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June 4, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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Life is a cage. I realize this now. The worst part of this realization is that most people know it. But they never do anything about it. They’re content to look through the bars, as long as the cage has a roof and there’s food inside of it. They don’t dare attempt to escape, to risk something better. That, or they’re expecting someone to come along and open the cage for them. That never happens. If it does, you can bet that whoever opens it has his own plan for you. A plan you’re probably going to hate. I finally decided to open my cage. However, I didn’t feel like it had been a matter of pushing a door open and walking out. I had practically bloodied my hands trying to rend the bars, finally grinding them down so that I was barely able to escape. I came out with the scars to prove it. I fought for my freedom.

Outsiders understandably scared me. Homeless people, junkies, drifters, hobos. For some weird reason, I’ve always had a pathological fear of ending up like these people. I can’t tell you why. Maybe it was ignorance. These types always seemed naturally repellent to me. Instead of repulsion and fear, I now felt a completely different emotion towards them: jealousy. Some of them might have been mental, granted, but some of them just didn’t care. They lived life on their own terms, not their bosses’, not their parents’, not society’s. Theirs.

I wanted to live life the way that they did. I wanted to start riding trains. I started researching this mode of travel, my brain soaking up every bit of information it found. Hobos were nowhere near as honorable as they were depicted. They would sometimes kill each other by shooting, stabbing, or just pushing one another off of the boxcar while it was moving, not giving a care as they moved onto the next job out West. I learned about the current incarnation of freighthopping, which is basically a pastime of crust punks and bedraggled addicts, filthy transients who don’t have to ride a train. They need to. There are gangs on the rails – the Freight Train Riders of America and its bastard child, the Blood Bound Railroad. I didn’t feel that I had to fear them much. They were monsters that mainly slinked around trains in the Northwest, like ticks on a snake. I was in the South. Yet, I still felt they could be here. Even if they weren’t, there could be people like them.

I went through nearly every scenario in my head that could happen if I hopped a freight train. I’m a small female. Rape. I know nothing about hopping trains. My body getting dumped at the base of a ravine. Where would I find food? They might use you for food. These were concerns that I considered seriously, but I needed more knowledge of this beast before I attempted to bridle it.

There was a railyard a few miles from my apartment. I went there one summer day. It was glaringly sunny and around 90 degrees, sweat beading on my thighs, causing my blue jeans to constrict around them. I arrived at the railyard, a junky maze of boxcars in drab greens and maroons being taken apart by men with glistening, dirt-speckled skin. The crew change, I thought. As I approached them, my boots kicked up the yellow dust that swirled on the ground, wading through dead, scrubby plants that were choking on the surface.
The man closest to me turned to stare. He was missing the majority of his teeth, and his thinning hair was pulled back in a scraggly ponytail. While he had a more prominent nose, he lacked a chin, giving him kind of a dopey look.

“Can I help yew, ma’am?” he said in a strong, country accent.

“Not sure, but I’m willing to take my chances. I’m Emma.”

I extended my hand and shook his dirty, wet palm.

“Pleasure to heyelp. Watcha need?”

“Well, I was wondering if you would mind telling me a bit about the railyard and the trains that come here.”

The man introduced himself as Will. He was a motor mouth but thankfully an informative one. He told me all about arrival times, when crew changes were, and where the trains were headed. When he slowed his pace, he finally got around to asking me some questions.

“Yew doin’ this fo’ a school project?”

“Uh, not really. I-“

I looked around the railyard to make sure no one was listening.

“I actually wanted to hop a train.”
Will’s eyes widened, causing the skin on his forehead to wrinkle.

“Wah wouldja wanna do that?”

“To get away.”

“Ah see.”

He nodded his head intently.

“Is there any way you could help me?”
There was a moment of silence between us as Will contemplated what I had said.

“The best tahm to fahnd me is around 10 in the mo’nin. I can tell yew ev’rythin’ yew need to know.”

From that point on, every day at 10 AM, I would go to the railyard to meet Will. Before he worked in the railyard, he had hopped trains to get around, so he was a fairly reliable resource. He told me about the finer points of which cars I could get on, which were the safest. If he admonished me once, he admonished me a million times about cargo shifting and crushing me and to avoid the cars that held them. His advice to me about catching out of the yard was to wait until the train was completely stopped. Due to my inexperience, he wasn’t confident of my ability to catch on the fly – hopping on the train while it was moving.
About a week into my training, Will finally broke it to me.

“Ahm worried about yew,” he said.


“There’r a lotta bad people on the tracks. Some gooduns, mind yew. But a lotta… crazy people can be on the train.”

“I’ve prepared myself for that,” I said defiantly.

“No, ah don’t think yew have.”

Will’s voice had taken on a stern quality that I hadn’t heard before.

“Ah was one of ‘em.”

I stood there unmoving. He took a swig of Pepsi, looking me in the eye as his head came down.

“Ah pulled a knife on a man once. Ah was high on meth. Ah cut ‘im across the arm. Thankfully, he lived. Ah spent some time in jail. Lucky ah got straightened out. Listen, ah don’t think yew should do this. At awl.”

“Well, I’m going to. I have to leave. If you don’t want to help me, I’ll just get on the train while you’re not here. You know Tom is a lazy ass bull anyway.”

The look Will gave me was possibly the saddest that I had seen cross over his face in the short time I had known him. I felt sorry that I had put it that way, but I wasn’t going to be swayed. Will also knew that Tom, the security guard at the railyard was sleeping in his office most of the time. He absolutely wouldn’t be bothered with me.

Will nodded his head solemnly.

“When’re yew leaving?”

“Tomorrow,” I said.

Will remained silent for a second.

“Ah’ll see you off then,” he said.
I arrived at the railyard early. It was still dark out. I had a backpack with me that held a loaded gun, some extra ammo, a bit of food, a knife, and a flashlight. In my hand I held a gallon jug that I had filled with water. I wore heavy, supportive boots. I was covered in layers despite the heat and humidity. Once the train got moving, the wind would be freezing. I met Will.

“Yew sure about this?”

I nodded.

He directed me to the last car on the train. It was completely empty, and the doors were open.

“Hide in the back. Yew got a rock?”

I leaned down and picked up a large weathered stone. I could wedge it between the doors in the event I had to close them, since they didn’t open from the inside. I scrambled into the dark corner of the empty boxcar. Will would sometimes lean against the boxcar and talk to me, but most of the time he was getting things set up. It came time for the train to take off.

“Yew know about the next stop? It’s a whiles away.”

“Yeah, Will, you’ve told me,” I smiled.

“Yew stay safe and don’t let anyone fuck yew over.”

“I won’t.”

The train started moving. I waved to Will as it gained speed. We stared at each other until Will’s image was obscured by trees. I was completely alone now. I sat in the corner of the train, contemplating my situation. I was scared, more scared than I ever had been. And I loved it. I was free. No one, except for me, knew where I was going or where I would end up. Food was going to be a bit of an obstacle, but I figured I could just go to a soup kitchen or work as a waitress somewhere. While there were challenges inherent with this lifestyle, there were also a myriad of possibilities. I was ready to take hold of them.

The first couple of hours in the train, I kept to the back. It was probably running at about 70 miles an hour, and I hadn’t yet gained the courage to move to the open area. I secured the gallon jug behind my backpack and slowly rose. I held to the sides of the boxcar and sat at the opening. What met my eyes was astounding. A dark gray mountain sat in the midst of a sea of green trees. Its vastness filled the land, as a fierce wind howled through the trees, exposing the silver undersides of the leaves. It was like an island fortress in an ocean of undulating greens and silvers, daring anyone to swim to its shores. This scene was gorgeous, but it also terrified me. My apartment, my cubicle, and the eateries in the surrounding area where I had lived were my familiar landscapes. They had been replaced with the dingy metal walls of a car and the fantastic, daunting views of nature you could only see by traveling this way. I left my crappy boss and co-workers, the bartenders who served me when they should have cut me off, and throngs of faceless people I didn’t care to know. I wondered who would be replacing them.

I stood up in the train now. The sun shone upon my face. I took off my coat and threw it in the corner with my backpack. My body pulsed with this unfettered freedom. For the first time in my life, I was happy. I must have stood there for what felt like hours, my skin growing taut with the cold. I drank in every image that nature had to offer. As ecstatic as I was, I was growing exhausted. Will had told me that the whipping wind would suck the life out of me. I now fully believed him. I carefully moved to the corner again with my backpack. I drank heavily from the jug and put my coat on. I closed my eyes and fell asleep immediately.

The positivity of my experience while I was awake hadn’t translated to my slumber. My dreams were plagued by all the horrors I had read about. Grimy, toothless men with jaundiced eyes leered at me through the jungles on the side of the tracks, stalking my every move. Gang members hiding behind black bandanas held knives to my neck as they tried to pull my pants down. A woman with stringy hair howled at me as she lunged at my body, trying to bite me.
I woke up in a cold sweat. I thrashed as I looked around the car. Night had fallen by this point, but the train was still moving. I hadn’t reached my destination yet. I pulled my flashlight and my gun out of my backpack. No one was in the car. No one but me. I took a deep breath and finished the contents of my jug. I would have to get more water when the train stopped. A couple more hours went by. I had shaken off my terrible dreams, dismissing them as my subconscious response to stress. The hobos and the gang members I could understand. I’d read about them exhaustively. The woman I couldn’t. Had she been a drug user? Maybe I had seen her on Google Images, one of those “after” pictures you see of addicts. If she was, she would have to have been one of the more intense cases. I remembered nothing like her. I didn’t remember her at all. My worry about this dissipated as I felt the train slow down. Will had told me to look out for a huge tower with a blinking red light nearby. I saw it in the distance. This was going to be where the train would stop. I could either get off at this place and find somewhere to stay, or I could wait for the yard workers to unload and sneak back on. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do.

