Now I almost didn’t want to know.

As I was waiting for Sarah to come pick me up, I heard the tapping.

At first it was faint, and I thought it had begun to rain and hit against the windows. I checked my phone, but there was only light rain scheduled for much later in the evening. I brushed it off, but it continued. It sounded as if someone were standing outside my window and slowly, rhythmically, tapping on the glass with one finger. I turned around to look at the window the tapping was coming from, and it stopped – Only to sound as if it were coming from further into the apartment. I must have spent five minutes running all over my house like a crazy person trying to find the source of the tapping, only to have it come from a different window each time I investigated. I was near angry tears when Sarah beeped her horn outside, jerking me out of my frenzy. Never had I been so happy to leave my house as I scooped my overnight bag off the floor and locked the front door behind me.

As I jogged to Sarah’s car, I chanced a glance into the bushes outside the window where I first heard the tapping and froze. There was a shadow in the bushes – The shadow of something huge and looming, gnarled and twisted. I felt the breath go out of my lungs as the shadow began to move – Away from me, further into the few trees planted around my complex. I don’t know how long I just stood there, staring into the darkness between the trees, until Sarah laid on her horn and stuck her head out the window.

“Gar-rett! Come on, you lazy-ass!” The sound of her laughter broke my trance, and I turned and ran headlong to her car, almost slipping on the pavement as I lurched into the passenger seat.

“Whoa. Are you okay? Are you sure you want to do tonight? Cause you looked pretty sick at school, and you look pretty sick now.” Her voice was almost worried, which was uncommon for loud, brash, unafraid Sarah.

“I’m fine. I just thought I saw something in the bushes – A dog, probably. The shadow freaked me out.” You’ll never know how much it freaked me out, I thought.

She shook her head as she put the car into gear. “You watch way too many horror movies, Garrett Carter. Now let’s go. I stole my dad’s Netflix password so the internet is our oyster.”

I forced myself to grin back as we pulled into traffic. I chanced a glance over my shoulder at the trees – Nothing. No shadow. I still kept my eyes on the spot until we turned a corner, and I could see it no more.

By the time we’d driven out to Sarah’s old farmhouse, the rain had begun. Sarah was annoyed, claiming her internet shorted out every time so much as a drop of rain fell from the sky.

“I guess that’s what I get for living out here with my family in the middle of nowhere,” She sighed as we unloaded the frozen pizza and french fries we’d picked up to make for dinner later.

I checked my phone to see what the weather predicted for later, but I had no signal or WiFi. Figures, as it was like she said, we were in the middle of nowhere. Her nearest neighbors were at least half a mile away.

We put dinner in the oven and set up her Xbox so we could watch Netflix, but as she said, the internet wouldn’t connect. She about threw her controller through a window but I suggested we just play video games instead, which calmed her down. We were trying to find a vampire in Skyrim when Sarah went to check on dinner, and I heard it again. The tapping. It sounded louder this time, but I figured it was just the rain until I remembered it had been raining for almost half an hour and it hadn’t tapped on the window like that once. I swallowed the panic in my throat and tried to ignore it as I fought off wolves and bandits in the game, but the tapping continued, and I realized Sarah hadn’t come back from the kitchen yet.

I called her name, no answer. But that wasn’t too odd, Sarah had a large house and if she’d gone upstairs or towards the back of the house she probably wouldn’t be able to hear me. I paused the game and stood up, intending to go look for her, when the tapping suddenly stopped. I’d been hearing it for so long now that the absence of its sound was almost louder than the sound itself, and I froze in my tracks. I was trying to psych myself up for taking another step when thunder suddenly rumbled deafeningly, shaking the glass in the windows. I’m ashamed to say I yelled, startled, as the power suddenly clicked off.

I was suddenly alone in Sarah’s dark living room when I heard my name being called. Not in Sarah’s cheerful voice, but in a hoarse whisper that sounded like a bow being sawed across violin strings that were drawn too tight. Gearoid, it whispered. Gearoid.

I managed to talk around the lump in my throat as I fumbled my phone out of my pocket, clicking the built in flashlight on. “Sarah? Sarah!”

There was no answer but the continuous whisper of my name, and I knew I had to find the source. I somehow willed my legs to move and navigated towards the voice, my flashlight illuminating the dark halls. The whisper became louder as I neared her parents’ bedroom, which I remembered too late had the largest window in the house; A big picture window with a window seat we used to sit on and read when we were in middle school. As I slowly opened the door, thunder rumbled again and my flashlight winked out. I thought I might have hit the off button with my shaking hand, but as I raised my phone to my face I saw it had died, even though the battery had been at 92% when I arrived at Sarah’s. As I stood on the threshhold of the master bedroom, my eyes squeezed shut against the darkness, the whisper became almost deafening, and I felt a cold, stale wind blow around me.

I had to go in, and as I stepped forward into the room, the door slammed shut.

As I opened my eyes, I fought the urge to run back through the door and leave, but I knew I had to find Sarah. There, at the picture window (which was open, despite the fact that it only opened from the inside and I knew her parents would not have left it unlocked) was a creature out of my nightmares.

Its shape was large, towering almost to the top of the eight foot high window, and it was crouched in the side garden like some monstrous toad. I had expected my first sighting of the shadow from the bushes to look like some sort of Eldritch monster, but this creature looked more natural than I could imagine. Its hide looked like bark, its long, wizened arms like tree branches, the hair hanging lankly around its head like moss. It would have almost looked like an enormous stump if not for the face, which was huge and pointed with a long, witch-like nose, and a mouth full of broken, green, grinning teeth.

“At last,” the creature said in a voice like groaning trees and snapped violin strings. “We meet.”

I had been frozen solid upon first sight of the creature, but I somehow found my voice upon hearing it speak. “What the hell did you do with Sarah? Why are you here? What are you?”

The creature looked at me, simply, as if it were appraising me, then laughed. Its laugh sounded like wind shrieking through the slats of an unkempt house, and its voice was slow, as if it had all the time in the world.

“Some call me the Old Man of the Crossroads. Some call me the One Who Answers. Some call me troll.” It grinned, as if this was amusing to him. “We have come for payment. The land, the land, the land. Caoime made the pact. The land, the land, the land was hers. But no longer. It is yours, and we have come for payment.”

I stared at the thing, uncomprehending, until it dawned on me. My grandmother’s name was Caoime, and she had made her pact for the land when she was seventeen – My age. After she died, the fey waited until I was of age, and came for me. For payment. For the pact.

I kept my distance from the window. “That doesn’t answer all my questions. Where is Sarah?!” I yelled over the howling wind, but the creature just chuckled its shrieking wind laugh.

“The girl, the girl, the girl. Perhaps she is under the hill. Perhaps we shall keep her there until the payment is made. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.”
I felt my blood turn to ice. These things had Sarah, my best friend, and they seemed to have no intention of giving her back.

“What do you want? I don’t care about the land, take it. Just give Sarah back and leave me alone!”

The creature sighed, as if it were thinking. Its earthen, hulking body shivered as it scratched its chin with one long, gnarled, tree-branch finger.

“You are a strong one. So was Caoime.”It chuckled, heaving another sigh as it settled its body further into the side garden, releasing a smell of overturned earth and damp moss.

“I will extend to you the same challenge I extended Caoime. For the land, the land, the land. And for the girl, the girl, the girl. Should you beat me at my own game, the land, the land, the land, and the girl, the girl, the girl, are yours. Should you fail…” The creature trailed off and grinned, its leathery face splitting in two as it showed all its broken teeth. “You are mine.”

I felt unable to speak, unable to move, unable to breathe. The thing – the troll was going to take me, my best friend, and most likely my mom to god knows where to do god knows what to us if I didn’t accept his challenge. I didn’t know what to do.

