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Weisserdorf

January 18, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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My last memory was that of surviving a deadly Nazi airstrike. My head was groggy, still ringing from the shrapnel blast. I thank whatever god is out there that my helmet managed to deflect the hit. Shaking of the sensation, I got up on my feet and picked up my Thompson, slowly threading on the stone roads of the town.

“Weisserdorf, that’s where the SS officer is holed up in”, I thought to myself, with the gun raised, slowly approaching the fog ridden plaza.

Something was wrong; I expected sounds of explosions, guns blazing and bullets whizzing from all sides but everything was eerily silent. All I could hear was the crackle of fires and sobbing of people. But yet, this wasn’t a bother to me as I pressed on, determined to put two bullets in the eyes of that Nazi asshole.

Stopping in my tracks, I looked straight ahead; something on the horizon caught my eye. It was a young boy, slumped on a corner, sobbing with his hands covering his face.

I approached him carefully. I know these tricks; children, acting weak and lost, only to unpin a grenade once you have them in your hands.

Something was wrong, despite me yelling at the child with my Thompson aimed at him, he didn’t react and remained sobbing and unmoved.

Slowly pacing, I moved closer.

I gasped in shock; the child was translucent and had a blue glow on him. Normally, I would freak out, having witnessed a ghost right in front of me but yet, I felt unfazed.

Unnaturally unfazed.

With the gun still poised on my shoulder, I continue to observe him until a figure appeared behind me.

Taken by surprise, I jolted back, pointing my gun at it; it was an elderly woman, just like the boy, she was translucent and glowed blue. Not noticing me, she quickly dashed for the boy and grabbed him, running off.

I then heard the whistle of mortar fire. Cursing to myself, I ducked on the ground, covering my head.

“Strange”, I thought to myself. I could hear the blast of the shell impacting but felt neither the shockwave nor shrapnel flying through. As the sound of the blast ended, I got up and turned back; it was the mangled phantom bodies of the woman and the boy.

“What the hell is going on?” I thought to myself. But then, it hit me again; the compulsion. I needed to get to the town hall, where that son of a bitch is bunkered in. No death of ghosts is going to stop me. Turning my back on the events, I pressed on.

“Who’s there!” I yelled, pointing my gun at the second floor of a building.

I couldn’t tell what was it; it was well hidden behind the windows and the all I could see was its glowing eyes. I approached the building and continued my yells, only to have frightened it off.

I didn’t want to investigate. It’s probably my mind playing tricks on me; Not worth my time. It was only a matter of time before the Officer would flee. Brushing all the thoughts off, I continued my approach.

Finally, I arrived at my destination and could see the town hall from where I was. Gritting my teeth and tightening my grip on my gun, I hasten my movements as the sound of machine gun fire and yells became more prominent.

“Let’s do this”, I said to myself with courage.

Something was wrong; yes, I could see fellow comrades hunkered down behind cover, firing at the building and even a goddamned Sherman blasting shells at it but yet, when I approached them, they ignored me; they were like the boy, translucent but this time, were glowing red.

”What is this? Some kind of Nazi experimental paranormal shit?” I audibly thought to myself. In frustration, I tried clobbering one of the soldiers, who was laying prone with my gun but it simply phased through. Grunting deeply, I vulgarly swore to myself.

“What the fuck is going on?”

Nevertheless, I didn’t care, I’m not letting some Nazi trick deter my mission. Dismissing this strange phenomenon, I headed towards the hall, weapon raised and with determination to gun down that bastard. I kicked down the door.

“Strange, those things were outside…” I thought to myself, witnessing the phantom battle that was going on in the town hall. There were soldiers, both German and American, blasting hails of lead at one another, clobbering each other to death with guns.

Ignoring the ghostly commotion, I headed upstairs.

“Voices!” I gasped and this time, it felt alive. Not like the distorted voices of the phantom combatants, but human speech. I approached the door where the sound was emanating from; the voices were in German, with one of them yelling and quarreling with another.

“This is it, that fucking asshole is inside!”

Without moments to spare, I kicked down the door as the two inside, a Sergeant and the Officer looking stunned, with their mouths agape in shock as I burst in and before they could pull out their weapons, I fired, unloading a flurry of .45 ACP rounds at them, splattering the room red and decorating the walls with bullet holes.

I approached the lifeless corpse of the Officer and his sergeant and smirked. “I did it! I killed a motherfucking SS officer! I’m gonna get a medal for this!” I triumphantly thought to myself.

The sensation was short lived. The bodies of the men started to fade into translucency. My breaths begun to deepen as their bodies started glowing red. With cold sweat driveling from my helmet, I felt frantic as I looked at my hands.

“Jesus Christ!” I screamed in terror.
“They were translucent and red! All this time? I was one of them? What the fuck!”

Dropping my gun and shouting in helpless rage, I pounded on the wall in hopelessness. “I don’t belong here! What the hell!” I yelled with a tearful tone. Dropping on my knees, I writhed on the floor, curling up in a fetal position. And then, I could hear the engines of Focke-Wulfs roaring in the sky and the whistles of bombs dropping.

***

My last memory was that of surviving a deadly Nazi airstrike. My head was groggy but yet, I was strangely free of bodily fatigue. Getting up on my feet and grabbing my Thompson, I moved on, knowing that I must complete my mission; the elimination of the SS officer holed up in the Village of Weisserdorf.

“Odd” I thought to myself. “Am I in the right village?”

The village looked run down. No, not by the destruction of bombs and war, but by age; there were climbers growing on the walls of buildings and the stone ground was cracked everywhere, with moss and grass growing on them. I couldn’t put my finger on what is going on but all I could feel is this sense of dreadful déjà-vu and the strong compulsion of heading to the town hall.

With determination to end the life of the target, I pressed on to the Plaza of the town.

“Something’s missing.” I pondered, eyeing at a nearby building. Something should be there but yet, the derelict building appeared nothing of import.

Gun raised, I scrutinized it further, approaching it but yet, nothing.

“Must be my imagination.” I whispered, walking back to where I was and continued moving. Suddenly, I heard noises; it felt like murmuring but distorted. Curiously, I looked back and saw a group of figures on tailing me, approaching carefully. With intention to drive them away, I turned back and walked towards them.

“Hey civilians! Get out of here! Find safety!” I yelled.

They halted and their murmuring stopped. I then moved closer to get a better view on them.

“Holy shit!” I cursed as I finally got a good glance at them; they appeared to be black sprites of roughly humanoid figure, with eyes glowing white. For some reason, I didn’t panic, despite the fact that they were ghosts. But rather, they seemed frightened of me, as one of them was shivering and another, gasping very heavily.

One of them took out a device, hanging on his hip and a flash of light came out of it.

I didn’t know but yet, I read that as a hostile act as I leveled my Thompson and fire at the group, only to have my bullets phasing through them.

They panicked and bolted away, vanishing as they ran into the fog behind them.

“What in God’s name is going on?”
The town hall was in sight. With my weapon excitedly raised, I approached the building and kicked down the doors. I expected a bloody fight going on but I didn’t care; all I wanted to do is just to kill that SS officer. Climbing the stairs, I could hear voices in German. Knowing that the officer was in one of the doors, I approached it and heard them even louder. With a rush of courage, I kicked down the door, unloading a barrage of bullets at the SS officer with anger fueled impunity.
“Yes!” I cheered. “With that Evildoer dead, I’m looking at a well earned promotion once I get back to America!”

But something felt wrong, I felt that I have done this before as a strong sense of déjà-vu hit me. Panting heavily, I whimpered to myself and looked at a nearby mirror.

I gasped deeply, seeing a figure, featureless, glowing red and translucent. Quivering, I turned my head towards the body of the officer; he was like me, featureless, glowing red and translucent.

“What the hell…” I mumbled, dropping on my knees and covering my face. “This is wrong, this is all wrong!!! I don’t belong here! I DON’T BELONG HERE! I’M DEAD! I’M DEAD!!!”

