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The Voice

July 19, 2015 at 12:00 PM
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Close your eyes. Imagine a voice. Taking over, and it’s all you can hear. Screaming, loud, high pitched screaming fills your conscious. It won’t leave you alone. Ever. At night, at work, all the time. Can other people hear it? Or are you going crazy? You start to lose touch with reality. Nothing matters, except the voice. Because it never leaves you. And it will never leave you. Your life is this voice. Normal doesn’t exist anymore, and death- well- it starts to look better everyday.

This is what happened to Ray McNeil. He was normal forty-something banker, living the American Dream in the bayous of Louisiana. Boothville, to be exact. A small village in the southeastern corner of the Pelican state, population: 854.

Ray’s life was normal, boring even. He woke up every morning in his beige colored room, to the sound of his elderly neighbor’s rooster. He brewed coffee in his older-than-the-hills percolator, and put on his only suit, the one with the tan leather elbow patches. He drove his 2006 Buick LaCrosse, bought with last year’s Christmas bonus, to Regions Bank, where he worked as a teller. He stopped at the store everyday on his way home, to buy cream sodas for his two children, Mack and Ray Jr. Sandy McNeil had dinner on the table at 6:45 sharp, and Ray’s day would repeat when he woke up.

Then, the voice came. Slowly at first, but gradually, Ray describes being completely at the voices’ mercy. First, he lost his job at the bank. Focusing on the numbers in accounts suddenly seemed inconsequential compared to the screaming in his mind. Then, his personality changed. Ray and Sandy started fighting. But even the nagging voice of his wife couldn’t drown out the insistent noise. The couple separated in May of 2014, and a divorce followed. Sandy cited “irreconcilable differences”. The kids went with Sandy, leaving Ray in a house too big for one, lonely person.

When investigative reporter Jason Bates for the Baton Rouge Times sat down with him on February 17th, he did not see the man who once prided himself on the simplistic beauty of his life. Instead, a man, haggard and hunched answered the door when he knocked. The door bell, which formerly played a merry tune, hung broken on the doorframe. The siding was cracked and faded. A neglected garden lined the front walk. Dressed in blue striped pajamas, Ray McNeil looked twice his age, and as bad as the house. Maybe it was a product of the nights he had spent in jail a few weeks before, for disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace, or the alienation he had faced from his former friends and neighbors, but Ray looked tired. Tired with life.

He now spends his days at home, screaming along with the voice, drinking to drown out the sound. He hasn’t left his sanctuary in weeks, or showered, as far as Jason could tell. In fact, Ray only ventures outside on every third Friday, when he drives an hour and a half to the capital to see his teenage children. This is his life now. Eating Kraft Mac-and-Cheese in his bathrobe, on the days he’s actually lucid enough to eat. Watching old western reruns, on the days he can focus on reality. Ray McNeil is a victim. A victim of something deadly and destructive, and yet, not recognized by the public. We acknowledge Bigfoot, and Nessie is a common conversational topic, but we refuse to believe the facts in front of us.

This is Ray McNeil’s story, and it demands our ears.

An Interview With Ray McNeil, February 17th, 2015

Q: So, Ray, please describe what you have been hearing for the past year.
A: I hear screaming. A female’s voice, like nails on a chalk board. It’s soulless, a voice from hell… And it won’t leave me alone!

Q: We know that this Voice is the reason you are currently unemployed, and the cause of your divorce, but can you elaborate on the effects this thing has had on your life?
A: I lost my wife, my job, my kids. I have nothing. My friends have all abandoned me. The Voice is the only thing that has stayed. And look at me, who could blame them?

Q: Now this is something I’ve been wondering, and I’m sure our readers will be curious as well. How often do you hear this Voice? Is it all the time, or do you have periods of silence?
A: No. All the time. No sleep, I can’t have conversations, well, who would I have conversation with? That wasn’t a joke. I can’t eat, most of the time. All I do is listen. You don’t understand how AWFUL it is.

Q: As you can tell, I’m very interested in the specifics of the voice. So I was wondering if the Voice has ever delivered a coherent message? Do you hear words?
A: On occasion.
Jason: Like what?
Ray: It always says, “Let me out. Set me free!” I don’t know what it means, I would let it out of my mind if I could!

Q: Whoa, easy there, Mr. McNeil. Now, where do you think this Voice originated from? And, why you, Ray? Why has it targeted you?
A: It is my family’s curse. My ancestor, Silas McNeil, murdered his wife and children while they slept. I believe this is our penance. His spirit has been sent back t-t-to haunt us! My dad was crazy, killed himself when I was three. And now, it’s happening to me. I’m going crazy, and nothing, nothing can stop it. Aaah! STOP! JUST STOP IT, please.

Q: Mr. McNeil, Mr. McNeil, please. Just one more question. What message do you have for others out there, that are hearing the same thing, Ray? People in your shoes.

As far as we can tell, Ray never answered this question.

At this point, He became hysterical, clutching his head and screaming. He then proceeded to destroy the lapel mike clipped to his pajama top, and threw the glass of water he’d so kindly offered Jason against the wall. Suddenly, the battered state of the couch and coffee table were explained. The remaining mike that had been attached to the wall behind Ray recoded the struggle that ensued. Mr. McNeil, who had been rolling. around in the floor, banging his shins into the table legs, stood up, red-faced. He lifted the offending table, and by the sounds of it, threw it at the wall. Investigators later found a dent in the wall that supports this.

On this day, the Voice claimed another victim. Jason Bates, 26, lost his life to a demonic phenomena also responsible for Ray’s loss of sanity. Autopsy reports later confirmed that Jason Bates died of blunt force trauma to the skull, likely from the smashed lamp later found at the scene. Ray McNeil is in police custody, awaiting trial at this time. We will continue to post updates on this site as the trial progresses.

Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below. Do you think Ray should be granted his insanity plea? What do you think the Voice is? And, if you, too, are suffering from this same affliction, please, seek help. We will end this violence, and end the Voice.

Credit To – Ashley Burkholder, Ben Wetovick, and Kolton Morse

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Verona

July 19, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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When I was eight, I decided that I wanted to be a ghost hunter. At that tender age, I was torn between the terrifying excitement of being alone in a haunted house at night, and the soothing reality that there was probably nothing to be afraid of.

My mother always told me spooky stories of the ghosts she had seen, or heard, or felt. And as much as I wanted to believe, I still had doubts. I wanted to get to the bottom myself and know for sure.

When I was in college, I met Saber. His real name was Marshall Bailey but people called him Saber because of the animal stripe tribal tattoos on his neck and his cat-like gait. We began talking in our Cryptozoology class- Saber had a knack for knowing more about some of the creatures than our professor. I learned that he was a paranormal photographer and after weeks of getting to know each other, he brought me onto his ghost hunting team.

There were five of us. Julie, the electronic voice phenomena expert (EVPs), Jonathan, who had all the thermal imaging equipment to monitor changes in temperature and electromagnetic fields. Sal had the connections to get us into popular haunted locations. Saber was there to film it all and then you had me, the skeptic. Saber felt that it was important to have an objective person in the group to keep a level head.

Saber had been building his team for months before he was finally ready for the first assignment that would take place during spring break.

We were headed nearly 800 miles away to a small town in Louisiana. When the flat expanse of Indiana turned into the sprawling green of the south, we knew we were almost there. We left on Friday and after 3 long days, we emerged from the van. We were here. Hotel Verona.

Hotel Verona had been abandoned since 1971. Once, a popular stop along the way to New Orleans, now was a dark stain in a quiet village.

Having done my research, I knew that the hotel had been built by the wealthy Martin Vasseur in 1948. Named after his wife, Verona was known for its aesthetic grandeur, luxurious creature comforts and some of the best Cajun cuisine in the area. During its first decade, many famous faces and well-to-do travelers made sure to spend the night at the hotel and dine within the exclusive club, Adelaide.

During the 1960’s, however, Vasseur had financial trouble and the addition of new major highways routed traffic away from the elegant Verona. After gambling heavily to try to revive some of his fortune, Vasseur lost most of his money by 1968. His wife caught pneumonia soon after and died, leaving him alone and penniless. The Hotel Verona hadn’t had a guest since June 1971 and on a quiet night in August, Martin Vasseur shot himself in the lounge of the lovely Adelaide.

