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Inside a Shadow I Wrote This Down

November 20, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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I had been in the apartment about 6 months when I started to see them. They should’ve scared me but they didn’t. The only thing I felt at first, as I recall, was fascination. To me it seemed as though it were happening to someone else. It was as if I were watching them on TV from very far away. In those moments I felt detached from my body. Looking back it seems to me I was under a sort of spell. Or perhaps there was something about my mind that allowed me to accept their existence contrary to all life’s normalcy I had experienced up to that point. However one looks at it, I should’ve been afraid.

I think my dachshund noticed them first. Actually I’m sure of it. Before then he was extremely quiet; he never barked and only whined when I left him alone. That’s why it was unusual when he began barking at seemingly nothing. At first I thought he was hearing rustling from the neighbors or people on the street. I guess that’s what I thought for quite a while until I saw one of them as the dog began barking directly at it.

They were fast when they wanted to be. I didn’t see much, just a dark, cat-sized blur. In hindsight, I don’t think I ever saw their real form, if they even have one, because they always looked different. One minute they were the size of a mouse then they seemed to envelope the entire room. I tried to tell myself they were just shadows but I could feel them. They had substance. It was as if, whatever part of my body they touched became part of them. That part of my body became cold then colder then numb then it wasn’t a part of me at all, it was theirs. As they retracted back into the wall that part of me they touched slowly came back to me. No, that’s not right. I was never the same after they touched me that first time. I’m not sure, it’s all so confusing now.

They weren’t ghosts. I thought maybe they were but now I’m sure they weren’t. Whatever they were, once they touched me they were able to follow me out of the apartment and into the real world. Maybe they hid in my pockets. All I know is I started seeing them everywhere. They would ooze through the slats in the blinds and block out the sun. They would darken alley ways to total darkness and slide through the mortar consuming the facades of the buildings I passed. If I had been afraid from the start; if I wouldn’t have let them touch me, then I would’ve left and I’d still have my dog.

No one believes me. Sometimes I think I’m crazy but where is the dog? Everyone thinks I just lost him but I didn’t. I don’t think I did. I’m sure they took him. The dog isn’t the only one. There were others taken, strangers and acquaintances. They were there one day, gone the next; there one minute, gone the next. No one knew who I was talking about when I asked what happened to them.
“Who?” They’d ask.
“That lady who was making copies right behind us 60 seconds ago,” I’d say.
“I didn’t see her,” or “I don’t know who you’re talking about.” It was always the same.

Sometimes I’d think I just didn’t see them walk away but then it would happen in an elevator and the person behind me would just disappear without the door opening on any floor. And sometimes in the middle of small talk; in the middle of a sentence, they’d vanish. I never seemed to be looking directly at them so I never saw it happen. But I felt the cold and something like static cling that made my hair raise and my flesh goose all over. I felt the vacuous suck of their going and then they were just gone. I never knew them personally which made it seem like I was hallucinating and I certainly thought I was crazy often enough.

Every time they would go, there was something in my peripheral vision that was nearly recognizable. Like Déjà vu or when you have a word on the tip of your tongue. There was something so familiar right as they were being taken.

I get the feeling that I knew the people who were taken. People that I was close to but because they were taken I can’t remember them. Perhaps that Déjà vu sensation is my memory of that person slipping away. I can’t even say with certainty that anything happened as I have no firm memories of these missing strangers except my dog. Maybe that’s because I really did lose my dog on my own. I was so busy trying to understand what was happening around me that I neglected to pay close enough attention to him. But, no, he was in the apartment with me the last time I saw him. I can’t remember them taking him but I’m sure they did. I’m sure of it.

It seems like a dream now but I think I went to that place to get my dog back. I let them envelope me whole. There was a woman there. I can’t recall anything about her. I know that I felt that I knew her. She was my wife. But that can’t be right, I’m not married. I never found the dog and I don’t know how I got back. Maybe it was a dream.

One day I awoke to find I was already in the bathroom getting ready for work. When I opened the bathroom door there I was with a Q-tip jammed in my ear. I didn’t seem to notice myself. I was confused but not scared. I should’ve been scared. Why wasn’t I scared? I should’ve been scared out of my mind during this whole time in my life but I wasn’t. I was constantly trying to retrace my steps to recall how I got to each bizarre moment.
I got dressed and followed myself out of the house and got into the back seat of the car and rode with me to work. I followed myself around all day, saying nothing, just observing. No one seemed to notice me except the woman in the elevator. She didn’t see me at first but then she did a double take in my direction. She gasped and backed up against the back of the elevator but there wasn’t a back to the elevator any more. It was just an empty void now. She seemed to fall in slow motion into the void and disappear. I had tried to reach for her, to save her but in a second she was gone. She slipped, totally silently, into the darkness. The other me glanced over his shoulder and looked shocked to be staring at an empty elevator. I started to tell him that I had tried to save her but then I remembered that he couldn’t see or hear me so I mumbled and fell back against the wall. I told myself that this was probably a dream anyway and not to worry. I followed myself home, watched myself eat dinner, watched myself watch TV, watched myself feed and walk the dog and then I watched myself go to bed. I slept on the couch and when I awoke the next day I was in my bed, I was alone and the dog was gone.

Every remnant of him was gone. There was no food or water bowl. There was no dog hair, dog toys, leash or anything else one might associate with owning a dog. There were no pictures. It was as if I had never owned him or as if he had never been at all.

What was I doing in the street? I was watching myself, through the blinds from my bedroom window. It was definitely me and I was walking my dog. I watched myself approach my building and disappear from view. I waited for the sound of the key in the lock. I waited for the door to open. Nothing happened. I was alone.

I went to the bathroom mirror and stared intently at myself. I turned my head slowly from side to side, never breaking eye contact. I mimicked myself perfectly. It was almost as if it were just a reflection. Maybe it was just a reflection. I saw one of them in the mirror slipping down the shower curtain like black beads of water. I turned the light off and returned to bed.

On another occasion I opened a book that was lying on my coffee table. It had no title or wording of any kind on the spine or the cover. I supposed it was a journal but I had never seen it before. I flipped through it and could see written words; my hand writing. I hadn’t written my name on the inside cover but I was sure it was my writing. There was one blank page then the entries began. There were indentation and paragraph breaks but no page numbers. I began to read.

