It was his first time in Karachi. The coastal city seemed to sprawl on forever, and for a little while he was concerned about getting lost there. But, fortunately he had a lot of friends accompanying him. One look at his them as they stood gathered there outside the bus station and he felt neither alone, nor afraid.
“Take one of these whistles with you!” said one of them, handing him a smooth silver whistle and moving on to the next person, handing him a whistle as well.
“What are these for?” he called to him.
“Well, since we’re dividing into small groups to explore, I thought it was a good idea for us to have a quick way to calling out to each other”
He looked back down at the whistle and then to everyone else slowly forming groups of different sizes. He was the only one travelling alone; Since he had a few relatives he wanted to meet, and a few traders he had to discuss terms with. ‘I had best get going’ he thought.
It was all a very boring affair. He wanted to finish his visits as quickly as possible so he could meet up with his friends and maybe go around the city seeing the sights. The British had left only a few years ago and the city had since become a model city for development and growth. It was called ‘the city of light’ and he wanted to see exactly why it was so.
It was already evening by the time he finished all his ‘work’. He was considering where to start looking for his friends when he was approached by a weak, aging woman.
“Could you help me carry these son, son?” she said, gesturing to a sack of rice. It looked heavy even by his standards and he was surprised the woman had actually managed to carry it at all.
“Sure gran. Where is your home, exactly?” he said, lifting the sack onto his back.
“Not far from here” she said, smiling sweetly.
There was something off about her smile but he kept following her anyway, dismissing it as his imagination.
It took him five minutes to toil to get to her house and he was grateful for it not being any farther. She offered him food as he sat on the threshold of her tiny house, trying to catch his breath. He tried to refuse, thinking he should probably be joining his friends soon, but she insisted.
“I really can’t let you go, son. You have helped this old woman. Besides, I have a real treat for you if you can do me just one more favour.” she said earnestly.
“What’s that?” he asked her, wondering if the favour was more donkey work.
“Well, you see… my son died last night”, she said, her face serious and strangely impassive. “…I am but an old woman and I do not have the strength to bathe him for the burial”
He felt shaken by the woman’s request, and a little embarrassed at wanting to get away from there. The helpless old woman was simply preparing for her son’s funeral.
“I’ll be honoured to help”, he said after a moment, resigning himself to do another good deed.
She thanked him profusely led him through a narrow corridor and into what appeared to be a rather austere lounge, seating him on a rug.
“I’ll get you some food first. You will need your strength” she said, bringing him a tray full of pilaf rice. “Let me know when you’re done” she said, and left him to go elsewhere.
He was grateful for the food. His stomach had been aching for a while now and some Pilaf was just the thing he needed. So, he dug in eagerly, searching the rice for some meat. He found a finger.
His body gave a shudder and he immediately spat out the rice he had been chewing. He held up the finger he had found to the light and realized beyond doubt that it really was a human finger. That woman was a cannibal. The horrifying realization hit him like a hammer and he dropped the finger out of shock.
And then, he realized that he had probably been lured there to be eaten.
He looked around him, searching for a way to escape. The woman was waiting outside, he knew, and he did not want to risk running through her. She could be carrying any number of weapons and he needed to be very, very careful about how he dealt with the situation from then on. One wrong move, and he could be the next guy to be made into pilaf rice.
So, the first thing he decided to do was to take all the rice he had scattered over the rug in shock, and sweep it all under the rug along with the finger. He threw some more rice under the rug to make it appear as if he’d eaten his fill and then called out to the woman, and told her that he was ready to bathe her son’s dead body.
She led him out back to a courtyard, where a dead body was indeed placed, covered by a large white sheet on a wooden bed. He wondered if that was really her son. Did she intend to eat her own son as well? Perhaps, the body was simply another one of her victims, and he was actually helping her clean him up for her next meal. The thought was chilling.
He was treading in dangerous territory he knew, so his senses became extremely alert to every single move the woman made. She was carrying an oil lantern and went over to stand by the body’s head holding up the lantern for light. He brought some water in a large steel bucket, and began to bathe the body, keeping an eye on the woman as best as he could.
The first thing he noticed was that the body was not very cold to the touch. Fresh kill, perhaps, he thought. Though a cold shiver ran through his spine, he concentrated on not letting any emotion show on his face. He required every single bit of concentration he could muster to stay in control of the situation, pouring water over the body slowly, and trying to adjust his eyes to the dark.
He quickly became aware of an advantage he had. With the woman standing at the head of the body, she cast a very sharp shadow across the walls and he could see if she moved slightly even with his back turned to her. He thought about it a bit and decided that if the woman really wanted to kill him then he might as well try to lure her into an attack.
So, he deliberately started working on the body with his back turned to her, keeping both eyes on her shadow as he worked. At any moment, he would see hand move, and would immediately counter-attack.
He saw what happened next quite clearly as shadows started to shift. The woman’s left arm slowly drew out something from within the folds of her clothes and raised it high to attack. At the same time something else happened just as slowly though. Something he had not been expecting. It felt like terror creeping up his limbs as he saw the body’s right arm move as well, drawing out something long and blunt from under the shroud.
He jumped away from them reflexively. Fortunately for him the old woman chose to strike at the same moment; her iron rod missed him by mere inches as she brought it down. Her son, who had sat up to reach him, was not so lucky. Her full-blooded swing hit him to the side of his skull and he was knocked out immediately from the hit.
He could not let her recover, either. He jumped right at her and delivered a kick straight into her chest. She was lifted clean off her feet and flew back into the wall. That was it. He did not check to see if either of them was still conscious. He ran out of the house as quickly as he could, covered in cold sweat and short of breath as he was. And as soon he reached the street, he found the whistle his friend had given him and started blowing as hard as he could.
It did not take very long for him to gather a crowd. Some of his friends arrived as well, and he quickly told them what had happened. The police arrived soon after, and began searching the house for the the woman and her son.
The search resulted in a few shocking discoveries as bones of over 50 people were found from the basement of the house. The woman, and her son were arrested. Apparently they had been luring people to the house and eating them for quite a while. Also, according to them, they were not the only ones. Not by a long shot.
Writer’s note: This true story comes from my maternal grandfather, and has been told from his point-of-view. I have tried to keep all the details intact.
The “paranormal” world is composed entirely of the nightmarish delusions of terrified and insecure humans around the world, enriched by centuries of cowards and uneducated bumpkins; people who would rather take stock in the undefined hullabaloo of “beings”, the metaphysical, the demons of their own minds, as opposed to the rationality and cold, hard truth of science and contemporary knowledge. None of that actually exists, there is nothing that we cannot explain or understand.
The primal human mind can be a powerful and terrifying entity.
I can say with utmost certainty that I am the most down-to-earth person you could possibly encounter. But after what I have seen and felt with my own eyes and body, I’m writing this more for my own sanity than anything else; perhaps there may be some kind of twisted solace for me in these words. But if there is indeed an underlying purpose for this document, some “moral” that may be conveyed to the rest of the world, it is to confirm that there are truly some things in this world that we humans, the supposed epitome of rational thought, have not yet understood, nor would we ever want to understand.
Reader, let me ask you now; what really terrifies you? When you read a scary story, is it really the words on this screen that scare you, the integration of several choice “spook” sentences into an otherwise rather bland and cliché narrative about a boy alone in the woods with a tall, faceless monster waiting to jump out from behind a tree?
Or is it something more.
Something intensely psychological, beyond the words that make you nervously check over your shoulder, peering through the darkness at the ajar closet door; when your perception of the physical world begins to turn on you. Something malevolent steals control of the synapses and signals firing off in the recesses of your brain, toying with your emotions. You are helpless. Primal hypersensitivity and rapid breathing take over. And sitting in the suddenly abnormally still, silent, cold darkness of your bedroom, you realize that you really are not as safe as you believe yourself to be. This is the insidious, cold realization, percolating down your neck in tendrils of pure frozen nerve sensation, that you may be in very real danger. Sitting alone in the silent darkness of your once-familiar room, the pale artificial light of a computer screen reflecting on your face, and God knows what else.