Without an interested buyer, Verona’s beauty faded away. In 2008, a historical society tried to renovate the old hotel but strange noises, injuries and reports of being unable to remove artwork scared away the workers. Some believed that it was the ghost of Martin Vasseur, protecting his original masterpiece. Others thought the hotel already beheld a sinister presence, one that brought financial ruin to Vasseur and death to himself and his wife. This theory would explain why the hotel has seemed to deteriorate so much in just a few decades.

The stories and the pictures did not do the hotel justice. Through the faded design and obvious signs of years of neglect, it was easy to see the impressiveness of the Verona in its time. Saber stared at the monument with a sort of reverence. I smiled, excited for the night and ready to investigate.

Entering through the ornate French double doors into the lobby, we immediately smelled the stagnate air. It had been awhile since a breeze had penetrated this fortress. Dust covered every inch of the main floor, from the oversized concierge station to the grand ballroom. Occasionally, a critter would scurry off to safety.

We decided to first set up the equipment in the old Adelaide restaurant and nightclub, where Vasseur killed himself. It was in the basement of the hotel and since the elevators were no longer working, we had to lug the machinery down a flight of dusty, creaky stairs.

I was the first into the club. All of the intimate, clothed tables sat along one of four tiers, looking down onto a stage. You could almost hear the Louisiana jazz playing as the finely dressed waiters served French wine and spicy jambalaya and prawns.

As Julie, Jonathan and Saber set up their equipment, Sal and I passed out sandwiches. Our clocks showed that the sun would be setting anytime.
It didn’t take long before we started getting some activity. Julie’s EVP monitor started picking up some sounds very soon after dark. In that old abandoned place, it was easy to feel like we were not alone. After listening to the playback on her monitors, Julie played her audio recording for the group.

A woman’s voice was heard whispering “Trahi.”

“Trahi?” Sal asked. “What is that?”

“It means betrayed” Saber spoke up from behind his camera. “My grandmother was French.”

I thought the sound was spooky, but not definitive proof of anything paranormal. It was going to take more than that to make a true believer out of me. After almost an hour of dormancy, we decided to move upstairs to the ballroom on the first floor.

I was surprised at how different the lobby looked in total darkness. Without the golden sunshine bouncing through the glass, there was a much more sinister look about it. Only the light of our flashlights could distinguish color.

In the ballroom, Julie didn’t pick up anymore voices, but Jonathan was able to detect some strange temperature changes throughout the room. I chalked that up to holes in the infrastructure, or maybe some animals had taken up shelter in the walls.

We grew bored after a while and decided to explore the upper floors of the hotel. Saber suggested that we split up, to maximize time. Julie was going to record audio on the second floor, Sal would use a small, handheld camera on the third floor, Jonathan would monitor temperature on the fourth floor, and Saber and I would film the fifth floor at the top. We would all be connected with walkie-talkies.

“Everyone set up on their respective floors?” Saber asked into the walkie.

“Yes” was the resounding answer. We were to walk up and down the hallways, and try to communicate with any potential spirits in any open rooms.

As I walked next to Saber in the dark, I began to feel an electric charge.

I didn’t realize my level of attraction to him until we were alone in this creepy place. I think he felt the tension too because he inched closer to me as we walked, his arm brushing against mine occasionally.

“So, you speak French?” I asked timidly.

“Yes. My grandmother taught me when I would spend summers with her in Lyon.”

“Do you really think that was a voice we heard speaking French in the restaurant? Don’t you think it could have been the wind or something?” I was even beginning to doubt myself as the full spookiness and excitement of the moment filled me. I wanted to believe in ghosts.

“Of course. Don’t you?” He gave me an amused look. His eyes seemed really excited. I could tell this was exactly where he wanted to be. The hunt gave him some kind of high.

“I’m really not sure. But it makes it seem more real, being here with you.”

“What do you mean?” Saber asked earnestly. He moved closer, facing me.

Our faces were inches apart now. I swallowed and said, “I think that I might be getting caught up in the moment…”

I was interrupted by the sound of Julie’s walkie.

“Guys, I’ve just picked up something strange. You might want to get down here.”

We moved apart instantly, the momentary spell broken. As we head down the hallway to the stairs, another walkie crackles.

“You won’t believe what I just saw!” Said Jonathan excitedly.

“Same here!” Replied Sal.

“We can’t come to every floor! What is going on?” Saber shouted into our walkie. He and I looked at each other in disbelief. Suddenly, a low rumbling could be heard from the back of the hallway, just as a light began to grow from nowhere. Saber and I moved toward the sound and the light while he shined his camera at the source. The rumbling grew louder and the light brightened. I could tell as we got closer that they were coming from an open door at the end of the hallway.

Now there was a high pitched keening sound along with the rumble, and the bright light was not one, but many bright shapes emptying out of the room into the hallway. I backed away from the room as the human-sized shapes came closer.

“Saber!” I shouted over the noise. “Let’s go!” I pulled on his arm but he was mesmerized by the sight. It took many pulls and shoves and shouting before he snapped out of it and ran back down the hallway with me.

On the way down the stairs, we ran into Jonathan and Sal. As we raced to the second floor for Julie, the entire hotel felt as if it was shaking, the booming sounds as loud as ever. The lights from the top floor had reached the staircase and were slowly descending.

“Julie! Julie!” We yelled as we neared the second floor, into the walkie-talkie. “Meet us by the stairs. We have to get out now!”

“I’m outside by the van” Julie said, confused, as we heard Julie’s voice also say, “I’m on the second floor. Come see what I just found.” We all stared at each other in horror.

“What the HELL was that?!” yelled Julie through the first channel on the walkie. “I’m outside- that wasn’t me!”

We raced to the first floor and out the glass double doors into the night.

All sounds stopped instantly, save for our hard, hurried breathing. Looking back at the Verona, I was shocked to see stillness, and black. There were no lights moving on the floors anymore. We piled into the van and drove several miles before any of us could speak.

Julie was the first to break the silence “I was never on the second floor. I went outside to the van first to get more batteries because my walkie-talkie died. When I tried to get back in, the door was stuck. That’s when I heard you guys screaming. What was that?” She slowly shook her head.

“We heard you earlier on the walkie too. You told us to come down right before…well, whatever hell that was. And Jonathan and Sal said they saw something too.” Saber recalled.

“No, I never said anything. My walkie died right after I heard Julie.” Jonathan said as he looked fearfully at Sal.

“Mine too,” said Sal. “This is messed up. I heard loud noises upstairs and ran to find you guys. I ran into Jonathan just seconds before you two appeared.”

“Why was it impersonating us?” Asked Julie.

“It sounds like it wanted to get us to the second floor,” said Saber. It was silent for awhile after that. The trip back home was uneventful, and we made it in two days instead of three. None of us felt like stopping.

I lost contact with the group after that. I think we all just wanted to forget the experience. We were amateur ghost hunters and none of us were prepared for what happened. As it turned out, none of the equipment had worked properly and all footage and recordings were lost. It was easy to pretend that it was all a nightmare after that. I don’t know anymore, whether I believe in ghosts, but I know now that I no longer want to.

EPILOGUE:

After I submitted this story, I received messages from readers about the land that Hotel Verona stands on. It seems that it had a much darker history than I knew. Before Martin Vasseur bought the land and built the hotel, it was owned by a family in the 1800’s that acquired it during the Louisiana Purchase. The family had enslaved a number of Haitians that had just made it to freedom after the Haitian Revolution. It is believed that a voodoo princess was among those enslaved and she cursed the land.