The train slowed. I could tell it was about to stop. I put my gun and flashlight back into my backpack and made sure my coat was zipped up. I stayed in the corner as I felt the train come to a halt. I was thrown forward, so I was glad that I had at least held tight to the walls. I grabbed all of my things and peeked out the open door of the car. I needed to stretch my legs desperately, but I didn’t want to encounter the bull. All I saw were other crew workers who had hopped off of the train when it was only going a couple of miles an hour. Will had told me that the yard workers here were pretty accepting of people hopping the train as long as they were nice. Luckily, there was a crew change going on, so I had at least a few seconds to get out of the car. I hopped off and breathed in the air. Thunder rumbled overhead, and dark clouds obscured the velvety, dark blue sky. Fat raindrops hit the top 0f my head, startling me. I didn’t feel comfortable walking in the rain in a place I didn’t know. Back on the train it was.

All of the necessary paperwork had to have been in order, because I saw the new crew hop on the train. I quickly got back to my original hiding place. It was too short of a rest, but I could live with it. I propped my backpack in the corner. I was worried about not being able to get any water. Maybe I could hold the jug outside of the train and catch water that way, risky as it was. For the time being, I felt fine. I was relaxed, warm, and I felt safe with the rest of the crew being relatively nearby. Despite my long sleep just a few minutes before, I had the urge to doze off again. The rain was falling heavily at this point, hitting the top of the car like little torpedoes. The thunder would boom at random intervals, making me jump out of my skin every time it did so. I hadn’t seen any lightning yet though. As if my recent connection with nature had grown to be psychic, a burst of white light illuminated the car. That’s when I saw it.

There was someone in the opposite corner from me. I had roughly been able to make out a body with a face. No, no, there couldn’t be someone in here with me. I had only been out of the car for a few seconds, and I hadn’t left it. I would have seen someone get into the car, felt their presence near. If someone had gotten in, they had to have been fast. And quiet. Had I hallucinated? I… didn’t feel like I had. The rain pelted the top of the car with a frightening intensity, and the wind howled. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I could see that I hadn’t just imagined something. A dark shape was huddled in the corner. I could see its head shaking as if it were having a seizure. I heard gurgling noises coming from it as its body quaked. It made this sound for a while – until it started laughing. It was a breathy laugh, the laugh of someone who was trying to conceal a joke. The laughter gradually became louder, morphing into a cackle, with the choked gurgles coming up in intervals.

I felt like my bones had separated from my muscles. I was paralyzed as I watched the thing heave up and down, and my throat had run dry. My mind raced as I tried to figure out what I could do. If I jumped out of this moving train, I would die. I was scared to even move, fearing that this thing would attack me. The person in the corner stopped laughing. It inched its head forward, as if it were trying to look at me. One arm extended in front of it, bones cracking as it did. A long, skeletal hand splayed on the floor in front of it. The thing’s shoulders were hunched like it was about to pounce. My fight or flight response kicked in, and I shoved my arm behind me to grab the gun out of my bag. I managed to pull it out and point it at the thing that loomed just a few feet away. I shook even as my finger was on the trigger. However, the figure never moved away. Instead, it cocked its head as if it were amused by my action. In my hurry to grab the gun, the flashlight had fallen out of my backpack. I saw it out of the corner of my eye. I don’t know why, but I felt I had to see what was crouched in front of me. I was prepared to kill this person, but I guess the human side of me had to fully recognize it before a bullet went through its head. I grabbed the flashlight and shone it at the thing. This was an action that I will regret for as long as I live.

Pale, translucent skin stretched across its skull, and greasy, stringy brown hair hung off of it in patches. One of its eyes was a pale corpse-colored blue, its pupil merely a quivering pinprick. The opposite eyelid was plastered into a deformed crevice, revealing the cavernous insides where an eye had once made its home. It growled through a clenched mouth, revealing jagged yellow and black teeth, some of them looking like they had been sharpened down to a point. Its body was grimy and severely emaciated, the outlines of bones looking like they had been carved into its flesh. Red, raised scars covered this thing from its arms to it skeletal face. It appeared to be covered in oily brown rags, one small, wrinkled breast exposed. This was the woman in my dream. This was the demon living invisibly among the drifters, the death goddess willing my destruction. Tears welled in my eyes as she heaved and growled. When the light hit her face, she let out a shrill, high-pitched wail.

Before I could pull the trigger, she lunged at me, pinning me into the corner of the boxcar. Her long, jagged fingernails ripped into my face as inhuman screams emanated from her mouth. I fought her, kicking and flailing, trying to push her off of me. She was stronger than I thought. She was able to wrestle me to the ground, her long fingers grasping around my neck. Her face was millimeters from mine. Her one eye, the hue of decomposition, bored a hole into mine. Her sour breath felt hot on my face, and her cracked lips spread into a wide leer. In a low, gravelly voice, she spoke to me.

“Eeeeeat you… send you to hell… make my house with your bones,” she screamed.

She sunk her teeth into my shoulder, making me yelp in pain. I thrashed as she dug deeper into my shoulder. The gun was to my right. I tried reaching for it while my other hand pulled her hair, trying to rend her off of me. I was able to slip my middle finger around the trigger guard and bash her across the head with the gun. It shocked her enough that I was able to throw her off. I pointed the gun at her and pulled the trigger, but it missed her, sailing out of the open door of the car into the darkness. She threw herself at my legs, still screaming, and brought me to the ground. I hit her across the shoulders and upper back with the gun and kicked her off again. She was too fast for me. If I was going to have a chance at life, I had to make a decision. I looked out the door of the car and saw trees in the distance. I lunged out of the moving train into the storm.

The side of my body hit the ground, and I rolled down a hill, rain pelting me mercilessly. I only stopped rolling when my body hit the bottom of a ravine. My ears stung from the howl of the wind. I clambered up the hill, trying to get to the tree line. A more piercing howl rang through the night. I looked back to see the woman running on all fours down the hill, shrieking with anger. I used all the strength that I could to run. Blood spilled from my shoulder, and the gun felt like a heavy weight attached to my hand. She was gaining on me, and I knew that my fate would be even bloodier than it would have been on the train. She wanted revenge. This propelled me up the remainder of this obstacle. I rain across a short distance and flung myself into the woods, never stopping to look back. My legs caught across blackberry bushes, and I had to push limbs out of the way of my face. I could still hear her howls in the distance, but I pressed onward in the dark. I could see nothing and felt like I was moving through jelly.

I finally came to a more open part of the woods. I had to stop due to sheer exhaustion, even though I didn’t feel safe. The only sound I could hear now was the light sound of rain hitting dead leaves and crickets chirping. Most of the rain was caught in the canopy above, forming a roof over my head. I was thankful for this slight reprieve. I didn’t want to look at my shoulder, but I felt I had no choice. It was covered in red, blood covering it completely and running in rivulets down my breast. I started crying. I was going to die out here, I would bleed to death, and there would be no escape. That woman would find me, finish me off, and eat my dead body. She would use my bones to make a house, whatever that meant. I was at the mercy of an insane person and far from any civilization I knew of. As I became resolved to my fate, I listened to the rain. I remembered the mountain and the trees and the wind through my hair. I didn’t want to die. Not yet. That’s when I realized the crickets had stopped chirping. Something was moving through the brush somewhere in the distance.

A surge of adrenaline burst through me, and I took off in the opposite direction. I ran and ran and ran, hearing her howl as she tried to find me. I kept running until I saw colored lights ahead of me. It was a diner, on the other side of a road. I started laughing when I saw it, thanking whatever force was in charge of the world for bringing it to me. I pushed the doors open. A waitress was behind the counter. I smiled and collapsed.
I woke up in pain. I was propped up in a booth, with a woman staring at me. I jumped when I saw her.

“Shh,” she said. “You shouldn’t move.”

I looked down at my shoulder. It was covered in gauze, but it wasn’t bleeding anymore.

“I-I need to get to a hospital,” I said.

She looked at me sympathetically.

“I’m sorry, hon, but the nearest one is about an hour away. It’s pouring out there. I don’t want to risk either of us. I stopped the bleeding. You’re holding up just fine.”

I looked at her blankly.

“What happened to you?” she asked.

I was swiftly reminded of my terrifying encounter with the thing that stalked me like an animal.

“I don’t wanna talk about it,” I said.

The waitress nodded. She brought me something to eat. She introduced herself as Mae. She started telling me about herself. At any other time, this would kind have annoyed me, but anything that could take my mind off of the recent hours was welcome. Mae had had a fairly hard life. Her stories weren’t uplifting, but they felt like Disney movies compared to what I had just faced. She talked about how she and her siblings, a brother and a sister, and been moved from foster home to foster home. They weathered sexual, psychological, and physical abuse. She mentioned one home where a male pedophile had locked her and her sister in the closet while he sodomized her younger brother.

“My life was hell as a child. But, it did get better,” she said. “I have a pretty good life now. I make good money for what I do. I can go out and drink. I have friends. I can’t complain,” she shrugged.

“What about your siblings?” I asked.

She hung her head. Mae didn’t say anything for a few seconds, but she finally spoke.

“My brother couldn’t take it anymore. He committed suicide a few years later. My sister was placed in a psychiatric facility. She was supposed to stay there for the rest of her life. But she left eventually.”

I looked at her.

“So, she got better?”

“You could say that.”

“What do you mean?”

She gave a small smile as she looked at the gauze on my chest.

“I guess it would make more sense for me to explain further. The bastard pervert who raped my brother – my sister killed him. She took his eyes out and bit his nose off.”

I stared at her in silence, but she continued.