Maybe that is what this is to you; simply another scary story, isn’t it?
You could not be more mistaken. I could not be more serious.
I am a boy of nineteen, a teenager in all the various connotations of the word; a University engineering student with a penchant for alcohol, intelligent debate, and women.
Several days ago, I was at a house party with a buddy of mine, and as usual, we got to drinking and fraternizing with much mirth. Being the self-proclaimed intellectual I am at heart, however, I eventually found my way into a small group of individuals who were having a debate about ghosts, entities, demons, and the general subject of the paranormal and otherworldly in a rather inconspicuous corner of the room. In retrospect, it is possible that these fellows were even more drunk than I, because there is no other way that such a subject would arise so naturally in normal conversation in such an environment, and be spoken about with such excited and feverish fervor. There is also no other way that we could have so carelessly set off the events that shook me to my core and destroyed the rational world I had clung to for so long.
As I mentioned before, I had been raised to take no stock in anything that I could not see, touch, feel, or otherwise explain through rational thought and observation. As such, my automatic alcohol-fueled reaction to the conversation of this group of paranormal worshippers was to completely put down and argue against their stupidly misguided bullshit stories and beliefs. And, since I wasn’t the only one drunk and preaching my beliefs in that group, I got a lot of retaliation and threats. Nothing truly malicious though.
Until one guy stepped up to my face, alcohol permeating every word, and amidst the din of the party challenged me to step into the unlit restroom, stare myself in the eye of the sink mirror’s reflection, and “summon Satan in my own place.” These are the words he said to me.
Now, you may think that there’s some kind of chant or mantra that you’re supposed to utter to make something like this happen; it brings to mind the classic party gags of “Bloody Mary,” or the “Butcher in the bathtub,” or whatever. But this was not it.
What I was told to do was to look into a mirror and simply concentrate on the intention to summon something from the other side, in my own place. Whatever that meant, I knew not then.
I am sorry to say that I know now.
I of course agreed, with much jeering and cheering, if only to prove a point. I was ushered into the designated bathroom, and the door was quickly shut behind me.
Instantly my world shrank into a claustrophobic and pungent box of muffled amped radio pop, regurgitated svedka, and the sounds of sex-crazed teenagers; my brain shocked my body into an instant of panic as my physical world changed so suddenly. But after that instant, I was calm. My eyes adjusted quickly. I perceived a toilet that would no doubt be filthy if illuminated, but in this combination of blurred atmosphere and alcohol it appeared to me merely as a blob of gurgling yellow porcelain. The wallpaper peeled in a pool of sickly light from a dirt-stained window. The sink was directly opposite me.
I stepped up to it, leaning my weight on my hands as they grasped the wet metal of the sink’s handles, and stared into my own reflected eyes with a sigh. My thoughts wandered as my physical eyes locked with identical metaphysical ones in the mirror. It was too dark to see any real emotion or intent in them, but I stared into those shadow eyes anyway. At this time, I felt no fear at all.
I, of course, do not recall exactly how long this continued for; nobody ever would be able to in a situation like this. It seems to me that, in moments of high adrenaline and rush, sense of time becomes distorted and in retrospect, only the jarring moments of euphoria or horror of an experience are vividly recalled without any reference to any sort of chronological flow of events. Not to mention that I was very drunk and very sleepy; probably shouldn’t have downed that eighth shot of Grey Goose so greedily.
That is why I do not recall exactly when I felt it, or exactly when I saw it; I only recall the sensation of panic and shock I felt when it happened.
…reader, do you know what true fear is? Do you really know it? At that moment, I did.
My reflection, face covered in shadow except for my lips and nostrils, was still my own. But it was not me. It was my nineteen year old frame, but not dressed in the flannel, jeans, and drink-stained frat shoes that I remember seeing in the mirror seemingly moments before.
It was my naked body, completely naked; every inch and section so familiar to me, down to the small pockets of fat and muscle. But its face was something that only the darkest, most twisted mind could possibly comprehend, and even then, not to entirety. It was an image of me that was deeply violating, deeply disturbing, primal and terrifying. Its lips had been curled back into a leer that penetrated my core with a nerve-deadening cold. And its eyes, cold and dead as they were in that lightless place, bore into my own with an illuminated, deathly, supernatural intelligence far beyond my own mortal one. It knew me so well, the depth of its knowledge seemed to transcend anything I was capable of understanding; I felt absolutely powerless.
It was not me. Oh God, but it was me. And it wanted me so badly. It wanted to possess me. To murder me and take my place.
The sight of its pale, familiar form and those God-forsaken eyes scared me, yes.
But what actually instilled pure terror in me was the knowledge that this thing was, indeed, me… a perfectly flawed, primal version of myself.
It is this that stood before me, long before its time, long before it should have had its brief instant in our world, but still in the mirror. And the sensation that rocked my body in undulating waves of panic and despair, standing alone in that dark bathroom; that is what I call true fear.
My brain wanted to throw my body back, away from this thing in the mirror, but I instead involuntarily pitched forward sharply and vomited explosively into the sink; I saw my naked body in the mirror mimic my motion, but instead, it simply dry retched. No alcohol left its lips because it had no physical body to put the stuff into.
It was only then that my knees gave, and my body slumped to the ground; I had one last fleeting view of the thing as it also buckled, falling in a sickly slumped motion to the ground, its dead eyes locked onto mine, before my chin connected with the hard marble of the basin edge and I hit the dirty ground of the bathroom. I lost consciousness instantly, the terror of the moment still sharp. It was such a horrible feeling.
I woke up with my buddy peering down at me, a sea of faces reflecting expressions ranging from amusement to mild concern. The music had been turned off. The group that had issued me the challenge in the first place was regarding me from some distance. I began to sob. It was too much for me.
I believe after that, the paramedics were called and the party disbanded as the house was bathed in the flashing of emergency vehicle lights and the car headlights of concerned neighbors.
It has been a week since that night. I am no longer afraid, but I am still very shaken. I have thought deeply about the experience, and it is from these ruminations that I have come to the conclusions and theories of what I saw in that mirror on that night; but then again, there are many other factors and forces at play here that I doubt I can possibly understand in my still weakened state of mind. I still use my bathroom normally, and I do not fear my reflection; I am far too rationally-minded and sober to be so silly.
The human being is really a self-centered specimen. Beneath the guise of society’s standards, virtues and commandments we dictate ourselves to strive for, there will always be a moment where a truly ugly version of ourselves comes out; a primal, evil being that we are terrified to acknowledge. It is a presence of its own, something we desperately bury deep within ourselves for the entirety of our brief existences, and scream to stay away from us, to our dying breath, when it finally can claim us for just a moment in our death throes before our consciences depart and the body becomes a home to nothing at all.
We live our lives trying to be good human beings, to accomplish wealth in both familial relationships and financial security. We just try to be the opposite of bad. I’ve come to believe that, in a sense, it becomes our pursuit in life to deny this creature possession of our body until the moment we die, when we simply cannot deny it anymore.
“The ‘paranormal’ world is composed entirely of the nightmarish delusions of terrified and insecure humans around the world, enriched by centuries of cowards and uneducated bumpkins; people who would rather take stock in the undefined hullabaloo of “beings”, the metaphysical, the demons of their own minds, as opposed to the rationality and cold, hard truth of science and contemporary knowledge. None of that actually exists, there is nothing that we cannot explain or understand.”
For nineteen years, this has been my attitude towards the paranormal.
I buried my grandfather last week. A deplorable man who made the lives of everyone around him miserable. He left me with nothing but bad memories and debt. I wished him dead every day till he passed away at the overdue age of ninety one. I was the one that cared for him, and I was the one that found him in his bed. He was sitting up, back against the headboard. His heart had given out on the spot, killing him before he even went to sleep. His eyes just seemed to stare at me, an angry stare he often gave in life. I was left with his estate, and I made sure that his funeral be as cheap and short as possible so that it cause little intrusion to the lives that were obliged to attend.