I began to read about myself and the dog and the things that lived in the walls. I read about the disappearance of the strangers and following myself to work. I read about my wife. She had lived here with me. It was just the three of us. Why don’t I remember her? I shut the book. I felt in that moment that my life was a dream, that I had been asleep. I felt miles away from myself. One of the things oozed from the wall toward me.

Inside its black dimensions I could see nothing. It was as if a hole were floating across the room, over surfaces, consuming everything it touched only to expel it immediately as it moved ever closer. I was mesmerized. It was like looking into the part of my brain that creates dreams. It’s form was relatively stable but there was a vastness to its innards that made my head swim with thoughts of space and infinity. I began to panic as a drowning sensation slowly choked me. It seemed to take forever for the creature to find me. The light dimmed and the apartment stretched in slow motion. The thing slipped onto the table and swallowed the book. It barely touched my knee and began to recede back to its cave in the wall. The book was gone. The light flickered and I thought I saw my dog in the strobe. I blinked and he was gone. I was alone again.

That night I had a dream about being married. We did everything together. She was my friend. We didn’t fight. It seemed so familiar yet it was like watching the events of someone else’s life. None of her features seemed to stay constant. She was always pretty but everything was in constant flux. Every time I thought I had a good look at her it was as if someone dropped a pebble into water causing ripples in my memory. Still though, I had the sense of loving her very much and missing her terribly. It was a memory of a memory of grief. Then she walked into the wall where one of them manifested. I wanted to stop her but I couldn’t move; I couldn’t speak. I watched in horror and sadness as the blackness took her. She was gone. I was alone again.

As I stared after her, trying to will her back, I began to think about the void; the nothingness. I tried to imagine nothingness and couldn’t, even though it seemed I had a perfect example right in front of me. I couldn’t blink and I couldn’t move. The longer I stared the darker it became. Blackness began to crowd in around me. I began to panic and sweat. My heart began to race. Eventually I regained myself and I could move but I was inside the blackness now. I was consumed. I was on the couch I had been on in my living room with my wife. I could see myself and the couch clearly but there was nothing else. It was black as pitch and just as infinite. I stood and walked in the direction she went.

I thought I’d walk on and on forever. It didn’t feel like a dream any more. In fact this felt more real than anything I can remember. I was inside me and very sure of the space I took up. I felt blood flow through my veins and my pulse beat in my wrist. It was a strange combination of elation and sadness. I had a sense of my own realness; my own being but it hardly mattered now that I was lost to the world. I walked on.

I came to a door. I saw it as a thin vibrating rectangle in the distance; the way a mirage on a deserted highway on a moonless night might appear. The door was simple; white with four panels and a brass knob. I turned the knob and walked through. I was in an empty square room. There were four windowless, white walls, a wooden floor, a chair and a table. A single bulb hung over the table illuminating the room well enough. On the table was a single volume. It was the book that disappeared from my coffee table. I opened it. It was empty. There was a pen. I sat down and began to write.

 J.F.Kreuz 2016 

Credit: J.F.Kreuz

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The Painted Voyage

November 19, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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Sometimes I’ll just stare out the window and think about it. I’ll think about it long and hard. While it happened decades ago and I have moved on with my life, I still get the biggest chills when I remind myself of it. I tell myself all the time that it must have been an illusion or some wicked dream. But it wasn’t. It really wasn’t.

I was ten years old at the time, and I still remember all the exciting commotion from everyone boarding the ship. For many, this ship was a symbol of everything good. The smell, the visuals, and the feel of it were all remarkable. I thought of this upcoming voyage as a new chapter in my life. America was waiting for me, and I was looking forward to living there.

All I wanted to do was have some fun during the voyage itself. I quickly befriended a wealthy kid my age who resided in the first class. His name was Edison. Many of the first class kids ignored me because I was third class, but Edison was the exception. He was just like me. We would run around and be those two ‘know it all’ kids that would annoy all the adults with the mischief we’d get in. We would pull so many pranks and then laugh until we couldn’t any longer. It was awesome. Unfortunately, that lasted for the first few days.

I had slept over in his room, and we woke up the next morning feeling good about the day that was to come.

“Do you wanna meet up with some of the other kids today?” He asked me the following morning as we both woke up rubbing our eyes.

“Sure, I guess,” I replied. I was a bit hesitant to meet other first class kids because I thought of them as brats. But if Edison was friends with them, then I was open to the idea.

We walked out into the hallway, and a girl our age immediately greeted us.

“Edison! What a pleasant surprise!” she said. She tried to make it seem accidental, but it felt as if she was purposely waiting for us.

“Oh, hi there?” Edison replied. He apparently did not know her.

“You’re funny!” she said, giggling in a sophisticated manner. She had a huge smile on her face, with big blue eyes. She had on a fancy white dress along with a fancy hat, so I knew she was first class. She was way too enthusiastic for my taste.

“We’ve met before?” Edison asked.

“Of course!” she said. “My name is Martha, remember? Anyways, what are you up too?”

“Um, Charlie and I were just about to-”

“Oh yes, Charlie! My dear, how do you do?” She reached out her hand for a handshake.

“Um, fine I guess,” I responded, shaking her hand. While she seemed friendly, she was also very suspicious. Her cheeriness seemed forced and unnatural.

“I was just about to go to my room. You guys should come with me! I have breakfast if you two are hungry!” she said.

“Oh, that’s ok. We have other plans,” Edison said.

“Oh boo,” Martha said. “Won’t you two please come with me? I get really lonesome around here.”

Edison and I looked at each other once more. Not wanting to hurt her feelings, we both agreed.

“Splendid!” she said. “This way we go!”

We followed her down the hallway and entered her room. The paintings on the bright red walls immediately caught my eye. There was an absurd amount of them, each depicting various disasters. The strange part was that there was a figure in each and every one of them, and it was downright creepy. It was someone with long black hair and a long black cloak. The figure also had a large black hat, one that President Abraham Lincoln would wear. The shade from the hat obscured the entire face, so I couldn’t tell if it was a male or a female. Upon closer inspection of all these pictures, I noticed that each of them had random names signed in the corner.

The locations that this figure inhabited were especially interesting. They were all shown in a night setting, and disasters ranged from burning houses, crossfires, severe car crashes, tsunami’s, wars, and various explosions. Indeed, most of them had fires or fights, each with this creature lingering on the side. One painting that I specifically remembered had two towers, with one of them having an explosion near the top. The corner of the picture was labeled 911.

“So I see you’re taking an interest in these paintings,” Martha said. “May I ask your opinion?”