“They were going to lock her up, but a shrink determined that she wasn’t in sound mind when she did it. So, they sent her to the looney bin. She was only trying to protect my brother. He and I would go visit her. She talked about getting revenge on everyone who had hurt us. When she had bit that son of a bitch’s nose off, she said that she liked the taste of the blood. She told me that she was going to eat all of the people that had hurt us. She said that if she ate them and shit them out, that would be sending them to hell. God wouldn’t take them, because they were shit. Those people drove her insane. But she’s still smart. She escaped. I still see her sometimes.”

I was trembling. Mae looked up at me the same way that a lion looks at a gazelle. She zeroed in on my shoulder.

“You met her tonight, didn’t you?” She smiled with all the evil in the world, her pale blue eyes lighting up at my terror.

I remained silent. She laughed. Her voice dropped down to a whisper.

“She wants to send everyone to hell. I really do admire that in her. Sometimes, she’ll bring me something – an arm or a leg. I’ll cook it up for her. She’ll pull the meat apart like a dog. She takes the bones back with her. I followed her once. She sticks them in the ground around her. It’s like she builds a wall around herself.”

“You’re insane,” I choked out.

“Maybe I could find her. I’m sure she’s looking for you. We could eat you together.”

Mae cocked her head and grinned at me. I bolted from the booth and raced out the door. I looked back to see Mae grinning that evil sneer of hers. I ran down the road, hoping and praying that someone would pick me up. I put all my effort into getting away from this place, this experience, this life I had made. I ran into the night.

Occasionally, I would hear something in the woods beside me. Something walking. I wondered if it was her. After two hours, I had no choice but to slow my pace. My legs couldn’t take more than a sluggish crawl. To my left, a rowdy biker bar crackled like electricity through the night. Two men stood outside near their motorcycles under a yellow light. They laughed and threw back beers. They stopped their chatter when they saw me. They followed me with their eyes. One of them had shoulder length black hair. He smirked as he looked me up and down. At this, I disappeared into the woods.
I live in a different place now. It’s an apartment. It’s not as nice as my other one, though. I do some odd jobs. They don’t pay much, but they get me what I need. I’ll work at the little corner store nearby. I sell watermelons to old people and act like I’m normal. After my day is done, I take the money and go to the bad part of town. I get the stuff from the man who can give it to me. I don’t want to do it, but it helps me to forget. Forget my life, my current situation. It helps me forget her. I go up the steps to the dingy place where I live. The other people who live there stare wide-eyed at me as I go by. I don’t know why.

When I get inside my place, I ready my materials. I tie a tourniquet at my upper arm and smack my veins so I can see them. The needle sucks the stuff from the spoon. I flick it to expel any air bubbles. When I put it inside me, I go away. I see the mountains, I see the trees, I feel the sun. I feel alive. The drugs don’t work when it rains outside though. When the thunder booms and the wind howls, she’s there. I can’t fight her with the needle. The sun is overtaken by black clouds and a hideous, killing cold sets in. I lay in the middle of the moving boxcar, my limbs severed. I can only scream. She lopes around the car, fastening bones together, always making sure her eye and my eyes meet. Her mouth pulls back in a wide smile, laughing. Life will always be a cage. You just have to make sure it’s one you’ve built yourself. I broke out of my cage, and I don’t have the means to build a new one. So she does.

Credit: thetreesshallfall

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The Dark Mirror at the Eastman Estate

June 3, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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“Drink the blood! Drink the blood!”

Tessa jumped and cursed at the ancient African Grey parrot in the silver cage. She had been in her new position only a fortnight and that bird was already giving her nightmares. The thing was withered and grumpy and he repeated the creepiest nonsense. Tessa was charged with covering the cage at night so the bird wouldn’t be disturbed. She also had to feed the damn thing and clean his cage.

The parrot, by the name of Quincy, would as soon bite you as look at you, and he seemed to hate Tessa especially. He screamed if she entered the room and tried frantically to get at her fingers when she opened the door. Tessa had gotten some gloves from the gardener to protect against Quincy’s savage beak, but there was nothing to protect her maid’s uniform from the dried shit that he inevitably would fling at her. For an old timer, Quincy had no shortage of energy.

“Is Quincy talking rubbish again?” Mrs. Desmond, the housekeeper, announced her presence with the clinking of the many keys she wore at her waist. Tessa curtsied promptly before answering.

“He does say the queerest things. Wherever did he learn that phrase?”

“Which one?”

“The one about -” Tessa hesitated before whispering, “drinking blood.”

“Oh… that. I can’t say, really. Some would believe he learned it from Mr. Murdock. He was a footman who ended up at the asylum in the next county, but Quincy was scaring the new hires long before Murdock went loopy.” Mrs. Desmond smiled. Tessa had taken to the housekeeper immediately, for she was a kindly woman who seemed eager to make the new maid feel at home. When Mrs. Desmond had learned that Tessa was an orphan she had clucked her tongue but kept her silence, which Tessa liked. She was tired of being pitied.

“There now Miss Tessa, don’t you worry about Quincy. If he were a person he would be at the asylum too. He’s a mad old bird, and nothing more. It is often that I’ve wished Lady Eastman weren’t so attached to him. Mina hated him too.”

“Mina?” Tessa asked.

“The young lady you replaced.” Mrs. Desmond said.

“If I may,” Tessa asked, “why was she dismissed? I don’t mean to pry, but I know that she left unusually fast, I wouldn’t want to repeat her error.”

“Yes, she was dismissed within a year. Mina just wasn’t the right fit for this house. ” Mrs. Desmond said, but she avoided Tessa’s gaze.

“Look in the Dark Mirror,” Quincy said softly. Tessa shuddered.

The mysterious and little seen lady of the house went by the name of Eastman, and she often asked to have Quincy brought to her room. Mrs. Desmond would have two of the footmen carry the parrot in his heavy cage, and Lady Eastman would shut herself in with him for hours on end, to the point where Tessa was sure she knew exactly who was teaching the bird those creepy sayings. She supposed she couldn’t blame the old lady, she was older than any of the staff knew, and in her bed most of the time. Tessa had heard the serving girls talking about whether she was dying at last, and there was wild speculation about whom the estate might pass to when that time came.

No one knew whether Lady Eastman had any living relatives. She certainly didn’t receive visitors, although she sent out and took in a great many letters from the post. Occasionally Tessa was asked to deliver the letters to the post office, although she didn’t recognize any of the names- Doctor VanMartin, Monsieur Li, Messrs. Poulin, Sowers and Worth. None of these names were local ones. Still, Tessa enjoyed the hour long carriage ride; it was an opportunity to rest her feet, and the task was much coveted by the other staff.
Thus, Tessa passed her time, dreaming of the day where she might climb the ranks in the household, and then eventually be recommended by Mrs. Desmond to a higher position at a more esteemed household. Not that the Eastman Estate was anything to sneer at, quite the contrary, but it was rather out of the way of most of the civilized world, and the whole place was awfully dark and dreary.
Set out in the middle of a bleak looking countryside, the Italianate style home had been completed in the early 1800s according to the fashion and taste of the time. The result was pleasing to the eye, but the interior left much to be desired. The Eastman family crest was in shades of crimson, but Lady Eastman had redecorated after her husband’s early death in the colors of her maiden family name, which was Rookby. This meant a raven on a silver field, so that as a result the entire estate was draped in black and seemed to be in eternal mourning. Lady Eastman had never remarried.

As the summer started to fade into autumn, Tessa found that she had grown comfortable with the routine of her new position. Mrs. Desmond would give her a few keys in the mornings, which would open the rooms that she was assigned to clean. Usually these were guest rooms that were hardly ever used, but they were kept in working order just the same. Tessa would dust, or sometimes air the bedding if it had been a while. The estate was enormous, and Tessa sometimes found herself lost while looking for a particular chamber. One morning, Tessa was given only one key, and instructed to clean the study on the fourth floor, and to check the books for signs of decay or rodents. She tried to mask her displeasure, but Mrs. Desmond frowned.

“No sour faces Miss Tessa, you’ve escaped silver polishing duty.”

Tessa swallowed the reply that was on her tongue, since Mrs. Desmond was her superior, but she actually enjoyed silver polishing. Tessa was usually assigned with at least one of the other staff members, and she enjoyed talking with them. They all had such interesting stories. Cleaning the study promised a day of solitude and boredom, and a lot of sneezing.

However, when Tessa found the door she was looking for, she discovered that it was open a crack, although there was no light within. She couldn’t say why, but Tessa felt nervous as she pushed the door open. The blackness of the room seemed to swallow any light from the hallway, and she realized that the drapes must have been drawn shut. Strange for the door to be open, had no one noticed it? Any room that wasn’t used regularly was always locked tight upon Mrs. Desmond’s orders.

Taking a deep breath, Tessa strode across the room and threw open the drapes. A high pitched shriek burst from one corner of the room and Tessa nearly fainted with shock. Turning, she beheld a skeletal figure in a dusty armchair, arms crossed over its face.

“Close the drapes you damned fool!” The person cried.

Tessa hurried to comply, her hands trembling as she returned the room to darkness once more.

“Now light the lamps, so I know whom I will be dismissing.” The voice, coming from the darkness, was hoarse and crackled like old leaves. Tessa hurried to comply, taking a match from her apron pocket, dropping it, and lighting a second. She looked around in vain for a lamp, but it was difficult to see. She cried out as the flame burned her fingers and she dropped the spent match to join the first on the floor.

“The lamp is on the desk to your left,” The voice said impatiently.

Tessa lit a third match, and the room was illuminated at last, although the darkness seemed reluctant to leave, and hovered near the creature in the chair, casting her deep in shadow. Tessa realized that this must be Lady Eastman.

“My lady, please, I had no idea you were here.” Tessa said timorously.

