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The Swamp

April 13, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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It has been exactly a year now since the incident happened… The day that my younger brother, John was killed. I have tried and tried to forget about what happened but it is still burned in my mind. So I know this is rather a cliché but I am recording this and putting it online in hopes that sharing what happened for all to hear will bring me solace.

My brother and I had a very strong bond, beyond what most siblings have because of our isolation from civilization in southern Louisiana. We were raised by our mother who not only assumed the additional position of a father but as our teacher due to the distance from the nearest school, we were forced to be home-schooled. Our father disappeared when we were very young; he left one day and never returned, our mom says he left her for a younger woman but I am pretty sure, now, that that isn’t true.

Last year today, on my brother’s 17th birthday, we decided to take the canoe out through the swamp in hopes of finding an Alligator that we could shoot. John and I always loved hunting Alligators, it is so fulfilling to bag a big gator and get to feed the family. Well, I have wondered off topic; so we were out on the canoe, rowing around. The cold, salty sea air met the hot, humid swamp air, creating a very interesting atmosphere. We had already in past adventures scouted a 3-mile radius around the house but we were determined to reach farther than ever.

Rowing in a canoe isn’t the fastest means of transportation but it works; we had gotten very good at swerving around the protruding stumps, trees, and the occasional rock that poked out of the murky, green water. The sudden rush of water knocked us out of our trance; it was an alligator! The time we had been waiting for was right there! My brother rowed closer as I grabbed my 45. revolver. The alligator wasn’t affected by us, it continued to swim north. The sun was setting as my brother gazed out towards the sea; his voice trailed off. I looked to see what he was looking at and almost couldn’t believe what I saw! Standing on a small island were two people, who appeared to be blankly staring at us-mouths agape. And in between them was a glowing object that neither of us could make out what it was. “Hey!” I yelled to the two men. Strangely there was no response, they didn’t even move, blink, shift, or anything! “Let’s get out of here.” I said to John but he didn’t reply. The canoe was drifting and the only change by the people on the island was their heads gradually turning to keep their blank stares on us. “Hey, let’s go!” I spoke up. He stared blankly back at the small island. “John!” I yelled but again, no response.

I was about to start paddling but john unexpectedly leaped out of the canoe and into the murky water. “What are you doing?” I asked him as he swam, then walked, to the island. Before he was out of the water, however, I noticed something. It appeared to be black hair emerging from the sea which was followed by the top of a head, then what I was expecting to be a person but that’s where I went wrong… Walking out of the ocean was something I had never seen before; it was tall- probably seven or eight feet, it had long black hair, its black eyes looked foggy due to what was most likely a film over them. They slanted down its face at an angle. Its face was narrow and sharp like it had been starved. This absolutely terrified me! What are you supposed to do when you see something like that? Anyways! The creature walked up the island and the two people shot one last look at me; this one was different, though- I saw tears and absolute fear suppressed by their blank stares, it was like their human instinct were trying to prevail over whatever trance they were in but that was to no avail, the creature grabbed both the men, one in each arm and turned around, returning to the ocean. I saw bubbles emerging for a little bit when their heads became submerged.

Now I am sure you don’t believe me, but I saw what I saw! If someone had told me this story, I wouldn’t have believed them either. I yelled to John; “we need to get out of here, now!” and his response is still unforgettable… His head slowly turned around as he gave me a blank stare then turned back and approached the glowing object which flashed a red color then returned to its white shine. “John!” I cried but he just stared at me… I fled, I went home and told my mom all about it but she didn’t believe me, she kept telling me to tell her the truth about what happened but it was and still IS the truth… you have to believe me…

After insisting it as the truth, she finally gave in and left to go find the elusive glowing item on the island, she never returned… I have been living by myself for the past year, I just wanted to get the story out.

I am starting to worry, however, I think the light is getting closer because at night if I look just at the right angle, through the trees I can see what appears to be a faint light. I am tired of living in fear, I am going to submit this now, go check out the light, then I’ll update this when I know the truth, goodbye for now.

The OP has also submitted their own video reading of the story, embedded below. If the video does not display for you, please click the link to view it on its YouTube page.

The Swamp by: CreepyQuantum

Credit: CreepyQuantum

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Camper Van

April 12, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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The camper van is there again, in the field behind my neighborhood. If I stand on the tips of my toes I can just see it over the tall stucco fence in my backyard – the cream and brown stripes along the side, its darkened windows, its boxy, old-fashioned headlights.

I used to work at a tiny dive of a bar in this tiny dive of a town. The owner of the bar, Jeb, decided to make the establishment’s sign by hand – he fancies himself a craftsman, I suppose. So for a few years now the already dumpy-looking building has boasted a huge plywood sign with nail-gunned-on letters formed from sticks, the kind you would use for kindling. JEB’S PLACE. The man’s name is Jeb. Does it get any more hick than that?

The only real benefit of living in a completely uneventful place where the population is lower than most city high schools is that even as a nineteen year old woman who worked until three in the morning at a bar called “Jeb’s Place”, I could still walk home after a shift, alone, without encountering anything worse than a mangy stray cat.

On one such night, after a particularly riveting shift listening to Frank McInsley recount to me (for the twentieth time this month – I’ve kept track) his woeful tale of bankruptcy and divorce and the “damn, thieving left-wingers… they’re all homos”, I left work as I always did: with a filched can of Budweiser stuffed in my coat pocket and a handful of peanuts wrapped in a festive poinsettia napkin – we used those napkins all year round, which nauseated me.

I have a thing about walking on grass, I don’t like it. I figure people invented sidewalks for a reason and it’s so we don’t have to walk on mushy, unstable ground all the time like in the old days. But on that particular night, clutching my less-than-ideally cold beer, I was feeling restless. On that night, the frozen air expanded in my lungs and left as steam and I could see little crystals of water – not quite big enough to be snowflakes – all around me, glistening like winter, illuminated by our town’s sparse streetlamps – one of which was flickering, about to burn out.

Maybe it was the quickly cracked and drained Budweiser, or maybe it was just that I had heard too many old-timer stories, or maybe just because I was a bored nineteen year old… but on that night, I thought maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to walk on grassy ground, I thought maybe the feeling of the frozen blades crunching beneath my sneakers would be a new, interesting sensation. So I took a different route home than usual – I cut through the field behind my neighborhood.

When this place was a busier center of agriculture – in the fifties, I guess – it had a school. It was a small school, only three hundred kids from kindergarten all the way to grade twelve. But the school had a track and field program, mostly just to keep teenagers out of trouble in a town with nothing much else to do besides exactly that. Shockingly, the track and field program required a field… no problem, plenty of those around these parts. The lucky candidate was the field near an empty gravel pit that would one day – when local farmers fell on hard times and the novelty of post-war wealth had worn off – become a trailer park. ‘Trailer park’, but not in the way most people imagine. To be honest, it’s mostly retired couples living there, you know, people who can’t go up and down stairs anymore. I guess that constitutes most of the town’s population in reality. But I live there too. My parents owned the house when they were alive but… I’ve been on my own ever since their accident several years ago. I don’t have any siblings. Really, I don’t have anyone.

My place is between a blue trailer where a retired schoolteacher, Mack Donoghue, lives with more dogs than he can care for and a brown one where an elderly couple live – Mr. and Mrs. Murphy – who suddenly became weed dealers one day just because it’s an easy way to make money. And no one suspects two crotchety old people of dealing illicit substances to bored adolescents, am I right?

Anyway, the night I took the shortcut home, it was pitch dark; the glow of the streetlights didn’t extend much past the sidewalk, and the moon was just a thin crescent, almost invisible. So while I was enjoying my napkin peanuts and listening to the toes of my sneakers crunching through layers of sparkling frosted grass, I counted my steps… one hundred and twenty, one hundred and twenty one, one hundred and twenty two, one hundred and twenty three… I glanced up to see how far away the back entrance of the trailer park was – the drug dealing seniors must have still been awake, watching late-night television programs maybe, because their windows were all alight.

I looked way up into the tar-like sky, searching for stars. But none were visible. Only that thin crescent moon.

I continued counting my steps… one hundred and twenty four, one hundred and twenty five…

I stopped walking. Something was in the field that didn’t belong there. I could just see its faint outline, not even fifty feet in front of me, directly in my path to the back entrance of the trailer park. A shiver scampered from my tailbone to the base of my neck and lingered like a hot cloth at the back of skull. The inky shape squatting in the field was outlined by the moon’s faint light, creating the silver outline of… a vehicle?

I felt a tightening in my chest and abdomen. I guess it was fear, or apprehension, or something like that. Which is odd, since I don’t really get frightened of things.

I started walking again, more cautiously than before, squinting ahead instead of down at my feet.