In ages past my name meant something. That name died with time, however nothing damaged the family name more than my grandfather. Spending the dwindling family coffers on occult artifacts and our reputation on the eccentric. With my parents untimely death when I was young, I am the last of my line. Yet because of my grandfather, all am left with is a decaying estate and near empty coffers. Yet even after I left him rotting in the ground of a cheap grave I could not get him out of my mind. My dreams kept bringing his memory back. I dreamed of darkness, I was laying down on my back my arms folded on my chest. I tried to move but found walls on either side of me, and another not six inches from my face. I still remember the smell of fresh earth and rot. I could feel my arms as they rubbed together, dry sagging and wrinkled. I tried to scream but my mouth was dry and my lungs refused to take in air. I tried to strike out with all my limbs but I found hard wood encompass me.
When I awoke from my nightmare I found myself on the floor of my bedroom. I felt my night terrors must have moved me out of my bed, but I could not get the dream out of my mind. I was resolved to rid myself of my grandfather once and for all. I sold every last item the man had owned. All the artifacts, all the books, and every bit of occult nonsense that he wasted his time and money on. I took any price I was given for I did not wish to spare another thought for him. The dreams did not stop, but grow worse. I was visiting an old school friend when another dream, or vision happened. Again I was in the darkness, the smell and feel of the cage I found myself in felt more real than ever. I could feel myself, every inch felt different. I could feel the age on me, and know this was the body of my Grandfather. In desperation I clawed at the wood in front of me, I could feel shocks of pain as my fingernails tore off my hands. When I awoke from this dream I saw the concern on my old friends face. He told me that in the middle of our conversation my personality changed. That I grow agitated and tried to leave in a hurry. He said it was like I forgotten where I was. It was only with his skill in diplomacy that he managed to get me to sit back down for a few moments more till I came out of whatever possessed me. I bid my friend an apology and left his company not a few moments after I assured him am myself again.
By the time I made it home I felt a weight on my mind. I felt I understood what was befalling me. Even after death my grandfather seeks to take what is mine. The horrors of my fate were not lost on me. His grave will be my grave, his rotting corpse will be the new home of my soul. Again that night I experienced the vision, I refused to sleep till it came. I could feel it coming, as if something was pulling my head, and my sight away. The Silence I felt that night drove me to madness, kicking and hitting as if having a tantrum.Yet it was all for naught as I could not escape. When I awoke after, I know my time was growing shorter. It was coming soon, the final switch. I refused to let that be the end, my Grandfather will not have his victory.
The Switch would be soon, I have little time to prepare. This letter will be my final testimony. By the time I finish writing I will have taken a number of medications that will put me in a deep sleep. I arranged with the last of the money in my name to be buried in the woods. I will not give the names of who I conspire with for such a task, but I know them to be trusted as long as the money is correct. When I awake, or when Grandfather awakes he will find that his cage is complete. I won’t let him win, he will share my fate and be trapped under the earth till our corpses rot!
“They came from the east”, he said. A pot of malt ersatz coffee stood steaming on the table between us. We both took it black.
“Fearsome warriors on horseback they were, a fierce barbarian horde, the most lethal mercenary tribe to plunder and pillage Europe for centuries. They fought for the Russian Czars against the Poles you know, and then for the King of Sweden against the Russians. They fought the Turks and the Persians in turn. They fought Napoleon. They fought for anyone who promised them a country of their own. They were the Cossacks and they were feared by all.”
“I was 23 when they came to our valley”, he said. “Of course, everything was different then, it was 60 years ago after all.”
I looked out the window, the crags of the Dolomite mountains looming over the valley below us, shadowy in the twilight. Their house was perched by the steep edge of the tree-line, one of ten clustered around a small church. Barring indoor plumbing and electricity, time already seemed to have stood still. A city girl meeting her boyfriend’s parents for the first time, I had been startled by a sheep peering into the bathroom window that morning.
“I was one of the only boys left in Lienz. At the beginning all my friends volunteered, and I was eager to fight too, of course. But the army didn’t take me because of a goiter. Years later, it was different. They were rounding up everyone they could get their hands on, boys of twelve, thirteen. Grandfathers. I would’ve been drafted except for a tractor accident on my father’s farm.” I looked at his blunt carpenters hands folded on the checked tablecloth, and I wondered if his father had been equally capable … and practical-minded enough to manufacture a minor glitch in his machinery when called for.
“The fighting was all but over, the war had really been lost years ago. Now everyone left alive was fleeing west, trying to outrun the Soviets and reach the Allied zones. American was best, of course, but we all trusted the British too. At the time.”
What did you know? I wondered, and when? What of your neighbours? Did you believe the propaganda in the papers, on the radio? Did your priest preach of sacred duty to the fatherland? Did your mayor hang the swastika with pride? Growing up in Austria, you are taught to respect your elders, but whenever I see someone of that generation I always ask myself – what did you do to survive? Or rather, what did you not?
“Stalin had it in for the Cossacks especially. They’d been vicious in battle against the resistance partisans and they hated the Soviets. It was 1945 when they fled from Yugoslavia. They fought their way through to the British, who put them in an internment camp here on the river Drau. Enemy combatants, you see. Prisoners of war who surrendered voluntarily.”
What did they look like, the men? I asked. “Men? There were entire families. Husbands and fathers on horseback with their women and children trundling behind them in carts. Old and young alike. Defeated they were, but proud too. They’d been beaten before, and regrouped. And they were safe now, under Churchill. Or so they thought.”
Yalta, I remembered. The treaty, a betrayal to some, the salvation of Europe to others. Churchill, Stalin, and Roosevelt – men with moustaches, waistcoats and cigars, divvying up a continent with rulers. Most refugees who had fled the east were granted safe haven. The Cossacks, with their democratically elected leaders and their nomadic freedom, were not.
“They settled in happily enough here, for the most part. Made friends with the villagers, helped with the harvest. They were waiting to see where Churchill would resettle them. Perhaps they would have been happy to stay. They certainly didn’t bother us. But they were to be sent back to Russia to face execution. Cattle cars came to the train station, this time sent by the British. Soldiers encircled the valley, the internment camp, trying to round them up. We could hear them all the way up the mountain. The screaming. Men. Women. Horses. Mothers threw their babies into the river to drown and jumped in after them. Men cut their wrists as the soldiers dragged them toward the train tracks, trails of blood wending behind them.”
And you heard this? I ask, you saw? “Yes. Yes.”
A long silence. We gaze out the window to the mountains beyond, as if listening for echoes. “Those they caught were sent to the Soviet Union, where they were shot. The Communists executed men, women and children alike. But some, some managed to escape deportation. They hid in haylofts, scrambled up cliff faces to abandoned sheep sheds. The mountain farmers helped to shelter them if they could.”
Did any of you shelter anyone in the years before, I wondered. Other refugees, perhaps the very partisans hunted by the Cossacks and the Nazis? There had been only one Jewish family in the town of Lienz before the war, or so I’d read, and not one of them survived.
“But most of them” he continued, “ran away and hid in caves. The British spent months clambering about the mountains, searching for the ones that got away.” He chuckled briefly. “Those caves, some of them were crevasses, narrow slits between rock-faces. Some were no bigger than holes. Tricky to climb into, but even more difficult to get out again. Kossakenloecher – Cossack holes – we call them to this day. When we talk about them at all.”
He paused. I wished for a cigarette. “Because some of the holes aren’t empty. We had archaeologists here last summer, searching for remnants. A medal here, a belt buckle there. But they didn’t get very far, didn’t climb high enough, or stay the night.”