“Well, they’re interesting,” I replied back. I wish she would stop talking like she was so fancy and sophisticated.

“Why thank you, sir. I drew them,” she said.

I was surprised. She didn’t seem like she’d draw scary paintings at all. I was genuinely curious about the black figure, so I decided to ask her about it. “Who is the, um, fella wearing all black, in all your paintings?”

“Oh, it’s just for art. That is all. Anyways I’m glad you took a liking to them,” she said, giggling.

I turned to Edison and used my eyes to signal him that we should leave this girl alone, but he didn’t look at me. His eyes were just on Martha the whole time. And oddly enough, he kept silent. He was usually someone to talk and give his opinions whenever he could.

“Well, you have talent,” I said. “I think I better be going actually. Mom’s probably worried sick.”

“Oh, but you just got here! Please stay for a bit. Please, oh please oh please?” she asked.

I reluctantly agreed.

“Oh, splendid! Tell you what guys; I have leftover cookies from breakfast this morning. Super delicious. You two wait here. Don’t you dare leave,” she said. She walked away to enter the kitchen. It was then just Edison and me with all these paintings surrounding us.

“What do you think about these paintings?” I asked him.

“Charlie,” Edison said. He had a solemn tone, which was unusual for him. He also held still, like a statue. “Did you not see it?”

“See what?” I asked him.

He didn’t look at me nor did he respond. Martha later came back with some cookies and directed us to the dining table. We sat there and talked about our experiences we have had for the past few days. Well, at least Martha and I was. Edison didn’t say much. Martha blabbered about how she didn’t like the other kids. She kept on insisting that we were the only ‘intriguing’ ones.

“Anyways you guys,” Martha said after finishing her cookie. “Tonight is the big night!”

“What is the big night?” I asked.

“It’s a surprise. You’ll see,” she replied. “But first, I’ll be right back. Let me show you guys something!” She walked over to the kitchen.

While Martha was nothing but weird, I found Edison’s behavior to be even odder. He would only speak when asked a question. It was not like him at all.

Martha came back with a canvas in her hand. It was another painting. She turned it over to show me. “Do you like it?”

One look at the painting and I became deeply concerned. It depicted a ship. Sinking. Not surprisingly, it was a night setting. It was at a fair distance, with the water being splashed about everywhere due to people drowning in it. The ship itself seemed as if it was about to break from all the physical damage. Everyone had facial expressions that were full of fear. Why would she draw something like this when we were in a ship ourselves?

But the best part? That figure. That same black figure. It was on the left side of the painting, looking at the ship itself at an oblique angle. I told her I didn’t like the painting.

“Really? Oh, rats. I worked on it for hours. You don’t find this art pleasant? My feelings are hurt, Charlie,” she said.

“Charlie,” Edison said out of nowhere. “Tell her you like her painting. Now.”

I looked at Edison with astonishment. I could not believe that he would demand me to do something with such a serious tone. I began to worry about his insanity.

“Martha,” I said. “Your paintings are creepy, but I do admit you’re a good artist,” I said.

“I didn’t ask you to tell her that she’s a good artist,” Edison said. He didn’t look at me, as his eyes were strictly on the painting. “Tell her you like the actual painting itself.”

“I like your painting,” I finally said. I couldn’t stop thinking about Edison’s behavior.

“Oh thank you, Charlie!” She said. “And one more thing. Do you mind signing your name on it?”

My heart dropped. Sign my name? Why on earth would she want my signature on her painting? She was truly not like any other girl I have met. She held out a charcoal pencil right in front of me.

“Sign it,” Edison said.

“Are you sure?” I asked Martha.

“Yes,” she said. “You see Charlie, I have chosen you for a reason. I like you a lot. I hope you can respect my culture in signing this painting? Just sign it anywhere. It doesn’t need to be fancy. I will appreciate it, and well, so will everyone else involved.”

I had no idea what she was talking about, but at that point, I did not care. I grabbed the pencil and looked at the painting. For an odd reason, I felt repelled to sign my name anywhere near that black figure, so I signed it on the opposing side.

“Charlie, thank you,” Martha said. “You made this whole thing possible.”

“You’re welcome,” I said. I got up and walked toward the exit door. “I’ll see you guys around.” I received no response.

As soon as my hand touched the doorknob, the lights went out. The room was pitch black. Worried, I called out for Martha and Edison. Again, no response. I tried opening the door, but it was locked. I was afraid at this point, and so I held my hand on the doorknob firmly and did not let go of it. I was in a room with no light, trapped with a strange girl and strange paintings. Not an ideal situation by any means. I called out their names yet again. Nothing.

The room started shaking. It was gentle at first, but then the shaking became intense. I grabbed the doorknob with my other hand and held it tightly. I was not religious by any means, but I began to pray. The chandeliers shook violently as if someone intentionally kept shaking them just to make this scenario all the more dramatic. I felt like I was being mocked. Some of the chandeliers fell to the ground. At one point, I heard the table flip over, with the glass cups and vases shattering on the floor. All I could do was hope that everything would be okay.

The shaking eventually stopped. I tried to calm down my heavy breathing, wiping off some sweat from my forehead at the same time. It was still as dark as ever. I tried opening the door again, but no luck. Seconds later, the lights came back on.

My back was facing Martha and Edison, and I was terrified to turn around. After a few deep breaths, I calmed myself down. Nervously, I turned around.

There was no physical damage. The chandeliers were hanging from the ceiling, having never fallen to the ground. The table I had also heard fall was back in its regular position. Even stranger, the paintings that were on the wall beforehand were now gone. Martha herself was standing in the same spot. She was rubbing her hand gently on the painting as if it was everything she ever cared about. She was giggling so maliciously that it was a disgusting sight to see. She acted as if nothing had happened whatsoever.

Edison was nowhere to be found. I became downright scared. Martha seemed absolutely insane. It took every ounce of bravery to speak.

“Martha, what happened? Where is Edison?” I asked.

She completely ignored me as she continued to stroke the painting. She then picked up the painting, turned around, and hung it on the wall. She again looked at the painting and laughed continuously. A part of me had a strong desire to confront her about her behavior, but I was too scared to do anything.

She then proceeded to skip to the kitchen, continuing to laugh. She entered another room, and as soon as the door shut, her laughing ceased. Of course, the light had to turn off again. I couldn’t see a thing and now I was back to step one. The only thing that was going for me was that the door I held on to was finally unlocked. Anxious about what might be on the other side, I slowly opened the door and walked out into the dark hallway.