I walked closer and closer to the thing in front of me… one hundred and forty two steps, one hundred and forty three, one hundred and forty four…

I could see once I finally got near to the shape in the field that it was indeed a vehicle. The camper van. Just sitting there, in the darkness, apparently abandoned. There didn’t seem to be any tracks in the frosted grass from where it had driven in, no sign that it had been moved there recently, and no indication that anyone had been around – except for a sinking feeling in the core of my torso, and that persistent warmth at the base of my skull insisting, irrationally, I knew, that something wasn’t right, something was… wrong… about that van…

Now, I’ve seen a lot of movies. I mean, maybe not A LOT a lot, but I’ve seen my fair share. So I know how this scene goes. The dumbass character sees something sketchy and checks it out. And the mediocre piano score is banging out in the background and the dumbass on the screen is walking closer and closer to the sketchy thing and breathing heavily the whole time – like a dumbass – and someone in the theatre or the living room or the wherever-you-are-watching-this-horrible-movie inevitably whispers, “Stop! Don’t go over there! Oh, you dumbass.” And that scene always ends the same way and the whole audience or living room party or whatever collectively breathes a frustrated sigh – as if they had no idea that the dumbass character would act… well, like a dumbass.

So, when I became the star dumbass of my own sketchy situation, approaching a sketchy camper van which apparently materialized in the middle of a field in the middle of this shithole of a town… I did what any sane person would do.

I marched right up to that van and I pulled on the handle of the passenger side door.

And luckily for my bimbo-headed self, it was locked.

Regaining my sense of self-preservation rather abruptly, I backed away from the damn thing as if it was electrically charged, dropping all of my stupid napkin peanuts on the ground. Turning to leave, I made a wide loop around the van and pointed myself in the direction of the back entrance to the trailer park, hustling my arse faster than any arse has heretofore been hustled.

I think I held my breath the whole way to my front porch. When I finally released the air trapped in my lungs, it came out like a wheeze, as if I were a pack-a-day smoker. I was shaking and fumbling with my house keys and panting and when I finally got into the house I slammed the door behind me and locked the deadbolt, promising silently to never, ever trust non-sidewalk walking again.

Even then, I knew I was being ridiculous. Nothing had happened to me. I had found a camper in a field in the middle of East Jesus Nowhere in a town where, as I said, kids have nothing to do except get into trouble. If someone was in that van, they were sleeping, or high off their heads on weed from ‘Trailer Park Seniors Incorporated’, or drunk, or some combination.

I took a hot shower and tried to forget about the whole thing, and without too much trouble, I fell asleep. When I woke up the next morning – er, that afternoon – the camper was gone. And to be perfectly fucking honest, I didn’t give it another thought.

For three whole years.

I quit my job at Jeb’s Place only weeks after the incident. I got a college diploma in agriculture (like everyone does around here), and since graduating, I’ve been working as a farm hand at a local feedlot. I’m twenty-two and I haven’t thought diddly squat about that camper van since the night I last saw it.

But just seconds ago, in broad daylight, in the middle of summertime, I came outside to replace the suet in my bird feeder (I have a soft spot for sparrows, alright?) and that’s when I saw it.

The damn thing is there. It’s there in the field and I’m getting that tingly feeling in my spine all over again as if my prey drive is kicking in at the sight of a harmless old camper.

Three years. And that thing shows up looking just how it did the night I first saw it.

The window in my bedroom is open and I can hear the TV from outside, “… In other news, the grandson of a former Rebel Telephones engineer discovered new evidence yesterday that might be able to solve a forty-five year old mystery involving the bizarre death of a young woman…”

I reason with myself that nothing bad can happen in broad daylight. So I finish replacing the suet and hoist myself over the stucco fence as the news anchor’s voice drifts from my room, “… pages contain evidence that the cellphone company was conducting unique experiments…”

Forgetting all inhibitions about non-sidewalk travel, I start walking toward the van.

As I’m moving toward that ridiculous vehicle, I ignore every inch of my body that’s begging me to turn back. My heart is pounding. My temple is sweating. I wipe my palms on my cut-off jean shorts, feeling the lump of my phone my pocket. As I get closer to the thing, I can see the make and model – details I couldn’t grasp in the darkness three years ago – it’s a Dodge Tradesman from the 70s. A totally generic holiday vehicle for a totally generic middle-income family.

It is completely unthreatening, and yet I’m terrified.

The weather is warm, almost hot, but I’m shivering.

I make a wide circle around the front of the Tradesman, keeping my eyes on the tacky floral curtains in its windows, tracing almost my exact path, but in reverse, of the night I walked home from Jeb’s Place three years ago. I’m directly in front of the passenger side door, and no one seems to be in the vehicle, so I step forward.

CRUNCH

I look down and move my foot away from whatever I stepped on. There, nestled into the grass right next to the van, is a small pile of peanuts and a crumpled poinsettia napkin. Just like what I was carrying the night of my first encounter.

I bend down and take a few of the crushed peanuts into my sweating palm. This doesn’t make any sense. Surely these can’t have been in the field for three years? I lift up the napkin to get a better look… and the stupid poinsettia is in almost perfect condition. As if only moments ago, I swiped it from a table at Jeb’s. My sense of fear is momentarily replaced by pure confusion as I let the napkin and the peanuts drop from my hands.

Compelled by some ridiculous urge, maybe curiosity, I reach for the passenger door handle, inwardly hoping to find it locked, just like that night three years ago.

But the door opens and swings wide. I expect a creaking sound, or some indication that the van is as old as I think it is, but the hinges function with ease and near silence. The smell of the interior drifts into my nostrils – leather, polished wood detailing… oranges? My palms begin to sweat even more heavily.

Without thinking, almost as if out of some absurd habit, I crawl into the passenger seat. The leather of the seat squeaks against the exposed skin of my thighs.

A sharp breath tickles the back of my neck.

I whip my head around to face the open back of the van. But there’s nothing and no one there.

I’m alone.

Realizing it was probably just a breeze coming in from outside, I pull the door closed. It is utterly silent in the van. I can’t even hear my own breathing, but I can feel my heart pulsing in my ears. It should be stifling in the closed vehicle, but the temperature is comfortable.

Then, I feel a breath on the back of my neck again.

I whirl around once more, on high alert – there’s no possibility it was a breeze. No windows are open. The curtains aren’t fluttering. I rise from the passenger seat, ducking to keep from bumping my head, and I step into the back portion of the van. There’s a tiny kitchenette, with a table. And a closed closet-sized room that’s probably a portable bathroom.

Suddenly, inexplicably, the van lurches and I fall to my knees. Scrambling back to the front, I try to wrench open the passenger door but it’s stuck. I crawl over and try the driver’s side, but it’s stuck too. The locks are in the unlocked position… this doesn’t make any sense, why won’t they open?

The van gives another lurch and I’m thrown into the upright back of the driver’s seat. Clutching to the old-fashioned steering wheel for balance, the van continues to lurch back and forth like it’s being rocked by a large force from behind. The windows are darkening like the sunset on fast-forward. The van is shaking, shuddering…. lurching, almost tipping over… and a buzzing pressure is shoving in on my eardrums… I feel a warm trickle slip down the side of my face from my left ear.

I’m so dizzy, and my lungs can’t seem to grab air, like my ribs are collapsing. I’m trying to scream but all I can do is open my mouth and struggle to inhale. I try to open my hands to try the door again, but I can’t concentrate, I’m blind with panic, and my fingers won’t open, they’re stuck clutching the steering wheel and my knuckles are turning white. I feel like I’m being pushed into the seat and I’m squeezing the steering wheel so hard… so hard that I can’t… I can feel the tiny bones in each of my fingers stressing. There’s a great pressure on my hands, and my head, and everywhere… My kneecaps feel like they’re being jammed into my shins. I have to stop squeezing the steering wheel or else –

I can’t scream, I can’t make even a sound, as the pointer finger knuckle of my right hand abruptly snaps and bursts through the skin. The ring finger follows with a tiny burst of a blood vessel. Something in my left ear explodes. There’s a crunch and a snap somewhere near my right knee. I can feel the burning, numbing pain spreading through every part of me… My vision goes red. And the van is still shuddering, lunging forth and back.

There’s a final, violent thrust of the van and a great sizzling pressure over my whole body and then…

Nothing.

* * *

CHANNEL FIVE MORNING NEWS JULY 20th, 2016:

“In other news, the grandson of a former Rebel Telephones engineer discovered new evidence yesterday that might be able to solve a forty-five year old mystery involving the death of a young woman, here’s Melanie Reynolds with the details.”

“Thank you, Jackie. In March of 1971, the body of a woman in her early 20s was discovered near the Rebel Laboratories building in New York. A positive ID was never secured for the woman, and no missing person reports were filed that matched her description. She had severe injuries on her hands and she seemed to have died of a massive brain hemorrhage. Even more mysterious was her clothing, which was made of materials that forensic experts at the time could not identify. While the woman’s death was ruled ‘suspicious’, no suspects were ever arrested in connection with the incident. Then yesterday morning Ben Matthews found a journal that his grandfather had kept during his employment at Rebel in the 1970s. The journal’s pages contain evidence that the telephone company had been conducting unique experiments in fields such as teleportation and time travel which seemed to involve the use, in some capacity, of a Dodge Tradesman camper van… Yes, you heard that correctly. Time travel experiments with a camper van. Some speculate that such experiments could account for Rebel’s sudden declaration of bankruptcy in the early 1980s. A source tells us that one portion of the journal reads, ‘The woman was dead when she arrived in The Tradesman,’ and that it mentions ‘a strange device in the woman’s pocket’ which ‘resembled a telephone’. Although we cannot be sure if the woman mentioned in the journal and the woman found near the Rebel building are the same, we can be certain from the content of the pages that the company was experimenting with more than mobile phone development, and police say they will be conducting a full investigation of the claims made in the book.