This sense of hopelessness, I know I have felt it before. I don’t know when, or why, but all I could hear now are the engines of Focke-Wulfs roaring in the sky and the whistling of bombs dropping…

***

My last memory was that of surviving a deadly Nazi airstrike. My head felt numb and light and so is my body. I tighten the straps on my helmet and looked around. “The hell?” I mumbled, looking around at the town; it seems like a construction is going on. I could see metal frames of buildings everywhere on the town as cranes and other construction vehicles were apparent everywhere.

“Weird, intel didn’t tell us that Weisserdorf was undergoing a construction”, I wondered.

I checked my ammunition before slowly threading on the concrete grounds, with the strong compulsion to head for the town hall.

Something didn’t feel right, it didn’t seem like a battle was going on; there were no cracks of gunfire, screams and yells of soldiers nor the blasts of explosions going on. I slowly walked the streets and then, I came across a group of figures. I gulped heavily; they were black and shadowy, with glowing eyes and seemingly clad in construction worker’s clothes. With burning curiosity, I approached them, in attempt to ask if I was in the right place but as one of them caught a glimpse of me, they started to panic, dropping their tools and dashing off, screaming frantically.

“What was I thinking? And why didn’t I feel anything strange? These guys were goddamn ghosts!” I thought to myself, placing my palm on my face.

Quickly shrugging off the feeling, I continued my journey; after all, I needed to kill that fucking Nazi in that building. I fasten my pace to the location, only to discover that there was no town hall, but a building foundation. The officer was just waiting there, motionless and staring blankly at the horizon. I did not care about this oddity, of why he would just stand there like a statue on some building foundation like an idiot. He must probably be high on some weird Nazi drugs. I approached him and opened fire, filling his body with holes, oozing with blood.

A sense of triumph filled me, but yet, I somehow knew that the sensation would be short lived, as I dropped on my knees, eyeing on the corpse of the late SS officer, that suddenly turned translucent and red.

“Why?” I cried, sobbing in sorrow as my body begun to feel light as I felt it dissipating into the air…

***

I can’t remember anything but the sensation on my body felt like some strange, exotic hangover. My head felt groggy and I was disorientated but yet, my body felt light and anew, as if I just woke up from a good sleep. An awful sense of déjà-vu came to me as I looked around but yet, I couldn’t tell what was going on.

Ignoring all feelings that clouded my mind, I picked up my Thompson and started moving.

The town of Weisserdorf was weird; it looked very futuristic, with neon lights and billboards showing colored moving pictures. There were automobiles of strange, sci-fi like designs scattered across the roads, driven by black, shadowy figures.

I ignored them and didn’t panic like any ordinary person would; it is this dreadful sense of compulsion that I needed to move to the town hall to kill the Nazi Officer driving me forward, not giving a damn about anything else.
I didn’t care, not even as to why this town would appear anachronistic. With ignorant disbelief, I brushed it off as this was some kind of top-secret Nazi town in the middle of Germany. With gun held high, I marched towards the location as my mind ignored everything that roamed the streets as they in turn, ignored me.

It wasn’t a town hall, but a rather strange looking inn. I didn’t care less about the faulty intel our superiors gave us; as long as the target is in there, I wouldn’t give a shit about anything else; I just wanted badly to gun that motherfucker down.

I didn’t bother knocking down the door; I just phased through it and headed upstairs, ignoring the black sprites that occupied the reception area. I headed for the door, lead by this compulsive sense of déjà-vu and entered in with my gun raised.

“The hell? Who the fuck are you!” I yelled in astonishment; it was a figure, clad in ashen robes and his face was pale white and featureless. I readied my weapon but couldn’t fire, not because the gun was jammed or anything.

I just couldn’t.

He grabbed me by the shoulders with both his elongated talons and closed up to me, whispering in a low and solemn voice:

“O Tormented one… Thy deliverance awaits thee…”

I suddenly felt lightened, my mind dissipating into blackness…

***

I had no memory. My body and mind felt weightless and all I see is nothingness…

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Empty House

January 17, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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Bored teenagers pick the worst places to hang out. Of course, this was the east end of Long Island where all the teenagers are bored. There’s nothing to do during the day if you’re not into sun and surf, and even less in the evenings. Summers are full of tourists, traffic and night clubs; convertibles still running outside of stores. The rest of the year, it’s quiet. And in the winter… desolate.

I was out with a group of friends that night. Well, they weren’t really my friends, but we hung out. They’d always drag me somewhere creepy in the dark to get high. Usually it was some place in the woods where I can’t see my hand in front of my face. One time it was an old betting track that had been condemned. Then there’s the obvious one: a cemetery. Nothing says ‘buzz kill’ like being surrounded by dead people. Sometimes I wasn’t sure if it was better than staying home alone.

By far the worst place they took me was the site of ‘The Montauk Project’, an abandoned military base where people claim they did experiments with time travel and mind control. If that wasn’t disturbing enough, the guy who took us there, Mike, told all these bullshit stories about feral people living in the tunnels. We even went up to the roof of a ten or so story building that was rusted and decaying inside. Not only am I afraid of heights, but the roof was sloped on all sides which made me feel like I was falling off.

“This is kinda creepy. Where are we going?” I asked, hoping it would be tame in comparison.

“We’re going to an abandoned house,” said Mike, much to my dismay. People had often tried getting me to go to abandoned houses, but I always refused. At least those other houses were near a main road, but wherever we were going was far off the beaten path. We had been driving for a while in the pitch black, down some road that felt endless. I couldn’t see in front of us either, since the car we were following was blocking the view, and Mike was driving pretty close.

“It’s not really abandoned,” said Jeff, from up in the passenger seat, “It’s just empty. It was built recently but I guess they haven’t finished some stuff, like the wiring and the locks.”

I wondered why anyone would build a new home in the middle of nowhere. There was nothing but trees lining the road we’d been on, and it was a long road. I was relieved to hear that the house was new, since abandoned houses are usually decrepit and falling apart. They remind me of places you should never go; places where horrible things lurk in the corners and under creaky floor boards. And let’s not forget splintery wood and nails jutting out in all directions, just waiting to pierce drunken teens in the darkness.

In the back seat with me were two alternative-hippy girls. I think it was the first time I’d met them, but I’m not sure. Some people are memorable, while others are just people. Mike and Jeff were probably trying to hook up with them, but I doubted they’d succeed.

“Oh my god, this is gonna be so cool!” one of the girls proclaimed, while the other giggled. Cool, huh? I wasn’t convinced. I suppose when you’re an outgoing person in a place with little excitement, you have to travel to empty houses in the middle of nowhere to get your kicks. As for me, outgoing wasn’t my thing.

When we finally pulled up to the house, the first thing I noticed was the uneven ground all around it. Nothing says ‘unfinished home’ like piles of dirt, unfilled holes, and a view of the foundation. At least the architecture was nice and simple. It was basically like a quasi-modernist rectangle with a lot of tall windows. I was always jealous of my friends who had modern homes. My parents had to be different and go with country charm. Once both drivers shut off their headlights, all I saw was black. We filed out of the cars, and a couple people with flashlights led the way up to the house.

“Ow, shit!” someone shouted. It was Melanie, the one girl that I had actually talked to a little before. She must have rode in the other car because she used to go out with Mike, and now things were a little uncomfortable between them. I didn’t really know the guys in the other car, but at least I knew Mike and Jeff, and I guess Melanie. “Watch out for these holes, guys. I just stepped in one and flippin’ almost broke my foot.”

The girls guided Melanie the rest of the way up to the sliding glass door, where Mike opened it, and in we went. Inside it was your typical, upper middle class Long Island home. The walls were blank white, devoid of any fancy trim, with that shiny wood flooring that doesn’t quite look real. There was a kitchen to the left, and a huge room to the right with a two-story ceiling. The front wall consisted mostly of large, paneless windows, while the back wall was solid and bare. Stairs led up to a second story, complete with an indoor balcony.

In the far corner of the room was the only furniture; a ratty couch and broken armchair that both looked like they came from a junkyard. They sat in front of a fireplace, with small stacks of paper strewn around them. By the looks of it, someone had been squatting there. I assumed it was Mike and his friends.

“Why is there furniture here?” I asked Mike.

“I don’t know. It was here when we found the place. The rest of the house is totally empty. Those papers weren’t here before, though.”