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Night Shift

July 18, 2015 at 12:00 PM
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I’m woken up by the sound of my phone going off, I open my eyes to see my cheap apartment covered in the dim light of early day. Sighing, I sit up and slap my hand down on top of my phone, dragging it off my nightstand and on to my face.
“Hello?”
“Hey, Matt, it’s Ashley.”
Not even one sentence and it’s obvious what she wants, but I ask anyway,”What do you need?”
“Well, my friends and I sort of have plans for tonight so I was wondering if you could take my night shift?”
“Fine, I need the hours anyway, rent is due soon,” I add the last part more for my sake than hers, luckily I’m not working at all during the day, so I get to stay in and watch tv all day.
One cheap sitcom marathon later I’m gathering my work stuff and heading out the door. I work as a lifeguard at my apartment building’s pool. It’s a great job, all I need to do is take the elevator down and then I’m there. Like everything else in the building, the pool is run down and poorly maintained. It’s also oddly located, actually under the apartment building, completely underground and devoid of sunlight.
Exiting the elevator I walk down a short hallway and reach the plexiglass doors that lead to the pool. Inside, I see the familiar pale green tiles of the pool deck. What I do not see, however, is a lifeguard. Even though the pool is supposed to be open, and supervised, twenty-four-seven. Normally someone abandoning the pool is to be expected, but not during the peak hours of the evening. Which is another odd thing, I check my watch and it’s seven p.m; there are almost always people here at this time. I shrug and dismiss it as a lucky break. No people means no need to watch the pool.
I walk over to the lifeguard chair and plop down, ready for a very boring night shift. My eyes are caught by something on the chair handle, there are a few drops of blood. The previous lifeguard must have had to deal with some kid that had a bloody nose. That thought reminds me to check who the previous lifeguard actually was, the boss would be pretty pissed to find that someone had left the pool unattended. After consulting the schedule I’m surprised to find that Joe had been working. He’s the one person who I would not expect to leave without telling anyone, nothing that can be done about it now though.
After getting some disinfectant wipes, I go back and wipe the blood off of the chair, it’s not looking like anyone will show up so I allow myself to be lulled into sleep by the quiet drone of the fluorescent lights.
I have no idea how long I was asleep for, but I wake up to the sound of children laughing and giggling. I’m still so groggy from sleep I barely open my eyes, the pool is empty, no drowning kids, nothing to worry about. I’m content with this thought as the warm and humid air of the pool pulls me back into sleep.
The next time I wake up it is to the sound of silence, this time I check my phone and find that it is three in the morning. I had been asleep for over seven hours. That thought reminds me of those few groggy seconds when I had woken up, only now did it dawn on my how odd it was for there to have been children in the pool so late. The pool seemed to be devoid of children now, so it seems fine for me to go back to sleep. As I begin to shut my eyes my attention is once again drawn to the chair’s arm. There is more blood, I could have sworn that I had wiped it off, but apparently not. Getting out of the chair I notice that the floor is wet, there’s a trail of water leading from the pool right up to where I had slept. What had those kids been doing? I shrug it off and head to the supply closet.
A few minutes, and Clorox wipes, later the chair is clean and I head over to the trash can. As I throw the Clorox wipes in something at the bottom catches my attention. There, in the can, were the wipes I had used to clean off the previous blood droplets.
I knew that I had cleaned the chair, but where did the new blood come from? It must have been those kids, as the watery trail to the guard chair proved. The chair, however, tells a different story when I get back to it. There, on the armrest, are a few drops of blood.
A quick scan of the pool reveals that it is still empty, there’s no way any kids could have done it this time. It dawns on me, the blood is in little droplets, like it fell onto the chair. I slowly begin to look upwards and there, coming from the ceiling, is a very small, red, stain.
The ceiling is one of those paneled deals, with large sheets that can be pushed up to reveal the electrical and pipe work of the building. The blood is coming from the edge of one of those sheets. Sighing, I consider calling management, but I know it will take them weeks to do anything about it, probably some dead rodent, or maybe someone’s cat. Either way I don’t want disease ridden blood dripping on me, so I pull one of the plastic tables positioned around the pool under the dripping and climb on top of it.
I pull on some gloves, ready to clean up whatever it is, and then push the ceiling tile upward and slide it out of the way. I fully extent so my shoulders are completely in the ceiling. Only now do I realize I have no way of seeing anything in the dark, so I climb back down and get my phone. On the table again, I use my phone to light up the space. I see nothing at first, but as I turn around the light catches on something pale. My eyes widen in realization, it’s Joe, but this isn’t the Joe that I knew, this Joe is cold, pale, and very dead.
His entire throat is gone, torn out by who knows what, and on his face, is a small, bloody, handprint. Frantically calling for help on my phone, I stop when I hear a sound below me. Fear prevents me from moving as I hear giggling children and splashing in what had been an empty pool. I’m positive that I did not hear the pool door open.
The sound of splashing stops, it is replaced by the unmistakable sound of someone climbing out of the pool, followed by wet footsteps slapping on the pool deck. I’m stuck, frozen with fear, looking into the face of my dead co-worker as some unknown creature approaches me from the pool.
The footsteps stop, the only noise now is the low buzzing of the fluorescent lights, that and my terrified breathing. I don’t know how long I stand there, staring into the face of a dead man, too afraid to move. I’m pulled out of my terrified daze by something cold and wet grabbing onto my ankle. I freak out, I rip my leg out of whatever is holding onto it, but in the process I lose my footing. Falling onto the table I smack my head, as everything gets fuzzy and begins to fade into blackness I make out the silhouette of a child looking down on me. Unconsciousness rolls over me before I can do anything about it.
My eyes open and I’m still lying on the pool deck. The only sound is the continuous hum of the florescent lights, the initial grogginess wears off and I remember what happened. Rather than trying to stay and find out what happened, I do what I consider to be the logical thing and book it out of the pool. I sprint to the door and yank on the handle, it doesn’t budge. It’s not locked, the mechanism isn’t jammed, the door just refuses to move.
I’m thoroughly freaked out now, I walk back over to the lifeguard table, the ceiling tile is still pushed to the side, and there’s a significant puddle of blood near the lifeguard chair. Aside from making me gag it also makes me wonder how long I was out. A quick look at the wall clock reveals that it is seven in the morning, which means my replacement was due an hour ago. I lean over the schedule and read it to find that Ashley is supposed to be here. I think back to the phone call that brought me into the mess, which reminds me that I have my phone, how was I so stupid? I reach for it and hope to god that I can call for help, before my hand grasps the phone there is the sound of laughter and splashing in the pool behind me.
I really don’t want to turn around, that pool had just been empty and with all the crap going on I am quite positive that what I see in that pool will not be good, but curiosity wins out over fear, so I take a deep breath… and turn around.
The pool is empty, yet I still hear the sounds of children playing. The pool surface seems calm at first, but after a few seconds I start to make out a ripple in the center. The sounds of children grow louder, and as they do the ripples become more rapid. They keep getting louder and louder, the sounds of fun begin to turn to terror. The children’s screams no longer sound joyous, but horrified, blood boiling, like nails on a chalkboard. All the while the pool water becomes more disturbed, it’s no longer a ripple it is violently thrashing, starting to throw water onto the pool deck.. An impossible whirlpool begins to form in the pool, I stare in terror as a figure begins to rise out of the center.
At first it appears to be a child, but I instantly realize that’s wrong, it isn’t even human. Sure, it resembles a human, but it lacks any sort of color or distinguishable features, the figure is such a dark black that it almost seems to be two dimensional. I take an unconscious step back, my body desperate to be away from the creature, but my mind too captivated by the horror, and impossibility, of it.
Then it’s gone. No poof or anything, the figure that was in the pool is just gone. The screaming is gone, and the pool is no longer convulsing. I stand in shocked silence, eventually my mind recovers enough for me to move, again I decide to try the door. I turn to face it and I scream.
Something is coming through the door. “Holy shit, what is wrong with you, man?” Ashley says, staring at me like I’m crazy.
“You… The pool… Joe…”
“Damn Matt, the hell is up with you? Breath. ”
All I can think to say is, “You’re late.”
“Yeah man, so what, chill. It’s more money in your pocket anyway,” she says distractedly as her phone starts to buzz. She picks it up, “Hey, sup? Oh! Joe, you can take my day shift today? Hell yeah man! I owe you.”
How can she be talking to Joe? I turn to look back at the pool. Everything is normal, the pool deck is dry, there’s no blood dripping from the ceiling, even the table I had moved was back where it normally was. I’m pulled out of my daze by Ashley, “Yo, Matt, I got Joe taking my shift he should be here any minute. So I’m gonna head out. You should get some rest man, look like you seen a ghost or some shit.”
I just nod as she leaves, still staring dumbly at the very normal pool. A minute later the pool door creaks open behind me, “Hey Matt, how’s it going?”
He is alive, turning around and seeing him there made everything seem just a little bit better. All I can muster is to give him a nod and say, “Fine, I’m fine, Joe.”
Returning to my apartment I go straight to my bed and flop down face first. I must have had one hell of a dream, except it was so vivid. The last thing I do before I fall asleep is set my phone on the floor next to my bed.
Due to the fact that my phone is lying on the floor I do not notice it buzzing, just a text and first. Then multiple, then phone calls. It is not until eight hours later that I get up and check my phone to discover what is on it. Five new texts, all from Joe.
“Hey man, any idea where all these bloody Clorox wipes in the trash came from?”
“Matt, I know this sounds weird, but would you mind coming and keeping me company?”
“All right, there is some weird shit going on, I don’t know if this is some prank, but it ain’t funny man”
“Yo what the fuck is this? Answer my calls damn it, I know you’re doing this shit somehow”
“help”
The last text was from five hours ago. I get ready to go downstairs to try to check on him, a pit forms in my stomach as I see flashing red and blue lights in the parking lot. Three minutes later I am told by a police officer in the lobby that Joe was drowned in the pool and then seemingly had his throat cut. The only lead they have so far is a small, bloody hand print on his face.
I move to the other side of the country the following day.