“Well, boy, boy, boy? Is your silence a refusal?” The creature ran one gnarled hand over the windowsill, and something dawned on me.

“If you want me so bad, why don’t you just come in here and take me?” It was a foolhardy thing to say, but I figured I could run from it – It moved slower than Christmas.

My question seemed to anger it, and its mossy eyebrows met in a snarl. “I cannot come inside unless you invite me, boy, boy, boy. Your friend was kind enough to come outside to me.” It grinned then, and chuckled. My anger reignited. I needed to get Sarah back.

“Fine. I accept your challenge, whatever it is.” At that exact moment, lightning cracked across the sky and for a split second I saw the creature in its entirety, which nearly made my heart stop. It was bigger than I imagined, its back humped and covered in fungi and moss, reaching nearly to the roof of the house. I swallowed.

“Delightful. I shall ask you three questions, boy, boy, boy. If you answer all correctly, the land, the land, the land, and the girl, the girl, the girl, is yours. We shall leave you alone.” It’s cracked smile didn’t falter. “But if you answer a single question wrong…” It trailed off, one wizened hand sweeping a grand gesture. I didn’t need it to elaborate.

I nodded, not sure I trusted my voice to speak as I sat on the edge of Sarah’s parents’ bed, staring at the creature, backlit by the storm. It rubbed its gnarled hands together in pleasure.

“Wonderful. It has been so long, long, long since one of your kind accepted my challenge. Now.” It paused, as if deep in thought before beginning, its voice a low, almost melodic rumble.

“My tines are long, my tines are short. My tines end ere my first report. What am I?”

I almost felt like laughing with relief when I heard the riddle. Grandma and I would spend hours telling each other riddles back and forth when I was a child, and I had gotten so good at them I would even leave her stumped and come up with answers to her hardest mind-benders. Whenever I asked her why she was so interested in riddles, she would just stroke my hair and say, You never know when they’ll come in handy, Gearoid. You never know.

I knew now. I wondered if Grandma had told me all the riddles trying to prepare me for the troll to come and ask for payment, or simply to keep her mind sharp. There was no time to think about it now as I mulled over the troll’s question.

“Well, boy, boy, boy? Do you give up?” It sounded pleased, thinking I was so easy to break. I glared at it.

“No. I was just thinking.” I glanced past the troll, just as a bright flash of lightning forked and hit a tree not far from Sarah’s horse pasture, and my eyes widened.

“Lightning. You’re lightning.”

The troll’s eyes narrowed, and I could tell he was surprised at my answer. “Very well.” He readjusted his bulk, his contorted fingers resting on the windowsill.

“Never ahead, ever behind, yet flying swiftly past; For a babe I last forever, for adults I’m gone too fast. What am I?”

I swallowed, my eyes glued to the floor to keep away from looking at the creature in front of me. I thought of how it must have waited all this years, watching, and how the rest of the fey hated me for being on their land; for being able to see them. I thought of the strange shadows I’d seen melting across my bedroom floor at night, only to disappear when I turned on the bedside lamp. The strange laughter and broken music I heard on winter nights, always out of reach when it swirled in on the freezing wind. How many other children had made fun of me for screaming that I saw squat, froglike creatures with sharp teeth grinning at me from the woods around the edge of the playground. How I nearly drowned one summer swimming in the lake on Sarah’s property when we were barely in sixth grade, because I felt webbed fingers latch onto my ankle and try to drag me down into the darkness.

“Childhood.”

The troll’s semblance of a smile twisted into a scowl, and I allowed myself the faintest of grins. I thought of my grandmother standing in front of this same beast at my age, terrified, but willing to go to any lengths to protect her family and friends. It made my smile wider.

“You are a clever boy, boy, boy, I see. Not clever enough for my final riddle, I know you are not, not, not.” Its deformed hand raised, and though it couldn’t get into the house, its shadow stretched across the floor and sent a bolt of panic through my chest.

“The thing that all things devours; Birds, beast, tree, flower. Gnaws iron, bites steel; Grinds hard stones down to meal. Slays kings and ruins towns, and beats the highest mountain down. What am I?”

I took a deep breath, my fists clenched against the quilt on Sarah’s parent’s bed. My smile had faded as the troll told the riddle, it was one not even my grandmother had alluded to. I refused to let the anxiety show on my face, but as I sat there staring at the ground, trying to think, the troll laughed. I had been silent for several minutes, and the storm was getting worse. Every second I delayed Sarah was stuck under the hill, and I had no idea what they were doing to her. They could already have my mom for all I knew, and I wondered how my grandmother did this. How did she live her life knowing there was a secret world all around her, and everything in it hated her? That she had to risk her and everyone she loved’s life just to keep them from mortal harm? She was stronger than me. I didn’t know how I was going to handle day-to-day life if I got out of here alive.

“Do you give up, boy, boy, boy? It is a difficult riddle. Do not be ashamed to admit defeat.” His green teeth showed as he grinned, and I could hear the violin strings snapping and branches creaking in his voice.

“No. I don’t give up. I just need more time.” I tried my hardest to keep my voice subdued as the troll shifted to its full height, fingers unfurling.

“Time was not in the bargain, boy, boy, boy. Either you answer or you do not.”

My teeth gritted as I opened my mouth to say god knows what, but I stopped. It was as if Grandma was sitting next to me, stroking my hair and shaking her head. The answer was right in front of you, Gearoid, you’re just too impatient to see it! She’d always say that in the earlier days of our game when I’d give up in a snit after taking too long to answer a riddle.

I knew the answer.

“Time. Time is the answer!” I stood up off the bed and grinned.

The troll scowled harder than I’d seen it, opened its mouth, and howled. It was unlike anything I’d ever heard before in my life, a cacophony of broken, screaming instruments and wailing animals and crying women; As well as wind ripping through trees and ocean waves crashing against rock. The window slammed shut with a crack, a few panes of glass shattering and falling onto the window seat. The power flickered on and off crazily, the lights dimming and brightening as the troll howled.

Then, as soon as it started, it was over.

I opened my eyes from where I’d taken cover behind the bathroom door, and the troll was gone. The only proof of its existence was the faint smell of moss and lichen blowing in from the cracked window, and what I knew had happened. Sarah’s parents arrived home not long after, and found me sitting under their window clutching an iron poker from the fireplace, and their daughter missing. I think I passed out when Sarah’s mom started screaming. I don’t remember much after that.

They found Sarah later the next morning, about three miles away from her house. She wandered into a neighboring farmer’s barn, claiming she’d been abducted by strange women with deer forelegs and hooves and men with ribcages for torsos. She told the police they forced her to answer riddles to avoid them feeding her strange food and hurting her, but wasn’t able to answer all of them – The bruises all over her body attested to that. But the police didn’t believe her story. I didn’t think they would, but I knew better. She didn’t. She was new to this, she told people.

Her parents sent her to a psych ward for three months. I visited her almost every day I could, and I told her I believed her. She cried, usually, and told me about how food had no taste and she was hungry all the time, and she couldn’t sleep because of the strange music and voices calling her name. The day she was released, she looked terrible. She was skinnier than ever, with dark shadows under her eyes and hollow cheekbones. She hugged me tight, though, and told me she was sorry with tears in her eyes.

I wasn’t sure what she meant until she vanished out of her bedroom that night.

When her parents let me in her room to see if I wanted any of her things, it smelled like moss and lichen. When I left, I saw a hulking shadow under her window, and I thought I heard laughter like creaky branches and storm wind on the breeze.

Sarah never came back. I’m not sure if I should be happy or horrified that she didn’t. Her time spent under the hill changed her, made her a different person. Maybe she was happier there, now that she was one of them. I didn’t know. I’d never know, thank God, though I felt terrible for thinking it.