“That’s so weird,” was my typical response to unusual things. The last thing I wanted to find at that house was something unusual. Without the flashlights it was too dark to see, and I hate being in unfamiliar places in the dark. At least our voices echoing through the house gave me a little bit of comfort. It felt like everyone was close by at all times.

One of the guys I didn’t know called us into the kitchen to smoke weed. We were using a really short pipe, and I ended up burning my nose with the lighter. We all burst into hysterics, which lifted the little bit of tension I was feeling. I always seemed to do something funny by mistake when hanging out in a group. Perhaps that’s why this particular gang of misfits liked having me around.

After we lit up, a few of the girls started exploring the house. Intimidated by the darkness, I decided to hang out by the fireplace where Jeff was making a fire. Not having a flashlight made me nervous, and the light from the fire was a fair substitute. I sat in the cruddy armchair, sipping a beer, as Jeff was checking out the papers.

“What is all this stuff?” I asked.

“I don’t know. Some kind of medical stuff. Look,” he replied, handing me a few sheets. They looked like pages torn from medical journals; diagrams of human anatomy and such. Maybe they were photocopies, but in the dim light of the fire it was hard to tell. It was odd that someone would bring so many random papers to an empty house in the middle of nowhere, especially if it was a squatter.

“I figured these would be someone writing a book or something,” I said.

“That’s what I thought. Maybe someone came here to study.”

“This is a really weird place to study. And then to just leave it all here?”

“Creepy, huh?”

“Kinda,” I replied sarcastically.

By this point I was getting pretty bored. Sitting on trashy furniture, surrounded by stacks of mysterious papers, in a dark house, with people I didn’t know that well. I’ve only mentioned Mike and Jeff by name because I can’t remember anyone else’s, except for Melanie. She was as creeped out by the Montauk Project as I was, so we bonded a little. I could hear her voice from the second floor as she and the other girls were getting excited about something. They hurried down the stairs, with Melanie waving a jumbo-sized sheet of paper.

“Guys, check this out! It’s so freaky!” she elated, holding up some sort of crude drawing. It was the outline of a child in black marker. I recalled making those drawings in elementary school. A kid would lay down, and another would trace their body with magic marker or crayon. Only in this case, the hands had been colored in red.

Jeff was the first to say, “What the fuck?”, but we were both thinking it. The mysterious papers were bad enough, but now a mysterious drawing? For a moment I wondered if some of the guys were playing a practical joke.

“It was in one of the rooms upstairs,” said Melanie, “All the rooms were completely empty except for this.” She, along with her two friends, seemed playfully frightened. The kind of frightened you would expect from someone watching a scary movie they know isn’t real. Regardless of the odd nature of the drawing, it was the only interesting thing that had happened since we got there.

“The weirdest part is the hands being red,” I said, “It’s so weird.”

“Right?” Jeff concurred.

“I wanna take it home!” Melanie squealed.

“Why?” I asked, “It’s fucking scary. Why is it even here?” We had fun coming up with explanations, which helped me forget how disturbing it was. Maybe some kids were hanging out in the house and made it. But we couldn’t figure out why they would have brought a huge piece of paper. Then we thought it could have been made in school, and someone brought it to the house. Still, none of our theories could eliminate its somewhat sinister presence.

Mike and the others came over to see what we were doing. Soon we were all discussing the fate of the drawing. Melanie seemed to like it, but the rest of us were more superstitious. Our excuses for its existence started getting silly, as you might expect from a group of inebriated teenagers.

“What if it was made by a ghost? We shouldn’t touch it!”

“Maybe there’s a ghost of a little kid living here, and that’s why no one’s moved in yet!”

“Someone probably cut off his hands and that’s why they’re red!”

Once we ran through every ghost story cliche we could think of, we came to the consensus that the drawing would stay. Melanie laid it on the armchair to make it look like it was sitting. The other girls were going up to the roof, and Melanie asked me to come.

“I’m afraid of heights, remember?” I was hoping that would be enough to make her leave me alone. Last time we went up on a roof I swore I would never do it again.

“Oh, come on. You’ve just been sitting in here the whole time. Besides, the roof is really cool. You can’t fall off unless you try.”

I gave in and followed her up to the second floor. We squeezed through an open window onto the roof where the other girls were smoking a bowl. The middle was flat, surrounded on all sides by upward slants. My fear didn’t come into play, which was a pleasant surprise. It was probably the coolest ‘hang out’ roof I’d seen. While the girls and I laughed over nonsense, Melanie walked up one of the slants to a peak so she could look down.

“Melanie, don’t fall!” the girls said, almost in unison.

“Oh shut up. I’m not gonna fall,” Melanie grumbled, shining her flashlight around. For a minute she was silent, then asked, “Can someone come here for a sec?” One of the girls went up to join her, and Melanie pointed to an area in front of the house. “Isn’t that where we parked?”

The five of us went downstairs, and Melanie approached Mike and his friends.

“Did you guys move the cars? I didn’t see them from the roof.”

Mike replied with a confused, drawn out, “Nooo?” as he turned to look out the windows. He tried shining a flashlight but it reflected off the glass. They all went outside and immediately started swearing. The cars weren’t in front of the house. After circling the entire perimeter, it was confirmed they were gone.

“Are you fucking kidding me?!” Mike yelled, his voice disappearing into the sky. I started to wonder again if some kind of joke was being played. Maybe one of the guys moved the cars down the road and then walked back, just to freak everyone out. No one heard them start up, though.

“Okay, who moved the cars?” the other driver asked. I hadn’t had much contact with him, and he seemed a little high strung, so I was slightly freaked out by the possibility that he might be aggressive.

“I didn’t. Did you?” Mike said, looking at Jeff.

“No, dude. I wouldn’t move your car, let alone both of them.”

“Seriously, guys. This isn’t cute,” the guy said, “I want to know if someone stole my fucking car, or if you guys are playing a fucking joke.” I could tell this guy wasn’t going to put up with any shenanigans. Mike and Jeff were a little caught off guard that they were being accused. Someone suggested to do a pocket check, and it turned out they still had the keys to both vehicles.

“This doesn’t make sense,” said Jeff, as we all started murmuring. This time it wasn’t any fun trying to figure out the mystery. How did two cars just disappear? The girls were crying now. Well, not Melanie. The guys were cursing up a storm, especially the driver of the second car. I’ve decided to dub him ‘angry guy’. Not that his anger wasn’t justified, it was just his most prominent trait. I had nothing to contribute to the situation, so I just waited for everyone to figure out what we were going to do. The only thing that mattered to me was getting home sometime in the next century. It took a while to face reality, as unbelievable as it was, and we eventually started walking home.

Everyone was silent. The only sound came from our footsteps and the twitter of crickets. There was just enough moonlight to see the barren trees arching over the road. It was going to take a few hours to get anywhere that had streetlights, and we were all exhausted. ‘Angry guy’ was walking ahead. No one wanted to be near him, afraid he would blow up again once everyone was getting cranky from walking so far. Not that we could blame him.

“Hey, can we stop for a minute?” asked one of the girls. We collectively agreed it was a good idea, even though we had only been walking for about twenty minutes. There was a sense of denial that we were still so far from home. Jeff packed a bowl and we passed it around.

As everyone waited for their turn in the cipher, we talked about what to do when we got home. Jeff suggested going to the police, as if that wasn’t obvious. Mike started spewing some crap about how he knew people who could track down the cars, like they were the A-Team or something. ‘Angry guy’ didn’t say anything. I just wanted to go home.

“Did everyone get a hit?” Jeff asked, making sure no one got shafted. As everyone looked at each other and nodded, the girls noticed something.

“Hey, where’s Melanie?” Suddenly, everyone realized that she wasn’t there. The flashlight holders scanned the area but there was only trees and dirt road. We each called her name several times, but it just echoed into the night air.

“This isn’t funny, guys. Where’s Melanie?” We spread out a little, continuing to call her name. If she was playing a joke on us, it was in enormously poor taste. Everyone was frustrated and bewildered by the vanishing cars, and this wasn’t helping.

“Fuck!” Mike shouted, “Where the fuck is she? We can’t keep going if we don’t know where she is.”