Although I couldn’t see anything, I felt like I just walked into a large vacant room. I called out for help. Nobody. I walked around while extending my arms, trying to figure out where I was. After a few minutes, I stopped walking and sat on the floor. I held my knees close to my chin, hugging my legs tightly. I started to cry.

A few minutes later, I felt a sudden intensity of heat. It felt as if something was burning a few feet away from me. I didn’t want to let go from the fetal position I was in, but the temperature rise was so intense that I had to look to see what the cause of it was.

I turned to my right to see a small area with a red light shining on it. It was at a distance, perhaps a bit less than a quarter mile away. I wiped my eyes to take a closer look. The red lighted area was the only area visible in the pure darkness. It was like I was on stage for a play, but the spotlight was shining on the other side of the stage. In this spotlight, I saw what looked to be large lit candles on long sticks and black objects on the floor.

I walked there slowly. Every step I took, my heart rate increased. My adrenaline was at an all-time high. As I got closer, I realized that these black objects were kids dressed in black cloaks, all sitting in a circle. They all had a hood covering their heads, so I was not able to see their faces. The children were surrounding something. I couldn’t tell what it was at first until I got even closer and realized that it was a painting hanging from the ceiling. It was swinging back and forth like a pendulum. The painting was.. the painting was…

It was the one I signed back in Martha’s room. The one depicting a sinking ship.

I was now only a few yards away from the children. They didn’t notice me, so I was relieved by that. I watched these kids just sit there in front of the swinging painting. I closed my fists as hard as I could and tried my best not to make even the slightest of noise.

The sound of a piano broke my concentration. It was playing in a loud yet eerie way. It was like someone got to a piano just in time and started playing it so that the ‘play’ on stage would continue. The children then began to sing softly.

“There is no other way, they all fall down. There is no other way, they all fall down. There is no other way, they all fall down.”

I wanted to die. I was so terrified that I couldn’t even think straight. It was when the children removed their hoods that my adrenaline exponentially skyrocketed. Amongst all the kids, one of them stood out to me. Edison was present.

Out of nowhere, a figure entered the red spotlight from the black darkness surrounding it. It was a figure that must have been about eight feet tall. It too had a long black cloak covering its entire body. It had long black hair, along with a black hat – one that President Lincoln would wear. I didn’t want to believe it. But there it was. It wasn’t even walking. It was levitating. It hovered so slowly as if it had all the time in the world. It always had a slight white mist revolving around it.

The figure stopped right in front of the painting. The sound of the piano and the singing from the children ceased. The tall figure proceeded to remove the painting from the rope. Immediately, in the corner of the red area, a fire spawned. The figure took the painting and placed it in the fire. The creature then picked up the burning picture, and with what I assumed to be its hands, rubbed the canvas in a gentle manner.

In the most dramatic way possible, it immediately looked at my direction. Whoever was at the ‘piano’ decided to play it again, this time much more furiously. I was paralyzed from the neck down and my eyes refused to blink. My body was undergoing physiological changes that I don’t even think any expert in the field of physiology could explain.

The children got up and started laughing. They began to run towards me, each passing me one by one and still laughing endlessly as if this was a friendly game of tag.

Edison was the only one to stop running and stare at me. He was a few feet away from me with a frozen face. He didn’t look real at all. He appeared very ghost-like, which was of high contrast to the darkness surrounding him. What scared me the most were his eyes. They were nothing but robotic. It was like he was staring through me rather than at me.

He proceeded to blink tightly. When he opened his eyes again, they became different. This time, he was actually looking at me. His ghost-like appearance disappeared. His eyes became filled with many tears.

“Charlie! Charlie!” he yelled at the top of his lungs. I could tell he was terrified just as much as I was.

“Edison?” I whispered softly. I couldn’t scream. I was too scared.

“Help! Please, Charlie, help!” he kept yelling. He was crying violently in the process.

My heart sank. I didn’t know what to do, so I just stared at him while crying myself. I then realized that the tall black figure was no longer in the red spotlight area. It was officially empty. When I turned my attention to Edison again, I gasped in horror. His mouth was covered by something that belonged to the figure. His eyes, still filled with tears, had signs of hopelessness. I didn’t blame him; I had lost all hope myself.

The figure looked at me and smiled. It didn’t even have teeth. Its mouth was just…red. A complete red void. The shadow of the hat still covered its eyes, and it was still hovering. Just watching this figure felt like someone was physically stabbing me with needles all over my body. Truly abominable.

I watched as Edison’s eyes became robotic-like again. He stared in my direction, again as if he was looking through me rather than at me. He became ghost-like again, and I did nothing but cry as he fell victim to this sinister figure. Darkness immediately obscured Edison, appearing as if he was sucked inside the cloak of the figure.

An abrupt wind occurred out of nowhere. The wind became so intense that I couldn’t help but to squint my eyes. The figure then extended its neck a few feet towards me and screeched a loud groan. I am not sure what happened next, but a sudden white flash blinded me.

The noise I heard from this thing was not human. I repeat, it was not human. The closest detail I can get to describe the noise is to imagine the sound of a thousand ambulances times the sound of nails scratching an old chalkboard times the sound of bomb explosions everywhere, plus more. But one thing that was clear about this noise was that it was full of hatred.

After I had adjusted my eyes from the bright white flash, I looked at the figure again. The wind was so strong that the cloak of the figure was flying in the air. This thing…it had no body. It seemed as if a cloak, a hat, and a red smile were all there was to this creature, just hovering in the air.

With this wind, noise, and an all-powerful demonic creature in front of me, I thought it was all over. However, for some reason, I felt like whatever force there was to get me kept failing. This creature continued to scream aggressively. It then began to fly at me with no hesitation. With no time to waste, I turned around and ran for my life. I was running in a complete dark void, with something inhuman chasing me.

My fear turned into motivation as I ran in the pitch black. I had no idea where I was going, but I knew I just needed to run. With the wind against me, I contracted every single muscle fiber in my entire body to move as fast as I could.

I saw Edison again. He was running alongside me, but this time, he didn’t acknowledge me. He was too busy laughing hysterically. He ran past me and vanished into the dark distance ahead of me. That was the last time I ever saw him.

Everything after was a blur. I don’t remember much after this point. All I remember was that in the next moment, the noise and wind came to a halt. I took a moment to look around – I was instantly back on the deck of the ship. I was no longer in a dark void. I was finally back in the real world.