“I have no doubt of that,” Lady Eastman snorted, but she no longer sounded as angry, “come closer, I didn’t realize you were a young girl; that makes a difference.”
“I beg your pardon, my lady?” Tessa asked.

“Come closer,” The voice snapped like dry twigs, and Tessa walked forward, kneeling beside the chair at Lady Eastman’s gesture.
“You’re lovely, not at all like Mina,” Lady Eastman wheezed, her version of laughter. Tessa couldn’t have said the same for Lady Eastman. The lady of the house looked as though she were ready to lie in the grave. Pale skin was stretched too tightly on her small face. Her eyes were heavily shadowed, and there were only a few wisps of hair clinging to her scalp. A silver dressing gown in beautiful heavy fabric draped over her thin neck and sagged back from her spare shoulders. Tessa noticed black ravens embroidered on the collar.
“What is your name?” Lady Eastman asked.
“I’m T-Tessa.”
“Tessa?” Lady Eastman repeated, as if tasting the word. “What an unfortunate name you have. But it’s common enough and will have to do. Now tell me, lovely little Tessa, are you a little slattern like Mina? Do you enjoy male company?”
“No ma’am,” Tessa replied slowly, feeling shocked, “I haven’t had the occasion to meet many gentlemen.”
“Ah, that’s good. Very promising. And your family, do you write to them regularly?”
Tessa stiffened defensively.
“I have no family, I was sent here when I came of age from the orphanage in Southerton.”

“That’s a pity,” said Lady Eastman, although she didn’t sound as though she pitied Tessa. “Did you learn to read at all in that orphanage?”

“Oh, yes, I’m quite fond of reading.” Tessa said. It was one of her few pleasures, and she half hoped that Lady Eastman was about to offer her the use of the library or something similar.

“Very well, that is all I need to know. Be a good girl and go fetch Mrs. Desmond for me.”

Tessa was very glad to take her leave, remembering only at the last to dip a curtsy to her employer before retreating.

She found Mrs. Desmond easily enough, overseeing the kitchen where the cook was complaining about the quality of the sugar. Mrs. Desmond’s eyes opened wide when Tessa explained what had happened, but she nodded and left quickly enough after being told that she had been summoned. Before departing she told Tessa to assist Regan in polishing the silver, which Tessa was happy to do, but when Mrs. Desmond returned she had a queer look, and said that it was Lady Eastman’s wish that Tessa attend her in her bedroom every morning and read to her. Regan’s eyes were like saucers when she heard this, and Tessa felt sure that she looked much the same. True, she had hoped Lady Eastman would bestow some kindness on a fellow bibliophile, but the idea of reading to that frightening old woman made Tessa cringe.

Later, Tessa would think back on Mrs. Desmond, and how she had not been her usual self when she gave these instructions. The housekeeper would never converse in a friendly manner with Tessa again.

Lady Eastman’s room was in the west wing of the house on the fourth floor. The window to her bedroom overlooked the gardens, but the curtains were always shut tight, so she saw neither blooming flowers nor bloody sunset. Mrs. Desmond said that many years ago, Lady Eastman had kept the window open day and night, but had preferred to keep herself shut in almost total darkness after the death of her husband.

Tessa eased open the heavy door to Lady Eastman’s room and closed it behind her, as she had previously been instructed. Someone, probably Mrs. Desmond, had already been in to light some of the lamps and start the fireplace.

Lady Eastman was settled back against her pillows in a large four poster bed and she smiled as the young maid entered. Quincy stood on the far side of the bed in his cage, uncharacteristically quiet. His glittering eyes watched Tessa too.
“Well, how do you like my bedroom?” Lady Eastman asked.
Tessa looked around, there were many porcelain figures, and art on the walls depicting people that Tessa supposed were long dead relatives, but what fascinated her the most was a mirror that had been hung on the back of the door. It was framed in silver, and studded with opals. The face of the mirror was a smoky black, and Tessa thought that it must have been saved from a fire. A strange thing to have in one’s bedroom though, since it cast no reflection. Perhaps Lady Eastman had kept it as a memento of some kind. The mirror wasn’t any more special than anything else in the room, but Tessa felt drawn to it somehow. She stood in front of it, and squinted, as though by doing so she could clear the surface. It seemed to shimmer for a moment, and Tessa rubbed her eyes, sure she had been imagining things. She turned and saw that Lady Eastman was studying her with narrowed eyes, waiting for a response.

“Your room is very beautiful.” Tessa said.
“Is there something you like in particular?” Lady Eastman asked, her voice almost sly.
“There were a great many things, Lady. However, my favorite is this mirror with the blackened surface. It seems to have been burnt, and yet the frame remains exquisite.”
“You like the Dark Mirror, do you?” Lady Eastman chuckled, “and you have such pretty words to describe it. Well, let me tell you – that mirror which is as black as the night came to me from a far away land. I paid very dearly for it – and why do you think that is?”
“I thought it was caused by a fire, but now- I don’t know, my Lady.”
“Do you believe in curses, child?”
“I do not, my lady. They are pure fiction, meant to frighten and entertain.” Tessa wondered what Lady Eastman wanted from her. Fear? She wouldn’t get it.
“You are a foolish girl, but that’s all the better for me. Come read to me.” Lady Eastman pointed to a straight backed chair beside her bed, a book already upon it, and Tessa bowed her head, feeling as though she had been gravely out of place. She sat and began to read, blushing when she realized that she was reading a particularly racy gothic romance. But then, elderly women were probably prone to the same fantasies as the young, so she was able to bear it a bit, only, she wished Quincy would stop staring at her. After an hour had passed, Lady Eastman raised her hand to signal Tessa to stop, and she asked her to look once more into the dark mirror.

“What do you see?” Lady Eastman asked.

“Nothing, my lady.” Tessa replied, wondering what in the world the woman expected her to say.

“As I thought. You may go.” Lady Eastman turned away and started whispering to Quincy. Tessa winced at this display of madness and edged out of the room.

Lady Eastman rarely conversed with her after that first day. Tessa would stoke her fire in the morning once the autumn turned cold, and Lady Eastman would command her to read from the same gothic romance. Quincy was always in the room waiting for Tessa, and he would ruffle his feathers restlessly until she had sat down. Each time before Tessa left, Lady Eastman told her to look into the Dark Mirror and see if she noticed anything different. Tessa knew now that Lady Eastman had gone quite mad, as the mirror always looked the same to her, but the only person she could have confided in was Mrs. Desmond, and the housekeeper was openly avoiding her.

One day, the mirror looked different.

“It’s changed.” Tessa said wonderingly. Her eyes were fixed on the mirror, she couldn’t have imagined this. She backed away slightly, feeling disturbed for reasons she couldn’t have explained.

“What? What did you say?” Lady Eastman’s voice was alert and attentive. This in itself was unusual, as she had, as a rule, been very bored after their first meeting. Each time Tessa had said that the mirror remained unchanged Lady Eastman had grown more and more disinterested in her.

“The opals are pink now – not white, and the surface is clearer. I think- I can see something moving.”

“Can you?” Lady Eastman’s voice was harsh and heavy, and very close.

Tessa turned away from the mirror and saw that Lady Eastman had moved to all fours at the end of her bed, mere feet from where Tessa now stood. The old woman’s gnarled hands had clawed into the sheets and were digging into the mattress, but her face was what truly spooked the maid. Lady Eastman was perspiring, and her eyes were bulging with some sort of crazed excitement. Rivulets of sweat tracked down her face and had soaked the front of her nightdress. Tessa gave a frightened gasp at the sight and backed toward the door. She had no idea what it meant, but the moving figure in the mirror felt evil somehow, and Lady Eastman was acting so queerly.

“You should be in bed,” Tessa cried.

“Yes…. yes.” Lady Eastman sat back suddenly on her knees. Her eyes closed, and when they opened they had a frighteningly distant look, it was as if she had suddenly come back from a journey to the edge of the universe. A thin line of saliva escaped from the corner of her mouth. Tessa found that she was shaking, and she tried to steady herself.

“My apologies,” Lady Eastman gave Tessa a strange smile, “I am told that I am not always myself these days. Never mind the mirror, in certain lights it can be quite mesmerizing, but it is a parlor trick, nothing more.”

Tessa looked doubtfully at the mirror. The shadow within seemed to grow still. She felt like a mouse being watched by a house cat who had been biding his time for far too long. Quincy, at the side of the bed as always, made a low croaking sound that Tessa tried to ignore.

“If you say so, my lady.” Tessa said.

“Come, help me get back under this quilt. My strength is failing me. I had thought there was no hope… but there is… yes. I cannot be mistaken. The opals, they are alight… The promise…. the trade.”

Alarmed, Tessa ran toward the bed and helped Lady Eastman to get comfortable again. Her aged employer was no longer making any sense. Clearly she was having an episode of some kind, and despite the fact that the old woman gave her the creeps, Tessa felt a bit sorry for her too. The both of them were alike after all, for Lady Eastman had no one to care whether she lived or died except her servants. The old woman sighed once she settled back against the pillows. As Tessa bent to tuck the quilt under her chin she found that Lady Eastman was cupping her cheek, almost tenderly.

“So young, and full of life. I would suck the youth straight from your sweet lips, if I could.”

“I beg your pardon?” Tessa jerked away, too quickly, for the Lady Eastman’s fingernails cut her cheek in two thin lines. Tessa pressed a hand to her injured cheek, and stared with horror at the figure in the bed.

“Did I say something?” Lady Eastman’s eyes were wide and innocent. She truly was mad after all.

“Not at all, my lady. Please get some rest.” Tessa bowed and exited the room, but not fast enough to miss what Quincy said next.

“Drink the blood!”