“Dude, let’s just leave her,” one guy joked.

“Are you stupid?!” shouted one of the girls, “She’s our friend! We’re not just leaving her in the middle of nowhere!”

“Maybe she went back to the house,” I suggested. Everyone stopped talking for a moment, contemplating the possibility that she did indeed go back. I wasn’t really serious, though. What idiot would go back to the house without telling us? And why? After more grumbling, cursing and arguing, we decided that a few of us would go back to the house while the others waited in case Melanie really was messing with us. If she was, then she just lost some friends. I volunteered to go, since waiting for an unknown length of time seemed worse in that moment.

On the way back to the house, the two girls, Mike, and myself, discussed the whole situation. We had come to an empty house in the middle of nowhere to party, only for our transportation to vanish, and we couldn’t explain it. Mike came up with this theory that the cars disappearing was some sick joke, and that Melanie was in on it. He implied that she got some guys who could hot-wire cars to drive them away so we would have to walk home. Then she ran back towards the house and they picked her up. The girls seemed offended but they were tired of defending her, so they just shrugged it off.

As we finally arrived back at the house, my stomach dropped upon seeing it again. I cursed myself for volunteering to come back. I guess I wanted to know sooner than later if Melanie was okay. Approaching the sliding glass door, we were surprised to see it was open.

“Did we leave the door open?” asked Mike.

“I’m almost positive someone closed it,” I replied. If there was any reason for it being open, it had to be that Melanie went back inside. As we entered the main room, the house felt emptier than before. I noticed that a lot of the medical papers were in the fireplace, and the contour drawing of the child with red hands was gone. We searched the kitchen while calling for Melanie. It was clear she wasn’t on the first floor, so we headed upstairs.

“I’m going to be pissed if she’s not here,” said Mike, “because then we came back for nothing.” The girls just ignored him and went to search the rooms, while I split off to go check the roof. The window was still open, and I squeezed through. If I expected her to be anywhere, it was here.

The roof was empty and silent, with a gentle breeze blowing. I could almost see over the treetops, which made me feel stronger than my fear of dark forests. For a moment I forgot that we were looking for Melanie, until I heard the girls panicking inside. I quickly squeezed back through the window and ran to see what was up. Mike and the girls were looking at something in one of the empty rooms.

“What happened?” I asked. Mike shone the flashlight at a spot on the floor. Reluctantly, I approached and looked down, as the girls gripped each other, sobbing. There were two jumbo-sized sheets of paper, taped together to make one larger sheet. Drawn in marker was the outline of a girl, with only the hands colored in red.

Credit: Umbrello

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Facebook Chat (Live Action)

January 16, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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This is a video pasta. If the embedded video is not loading for you, please click the link above to go directly to the video’s YouTube page and try watching it there.

Credit: Liam Vickers

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Fall Fog

January 15, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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Driving along the back roads at night can be a little eerie. Not if you’re country folk, like myself, but if you’re used to lights and other cars and night life, a back road at ten o’clock at night can seem pretty unsettling. There are millions of back roads in upstate New York. Roads that pass through foggy fields, dense forests, old forgotten cemeteries, ancient churches and abandoned houses. Because of the manner of the back road, fast driving isn’t suggested. A hidden turn can flip a fast moving car right over, or send a speeder rocketing into the trees. When you’re on a back road, you drive carefully, with your brights on, hoping nothing jumps out in front of your car and strands you on the road, where you’re out of luck as far as cell phone service goes. There aren’t many towers in rural New York, and getting a signal out here is about as likely to happen as striking oil.

But I’m used to these back roads. I’ve been driving on them for years, and I usually know how to navigate one pretty easily. I already know the pointlessness of cell phones when the city lights wink out, so I don’t feel the surge of fear for losing all my bars. I keep driving, keep my eyes on the road, and never stop for anything.

It was a chilly night in late September, the night sky filled with stars while the moon was new. I had just finished a shift at the hospital, and took one of the many back roads home. It’s a good way to avoid traffic and police generally. I had the radio tuned to a local station, just passing the drive with some mindless pop to break up the silence of the ride home. It was just an average night home, no one else on the road but me. Until the fog rolled in.

Now, fog in September doesn’t happen often in Upstate New York, especially not in late September. It’s starting to get too cold for that, the water in the air just froze as frost. However, one moment I was driving past an open field, and the next my car was blanketed in icy cold, impermeable fog. The temperature in my car sank immediately, even as I cranked up the heat. It was as if the fog was trying to get into the car itself, wrapping itself around the tires and engine in an attempt to choke the life out of it. Breathing fog at this point myself, I applied a little more force to the gas and pressed on, forced to turn down the lights on my car as the high beams just created an ungodly amount of glare on the fog.

It wasn’t long before I saw the frost creeping over my windshield, like lacy fingers clawing across the glass. It grew quickly, cutting swirling bolts across the glass as the fog thickened. The defroster did nothing, and my car was slowed to a creep as the passenger and drivers side windows iced over. Still, my foot remained stuck on the gas, and I peered through the veil of frost and fog as best I could. There could be no stopping on a back road at night. Even as the engine began to sputter and whine, the car inched forward continuously, refusing to stop for anything.

At some point, I began to become aware of shapes just beyond the frost on the windows. It was impossible to tell what they were under the layer of delicate ice. Impossibly white, but somehow lacking in light, their forms were impossible to discern. The car pressed on at a snails pace, as the white figures danced closer and closer to the car. They were like sheets caught in the wind, only capable of reflecting what was shone at them. Apparently shapeless. It must have been the interaction of fog with the ice on the glass, I just refused to look at them. No stopping, do not take your eyes off the road.

The fog must have dampened the signal to the radio, because soon the only thing blaring from the speakers was screeching static, garbled words thrown in from the mangled bubble gum pop song that was playing just a moment earlier. It was when the words started to make sense again that I shut the radio off entirely. Whatever was coming out of there now, it certainly wasn’t music, and it definitely wasn’t helping me drive anymore. I would have taken Justin Beiber over… whatever that was. But it seemed to coalesce with the motions the white figures outside the car were making. The car kept moving, and my eyes stayed on the road.

The creaking and groaning the engine was making was starting to turn into a steady thumping. At least I assumed that it was the engine making the thumping, until the sound started to rattle the back seat windows. My fingers tightened on the steering wheel, and the thumps turned to desperate scrapes, nails dragging down the iced over glass. I didn’t look back at what was making the sound. I didn’t even blink, my mouth and eyes starting to dry out as the scraping was accompanied by a different sound.

A steady, incoherent, hideous gurgling. The white figures had gathered, dancing around the car, skirting around the front of it as it pressed into their ranks and past them. Faces pressed against the iced over windows, sometimes revealing faces, or half of faces. Sunken, beady eyes, lips that had been chewed to ribbons, or noses that were either barely there or had long since been eaten away. Nails screamed over the metal hull of my car, the gurgling both pathetic and horrifying as the car occasionally hit an especially giving bump. It rolled over the lump slowly, and it was impossible to miss the organic, visceral crunch under the tires. Words were mouthed against the glass, pleas distorted by pulped tongues and rotted throats. My teeth were clenched tight, until they ground against each other in my jaw, one threatening to pop and break. Still, my foot never left the gas, and my eyes never left the road.

The entire car rattled, I could feel it shaking under my hands, the cough and whine of the tortured engine, the grinding of gears and the hollow racket the dashboard made as unseen hands pounded and scraped against the car. There was only forward, there was no back or stop. Not now, not ever. Don’t look away, don’t panic, just go forward and-

The fog broke. The car inched out of the mire, and almost immediately the ice began to melt from the windshield. The engine sputtered once and then roared, the tires churned up grit beneath it before I slammed on the gas and rocketed through the rest of the ride home. Don’t look back, don’t stop. I made it back to my house an hour later, and was quick to run into my warm room and bury myself under my blankets.

My dad had a few questions for the the next day. He wanted to know who had keyed my car up so badly at the hospital the other day. Each door on the car had long, raking marks down it, the sheen of the metal underneath glaring through. I told him I didn’t know.

I think I’ll be taking the main road home tonight.