It didn’t take me long to realize that the ship I boarded just a few days ago was now sinking. I had no idea why or even how. I looked at my hands while many people ran past me in fear. I wiggled my fingers. I placed my hand on my chest and I felt my heart beat. I felt the cold wind hit hard against my skin. I had somehow made it. But the journey was far from over.

Everybody around me was panicking. The ship was at an angle. It was oddly night time. I looked down to see the bow of the ship not even visible because the water had already covered it. People were falling. People were screaming. I saw that there were already many people in the water, crying for help that was clearly not there. I saw the half-filled small lifeboats rowing away. I felt like I could see those cliche timers above people’s heads that signaled their time of death. For many, it was only a matter of minutes. I could see that despair had entirely filled the atmosphere of the deck. The humanity of those around me was falling exponentially as the ship continued to self-destruct.

I somehow managed to get in a lifeboat after everything. Just when the crew members were about to send down the boat into the ocean, I saw her. Martha. She was skipping down the ship, laughing at the misery of others. She was also singing a tune. For some odd reason, even with all the loud commotion of the people in between us, I could hear what she was singing.

“There is no other way, they all fall down. There is no other way, they all fall down. There is no other way, they all fall down.”

Nobody seemed to notice her at all. When she reached the part of the deck that was near me, she moved slower and looked at me. She gave me the most sinister smile I had ever seen. I hated her. To this day, I still refuse to believe she was an actual girl. It must have been something else that took the form of a girl. After looking at me for a few seconds with that ugly smile, she continued to skip happily down the ship singing. She eventually faded into the crowd and I never saw her since. The crying and yelling of the soon-to-die passengers overtook my consciousness.

The sounds of everybody slowly died out as my lifeboat moved away. The ship had broke in half. I watched in despair as the ship said its final goodbye to the world. I whispered goodbye to my mother, as I had this feeling that she didn’t make it. Everything was just awful. Truly, truly awful.

On the early morning of April 15, 1912, the Titanic had officially sunk. All of us in the lifeboats quietly waited in the middle of the freezing Atlantic Ocean. Thankfully, the RMS Carpathia arrived soon to save all of us.

It was when I was boarding the rescue ship named Carpathia that something caught my attention. Something was in the water floating nearby. I rubbed my eyes and took a closer look. It was the painting I signed in Martha’s room only hours before, still in perfect condition.

Ever since then, I always question if any tragic event I have heard on the news was because of this creature and its paintings. There is something out there just lurking about, playing with the lives of human beings as if it is all a game. One day, I will come across it. Yes, I feel it. I never thought I’d say this, but I want this creature to visit me. I want to confront it. I want to know the fate of Edison. I want to learn more about those paintings. I am tired of having to live with this all these questions. I am sick of having nightmares and anxiety. I need to know. I need answers. I want my closure. No – I will get my closure.

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Black Plague

November 18, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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I stood where the bronze sand and blue water met, creating a seamless border that extended south for as far as I could see and on the north side disappeared beyond the formidable sandstone cliffs. The Sun on the horizon of the ocean was setting quickly, tinting the water a brilliant gold. Once it dipped out of sight beneath the surface of the sea, two others would remain.

Three brilliant celestial bodies in the sky could not fulfill the void left by our long forgotten centre of the Solar system. I buried my toes in the blistering sand trying not to flinch, blinking hard against the piercing glare that bounced off the water surface.

Each day in this part of the world was equal to two hundred and fifty two earth days. The time was soon approaching now when the temperature would spike beyond tolerable limits and the heat would get strong enough to boil the flesh from our bodies.

I had witnessed two nights and two days in total, this being my third. We were a team of explorers, never staying in one place more than an E-week. The E signifying earth. The campers had their own communities. They were willing to settle and to live with whatever they were blessed with on the spot. We were not.

I scoffed at the idea that some idiot had once referred to the planet as habitable. I started to trudge up the coastline, away from our encampment, the sand getting hotter every second, careful to steer clear of the range of the waves and it’s spray.

This liquid resembled the stuff of life. Every physical trait appeared similar, but we knew better what it was. A lot of sacrifices had been made by the ignorant before we learned better. This sprawling expanse of ocean was not water, but thousands of square miles of vicious acid.

The forty first survivor pod had accidently missed its designated landing spot and instead landed inside the ocean, almost a mile off shore. The steel compartment had not been designed to navigate through water and definitely stood no match against the malevolent acid which ate through it. The pod, along with its two dozen survivors, was chemically disbanded within less than Twenty-four hours.

Scouts had been dispatched almost three E-weeks ago to assess the landscape and consider locations in which we could escape the impending heat wave. I expected them back any E-day now, thus I had taken to spending a lot of time on the beach.

The scorching Suns beat down upon me and I made sure to keep myself hydrated. I was wearing a makeshift turban to prevent heatstroke. The horizon shimmered before my eyes and I considered departing back to the cave for a while to cool down, when suddenly, in the South, a speck became perceptible to my eyes through the rough haze.

I squinted, trying to ascertain whether I was mistaken but it soon became apparent that I wasn’t. There were three distinct specks now and they were growing larger every minute. We had dispatched six scouts to different locations but they were all supposed to meet up at an agreed upon rendezvous zone and return collectively to home base. We had not lost a scout for almost a whole world day, which was two-hundred-and-fifty-two Earth days.

As it was, the sight of only three, instead of six figures rolling down the desert landscape made my heart lodge in my windpipe. I kept standing. the adrenaline in my system would not let me sit. My throat was getting dry and my lips parched beyond belief.

Twenty minutes later, the approaching figures converged and the signal went up. Apparently they had just spotted me. The signal was a green flag, only to be raised in cases of emergency. There was no mistaking that green cloth fluttering in the menacing wind almost two miles away.

There was a moment of hesitation from my end but with a sudden bout of strength, I turned on my heels and sprinted in the opposite direction. They needed help. From what or who, I did not know. I ran as fast as I could, ignoring the jabs of pain as I stepped on small stones and rocks.

Our cave was located in a very discreet opening at the base of the rocky cliffs. The mouth of the cave was completely invisible to those who didn’t know where to look. From there it went down an incline and dipped deep into the ground. Hence it was way cooler than the outside.

It was exceptionally roomy and further in transformed into a labyrinth with many intricate pathways. It was easy to get lost in there, hence our group had carefully marked their path with white arrows.