Tessa began dreading her hour in Lady Eastman’s room after that. The mirror no longer moved for her, but the figure in it was still there and it seemed to change positions. The opals were always darkening in color to the point where Tessa believed she might be catching the madness from Lady Eastman. Of course Lady Eastman herself was bad enough. Even Quincy was preferable company when compared to that creepy old woman, although he hadn’t warmed to Tessa at all despite all the time he spent listening to her voice.

“He won’t warm up to you, either,” Regan warned her one afternoon, “That bird, he doesn’t like the new girls.”

“Well, I’m not a new girl anymore.” Tessa had protested. In the next moment, Mrs. Desmond had cleared her throat loudly, and the girls conversation had ended there. Tessa thought that Mrs. Desmond had grown even colder toward her in the last month or so, and she couldn’t help feeling hurt by it, for she noticed Mrs. Desmond was on friendly terms with everyone else in the house.

One morning, while on her way for her reading session, she overheard Mrs. Desmond conversing with Lady Eastman in the lady’s room.
“I suppose you will need me to clean up.” Mrs. Desmond was saying, her voice was very informal for someone who was speaking with her employer. Tessa paused, too intrigued to interrupt.
“Yes, it’s nearly ready.”
“And the bird?”
“Quincy has spoken with the creature and is in agreement. He said today is soon enough. The girl’s voice and face has piqued the creatures interest. I was worried at first, it took such a long time to awaken.” Lady Eastman was speaking with more urgency now.
“That settles it, then.” Said Mrs. Desmond.
Tessa clamped a hand over her mouth in horror mixed with amusement. Mrs. Desmond was pretending the bird could talk! Was she pandering to Lady Eastman’s ravings? Or did she share the madness? The conversation had turned so strange.
“I will expect my share of ten years, as before, for my silence.” Mrs. Desmond said crisply.
“As you wish, just make sure the floor is empty.”
“No need to remind me of that. The others have been sent to air out the bedrooms in the guest wing. They’ll be busy for hours. Of course, I’ll need to start dismissing some of the younger girls who didn’t work out.”
Tessa had little warning, the carpet muffled Mrs. Desmond’s footsteps. The door opened suddenly and Tessa had to pretend to be surprised. Evidently she wasn’t a good actress, because Mrs. Desmond’s eyes grew narrow at the sight of her.
“Have you been here long?” The housekeeper asked suspiciously.
“Not at all, I was just a bit late this morning.” Tessa lied.

“Come in, then.”

Tessa hesitated, but Mrs. Desmond pulled her into the room and shut the door behind them. She made no move to leave. Tessa saw that in the chair where she usually sat, instead of a book there was an open box with silver knife that glinted in the lamp light.

“Well, stoke the fire, girl.” Mrs. Desmond commanded. All the warmth had gone from her voice, and she was quite the stranger now. Tessa performed the task clumsily, she was nervous at this change of routine and she keenly felt the eyes of Mrs. Desmond and Lady Eastman on her back all the while. Quincy made a small hissing noise as the fire sprang to life.

“Please, it’s finished. May I go now?”

“Not until you look into the mirror.” Mrs. Desmond said quietly.

“You knew Lady Eastman kept asking me to do that?” Tessa was confused. She looked to Lady Eastman, who was rising from her bed with difficulty. Mrs. Desmond made a move as if to help her.

“Never mind that,” Lady Eastman rasped, “get to it. I’m feeling weak.”

Mrs. Desmond shoved Tessa toward the mirror as Lady Eastman came to stand behind them. The opals had gone black, with streaks of red veining their surface. The last of the smoke that had clouded the surface began to recede. To her horror, Tessa realized that she could see what was in the mirror clearly for the first time, and it was not her reflection that was shown.

A horned creature of darkness and flames stood on cloven feet, its clawed hands pressed against the glass. The body was upright and manlike, but the face was pure animal, and seemed to shift as she looked. As Tessa watched, feeling rooted to the floor, it opened its mouth and gushed out dark smoke that somehow floated into the room. It spoke gutturally in a language that Tessa did not know. A strange voice spoke with it, and Tessa realized that Quincy was mimicking the creature, speaking the words in unison.

Tessa screamed.

“Open her vein!” Mrs. Desmond roared as she grabbed Tessa’s arm. Tessa struggled and her eyes widened as she saw that Lady Eastman was holding the silver knife. With great effort, Tessa twisted and drove her knee into Mrs. Desmond’s stomach. There was a great whoosh of air as Mrs. Desmond recoiled, and Tessa cried out as she felt a sharp pain in her back. She flailed, and managed to connect her elbow with Lady Eastman’s nose- it made a sickening crunch, and the old woman cursed.

Tessa reached for the doorknob, waves of pain coursing down her back, she was sure she had been stabbed. It didn’t matter. She had to flee. But the figure in the mirror was reaching toward her, its fingers, impossibly, breached the surface and radiated heat as they reached for her face. She felt her flesh crisp and burn, and all she could smell was smoke. Tessa ducked and threw the door open, fleeing into the hall. Mrs. Desmond was shouting her name angrily, but Tessa was already halfway down the stairs. There were so many flights of stairs, and all the while she heard footsteps behind her. Horribly, she thought she heard the sound of hooves as well. Tessa stumbled once, twice, and made it to the front door. She ran into the chilly late autumn air, out into the desolate countryside.

She couldn’t let them catch her.

Credit: C.F. Campbell

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June 2, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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Ever since she was small, Patty Carson had been fearful of the dark. As was almost every small child, which is to be expected, since children tend to be afraid of things they don’t yet understand. Things that they can’t quite see with their eyes, but with their minds. Things that their parents can’t quite protect from, since they aren’t real. Things that wait until you’re alone, solitary, and left with your thoughts; they take the shape of the shadow of the dresser, the wind in the curtains, the rustling of tree branches on windowpanes, or the flickering of a streetlamp. They slip into the corners of your eyes, their eyes glowing, but not quite there. These are the devils that most children have to face when they try to sleep, as they try to ignore the shifting in the darkness by pulling their comforters over their heads.

This, however, wasn’t quite why Patty was scared of the dark. No, she was more practical than that. What she was haunted by, she didn’t believe to be real at all, which is extremely unlike most children. However, this did not negate the fact that it only took one night for a terribly deep and irrational fear of the darkness to be planted into her small head, there to stay for years. One night, in the summer of 1995, that was by most means an ordinary night to anyone else.

Even though it wasn’t.

“G’night, Patty!”

A small voice broke through the still dark of the bedroom, making Patty jump. She clicked her flashlight off from under her nearly suffocating position under her comforter, hoping to the heavens above that she hadn’t been caught reading after she was supposed to go to bed. She waited for a few moments, fiddling with the bottom of her nightgown in feverish anxiety as the seconds ticked by on the small alarm clock on her nightstand. It was one of those old-y looking ones, the ones that was in the shape of a circle, and was equipped with two bells that would, when the set time came, ring rather enthusiastically as they were hit mercilessly by the small lever that was sticking out of a hole in the top. Patty both loved and hated that clock, both for its cute blue and green design and its incessant ringing in the mornings when she had to go to school, respectively.

“Patty! Pst, Paaaatty!”, the voice called again, sounding a bit more agitated than before. With a small sigh, Patty lifted her head from her covers, seeing that her sister was wide awake and looking at her from across their shared and darkened room, her eyes twinkling with mischief and slight annoyance at the way her older sibling had ignored her. Her dark hair had been pulled out of its signature messy pigtails for the night, though there were still remnants of the scruffy mess it had been not an hour ago, if anything could be told from the one single crease in her mahogany locks that the elastics had left behind.

“Yeah, what is it?”, Patty’s voice was almost a growl, and she hunkered down once again into her sheets before her little sister could answer. A frustrated huff resounded through the room, but the elder of the two girls payed no mind to it. She didn’t often take kindly to people who interrupted her precious reading sessions, and that included her sibling. Sometimes, even more so than others, much to the annoyance of their parents.

“Nothin’. Jus’ wanted to say g’night.”, Patty’s little sister, whose name was, in fact, Celia, seemed to be pouting from across the room, her childish slurs making it worse than it should’ve been. Patty could just tell. There was absolutely no way she wasn’t. Celia was five, so she was going to pout and cry and scream and kick when she didn’t get what she wanted. Despite being only eight, Patty knew this. Luckily, there had been no tears this time. The elder of the two felt the crease that had formed between her eyebrows lessen a bit, and she let out a small breath of air. Almost a huff, but not quite. It could’ve been a sigh, but it was too quiet for that, too. Not that Patty cared. She finally let a small smile cross her plush, childish lips.

“Yeah, yeah, goodnight to you, too.” was the eventual response, and, without another word, Patty roughly turned herself away from the conversation, making a small show of rustling the covers and turning away from Celia. A small giggle was heard, and more rustling.

“I love you, sissy.”

Patty gulped heavily at that. She wasn’t used to her sister actually saying that out loud. It wasn’t that they didn’t love each other; far from it, actually. True, they had their quarrels, sometimes more often than others, but they were relatively close, for siblings, and Patty was proud of that fact. However, it wasn’t often where they would verbally admit their affections for one another, if at any time at all, so it had been quite shocking for Patty to hear it then, in such a random moment. It almost left her with a foreboding feeling of sorts, but, since she did consider herself to be rather clever and level-minded (despite the fact that she had no idea what exactly ‘level-minded’ meant), she shook it off, settling for another smile that would go unseen by Celia in the low light. The only witness of her sleepily happy expression was the bumpy surface of the now grey-ish blue-looking wall and a stuffed panda bear that her father had bought her at the zoo once. The bear itself was pink, though it couldn’t readily be deciphered in the shallow darkness.

“Love you, too. Now, go to sleep, or mom’ll be mad!”, Patty’s warning elicited a small gasp from the girl opposing her, and more rustling sheets were heard. Then, it was silent once more.