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Watching

January 14, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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Have you ever noticed an ordinary person simply standing somewhere that was obviously unreasonable? Like an elderly woman idle near a pub’s back entrance or a child motionless outside a bank. Yes, I know, I too thought, “Well, there’s got to be a logical reason behind it. So what? They’re probably waiting for someone or something like that”. But that’s my point. What explanation is there when you realize the individual is still there, hours later, silent and unresponsive? Where is your logical excuse? You may think I’m being dramatic, but hear me out before you judge my sanity.

One day, as normal and uneventful as any other, I was on my morning commute to my bottom-of-the-bucket job as a dairy goods stocker at (insert generic supermarket name here) when I saw this middle-aged Asian businessman (assuming by his corporate attire) standing by a bus stop. Yet, he wasn’t exactly next to the stop as if he was waiting for the quarter-hourly Q60 like a handful of other folk were. He was a good fifteen feet from the sign itself. Odd? Yes, but not enough for someone whose subconscious is trained to be oblivious to the world around them while getting from destination A to B as quick as possible. As I speed walked by him, a queer sense of vertigo suddenly washed over me, almost like that feeling you experience when you’re on a plane that dips downward. This snapped me out of my spaced-out trance and I just…stopped. Still confused over what I had experienced, I scanned around me for anything out of the ordinary. My eyes fell on this man, whom of which gave no interest in return. Now that I was much closer to him, his features, or lack thereof, became more definite. The man’s face was void of expression. I would say it even seemed forced, because it wasn’t the “default” frown that we anatomically show when we aren’t trying to express ourselves. His eyes were horrifically sunken as if he were an insomniac. Also worth noting is that his suit looked ancient; the threading was frayed in several places and there were sickly colored stains that were far from fresh. After pausing to take in his strange appearance, I finally realized that I was wasting time and shrugged off the whole event as weird but unimportant.

I went about my usual dull and depressing work day. I would love to say that punch-out time came before I knew it, which that wouldn’t happen even in a dream, but I digress. The evening sun is making its descent as I make my way home with the hope of having a decent meal and a shower before getting to likely past-due Sociology homework. Queens Boulevard was less jammed than usual, so I decided to take the bus. A few minutes behind schedule, the rundown Q60 screeches to a halt at the stop. I board, swiping my college student fare card as I pass the driver and find the least crowded spot. I see my block rapidly approaching, pull on the ragged stop request rope, and exit. Lo and behold, this guy is still standing in the exact spot as when I passed by this morning! My mind explodes with questions like how has no one noticed him stationed there for so long or what in the world is he doing in the first place. Curiosity overcame me and I attempted to get him to explain his behavior.

“Um, excuse me. Is everything alright? I uhh…saw you this morning standing here and I uhh…well…have you been here this whole time? Hello? Sir?”

Somewhat agitated for being ignored, I pressed on.

“Look, buddy, I just thought that there might be something wrong and wanted to know.”

No response.

“Do you not know English or something? I know you can hear me; atleast look at me so I know you’re just being ignorant. Well?”

I’ll admit I was being harsh, but the guy was acting like I was invisible. But then I noticed something. He wasn’t acting ignorant at all, in fact, I don’t think there was anything going on in that head. His eyes had this absentness that was way beyond being spaced-out. It’s like he was an empty shell wearing clothes. The best thing I can compare him to would be a zombie, without the ravenous hunger for flesh of course. At this point I couldn’t help myself; I did the logical thing and poked him. Nothing. No “What was that for?” or sign of agitation. My worries started to grow, as I was out of ideas.

“LOOK, YOU WANNA BE ALL PYSCHO ZOMBIE, DO IT IN YOUR OWN HOME, OK? YOU’RE GONNA GET IN TROUBLE FOR FREAKING PEOPLE OUT EVENTUALLY!”

Other passerby looked at me as if I were a crazed lunatic. Realizing I took it too far, I just continued onward, occasionally looking back over my shoulder half expecting the man to move or something along those lines. He was as quiet and motionless then as he was nine hours ago.

I opened the door to my hallway-shaped apartment and entered the kitchen to pop a frozen dinner into the microwave. My head started to throb as it usually does around this time, thanks to the permanent damage I got from that near-fatal incident with a ladder two years ago. I open my bathroom’s medicine cabinet to take my meds for the pain which reminds me to be thankful for being alive on a daily basis. The microwave’s beeps echo throughout the apartment; tasteless turkey and mashed potatoes await. I force down the unpleasant dish for nourishment, take a calming shower, and turn in for the night.

Its Friday, or as I and probably 99% of other folks with jobs like to call it, payday. I go about my regular morning routine and depart for work. The October weather is not yet chilly enough for long-sleeves and coats, so everyone is dressed in normal clothes. I turned onto the boulevard and was immediately faced with four squad cars, some ambulances, and two practically obliterated vehicles. The first car, a navy blue Honda, had looked like the Incredible Hulk tried to fold it into a taco-like shape. All windows were shattered and the driver’s side door was completely off its hinges and laying a couple feet away. The car was empty, which means whoever was inside probably survived. This was confirmed when a cop assisting a young injured guy, probably about my age, came from around the side of the car. The cop helped the guy into one of the vacant ambulances as an EMT emerged to inspect him. The second vehicle, a stale vanilla SUV, was in much worse shape than the Honda. Have you ever seen a crash test video that manufacturers use in commercials to show how safe their vehicle is? Well multiply that damage by ten, and that was the current state of the SUV. I would go into detail like how there was what seemed to be long matted hair stuck in the jagged windshield, or how there was definitely a thumb just sitting next to the left tire, but I’ve always had a weak stomach for gore. I don’t have to tell you that whoever was driving obviously didn’t make it. The other ambulance had two EMTs inside, pulling a sheet over a woman’s body. I caught a glimpse of the side of her face and gagged before they completely covered her. One officer was idle on the sidewalk, trying to keep passing pedestrians from gathering to see the accident. I walked up to him with my hand raised to signal that I wanted to talk for a second.

“I know it was a car crash, but what happened exactly?”

The officer first scolded me for my curiosity then explained. Apparently the young guy had took his eyes off the road and reached under the dashboard to find a water bottle that was rolling around so it wouldn’t accidentally get stuck behind the brake pedal. He went right through a red light, and well, you can tell what happened next. After telling me what happened, the officer rushed me to continue on my way. It really was a tragic scene, and it’s a shame someone had died due to another person’s negligence. While pondering this, I caught a familiar figure across the street out of the corner of my eye–it was him again. But this time something was different. No, I’m not talking about the man’s expression or stature. That remained the same as the day before. No, this time…he wasn’t alone. Call me crazy all you want, I don’t care. The image of that woman’s grotesque face will forever be burned into the confines of my mind. They just stood there, side by side, spectating the scene of the collision as if they were captivated by it. Goosebumps creeping up on me, I once again bothered the cop for reassurance.

“Sorry again, but…that man over there. You…you see him, right? You see that lady next to him too, right? Isn’t she the one that…died?”

The officer, now annoyed by my questioning, briefly looked towards where I was pointing.

“Look sir, there isn’t anybody over there. Enough with these pointless interruptions, please go on your way and let me do my job.”

Something told me that they would say that. That there is no one physically standing on the other side of the street and that I am just imagining it. But they’re wrong. I know what I saw. I watched as the two figures slowly turned and walked away, and as they went, their bodies became more and more transparent. Almost as if they were slowly phasing out of existence.

From that day on, I gladly took my medication that kept me going, thankful to be alive and well. However, this flicker of understanding was just a ruse to hide the truth. That constant reminder of fear of the day when it’s my turn to walk with the strange man to someplace far from this world. The microwave beeps and I snap back to reality, just like every other night after getting home from work. I take one look at the distasteful meal before me, a tear forming in my eye, and begin to eat.