Credit To – Teddy

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Night-Time Curiosity

July 18, 2015 at 12:21 AM
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Groggily, I check the clock beside my bed and grimace. It’s 00:21 already, which means only a maximum of six and a half hours sleep for me now. Great. I close my eyes tight and urge my mind to shut off, but it is as reluctant as always. My consciousness remains occupied with disconcerting thoughts.

To try and subside my paranoid deliberations, I drag my funfair trophy towards me in a tight embrace. The now somewhat-scraggy bear, easily the size of an older child, had been won at the towns’ annual fair for me by my father eight years ago. It had taken a tedious amount of whining and crocodile tears on my behalf for him to keep trying. After a total investment of £12, the bear was mine, and I had kept it in my bed ever since.

In troublesome nights, when I found myself consumed in nightmarish fantasies, the bear always brought some kind of a comfort. It was always cold, which was somehow pleasing within the warmth of the duvet, and, despite the fact that its fur was now matted and unkempt, it was always cosy to cuddle with. Even when I wasn’t hugging it, the bear would ‘sleep’ under the duvet beside me, and during the night I’d be able to feel its coldness beside me. I never felt alone in the bed.

And now, in the early hours of the morning, I cling to it like a child. The familiarity of the odd, fairly unpleasant smell it has acquired over the years calms my frantic mind, and I feel myself slipping into sleep within minutes.

Half asleep, half aware, I feel a movement beside me, a gentle tug of the duvet. It is enough to widen my eyes and quicken my heartbeat. I find my vision locked on the wall opposite me. Suddenly, my heartbeat slows to a near stop as fear soars through every inch of my body. Two words can be read, albeit distorted and indistinct, but visible all the same.

DON’T LOOK

Beneath the writing was a downwards-pointing arrow, which indicated to only one logical location. The sight of the grotesque scrawling sends a sharp shiver along the length of my spine as my brain feverishly searches for a rational explanation for what I am seeing.

For many nights now it had happened, this exact situation. I would awake in the vacant darkness, and the only thing I would be able to see was the message. It would never be there when the sun surfaced from the horizon, but I’m confident to say that, on all of the occasions, I was not asleep. It has happened frequently over the past few years; a strange feeling of movement from within the bed would pull me from sleep, and then I’d see it.

Each time, a theoretical battle between curiosity and irrationality would transpire in my subconscious, and irrationality remained champion. Until tonight. Tonight I feel more compelled than ever to just look… to just valiantly climb out from the bed, fill the room with light, and put my mind at ease. The knowledge that there is nothing under there would surely resolve my spurt of insomnia.

And yet I am still reluctant.

A typical childhood is spent fearing the endless forms of monster that could be lying under your bed, concealed in the gloom, embracing the obscurity of the shadows. Such a fear becomes embedded in the darkest regions of the mind, and even now, I daren’t put my legs over the edge of the bed in case something wraps its cold, slender fingers around them. The distance from the bed to the light-switch isn’t long, but in the dark it would be an eternity.

I’m going for it. Oh god, I’m out of the bed, and my legs are monster-hand free. I pause to admire my fearlessness, before taking small, quiet steps towards the wall. I take about four before another sound rivals the creak off the floor: the bed.

The bed creaks. A subtle sound, but audible enough to freeze me completely. The bedframe has long outlived its prime time, and so the bars underneath are weak. So weak that even the slightest movement can be heard.

It creaks again, louder this time, as if weight were shifting from one position to another. Suddenly there is a scratching sound: pointed nails against metal. Slow. Loud. Terrifying.

I find a sudden energy within me to move my feet once more, big strides this time. The scratching sound does not subside; it is now accompanied by raspy, deep breaths. Each inhale sounds like a struggle for air. The exhale is silent.

As I near the wall, the volume increases, and it seems to get closer. What appeared to have emanated from the bed now shadows me as I fumble in the eerie black for the light-switch. Come on, come on, I urge, adamant that I do not stand alone in this room. The uncomfortable feeling of being watched strikes me from all directions, and I cannot escape it. Something vindictive lurks, and it is waiting.

My fingers finally locate the switch, and I press it without delay, spinning as I do to face the now-lit room. Empty.

The wall is barren, the bed unharmed. The outline of the bear beneath the duvet is apparent, but of no concern. I sigh, with both relief and frustration at my own imagination. Now I can settle this stupid situation and finally get some rest. The clock reads 02:49.

I move towards the bed with courage, now protected by light, and drop down to my knees so that I can see underneath it. And there, at the far side of the floor, alone and partially concealed by the dark, is my bear.

What a comforting sight! I quickly drop onto my belly, and drag myself underneath to grab the bear. I get about halfway under when realisation hits me like a tonne of bricks. If my bear is underneath the bed, then what is in it?

At this point, the creaking restarts. I can feel the weight above me on the bed. The horrifying sound moves from the right side of the bed to the left. Silence then falls upon the room. I can barely breathe.

I see a shadow be cast beside me. Round, like a head. It’s looking at me.
Biting my lip, I turn my head so that I can see what I have been sharing my bed with every night. I see the monstrosity that I have wrapped my arms around so tightly for comfort in times of fear. And it grins a satisfied grin with its grisly teeth. Hanging from the edge of the bed, with pure black eyes that lock with mine, it whispers to me, in an icy, malicious voice, four simple words:

“You shouldn’t have looked.”

And with that, it slithers from the bed and onto the ground, onto its hairy stomach. It crawls to join me under the bed, and I feel its familiar coldness press against my body once more. It wraps its foul arms around my torso, presses its grisly lips against my ear, and sneers:

“Oh, how the tables have turned.”

And with that, I drift into eternal sleep.