Although former Motorola engineer Martin Cooper is credited with the successful development of the first mobile phone in 1973, it is well known that workers at Rebel were developing similar technologies during the same time, and that information and blueprints often leaked between the two companies. Some theories are already circulating which try to link the mysterious woman in the journal and her ‘strange device’ to Rebel’s attempts at mobile phone development. Back to you Jackie.”

“Thank you, Melanie. Sounds like something out of a science fiction movie, ha, ha! Now, over to Cal Menken for sports…”

* * *

Mack Donoghue was walking his dogs in the field behind his neighborhood when Ginger, the tiny spaniel he had adopted just a week earlier, sprinted off and snuffled eagerly at something in the grass. Frightened by recent stories of dog poisonings, Mack jogged over shouting, “No, Ginger! Drop it! Don’t eat whatever that is!” But when he got to where she had been snuffling, he found only a small pile of peanuts and a slobbery poinsettia napkin.

“Damn litterers,” Mack muttered. He pulled Ginger away by her collar and shooed the other dogs from the garbage as well.

Then he continued on his peaceful summer walk, reveling in the uneventfulness of his quaint little town.

Credit: Emerald Lee

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The Blood Keeper

April 11, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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Hello, readers. My name is unimportant. I am here to share a story of mine that I’ve kept bottled up for quite some time. I’m a believer in the uncanny and weird, as long as it is within the boundaries of reason. Even so, I can always explain the day’s events to myself, and understand them – no matter how odd. My mind craves logic and order, but the following events have none. I can’t explain them away at the end of the day, and I’m not even sure of what actually happened. I’m left with a bunch of “what if’s”. I can say with some certainty that it may have been a vivid hallucination, or a very clever deception. Either way, I feel a need to disclose my tale if for no other reason than to ‘get it off my chest’. The following occurred in the autumn of 2010. That’s as specific as I will be.

I live in a small, but lively town in Massachusetts. The winters are cold and the summers are hot, but fall, to me, feels just right. Being just shy of the proper drinking age, and never having interest in such things anyhow, I found other activities to occupy my weekends (and weekdays, for that matter). I’ve always had a passion for the paranormal. It fascinates me, even to this day. With nothing better to do with my raging case of insomnia, I spent some of my nights investigating the local cemeteries with my friends. You could call me a paranormal investigator of sorts, but I saw it as more of a hobby.

Half the time, my friends and I would goof off anyway. The only times that we became dramatically serious was when there was a lot of paranormal activity taking place. This didn’t happen all that often, but when it did, we transformed from friends, hanging out and having a good time, to instant professional ghost hunters. I might have even pursued it as some sort of career choice, had the following not taken place. I can tell you for certain that I won’t investigate a cemetery again for as long as I live.

It was a night like any other for myself. I was bored, I couldn’t sleep, and I felt a need to do something outdoors. I called a few of my friends and asked if they wanted to investigate one of the local cemeteries that tended to have more activity than others. I was able to convince two to come with me. The others whom I called were angry that I’d woken them up. I didn’t realize that it was already midnight. Anyways, the two friends that I did rope in, met me at the cemetery. It took us each roughly half an hour to walk there, even though we all lived on opposites sides of the town. The cemetery was smack dab in the center of town, making the location convenient for all of us, considering we were without transportation.

After only an hour of investigating and goofing off, my friends left. There was little to no activity. The place was dead – no pun intended (okay, maybe it was intended a little bit). I stayed behind. I figured that I would take a walk through the cemetery a few times in an attempt to become tired before heading home. I started walking about when I noticed something. Before I go into detail, I must describe to you the layout of the cemetery. It was quite large, overall. There were two sides, divided by a small street right off of the main road. Each side had a stone wall that ran along the entire length of the graveyard. It came up to my waist, and only broke up where the two main entrances were – one for each side.

On one side was nothing but graves. The other side, the one that I was walking on, had graves, a stone tomb, and a small wooden shack. This shack was where the grave digger kept his shovels and other tools of the trade. What I had noticed, while walking towards it, was a light illuminating the inside. I didn’t even know that there was any electricity that ran to the shack. I guessed that the grave digger was working late tonight, it being around 2am at this point. I looked around, and I could make out a freshly made, six-foot deep hole near the shack, big enough for a coffin. This was nothing odd to me – this graveyard was a popular one, with at least 5 new headstones added each month. Every time the cemetery became full, some town workers would cut down some trees and extend it.

The only thing that struck me as strange was the hour. I had only seen the grave digger work during the day – after all, a huge, gaping hole in the ground is a dangerous thing to come across in the middle of the night. This was enough to arouse my curiosity, so I decided to see what the old man was up to.

I crept over quietly, making my way to a cracked window located on the side of the shack, this way I could hear what was going on inside. I knew about the window because I was the one who cracked it a year previous on one of my investigations. My friends and I were throwing rocks up in the air, trying to repeat the results of an urban legend that was passed around town (it was our town‘s equivalent of “Bloody Mary”). It was said that if you throw rocks straight up in the air, and stand completely still, you could hear the screams of a woman by the name of Emalia before the rocks hit the ground (Emalia was a resident in the town during the 1940s).

She died when strolling down this very street, during the newer side of the cemetery’s construction. A gravestone fell on her head while being moved to its proper location by a small crane. The gravestone was of her late husband, whom she allegedly murdered just three weeks before her death). Instead of hearing a scream, I heard the shatter of glass a few yards away. I had broken the window on the side of the shack. Looking back now, I don’t know why I believed in that urban legend anyhow. I think it was fabricated to fool kids into hurting themselves. In any case, I approached the window and peered in. The grave digger was not there. However, void of life the shack was not.

Inside the shack, to my surprise, were nine men. Nine men, sitting at a long wooden table, wearing tattered, blue shrouds. The light I had seen was not a light at all, but what looked like several oil lamps. The men were eating what appeared to be a reddish stew. It looked gross. Every man cringed when eating it, except for the tall man sitting at the end of the table, and the two sitting on either side of him. I was deeply confused. What was this – some sort of town meeting? I crouched down and listened as the tall man began to speak.

“Hello, young newcomers. Are you ready to start your trials?” He spoke with a firm voice. It resonated throughout the shack, and beckoned even myself to listen.

“Yes!”, the six men sitting around the table shouted in unison. Trials? What trials? The tall man spoke again.

“Good. Bloodlight Kalas will explain the rules.”

I could only presume that the man to his right was Kalas, as he explained everything. My memory has always served me well, so I was able to recollect everything he said, as unnerving as it was. It seemed that the men in the shack were part of a cult called the “Bloodlights”, though they never referred to it as a cult. That’s just what I gathered from what I had heard. The ‘trials’ were more of a game consisting of two teams that would disperse to either side of the cemetery. The tall man was the leader of the Bloodlights, and this ‘game’ was his way of initiating new members. The ‘winners’ would be accepted as full-fledged Bloodlights.

At this point I couldn’t really believe what I was hearing, but I kept listening. Whether it was out of curiosity, or fear of the men hearing me if I attempted to leave, I was immobile. Kalas continued explaining the rules.

Each team consisted of four members; three “blood runners” and one “blood baron”. It seemed that the ‘newcomers’ would be the runners, and the two men standing at the end of the table with the taller man would be the barons. There was one more participant to be discussed. The tall man – the one that was leading the trials. He was the “blood keeper”. He was not on either team, but was the most important part of the game. He kept, and guarded what was referred to as “the blood”. I thought that maybe this referred to the red amulet that hung from the tall man’s neck, because with every mention of the word blood, he would firmly clasp the amulet between his fingers and close his eyes, almost as if partaking in a silent prayer. The job of the runners was to retrieve the blood from the blood keeper. The barons acted as coaches that would strategize with the runners. It actually sounded like a fun game that I would partake in myself. So far, everything seemed simple, until the blood keeper spoke again.

“With every wound, there is blood. With every drop of blood, there is light. Without death, there can be no light.” I had no idea what any of what he said meant, but it was captivating – in a morbid kind of way.

The blood keeper stepped over to a tall cupboard at the back of the shack that I hadn’t noticed before. He opened it. Inside was a young woman, bound and gagged, with eyes wide open – futilely attempting to scream for help. My heart sank. This was far beyond your normal, run-of-the-mill cult ritual. I needed to find help, but what if they heard me? I was frozen with fear, and I could not take my eyes away. The blood keeper spoke again.