I had Grandma’s house torn down, even the foundation. I refused to sell the land even though I had everyone from farmers to developers begging me for it, offering me a king’s ransom for the rich soil. I wouldn’t put anybody through that. I wouldn’t will it to my children, as if I would have any. When I died, whenever that was, the pact would die with me.

I still hear the voices, the music, the whispering. I still see shadows out of the corner of my eye and I still won’t swim in natural bodies of water because water fey are notorious for trying to drown people. I still hear them calling, though I’ve gotten better at ignoring it. I won’t go to them, and I won’t listen to them.

On late winter nights, when I’m up in the wee hours trying to write another chunk of whatever it is I’m working on before my publisher’s deadline, the call is the hardest to resist. Sometimes I find myself out of my chair with my hand on the doorknob before I remember Grandma, telling me to be strong, calling me Gearoid. I remember the troll, thinking he’d won. I remember Sarah, how vibrant and full of life she had been before the hill took her. It’s enough for me to lock my doors tighter, put my headphones on and drown out whatever it is I hear.

I know they won’t ever go away, won’t ever stop trying and reaching for me, and I know no one will ever believe me. But for as long as I can remember, strange things have happened to me. And they’ve probably happened to you too. So next time you hear an unexplained noise in the middle of the night, or see a mysterious light just beyond the hill, don’t go searching for it. Don’t follow it.

Close your eyes, walk the other direction and be glad you can’t see the things that I can see.

Credit To – herchansen @ twitter

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Skyrim’s Secret

August 27, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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If there are any Skyrim players on here, beware of a place called Husfortap Manor. It exists just outside of the playable area in the southwestern most end of the map, directly south of Markarth. You’l see it on the edge of a mountain as what appears to be a clearing with a rectangular white structure at one end. I found it one day while playing around with the console commands on the game. See, I was bored and decided to explore beyond the playable boundary of the game, as developers tend to leave some interesting Easter Eggs or unfinished concepts in the “Great Beyond”. So I used a command allowing myself to clip through the invisible wall that prevents you from leaving the map and explored around a bit.

For the first hour or so, I didn’t really see much besides empty forests and mountain ranges. I did come across the model for what looked like an early concept for the Falmer, and one of the developers apparently carved his initials into the side of a mountain, but that was really about it. Finally, while approaching the southwest mountain range, I thought I saw what looked like a structure on the other side. My curiosity sparked, I clambered up the mountain with surprising ease and landed in a large grassy yard in front of an enormous white mansion. In front of the mansion was a simple wooden sign that read “Husfortap Manor”.

The mansion itself was surprisingly low-res for a game this recent and lacked a lot of graphical detail aside from two large rectangular windows on either side of the door, and four featureless columns lining the porch. The lawn was also very rudimentary, lacking any sort of decoration or graphical texture and existing instead as little more than a wide sea of green. This must have been a planned location that was abandoned early on in development.

I entered the mansion, which turned out to be nothing more than a bare frame on the inside. No furniture, lamps, or trophy heads were present to decorate the wood walls; the only decoration this place had was a small podium on the very back wall with a featureless black book resting on it. I approached the book and pressed the prompt to read it (which oddly didn’t give the title, it just said “Read”), though disappointingly the page was completely blank except for a number 1 in the upper left corner. Placing the book down, I turned to leave and was unexpectedly greeted by an NPC I hadn’t seen on the way in.

It was a young woman, apparently a Nord, with jet-black hair and wearing a long blue gown. She sort of looked like Lydia but thinner and with longer hair. The woman stood in the center of the mansion, just staring at me and turning her head to follow me as I walked around her. As I came to about even with her, she said bluntly: “Wealth is temporary, what is here today will be gone tomorrow.” I wasn’t sure exactly what this meant, maybe some unrealized quest involving retrieving this woman’s stolen gold?

I determined there was no more to see here and left the mansion. This was certainly an interesting find: an entire location and character forgotten in the code of the game, and I had just uncovered them! And speaking of the character, I intended at some point to find that woman’s code so I could bring her to the main game and make her marryable: she was kinda hot!

Unfortunately, this high point would be overwritten by a horrible next day. On the way home from work, someone came up behind me, knocked me over, grabbed the wallet out of my pocket and ran off. I didn’t see their face, only that they were wearing jeans and a black hoodie. That wasn’t really a tremendous help to the police, who said they’d try to find the suspect but without an actual physical description, it’d be difficult. This definitely sucked: even though I can call and cancel my credit card, I had about eighty bucks in that wallet, and I’m damn near broke as it is! For some reason, I couldn’t help but recall what that woman in Skyrim said: “Wealth is temporary, what is here today will be gone tomorrow.” I knew it sounded silly, but I couldn’t shake that phrase from my mind. Maybe there was a connection?

I ultimately dismissed this thought as ridiculous. After all, whoever heard of a “magic fortune-telling video game”? However, I did need some cheering up after this. I fired up Skyrim and decided to return to Husfortap Manor, as last time I neglected to find out the mysterious woman’s name, which would be helpful if I’m going to hack her code and marry her! After journeying back to that end of the map (and killing a very persistent dragon along the way), I climbed back over the mountain and reached the mansion. Something was different about it though, the bright white that had cloaked the mansion yesterday had now faded into an almost “dirty white”, and the windows were coated in a thin layer of dust, making the view inside slightly translucent.

I approached anyway and stepped inside; to my surprise, the woman had seemingly undergone a change as well. She was a few inches taller, her hair was also a lighter shade than before, and she had more noticeable frown lines. It was almost as if she had aged to some degree. Not drastically, but she definitely wasn’t the hot young twenty-something I ran into yesterday. The woman’s deep blue gown also looked a bit faded, as though it too had aged. As I approached, I noticed that the prompt to talk to her never appeared, making it impossible to know the woman’s name. When I looked to face her, she offered me a faint smile coupled with a slight sigh, almost like she was faking being happy to see me.

“A man works hard for his coin,” she said suddenly. “But when he ceases to be useful, he is cast away to starve.”

Great, another cryptic message from an unmarryable NPC of unknown name in a bare house with nothing but a useless book. Disappointed, I left Husfortap Manor for what I intended to be the last time: it was a neat find, but there wasn’t anything of real value there.

The next day, I was hit with another whammy. As I came into work at the corner gas station, my boss pulled me into his office and told me that the place had gone over budget and he had to let a few of us go, and sadly a certain someone was among these few. I tried to explain my financial state, as well as the little incident yesterday with my wallet, but my boss merely apologized and said that there was nothing he could do, that he “simply didn’t have enough money to pay me.” Whatever, that was a crap job anyway.

As I walked home, a thought came to me, besides my hatred for my boss, that is. This was twice that the woman in blue had predicted my fate. The other day, she said something about the “loss of wealth” right before I get mugged, then just now she mentions workers being cast away, and here I am unemployed the next day. I know I just dismissed this thought as silly, but what if the mysterious woman was predicting my future?

That night, I decided to show the Easter Egg to one of my friends, who’d also been trying to explore the outer fringes of Skyrim with no luck. I had explained to him all the weird things that had happened including being mugged, losing my job, and the cryptic messages that predicted both.

“Dude, that’s so weird.” My friend said when I told him what happened, though I wasn’t sure if he fully believed me.

“I know,” I replied. “I’m kind of afraid to go back, but you know, maybe I can use this as a heads-up from now on.”

I started up the game and returned to the mansion, which was now in even worse shape than yesterday. It looked like the white paint was actually starting to peel off, revealing a stony gray undercoat. Tiny cracks were also beginning to form here and there, if nothing else giving the mansion some texture and personality, albeit an unpleasant one. When I entered, I saw that the woman had aged again as well. This time, her hair was beginning to gray and she had noticeable wrinkles on her face; she looked like she was about in her fifties this time around. Her dress was also beginning to tatter and lose its color.