Credit To – Nightfall

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Laboratory

July 17, 2015 at 12:00 PM
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The building was bland, and had an unwelcoming feel to it. Though I suppose making a laboratory pretty on the outside wasn’t the prime concern of whoever had built it. It functioned purely as a means of… well, conducting science experiments I suppose.
My car pulled into the carpark and found an empty spot, then I turned my engine off.
The leaflet had come in the mail several days ago, addressed to myself, asking people to come forward and help the scientists and their experiments – to offer my opinion on their work so I may help them identify what the public’s needs are, and if what they’re doing is the right thing.
Sniffing, I pulled myself out of my car and slammed the door shut behind me. Immediately I was hit by frozen December air so that my eyes watered and breath escaped in plumes. My hands took to shivering so I thrust them into my pockets – it didn’t help.
‘Right. Let’s do this then.’ I mumbled, and started off towards the building. The main reason I was here, being out here on Saturday of all days, was the fact that the leaflet guaranteed a reward for any that came forward. Perhaps they meant a cash prize? I wasn’t sure, it didn’t seem to specify exactly what the prize was, but I had nothing better to do today anyhow. No wife and kids to look after, just a cat that I still hadn’t bothered to name yet – that sort of shows how lazy I am, doesn’t it? I’ve had it for a year.
As I neared the building I could see people through the dark tinted windows, people inside were wandering around and making gesticulations with their hands, busy with their work. It made me feel a hell of a lot better, because from the outside one would assume this place was deserted. The sort of place that you’d feel really uneasy being around in the middle of the night. Though now I supposed the exterior was the least of the concerns of the scientists working within. I stepped up to the large double doors and stepped through.
There was a man standing just inside the door, holding a pad and pen and wearing a white lab coat. He had a mottled grey beard, thin eyebrows and Einstein-like hair, not to mention two grey eyes that seemed to drill right through me. Despite all this he was smiling, which I immediately felt was very uncharacteristic of him.
‘Welcome!’ he said, ‘you must be James! I’m Dr Harrod.’
‘Nice to meet you.’ I replied, offering a hand, though he didn’t take it. Instead he rummaged in his coat and pulled out a pair of yellow, elastic gloves.
‘In case of contamination, you understand,’ he said; I nodded and took them.
‘How did you know who I was?’ I asked, pulling them on. ‘Are there many others coming today?’
‘Several others have come, yes. Process of elimination I suppose: I have a list, see?’ He waved the pad quickly in front of me, but I didn’t catch any writing. Then he placed the pen and pad on a table nearby.
‘Anyway, welcome to Eaglebound, one of the last remaining science laboratories in this area.’ For the first time I looked past his shoulder and cast an eye around the large room I had entered.
There was a floral pattern engraved on the tiled floor in the form of little squares. The large image of an eagle and some sort of flower dominated the rear wall above the reception desk… and the people. Dozens of workers speed-walking to and fro; most in lab coats, though some were in suits and casual attire. Nearly all of them were either carrying notes, test tubes or unmarked boxes – busy with their own work. The only person who wasn’t moving was the scowling female receptionist, glaring through spectacles, who reminded me strongly of my now-deceased mother.
‘Don’t mind them,’ Dr Harrod smirked, ‘we’ve got work to do downstairs, do some observing, right?’
‘Yes,’ I replied, slightly overwhelmed. Dr Harrod then set off at a brisk pace, and I had to break into a jog to catch him up.
‘So, I’m going to be helping with the experiments?’ I asked breathlessly. He rounded a corner quickly, dodging a man in a suit and a woman shouting into her phone. Then doctor entered an empty elevator, and after nearly tripping over someone’s feet I managed to jump in beside him.
‘In a way,’ he replied, hitting the button marked B: the basement. He produced a key from his pocket and fitted it into the slot. As he turned it to the right and it emitted a sharp click, the doors grinded shut and immediately the hubbub on the floor outside ceased.
‘So… what does my job entail?’
‘Well,’ he sniffed. ‘You won’t be helping exactly, but observing. Providing your personal opinion, good or bad, on what we’re doing here. It gives us a consensus society’s attitude to our experiments, and how we should change things. After all, the public eye is a powerful thing – we don’t want to offend anyone.’
‘Ah,’ I said, casting an eye around the steel elevator. ‘What sort of experiments do you do?’
‘We attempt to make life easier, and grant future generations with new means of getting about quicker, facilitating bonds, and developing obscure ideas.’
‘Um.’ I wasn’t quite sure what this meant, so decided to keep my mouth shut. I’d always had an avid interest in science, so figured not to prod any further and just enjoy the experience as it unfolded.
After a few moments seconds I thrust my hands back down into my pockets – still cold from the temperatures outside – and listened to the somewhat rhythmic hum of the elevator.
‘Did you read about the reward?’ Dr Harrod said.
‘Oh,’ I replied, looking at him, I didn’t think he would bring it up. ‘I was wondering what that could be.’
‘Everyone wonders what it is,’ he laughed, ‘and everyone is always surprised when it’s revealed. I’ll let you know when the tour is finished.’ Again, the laugh seemed forced, more condescending than anything else. The way a criminal in a film would laugh moments before killing the much-loved hero.
At that moment the elevator grinded to a halt and the doors opened. I was shocked with the sight that greeted us: we were facing an empty corridor that looked in complete disarray. The off-white walls were decayed in places, with bits of moss beginning to take them over. The floor was dirtied with footprints and dust. The white lights hanging overhead would occasionally flicker. And the smell… as soon as the doors had opened I was greeted with a very musty, strong stench that reminded me of urine and a doctor’s waiting room.
‘Here.’ Dr Harrod said, producing a hospital mask. I took it and pulled it down over my face, immediately the stench was replaced with the smell of perfumed fabric.
‘What is this place?’ I said, feeling a little uneasy.
‘Oh,’ Dr Harrod murmured, stepping forward and walking down the corridor a few steps. ‘This is where we conduct the experiments, invent new things and whatnot. Sorry about the state of things, we’ve been meaning to get some cleaners to come down here.’ He turned back to me – I was still standing in the elevator.
‘Come on,’ he gestured sharply, gesturing with a gloved hand. His somewhat happy personality had shifted into a more serious one. His once smiling mouth had transformed into a solemn line, emotionless. His cold eyes were suddenly menacing, and for a moment I glanced at the elevator buttons and considered heading back up to the ground floor.
‘Come on, what are you waiting for?’
‘Right,’ I sighed, stepping into the hall, the elevator doors grinded shut behind me.
With Dr Harrod leading, and me taking small, ginger steps, we made our way down the corridor. It was as we moved forward that I noticed a series of doors along the walls, all a dark grey colour. They seemed menacing and cold, like these doors were looming guards looking down at me from all angles. A sent of claustrophobia seemed to be closing around me, and I felt myself sweating.
As we continued forward a little further I noticed a figure step into the hall at the far end. From the looks of him he was about twenty, and even from here I could see his sunken eyes, frowning face and hunched composure. After a glance down to us he disappeared into one of the other doors.
‘Right,’ Dr Harrod said, stopping in front of a door marked 9. ‘In we go.’ He opened the door with a gloved hand and I followed him into the room.
As I cast my eyes around the anxiety that had been brewing inside my stomach settled down. My stupid little fears and the bad vibes I’d been getting from Dr Harrod suddenly seemed very childish – these were scientists, after all. They knew what they were doing, surely?
The room was quite large, and in good condition too, nothing like the corridor outside. The walls were adorned with colourful, smiling faces, and the floor was a patterned carpet. There were a couple of women too, some appeared to be scientists. Most were dressed in casual wear, just strolling around. And then there were the children. Lots of kids from three to about six, shouting happily and playing with toys that the scientists had provided. The children had been separated into two little playing pens, surrounded by a little wooden fence.
‘Ah! Dr Jennings, how are the children?’ Dr Harrod said, walking swiftly past me over to one of the women. She’d been smirking at a two year old shaking a toy, then looked up to greet Dr Harrod with a hug. She had tightly fastened brunette hair, and wore jeans and a flowery green top. A nametag on her chest had her name imprinted in red letters.
‘They’re absolutely fine,’ she replied, then glanced over at me. ‘Is this James?’
‘Yeah,’ I said, offering a hand, she didn’t take it.
‘I’ll leave Dr Harrod to explain our work to you,’ she sniffed, and turned on her heel. She began walking to a door at the far end of the room which I supposed opened up into some sort of work area. On the way she gestured with her hands at the other supervising women – all of which followed her lead. Before long Dr Harrod and I were the only two people standing in the room apart from the giggling children.
‘Right. Let’s do some observing, shall we?’ he breathed.
‘Two questions,’ I said. ‘How did Dr Jennings know my name?’
Dr Harrod scratched his temple.
‘Like I did, with a list. This place is forbidden to other workers, so all staff need to be notified if someone is visiting.’
‘Right.’ I mumbled, casting an eye over to the children. ‘And also, where are these children’s parents?’
Dr Harrod looked taken aback at this question, then quickly regained his composure.
‘Oh, well, they’re at work and what have you,’ he said, reaching into his pocket for something. He pulled out a small, square, greyish device that had upon it a single white button.
‘But it’s Saturday,’ I said, slightly confused.