Another silence, more tense this time. Do you mean to say there are still bones? I asked. “Bones… it’s not their bones I worry about.” he replied, and crossed himself reflexively. “Some nights, when the stars are out and the moon is low, you hear the river screaming. And some nights, even closer, you hear the rocks scream back.”
He makes eye contact for the first time in what feels like forever. “We put you in the guest room” he says, “it has a balcony. It’s looking to be a lovely clear night.” I dutifully assure him that it is a lovely room, careful not to to mention I’ve taken down the various crosses and icons hung from the walls, a constant reminder of my status as godless-city-girl-evil-influence-on-beloved-son.
He grunts assent and, rising from his chair, bids me goodnight. “I’d lock the windows and doors before turning in if I were you.”
((The following passage was found on an abandoned jump-drive two miles outside of Philadelphia. Though a somewhat longer passage, it has been passed on to, edited, and submitted by K.B. Miller. Original sources refused to disclose the exact location where such jump-drive was found. Therefore, certain names and events have been changed or redacted.))
I can’t believe I’m doing this.
Let me begin by saying I’m not sure how much time I have. I’ll try keep it short, to be as detailed as possible. The cowardice inside screams for me to get away, to not just sit here. But the author… she wants this written down, almost like a final verse in this sick play. All I just know is that the world needs to understand. They need to know the secret behind Spring Grove. I’m not good at writing this kind of thing. The more I speak of it, the more ridiculous it’s going to seem. But please. Just listen to me…
… I guess I should start where it counts: are you a fan of children? I was. I was never really fond of newborns, but any child beyond the state of toddler held a certain weakness of mine. Their deep, vibrant eyes, constantly sweeping the world; but nothing fascinated me more than their mind. Their minds are the image of purity, blank as a white canvas until our vile black paint stains it like poisonous ink. I witnessed that tainting. Right before my very eyes.
My whole reason for getting myself mixed up in this crap was for a project, one that would assure my graduation from Art Institutes. It was simple enough: a short, meaningful documentary on a subject of our choosing. I was a film student, you see, and was no stranger in approaching random people and asking for a moment of their time in front of the camera. But I wanted to branch out. I wanted to be different, to be brave. I wanted to do something that no one else thought about looking into.
My brother had recently picked up his Play Station 4. All the better, since he hadn’t shut up about it since it was announced. A few weeks in, and he discovered that Red Barrels had posted a free download of Outlast, a horror game whose gameplay I couldn’t get enough of on YouTube. As I sat quietly in a corner after begging to observe his reactions like it was a staged comedy, I turned my attention to the game itself. Man, places like Mount Massive Asylums got a bad reputation through media like this. I had never truly entered an asylum myself. What could be the harm? Things like this were victim to Hollywood bull.
That’s it. I can expose an asylum for what it is. I could do more than present this as a project; I could pull a Steven Spielberg and publish this baby straight to Netflix.
Being the spastic, excited fool I was, I immediately began research for my first blockbuster. It had to be someplace close, since my car had a tendency to chew out my savings every tire rotation. They would also have to be comfortable in front of the camera. Avoiding lawsuits and invading privacy wasn’t exactly my forte. Any psychiatric facility would do. I didn’t ask for much.
Of course, all asylums in the immediate area refused any and all requests to even an interview. I never asked questions, and it never crossed my mind any of them had anything to hide. They probably figured I was still a student, and places like that could be dangerous for those without proper training. Yet, so were prisons, and I’ve seen plenty of cameras in places like those. I just flowed with whatever rolled my way, and one day… it paid off.
The First Day
Spring Grove Hospital Center was what they called it. I could care less of what it’s called, now. To me, it was Hell on Earth. But not then. Then, I was ecstatic that they even considered me, and I grabbed the first opportunity I had to begin my trek to suburban Baltimore. The drive was unpleasant, but the views were astonishing. I had only before experienced the great city, but Spring Grove’s campus was a breath of fresh air.
I swore at first I was driving to have a meet with a queen before pulling in. The buildings were spread and massive, almost medieval with a touch of modern technology. In fact, it almost resembled a few college campus’ that I had previously visited. But I knew better. This asylum was going to provide more experience than any education would. Speaking of which, I was quickly put in my place for even mentioning the word ‘asylum’. Apparently, I had to use the term ‘psychiatric hospital’ at all times during my stay, but whatever. Being politically correct is irritating as it is. A woman stood waiting for me at the door, as though my arrival was that of some kind of celebrity.
“You are Jacobson, yes?” She addressed me formally, with a broken accent I couldn’t exactly put my finger on. “Come. We show you around. You film camera whenever you like.”
She took me into the bowels of the building. Well, I can’t call it the ‘bowels’, exactly. It seemed quite pleasant at first, with plenty of light and fresh air amongst the living space. I was already having my doubts on this whole assignment. I was expecting medieval torture and massacres. This place was downright comfortable. Maybe it was just bias getting in the way. Filming this place as it was, whether it’s insane or a sanctum, was my mission. The truth. I took out my camera and already began getting some footage. The thought nagging at the back of my mind was that this was going to be a bit of a letdown back at the Institutes. Maybe I should just film a horror attraction instead, if that’s what they expected.
“Spring Grove was established in 1797. Is second oldest operating psychiatric facility in the nation.” The woman explained to me. “Is known for its research in schizophrenia.”
It wasn’t far into the asylum before she wanted to turn back. I knew in my gut we hadn’t seen the whole facility, and I hadn’t gotten nearly enough information for my documentary. She disregarded any attempts to go further, stating that was all she had to show me. I researched for days, drove for hours, for only ten minutes worth of material? It was NOT going to end like this. My college education (and my portfolio) were at stake.
So, I devised the ultimate plan: before we journeyed back to the entrance, I excused myself to the restroom. There, I waited patiently, faking whatever bowel movements I could, before I could slip out undetected.
I was feeling pretty good about myself, until it slowly began to dawn on me that the patients were becoming more and more scarce. I knew I was in the woman’s wing. About where we started, patients were pretty common, aimlessly roaming the halls or simply lounging outside their quarters. Save the occasional nurse or assistant, these halls were barren. It was somewhat unsettling, but not nearly as so when I came to a sign that read “Violent Patients” above an archway in the middle of the corridor. I had the distinct feeling in my gut that I had gone too far. I turned to begin my walk of shame back to the entrance…
“NO, NO, NO! MY GAME! PLAY THE GAME! PLAY THE GAME!”
At least, that’s what I thought she said. It was unholy shrieking like I’ve never heard before. It sounded much closer than it really was, as though the bloody wails were right next to my hear, blasting my eardrums to dust. I whipped about frantically, and found something not so dissimilar to a gremlin sprinting toward me. My first instinct was to take flight, but something rooted me to the ground. The creature stumbled and scrambled on the slick linoleum, foaming at the mouth and clutching something in the claws of her left fingers. As it slipped, it left a trail of blackish mucus behind it, like aged blood. It didn’t take long in my panic to notice that this was a young, hairless girl, no more than 5 years old, dressed in only a slim robe. I felt my heart pound in my chest, the blood pulsating in my skull. Oh god! Keep this creature away from me!
Though I swore she was mere feet from my face, employees tackled her a good ten yards down the hall. She fought, raking her razor sharp nails across the faces of her assailants and dropping the little device on the ground. It flipped open, revealing the duel screens that I recognized belonged to a Nintendo DS. She screamed at the top of her lungs, and I finally mustered enough strength to take a step back. One of the employees scooped the thing up, and pressed the others to return the patient to her quarters. I took the moment to wrench myself away from that place. I whipped around, turning the corner and trying to wipe the terrible images from my-
“What are you doing?!” I almost jumped from my socks. I had nearly forgotten about my escort. “You must leave! NOW!”
But I held my ground. I pleaded. Why did I plead? Perhaps the simple change in direction had knocked my brain stem loose. My mind was now hellbent on finishing this documentary. “W-What about her?! Can I see her?! Please?!”