I broke into the main chamber with my lungs completely devoid of oxygen.

‘They’re back! They’re back!’ I croaked. My voice echoed inside the place that was taller and wider than a cathedral with charcoal black walls.
Every head in the hall turned to face me, with excitement on their faces. There were about fifty people in there.

‘But… something’s wrong. There’s only three. They raised the flag’

The jubilant excitement immediately turned to shock.

“What do you mean?’, said a voice from the throng.

‘Come with me. Quick’

Accompanied by a dozen strong men, we raced back to the beach.

As we got near enough to the arriving party, I witnessed one of them collapse, as if the life had been sucked out of him. The other two didn’t stop to aid their companion but continued limping towards us. I could see now that they were heavily bent and almost on the verge of collapsing themselves.

Within minutes we reached them. But the moment I caught a glimpse of their faces, I froze in my tracks.
Their faces looked like they had been bleached.

‘We are all dead’, whispered the nearest one, in a voice that horrified me.

Credit: Salman Khattak

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It Lives At The Bottom Of My Stairs

November 17, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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I stand at the top of my stairs, socked toes curling into the carpet as one hand squeezes the door handle and the other hovers over the light switch, trying to decide if it’s safe to turn the lights out. It’s nearly seven at night, I have about an hour before sundown, but it’s just dim enough in the stairwell to make me doubt if that really matters. I stare down at the welcome mat, and though I see nothing, I know the thing that lives at the bottom of my stairs is watching me, too. I know it’s gauzy white eyes never blink, and that it’s teeth, thin and too long for it’s mouth, extending far past it’s leathery lips cannot smile, but I feel as if it’s grinning at me. I know it’s gaunt, lanky limbs are curled and crouched around it’s small body, waiting to lunge the second the light is out.

I know it isn’t real, if it was real I would be able to see it, but even as I remind myself of this, I leave the light on.

You see, I made him up, the creature that lives at the bottom of my stairs. I’ve always had an active imagination. Many children create monsters or imaginary friends with rules; a man who runs beside the car, but can only run in the shadow of the vehicle. A ghost who befriends you, but is invisible to anyone older than you. A monster who waits at the bottom of your stairs, but can’t move until the lights are out.

I’m not sure why I never stopped doing this. I’m approaching my mid twenties, and most children stopped around ten. Or at least they stopped talking about it. I try to keep my concerns to myself, though I have had to explain myself a time or two as to why I have to be the one who closes the door. I’m the only one who knows what he’s doing, because I created him.

The worst part is I know that he only exists because I think he does. There have been weeks or months where I can go up the stairs to my apartment and not feel his eyes on my back, his claw like fingers waiting to rip into me. All it takes is a stray thought, and he’s there again.

There have been times where I was too slow to close my door after I turned the light out. Nothing happens right away, though I know he is in my apartment with me. There is always a chill in my spine and a cold stone in my stomach when he gets past my door, but it’s not like he drags me down the stairs or anything. For some reason, though I know he is capable of killing me, he doesn’t.

Even when I succeed, sometimes there is this dull thudding noise that starts at 2am, and continues until sunrise. Like he’s slamming his dry, callus, too big hands against the door. Demanding I open it and let him in. This has been the hardest part about accepting he is not real, because I have had guests ask me about the noise. I never know what to tell them.

Though on the nights he gets in, I can feel him watching me from the doorway to my room, which unfortunately shares a wall with that stairwell. He sits in the same spot all night, breath wheezing out his squished, bat-like nose, body twitching and contorting as he runs his clawed fingers over his face in anticipation. Though I will never claimed to have actually seen him, I will say I feel as if a trick of the light or a stray shadow have sometimes looked as if they were trying to reveal him to me.

My biggest worry is I think he’s getting closer with each time I fail. He started right outside my doorway, but he was a mere three feet from me the last time. I can’t really tell, because he isn’t real and because I can’t see him, but I think he’s getting more worked up. I don’t know what he’s so excited about, but I can guess it will happen when he has made his way to sit at the foot of my bed.

I think he’s getting faster. I have been failing more often than not to keep him out. It won’t be long now before he reaches his goal, whatever that goal is. Maybe it’s to torment me, and feed off my fear of what he’ll do next. If that’s his goal, he’s succeeding.

It’s killing me. I can’t sleep knowing he’s there. I know he’s never attacked me in the past but I’m always scared that tonight will be the night he decides that enough is enough and goes for it. My lack of sleep is hurting my job. My paranoia is ruining my relationships. All I do is sit at home and hide away from the creature I don’t know how to stop.

I’m sick of it.

So tonight, I’m not going to hide. Tonight, I’m leaving the door to the stairwell open when I turn off the light. I’m turning off all the lights in my shitty apartment and I’m going to sit on my bed in the dark. Tonight when his twisted body lunges and lurches its way into my room I’m not going to pretend I don’t see him. I’m not going to pretend that just because I made him up that means he’s not real. I’m going to look him in those disgusting cloudy eyes and accept my fate. I’m tired of waiting.

Credit: lalaluma

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Paying it Forward

November 16, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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I was ready to die. It’s funny; we, as human beings, like to imagine ourselves as fighters. We like to think that when death grips us by the throat, prepared to drag us into whatever beyond awaits us, that we’ll instinctively resist, either out of desperation to live or even some deeply ingrained sense of pride that won’t allow us to pass on without a struggle. Maybe it’s like that for some, but it wasn’t like that for me.

I didn’t know why, though. I had much to live for. I had a family who meant everything to me, a good job, close friends, and every reason in the world to want fight for my life. But despite all this, I was overcome with a hard apathy that prevented me from caring even the slightest bit about all the blessings in my life. The struggle proved too hard and I wasn’t able to fight.

With death looming nearby, these were the thoughts that went through my mind as my body convulsed with violent shivers. The wind howled around me, seemingly shrieking with laughter as it pelted me mockingly with fat snowflakes, symbolically tarring and feathering me before my death. I wrapped the emergency blanket tighter around my body and rocked back and forth, thumping lightly against the rear right fender of my car.

Immediately behind me was the shredded tire of my 2008 Ford Focus. A large stone covered by snow on the rode had decimated tire, reducing it to thin strips of rubber that dutifully clung to the metal frame that remained. Initially, I was merely annoyed about having to get out of the car in the freezing storm to change the tire. When I popped open the trunk and discovered that the tire iron was missing, I’d begun to panic. Staying out in this weather for more than a few minutes was dangerous, life-threatening even. I entertained the idea of getting back into my car and driving to the nearest gas station on the destroyed tire, but the car was running on fumes there’s no way it would have been able to drag the dead weight of its back end through the ever-thickening snow on the already precarious canyon road.