‘Oh.’ Dr Harrod thought for a moment. ‘I meant, work as in… housework. Parents leave their children here for the day to get a load off their minds and relax. It’s completely fine and well-organised, they know exactly what we do down here. In fact…’ He glanced at his watch. ‘They’ll be coming to pick them up in about three hours.’
I wasn’t sure about this answer, it seemed very… improvised. But I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.
‘So what do you do here?’ I asked.
‘Room 9 is for child conditioning. Some of these children have been raised in specific environments in order to control their behaviour. With the technology you see here, we could create a violent-free world for future generations. And if any violence were to occur…’ He motioned toward the button in his hand. ‘We can stop them very easily.’
‘Ok,’ I said slowly, unsure.
‘Let me show you,’ Dr Harrod grunted, and walked over to one of the children – a small boy playing with a toy truck.
‘This is Tommy, when he was born we implanted a chip at the base of his brain in a location that governs motor function. Meaning that if this child was behaving inappropriately, perhaps causing harm to others – we can do this.’
I watched as the doctor pointed the device at the child and pressed his thumb firmly down on the button. For a moment nothing happened, the child just sat there, staring up at the doctor. But then… sickeningly, the active toddler stopped moving and looked rather pale. His eyes seemed to defocus and for a moment I thought he was about to vomit, and then suddenly the boy slumped to the ground in a heap. But his eyes remained open, staring at me, and starting to glisten with tears.
I gasped, horrified.
‘He’s fine,’ the doctor said calmly. ‘The chip had merely set in motion a temporary state of paralysis. As long as this remains pressed, he can’t move a muscle.’ Dr Harrod then released the button and the child sat up, blinking in confusion. After a second he began to cry.
‘He doesn’t look fine to me,’ I snarled.
‘It scared him, certainly. How would you feel if you suddenly found yourself unable to move? But that’s precisely what’s brilliant about the chip. What if when this boy reached thirty years old he decided to rob a bank? Take someone hostage, hold them at gunpoint? We could simply click the button and everything would be sorted without the need for further violence.’
‘The parents allowed you to do this?’ I asked, uncertain. Despite the inhumanity, the doctor made a good point.
‘Imagine a world without crime…’ the doctor continued, ignoring my question. ‘If every child was implanted with this chip, then all we’d need was one of these buttons on our keychains, and every attacker would be rendered immobile.’
I stared down at the toddler. He was once again playing with the truck, albeit much slower.
‘Come,’ Dr Harrod said. ‘We’ve seen enough of this room.’
He walked back to the door from which we had entered. For a moment I watched the toddler some more, then turned around and followed him back out into the hall. As he closed door number 9 the many women that had been monitoring the children starting filing back into room.
‘Time to show you experiment number two,’ Dr Harrod said, and started off down the hall. ‘Though I won’t be showing you all of them, we don’t have enough time.’ I reluctantly followed and glanced back at the elevator at the far end.
‘All of these experiments are for science, right?’ I said, walking behind him.
‘I assure you,’ Dr Harrod replied, ‘that everything you see here will one day benefit future generations, even if little sacrifices must be made. Remember that.’
After a few moments we came to halt in front of door number 15.
‘You know what,’ I said, glancing down at my watch. ‘I think I might head off now – think I’ll call it a day.’
‘I’m afraid you can’t,’ Dr Harrod said sharply, suddenly very stern. A wave of sickness crept up my throat. ‘This is a strict, confidential floor, and that lift can only be used a certain number of times a day, all people that enter must be monitored carefully.’
‘Couldn’t we end the tour early?’ I asked, but he shook his head.
‘The reason you’re here is to provide your opinion on what we’re doing – bad or good. Now, if these tests make you uncomfortable, tell us. You can leave after you collect your reward at the end.’
Suddenly the idea of a ‘reward’ didn’t seem very appealing.
‘But-’ I began.
‘Please head into the room,’ he said, pushing the door open.
I stepped inside reluctantly, and was greeted with complete darkness.
‘I can’t see,’ I breathed, lifting my hands up in front of me.
‘Look, back here,’ Dr Harrod said. He grabbed two little masks that were resting on a rack just by the opening of the door and handed one to me. After pulling it over my head I realised that they were night vision goggles. The room lit up in a green haze; then Dr Harrod shut the door behind us.
The room was nearly empty, except for a very large box that dominated the centre, made out of what looked like a dark metallic material. We both approached the box slowly, and when we were standing a few inches away, Dr Harrod reached up and pulled open a sliding window so we could peek inside through some glass.
‘This room is completely sound proof, and lets absolutely no light in,’ Dr Harrod whispered. ‘Food and water is provided three times a day by one of my colleagues – and other than him, no one else is allowed in here.’
Though I wasn’t really listening. There was a dark silhouette sitting in the centre of the room that was giving me chills up my spine. In the haze of green I could make out a skeletal face, with long arms and spindly legs. This figure had a gaping mouth with broken teeth, and wispy to no hair. We stared for several seconds then its head cocked to one side.
‘See that?’ the doctor continued. ‘Due to the lack of sound and light, the subject has developed a heightened awareness for vibration – drawing on the only sense it has left… touch. I’d venture that he may have detected our footsteps as we approached the room.’
‘Wha-what does this experiment show? Who is he?’ I blurted. The figure in the box slowly creaked to its feet.
‘His name is Malcolm, and has been raised in complete isolation from birth without sound, sight, education, you name it. Have you ever heard of a blind man with an acute sense of hearing? What if we could harness these powers, and develop them? What if we could raise a person who had abilities others could only dream of? A person who could perhaps discover what we could not?’
The man… Malcolm, shifted again. He dropped to his hands and knees and started lurching forward like an animal, and approached the window we were staring through. I took a step back in fear.
‘This isn’t science,’ I choked. ‘This is cruelty.’
‘No,’ he snapped. ‘This is essential. You don’t think science, inventors and people who strived to discover more never made sacrifices? We have to do these things because otherwise no one will. The only new inventions would be new models of the iPhone. So please, if you will, follow me to the final experiment.’
He reached up and dragged the cover back over the window, and as he did the dark figure, Malcolm, raised his head into view and smashed both hands against the glass. I didn’t hear a sound. Then he was once again shut in his prison of eternal darkness.
‘Like I said,’ Dr Harrod sniffed. ‘Soundproof.’ Then he took off back towards the door, pulling his night goggles off and dropping them onto the rack as he did. I followed him, pulled off my goggles and stepped out into the corridor. I squinted in the light.
‘Follow me,’ he said, and took off quickly. I followed slowly. Once I got out of this place I’d go straight to the police, and explain what was happening down here. Everyone working in this place would be thrown in jail.
‘I’m going to leave after this, ok? I’ve had enough.’
‘Fine,’ the doctor replied, and stopped at a door marked 33.
‘Before you go in,’ he mumbled, ‘just remember, this is all for science.’ This didn’t make me feel any better, and as he turned the door handle slowly and pushed the door open I felt my knees begin to shake. It’d gotten to the point now where I was unsure if these were even real scientists, and that the experiments they were conducting here were in fact simply to satisfy their morbid, demented minds.
‘Please step inside,’ he said calmly. And I did, stupidly.
The room was quite small and bluish, it reminded me of a doctor’s theatre – the type where they conduct operations. There were several doctors wearing masks, seated around the room, one of them was glancing at his phone with his legs crossed. In the middle were several turquoise curtains surrounding what I presumed to be a hospital chair.
‘Our final subject,’ Dr Harrod announced, several of the doctors looked up.
‘Did you know,’ he began. ‘That if you were to lose a finger we could replace it with a toe?’
‘Yes,’ I replied slowly. ‘I’ve seen… programmes where they do that, yes.’ We took a step towards the curtains in the middle. My stomach turned over and I felt myself going dizzy.
‘Say someone was in a horrible accident,’ Dr Harrod murmured, ‘and they lost half of their hand. We, using excellent technology, could construct the person’s hand using the tissue from his foot. Isn’t that brilliant? We can perform eye transplants… kidney transplants, you name it… What if…’ The doctor paused.
‘What if what?’ I said.
‘What if we were to place someone’s eye on their shoulder, and craft an eyelid out of skin tissue, then link it up to the synapses in the brain? What if we took their arm, and placed it in the middle of their chest? What if we took their lower jaw, sawed it off and fashioned it onto their leg for a better kick? What if… we took some of the internal organs and made them external? Think of how much oxygen would be supplied to the lungs if they were fastened to the outside of the chest? We could create the next stage of evolution.’
‘What’s behind that curtain?’ I stammered. ‘What have you done?’
Dr Harrod stepped forward and whipped the curtains away.
But there was nothing there, just an empty hospital chair. I was slightly confused for a moment, but then it dawned on me in a sickening wave.
‘You came here to help us with our experiments, James, so that’s precisely what you’re going to do. The reward is aiding us in our experiments.’
I felt a sharp pain in my left arm and whipped it away in time to see a doctor standing next to me – he was holding an empty syringe.
‘Put him on the chair,’ Dr Harrod snapped, and several of the doctors grabbed my arms and legs. I thrashed as much as I could, but the room was already going blurry and my muscles were beginning to weaken.
‘We’ll talk again after the operation,’ Dr Harrod smiled, pulling a sharp scalpel out of his pocket. ‘That is… if you still have a mouth.’