“You leave! NOW!”
I was pressed out the door before I had a chance to take a second breath. The woman barred the entrance. I never even got her name. All the better, I didn’t care. I was angry. I was promised more than information, I was promised truth. This crap I picked up on my camera was nothing; I didn’t even get footage of the hairless girl. When I reviewed my results, any and all footage of her was obstructed and replaced with static. I figured in my panic I must have hit a button or some kind of bull. Everything I had traveled here for: gone.
I didn’t take my leave right away. In a fit of rage, I placed another dent in my otherwise ramshackle car. How could I have been so damn stupid?! There was a reason no one tread these kinds of waters: it was a complete waste of time and money! I took up my camera and shoved it back into its case. To hell with it! I wasn’t going to waste another moment in this fucking ‘mental hospital.’ I’m just going to go home and avoid trashing my cash on some gross hotel room. I got behind the wheel, nearly tearing my door handle off its hinges as I slammed it shut. Ugh, come ON! My keys fell to the carpet floor. I twisted myself in the most awkward of positions before hooking it on my finger.
As I rose, there was a loud KNOCK KNOCK of glass on boney knuckles. I startled, once more letting my keys escape my grasp. I sat there a moment with an exasperated sigh, before giving in and rolling down my window slightly.
“Ms. Nicole Jacobson, am I right?” The woman extended her hand in greeting through the window. It took a moment before I acknowledged and shook it. “I couldn’t help but notice what keen interest you have in our little asylum away from home.”
I perked up somewhat. “You use the word ‘asylum.’ Why?”
“It doesn’t much matter what we call it. It’ll always be home to the insane.” As ridiculous as I found it to keep the right terminology, her nonchalant attitude put me on edge. “How’s about you step out of the car and we talk about getting you the footage you want.”
I didn’t budge. “And just who are you?”
She smirked. It wasn’t a playful or devilish smirk. I couldn’t tell what it was. “The name’s Doctor Denise Waters, Clinical Director and Chief of Staff. So. Do you want that footage or not?”
The Second Day
It was a rock and a hard place. That night, Dr. Waters directed me to stay on campus in dorms normally reserved for medical students in training. It wasn’t very inviting, I must say. The dorms were poorly kept, and cobwebs dominated the corners of every room. I swore I caught a whiff of mold or mildew. Considering my other options, however, staying on campus was the only one that didn’t reek of failure, or rather, burn a hole in my wallet. The night was rough, nonetheless. As I lay with my gaze piercing the singular window, I could not shake from the back of my mind the creature that bed not a mile from me. The creature that I would have to face again come dawn.
The blood red sun had barely begun to peek over the horizon by the time I met Dr. Waters once more by the same building. I wasn’t fond of mornings, but then again, you can’t wake up early if you never slept. I shut my driver’s side door before I turned to get my equipment from the back. Waters held up a finger, halting me.
“Not today.” She bluntly stated. “She must get to know you first.”
“’Not today?’” I repeated in disbelief. “How long do you think this is going to take?! I only need an hour’s worth of film!”
“Six.” She said. “Days. No more. No less. You must prove to us, to her, that you are who you say you are.”
This woman was crazy. What do I have to prove?! They’re the ones who need to prove something to me! And there was no way that I was going to stay here for another five days! I turned around, ready to hop in my rusted Nissan for the long journey back home. No documentary was worth this.
“Remember, Ms. Jacobson!” Dr. Waters yelled after me. I wasn’t sure why her words had me freeze the way I did. It was though I was silently desperate for there to be a reason to stay. A reason… that would make the difference in everything I stood for. “If you run now, the world will never truly know what lay beyond these doors! You’re the final hope for this girl!”
“Or else what?” I glanced over my shoulder.
She needn’t answer me. I could tell by the mere dullness of her soulless eyes what fate await that young, innocent girl. Were these people really willing to stoop that low? Was the girl truly that dangerous? And… how was I being here going to change that? I had too many questions to ask at once. I did my usual thing, kept my mouth shut and my eyes and ears open, as she once more took me past that forbidden sign that read “Violent Patients”. Into the jaws of the beast. What have I to lose at this point? She was lucky that I had a week to spare during spring break.
I followed closely behind, head down, as I began to stride lightly. Pleasant wooden doors were slowly replaced by iron behemoths that could take a nuclear strike. Whatever the stoic guardians kept at bay did nothing to shield the sound that came from within: quite often we passed patients in the middle of their tantrums or inconsistent muttering. Some doors were solid; others held heavy viewing glass or barred windows. It was almost like prison in my eyes, and every step felt more and more like the corridors of Mount Massive Asylum. I took my eyes off my surroundings for one second to see the lonely door at the end of the hall… the one that held my destination.
My heart leaped into my throat. My collar had been grabbed onto, and wrenched to the side. My head met cold hard metal, the metallic noise echoing through my skull. Untrimmed nails raked into my neck. The woman’s warm breath seeping into my mouth and nose like smog. By the time my vision leveled, Dr. Waters had taken a hold of my shoulders, dragging me back in the opposite direction. It all happened so fast, I stumbled before regaining balance and looking my assailant dead in the eye. I didn’t even have a moment’s notice to scream.
“Don’t GO!” The patient shrieked, clawing the metal through the iron bars. Dr. Waters helped me to my feet, giving me a moment to compose myself. She began to walk me to the door, though my ears staggered behind. “The cursed child lives! She lives beyond that door! That cursed child! That CURSED child!”
Her voice gradually muted as we passed through the door, leading into a small transition room with yet another door. Dr. Waters fussed over me, checking my head for any signs of injury. “I’m terribly sorry about that. She’s one of our advanced cases of schizophrenia. Patients like her are the reason we don’t often let guests back here.” She gestured to the door. “Come, through here. This is the transition into the nursery.”
Nursery? I never thought of an asylum housing a nursery before. It was like any other, only with a little more padding. Nurses were constantly on watch in every corner of the room. Every toy, play thing, or activity was completely impact resistant, with little to no blunt edges whatsoever. Even the wallpaper was designed with air pockets, like entire sheets of bubble wrap were plastered to the walls. It was pretty spacious, and gave the children plenty of stimulus. The children themselves were all around the age of 10, though didn’t seem to have the mental capacity of a child over 8. Even with a scant amount of observation, I could tell that they were getting the best care possible here.
“Why is this room in the Violent Woman’s Wing?” I asked as the thought struck me. “I see both boys and girls here.”
Dr. Waters strode past me, gesturing for me to follow. “We believe that the presence of children are more soothing for the women here. Sometimes if they show enough good behavior, they can visit this room under heavy supervision. They are much safer here than in the Men’s Wing. Usually maternal instinct kicks in, and the children are quite safe.”
She took me to the far corner of the room. It wasn’t until now that I spotted it-… no, her… huddled by some blankets with her eyes locked on her Nintendo DS. She was pale, like her skin never knew sunlight, and frail like she never knew a good meal. A couple other children were sat immediately behind her, their focus only broken by our arrival. They stood, their intense eyes boring into my flesh, before trotting past to look for something else to do. The girl, almost instantly noticing the absence of her audience, took a glance around before looking up at her new visitors. Her eyes were bloodshot, but sparkled like none others in this godforsaken place.
“Faith…” Dr. Waters addressed her. “This is Ms. Jacobson.”
Faith’s eyes never left me. It was though she was sizing me up, or completely awestruck by what I was. I couldn’t think of anything else to do but smile. Maybe throw in a little finger wave. When she finally broke the searing visual contact, her gaze swept immediately back onto her hand-held. Her fingers didn’t resume their usual pattern over the buttons as I anticipated. Instead, her fragile palms lifted in my direction, presenting me with her greatest treasure.
“Play the game?” She asked, in a sweet, delicate voice.
I halted. Images from the other day swamped my mind. Was this really the same girl? Without so much as a hesitation, I put my hand up, grinning nervously. “Um, not today, dearie.”