Credit: Perfect Flaw

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It’s One Hell of a Trip

January 13, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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I told Gage not to take it. For weeks now stories had been coming in about these goddamn ‘chill pills’. That you could go to this awesome psychedelic place, you know, a real ‘trip’. And normally, yeah, that’d be my jam. That night we were at our usual place, a club called Spun, one where the music blasts so hard it goes right through you. And when everyone’s out on the dance floor it’s like we’re just one big mass of seething waves of colors and flashing lights. But that was in the old days…

“Man, don’t listen to the hype,” I tried to tell my friend. My favorite people and I were all smushed into a random green sofa in the loft, and Gage’s pupils were already wide- he was rolling on ecstasy as it was. The pill was right there in his hand. But I’d seen too much to know otherwise. The pills made you a real deadhead… I mean, they CHANGED people. Not like a bad acid trip or something. It was more than that. You came back all different, quiet and not fun the way you were before- and that’s if you were lucky.

The unlucky ones? They went out the hard way. Overdose. Jesus, in all the years we’d been doing this I’ve never seen so many ODs, and it frightened me. I’d lost friends over this, and I wasn’t about to lose another. Usually I’m the cool guy, down with whatever, but I tried to snatch the pill out of Gage’s hand. He was too fast- he clenched it tight in a fist.

“Lay off, Reymer,” he said, laughing. “Since when are you my MOM? Jeez, it’s just a trip. Take it easy, man.”

I sighed and looked around. Next to me, snuggled in tight, was my girl Brit- she always had a camera in her hand and a bajillion ideas in her head, and I was sulking from Gage and kissing her on her creamy-coffee skin, as she giggled and her Kandi bracelets went all a-jingling. Brit, man, she could put up with anything. That’s probably why she had gotten cornered on the other side by Busby’s squeeze, our friend Sammi.

We loved Sammi, in a kind of tolerating way. She was a real space case with a thing for rave costumes and hopped around at a million miles an hour, letting everyone know ten times (twenty if she was high) that it was Sammi with an I, like, OK? The girl was all zippers and cords, her hair a bleach-blonde pixie cut that flew around wildly as she gabbed at Brit, who just smiled patiently. At one point I’d looked over and Sammi was even applying this blacklight face paint shit onto her, but she let her. Brit’s a go-along girl. I love her for that.

Lastly there was Busby, my main man. We’d been pals since school. To most people he’s just that drug hook-up, that shady guy who sells you weed or party pills, but who you’re a little too afraid of. Funny thing is, he was just a normal dude when you got to know him, just a stoner in an oversized hoodie and the same old rasta beanie hat every day. But he was a guy you could depend on, in the end. Busby was the coolest.

I wanted to stay with my friends, but next thing I knew Gage was down the stairs going to the main dance platform, and I was worried. Our little group seemed to grow smaller every day, these fucking pills. So even when Brit looked up at me with begging brown eyes, I went after him.

“Man oh man,” he told me with wide eyes, glancing around the room. “Trip of a lifetime, dude.” He was shivering, and I touched his arm. God, it was cold.

“You got fuckin’ ice water in your veins, Gage!” I shouted to him over the beat.

He just flashed a dopey grin. “I know. But it’s the best kinda cold, man. See the walls?” They were just plain club walls, still that dull grey from the warehouse it used to be. But Gage looked fascinated by them. He started dancing up on some girls, and they greeted him with various looks of confusion and annoyance. I dragged him away.

“You’re being too handsy, dude. Why don’t we-“ Suddenly he turned to face me, breathless, and pulled me into a bear hug. “The fuck, man?!” It was like his touch was electric, and I swear when I pushed him off and he exhaled I could see it in the air, like on a winter’s day, a thousand tiny particles making icy mist. He just kept on staring at everything. “I’m sorry, man, you can’t take this shit, Gage!” But he just laughed it off and waved his arms around, ‘one’ with the crowd.

I made my way back upstairs, only to find Busby standing over our little sofa group trying to make a pitch. And boy, was he a salesman if I ever saw one. “Listen up guys, it’s like this.” He had attracted a few other clubbers, some college co-eds in kitty hoods and a dude playing with glow toys. “I can hook you up with one of the sweetest and, I happen to know-“ He lowered his voice like he held the secrets of the universe in one of those little baggies. “-most POTENT new highs.”

I started to say something, to stop him, but he was way into his song and dance now. Even Brit, who was finally free of Sammi the neon pink-and-green fairy, was looking a bit interested. “When you take it, you feel like MORE than yourself.”

“Like LSD?” asked one of the school chicks, entranced.

He chuckled. “Even crazier. It’s like another piece of you, that you never knew you were missing. Just picture that. People go WILD on this stuff.”

“They fucking die on this stuff,” I finally piped up. I didn’t wanna harsh out my pal, I really didn’t, but if he was talking about what I thought he was, I wasn’t about to watch my friends fall prey.

“Are you talking about… those COLD pills?” asked Brit, her brown hair swaying loose around her shoulders as she turned to him, incredulous.

“CHILL pills. And ain’t nobody dyin’, alright? Don’t believe everything you hear.” He shot me an irritated look. But some of the others seemed kind of skeptical, so Busby finished up. “Anyway, maybe you should check it out for yourSELF. So if you’re lookin’ for that kind of flavor, just hit me up, you know? Not gonna lie- it’s one trip you WON’T forget.”

To my dismay, Sammi was shimmying her little leg-warmers over the sofa to Busby, giving him a glittery kiss on the cheek. My eyes met hers with a solid, no kind of look, but she brushed it off. “D’ya think you could… hook me up, babe?” It was like I was in the fucking Twilight Zone or something. Was NOBODY else a little wary of this shit? I tried one more time.

“Busby, I don’t think she should,” I told him. “That guy Chip from senior year? I heard he ended up in a fucking BODY BAG from these tabs. And what about Sprite?” We all glanced down at our feet with renewed sorrow. Sarah or “Sprite” had been our friend, sharing the love at every dance party and sporting these crazy rainbow wigs. She was smart, going to med school soon, even. They found her dead a week ago in a club bathroom. Chill pills.

“Not to mention all the zombies walking around.” I gestured to a group of guys we saw every now and then, those dudes that hand out flyers for new parties, shit like that. Or that’s what they USED to do. Now they just sat around, quiet. I felt so fucking alone as I watched Busby reach into his pocket. That was it. Brit and I were out of there.

Sure enough, when the couple stopped by our apartment the next week to drive us to this summer jam, Sammi the fairy had become a calm, dreads-free girl in jeans and a t-shirt, complimenting our ‘nice place’. I couldn’t believe just one pill and BAM, a friend was now a stranger. But we had a party to go to, and next thing I knew we were at this sweet indoor-outdoor joint that’s always crowded and smells weird, but gets the best DJs.

I was dancing with Brit and taking in the warm evening on the porch, but I couldn’t help feeling like I didn’t know anyone else there. Gage had been parked in the corner for an hour now, shooting me a frosty smile when I waved to him. “Don’t worry, Reymer,” Brit told me as if sensing my thoughts. “I mean, look at Sammi, she’s doing okay!”

“Yeah, if you call a total change in behavior okay,” I said glumly. She took my hand and we sat on some old beanbags. “I dunno, Brit…” I loved her, but trying to put it all into words was too much. I put my head in my hands and she rubbed my back.

“Look, babe, it’ll work out in the end. Maybe it’s just… temporary.” I pulled her close to me, desperate for someone to cling to, and took in the smell of this berry shampoo she always used. “Hey! I’ll tell you something.”

She was suddenly on about one of her numerous ideas. “See, it’s gonna be this ZOMBIE film, but like, in a club. Kinda like this one, right?” I couldn’t help but crack a smile. “We can call it… Rave-N-Ous. Get it?” We both fell back laughing, as she told me, “OK, this is the best bit. It’s like, the tagline, alright?”
“Okay, okay, go for it.”
“P. L. U. Z.” She punctuated each letter with a jab of her finger, making invisible dots in the air. “Peace- love- unity- and zombies!” I leaned in for a kiss, her lips glossy and warm.

“It’s a good idea, babe. I love it.” With a squeeze of my hand, she stood and gestured to the grass, where a number of dancers had gathered and a pleasant breeze was blowing in the smell of the city. But as I went to follow her, Sammi ran up to me, and I first I hoped she was back to her old self- but then I saw her panicked face. “It’s Busby, Reymer. He took too much- oh God, oh jeez!” She shifted from foot to foot. “Please… he was in the back rooms with some guys hashing out business. Come on!”