Desperately, I had tried to twist the bolts off the tire with my bare fingers. The icy weather made the appendages incredibly delicate and raw, but I nonetheless struggled for minutes that felt like eternity until my throbbing fingers were numb and coated with a thick covering of frozen blood.

Having destroyed my hands, I pondered my other options. I could get in the car and blast the heater, but what would that do? The battery might last a few hours, possibly even until the storm passed, but that wasn’t very likely and once the battery was dead I would be stranded. Granted, I could run the engine, but with how little gas remained in the tank, that would only end up the in the same result. Ultimately, either option would only prolong my hypothermic death. If I was going to die in either case, then I saw no purpose in extending my life only to watch frostbite work its way over my body.

I closed my eyes and leaned back against the car, trying my hardest to ignore the spasmodic attempts of my body to keep blood running through my veins. Interestingly, I wasn’t sad, frustrated, bitter, or anything. I really didn’t feel any emotion. Rather than thinking of my family, my mind played back random YouTube videos, minute details of things I’d noticed earlier that day like the tiny tear in tear in my waitress’s apron at Denny’s. Meaningless, sometimes mildly entertaining thoughts arbitrarily passed through my mind as my body slowly began to accept the inevitable.

An image of my dog, Max, a gigantic husky, balancing on the birdbath of our neighbor’s yard one sunny afternoon was on my mind when, of their own accord, my eyes slowly reopened, like when you dreamily awaken from a deep sleep.

Normally, what I saw would have caused a horrified shock to course through my body, but in my current state I was merely confused, trying to process what I was seeing.

No more than 10 feet in front of me stood a tall figure. It was draped in a long, black cloak with a high collar, effectively shielding its entire body from view. But instead of a person’s head, it had a ram’s head. Or, perhaps not a ram, but a goat or some kind of lamb. The animalistic head had the features and the horns of a ram but appeared more juvenile, more…innocent. The head that gazed back at me had tiny horns protruding from its forehead and ivory fur that was frequently camouflaged in the ensuring snowstorm. Its eyes caught my attention, though. Its eyes were pure white sclera, nothing else; no irises, no pupils, nothing. Empty seas of whiteness that were only separated from the rest of its face by a dark black ring. It looked as if someone had taken a lighter and burned the fur surrounding its eyes in a circular shape, leaving a charcoal colored black outline of its almond-shaped eyes.

I stared at it stupidly. I didn’t know what to make of this new entity before me. I was ready to close my eyes and resign myself to death once more when it spoke to me then. Although, it spoke without words. There was no audible voice, nor did it speak in my mind with words. It spoke to me through impressions. I felt a sudden urgency to get up and approach the being. I dimly shook my head no, trying to communicate that I had no control over my body, that I couldn’t get stand up no matter how hard I exerted myself. It pushed wordless encouragement into my mind, and I somehow knew that if I tried again, I could stand.

I was able to, but not without effort. My legs were about as responsive as the legs of a toddler who barely mastered the art of standing. Every moment that I remained erect, my legs threatened to collapse beneath me. It was with great concentration that I was able to take awkward, heaving steps towards the figure, my body spasmodically shaking and shivering the entire time.

The being was much bigger than I originally thought. Standing about 4 feet before it, I could see that it was easily over 7 feet tall, towering over me. Normally, I would have felt horrified. As it was, I simply stood before it and, had I not been shaking so much, would have shrugged as if to ask, “So…? What do you want?”

The front of its cloak ruffled slightly and parted down the middle as its hands extended outward. Like the rest of its body, the thing’s arms were covered with thick, black cloth, its hands wrapped in what looked like black leather gloves. Curiously, it seemed to have humanoid hands with four fingers and a thumb adorning each.

But in its hands, it held an object that I never would have expected. I almost laughed out loud with the sheer absurdity of what I was seeing. Like how a person dying of thirst in the desert sees a mirage of an oasis, I believed my mind had conjured up some unreal image in an attempt to convince me that not all hope was lost.

In its hands, the creature held a tire iron.

It held the object as delicately as a flower girl holds the pillow upon which the wedding rings are rested. It presented it to me with reverence, as if it were holding a holy religious relic and not a tool that is found in every automobile’s trunk in the entire country.

I reached out to grab it, but the being spoke to me again, harshly, almost angrily. Again, no words were spoken or even conveyed into my brain, but I knew that I was not take the tire iron unless I understood the gravity of what I was doing. This creature was doing me a favor. In fact, it was quite literally saving my life. It expected me to pay it forward, so to speak. It would bestow this gift upon me, with the understanding that I would use the tool not only for myself, but for its purposes as well. I’ll be honest when I say that I didn’t fully understand, all I knew that this tool was my only chance of returning home to my family before hypothermia or frostbite overtook me. I nodded to the creature and the oppressive feeling clutching my chest relented, replaced with a feeling of relief, of approval, and even of close affection, the kind of affection an adult feels towards an endearing infant child.

With limited control over my body, I was somehow miraculously able to return to my car, change the tire, and continue the drive home.


That was three weeks ago. When I’d gotten home, my wife was one the phone with the police, ready to fill out a missing person’s report. I stumbled in through the front door and she had shrieked in a bizarre mixture of horror, relief, joy, and frustration. She spoke to me, but I don’t know what she said. All I could hear was the hot rush of blood flowing back into my head, into my hands, my feet, and all the other parts of my body where I had been too numb to feel anything. All I remember is that she stripped my wet clothes off of me, threw a thick wool robe over my naked body, wrapped me up in as many blankets as she could pile on me, and then pushed me into her car that was parked safely in the garage and sped me to the hospital.

I was committed to the hospital for two days before the doctor felt confident enough that I could return home. I had gotten frostbite on my left ear and both hands. The doctor had to amputate the ear as well as two fingers on my left hand and the pinky finger of my right hand, but I didn’t care. My wife sobbed with gratitude as I exited the hospital and she clung to more closely than I ever saw any of our three children cling to her when they were nursing. I returned her embrace as well, fighting back the tears that threatened to spill over and down my cheeks. I can’t believe that in my lowest moments I had somehow been prepared to leave her and our family behind.