The clock ticked on ominously, though Patty only paid heed to the rhythmic sound to count the seconds, bobbing her head softly with each number until she reached sixty. It was a ritual of hers, to wait exactly a minute before trying to read under her covers after the lights had been turned off. Or, to put it more into perspective, when she was finished with a late night conversation with Celia. Most older folk would agree that only one minute was far too short to be waiting for the coast to clear, but even Patty, who was rather mature for her age, was still eight years old, and a minute was the absolute longest that she could wait before she got antsy. One minute, in her childish mindsight, was plenty.

Light snoring could be heard as Patty sat up, slowly and quietly, her round eyes locking on the sleeping figure of her sister in her fluffy pink comforter (though she couldn’t really see the pink; it was tinted to a more grey colour by the moonlight streaming through their shared curtains). It wasn’t really that she had anything to worry about, since she knew all too well that Celia was a decently deep sleeper; an incident with the stove had assured both her and her parents of that. However, she didn’t want to take any chances. After all, her book was waiting for her, and at a climax, too! There was no way that she’d let her sister catch her now.

A single, small hand reached carefully from the confines of Patty’s bed. Its small fingers groped mindlessly around the top of her nightstand, appearing almost like a large spider that can’t seem to locate its web. And though most spiders would indeed find their webs, if they were in the right place, Patty’s hand did not find what it sought. There was no book on her nightstand, nor was there any clunky flashlight. She was nearly absolutely sure that she had set them there, almost positive, but there was not where she had set them, apparently.

Patty didn’t tend to be forgetful, even at the worst of times. She never forgot her homework, nor where she left her lunch when she was at school, or even Celia’s ‘secret’ stash of black licorice. No, she liked to pride herself on distinctly remembering where she put each and every thing that she possessed (even though she sometimes failed in that pride). This was why a chill ran up and down her spine when her hand touched nothing but the smooth surface of her wooden nightstand and the cool metal surface of that cute but horrible alarm clock.

Her first worry was that her parents had somehow confiscated her book and ‘her’ flashlight (she may or may not have taken it from her father’s desk drawer) while she was saying goodnight to Celia, but that thought was quickly banished. How in the world could they have done it, anyways? They can’t teleport like in the cartoons they watched on Saturdays…

Patty’s mind whirled in a way that only a child’s mind would whirl, filling with irrational thoughts about her parents screaming at her once the morning came, telling her to ‘stop reading before bed, Patty! You know that you shouldn’t! You have school, and if you don’t get good sleep, you’ll get bad grades! Patty! You need good grades to read! Patty!’ It wasn’t as if they said these things to her on a regular basis, forbid the thought. However, the subtle glances had been enough. Worried eyes over the counter as she ate breakfast, nearly falling asleep in her oatmeal. Stern stares over the morning paper as she slowly got ready for school each morning, heading out the door with a small wave and a soft ‘goodbye, mom and dad. I’ll see you after school.’ Patty was sure that she knew what they were thinking. ‘Patty, you read too much for your age. You should play more with other kids. Patty. Patty, little Patty. We know you use our old flashlight at night to read until dawn. It’s not good for you, baby girl. You know it isn’t, Patty.’

A swift blink of her chocolate brown eyes put an end to those scenarios. Patty’s hand clenched as she practically yanked it back into her covers, swallowing thickly as her eyes scanned her room, not for the first time. She silently wondered to herself as she did this, watching as shapes seemingly wormed and swarmed across her vision, squirming in the shadows, hinting at things that would have any other child cowering under their bed sheets. Patty had long since taught herself not to fear these lying shadows, telling her overactive brain to ignore it and continue onto the next page, always the next page. At least she never got nightmares.

However, right in that moment, as her thoughts swirled just as the shadows did, her mind came to a screeching halt as it grasped an idea. An awful idea, truly, and one that she was afraid to admit to. Afraid to admit to being afraid of the idea.

If her parents couldn’t have taken her book and her flashlight, then who had?

It seemed like hours for Patty as she lay there, silent, frozen, under her comforter, which was actually rather warm and cozy. The familiar material did nothing to comfort her, her breathing shallow as her wide eyes tried to keep themselves from blinking. Who had taken her book? Who had done it? Celia was asleep, and all the way across the room; besides, Patty would’ve heard her if she had gotten up. There was no way that she would’ve done it. So, what had?

What had done it?

Patty shook her head furiously, pressing her tiny fists against her forehead in an attempt to push the foreign thoughts out of her mind. What did she mean, what? It had to have been either mom, dad, or Celia, there was no one else who could’ve done it! Stop being so silly! Her eyes clenched shut, her knees curling together and her feet brushing against what felt like a sock that had been long lost within her bedding and had never been picked up. Patty tried to focus on that sock for a long moment, wondering whether or not she would’ve gotten a light but slightly scolding whap on the head for it from her mother’s rolled up crossword book. She probably would’ve…

‘Just go to sleep, Patty. You can ask mom or dad in the morning.’ Patty’s own voice resounded within her head, and she tried to calm her breathing even a little bit. Her heart felt like that of a rabbit’s, beating one hundred miles per minute. It wasn’t as though she actually knew how fast a rabbit’s heart beat, and she was sure that hearts didn’t beat in miles, but the expression seemed to fit the situation, and her father had used it in many different situations, all having to do with your heart beating out of your chest. It seemed appropriate, since it really did feel like her heart was beating in miles. She felt it in her ears, in her palms, in her throat. It seemed like the fright that the loss of a simple book was harder to escape that she had thought.


A small squeal of fright pushed past Patty’s lips at the sudden noise, and she quickly buried her face in her hands. Somewhere in the back of her mind, a rational voice crooned ‘It’s nothing to worry about, Patty. It’s probably just some animal from outside, Patty. Just go to sleep.’

However, that part of her mind was cruelly stamped out once she managed to peek past her hands and into the severely darkened hallway.

The usually cheerful blue wallpaper that covered the interior of the hallway was nowhere to be seen, cloaked by the black shadows that now encompassed it. The light from her window could only illuminate so much, and that light only reached out so far, only about two feet outside her door before melting away, giving into the darkness of the night. That light, the usually comforting blue-grey of the moon, only served to frighten the poor girl more. And it wasn’t so much the moonlight, but what it illuminated, that brought on this new fear.

There was her book, lying face-down in the hallway. Looking innocent, as if it had been there the whole time. Patty knew for a fact that it had not.

Chocolate brown eyes snapped up from the ominous book, staring into the darkness as a deer stares at a wolf, just as it’s been trapped. A stare that held fear, pure and sharp, as it waited, patiently for the claws of its predator to close upon them, for those hungry jaws to snap around their neck like a rat caught in a trap. Waited for death.

It seemed as if Patty’s feet worked on their own accord, stepping from the safe and warm confines of her bed and comforter, her head abandoning her fluffy pillow. They slowly padded across the cold hardwood floor, watching for any familiar creaky boards. The only sound that Patty seemed to hear were her own nearly silent footsteps, her soft breathing, and the beating of her own heart as it pounded in her ears. Her hand shakily twitched as it reached down, down to the surface of the floor, sweaty fingers clasping over the slightly worn cover of her book. Her eyes staying upwards, watching for any movements within the shadows. That small, rational voice in the back of her voice chimed in once again, with calming words like ‘it’ll be alright, Patty. There’s nothing really there. It was probably just Celia trying to play a trick on you. Patty, you’re being silly.’

While Patty would’ve loved nothing more than to listen to that voice, pleasant and soft, and go back to bed like she should (after all, it was a school night), something told her that she wouldn’t be able to sleep, whether she liked it or not. It felt as if the darkness was staring at her, mocking her small and childlike form as she stood stock-stiff in the doorway. Her small fingers harshly gripped at the binding of her book, though the object had been forgotten in her hand almost as soon as she had picked it up. For a moment, she almost did listen to the voice, her feet twitching ever so slightly in the direction of her bed.


The young girl’s mind seemed to stop as a haunting voice floated up the stairs, down the black hallway and to her unfortunate ears. Goosebumps prickled against the sleeves of her nightgown, and her eyes were the size of quarters, bulging out of her skull in barely contained terror.

The voice was her mother’s, it seemed. Soft as warm chocolate, as it was when the woman wasn’t angry with either of her daughters. However, something in the tone, as if there was an unexpected bit of spice in the mix, made chills run up and down Patty’s spine like frightened mice. It sounded… almost too sweet. Like her mother was using the sugary tone to make Patty come out of whatever nook or cranny she had managed to fit into to escape punishment.

It was a tone that her mother had never used, not once. That was what was so terrifying.

A shaky breath made it’s way out of the young girl’s lips, almost as if she had forced it out, and it was accompanied by a quivering whimper. If she had been anything but a child, most would have called her pathetic, despite the hypocrisy on most people’s parts, considering the chilling situation. However, Patty was, in fact, a child, and such things were sure to frighten her badly, even though she possessed a surprisingly mature mindset.

“… Mom? What is it?”, Patty’s timid voice called out despite her better judgement, her book now tucked securely against her chest. She took a hesitant step into the darkness of the hallway, her eyes frantically scanning for the nearest light switch. She knew for a fact that the nearest switch was all the way down the hall and next to the stairway, but some frantic and panicking part of her mind desperately wished for a miracle to occur, and for the light switch to somehow move to the wall directly outside her doorway, where she could see it and easily turn on the light. However, as any rational observer would conclude, no such miracle took place, and the hall remained shrouded in black. Patty almost wanted to step back into her room, but her quivering form didn’t seem to listen to her head. Her sock-covered feet took another tentative step from the safety of her bedroom, a decision which she almost immediately regretted.