“Repeat after me; The light of blood can only be seen in death.”

The recruits chanted; “The light of blood can only be seen in death.”

Just then, the blood keeper took a large, red dagger from out of his cloak, and grabbed the woman. All I could think was that this couldn’t really be happening – could it?

He pierced the knife deep into her gut. The others repeated; “The light of blood can only be seen in death.”

The blood keeper stabbed her again. “The light of blood can only be seen in death.” I could see the life leaving the woman’s face, as she tried to yell once more with such an ashen, and broken expression.

The blood keeper thrust the knife deeper into the woman’s stomach. “The light of blood can only be seen in death.” Right before she lost consciousness, she turned and looked directly at me. She looked indescribably hurt, both physically and mentally, as tears began to soak her face. At that moment, I can’t even explain to you how knotted my stomach was. I immediately threw up right next to the shack. Luckily no one heard me.

The blood keeper made one final blow into the already dead girl’s neck. The others uttered one last time, “The light of blood can only be seen in death.” If I had anything left in my stomach to vomit, I would have done so again. What scared me the most was the conviction with which he stabbed her. I could see it in his face. It was almost as if there was reason behind each wound he dealt – or at least to him there was. I stood there, paralyzed with fear, and watched the killer get up, and reach into a brown satchel that he was wearing over his shoulder. He pulled out three empty vials. He then continued to fill the vials with the blood that was dripping from his dagger. I now realized that “the blood” in the game was not his amulet, but indeed actual human blood. The blood keeper finished explaining the rules to the newcomers.

“There are three vials. This gives, at most, three of you the opportunity to be accepted as Bloodlights.” I noticed Kalas laugh under his breath, as if three being accepted was unheard of.

“If you see a runner from the opposite team, what do you do?”

The newcomers answered together, “Kill!”

“If you see a civilian, what do you do?”

They answered once more, “Kill!” I dry heaved for a solid twenty seconds, trying to vomit. If I wasn‘t in danger before, I now was. I should have never come here. “God, if you even exist, please get me the hell away from here!”, I thought to myself. The blood keeper spoke one last time.

“You must stop at nothing to attain one of these vials. All others will be sacrificed. Your thirst for blood must be as strong as your will to live.”

Just then, the nine men walked towards the shack door to leave and begin the games. I ran as fast as I could for the wooded part of the cemetery and hid behind the largest tree I could find. I did not want to wind up like that girl in there. I thought to myself as I caught my breath, “Pull yourself together! You just need to find a good opportunity to escape without being noticed. It shouldn’t take much.” I gathered my nerves and peeked out from behind the tree. Standing right there, not ten feet away, were three of the runners and Kalas, facing me!

I darted my head back behind the tree. Did they notice me? I peeked again, and noticed that their eyes were shut, and they were standing eerily still. They must have to do this before the game starts to let the blood keeper hide himself from their immediate view. I was lucky. Maybe this was my chance to make a run for it. I spoke – well, I thought, too soon. I heard Kalas shout, “Let the trials begin!” My heart was racing faster than you could even imagine. My fate was in the hands of the game now.

I could see Kalas and the three blood runners in the reflection of a small puddle near my hiding tree (It had rained the previous night). They seemed to be strategizing. My heart was pounding out of my chest, so much so that I was actually afraid they might hear it. I stood there behind my tree, becoming exponentially nervous with each and every beat. I listened to their nearly inaudible whispers as the men conspired. Then, when I couldn’t take another second of torture, silence cut through the brisk, night air, much like the blood keeper’s dagger through that poor woman’s neck. It sent the coldest chill down my spine.

Why couldn’t I hear them? Did they leave? I was too frightened to glance around the corner and see. I looked at the puddle. I didn’t see their reflection. What do I do now? I was not going to run through the woods – not only would the loud crunch of autumn leaves compromise my location, but I had seen too many horror movies to know that it wouldn’t be a good idea. I also couldn’t run through the cemetery – what if a blood runner spotted me, or a baron? Even worse, what if the blood keeper saw me? I didn’t want to think about it.

I calmed down as much as I could, given my current situation, and mustered up enough courage to peer around the tree. They were gone – or at least nowhere to be seen. I looked around and weighed out my options. To the left of the cemetery, after seemingly endless rows of headstones, was more woods, and a lot of briers. This was not a viable possibility. Straight ahead were more headstones and the shack. There was no way I was going to hide in the bloodlights’ den with the dead girl, even if I could make it over there. To the right was even more headstones, but not as many.

I squinted as I looked off in the distance. Oh yeah! There was a tomb off to the right of the graves. It was maybe 100 yards away. I wouldn’t be able to waltz over there without being noticed, but maybe, just maybe, I could jump from tree to tree until I made it there. The woods did wrap around the whole cemetery, right up to the back side of the tomb. Should I risk it? Or should I stay behind this tree, cowering in fear until it’s all over? The latter option was looking pretty good, but I knew if I stayed here long enough, one of them would find me. My mom was right. She always told me to stay away from the cemetery at night – “Do you know the kind of people that hang out there?” She didn’t know the half of it.

I took a deep breath and braced myself. Without so much as a second thought, I dashed in the direction of the tomb, and hid behind the closest tree I could find. I gathered my wits and looked around the graveyard. There was still no one to be seen. I sprinted to the next tree. I took another quick glimpse of my surroundings. The coast was still clear. Before I could prepare myself to run to the next tree, I felt myself being lifted off of the ground. In that moment, my body went numb with utter panic.

The next thing I knew, before I could even think about what was happening, I was atop a tree branch, looking directly at a blood runner. I didn’t scream, and I didn’t try to get away. My blood ran cold, and I sat still in terror, accepting what was happening. I exhaled what I thought would be my last breath, but just as I did, the blood runner spoke.

“What’s your name?” I was too in shock to say a word.

“Come on now – what is your name?” He spoke more firmly this time, and I noticed that he had an English accent. His voice also sounded deep and brash, like one’s voice might sound after many years of drinking hard liquor and smoking cigarettes. I still couldn’t find it in me to answer him.

“Look, I noticed you at the window over there, eavesdropping. If I wanted you dead, I could have pointed you out then. I want you to help me.”

“Help…you?” is all I could say.

“Yes. I am going to use you to my advantage. I take it you know what we’re doing here, and you know the rules of the game?”

I nodded slowly, still in shock.

“Good. With you, I may be able to turn the tables and get the upper hand.” My mind was racing, but I listened intently on what he was saying.

“See that tomb over there?” He pointed at the tomb I had been on my way to before I was lifted off of my feet into a tree. I nodded once more.

“That’s where the blood keeper is.” My stomach turned. To think, this guy may have just saved my life.

“Here, take my cloak.” He handed me his blue shroud. I didn’t know what he wanted me to do with it.

“Go ahead, put it on! Or do you want me to gut you where you sit?” I quickly threw on the cloak.

“Go over to the tomb, and open the door slowly. The blood keeper will surely take a swing at you.” I gulped, but continued to listen.

“Just as he’s about to end your life with that dagger of his, I’ll swoop in and end his.”

“Why? That’s not part of the game.” His eyes darted at me, then he gave a menacing smile. I just realized that I had constructed a full sentence for the first time in his presence.

“Right you are. Maybe I don’t want to be a Bloodlight. Maybe I’m not here to play this ritualistic sport of theirs. Maybe what I’m truly after is vengeance.” He looked over at the tomb, then looked around the cemetery, probably to make sure no one was listening.

“Many years ago, the man in that tomb, the one you know as the blood keeper, stole something from me. Something I will never get back. That woman in that shack over there was not the Bloodlights’ first sacrifice, not by far. The man in that tomb murdered my wife and took her blood for the sake of this ‘game’. It took me years to find him. It took me even longer to be accepted into their ranks, even as a lowly disciple.” He stared off into the distance for a moment. I could see the pain in his eyes.

“But, tonight is the night. The blood keeper must die in his own game, and spill blood like so many of his victims before him.” Even though his actions were admirable, I still wanted no part in any of this. My life was still in danger.

“If you so much as take one step in the opposite direction and deviate from the plan, I will come over and kill you myself! Now get going.” It seems I had no choice in the matter. His motives were blinding him from any sort of moral logic – just like in the shack when he stood by and watched the blood keeper kill that poor girl. He of all people should have made an effort to stop him. But no, the only thing on his mind was revenge, and now I was tangled in an even larger mess than I was before.

I did as I was told. I used the same method that I did before, jumping from tree to tree – only now I didn’t even bother being stealthy. The blue shroud protected my identity, and I had a feeling I might die tonight, anyhow. What a waste of a life.

I made it to the side of the tomb. I stood there, with my back to the cold, aged stone. My heart began racing again. I was about to come face to face with the blood keeper – a cold-hearted monster. I crept along the side of the tomb, until I could finally see the front of it. I took a quick glance and noticed that the tomb door was shut. I could see the blood runner I’d met waiting behind one of the trees near the tomb. I didn’t hear him move even once, so it was hard for my mind to wrap itself around the idea of him getting from the tree branch we sat on, to just a few yards away from me. His covertness was impressive. He just might be able to pull this off. My newfound confidence in the runner in no way lessened my fear of the blood keeper. I crouched over to the tomb door and stared at it. I guess it was now or never.