She didn’t budge. In fact, she pressed the DS towards me more firmly. Before I had a chance to say anything more, Dr. Waters intercepted. “Ms. Jacobson is going to be your new friend and play with you for the next few days.”
“I am?” I frowned, only to pick the act back up when I saw the heartbreak in Faith’s face. I didn’t sign up for this. “I mean, yes, I am.”
Faith shut her DS and put it to the side. Somehow, this made me more comfortable. She spoke in a voice that sounded much older than it should. “So you’re here to replace Ms. Annabelle?”
“No, no.” Dr. Waters cut in again. “Not replace. No one can replace Ms. Annabelle. She’s just going to keep you company. Now, we’ll be right back.”
She took me back into the transition room, careful not to let any children slip through the cracks. I took a fleeting look back over my shoulder, half expecting Faith to scoop her device back up and resume whatever she was doing. But she didn’t. Her eyes never left me, and even as I saw her smile for the first time, I was not reassured. I could already tell this girl was going to test me in every way she knew I feared. It was not a sinister look. It was merely the look every student gave their substitute teacher. After the door was shut, I let the doctor see clearly my irritation.
“I came to make a documentary, not babysit!” I can’t remember exactly how this conversation went, let alone everything else, but this interpretation comes close.
“This is our deal, Jacobson. Take it or leave it.” Waters grew firm. “She is our youngest schizophrenic case we have ever received. You’re lucky to have even gotten a glance at her, let alone the interaction I’m giving you!… Look at it this way: you document her. You try to understand her. And while you do that, I believe you can help her!”
“How?! What can I do?!”
“That’s for you to figure out!… We’ve done all we can, Jacobson. She’s become a danger to herself. If Faith doesn’t make a breakthrough soon, her suffering may cause her to do something beyond harmful… maybe even fatal.”
“Isn’t it your job to make sure that doesn’t happen?”
Waters shook her head, prepared to put this dispute to rest. “This is different, Ms. Jacobson. You might not understand now, but this child is beyond our control. You either take this chance, or walk away now. Any questions?”
Too many, I thought. None of this made the least bit of sense. How did simply getting a few more minutes of footage plunge me into this? Every argument I had against this woman was null and void with my sense of humanity. I was too kind. I wanted to help Faith more than anything. How I was going to do that, I really had no idea myself. If the professional couldn’t help her, how could a film student? I wasn’t even really sure what my goal was. How was I to know if I had ‘helped’ her or not? Why was I asking myself all these hypothetical questions never to be answered? I don’t know. It was all bullshit.
“Well?” Waters growled. “Questions?”
I scoffed in frustration, grabbing a random thought from the back of my head. “Her DS. What is that for? She’s the only child who has one, it looks like.”
“That game thingy?” The doctor was somewhat confused at first. “I’m not really sure what it is or what she does on it. A nurse brought it in from the lost-and-found. One of the students left it behind.”
“So why does Faith have it now?”
“Well before, Faith was a very cold and spastic child. We figured all she needed was interaction with other children, but they were afraid to approach her, and she wanted nothing to do with them. When the nurse let her see the game, she calmed down, focused on it. She was made approachable by the others. So we figured, what the heck. Let her keep it. Since then, her outbursts have slimmed from constant to once every few days.” Waters turned with a flip of her brunette hair. “Now if you don’t mind, I have more important things to attend to.”
“You’re just going to leave me here?”
“Of course. I was called to a conference in Washington last night. You’ll be fine. There are many trained nurses around to lend a hand if need be. I wish you luck on your documentary, Ms. Jacobson.” She said, opening the door. Before slipping out, she turned back one final time. “You may or may not like what you find…”
… And that’s it. Thus would end as much as I can recall to that point in time. It’s somewhat scant, but so are the memories. It doesn’t help that every word I type builds on my rapid heartbeat. Thankfully, I don’t need to remember every detail. I thought ahead. After the second day drew to a close, I scrambled to grab whatever spare paper I brought along. I may not be a reporter, but I knew how to organize my thoughts like one. I found a small, clean notebook hidden among my knapsacks, and jotted down as much as I could on that every night. A log. I guess at the time I had figured I would use it as a narrative for the documentary-never-to-be. Now it’s just a hellish chronicle of the real horrors that lie beyond their doors.
And I’m about to share every word of it:
- April 14th, 2014. Today was the first day spent with Faith.
- Shortly after being left to my own devices by Doctor Denise Waters, I joined her in the nursery. The first few moments were spent sitting there beside her, silently, observing her play on her Nintendo DS. I recognized it almost immediately, as I am a proficient gamer. It was one of the first games I ever played on DS myself. It was Kirby Super Star Ultra, and I must say she was pretty far into it for someone her age. She was already tackling the consecutive boss battles in the stage known as ‘The Arena.’ That particular stage took me forever to complete myself.
- After watching her get taken down by the boss Wham Bam Rock, she finally turned her attention to me and said, blunt as a stone: “I don’t like you.” I asked why. “You’re here to replace Ms. Annabelle. I liked Ms. Annabelle.”
- I had heard this name a few times now. My curiosity spiked. “Who is Ms. Annabelle? What happened to her?”
- Faith closed her DS and looked away somewhat wistfully. “He got hungry the other night. She fed him.”
- I wasn’t exactly sure what she meant by that. I’m guessing that when Ms. Annabelle took her leave, she mentioned to Faith that a pet of hers at home needed feeding. I settled on that theory, considering the fact that I couldn’t get anything more from her.
- Faith is a classic schizophrenic case. Luckily, I have brought my laptop to conduct research when I can. Unable to sleep last night, I searched up schizophrenia on Google to give myself a quick rundown. Like what I saw, Faith wasn’t exactly the most focused individual I’ve spent time with. Sometimes, it was thought she wasn’t even speaking to me. She was somewhat spastic, and constantly changing the subject to something random, most of the time having to do with that game. I was at least glad I knew what she was talking about; I’m sure anyone else in this hospital who managed to speak with her couldn’t hold a conversation about King Dedede’s hierarchy or the fundamental basis of the Heavy Lobster. She’s a smart kid, given her mental state.
- She began to take more of a liking to me after these conversations on her game started. At first, she was fixated on one thing and one thing only: getting me to play it. I held my ground and refused every time. I wasn’t very familiar with schizophrenic cases, and I was afraid of the consequences for touching her DS too long. Perhaps she may forget she lent it to me, and attack me to get it back. She certainly wasn’t too fond of the nurses taking it away from her the other day. Whatever the case, (as so many scenarios ran through my head), I wasn’t about to take a chance with this child I barely knew. She was persistent, but once she knew I had some kind of knowledge of the game itself, her pleads all but melted away.
- Even though she was through most of the game, she often asked me for tips on how to get further. Her whole world transfixed on this game. It seemed to be the only thing giving her life meaning, connecting her to those around her. The other children were fascinated by this little device that made her a local celebrity. I see why it is so dear to her.
- Once we got comfortable with one another, we began to do more together. A simple game of catch with a plush ball proved entertaining to her; somewhat surprising, considering the kind of stimulation she gets from her game. I suppose it wasn’t the game itself she craved, it was companionship. Maybe this is what Dr. Waters meant when she said I could help her. To be a filmmaker means to keep an open mind. It meant persistence and hard work, with little bias behind it. She might have made the right choice, calling to me. The rest of the day was spent doing random activities about the nursery, and soon, she even forgot to mention the game at all.
- I took it very slow, to the very end. By dusk, Faith was even sad to see me go. I didn’t find out much about her, but at least she is more comfortable with me now. She’s not who I thought she was. Unlike the other patients, she’s smart. She’s level-headed. She appears more and more… human, every second I spend with her. She knows what’s going on. She’s not mad like they say. She’s a child, like many I’ve seen before. Something seems out of place here… and I’m going to get to the bottom of it.
The Third Day
- April 15th, 2014. Two children were missing today when I got to the nursery.