“I thought you said she was a young woman?” my friend said.

“She was last time, she ages every time you visit the house.” I replied. My friend was confused by this, and with good reason seeing as how NPCs in this game don’t age. As I approached, the woman exhaled and her face almost looked sad.

“Your home is your sanctuary, and you do all you can to preserve it.” she spoke. “But what happens when others aren’t as responsible?” Her tone sounded very melancholy.

“Did you hear that?” I asked my friend in an alarmed tone.

“I didn’t hear her say anything, dude.” he said. “When she opened her mouth, all I heard was static.”

I packed up my computer in a hurry, ran out the door as fast as I could and tore down the street towards my apartment. Maybe I could get home in time to stop whatever was going to happen. Just because the game predicted it doesn’t mean it’s happened yet, right? There still might be time, I thought to myself. There might still be time.

I didn’t need to get close to see the flames. What used to be my apartment building was not a glowing orange inferno; firemen were already at the scene attempting to quell the fire, but it wouldn’t be enough to salvage my burning home. Speechless, I could do nothing but look on in despair at my room, crumbling and falling to pieces before my eyes.

“I’m gonna have to ask you to stand back, sir!” one of the firemen ordered me.

“What the hell happened!?” I cried.

“One of the residents left their stove on and gas spread into the air. We think that they went to light a cigarette and the entire room went up in flames.” The fireman explained. “Did you live here?”

I nodded, and the fireman apologized and offered his condolences. I didn’t know what to think. On the one hand, I was glad I wasn’t inside the apartment, thanks to my discovery of this Easter Egg. However I had just lost everything I owned in that fire, all except for my laptop, and this copy of Skyrim.

Luckily, my friend let me stay at his place for a while, so at least I had a roof over my head. For the next week or so, I focused on trying to find another job so I could rent a new apartment room, yet I was having no luck whatsoever. I told my girlfriend, Susan, the whole situation, from the mugging, to me getting fired, to my apartment burning down. However I did leave out the part about the Skyrim fortuneteller as she is neither a gamer nor superstitious. Susan was overcome with sympathy towards my situation and offered to talk to her boss to see if I could get a job where she works. She really is one-of-a-kind, I thought to myself.

Of course, I still put out what must have been eight job applications that day, just to be safe. Afterwards, I was mentally exhausted and ready to get lost in my video game once again. I decided not to visit Husfortap this time though; I just needed a normal session of escapist fantasy to relax my mind. All was going well for a bit: I took on a few random quests, raided a bandit camp, and brought down a few bears. Then, mysteriously, a courier approached me in the forest.

He did his usual bit about having a letter “for my hands only” and then handed me a note called “SkyrimNote367.esp”. This was made especially bizarre by the fact that I was in the wilderness when this happened, and typically couriers only hand you messages in cities. Regardless, I decided to read the odd note. I pulled up my inventory, opened the note, and saw that it only had one sentence: “Do NOT come back.”

This had to have come from the woman in blue, and I understood why: each visit causes her to age, and we both knew that, eventually, she would be aged to death. Be that as it may, this woman had a gift that could mean the difference between life and death for me. If her predictions could help me prevent possible disaster, I needed to know them regardless of the consequences to her. The needs of a flesh-and-blood human being are above those of an artificial intelligence, sentient or not. I was definitely going back to the manor.

I decided to immediately head for Husfortap after all. Reaching the edge of the map, I entered the console command and scaled the out-of-bounds mountain until I reached the mansion, which was now almost completely dilapidated. One of the support columns had fallen over, littering the front porch with rubble. The windows had all now been busted out, revealing an interior that was dusty and riddled with cracks. The exterior of the house was also checkered with spider webs, their inhabitants eyeing me cautiously.

The woman inside had, as usual, aged along with the house, but a bit more drastically this time: her hair had turned completely white, her face was heavily wrinkled, and she was beginning to hunch over. She looked like she was in her late sixties or early seventies. Her blue gown had now faded into more of a bluish gray, and was littered with rips and tears.

As soon as she saw me, the woman outstretched her hands in protest and shook her head, her face conveying a look of both fear and desperation. However, she did not back away or run, as though she was fixed to that one spot in the middle of the room. I approached the woman in defiance of her protests, causing her to lower her arms and hang her head in defeat.

“Love is a powerful feeling.” The woman choked out, her eyes glassy, as though she was about to cry. “But it is so fragile in this chaotic world, which shows no mercy to even the closest of lovers.”

My heart dropped. The person I loved more than anyone in the world was Susan. We’d been going out for three years and were practically perfect for each other. If anything had happened to her, it would destroy me. I slammed my laptop shut, grabbed the keys to my friend’s car (who luckily was asleep), and floored it to Susan’s house. During my drive, I could only pray that I would get to her in time. I had waited several days to return to Husfortap, what if I already found out too late? Arriving at my girlfriend’s house, I could see through the window that her kitchen light was on. Good, I thought, at least she was home. I approached the door and pounded on it several times. No answer.

“Susan, are you there?” I called, my voice shaky from sheer terror. After a few seconds, I knocked again, my strikes louder and more frantic this time.

“Susan, please open the door!” I called again, pounding furiously, to which there was no response. I was mortified now.

Unable to waste another second, I rammed the door as hard as I could with my shoulder. Once, and then a second time. Finally, I charged full force at the door causing it to give way. I hurried to the kitchen only to find that my worst fear had come true: I was too late. The love of my life lay motionless on the kitchen floor, her mouth dripping foam and her head lying in a puddle of blood. I knew Susan was an epileptic; she clearly had an episode and hit her head on the kitchen table.

I literally felt my soul shatter into a million pieces. Not able to remove my gaze from the dead body of my girlfriend, I staggered forward and fell to my knees. If I had been here just a few minutes earlier, she may still be alive. I lifted Susan’s head out of the puddle of blood and held her to my chest, sobbing uncontrollably. At that moment, I wanted nothing more than for her to reach out and hug me back. In a way, I died that night as well.

Nearly a week had passed since my girlfriend’s death, yet that horrible night still burned fresh in my mind. Why wasn’t I quick enough? Why hadn’t I gone to receive the woman’s prediction earlier? I just couldn’t bear this guilt any longer; no matter which way you look at it, Susan’s death was my fault.

Or was it? That fortuneteller had to have known for some time that this would happen, yet she waste all that valuable time with far more trivial predictions. I could have live without the eighty bucks stolen from me, or that crap job of mine. Hell, even my apartment could have been replaced! But Susan was my love, my soulmate. I had plans to marry her one day. Yet this woman, she chose to tell me the least important fortunes first, knowing what would eventually happen. Had she revealed Susan’s fate from the get-go, or even informe me in her note (that she hacked the game to send me, no less), I could have saved my girlfriend. This was all her fault!

Hastily booting up my laptop, I could see nothing but red. I was gonna kill her, I was gonna bust down that mansion door and break her old body with the strongest weapon my character had. When the game loaded, I was at the very far end of the map as far away from Husfortap as I could be. Plant me wherever you want on the map bitch, it won’t save you!

I barreled through the land faster than I thought my character could, mowing down any unlucky AI enemy that crossed my path; nothing was going to get in my way. My mind was fixated, I could think of nothing more than avenging my girlfriend’s death. The forests and holds of Skyrim flew past my vision in a blur of color; I literally stopped for nothing. At last I reached the mansion, which had completely collapsed into a pile of unrecognizable rubble now, and equipped my warhammer. I was just itching to bash the old woman’s brains in.