Credit To – Meek

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The Balcony

July 17, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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I sat, staring blankly at the screen, for how long I can’t be quite sure. Desperate for something to watch, read, listen to… In search of some stimulation that might exhaust my mind to the point where going to bed seemed like a good idea. I closed my eyes and strained hard – pressing for some idea of what to type in the search bar but nothing came.

It wasn’t apparent to me how long I’d been sitting there, postponing sleep, gazing with glazed eyes at the monitor and refreshing the same social network feeds over and over again, waiting for some fuckwit I didn’t know or care about to update the world on their life happenings. Nothing changed, though – it was well past 2 am and most people were rolling over, ripping up the sheets and drooling on their pretty pillowcases.

Somewhere between the ears a sharp pain fired off and I realized I had a headache. Oh great… again. I reached for the bottle of ibuprofen sitting conveniently by my computer mouse and washed two of them down with the last mouthful of my warm beer. Refresh. Nothing happening. Couldn’t think of a song to listen to. Refresh. Same thing. No ideas for articles to read. Refresh. Nothing. They’re all sleeping, dammit. I snapped the laptop lid shut. Went to look out the window.

There was a streetlamp directly across the street from my little apartment, which I suppose was the reason I hated going to bed so much. One of the reasons, anyways. There wasn’t much to look at outside, either. Thin blanket of snow on the ground. Still cars in the neighbor’s driveway. Couldn’t see the stars… must have been cloudy. The apartment was even less interesting. A pile of half-read novels lined up on the shelf, arranged by size from biggest to smallest (dimensions, not pages). Drying rack full of dishes that were probably dry by now, but that could wait until tomorrow. Old flower-patterned couch made even more garish by the bright, blue and yellow striped blanket hanging over the back. And the walls…

The walls were the thing I hated most. Painted in that inoffensive, bland, mind-numbingly expressionless light beige that seemed to be omnipresent in every fucking apartment I’d ever been in. What I wouldn’t have given to paint those fucking walls. It would have been worth it, even if the damned landlord kept my damage deposit.

Leaving the window, I paced along the wall, dragging my hand as I had done over and over again, in moments of boredom. Around the kitchen/living room – divided by a half wall and made distinct by a clumsy architectural divider that reached off from the main wall by a couple feet – and around the corner to the short and narrow hallway that lead to my bedroom on the left and bathroom at the end. Strolled lazily into the bedroom, flicked on the light, looked around, flicked it off, and walked out again. Stopped for a quick piss in the bathroom. Frowned in the mirror. Then made my way back to the chair. I started flicking through the books on the shelf, but I couldn’t decide which one to read, so I gave up and sat down on the horrendous couch, staring out the sliding glass balcony door.

And that’s when I saw it.

At first, I thought my glasses were skewed, and I took them off, gave them a ritual wiping in my t-shirt, and put them back on again. No, it was still there. Hmph… that’s weird… It wasn’t anything shocking, nor was it one of those things that causes you to jump up in outrage – it just seemed a little bit… odd.

I had been looking at the picture frame sitting on the half wall that stretched partway across the floor between the kitchen and living room, which was perpendicular to the couch I was sitting on – and something about it didn’t look quite right. The picture frame was alright. The half wall looked right – as much as any half wall can – but there was something funny about were it joined to the outer wall of the apartment. I couldn’t be quite sure what it was, exactly, but it seemed like the outer wall was a good foot or more farther from me on the kitchen side than it was on the living room side.

I gave it a frown, then a giggle. Obviously, the landlord had done a bad job with the renovations and had done some miscalculations, and the inner paneling on the kitchen side was curved on one end. I didn’t know much about carpentry, but I had a basic understanding. Yeah, that’s it.

I got up, walked to the fridge for another beer and glanced at the wall again. My explanation didn’t convince me, as the wall looked flat as a wall could be. It was the damnedest thing, because from the kitchen side, the wall looked perfectly normal. Maybe it was the other side that was off. But I strolled back to the living room, and the wall on that side looked normal too. It didn’t make sense. I decided to forget about it, and set myself back on the couch and opened my beer – but there it was again. The wall in the kitchen looked farther than it should be, or the living room wall looked too close… it was hard to tell which was the case, but something was off, that much was certain.

I took a gulp of beer and got up again. I walked over to the corner in the kitchen and ran my hand along the wall near the floor. It certainly looked like things were joining up at right angles. I did the same on the living room side – it looked perfectly normal. I even grabbed a book and stuck it between the floor and the wall, and slid it across on both sides, and in both rooms the book fit snugly where the floor and wall met. Then I did the same, between the wall and the room divider. Perfect right angles. I sat back on the couch again, and now it seemed even more apparent.

It was as if the kitchen was longer than the living room, and impossibly so, as they both shared the same square space and outer wall of the building. It didn’t make sense. The wall to the left was definitely farther than it was on the right side of the half wall, but how could that be so? I shuffled my way around the rooms, observing the dimensions with squinting discretion, from every conceivable angle. No curve, no obvious deviations. If I could believe what my eyes were seeing – and I had no reason to doubt them before now – the kitchen should be protruding from the side of the building by about 12-15 inches.

I was flabbergasted. It just shouldn’t be. Even the thickness of the walls, which I guessed at about six inches, wouldn’t account for such an error. It wasn’t the way that geometry worked, but when I looked again from the couch the difference between the distances on the two sides was impossible to ignore. What the hell…

Surely, I thought, that there was some mistake, and the wall was joined awkwardly and I just hadn’t noticed it before. I’d have to go out on the balcony to reassure myself, and take a look at the outside wall of the building. My balcony ran the entire length of the kitchen/living room wall, placing the discontinuity about halfway down its length. Surely the exterior of the wall would reveal an outward jump. Now it made sense. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t noticed it before. I slid open the glass door and tip toed out into the winter air, the thin snow layer crunching and squeaking under my socks.

But to my surprise, the wall was entirely flat. I flicked on the balcony light to be sure. Perfectly flat. Straight, with no visible joins or angles anywhere. I pressed my hands hard against the cold vinyl siding and ran them from the sliding glass door all the way to the railing at the end. Defeated, I made my way back inside, and slid the door shut. I peeled off my wet socks and hung them over the edge of the bathtub to dry, and retreated to the couch once more, rubbing my cold feet.

It was at this point I started to feel uncomfortable, in a way that was almost indescribable. The very image of what I was seeing didn’t make sense. It was such a departure from simple logic that my brain couldn’t concoct any sort of explanation at all. The sensation that trickled over me was something that I can only describe as the opposite of deja vu. The sheer unfamiliar and nonsensical nature of the wall was all I could think about. I had to prove to myself that it wasn’t real.

I stomped down the hall to my bedroom, bare feet slapping on the floor, snatched my belt off the dresser and brought it out. I moved the chair, slid the kitchen table out of the way, so I had a quick, clear path around the half wall. I even took the picture frames off the half wall, and laid them on the table. Nothing to get in the way.

I started on the right side. I let the belt buckle touch the outer wall, and pulled it tight. The distance from the the wall to the end of the divider was about half the length of the belt. I pinched my fingers hard on the belt, marking the length I had measured. Now… I marched around, to the kitchen, put the belt buckle against the wall and pulled the belt tight.

Impossible, I thought. It was truly impossible. The belt wouldn’t even reach from the wall the the end of the divider. I leaned against the wall, my mind whirring with thoughts, questions. The one thought that dominated my being was that the space I was standing in, leaning against that wall, should not exist! If common sense were any sense at all, I should be on the balcony right now, staring at the vinyl siding on the outside of the building. A sudden feeling of dread washed over me – I felt hot and sick and shaky. I started to wonder what might happen If i were to close my closes, but at that thought, the fear become so intense that I jumped away from the wall and ran to the bathroom where I promptly retched up my beer and what undigested remains there were of my supper.