“Alright, it’s OK, we got this.” We hurried to a private room, where people go to make deals or screw sometimes, behind a wooden panel to keep it all hush-hush. Busby was shaking uncontrollably, his face soaked in sweat, under a layer of sheets on a dirty old mattress. He kept piling on more; a ratty blanket, and even jackets. I went down to him right away, but he was delirious as Hell.

“I’ve had it, man,” he told me. “Reymer, I’ve had ENOUGH. You get me? Enough of being… somebody else…” He was on the verge of tears, and I tried to gauge if this was just some bad trip, or medical shit we really needed help for. “I just wanna be me again, but I, I don’t know who that is…”

“You’re fine, dude, you’re fine.” We were always the last to seek outside help- or God forbid, call the cops- but he was pale and wouldn’t stop trembling, so I turned to Sammi. “Alright, this is bad. Find the party guy, the main one. His name’s Tyler. Tell him to start getting people out.” I took Busby’s hand, his fingertips mottled. I wasn’t about to watch my best friend OD.

“Jeez… Okay, I’m going!” As she ran from the room I called after her, “Tell everyone to BAIL NOW!” That meant get rid of everything- if you were carrying, dump it or run. Leave before the cops get here. Hide your shit. Busby started to laugh, his red-tinted goggles now over his eyes.

“Know what’s funny, Reymer? They’re just for decoration,” he told me. “They don’t do SHIT in the real world. They don’t keep out a bit of cold- or sunlight-“

I was sweating myself with fear, and grasped his hand tighter. “There’s no sunlight here, Busby. You gotta keep breathing and stay awake with me, OK man? Come on!” His breathing had become shallow, slow. I felt so fucking helpless. Outside the room I could hear the kids running, and the music shut off. At last, the sound of sirens caught my attention, and I turned back to my friend.

“See? They’re here, Busby. They’re gonna take care of you, man.” Just as I reached into his cargo pocket to hide his pills, he suddenly grabbed me with a white, icy hand. “I just wanted to be in the good world, Reymer,” he said to me, his voice weak between hard breaths. “It’s finally… my chance…”

I had to swallow back my tears, quietly tucking his baggies down my pants and trying to reassure him, but his eyes were unblinking, staring at the ceiling. The EMTs ran over and I ushered them in, thinking to myself it was too late. My own best friend, and he was… gone. I stumbled back out onto the deck and to my surprise, one of the only people still there was Brit, now donning neon sunglasses and sitting against the railing.

I ran to her. “Brittany, it’s Busby. He took too fucking much… Christ, I think he’s dead.” I ran my hands over my gelled hair, feeling so goddamn stupid and miserable. To make matters worse, her eyes were glassy. “Oh God, you didn’t, Brit- what are you tripping on? What the FUCK did you take?”

She waved a hand at me and moaned, “Reymer, it’s too bright out here.” I was baffled. It was dark out, crickets chirping as I heard them loading the ambulance. But I had his stuff still on me- there was no time to stay behind, so I hoisted her against my shoulder.

“Come on, we have to hurry.” We didn’t even get the chance to find a ride. “Man, please don’t tell me you took that shit. I can’t fucking lose you, baby. We’re going home.”

“I like it better out here,” she mumbled as we raced down the street. By the time we’d reached the apartment, it was late and my feet were aching. I put Brit into bed and laid down beside her, wiping away my tears. She had a strange air of calm about her, arms and legs open wide like a snow angel. I swear just as I passed out, exhausted in my gloom, she looked almost- relieved.

Busby wasn’t a guy that ‘did’ funerals. So when it came time, I contacted all of our pals to throw a ‘life celebration’ at his place. I figure it’s what he would have wanted. Brit would go around weeping, but I had this nagging feeling that something had changed, and not just because he was gone. I suggested she do a video memorial, but she just kind of shrugged and told me, “Okay… yeah.” I gathered up all his paraphernalia in his bedroom, ready to pass it out to everyone, when Brit found me hungover on the edge of his bed.

“Oh Reymer.” She wrapped her little tan arms around me. “As long as you still have his stash… maybe you should use. It would make you feel better.”

I brushed her off in disgust. “What, seriously? Right now as people are arriving to fucking, REMEMBER our dead friend? You think I should get high?” I didn’t know this girl anymore. I didn’t know any of them. Sammi in the downstairs hall- looking at pictures of them in frames as if he were a stranger, when they’d been high school fucking sweethearts. Gage off in his own little world now, not the jolly guy I used to party with. And now Brit…

“It isn’t like that,” she protested in a sweet voice. “The chill pills are amazing… they’ll change the way you see everything. He’d WANT you to party at his place one last time.”

My stomach twisted into knots. “Jesus, what happened to you, Brit? What about all your little- plans? Remember? Rave-N-Ous? THAT’S the you I’m looking for right now, not this… this other fucking you!”

“Rave-N-Ous… right.” Her eyes darted uncertainly for a moment, and then she smiled. “The movie! Of course. Peace… love… unity…” I waited. My voice was low and hard.

“AND zombies. …get out of his room. Now.” She just sat there blankly. “OUT!” At once she was running down the stairs, screaming, “Jeez Reymer, I was just trying to make you feel better! What’s your deal with this stupid movie thing anyway… Busby’s fucking DEAD!”

The door slammed and she joined the others by the poolside, her words echoing in my head as I looked around despondently. My reality had gone from a fun adventure to a cold, hard slap in the face, and I was alone now more than ever. I didn’t want this reality anymore. There was one thing I could still use to escape… and even against my better judgment, I wanted it. So I got the small, white pills out and took two of them.

Onset was almost immediate- I was still in Busby’s room, but now it was decked out in a plush carpet and the most realistic images I’d ever seen projected on the walls, showing exotic fish swimming as rays of sunshine beamed down from the ceiling. “Reymer.” I stood and turned, gasping when I saw him… Busby, alive again, and yet different. His clothes much nicer; no hat, but plenty of bling; and though he smiled at first, that soon faded. I wondered if I hadn’t gone into a bad trip as his face went pale and angry.

Approaching him, I reached through one of the walls, or rather, its hologram, and found my hand at a window and looked outside, past the imaginary clownfish. Snow was falling, and yet there were hordes of partiers all of a sudden, decked out in heavy gear and going nuts. I saw people fucking in the pool, shivering as they did so, four and five at a time. Bottles and joints lay everywhere as music blared, and those who didn’t dance just stumbled around, drinking and swallowing what they could find. Busby reached out his arm to steady me as I cowered in terror, but I ran.

The stairs had become a polished marble as I descended them, in what was evidently a much fancier version of Busby’s place. Once I opened the doors I stood shaking in the icy air, wandering around the chaos. The sky was dark and inhospitable, full of clouds. I stumbled toward the kids, who all greeted me in various states of intoxication, some already passed on on the lawn as snowflakes continued to fall. Then, there they were- Gage and Sammi, sitting in a couple lawn chairs and clutching each other for warmth. Sammi was downing a bottle of whiskey, and I ran to them in confusion and horror.

“What the fuck is happening, guys? The FUCK is going on?” Sammi just kept drinking, a single angel wing strapped over her shoulder missing most of its glittery feathers, the tears practically frozen upon her red cheeks.

“Reymer, man- just got here?” asked Gage. I nodded, rubbing my own arms in the frigid day air. “I don’t know much more than you, dude. I tripped a couple weeks ago… I just came here because everyone’s partying, and I figured, hey, get warm. Take some pills. Fucking pills…” He laughed sadly at the notion. “Sit down, man.” I pulled a chair beside them.

“We went… somewhere else when we tripped,” Gage slurred. “THIS fucking place. They say there was an event here…. a month ago, maybe more, I dunno. Except after this eclipse thing in the sky, it didn’t end when it was supposed to, and the darkness… it didn’t fucking go AWAY, man.” My heart pounded, but I just kept nodding for him to go on. He took a swig of the bottle. “The sunshine is gone now. All gone. This place is fuckin’ dying, Reymer. It’s falling away from the sun, the TV says.”