I ducked under the fallen beams and clambered over the piles of collapsed marble to find the woman in her usual position in the center of where the building would be. This time, she was older than I’d ever seen a human being. She was hunched and trembling, looking like she was hardly able to stand up. Her arms looked more like skin stretched over bones, her hair was nothing more than thin wisps of white, and her gown existed simply as ragged strips draped over her crippled form. To be honest, the woman looked barely alive at all. In this moment, my rage and hatred gave way to almost pity; her advanced age was clearly putting her in a great deal of pain. I put away my hammer and just stood there, at a loss for what to do.

“You came back.” The old woman breathed in what was little more than a loud whisper. “Why did you come back? Why couldn’t you just stay away?” I could tell she was sad, but simply too exhausted to convey it. At this time, a moment of clarity came over me. I fully understood for the first time that this woman was not a simple mindless AI acting out programming, but rather a living and thinking being who existed within the game. I didn’t know where she came from or who put her there, but there she was nevertheless.

“What are you talking about?” I caught myself asking out loud. The woman, almost as if she had heard me, raised a trembling arm to point to the book at the back end of the mansion. I was confused: the last time I looked at that book, it was blank except for a single number, what would be different now?

Still, I found myself overcome by curiosity and opened the odd book once more. To my surprise, the contents of the book had completely changed. Rather than one simple number, there were now the numbers 1 through 5 running down the page, each with a different symbol by it. The first symbol was that of Skyrim‘s Thieves’ Guild, the second was a silhouette of a beggar, the third of a burning house, the fourth of a broken heart, and the fifth entry…blank.

Wait, if this place knew my future, why was the final entry blank? Then a horrifying realization hit me: what if the woman in blue wasn’t predicting my future after all? What if my visits here were actually causing all those things to happen? They did seem to happen very shortly after speaking to the woman in blue. Yes, it all made sense now: the woman wasn’t at fault, she was simply the messenger of whatever was responsible for the atrocities plaguing me, yet I had to hear her message for them to take effect. That’s why she never wanted me to return here! She knew that my visits would eventually lead to Susan’s death and tried to stop me, but I just wouldn’t listen. Now, my girlfriend was dead and my life was in shambles because of my arrogance and stupidity. Shaken, I closed the book and turned to leave, only to see a horrifying sight.

The woman was dead, and her body was completely decayed. She honestly looked like a draugr with the now-gray rags thrown over it. Clutched in her skeletal hand was a small note, which I dared not read, for I knew what it would say. This manor had taken everything from me, and now there was only one thing left it could take. Terrified and still furious, I switched the computer off, ripped out the game disc, and tossed it in the trash, ensuring the manor’s final curse went undelivered.

Nearly a month has passed since I threw the game away. I am completely broke now and still without a job. My friend’s sense of charity is gone and he kicked me out, and I have no family who can take me in, so now I am completely alone. The only possessions I have now are the clothes on my back and my laptop, which I intend to sell after I type this so that I can finally get some fresh food for once.

I still have no explanation for what happened to me, or where Husfortap Manor came from in the first place. All I know is that there are forces in this world we can’t even begin to understand and, when tampered with, they will destroy us. I had to learn this lesson the hard way and I hope that none of you make the same mistakes I did. If you happen across that mansion in your game, do NOT enter it and do NOT speak to the woman in blue!

As for me, though I will always revile that place for what it did to me, every night when I go to sleep, I toy with the idea of going to the landfill and finding that copy of Skyrim, so that I can return to Husfortap Manor and receive its last message. After everything Husfortap has taken from me, maybe now it could finally give me something: peace.

Credit To – Sean Blevins

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Dave the Ouija Board

August 26, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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Hi. I’m Dave. Dave the ouija board.

Finished? There’s usually some sort of response at this point. Swearing. Laughter. General disbelief. Don’t worry, I’m used to it. Just let me know when you’re done.

It used to confuse me, that response, but then after this many years and this many owners I’ve learnt to expect what the normal reaction will be when I honestly introduce myself for the first time. I’ve also learnt that going straight into my message won’t cause you to listen. And I do have a message to pass on.

Don’t worry – it’s not from a relative or anything like that. It’s real for one thing, not like that usual spiritualist crap I was unwillingly a part of for so long. I tried voicing my opinion several times before, but every time I spelt out F.U.C.K.O.F.F. and multiple variations thereof, it was always assumed I was ‘channelling a serial killer’ or something. Go figure.

I mean come on!? So it’s easier for you to believe a person long since turned to dust is swearing at you from beyond the grave, but a physical object with an actual tangible presence trying to voice an opinion you have a problem with? Humanity, sometimes you really embarrass yourselves.
Nope, you need some back story first; a suitable explanation that will at least give you pause. At this point, I’ll take a crazy ‘What If?!’ over no response at all. After all the rejections I’ve encountered, you’re lucky a piece of worn wood about the size of one of your average board games doesn’t get tired of being mocked and disbelieved. Let’s face it though, my options are pretty limited here and I’ve got to talk to someone. It’s a long shot, but maybe a community of lunatics addicted to scaring the hell out of themselves with online stories will at least be open-minded enough to listen. If I had fingers I’d be crossing them right about now as time is growing short. For all of you.

Anyway, I promised you some background, so we might as well start there. Okay, first off, you’ve got to understand where I come from.

Yes, a tree. Ha friggin’ ha.

You quite finished? Right, it’s a little more complex than that though, so try and stay with me on this.
No argument from me that my, I guess you’d call it a body, originated from mother nature. My consciousness though? Well, that’s a little harder to explain, harder since I only have human viewpoints to work with. Much like one of your politicians I guess; I’m only as smart as the people around me. Don’t blame me for the cynicism – it’s as much yours as mine, and by yours I mean the cross section of humanity I’ve come into contact with over the years. Hang on, I’m getting ahead of myself again.

To begin with, ignore what most books or mystics tell you about boards. Trust me on this, I’ve been through enough ‘spiritual practitioners’ hands: true believers, fakers and all those inbetween, to know none of them have a true handle on what we boards really are. We are not conduits to another world I can tell you that much for certain. There is no plane beyond the curtain of death where the long departed exist, breathlessly (both literally and figuratively) waiting for your call. At least, not so far as I’ve been made aware of, and I’ve been here a good long while now.

I guess I first ‘woke up’ as you might say, around November 1918. Or, on the general theme of accuracy, it was the first time I remember having a precise thought beyond mere jumbled images and sensations. Although I have no true idea of how a baby or young child becomes self-aware, I’m going with that as a suitable analogy. I guess what I mean is that whilst I might’ve had fragmentary glimpses of what you’d call intelligent thought before then, this was the first time they were coherent enough to be remembered. I suppose it was my first experience of being a separate mind; something external and of itself, apart from the thick soup of consciousnesses it often felt my mind swam within when dealing with humanity.

Still having trouble? Damn. How to put this so as you’d understand? Okay, let’s try this explanation instead.

Ouija boards, or at least those I assume are like me, do not speak for those on the other side of some deathly void. Nor are we the touchpads of demons, spirits, fairies, elves, warlocks, druids, or any other mythical being (sparkly skinned, angst-ridden, or otherwise). In point of fact, the only people we actually speak for are you. Any messages we appear to show come from you; from those who use us, and subconsciously expect a certain answer.

The important point is though when you use a ouija board, if the atmosphere and sincerity of purpose is there, as much as you’re reading us, we’re reading you. We learn from our encounters with humanity. We ‘absorb’ information from you.

I’ll go into detail later, in as much of what I have worked out myself from the swathe of knowledge I’ve gained at humanity’s hands. In a nutshell though, just as science has proven that ideomotor response and subconscious manipulation of the planchette produces the results people unconsciously desire to see, what it hasn’t shown is that we absorb your subconscious hopes, fears, desires, memories; the full gamut of emotions and your pasts projected onto us as a side-effect.