- And that wasn’t the only odd thing to happen right at dawn. Last night about 1 PM, there was a severe power outage that lasted until noon the next morning. The wind hardly blew, and rain has been nonexistent since I arrived. I didn’t bother getting out of bed to ask how it happened; I just wanted to steal a single damn moment of sleep. Despite having made myself more comfortable in Faith’s presence, sleeping in the dorms still waft a feeling of dread. So, I lay there, motionless, until the sun finally sliced through the darkness.
- I decided to walk to the building today. The morning was crisp, and after all the bull I’ve had to put up with in the past few days, I needed some fresh air. The hospital campus is beautiful, after all; nothing like rest of Baltimore. As I strode over the lush green moor, I noticed a construction crew nearby, working around the clock to bring the grids power back online. Even from a distance, I could see they were in the process of hauling away a transformer, to replace it altogether. As the workers moved aside, I saw the extent of the damage like it came straight from a Spielberg film: it was though something had ripped straight through the center, like great claws had taken hold of it and raked through it like butter. Though I walked by without hesitation, it left me dumbfounded. No natural occurrence last night could have done that.
- When I walked through the front doors, I headed straight to the front desk and asked if they knew what caused the outage, taking note that the power was already restored in this building. The man behind the desk merely stated that there was a construction accident that caused one of the grid’s lines to be severed. Lies. All lies. Not only did I see the damage myself, but I ventured all over campus the other day. Not once did I see any construction taking place whatsoever. I turned away without another word. What do I know? It could have been just some fluke incident they were trying to cover up.
- When I made it to the nursery, I instinctively looked over in the same corner Faith was in the other day. There she was, fixated on her DS. Unlike yesterday, however, she perked up the moment I opened the door, as though she was expecting me. I smiled. It made me feel loved to have made a new friend. For her to drop everything and greet me was astounding from what I saw just a few short hours ago.
- It was then a nurse approached me with the grave news. Many cameras were set up along the corridors and positioned in every room, something I took note of but never really felt the need to point out. It WAS an asylum, after all. According to the nurse, the cameras naturally went offline during the outage, and in the short period of time spent getting the auxiliary power online, two children mysteriously disappeared.
- “I don’t understand it.” She said to me. “We kept such a close eye on them while the cameras were out. We don’t know if they slipped out on their own or if someone took them or what.”
- All she told me was to keep an eye out for them at all times, like everyone else was instructed to do. They two boys were brothers, as I could tell from the photos she showed me. Even Faith took a look a the photographs, but didn’t give any indication she knew who they were, at first. It was only until the nurse left that she spoke up.
- “They played the game with me.” She said. “But they didn’t really like it.”
- That was it! Those were the boys that were looking over her shoulder yesterday. Knowing this didn’t do me any good on finding them, but it still felt good to know.
- I finally got the chance to bring in my equipment today. I hadn’t even set up my tripod before Faith began pestering me once more. “Play with Marxie! Play the game! Please?!” She would say. I wasn’t as strongly opposed to it as the other day, but I still rejected. I still didn’t trust Faith enough to touch her DS. She did, however, add Marx to the plea, or ‘Marxie’ as she liked to call him. For those of you not Kirby-savvy, Marx was a prime villain in Kirby Super Star and Kirby Super Star Ultra, the game she had now. I guess she wanted me to play Milky Way Wishes, the stage he was on. By the time the camera was set up, Faith finally gave up once again.
- She was less fixated on the game today, and more interested in spending time and doing things with me. Of course, even though she didn’t focus on it directly, I could tell her thoughts on it were latent. In the midst of having some fun, she grabbed two foam noodles from the toy box. She hand one to me, telling me that I was Kirby and she was Meta Knight. We were basically reenacting a battle from the game. I thought nothing of it, really. It was typical fan-girl hysteria, being a fan-girl myself. Our playtime even attracted the attention of the other children, and it wasn’t long before every child in the room was armed with a foam noodle, much to the dismay of the nurses who had no sense of fun. Our shenanigans lasted about an hour, and it wasn’t long before most of the children were tuckered out to the point of a nap.
- Faith, however, was a never ending wad of energy. She’s quite honestly the most fun I’ve had with any child her age. I even forgot at times that I was neck deep in an asylum. While helping the nurses clean up noodles, I was ambushed by her as she climbed onto my shoulders. She was surprisingly light.
- “You know, Faith…” I said to her then. “You’re a very fun girl. Why didn’t you want to play with the others before you got your Gameboy?” It was around this time I also discovered she liked calling her DS a Gameboy, something I myself do at times.
- Faith grew somewhat down-trodden when I mentioned that. “They thought we were weird. They said I looked weird.”
- I’m pretty sure she said ‘we’. I’m not really sure why. “Why do you think they said you look weird?”
- She began rocking back and forth. She normally does that when she gets nervous or uncomfortable. “Because I got rid of my hair. I used to have really really pretty and long black hair that went down to my butt.”
- I grew even more puzzled. I never thought about her hair before. I initially thought it was somewhat rude to ask about it. “Why’d you get rid of it?”
- She stopped rocking, with the most matter-of-fact tone. “He thought it looked dirty, so he told me to pull it out.”
- I stopped whatever I was doing. I took her off my shoulders delicately to stare her straight in the face. As much as I tried to squeeze out of her, she wouldn’t tell me anything else. Each time, she merely said it was her ‘friend’ that was telling her to do this. I took her to the other children, and asked her to point him out, since at least I know he’s male. She shook her head and refused. She didn’t want him to get in trouble.
- I’m not sure why this made me as furious as it did. I suppose I’m growing attached to Faith, or something like that. The thought that some bully was telling her to put out her own hair while the nurses sat back and did nothing made my blood boil. It was the maternal instinct, I guess. As the day drew to a close, I told one of the nurses about it, and asked her to keep an eye on whichever boy may be the culprit. Faith’s self-esteem was bad enough. She didn’t need this.
- Oh, and I didn’t get ANY footage today, as if my luck couldn’t get any worse. When I went to turn my camera off and stop the recording, I found the entire thing had just shut off. When I took it back to the dorm, the batteries were FRIED. That afternoon was spent running into town for more, along with a couple of other things. On the bright side, I’ve never really spent time in rural Baltimore, and enjoyed finding a strip of window shops. We never really had a lot of those where I lived. After I found my pack of batteries, I took some time to take a look around.
- I wasn’t going to write this down, but I suppose since it’s about the asylum, it’s relevant. I walked into a medium’s shoppe during my small vacation, since I’ve never been in one before. I mainly wanted to check and see if she had any incense; I enjoy the smell. When I walked in, she immediately looked up and greeted me.
- “Everything is half off today.” She informed me. “You looking for a souvenir?”
- It took a moment for me to process it. “How’d you know I’m not from around here?”
- “Normally, people who come in here don’t browse. They either have questions or know what they want. Tourists browse.” She tried to make small talk. “What brings you to Baltimore?”
- I listened as I found the incense I was looking for, and began sniffing the boxes to find the best smell. “I’m doing some work over at Spring Grove Mental Hospital. Filming.” I felt the woman stiffen up, and looked over when I didn’t get a response. “Why?”
- “Hmm…” She looked a bit uncomfortable. “The air about that hospital has grown thick over the past few weeks. I visit my sister there every once in a while.”
- I asked the medium about her sister. Turns out, it was the same woman who gave me a concussion just the other day. Though both sisters were mediums, she explained, only one was unfortunate enough to catch the trait from their schizophrenic grandfather. Her sister has been in the hospital for nearly five years.
- “They treat her well.” She told me. “But the air, I tell you… It’s unlike anything I’ve felt before.”
- “Well,” I suggested, taking care to watch my terminology, since she may be offended if I said her sister was in an ‘asylum’, “it is a mental hospital. Some patients may have died there.”