I slowly rose to my feet. “No, this is a trip, Gage. This is a goddamn drug, and I am not FUCKING here! I’m going back to my own damn world!”

Gage just laughed. The sound of gunfire rang out in the crowd, and Sammi screamed and began to run off, her wing flapping loosely. Some people freaked out, but most of them just kept on… dancing. Partying. Screwing. Holy fuck, this place was Hell. I dashed back into Busby’s house and locked the door behind me, backing away as the sound of hands pounding began to come from outside, voices begging and screaming.

I nearly jumped a mile as a blonde in a bikini came from the hall, a rainforest scene projected behind her. “Hey baby… while you’re here, wanna stay a while with me?” She suddenly pulled herself to me and began grinding against my leg, her hand reaching down my pants, and I brushed her off. I didn’t know this chick, and just wanted to get back. Her sweet face soured and she grabbed a vase off a stand, smashing it to the floor. “Damnit, don’t leave me like this!” she screeched as I tried to fend her off, going up the steps. “You hear me?!? I don’t want to die a virgin! COME BACK!”

I headed back into Busby’s room where all at once he shoved me to the ground, adjusting his oriental robe and saying through gritted teeth, “Figure it OUT yet, Reymer, ol’ buddy of mine?” I struggled back on my hands, sinking into the rug.

“Just tell me how we can leave, Busby. If you’re alive I can…” Before I could say another word, he gave me a hard kick to the gut and I curled up on my side, groaning.

“That’s right, YOU can! YOU can go back to YOUR world- the better world.” He bent down but I scooted away, straightening against the wall, an illusion of coral reef dancing in my face. “Busby, man, we’re friends. I didn’t know you were stuck in this shithole… We can help each other.”

Busby was infuriated. “Oh, CAN WE?” He leaped at me but I dodged and punched him hard in the jaw, sending him back onto the bed with his robe splaying open over thick silver pajamas. “Because all of this?” He unsteadily rose and indicated the resplendent room. “All the money I made with those pills? All the shit I own? Doesn’t mean FUCK ALL now!” I ran for the door, but he charged at me, flinging us both out into the hall. As I lay beneath him, bleeding from the forehead, he elbowed me repeatedly with a primal scream.

“I don’t- understand! Just- please, Busby, stop!” Finally I threw him off and he slid across the marble. His whole body was alive, seething as he spat on the floor and shouted down to me, “I couldn’t TRANSITION properly, get it? I tried with the pills and then… there was just…” He sank down to the landing in despair. “No other Busby to go into.”

Slowly it dawned on me. “You mean…” I faltered. “You can’t go into the real Busby.”

Sadness turned to lunacy as this, this Alter-Busby, began to laugh. “The REAL Busby? I’ve been Busby all my fucking life, Reymer.” He drew himself up. “The “real” Busby, heh, that’s a JOKE.” His eyes glared at me. “Who’s to say you were the one who was ‘Reymer’ first. You’re not the one I knew. The Reymer that was MY friend wouldn’t have let me die with no fucking TICKET out of here!”

I started to feel breathless, the chill rolling into my lungs. Regardless, as he came at me I stood and knocked him back to the railing with a punch, and then another, and another, refusing to believe it. That my friend was dead and gone, and all because some bastard wanted to take his place. Even as I struck him, Alter-Busby just laughed as blood streamed down from his nose and mouth.

“I didn’t mean to let Busby overdose. You can’t tell me there isn’t SOMEthing I can do.”

“Oh, there’s EVERYthing you can do! Just look outside!” He gestured to the chaos, the carnage, the desperation outside, even the people beating at his doors. “No wonder it seemed like such a trip. People are doing anything because NOTHING can save them now, PAL. Well…” He pulled a little bottle, full of chill pills, quietly out of his robe pocket. “Except for these. I call it a ‘shift’.” He put the pills back and grunted violently at me. “Too bad I can’t do it myself.”

I hoped to God that the Busby I knew was in there somewhere… “Th-then there has to be a way back for me. Look, I’m, I’m so so sorry man, OK? Please help me.”

He gave me a brutal grin and said, “If I can’t go, neither can you.”

The people outside got in one way or another and now we had an audience, cheering and watching as he grabbed me by the throat and choked me right there on the hard floor, my hands scrabbling. I brought them up and scratched his face, and he let me go, wincing in pain. The crowd was half-insane, some of them fighting one another too, others naked and dancing and some just holding one another as the frosty air blew in.

I pulled myself up by his door handle. “Listen to me,” I said between labored breaths. “None of this will bring the- the OTHER Busby back.” He just lay there, moaning. “But you shouldn’t be so fucking selfish as to keep one of your only REAL friends here to die, huh?”

Slowly he rolled over and lifted his head to look at me, the blood trickling freely now, and grinned like a maniac. “But Reymer. I DID let my ‘real’ friend escape. It’s a one-way trip, PAL.” As my face revealed the true sense of horror inside me, he shrieked with laughter. No, it couldn’t be. Shift back, I thought to myself, concentrating hard. Brit said she could do it. I can do it. Shift back, shift back, shift FUCKING back! “That means that MY buddy, the Reymer from my world, just made it safely back to the other side… I figured you’d be dumb enough to give him the chance.”

I exploded with fury. I tried so hard to conjure up images of the real Busby’s home, or the club, or even just the sun, but all I could feel was that pervasive chill in the air, and I punched until my knuckles were bloody and raw. Weakly, barely conscious, Alter-Busby chuckled. “At least there’ll be someone… on the other side… to take care of your girl, Reymer.” Just as I started to walk away, my head snapped back to look at him sharply. “If she IS your girl anymore.” Finally he sank down into a pool of crimson and closed his eyes, twitching occasionally.

Completely numb inside, I quietly descended the steps as the bottle of pills rolled out from his robe, and suddenly the partygoers swarmed his body like wild animals. I can’t say that I even blame them. No one would want to die here. I walked out onto the snowy front lawn and sat down in a La-Z-Boy someone had managed to drag out there, looking down the street. I watched two grown women beating down a third one with their handbags, God knows why. A pack of dogs ran by, sniffing out whatever trash they could find. I just sat a while, wondering if it mattered or not who got the “chill pills” they were so frantic to take. Maybe they deserved their place in the sun, too. Then, like a miracle, I heard my name, and saw a figure walking down the road.

“Reymer! Reymer, is that you? God, you’re bleeding!” We ran to meet each other- my sweet Brit, clasping a wool blanket around her like a cape.

I bit my lip and choked up. “Is it really you, Brittany? Jesus.” She nodded, but I had to know for sure. “Peace… love…”

“Unity, and zombies. Rave-N-Ous.” I held her tighter than I ever had as she wept. “It feels like it’s been… forever. We need to get inside, c’mon.” A block down, a man with a bat was dragging a businessman from his car. We dashed to the running vehicle and tore off into the darkness for our apartment.

The world is a giant party now, and yet we both stay inside talking and huddling for warmth- ironic, I know. We build fires and eat when we can. When Brit was still lucid, she told me she felt hot already, even sweaty, and that it was some paradox thing… that when people freeze, they’ll even take off their clothes. She’d seen it in a movie once. But that was a couple of days ago.

I stoked what little was left of the dry newspaper, waiting to see how long the fire would last, the boiler having given out. Brit was on the floor in a t-shirt and underwear, giggling, long since having refused the blankets I now kept around myself. “Do you wanna go out, Reymer? It’s such a nice day.” She smiled vacantly and rambled on, pulling off her top. I had found at least one nice thing in this crappy little place- one of the image projectors. It was second-rate compared to what I’d seen, but it would do. I set it to “Bondi Beach.”

“Ohhh, Reymer, look!” She stood up and waved her arms, laughing and showing off her ‘bikini’. “The sand is wonderful… it’s stuck between my toes…” She walked right up to the hazy picture displayed on the wall and moaned with longing as artificial blue waves crashed against the shore. “It actually feels- warm- come on in!” She waved eagerly. “Reymer, come on! The water’s fine!”

I closed my eyes and sighed as the last few embers died out, and my sweaty palms let the stick I’d been using drop. “I’m coming, baby. I’ll be right in.”

Credit: TheJinx

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