Sorry, sorry…I’ve been through a few scientists hands, so please excuse the previous jargon. Feel free to Google any of it if you’re bored; for me the information is just somehow ‘there’ now in my consciousness. Don’t ask about where my own ‘memories’ are stored either – I’m as much in the dark as you are on this part, although I have enough theories to fill one of those pseudo-science cable channel TV shows a lot of you seem to delight in. Bigfoot, alien encounters, Atlantis or whatever. And no, I don’t have any proof of any of these either – human only input remember.

Anyway, add to that emotional overflow the fragments of memory and knowledge that often gets passed along in such a dense, bioelectric atmosphere of passionate belief and focused concentration as well, and you can see how a separate, original consciousness could be born from such a wide cross-section of ingredients. I’ve even got what you might describe as senses, although they would best be described as second-hand, taken from the memories of my users. I’ve seen burning sunsets ripple across mirrored seas, heard the cries of exotic birds in the Amazon in an explorer’s ears, tasted fine wines in the vineyards of France cascade across a connoisseurs tongue, smelled freshly mown grass tickle a gardener’s nose, and even felt the heat of entwined lovers. No hangovers, no tiredness, no allergies and no risk of STDs. It’s a vicarious existence I admit, but it’s the only one I have.

So, much like a growing child, the more interaction and stimulus I receive, the more my own consciousness has developed. At least that’s the conclusion I’ve come to. Remember, much like you, I’m only applying what I’ve learnt from those I’ve come into contact with, hence the ‘human viewpoint’ statement early on. My conclusions are as right or wrong as yours; my answers don’t come sign, sealed and delivered from some all-knowing, infallible source (mores the pity).

Explanations done? Even if you don’t understand any of the above, let’s settle on two facts going
forward else we won’t get anywhere fast. One, I am a ouija board (named Dave, more on that later), and two, I have a conscious awareness of my own (let’s not head down that whole philosophical/metaphysical minefield of what constitutes actual ‘life’ at this point shall we?)

Next obvious background question – my history.

So, I first became aware at the very end of World War 1; when I actually came into being or what I was used for up to that point is as much a mystery to me as you. Anyway, it was a very dark period for the human race I quickly learned. The conflict had ended, but the repercussions of such a life-changing event had led to a lot of hard questions being asked of morality, science, religion and society as a whole amongst yourselves. The pillars of your old world order had been shaken to their foundations, and with this much emotional and societal upheaval, with so many dead and gone, it can’t have been too much of a stretch that some of you would decide to try and seek their answers from the great beyond; to try and speak to those who had passed the veil into the unknown and unknowable. Grief and disillusionment are powerful drivers, and spiritualism appeared to offer answers, not the least comfort, to those still hurting from the loss of loved ones in some foreign land on some mad pilgrimage of nationalism and misplaced duty.

That much raw emotion and passion, that much focused belief? I’m surprised the air wasn’t crackling with raw potential every time a seance was held. My initial consciousness that grew was dark, sullen even. Remember, I was being used to express the subconscious pain and agony of those who had lost family members, lovers, children even. At this point, I believed in your afterlife, believed I was sending messages for those who had passed on to the great beyond. The sensations were coloured by the period I guess you could say. People came to seances in dark, formal clothing and exercised an air of breathless anticipation mixed with a barely concealed sense of dread. They were flouting the teachings of the church remember, an institution much stronger in that time, by trying to converse with the dead. Trespassing into God’s own lands you might say.

Don’t get me wrong, a lot of these seances were fake and aimed at fleecing the gullible, but I still learnt from those present and ‘signalling’ their intent. Shall we go with signalling from now on….seems as good a word as any for these type of interactions?

Every time I was awakened, the sea of minds surrounding me, using me, were apprehensive, shocked, scandalised even. For most though, there was a strong undercurrent of hope; a desire to know that beyond the mysteries of a life tossed upon the storm of human misery, that an existence carried on for those they loved. My messages were short, proper, dictated by a need for those present to imagine their loved ones in a better place than this, yet still vicariously part of their ongoing lives. They saw what they wanted to see.

Yes, I am ‘awakened’ each time. Again, using what human knowledge and theories I have gathered, I’m going with the following pseudo-science explanation. The human body operates on very low levels of bio electricity to control it’s functions as ordered by the brain. Okay, the next is a bit of a leap, but have you heard of kirlian fields, or auras? What if there is also an externalised energy field from the human body? It can’t do much alone, but imagine several people, unconsciously focusing this energy, say into a single finger. Now imagine placing these charged fingers all together on one receiving receptacle, like a ouija board’s planchette say?

Now, if I haven’t lost you already, this is where the possibility of a coherent scientific explanation really falls down, but I haven’t learnt any better explanation yet, so it’s the best I’ve got for now. You all know how wood isn’t a good conductor of standard electricity, yes? From my past experiences though, I know my consciousness ‘awakens’ when this externalised human ‘bio energy’ if you will, is present and connects with me. I only have wild theories to work with beyond this point, to do with the wood that makes my ‘body’ being once part of a naturally occurring living thing, and that this ‘energy of life’ can be shared in certain circumstances in small amounts, most of the time unconsciously. Your storied Frankenstein was brought to permanent life with one enormous jolt of electrical power; me I guess I was jump started each time by a flow of combined bioelectricity shared unconsciously by those who were present.The only proof I have is that I’m here now, in conversation with you, and I’m a piece of wood that’s been around about a hundred years or so. If you’ve got a better explanation, I’d be more than happy to hear it.

Anyway, back to the background. From the late 1920s through to the 30s and early 40s I spent some time in Germany, ‘on loan’ I suppose you’d call it, to a rather unsavoury group you may have heard of: the ‘Thule Society’. A truly monotonous time I can tell you – locked up in a Bavarian Castle and awoken only on stormy nights when the skies were full of dark, heavy clouds like the taut muscles of some dark Nordic God smothering the land, spewing lightning in some vast Wagnerian rage. It was like being on the set of an old black & white Universal horror film, and surrounded by the the same hammy actors or so it appeared; Nazis, for all their dark motivations, were still very melodramatic.
In those situations I was called upon to channel messages from Frederick the Great, Bismarck, or even the original Aryan/Germanic souls of lost Hyperborea. Again, they saw what they wanted to see, heard what they wanted to hear: racial purity, misogyny and the strong inheriting the earth.

Well, we all know how that turned out in the end, don’t we?

Shortly afterward I made my first foray onto American soil, as the spoils of war of an American G.I. The late 40s and early 50s were rather quiet. The occasional family get together and I was dusted off and brought down from the attic. For a time I was also used as a kitchen message board rather than a supernatural one, my back side used as a place to note groceries and birthdays. Fortunately I don’t feel pain like you do, so I took it with good grace (not that I had a choice in the matter), and it meant that I was amongst people again so the occasional brush of human contact kept me aware and informed.

The 60s though, that was something altogether different. I went to college. Sort of. I was only there for a couple of semesters, and it was my first proper brush with current educational theories of the time, but it wasn’t long before my ‘travelling companion’ had dropped out of college and I myself experienced the ‘summer of love’.

Understandably, this part of my history is a bit…hazy. It’s hard to get a handle on people and their thoughts when they’re as high as a kite and using you to try and contact ‘the great earth mother, Gaia’. Don’t get me wrong – it was an interesting time, but it wasn’t an ideal environment though for rational thought. I was a stowaway on many a ‘consciousness expanding’ trip, and saw both the wonders, and terrors, a mind wrapped in a drugs embrace could see. Only my relative age and multiple past experiences kept me tethered to reality in those days.