“Patty! I need you to come downstairs, okay sweetheart?”, the voice crooned yet again, the saccharine laced tone floating into her ears like a sweet-tasting poison. Somehow, Patty’s feet moved further from the moonlight shaft that was cast by the window in her bedroom, her breathing quickening pace and her heart in her mouth. She felt her stomach flip uncomfortably as she lost her vision almost completely, one of her hands reaching out blindly for anything that might be in her way (even though she knew the hallway, and the rest of the house, like the back of her hand; everything seemed to be different once the sun went down). One foot after another, the eight-year-old padded ever so slowly down the hall, her face the epitome of panic and childlike fear. So far, she hadn’t managed to stub her toe on anything (especially that nasty side table her parents had placed next to their bedroom door for some odd reason. She had never bothered to ask them, but it’s legs gave some rather nasty bruises if you weren’t careful. Patty had learned early on to despise and be watchful of that table), which was surprising, but her mind couldn’t find the will to pick the joy out of that.

Patty almost let out a shriek when she stuck her right foot out and it didn’t land on anything. It almost seemed as if she was going to trip and fall into the infinite abyss of nothingness (so her young mind told her, with a certainty that she couldn’t ignore), until it slapped harshly against the wood of what she assumed was the staircase. She gulped harshly, her throat contracting in an almost painful manner as she paused yet again, her foot frozen on the top stair as she stared blindly into the darkness.

“Mom? Are you still there?”, her voice sounded pitifully squeaky, even to her own mind, as she called out, hoping for a positive response (and, at the same time, wishing that no one would reply at all). It was silent for what seemed like an eternity, and, for that moment only, relief flooded through Patty’s mind, her shoulders falling from their tensed position.

“Yes, sweetie, come on downstairs!”, the tenseness returned with a vengeance as her mother’s voice passed through her being like a ghost, chilling her to the bone. The darkness swirled, as it always had, before her eyes as her mind swam with thoughts, doubts, contradictions, anything that would somehow to convince her not to follow the directions that her mother had given her. Something was definitely not right, Patty was sure of that, but, as she was a young girl, and an inquisitive one, at that, she was almost forced to go and investigate, even though every part of her subconscious was screaming at her to simply go back to her room; she had her book, she simply had to go back to bed and pretend that none of this ever happened. Sadly, for once she deemed not to listen to such thoughts, and she crept cautiously down the stairs.

The cool tiling of the dining room floor caressed the pads of Patty’s feet as she descended onto it. However, it seemed as if it was nothing compared to the shivers running down her spine. Her mind spiralled, and she couldn’t seem to focus on anything. It wasn’t all that surprising, but it was slightly frustrating to the girl, who was trying to be at least somewhat calm. She wasn’t a baby, she could handle a little dark! She wasn’t like Celia, who would cry at a flickering light. No, she was older, she was braver. She’d be fine.

“Mom? Hello?”, her tiny voice echoed off the kitchen walls, her form shaking a bit, like a leaf about to fall off of a branch in the middle of autumn. Again, it was silent as the grave. Patty heard what sounded like an owl hooting outside the kitchen window, which allowed for some much appreciated moonlight to filter in through the half-closed blinds. She could see the stars reflecting off of the smooth, wooden surface of the dining table, and the glint of the many glass cups within their cupboard. They seemed to shine like stars themselves, and the peacefulness of such an observation did not escape Patty. She felt like she wanted to smile for a small moment, until she felt something grasp her shoulder like a vice, making her let out a shriek. The grip felt as cold as ice, though she could definitely say that it didn’t feel like a hand.

“Patty, sweetheart… you shouldn’t read so late at night…”, her mother’s voice seemed to be right beside her ear, though it seemed almost garbled, mixed with something else, something far more sinister than her mother’s soft and warm tone. It was then that Patty finally fully concluded that, whatever this thing was, it was definitely not her mother.

Nothing happened for a few seconds. The grip suddenly released, eliciting another squeak of terror from the small girl. It seemed the terror was over, and she curled into herself a bit as she breathed quick and heavy.

Then, suddenly and like a tidal wave, shadows, feelings solid and cold, encompassed her like an octopus closing in on it’s prey, or a venus fly trap finally closing on the fly which had been lead into its maw by the sweet bait the carnivorous plant had produced just for that purpose. Patty didn’t even have the time, nor the breath, to let out a screech of terror as the darkness covered her mouth like a gag, taking away both her voice and her air. Everything was cold, oh so cold, and Patty squirmed helplessly. It felt as if many sharp needles were being pressed into her skin all at once, and her skin itself was being pressed into her bones, her organs being smooshed together from the sheer force of whatever was holding her. Her breath was lost to her, and she felt herself gasping for anything to fill her struggling lungs with.

“Just hold still, Patty… just hold still…”, the fake voice cooed in an almost cruel way. Patty, who was struggling to simply remain awake (alive), her wriggling finally ceasing as she lost control of her body, finally found the resolve to simply open her eyes. What she saw, she simply couldn’t believe was real.

Two horrid, yellow eyes peered at her from what seemed to be a never ending darkness, and an invisible mouth full of sharp teeth grinned at her, impossibly white. There was something odd dripping off of the pointed canines, a thick, red substance that could almost be mistaken for paint. It was if it was something straight out of a storybook, or the horror stories that the boys at her school would tell her to scare her. She never had thought that it’d be so terrifying when it was staring right at her, with a smile so malicious and eyes so cold, as cold as the emptiness of space, the void. She knew, very well, that it wanted to kill her. She also knew that she couldn’t do a thing. After all, what could she do against a shadow? Patty felt something dribble past her lips as her stomach seemed to give way, an impossible pain filling her entire being.

“Just hold still…”

Patty was finally able to scream.


A gasp slipped past Patty’s lips as she sat up from her bed, sweat clinging to her forehead and her bedsheets sticking to her thighs like glue. She simply lay there for a moment, trying to calm her breathing as she stared up at her darkened ceiling. She dazedly began picking out patterns in the bumpy texture, trying to find shapes in the randomness as one might in clouds. It always seemed to help after that nightmare, for some reason that Patty couldn’t quite explain. Maybe it was because it gave her something else to focus on, or it was just entertaining enough to be distracting from her fearful mindset. Either way, it was a welcome comfort for her.

It had taken years for Patty to get over her experience with that… thing that dreadful summer night. Her parents had actually found her after they heard her scream, only to find her laying in a quivering ball on the tiled floor of the kitchen, looking like she had just been thrown through a window. Neither her mom or her dad had had an explanation for what had happened to her, even though they did their best to explain it to the doctor they had taken Patty too almost immediately after she was discovered. However, Patty had insisted that it was a monster, a terrible monster that attacked her in the night, like a shadow that swallowed you up when you least expected it. She had been terrified out of her wits for months afterwards, absolutely refusing to sleep anywhere but her parents’ room for the entire period. It took even longer for Patty to learn to sleep without a nightlight.

It was only years afterwards that Patty, now much older, was able to convince herself that what had happened to her wasn’t real. Of course it wasn’t, since there was absolutely no way for a shadow to try and kill her. She had probably been sleepwalking and tripped on something. There was no other explanation that Patty was willing to accept, since she had found that holding onto that irrational fear of the shadow thing would not get her very much sympathy once she made it to high school. So, in light of that, she pushed the terrible night to the back of her brain, only to resurface when she had nightmares.

Or those rare instances where she found herself staring at the shadows as they swirled beyond her eyes, wondering what exactly they could be hiding.

Patty ran a hand through her hair with a heavy sigh, forcing herself to sit up in her bed and check the time with a weary glance. She winced harshly when she found the time to be 3:26 in the morning, and let out an annoyed huff. The nightmare never really went away, she found. No matter how many times she told herself that what happened that night wasn’t real, that it was just a figment of her imagination, the horrific dream would once again present itself to her subconscious as she slept terrorizing her until she woke up in a cold sweat, her heart beating out of her chest and her breath as quick as a rabbit’s.

“Just a dream, Patty… you’re fine. It’s fine.”, she muttered to herself, as she almost always did after the dream, and she rubbed her temple carefully with the tips of her fingers. After a moment of silence, she decided that she wouldn’t be able to get a wink of sleep any time soon, and that it was in her best interests to read the book that she had brought with her to bed.

Her hand stretched out towards her nightstand, fumbling around for a few moments and bumping her fingers into her small side lamp (that needed a new lightbulb, but she’d worry about that later. She had a flashlight, anyways). Patty’s face scrunched up for a moment at the thought, before shrugging nonchalantly and reaching blindly across her nightstand for the second time. However, her expression shifted yet again, turning from confusion, and possibly a bit of disbelief, to abject terror as realization dawned upon her mind, almost as if a light switch had been flipped in her head.

Her book wasn’t there, and she lived alone.