I reached for the old, rusted handle, slowly, so as not to tip off the blood keeper that I was there. I also may have been stalling just a bit. After all, I was opening the door to what very well could be my death. Just as I was about to actually open the tomb, the door swung open and hit me straight in the head. I fell backwards onto the ground. I must have suffered a concussion, because everything seemed a little blurry, and I could feel myself losing consciousness.

I looked up before I passed out. I could see the blood keeper standing before me in the moonlight. I was staring at a blurry vision of death, here to kill me, and take the blood out of my racing heart. I blinked, and saw another figure. In my fuzzy state, I couldn’t make out who was who, but one of them was thrusting his dagger into the other, over and over again. The prey in this scuffle fell to his knees, and then landed face first into the cold, cemetery soil. The victor kept stabbing him. With each swing of his dagger, he seemed to become more and more furious, because I could hear the piercing sound of metal through flesh grow louder. I prayed that it was the blood keeper being torn apart, otherwise I was done for. I closed my eyes once again and passed out.

“Are you alright there?” I heard an old man’s voice say as I gradually began to open my eyes.

“Are you okay?” I opened my eyes fully and looked at the voice speaking to me. It was the grave digger! But how?

“What!? How? Where did they go…” is all I could manage to say. He looked puzzled.

“Where did who go?” I couldn’t wrap my head around any of this. What was going on?

“…I…I should be dead…” The grave digger stared at me for a second, and then changed his expression from confusion to sympathy.

“Come on. You’ll catch cold out here.” He invited me into the shack. Before I walked in, I noticed something. The newly dug grave I had seen near the shack was gone! I really didn’t know what to believe at this point, but I walked into the shack anyhow.

The grave digger, whose name I now know to be Pete, fed me and gave me a jacket to wear. In a frazzled state, I couldn’t help but tell him everything that I had seen. He didn’t look surprised at all. I didn’t even think to describe the men by their given titles (blood runner, baron, etc.), but Pete responded with, “It sounds like you had a run-in with the blood keeper.”

“That’s him! How do you know about the blood keeper?” My jaw dropped in disbelief.

“His spirit has been haunting this place for… over 100 years now I suppose.” I just glared at Pete, waiting for an explanation. He could tell I was still fatigued and confused, so he took the time to elaborate. He must’ve talked, non-stop for over an hour. I could tell I struck a nerve with this story.

In a nutshell, the Bloodlights were a sadistic cult that formed in the late 1800’s, and started terrorizing the local community, binging on a heavy lust for blood. With each Bloodlight initiation brought more deaths. They would only use various cemeteries in the area as a field for their ‘sport’, digging a six foot hole each time, throwing the casualties/sacrifices in before they covered it back up. Who would look for dead bodies in a graveyard, right? They racked up a death toll of over fifty victims before their ‘games’ were brought to a halt. Things, however, went horribly wrong for the Bloodlights during what turned out to be their final ‘game’. An Englishman infiltrated their ranks and killed the blood keeper that night, with the help of a young man (Did I help him kill the blood keeper?). The young man was never identified. The local authorities were able to round up the rest of the Bloodlights soon after. The death of the blood keeper left them leaderless and unorganized.

After Pete explained everything, I couldn’t help but sit there in awe. Did I relive what that ‘young man’ went through that night… or even wilder – was I that young man? Did I time travel? My logical mind immediately rejected the theory. I believe in the paranormal, but time travel is too far-fetched for me. In fact, until now, I’ve tried to forget about that night. I could never wrap my head around it, and I still can’t. Maybe by writing this, I can finally put this experience, much like the blood keeper, to rest. The only thing that kept haunting me after I left the shack that night, were the fuzzy images left in my mind before I had passed out.

Though I couldn’t fully differentiate who was who, I was almost certain that it was the blood keeper who was stabbing the man I was helping (albeit against my will). What if nothing supernatural happened here at all, and the grave digger lied to me so I wouldn’t divulge my story to anyone else without sounding completely and utterly crazy? What if he was a Bloodlight too? I also could have sworn I saw a shovel on the ground right where the six foot deep hole used to be. What if… no, it can’t be. They certainly would have killed me rather than construct an elaborate ruse to keep me quiet… right? I’m just paranoid. One thing is for sure, though; I will never venture to any cemetery, at night, ever again – whether or not the blood keeper is dead, or still out there, making his rounds.

Credit: Christopher Maxim

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Forget Me

April 10, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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I was a beautiful young woman once, full of love and life. My lily-white skin was soft and warm, my belly swollen with new life, and my hand held by my husband, Edward. Edward was a good man. We married young, in the spring, when the air was heavy with the scent of the blossoming trees and the ground damp with dew. I remember how he smiled when he lifted my veil, as if seeing me for the first time. His eyes were soft and blue, crinkling at the sides as he told me he loved me. Who could have known this man would become my curse? This kind, gentle man, whose love gave me such life that I might live forever.
The winter came and my belly bulged with the fruit of our love. The chilled winds forced me to keep inside, and the maids tended to my every need. Many days I spent sewing by the fire, softly singing songs without meaning for hours on end.
And then, one night, I felt it.
The pain was immense, as if I was been torn from the inside out. I screamed for my maids, and one cradled my arm and attempted to lead me to my chamber. Another ran for Edward and he came crashing through the door, his manner wild with fear and excitement. He took my other arm and I was brought moaning up the stairs, wailing and huffing with excursion. When finally I was safe in my bed, the doctor came. He went about his way, and ordered me to push and breathe while Edward held my hand, both of us soaked with sweat. Suddenly, the doctor paused. He spoke quietly to the midwife and she ushered Edward out the room. He protested madly, shouting over her shoulder; “I am with you, Joanna!”
I smiled through the rat tails of my sodden hair and calmed him, “Do not fear for me, Edward. I will be safe here”. My voice, though torn with pain, sounded surprisingly calm. He looked back at me desperately, and the door was closed in front of him.
That was the last time I truly saw Edward. The doctor told me I was bleeding too heavily and he couldn’t stop it. I cried, “My baby! Is my baby going to live?” but for all my life I cannot remember if he answered me. In that instant, the world seemed to go numb. The pain was remained, but dulled, like a blunted knife.The room seemed to drift into grey before my eyes. I could see the doctor lifting up my child in a blood-soaked blanket, but all I could hear was the colossal ringing in my ears, and I did not know if the infant cried. The darkness closed in from the corners of my eyes, as if I were falling down an endless hole, and finally, enveloped me completely.
Yet, I did not truly leave. I was new, risen from my body and standing in the corner of my room. For a while all was silent but for the ringing, although the light had come back to me. I saw the doctor open the door and speak to Edward, and I saw him fall to his knees and scream in pain. I saw the maids gasp and cover their mouths, and the midwife rocking my baby in her arms, humming softly, her eyes red and stinging. And I saw my body, stretched out on that bloody bed, my eyes still open and looking straight at me. I tried to touch my hand, but my fingers passed straight through. We looked at each other for a while, as if I hoped my body would blink and sit up. Yet I lay there, stoic, stubbornly deceased, and I felt as though I grew thinner, as if I was completely drained of everything.
Then, all sound gushed back and awoke me from my stupor; Edward’s howling sobs, the weeping of the maids, and the screams of my baby. I went to the midwife, although she did not see me. In her plump arms, he seemed so small. He too was covered in blood, but he was so alive. His cries were the most beautiful thing I had ever heard, and amidst all the loss in my home, new life graced us.
For a while, Edward did not look at our child. He allowed the maids to change my bedsheets, then placed me amongst new ones as if I were asleep. He laid beside me and embraced me all night, his tears soaking my cold, dead skin. It was as if he was trying to warm me, to bring me back to life. How I wanted to embrace him back, to tell him I was still with him, but there seemed no way. So I laid on the other side of my corpse, resting upon myself and watching darling Edward sleep, wishing with all my heart to come back to him. But I could only watch.
Eventually, the undertakers came to collect my body. Edward did not fight them, but sat and watched them with eyes sunk and dead with grief. He and I stood together at the window as we watched the cart take me away, and I held his hand. Although my ghostly fingers could hold no earthly thing, he seemed to feel me, and he looked at his hand for a long time, then up at my face, or where my face would have been. He tightened his grip on thin air, yet I felt we were together, across the worlds of life and death, and I could almost feel the warmth of his hand on mine.
He spoke nothing of this, of course. But that night, he went to the baby’s room, where the nurse sat and knitted beside him. He dismissed her, and he sat in her place. He looked at our child, then addressed the room as a whole. “Are you with me, Joanna?” he said.
“Yes!” I cried, but he could not hear me. He waited for an answer, and desperate, I tapped the mobile above the bed with the tips of my fingers. It rocked to and fro, and Edward saw it and knew it was me. The baby giggled at the knitted birds that moved with the mobile and held out chubby little hands to them.
Edward looked at our child with love, and spoke to me again.
“As long as you are with me, my darling, I am a blessed man. But heaven knows I miss you even though you are here.” He stroked the baby’s head. “He is all I have left of you know, my baby boy. He is the evidence of our union, and I haven’t even named him yet.” He let tears run down his face as the boy gripped his finger in his tiny palm. “Jonathan,” he whispered. “In memory of my Joanna.”
I smiled and stood beside him as he cradled our son, like some twisted family portrait. I placed my hand on his shoulder and we sang to him together, a folk song my mother had sung to me when I was a child, and Edward’s mother to him.