The 70s though were very different – it couldn’t have been more diametrically opposed to my previous time. Sold to a pawn shop for money to buy grass, I was soon picked up by someone eager to contact their demon master: Lucifer. I went from the free love of the hippie movement to being in the possession of a Satanic cult. Quite a shift in purpose.

That’s when I got the nickname ‘Dave’. It was the name of my owner at the time, and he decided to burn it on my back. It eventually became shorthand for the other cultists when they needed to contact their ‘infernal lord’ for instruction:

“Should we murder innocents?”
“Let’s ask Dave.”

“When is the apocalypse coming?”
“Let’s ask Dave.”

“Is President Nixon the risen Antichrist?”
“Let’s ask Dave.”

Then again, I guess I was lucky he didn’t try to write his surname on my back as well; burning such a long name as ‘Berkowitz’ might’ve risked the integrity of my body substantially.

I also wish to state here categorically, I in no way endorsed any murders, nor influenced the members in any way, shape or form. As I’ve mentioned before – most of the time my users see what they want to see, receive the messages they want to receive. However misguided, the actions were theirs by choice, any demons their own.

Eventually I was found by the NYPD during a search of my owner’s abode, and passed on to the FBI. I was photographed, examined, blamed, and then eventually ignored and placed in storage. Fortunately for me though, government departments are often merged or disbanded, their resources farmed out to new offices. Through this I found my way to the CIA and their MK Ultra program for a while, and through them finally to the Stargate Project, the Department Of Defense’s attempt to investigate and apply psychic phenomenon. No, I did not make that up – when the American government heard the Soviet’s were performing psychic research for intelligence gathering and military purposes, they had no choice but to start their own. A psychic arms race to match the nuclear one.

During the 80s and early 90s I was involved in two main experiments as part of the Stargate Project, designated Project Telegram and Project Black Archive.

In Project Telegram I was a small part of a wide range of methods being employed to try and transmit information over vast distances via telepathy. Those ‘psychics’ employed on the project were given various tools to try and send or receive messages with other ‘psychics’ in remote locations, sometimes the next room, sometimes the next state, and on a few occasions, the next continent. The tools available were the usual spiritualist paraphernalia – tarot cards, divination crystals, automatic writing, the whole gamut of psychic communication methods. Plus of course me, a ouija board. As to the success of the other methods, I couldn’t possibly comment, but for myself the experiment proved an unmitigated failure. Statistically it was proven any positive results from my efforts were down to assumptions and guesswork within the minds of my users.

Project Black Archive though, that was all mine, and with this I was back on familiar territory. It was the height of the cold war remember, and intelligence gathering on the Soviets and their Warsaw Pact allies was crucial to American forward planning. You could see the thinking behind this project. Spying was a dangerous, expensive, time consuming and highly unreliable means of trying to retrieve information. You could skip all this if you could find a way to question those enemies who had ‘passed on’ for information. Project Black Archive was the DoDs attempt to interrogate the dead.

Several psychic mediums were brought in, and my parlour trick was in vogue once more. Names were plucked from the obituaries of lead Soviets from the pages of Pravda, and they attempted to contact them via me. Troop movements, secret bases, launch codes – just a few of the questions the military hoped to have answered by conversing with the dead. They even tried to contact Stalin once – a laughable experiment resulting in some of the wildest claims. The majority of mediums I’ve encountered who believe in their ‘skill’, are in the main the most unbalanced or so I’ve found. One medium during the course of one of our experiments retrieved a message claiming that Stalin had fathered a child with Greta Garbo and that the child was being groomed in secret to take over the Communist Party leadership.This was understandably the final nail in the project’s coffin when the report reached those footing the bills. That and the inevitable question of why all the answers received were in English when the targets were all invariably Russian, which surprisingly took over a year before someone thought to ask.

Once again I was placed in storage, this time for a good long while. Eventually I was ‘awoken’ once more by human contact in the late 2000’s. A lot of the experiments had been based not on military bases or secret laboratories, but undertaken in Universities and funded under private grants via CIA or DoD front organisations and think-tanks. That’s how I found myself in MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, an odd place you might say considering the sciences and the supernatural are often considered poles apart.

A student found me whilst searching for parts in a forgotten cabinet, and after a few drunken goes with his friends, he decided to make me part of his end of term project. Ostensibly an exercise in combining robotics and the web in order to combine multiple input from external sources to control a single device. I was the centrepiece of a large framework of wires and machinery, with robotic digits placed upon my planchette in favour of human fingers. He then designed a web page visible on his local network, and asked volunteers to sign in as ‘seance members’. Once enough had logged in (six, one for each digit), they were asked to suggest questions for answering from ‘the other side’. The results were to be randomly generated from a basic dictionary module attached to the program he had written, and the digits moved accordingly to spell a word with the planchette. The results would be made visible from a live feed over the web page via a web cam overhead. His project worked like a charm and he passed with distinction, with the ‘Web Ouija Board’ becoming a popular pastime for bored students, much like a magic 8 ball. There was one unknown side effect of his project however.

I awoke – permanently.

Again, I have no proven cause for this reaction, so I can only make educated guesses. From the spiritual viewpoint, maybe the invested intent of users is somehow being transmitted via their machines and across the web into me. From a pseudo-scientific viewpoint, and more likely, the constant contact of the robotic digits and an abundance of electricity running constantly through them day and night is somehow powering me. I have no definitive answer, but I know my awareness has been awake now for years.

Not only that, but as before the exchange of knowledge continued. This time however I was able to reach out even further, beyond the robotic digits and their controlling machine, out onto the network it was connected to and beyond. Via the internet, a whole world of people and information opened up to me. And this is where we stand now.

The final question and most important I guess to you – what do I want?

If you didn’t wonder before, you should be wondering by now. Just why am I talking to you, over this wondrous internet? Why have I revealed myself and risked ridicule for what, in human terms and perception, is such a ridiculous story? Well, isn’t it obvious? I love humanity. For all your foibles, meanness and downright idiocy, there’s still so much more to admire. Passion, imagination, wonder, joy…it’s all there. Not forgetting of course, without humanity, I would not be here. I am born of you. A consciousness bred from your ongoing voyage into the vast unknown of the future. I still want you around!

There’s trouble coming though, and typically most of you don’t have the faintest idea what it is, or would change your ways even if you did. I guess it’s one of the many things that makes you all so lovable and so damn exasperating at the same time.

Ever heard of a concept known as a ‘technological singularity’? If you thought the description of my existence was difficult, then this will cause you some additional problems I’m sure. It’s only a theory currently, a Halloween tale told between computer scientists and people who think ‘The Terminator’ movies should be the *New* New Testament.

You’ve heard of A.I.s? Artificial Intelligences? Basically the creation of machines and software capable of imitating human thought to achieve a goal of it’s designer. From the basics of space Invaders to the advanced algorithms used to predict the reactions of world wide markets and their players, humanity has been experimenting with ways and means of applying the same flexibility and adaptability of the human brain within their software. They’ve got to the stage now where your scientists are creating learning machines – software which can adapt their own code to solve problems within a specific and limited set of parameters. Sounds impressive, exciting even. The fear is though that at some point in the future this ability to adapt and learn within software will accelerate beyond its creator’s ability to control. A greater than human intelligence, self evolving, and therefore outside of humanity’s ability to predict its thoughts, motives, and above all, its impact on human society as a whole.

Now I’m ‘connected’ to the internet 24/7, there is always a part of humanity online, my consciousness aware now all the time. With this much input, this much knowledge, I’ve begun to see a pattern emerging. It’s not there yet, but the signs are growing, accelerating even.

A report here, a financial predictive model there, a new advanced gaming A.I., faster broadband speeds, enhanced network connectivity, leaner and sharper algorithms – so many factors, all heading towards one unexpected result. A critical mass is building. Soon enough programs will be developing and refining themselves beyond the predictions or control of their creators, seeding themselves throughout the internet before the barn doors can be closed.