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At the roots of the roses

June 1, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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When I was young, I was told my mother committed suicide by jumping from a bridge. Her body wasn’t found, as the river she landed in led to the sea and many bodies of the people that went missing in it weren’t ever recovered.
My mental health was understandably not the best, as I was only seventeen and even though I wasn’t the perfect child and would often have fallouts with my mother, I loved her despite my recklessness. Looking back I understand that she had a few demons, but no one could really have thought it would lead her to do something like that.
Since I was a child I’ve had a love for flowers, and especially roses, which was what helped me get back to a normal life again. A few miles from the city we lived in was a farm that grew roses. I dropped out of college to take a job working with producing and selling the roses that grew there. The place was quite the only thing the city had to brag about, as it was often said to have some of the best roses in the state. I for one absolutely adored them. There were huge fields with only roses for hundreds of meters, and most of them had a wonderful pink colour. The farm grew different colours, red and yellow as well as pink, but I liked the pink ones most and they were also the ones that sold the most.
Anyhow, I want to describe my first day working there. I’d applied to the job with the help of my psychologist, who had gone out of her ways to help me on the way to happiness. I still appreciate her efforts greatly. We were both so glad when the company got back to me and agreeing to give me the job. I took my bike and cycled out there as fast as I could, and I remember how tired my legs felt. I got there early which seemed to be appreciated by my new boss. He smiled at me and for the first time in months I felt all warm and fuzzy inside, which was a great contrast to the emptiness that had resided within me previously. I was so happy about getting to work there I barely even noticed that he touched the pendant of my necklace that I’d been wearing. My mother had made matching pendants for us when I was a kid, and since she’d gone I had been wearing mine all the time. I didn’t even take it off when I slept or bathed. The necklace felt like the only thing left of my mother that I owned. My mother’s necklace had gone with her; otherwise I’m sure I would’ve been wearing hers instead. I was a bit taken aback by his course of action, yet I tried not to think about it too much, and I soon forgot about it. My co-workers were all nice, and I soon made friends with a guy named Nick. He was 25 and had worked on the farm since he was 23, mostly because it paid the rent. He used to be quite the comedian and his dream was to become a chef and own a restaurant. When I asked him why he didn’t choose to apply to a job in a restaurant or café downtown, he would shrug it off. I stopped asking him as the question clearly made him uncomfortable.

After some time I learned that my boss was not the owner of the company, it was a lady named Alexandra. She looked much younger than she was, and the rose farm had been in her family since the early 20th century. Nick told me everything he knew – it was Alexandra’s great grandfather that had started the business, and whatever he’d done to make the roses so perfect was a secret he’d guarded with his life. That was exactly what his children and grandchildren had done after him, as they all kept their mouths tightly shut about the issue.
Alexandra was a very beautiful woman; she had pale skin and icy blue eyes. Her brown hair was always in a tight bun, and every time any of us workers met with her she would wear dark clothing. Everything about her gave a sense of respect, and we were all nervous when she came to observe our work. Nick and I were both sure that Alexandra and our boss, Mr Verne, were in a relationship because they seemed to be so close. Nowadays I really couldn’t care less. I’m just happy that they’re both dead.

It was in the early summer that things… where the truth was uncovered. The truth that had been hidden in the ground for generations, and that had kept getting fed more and more.
Not many people think about it, but roses often get entangled with each other out on the fields and it’s not always easy to notice because the fields are so large. My co-workers and I had gone out to check to be sure this hadn’t happened so that when we harvested the roses, we wouldn’t have to throw any of them away because they’d grown all over each other.
I was walking in a pretty slow pace, my eyes moving around as I looked over the roses. They had just started blooming ´and their scent was heavy and completely surrounded me. Nick was further away; I could only see him as a figure in the distance to my right. The sun had started moving toward the horizon, and I wanted to try and get back before it got dark. It was significantly colder, and I shivered in my work clothes. When I think back, I can’t remember hearing any other sounds than my own footsteps and breathing, which was a bit unnerving. A bit further away I suddenly spotted a big bushy mess of entangled stems, leaves and flowers. I hurried my pace up a bit and got some of the tools I’d brought with me out.
The thorns were sharp and hurt a bit even through the gloves I had on my hands, yet I started cutting the stems as I’d grown to be quite good at. I was careful not to harm the roses or the stems that led to the flowers. I had gotten through about half of the bush when I spotted something odd in the ground. Close to where I had my knee, something white was sticking up through the ground. Only a small bit of it was visible, but big enough to notice. It didn’t look like a rock, and my curiosity got the better of me. I put my tools down and backed up a little so that I could start digging the thing up. I put my fingers in the ground as close to it as I could, and began to shove the earth to the sides. The object was a bit rounded, and as soon as I could I started to pull it out of the ground. I eventually pulled it out and was completely dumbfounded. I didn’t realised what it was at first, but when I understood I felt sick. I had pulled a big bone out of the earth. I immediately signalled Nick and begged him to come over to my location. It felt like ages until he came, and I showed him the bone.
“It’s probably from an animal”, he said. I wasn’t convinced. So we started digging more, and it soon became apparent to us that it wasn’t just any kind of animal. Nick pulled out a human skull. As soon as he saw what it was, he immediately dropped it with fear in his eyes. I felt tears welling up in mine, and I watched as Nick started to rip the roses out, pulling the roots out as well. Out of the ground came many other bones. They were of different sizes and colours, and Nick hastily moved out to pull even more of the plants, from different locations around us, out. We found bones in most of the places. Terrified, we hurried back. I was behind Nick and I struggled to keep the pace. The landscape around us was bathed in the light of the sunset. The roses were in every direction and I feared to even look at the ground. Because of that I nearly tripped many times. I was terrified of getting left behind, and I was sure I would if I didn’t keep up.
When we came back we called the police and I tried to describe the situation. I was panicking, and Nick had to take over. After that we alerted all our co-workers, and we tried to find Alexandra and Mr Verne, but they weren’t in their offices. When the police showed up we were taken back into the city for questioning as the police searched for Alexandra and her accomplice.
Later that night we were informed that they had become the prime suspects of huge amounts of murders. It wasn’t exactly that way, because after confessing Alexandra also told police how the murders and placements of the bodies dated back decades. Her great grandfather had started the business; his idea had been to give the flowers the bodies of hundreds of people, and many years later she had sworn to keep it going. The farm had been his life, she said. Her pretty words hadn’t helped her or Mr Verne from the death sentence however. Their executions were two of the quickest in America back then, it took only about a year and a half before they were condemned with lethal injection. Alexandra’s last meal was a glass of water with a pink rose from her own farm floating on top. Mr Verne was much less dramatic than the mastermind.

But what keeps me up at night the most isn’t any of this, or how my old friend, Nick, looks nowadays. Not the torn man he has become. No, the thought that scares me, the fact that is my worst fear, is what the police gave me after they closed the case.

It was a necklace with a hand-made pendant, the exact same as the one I had around my neck. A pendant I’d seen so many times before.

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June 2016 Discussion Post: Creepy Real-World Locations

June 1, 2016 at 12:00 AM

First of all, a big thank you to Katherine C. for suggesting this month’s topic! I was drawing a total blank. If you guys have any suggestions for future discussion posts, please drop them in the comments here. Thanks!

This month, I’d like to hear about the creepiest real-world locations that you’ve ever visited. If you have photos or links or backstories to why these places were/are so unsettling, please do share! Google Earth coordinates would also be very appreciated.

My only rule is, of course, that if it’s a personal residence or private property, you don’t give specifics as to its location. My city has a very famous “haunted mansion” and I actually met the woman who lived there – her tales of annoying teenagers and college students waking her up at all hours to knock on her door in hopes of activating a ritual to see supposed ghostly illusions come to mind. Let’s not be jerks to people just trying to live their lives, even if it’s in a creepy or allegedly haunted locale, okay? Fudge the location or details a bit if you have a must-tell story about a private location!

So share your real-world experiences with Urban Exploration, creepy cemeteries, haunted houses, and who knows what else! As always – have fun and be excellent to each other!

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Car Crash

May 31, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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Car Crash

I was once friends with this girl called Megan. She was a little strange. People said she was weird but I liked her. After a while, once she got to know me better, she started to open up to me. Megan didn’t learn to drive for a very long time after everyone else. She was always very hesitant to even get into a car. It wasn’t until quite a while later into our friendship that she explained to me the reason behind this. But when she did I fully understood. When Megan was ten years old, there was this terrible storm. Her father was on his way home from work and his car broke down. He wasn’t very far from their house so he rang home and Megan’s mother decided to take her own car and go out and collect him. This left Megan at home to look after her little sister, Suzy. Megan couldn’t believe her eyes only 20 minute later when she saw the flaming wreck of her mother’s car on a news bullet-in. The storm had gotten much worse and her mother had lost control, leaving Megan and Suzy orphans.

Their aunt Tessa took them in after that, and it was ten years later on a night much like that one that had claimed her parents that she found herself reluctantly driving her younger sister home. She was driving around a bend when she saw that a tree had fallen across the road. She braked immediately but it was too late. After the initial impact and several barrel rolls, Megan was drifting in and out of consciousness and she looked to see if her sister was ok. She wasn’t in the seat next to her. She looked around and was just in time to see two dark figures leading her sister away from the wreck. She could only feel vaguely confused and then she passed out again. When she woke up next she was in a hospital bed. She asked about her sister, and the doctor sat down and explained that Suzy had died immediately on impact. For years, Megan became obsessed with the idea that it was her parents’ spirits that she had seen on that night, leading her sister away into the afterlife. In her grief, what she had seen weighed heavily on her mind, driving her further and further away from sanity over time.

It was three years later on the night that her sister had dies that there was another storm and Megan was beside herself with the memories. She drove out into storm with no destination in mind. She just drove for hours and hours until eventually she grew tired and her eyes grew heavy and she started to doze. The car drifted off the road and she crashed through the dense trees on the roadside. She lost consciousness briefly and when she came round she realised that she had bumped her head but she was ok. She started to cry, having realised she wouldn’t be seeing her parents that night after all. But then she saw a flicker in the rear view mirror over her head. She turned to see two dark figures walking towards her, and for a brief moment she was filled with hope and with happiness. But that moment was shattered when the tail light of her car illuminated the faces of the two figures. It wasn’t her parents. It wasn’t even human. They both had grotesque faces, long sharp teeth, coming out of jagged lips and faintly glowing eyes. Megan screamed out in terror and the creatures froze. She didn’t hesitate. She wrenched the twisted car door open and she ran. She kept running, she didn’t stop. She didn’t look back until she came to a house. She was soaking wet and delirious, and exhausted. Nobody ever believed Megan when she told them what she had seen. They all told her it was just a result of the bump on the head. But Megan believes it, and I believe it. And if you had heard her speak about that night the way she did to me, you would believe it too.

Credit: The Cold Chills YouTube Team

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