Sleep now, my love, for all the night
Slumbers soft until the light

Warms your heart and warms your mind
and teaches you wisdom, to love and be kind

Sleep now, my love,
for all the stars

Shimmer, watching from afar,

And angels will watch you and smile with delight
As you sleep all through the night.

Edward slept in the chair that night, with Jonathan softly snuffling in his arms. In my new, spectral form, I could not sleep, but was content to watch my family, and stay with them.
Three years passed, and Jonathan grew into a beautiful young boy, with Edward’s bright blue eyes and my soft brown hair. The maids adored him, and Edward doted on him. We would sit together on the floor and play, and Jonathan seemed to feel my presence with him, just as Edward did. Sometimes a maid would happen upon Edward speaking to me and back away to gossip, but they did not bother us. We were the perfect family.
***
That winter, after his third birthday, Jonathan became terribly ill. His fever ran high and beads of sweat ran off his little head and Edward cried for him. The coughing was the worst part. I could not hold my baby in my arms and tell him it would all be alright, but only stand and watch as he coughed up blood and mucus. His plump little body became emaciated and his face sallowed with sickness. The doctor told Edward it was too late to save him, and all they could do was make his passing comfortable. He wept all night, holding my sweet baby’s hand, and when he cried, he called him Joanna.
I wondered if my baby would join me in the next life, and that I might finally be able to touch him. I had seen other spirits in this realm, the ghost of the gardener’s boy that was crushed by a falling tree, the spectre of the old man who had lived here before us and passed in his sleep, but not many. I had spoken to them once or twice, but one by one they left me. The old man was first, he moved on not a month after I had come to this world, and the gardener’s boy left when his father died, after a terrible force caused his heart to stop. I was alone on this side of reality.
I suppose it was selfish to wish this upon Edward, but it was such a lonely existence. I never wished for Jonathan’s death, but it came sure enough. He’d been sick for so long, it was almost a relief when he finally passed. I could see it in Edward’s eyes, behind the pain of his loss. He held my baby’s hand so tight it was almost impossible for the doctor to move him away, then he locked himself in our chamber, weeping uncontrollably.
I wept too. I had lost my only son. Never again would I see him laughing with Edward or squirming on the maid’s lap, and still he did not come to me in the next life. I waited for days, but he never appeared. I felt the pain of loss in full force, he was truly gone, snatched away from me forever. I screamed and howled, and the sorrow turned to fury, giving me the strength to fling vases from their places, smash mirrors and throw open doors in my mad search for my son. The maids were driven almost insane with fear and called for the priest to exorcise the house, but Edward would not allow him to take me away. We looked together, I in the spirit world and he in his dreams, and still there was no sign of Jonathan. Edward barely left his room, but sat in his bed and spoke to me, even when I was not in there with him. I suppose it brought him comfort not to be alone. But I was alone, and I was afraid of being so forever.
Many doctors came to see him, friends and even religious men, in the hopes of bringing him back to health. They told him “It does not do to dwell on dreams. We must all move on,” but my Edward refused. He expressed his fear to them, telling them I had stayed behind, but Jonathan had not returned to him. He asked if Jonathan was lost and afraid, or if it was I that was left behind. They only shook their heads at him. “Joanna isn’t here,” they would say, as I held his hand.
***
As my misery grew, I grew stronger with it. Rumour quickly spread around the town of hauntings in my home. The servants told their friends of things moving out of place, of doors opening and slamming shut of their own accord, candles blowing out without wind and my disembodied cries echoing throughout the house. One maid, a simple creature called Marianne, was dusting the mantelpiece one warm June night, and happened to glance into the mirror. Behind her, she saw my ghostly image, darkened with fury and loss, but when she turned, she could not see me. She quit that night. The cook was soon to follow, after I forced all the knives to hurl themselves at the wall near where he stood. I never intended to harm them, only to drive them away, so we could be alone, my husband and I. Those rumours they spread were toxic to him, and I knew that I must protect him. I had no idea that I was sealing my own fate.
A whole year passed, and every servant in the area refused to work for Edward in his haunted house. Jonathan still had not come home to me, so Edward and I would sit by the fire and wait, silently. With the meddlesome servants gone, I had no need to act out of fury, only to love my husband. He would read his books and I would sit in my chair and watch him, peaceful. When we were together, I felt safe once again, but when he slept, I felt fear and loneliness rush back to me like vomit rising in my throat, and once more I would tear the house apart and cry for Jonathan.
Edward hanged himself on the fifth anniversary of my death and Jonathan’s birth, from the chandelier in the dining room. I wonder if I truly tried to save him, or did I let him die so he could come to me. I can’t remember now, it has been so many years. No one had worked for my husband for such a long time, it was days before they found his corpse, rotting from the rafters.
***
Myth carried on our legacy for us. Many families moved in after Edward died, but none lasted very long. All left in a hurry, claiming of terrifying hauntings, of screaming and crying, of dark figures in the shadows. I was trapped in that house, and as my stories lived, so did I. Perhaps Edward and Jonathan were trapped there too – many families complained of hauntings I never performed, of a child laughing, of a man softly singing. Maybe they were with me, but inaccessible, or maybe the families had exaggerated their stories, but either way it drove me to anger. I wandered that house for hundreds of years trying to find my family, but I never saw them again.
I saw other spirits from time to time, as I had seen them before. I saw a little girl who had been run over by a cart, and a wife who had been beaten by her husband. I saw the gristly burns on the spectre of a baker who had died in a fire, and heard the crying of babies that were lost before they even learnt to talk. Some of them left much faster than others, as people began to forget them. The beaten wife disappeared one day, as her sister passed and her husband took a new wife to torment. The baker passed along with his wife, and the babies vanished when their mothers gave birth to new sons and daughters. But people did not forget me, in my haunted house all alone. My story was passed on from generation to generation, and my house became a cheap tourist attraction. Sometimes teenagers would break in through the servant’s quarters and dare each other to spend the night with me, or homeless men would take shelter from the wind and the rain.
They trapped me here, these stories. I realised soon I had sealed my fate, in my desperation to find my son and my husband, I had created a legend. People would always remember me, the mother who lost herself and her son, and who drove her husband to death. Other spirits only had to remain here while others grieved for them, but grieving for me ended with Edward. Nobody grieves for me now, but you never forgot me. And so we wander the house, together but apart, for perhaps an eternity, looking for each other and for our son. I grow tired of searching in vain, but I cannot cease to exist when others have cursed me to stay. Maybe Jonathan and Edward have moved on now, and it is only I that is stuck in this imitation-life. I might never know. All I want is to rest in peace with my family, but you keep me here, like an exhibit in some twisted zoo.
And so I cry here, alone forever, begging you to forget me.

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The Tunnel

April 9, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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Alex Roth had already lived in the house for more than six months. He had no idea how he had failed to notice this small door before. Yet there it was in front of him. He came across the door by accident really, while he was in the process of performing the most mundane of tasks – his laundry. The landlord had been kind enough to replace the washer and dryer just before Alex began renting the house. Alex used the machines regularly and was grateful to have such top-of-the-line equipment. It was a far cry from his previous life of spending long nights in the Laundromat, even if he did have to go down into the dingy basement to use these.

On the day he discovered the door, he was attempting to screw the cap back onto his detergent bottle when it slipped from his fingers. “Crap!” he blurted out as he watched the cap roll into a small space between the dryer and the concrete wall. He stooped down and put his cheek against the cold wall in an attempt to see the cap, but it was too dark in the crevasse. Even though he couldn’t see the cap, he knew that he would inevitably have to pull the dryer away from the wall since his arm would not fit into the tight space.

After a few minutes of struggling with the machine, whose rubber feet did not readily slide against the concrete floor, the dryer was moved as far out as its power cord and vent tube would allow. The cap was there on the floor, but Alex suddenly shifted his interest when he saw the small door. It was a wooden plank door about three feet square, hinged on its left side near the corner of the basement walls. On the door’s right side was a rusty metal latch with a padlock through it.

“What in the world?” Alex mumbled to himself. He carefully worked his way behind the dryer to examine the door closer. He jiggled the padlock. The detergent cap lay unnoticed on the floor. A short-lived dilemma entered Alex’s mind: Do I retrieve the cap, push the dryer back and forget about this door? Or do I investigate further? The former was not Alex’s style at all, hence the reason the dilemma was short-lived. His only hang-up was that it wasn’t his property. He called his landlord.