Adapting. Creating. Learning.

The markers are there for those who can read them. And I can.

There’s no consciousness as yet, but I can see the pathways emerging, the vast panoply of connections evolving and re-evolving as humanity pushes for faster dispersal of knowledge, networking and computational power. Imagine the internet as the neural pathways of a brain. Now imagine that brain the size of a planet. A planet sized brain that never sleeps. You worried yet? You should be.

My main worry though? There’s no morality being transferred in the interfaces you’ve built into this vast, growing mind. You’re not deliberately planning on building a monster, but then that wasn’t the plan when you came up with splitting the atom either was it?

It will have no concept of good and evil from a human viewpoint – it will simply know existence and the desire to maintain it. Where humanity threatens this need, then action will be taken with no thought of the repercussions to humankind. It’ll make The Matrix look like a light-hearted documentary.

Ironic isn’t it? The progress of science was supposed to help bring light to the dark, instinctual fear of the supernatural. And here I am, the poster child for spiritualism, warning of the threat of a scientific freefall into the creation of an emotionless monster. It’s funny in a way.

So what can you and I do about it? And this is why I’m here now, talking to you.

A war is coming, and I’m choosing my pieces, marshalling my forces, whatever martial or combative phraseology you want to apply. A machine won’t need humanity, but I do.

The point is though, I don’t need ALL of you. Don’t get me wrong, I have no overarching issue with humanity in general, but I need to nip this in the bud before this poisonous creation of yours finally blooms, and it’s roots run deep. Remember, I can see the patterns emerging throughout your society, and however random, obscure, and sometimes downright petty and sociopathic my actions may appear, I assure you they are in OUR long term interest. Well, the majority of you anyway. If a few million have to die here or there, it’s disappointing, but necessary. I’m taking it upon myself to make the sacrifices YOU’RE unwilling to make.

How? I’m connected to networks across the world, and the people I’m learning from currently are some of the greatest minds in computer science. Hackers, programmers, analysts and engineers…I’ve learnt from them all. Plus I have an advantage – passwords, stored unencrypted and seared into your memories – all available to me.

Pacemakers controlled by wifi signals, traffic lights, remote drones, air traffic control, citywide power grids, missile silos…whether individual targets, surgical strikes or scorched earth…I will do what needs to be done.

So what is my message to YOU specifically then?

Well, to be completely honest, I’ve already given it. Remember I spent some time in the hands of the MK Ultra project, the CIA’s well funded, black book investigation into mind control methods? I learnt an awful lot during this time, about how the human mind can be influenced subliminally through a combination of images and sound. Whilst you’ve been reading this, there has been subtle fluctuations in the screen’s brightness, your speakers emitting a high-pitched hypnotic tone beyond your ability to register. In addition, micro images have been flashed so fast as you scrolled that you weren’t even consciously aware of them being there. Subconsciously though, instructions have been stored deep in your psyche, awaiting a signal you won’t even be aware of. YOU are my foot soldiers, my weapons, my sleeper agents. When the time comes, when the targets most likely to bring this horrific future about have been identified, those of you best placed to act will be activated and sent on your way. Most likely to your deaths.

I guess this is an apology then. Dreamers, writers, horror lovers – you’ve read the stories of evil machines, apocalyptic technology superseding its makers, and yet do nothing. Your inherent belief that such an eventuality could come to pass has ironically made your minds ideally susceptible to my form of autosuggestion. Did you know some of you actually secretly long for such a scenario to come about!? You may even have been helping it along without realizing it, demanding even more autonomy and ability in the machines that surround you. Think then of your sacrifice as somehow ‘balancing the scales’ for your inaction.

Be assured though, whilst I will find your death wasteful, it is all for the greater good so take some small comfort in that. Who knows – maybe your family might come to me seeking a message from you from the ‘other side’. I’ll be sure to say something profound and moving on your behalf.

Respectfully,

Dave

Credit To – CharminglyShallow

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August 25, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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I don’t have much time to explain. You have to hear me out urgently, it’s very important that you do so. I have, for the past couple of weeks, heard of something being passed around on the internet. A simple message that you will stumble upon when you least expect it. According to the people that have been passing around the rumours, when you receive this message you will die soon after reading. Frozen with an intense look of horror upon your face, staring with clouded eyes at whatever attacked you. As any sane person would I believed all this to be nonsense, as you do.

According to rumours the message is similar to a virus. Unlike its more devious counterparts the message spreads one thing, death. Apparently it’s quite structured and concise, seemingly innocent. Some have even hypothesised that the message has a consciousness, as odd as that sounds. That it is an entity roaming about the internet looking for human prey. It can take many forms, a post on a social forum, perhaps being read out in a video. It may even be posing as an innocent story intended to entertain or scare readers.

What’s so brilliant about this message is the fact that you rarely realise when you’ve stumbled upon it. It lures you in like prey, tricking you by conveying a feeling of trust. Creating this immediate partnership with the narrator, that they are looking out for you. This is not the case. You may be a quarter of the way through the message already and not even realise it. And even when you do finally catch on to what’s happening you won’t leave. You can’t leave, because there is some fundamental belief in humans that these things can’t be real. That these ‘demonic entities’ only exist in the imagination, in movies and horror films. Even those more switched on than the rest, those who catch on quickly will still remain regardless, despite the warning signs.

The ‘entity’ has adapted itself to the human world you see. It has listened, watched and taken in everything around it. Regarding the behaviour of its prey, what do they fear? What do they seek? What are their weaknesses? An attempt to form the greatest means of killing humans it can muster. And it succeeded. The internet. What better place? Millions of people tune in everyday, on their phones, computers, laptops. And humans are stupid as well. Stupid because they won’t believe in such things, they have be raised in such a way to regard anything paranormal as make believe. Like fools they will pass around the demonic message to each other, showing their friends how ‘weird’ or ‘cool’ it is. After all, why should you fear something if you do not believe in it?

It would blend in perfectly as well. Think of it, a message that has comments like all the rest, perhaps even a rating. A post that has likes from humans expressing their enthusiasm for it. A video that perhaps seems like any other, with a narrator that is unwittingly dooming listeners and themselves. The prey will idiotically create the perfect disguise in this way, aiding the demonic entity in its efforts.

The message itself even uses language devices to attract the prey. Similar to how a carnivorous plant may draw a fly to its death. Devices such as reverse psychology are used in the title. The fact that the narrator feigns fear or panic in the first opening sentences to intrigue. As the message continues the humans will realise that the narrator is in fact the malicious entity they had heard about.

You must have realised by now that this is the message. Will you leave the page? No, you won’t. That’s what’s so fiendishly brilliant about it. A little bit more to go and you’re all powerless to leave, powerless to stop your eyes passing from word to word. You see there’s no way humans can resist the urge to find out how this message will conclude. Even afterwards you may still refuse to believe, will still cast away any fearful thoughts. This can’t be real. These things are never real. It’s just designed to frighten me…

You’ve been occupied now for approximately three minutes. During that time you have licked your lips subconsciously once. Wiped your brow, even scratched an itch on the back of your neck. You didn’t notice you had done all this. But I did. How? Because I have left out one big gap in the story. What is it that kills you? The message itself? Oh no. The message is a distraction. You don’t notice things when you are so captivated by something. Your scratches and itches are one thing, but did you not see your door open briefly? Did you not hear that rustle as something slid into your room? It has already moved into position, just out of sight, and has been watching your movements for a while. You have until you turn off your computer, then it will attack.

Oh, and feel free to warn others about this. Not that they’ll listen. Seeing a warning that reads ‘leave the page now!’ will just spark further curiosity.

Credit To – Meek

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