Life slowly returned to normal, and at some point, I had dismissed the being that had greeted me in my near-death moment as some kind of wild hallucination, the malfunctioning of a desperate and horrified mind. When recounting the event to my wife, I completely omitted the character from the story. Doing so felt…wrong, to say the least. I couldn’t explain where I had obtained the life-saving tire iron, and when I had lied about it, saying that I found an abandoned car off the side of the road, I felt a conflicting feeling of deep shame and rage burn deep inside me, and in the moment I had even felt afraid, superstitiously supposing that perhaps I might have incurred the wrath of that benevolent being in the storm. The feeling never fully passed but became more muted. I attempted to continue with my life, but no matter what I was doing, that feeling never left.

At work, at home, playing with the kids, and even making love with my wife, that feeling plagued me, and I had an anxiety that grew inside me each day. All logic dictated that the being was a figment of my imagination and that I had never made any kind of deal, nor was I in danger of angering some sort of mythical creature. I attributed the stress, the anxiety, the guilt, and the fear all to some kind of post-traumatic stress and tried as hard as I could to push it out of my mind. My rationalizations could never set me fully at ease though, and I knew that what I had experienced was real.


I awoke one night in extreme discomfort. I often will wake up during the night to use the restroom or to get a drink or even just wake up for no real reason. I’m a fairly light sleeper and so I’ve grown accustom to these late-night awakenings, and my wife typically sleeps through it.

Tonight was different though. I awoke with a jump, thinking the house was on fire. The air around me was stiflingly hot and I was sure that there must have been open flames in the room. When I opened my eyes I wasn’t greeted by blackness like usual, however. The room was cast in a deep red glow, which would have given credence to my worry that the house was on fire, except that the color was too deep. The color was visceral and thick, as though the room was engulfed in the blood of some kind of ethereal massacre. The light was dim and I could barely see anything, but my eyes were quickly drawn to a being in the corner of the room, near the door. It was the same being that had met me that night I almost froze to death. But…it was also completely different.

The innocent, cherubic lamb’s head that had once gazed at me was replaced with an adult ram’s head. There were no eyes, the sockets were filled with insects crawling in and out of them, venturing from the decayed ears, to the nose, and down into the mouth, out of which lolled a disgusting, meaty tongue that was bloated and purple, seemingly ripe with infection. The creature no longer wore a cloak, but stood naked before me. It was even more imposing than before; where it was originally 7 feet tall, it must have been at least 10 feet tall if standing upright, but the creature leaned forward, supporting its weight on its knuckles as a gorilla would. It had the body of a person, enormous in every dimension, and equally as rotted as the head. The flesh was pale and sloughing off in large sections. Its abdomen had been decayed all the way through and vomited out a long tangle of intestines. A symphony of thousands of flies buzzed around the creature as cockroaches and other unspeakable parasites darted in and out of the numerous open sores covering its ruined body.

Only after seeing the repulsive, rotting carcass before me did I notice the overwhelming stench in the room. Images of concentration camps and rotting bodies pushed en masse into open ditches flashed through my mind every time I inhaled, imagining that those scenes still paled in comparison to the reek that was wafting off of the thing standing in front of me.

Underlying all of this was an oppressive feeling that punctuated every second:


The bed frame, the photos on the dresser, the mirror on the wall, everything in the room that was even relatively loose rattled and shook as the creature emitted a deep growl of fury. From seemingly out of nowhere, the creature produced the tire iron and held it out one enormous, simian-like hand, similar to the offering it had the night it had saved my life.

Immediately I realized that I had insulted the creature by not honoring my end of the bargain. I had taken its life-saving gift and used it for my own benefit, but I had failed to use the gift it gave me in order to carry out its own purposes.

I climbed out of bed and approached the thing, the smell and the heat increasing exponentially with every step that I took. It communicated to my mind the same way that it had before. It had given me the tire iron for a purpose, and now I must return the favor. I dared not look it in the face. Once I knew what it was that I needed to do, I simply nodded and gripped the tire iron with my left hand, the missing fingers a stark testament that my first encounter with this being was all too real. The metal of the tool was white hot and I screamed in pain but was too terrified not to retrieve the item. I lifted the tire iron and held it in both hands, then finally summoned the courage to lift my gaze toward the creature and meet its eyes, or what was left of them. When I looked up however, the being had vanished, leaving me in a cool, air-conditioned room that was pitch black save it be the faint moonlight that trailed in through the window and the various LED lights of my wife’s my electronic devices.

I knew what I had to do. I was too terrified to delay any longer than I already had. Clutching the tire iron in one hand, I made my way downstairs and climbed into my car.


Home from work, I opened the front door and entered the house. For the second time in 4 months, my wife nearly tackled me to the floor, gasping in relief.

“Oh, honey! I was so worried!” She breathed, holding my face in her hands and resting her forehead against my chest. She always did this when she was trying to hide her tears from me. She was horribly upset about something.

“I was watching the news,” she continued, “and I was so worried that yours was one of the cars on the interstate.”

I grabbed her by the shoulders and pushed her away gently. Not out of frustration or annoyance, but simply so I could see her face and look into her eyes. My suspicions were right–tears were brimming in her eyes and threatened to spill at any moment.

“I’m fine, Sariah. Why would you be afraid that I was hurt?” I asked.

She gestured to the TV in the living room where the news was playing live.

“There was a major accident on the interstate. It’s made national news, no one has ever seen anything like it. On 9 different stretches of road cars have lost control. Cars have been losing control, running into the cement barriers, colliding with other cars, even some diesels have flipped onto their sides and slid into oncoming traffic. There’s already over 40 people confirmed dead. They’ve blocked off the entrances and exits and slowed traffic as much as they can. Hopefully they prevented more accidents but those people–” her voice choked out into a sob. “I was so worried you were one of them,” she said, shaking her head, shoulders heaving with sobs that almost sounded like laughs.

I looked over her shoulder into the living room and saw the image of a diesel lying on its side in flames, surrounded by other cars in a similar state of ruin.

“What caused it?” I asked numbly.

“Nobody’s sure. The best guess is that a number of the cars had broken axles or something. A lot of the cars’ tires just popped off while they were driving. One of the cars they examined apparently didn’t even have any bolts holding the tires in place, and the tires that had stayed on looked like they’d been pivoted outward, ready to pop off off. I just don’t understand, how could this happen?”

Sariah looked back up into my eyes and stared into my eyes with such love and concern.

I turned away.

Credit: Nibris

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