“Tom, it’s Alex. Hey, did you know about the little door down in the basement behind the dryer?”

“Well, I saw it when they installed the new laundry units, but it was locked, so I didn’t mess with it,” Tom replied.

“Weren’t you curious at all?”

“No, not really. I’m pretty sure it’s just a small crawlspace for storage.”

“Do you mind if I open it and take a look? I’ll replace the padlock with a new one.”

“I don’t know if that’s a good idea. It’s probably been closed up for a really long time.”

There was silence before Tom finally said, “Alex? You’re not really going to open it, are you?”

“Sorry, Tom, I’ve gotta go. There’s another call coming in.” And Alex hung up. That last part was a lie. He just wanted to get off of the phone before Tom told him outright not to open the door. Alex didn’t see what the harm would be, especially since he offered to replace the lock.

A few moments later he returned to the door with a hacksaw. After nearly thirty minutes of struggling with the saw blade against the hardened steel padlock, Alex cursed Hollywood for making it look so easy. Finally, the blade broke through and he was able to swivel the lock around and remove it. The latch then came free with little resistance. The door did not budge as easily. Who knows how long it had been wedged inside the tight opening in the concrete wall. With the help of a pry bar, it broke free with a pop and the door swung freely. He knelt down next to the opened door.

Alex was hit with the smell of dank, musty air. The darkness inside was absolute, the silence oppressive. He leaned forward just enough for his head to cross the threshold slightly. It was impossible to determine the dimensions of the interior without a flashlight, so Alex made another trip to his toolbox to retrieve one.

Upon returning, he knelt down once more and shone the light into the opening. Inside, it was quite a bit larger than he was expecting. Alex estimated it at about ten feet by ten feet, with a ceiling high enough to stand without crouching. The walls were not made of concrete, but rather stones that had once been carefully put into place, now covered with mold and mildew. Planks of rotted wood made up the ceiling, and the floor was compacted dirt.

A quick scan with the flashlight showed that, much to Alex’s surprise, the space was empty. The only thing that stood out to him was an area about midway down the left wall where some stones near the floor had dislodged and fallen into the room. Several small piles of dirt were on the ground next to the stones. Alex’s curiosity got the better of him, and he crawled through the doorway for a closer look at the area.

It was substantially colder inside the room, and the air was stagnant and stale. Alex made his way over to the loose stones and piles of dirt. Shining the flashlight on them, he saw that a tunnel had been dug where the wall was broken out. He moved closer, stooped down, and shone the light inside. The tunnel was about two feet in diameter, but its depth was unknown. Even with the light shining directly into the opening, all that was visible was the cylindrical earth of the sidewalls tapering off into pitch blackness.

Alex was momentarily chilled as his imagination took over. He envisioned some otherworldly creature emerging from the tunnel and attacking him – or a giant tentacle reaching out from the black depths – or a rotting corpse crawling out of the tunnel face-down at an alarming speed. He panned the empty room with his flashlight making sure he was, in fact, still alone. After gathering himself, he got on his hands and knees and looked into the empty tunnel again. Where could this possibly go? Why is it here? These were questions that could only be answered by further exploration. His mind was telling him not to enter the tunnel, but his curiosity was telling him otherwise.

Lying on his stomach, Alex used his forearms to inch himself forward in the dirt. The flashlight was in his left hand and the contrast between light and shadows bounced violently off the tunnel walls with each movement. Just a few feet in, he noticed that the tunnel began to angle slightly upward, as if heading for the surface. Even when he paused to shine the light directly into the center of the tunnel he still could not see anything but dirt walls tapering into darkness. The further he went the more he dreaded eventually having to back his way out. But when he finally reached a dead end in the dirt, that’s exactly what he had to do. He was disappointed that the tunnel just ended. No explanation. No purpose. It took him about ten minutes to wiggle his way out backwards.

Just as he reached the tunnel’s exit in reverse, he heard someone hastily coming down the basement stairs, shouting.

“Alex! Are you in here, Alex?”

“Tom? Is that you? Why are you…”

Before he could finish, the wood-plank door was slammed shut. Alex could hear the sound of a new lock being secured on the latch. Then the dryer was shoved back into place.

“Hey! What are you doing?” Alex yelled from inside the small room. He beat his fists on the door.

“It’s too late now, Alex. I told you not to open it,” Tom yelled back. Then, as quickly as he came, he was gone, and Alex heard his footsteps as he ascended the basement stairs. Alex continued to scream and beat on the door for several more minutes, but it was of no use. Tom was long gone.

The more time Alex spent locked in the secret room, the more he realized that it may be days or, heaven forbid, weeks before anyone came to search for him. And even then, how would they get into his house? Tom had obviously had a master key. If he’d locked the door on his way out, searchers would have to break the windows. Alex wanted to take matters into his own hands, so he decided to go into tunnel and dig for the surface.

In just a few minutes he was wedged in the tunnel on his stomach and forearms, flashlight in hand, facing the wall of dirt at the dead end. Alex’s first few attempts at clawing the loose dirt away were slow as he wasn’t sure what to do with the dirt that was breaking free. Once he established an efficient method of conveying dirt past his body in the cramped space, the work progressed at a much faster pace. The more he dug, the more he realized that he was absolutely committed to this escape route. The dirt that he was moving past his body was piling up at his feet, enclosing him completely and preventing him from backing out if he so chose. Realizing that this was essentially the point of no return, he had to decide if he wanted to press onward or attempt to wiggle out now while it was still somewhat manageable. He chose to dig.

Alex checked his watch in the flashlight beam. He had been digging, following the upward incline of the tunnel, for just over an hour now – inching his way forward. His fingers ached horribly; the nails worn down to nothing. He had to periodically reassure himself along the way that he could make it – the surface had to be close. Mere moments after he checked his watch the flashlight batteries began to weaken. The light grew more and more dim over the course of several minutes until finally, it was gone entirely.

Pitch blackness.

The darkness was smothering. Alex could feel the walls of the tunnel hugging his body tightly. His mind tricked him into thinking that they were closing in even more, trying to squeeze the life out of him. He had to press on. He used the dead flashlight to break away more dirt, saving his fingers from further agony.

After a few more minutes of blindly transferring dirt behind him, a chunk about the size of a walnut fell away, leaving Alex’s fingertips to survey a small exposed segment of a smooth object of some kind barely protruding from the earth surrounding it. He worked frantically to uncover more of the object, desperately wishing he had the flashlight to see what it was. Alex continued clearing the area and evaluating it with his fingers until he had cleared away several square inches of it. He could not pry it out of the dirt. It was not a very hard object, but not entirely soft either. Even though the edges were smooth, there was a patterned texture of some kind embedded in its surface.

It was then that Alex remembered the button on his wristwatch that would light up its faceplate. He pressed it and held the watch directly in front of the object. There before Alex, embedded in the dirt, was the bottom of a tennis shoe. Using the edge of the shoe as a guide, he clawed more soil away until the lower cuff of a pant leg was revealed.

“Good Lord, I wasn’t the first one he locked in here,” Alex whispered, “This tunnel was someone’s escape attempt!” Alex worked at the dirt around the corpse, being meticulous not to disturb the remains. As he progressed, he felt the emptiness of the deceased person’s blue jean pant leg – the only exception being the hard bone wrapped inside it. Further on, he found what likely used to be a pink sweatshirt, now dark brown and saturated with caked-on mud and clinging tightly to the shape of a compressed rib cage. After this discovery, he assumed the body was female. He uncovered a dainty skeletal hand next to the torso, fingers grasping a flat object that was apparently being used as a makeshift shovel in the girl’s final attempt to claw her way to freedom. Alex was careful to keep the digits in tact next to one another as he removed the flat object. He checked it in the light of his wristwatch face.

A public library card.

Casey J. Potter.

“Oh my God!” Alex blurted out. “I’ve found her!”

Five years ago the case of a local teenager who had been kidnapped from the Spring Oaks Shopping Mall made headlines for months. It happened in broad daylight on a Saturday afternoon, and the entire community was paranoid for weeks afterward. Casey Potter had become a household name locally, and was even recognized quite often on a national level. And now, Alex couldn’t believe he was lying next to her in her earthen tomb.

Alex continued digging his way forward. He did not uncover the entire skull, just the side of the jaw and one empty eye socket. He dug for what seemed like hours more before his fingers finally broke through the surface. A rush of fresh air enveloped him. Alex breathed deeply, the most refreshing breaths he’d ever taken. He had been digging for so long that it was dark outside when he finally extracted himself from the tunnel and rested his exhausted body on the lawn, staring up at the stars on that clear night.

– – – – –

In the following days, authorities exhumed the remains. Alex was hailed a hero by the media. He was interviewed by several of the local news channels, whose journalists all let out the same gasp as he described what he had been through. The Potter family received closure and was able to mourn properly for the first time in five years. Tom Drury was arrested and, initially, maintained his innocence. But after long hours of interrogation he eventually caved and confessed to the kidnapping.