What was happening to me? I had to sleep. Yes, that’s it. I was exhausted, and it had been a long week. Maybe it was the headache pills, I thought – I had downed them with alcohol, after all. And mixing drugs with booze can do crazy stuff, right? I closed my eyes hard, nodding my head and trying to convince myself that I had to be hallucinating. I was sleep depraved. I needed sleep.

I flushed the toilet, brushed my teeth, splashed water in my face, and turned to look down the hall. I realized then that I had left the balcony door ajar, and the cold winter air was putting a chill in the apartment. I started, but stopped again, when my peripheral vision revealed to me something which unnerved me in a way I had never known. It was at that point which I began to think I was losing my mind.

On the left side of the half wall, the kitchen stretched on, far beyond the physical limitations of my building, and filling that impossible space was – and It frightens me say it – a perfect mirror image of my own. The table, chairs, cupboards, and even the overflowing drying rack lay in perfect reverse imitation of my own, real kitchen. It was as though the wall of the kitchen had been replaced by a reflective surface, but as far as I could tell, this was not the case.

I breathed deep, shaking uncontrollably as I made my way slowly down the hall to the kitchen. I stopped halfway, at the linen closet which sat opposite my bedroom door, and grabbed the broom. I unscrewed the broom handle and clutched it tightly as I would a spear. It did nothing to make me feel safer.

I moved slowly – one foot at a time – holding the broom handle out in front of me and breathing heavily. As I got nearer, though, I could see that the discontinuity did not only mirror the kitchen – it was the entire apartment.

When I reached the point where the wall had been, I stopped and stretched out my hand. Nothing but empty air. This couldn’t be a hallucination, could it? No – something else was at work here. Something frighteningly real.

There was a draft moving through the air, flowing like a soft wind, and I realized that the sliding door to the balcony must also be ajar over there. I should close it. That seemed to make sense, at least.

I prepared myself to enter the space that should not be. Something about it still made me afraid to close my eyes, so I decided to try my best not to blink before walking over. Come on, you got this. I had a goal now. Simple enough, but still, that small purpose helped quiet the thoughts in my head a little. I swallowed, breathed deep, and walked into the impossible room. Made my way past the chairs, the books – even the fucking picture frames were there, but something about the pictures wasn’t right, and I averted my eyes as I passed. I turned right around the half wall and came to face the balcony door. I was right. It was open. However, what I saw beyond the door was not what I had expected. I had prepared myself – by taking into account the twisted anti-logic of the discontinuity – to encounter a second balcony. This was a whole new deviation. Nonetheless, I made my way through, back into the real living room, and slide the balcony door shut.

I sat on the couch again, picked up the half-drunk beer, and took a gulp. Spilled some on my shirt. I didn’t know what else to do but try and understand the situation as best I could. There was no balcony anymore. From where I sat, I could see the second kitchen to my left, beyond the real one, and through the sliding glass door I could see the opposing living room, couch and all – even the bloody half-drunk beer sitting on the coffee table. If I told myself that the kitchen wall and the balcony door were mirrors, I could nearly believe I was still sane. Yeah, I thought, it’s just a mirror. Just a big fucking illusion. Reflection. There’s the coffee table… my couch… my beer… all that’s missing is…

I heard a noise behind me, coming from what sounded like the bedroom. A faint “thwump”, like the sound of something soft clumsily hitting the floor. I froze. I could feel my eyes tighten. My pulse throbbed sickeningly in my neck. I could feel the cold sweat seeping through my clothes. I had to escape.

I clutched the broom handle as tightly as I could and ran for the front door. I grabbed the knob, whipped open the chain lock, and twisted it open in a frenzy. Tears filled my eyes and the scream my body had tried to produce had stopped at the dry lump on my throat. I slammed it shut again, as hard as I could have, and locked it. I pressed my back against the door and let myself slide limply down, down, down onto the floor. There was no exit. Outside the door had been just another entrance way like my own. An exact reflection.

And then I heard the noise again… thwump… coming from the bedroom. And again… thwump… louder this time. Thwump. The bedroom door opened slowly. Thwump. They were footsteps. Thwump… thwump… They were coming down the hall.

I do not know what gave me the strength to move in that instant. Some primal instinct, some basic will to survive kicked in. I would not sit sobbing in a corner, waiting for whatever cruel and impossible fate awaited me. I would not.

I launched myself from the entrance way, and made for the balcony door. I flew across the kitchen. Grappled the half wall and swung my weight as best as I could across the living room floor. I snatched the sliding door handle, heaved it open, and burst into the room that should not be. I drove it shut behind me, flicked the lock, and ran left, around the half wall to face whatever it was that had come from this impossible place – not daring to blink until I passed the boundary back into the real kitchen. I stopped short. The wall had returned. Solid. Real. I would have to go back through the balcony door again, but at least I had the upper hand – the door was locked from this side.

I clenched my fists so tightly around the broom handle that my fingernails must be drawing blood from my palms. My eyes were stinging now, but I still dared not blink. I could not let the perverse logic of the space get a chance to warp itself again. Not while I was still inside it.

Then, there was another noise. Not the muffled footsteps from before, but a clear, sharp “tick.” The sound of metal and springs and intricate precision.

The sound of the balcony door being locked from the other side.

No… I rushed to the sliding door and unlocked it, but it wouldn’t budge. I could see the lock switch on the other side – the real side – and it was engaged. I screamed. I swore. I cried. I yanked and tore and heaved and kicked and pounded the door, over and over and over. There was no use. No matter how much force I put on the damned door, it wasn’t going to move. It didn’t even shake. As long as it was locked from the other side, I would never be able to open it. I was defeated. My eyes were still open – I refused to let myself blink, and my vision had gone horribly blurry. They burned like fire from the air and my hysteria, but I couldn’t blink. I could not let that happen. I had to keep the real world in sight.

And then I saw the figure.. I watched with horror through the glass as the figure reclined on my couch. They picked up my half-drunk beer and took a long swig. They were looking in my direction. Staring out the glass of the sliding door right at me. By now my eyes were aching so badly and my vision so impaired that I could scarcely pick out any details, but I knew what it was. The realization of it was the end for me. I have not felt true, unhindered hope, or joy, or contentment since that moment, and I fear that I never shall. The figure on the other side was me.

It might have been an hour, maybe two, maybe three that I knelt there with my forehead against the glass. I never did let my eyes shut that night. I held the lids open for so long that my sight left me entirely. I do not know when it was that I finally slipped into unconsciousness, but it was not of my own free will.

When I awoke in the morning I found myself staring out onto the balcony. The sun was glowing through the trees and I could see crows flying in the distance. I slid the door open and fell out onto the snow-covered wood and stayed there for a very long time, watching the ice crystals melt in my breath. By the time the cold drove me inside, the sun was well up and cars were moving on the roads.

In the weeks and months that followed I paced in and out of that balcony door so many times a day I would lose count by noon. I didn’t want to stay in that apartment one moment longer, but the madness of the discontinuity wouldn’t let me leave. I was obsessed with finding a way back to the world from which I had come. The breaking point came sometime in March – I can’t remember when, exactly – when the landlord came pounding on my door, responding to multiple noise complaints. I had been attempting to tear down the kitchen wall with a framing hammer. There was a commotion, and I had a few very long talks with police, but eventually the landlord agreed not to press charges so long as I moved out immediately and paid an extra three months rent to cover the damages. I took the offer. I convinced the cops that I didn’t know much about renovating, but I was sick to death of that fucking paint and had to do something about it.

It’s been a few years now, and I’ve distanced myself from that place. I’ve since gotten a new job, made disastrous attempts at love. I’ve made things work as best I can, going from one day to the next. I’ve come to think of this world as real – I have no other choice. I will never return to the other side. Not now. As time goes on it becomes ever harder to remember that it ever existed in the first place. To this day, I can’t bear looking in the mirror. I seems to me that behind the eyes of my reflection there is some hint of malevolence… though at times it looks to me more like gloating.

I remind myself every morning that I am real. I am here. Wherever here is. Impossible or no, this world is mine now. I’ve come to see the obscure beauty in it. There is one thing that reminds me of the world I thought I knew, though – it happens every day when I watch the sun rising. I always expect it to come up in the west, but it never does.

It never does.

Credit To – Keith Daniels

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