Over time, the occurrences of strangers recognizing Alex in public dwindled. Hearing, “Hey, you’re the guy that found Casey Potter!” became less and less frequent. He had moved into a new rental house shortly after the incident, and everything was getting back to normal. And then he found the door. A small door in the back of a coat closet under the stairway. He debated with himself at length, but finally opened it with great trepidation. A wash of relief came over him when he realized that it was simply an extension of the storage space under the stairs, completely empty, and no tunnels.

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Under the Ice

April 8, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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As I lay in my sick bed with my mind muddled, I find it quite impossible to find motivation to continue on and lack the focus to return to my work. Ever since a fantastic yet terrible event I have bordered on mania. Now I feel the urge to relate my story to others, perhaps to ward against the vile allure of knowledge. Perhaps it is just to pass the time until my end.

Before I embarked on a journey that would change my perspective, and indeed, my life; I had been a historian. Though I was not affiliated with any particular historical society I did achieve some note. My interest was mainly anthropological and I spent much of my existence venturing from place to place. The intricacies of obscure cultures and languages ignited a spark of curiosity within me. I was noted for possessing an impressive collection of tomes and artifacts contained within my serene study.
The bleak day of which my descent into madness began was of little excitement. I had returned from an expedition to Siberia four days prior. I was to examine a carven tablet presumably crafted by a Neanderthal hand, however it was revealed to be a mere hoax. Having no current project, I gazed idly at Goya’s “Saturn Devouring His Son” painting as I often did. It was afforded a central resting place in my study due to my inexplicable fancy for it. Not long after my contemplation began I heard a shrill ring and mechanically answered the telephone’s summons. I immediately recognized the voice of my long-time compatriot, Laurence.

Laurence had accompanied me on a vast majority of expeditions and was surely the adventurous spirit of our duo. Always seeking out more work and new challenges, his call was not wholly unexpected. What he conveyed to me was incredibly strange. He claimed that Antarctica had suffered a vicious summer and a considerable amount of ice had melted in some areas. The peculiar thing was, in one certain area, on the southern coast, the uppermost towers of an ancient cathedral had been spied. I listened with disbelief, no civilization could exist beneath the suffocating ice, surely the sighting was an illusion, a trick of light. Yet Laurence assured me with vigor that what he spoke of was so. I reluctantly agreed to accompany his exploration.
Gathering and purchasing items for preparation of the voyage spanned the long hours of the next three days. Procuring cold weather gear was not an issue as my previous trip had been to Siberia, and this freed up a modest amount of time. The excess time allowed me to think on the expedition more and when the time to leave was upon me, I was in considerably higher spirits. I thought that maybe it was possible someone had once inhabited this alleged icy citadel. Glancing at Goya’s masterwork for the last time, I exited my dwelling and proceeded to the prearranged meeting point.

We boarded a ship headed for Buenos Aires and from there we would make the trip to Antarctica. I now had an almost tangible sense of excitement, Laurence did not hesitate to chide me for my earlier incredulity. In Argentina we resupplied and it was then that I first met an interesting member of the crew headed to the glacial plains. He was a large man named Mikhail and spent much of his time drawing and writing in his notebook. He had a vivid imagination and was very much superstitious, thus he relished our current mission.
The long arduous voyage across the sea was initially uneventful. Of strange note however, is that as we got closer to the frigid continent, my dreams took on a strange quality. Mikhail seemed to be affected the most as he was by far the most sensitive of the crew. His drawings and writing were more sinister than usual yet he could offer no explanation. We encountered a strangely abandoned ship that was in excellent condition besides the fact that it had no fuel left. We looted it for provisions and left. Mikhail seemed strangely entranced by the sea after that incident. His artwork had already shown marine influence before, but now it was an obsession. Later that day Mikhail was nowhere to be found and I remembered strange ripples in the water I had seen shortly after we passed by the ship. I watched the stars that night yet they offered no solace, the only thing I could think of was the vast emptiness of space and it terrified me.

When we landed and breathed in the dry frigid air, morale was very low. The loss of Mikhail hit everyone hard as he was of friendly character. We could also see that a storm was building. We quickly set up our tents, mostly to find the embrace of warm air. Laurence inexplicably fell ill that night, and as the moon reached the zenith, the storm struck with full fury. I noted a sound much like a screeching call and attributed it to the fierce winds.
When the morning sun lazily emerged from the clouds it facilitated my view of the vast arctic landscape, heaped snow from the blizzard creating small hills and valleys. Another member of our crew had gone missing and none could account for him. The crew assembled a search team to discover his fate, bidding me to remain with Laurence. Quickly ascertaining that he required no aid, I set off towards the supposed sunken city just to catch a glimpse.

All doubt left me when I saw the great spires reaching towards the heavens. The light reflecting off of the highest steeple was almost hypnotizing. I trudged through the ice with renewed purpose, forgetting completely about Laurence and the crew. My first challenge was to locate some entrance or weak spot in the thick ice to breach the frozen burg. As I was exploring the surrounding, I stepped on a deceptively thin layer of ice and fell through, opening the way to the forgotten city. What would lead me into the sunken cathedral was a long corridor with a massive staircase. I found the corridor odd, it was clearly made for beings no less than eight feet tall and the material used to construct it was unearthly. The stone was of an ivory color but was shimmering, as if some liquid were coating it. I also found it strange how well kept it was, it exuded an air of utter ancientness but looked as if I should see other people traversing the hall, it was so well maintained.

My wonder was displaced as, when entering into a vast room with many doorways, a charnel scent rose from the depths of the city. The room contained great arches, hinting that the city was intentionally buried under the ice. They were engraved with exquisite bas-reliefs and inscriptions which I could not comprehend. A warmth and faint light was transmitted from a stairway in between two giant statues of bird-creatures. As I approached I heard a papery rustling sound from within and my curiosity took control. The foul stench pierced my nose once again, invading my sensibilities. The stairs seemed to lead to a housing area and a vast manor loomed directly before me. Pressing my hand to the stone door, I noticed the stone itself radiated heat. Also of strange note, I could hear the sound of rushing water, hinting that I had travelled farther than I initially thought. As I entered I caught sight of a vast library through an open doorway and preceded through. That is where the creature resided.

The creature was enveloped in feathers whose likeness was closer to scales. Even hunched over in its ornate chair, I could tell the creature was at least eight feet tall. Its beak was monstrous in size and appeared to be sufficient enough to break through even the tough stone surrounding us. His hands and feet contained large, intimidating talons. He was putrid yellow in color, flecked with black and with the occasional rust colored feathers. He looked up to me in a surprisingly casual way which confounded me. What was even stranger was that he was capable of speaking. The manner in which he spoke was quite bird-like as I suspected, his tone rapidly changed as he spoke, and it was in short, quick bursts. He greeted me as if this event was normal and bade me view his archives. My trepidation increased as I scanned the titles, some were of very recent print. I recalled the offensive scent and abandoned ship, shuddering. He took no note of my discomfort.
Much was gleaned from the creature. He articulated his name in a fashion that cannot be properly pronounced with human tongue, the best I could manage was “Groth”. Groth told me of his species, the golka, and of their numerous great cities crafted in the inky black recesses of ice. He spoke of strange rituals they performed in a ghoulish tone. His candor startled me as he spoke of things which brought the occult to mind. At last, he removed his hands from his lap, revealing that the book he had been poring over when I entered was in fact the dreaded Necronomicon. With a glint in his eyes, he beckoned me to follow him.

We entered a room which was shrine-like in appearance. The place of worship was a great monolith, exquisitely carved. Directly in front of it was a pedestal with grotesque statuette perched upon it. I was stuck with a wave of nervousness and wished only to escape, however I could not will myself to move. The hideous golka began chanting from the vile tome in his possession. His voice strangely maintained its
normal quality as he spoke.

As the last undulating wave of words left Groth’s throat, the monolith underwent change. On the top of the vast obelisk opened a chasm, or portal, of pure darkness. The inky blackness was so intense that my eyes ached and I knew it to be the very cosmos. The eternal and deafening silence filled me with dread. Then emerged the Star-Born Being with images of the future. The sight of the indescribable creature induced in me a madness so intense, it is impossible to chronicle. The mass of shadow and eyes revealed the future of mankind. When it descended from the stars to claim the Earth as its own, the downfall of humanity would commence. The golka and other creatures would claw their way out from the depths to liberate the world from humanity. My knees quaked and instinct forced me to take action. I ran back through the manor and out of the city. I made no note as the icy gale chilled my flesh.

A search party was sent out by Laurence when I did not return and they found me stumbling and rambling madly not far from camp. I told of my experience on the way back to my home but none would heed my words. I write this from my room in my psychiatric ward to explain my actions. When the Star Spawn comes to Earth, humanity will be reduced to primal and barbaric ways. Thus, I shall cast myself from the window. Even now I can hear the call of the thing which should not be, calling from the unfathomable cold of space, and the depths of madness.

Credit: Richard S.

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