- She shook her head. “No. This is different. This is VERY different. It’s like something just manifested out of thin air.” She took my incense, bagging it before coming around the front desk and flipping the front sign to ‘CLOSED’. “I wouldn’t spend too much more time there, dear. Don’t spend too much more time.”
- Then I came back to the dorms to begin writing. I’m not sure what the medium meant exactly. I’m an open mind, but I don’t think spirits are the answer to anything happening at the asylum. I’ve heard too much between asylums and hauntings, and I’m not about to let media bias get in the way. She has stroked my curiosity, though. My mom and I used to watch shows on the Discovery Channel about hauntings. I’ll probably watch a few episodes tonight while I work on some artwork on my computer.
The Forth Day
- April 16th, 2014. Maybe I should consider spirits here at the asylum. I saw some creepy-ass stuff today.
- It started when I woke up. When I woke up. I haven’t got a wink of sleep since I got here, and all of a sudden I fall asleep while working on a piece of artwork. I guess I did a bit more in my sleep than just art, because when I woke, my web browser was up. I don’t remember, but apparently I was Googling pictures of Kirby characters. A Google Image search of Marx was up. I closed it out, and got my stuff together. Now that I have new batteries, it was the mission of the day to get more footage.
- When I made it back to the nursery and set up my equipment, Faith didn’t barrage me with pleas to play her game like she normally did. She openly sees me as a friend now, and even apologized for the day she said she didn’t like me. We resumed our usual playtime, only today I tried to make the documentary count. Between our activities, I asked her meaningful questions.
- “Do you like it here?” “It’s okay.”
- “Do they treat you good?” “Yeah.”
- “What about the other children?” “They’re fine now.”
- “What’s your favorite thing to do?” “Play my game.”
- “What do you like most about your game?” “The other kids like it too, sometimes.”
- “How high can you count?” “To twenty.”
- “Can you count for me, please?” “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen… f-f-fourteen! Fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen… nineteen, twenty!”
- “That’s really good! Can you read, too?” “I can read stuff on my game a little. He helps me read.”
- “Who helps you read?” “My friend.”
- “One of the boys?” “Yeah.”
- “Can you point to him?”
- That’s when I finally got the gist of what was going on: when she pointed, she pointed at nothing. So that’s it! She had an imaginary friend! This was the friend that was talking to her! That was the friend who told her to pull her hair out! It all made sense! There are plenty of schizophrenic cases that involved imaginary friends, since patients have trouble identifying what’s real and what’s not. I finally worked a goal out in my head. She’s probably to the point where she channels her inner thoughts through her ‘friend’. She uses him as an excuse, to justify things like pulling out her hair. I’ve finally figured it out!
- I asked her to tell me more about her friend. She told me he was very nice to her, even before when the other kids found her weird. He was always coming up with goofy ideas, and was always hungry. He loved her very much. Even when she made friends, he stayed with her. He liked it when she made friends. She even told me that he like ME a lot. That was good news. At least that way, I know that even in her subconscious, she considered me a friend. I’ve gained her trust.
- But then she said: “He thinks you’re useful.”
- I wasn’t sure what that meant. Maybe she knows I’m helping her. With that, I knew I had to push the boundaries. With some persuasion on the nurses behalf, given I was Faith’s current guardian… I took her out.
- Allowing her DS to tag along, I took Faith across campus. I knew this was the first time in so long that she had seen sunlight; she was scared to even step out the front door, as though the asphalt road was going to swallow her. When we got out there, she began covering her eyes and complaining about the sun. I thought fast, and she went the rest of the day wearing my sunglasses.
- By the time we reached the dorms where my car was, she was riding on my shoulders. It had been such a long time since she walked so far, stuck in that nursery. I let her down, and opened the trunk of my car. It still had a lot of the supplies I had planned on taking for Spring Break. I took out a soccer ball that I hadn’t messed with for years. Careful not to startle her, I carefully rolled the ball over in her direction. Putting her DS carefully to the side, she picked it up. First thing, she squeezed it.
- “It’s not soft!” She said excitedly. “It’s not puffy!”
- I showed her how to play soccer; how to kick the ball around with the inside for your foot, how to aim where you wanted it to go. We even used the space under my car as a goal, which wasn’t really well thought out considering every time she got it under there, I had to crawl under to fish it out. The excitement of the new game fueled her, and we played until the sky turned gold. I’ve really grown fond of her… I almost can’t believe why she’s here in the first place. Around me, she’s a person; not a number, not a patient, not a case. She’s a child, like all the children I’ve seen before her. I came here to make a documentary… but… I think Waters was right. I’m here for another reason.
- “So.” I said once we were out of breath, laying on the lush campus grass. “What did your friend think of that?”
- Faith smiled. She was enjoying the fact that I was including her friend more. “He had fun watching us. He likes it when I’m happy, and he likes games.”
- She had grabbed her DS and joined me on the ground. She took off my sunglasses and gave them back, claiming it was dark enough now for her eyes. I lay there, drifting off somewhat. She began rocking back and forth again as she looked up at the sky. She had always been so straightforward and pushy about it before, but this time, it was like she was nervous. When I opened my eyes again, she waved her DS above my face.
- “Y-You…” She said tentatively, “You want to play the game?”
- I sat up, not really sure what to do this time. I had rejected her so many times out of fear… but now, I’m not scared anymore. I trust her completely. So, I grabbed my laptop and brought up the DS Capture program I used in my days as a YouTuber, and found among my bag of tricks the USB to hook the DS to my computer. I wasn’t sure why I felt the need to record it… but I’m glad I did. I guess I wanted to find a place for it in the documentary, though I’m not really sure where it would fit. I just wanted to make her happy.
… Looking back on this part of my notes is painful. If only I knew how this simple act was going to turn my world upside down… What the hell was I thinking? I guess it doesn’t matter anymore… All that matters is that I finally played the game.
- When I booted up the system, it immediately went to Milky Way Wishes. It startled me at first; a bit creepy it didn’t even show the title screen. But whatever. The stage already looked near-completed, the planets having already been visited. I guess Faith had done it for me. I started recording, and headed for the Galactic Nova. There, I watched a cutscene I had seen time and time again. The dialogue was a bit different from what I remember. I never completed the entire game myself, (the True Arena stage is brutal), so I couldn’t be sure. It was when the cutscene was over that caught my attention. It skipped across the mission where I had to take out Nova, and went straight to the next cutscene. Odd. It looked like I was fighting Marx straight away. Sadly, I had only the Bomb Ability, which I sucked at. I scrambled around a few minutes, trying to remember all I could, before the game glitched out.
- I sat there, a bit dumbfounded, and listened to the strange noise coming out of the speakers. It sounded a lot like the sounds my old Gameboy Color made when a cartridge was taken out before turning it off. Unlike my Gameboy, the DS wouldn’t turn off for the longest while. It was a full minute before it finally cut off on its own.
- Then it got really strange when I handed it back to Faith. “Sorry, Faith. I think it’s broken.”
- “No it’s not.” She said, before turning it right back on, the system starting up perfectly like it should have in the first place.
- Afterward, I took her back to the nursery. I gave her a ride in my car the short way, since both of our feet ached. She had never ridden in a car before, she told me, and bounced in the seat the whole way. When we walked inside, I immediately noticed that the hall leading to the right (the Men’s Wing) was blocked off with sliding metal bars and police tape. Two security guards belonging to the hospital itself stood on watch. I asked them what happened.
- One shrugged. “Not sure, some incident in the Male Wing. Even if we did know, we don’t have the authority to tell you. And quite honestly, I don’t think I would even WANT to know.”
- But I wanted to know. When I looked down the corridor through the iron bars, I wasn’t sure what emotions were suppose to run by me. A door was ripped off its hinges. Lights were busted and flickering. A winding trail trickled down the linoleum and onto the opposite wall. There, though it was carved into the concrete with a knife, dripping with fresh blood:
“YOU WILL BELIEVE IN ME”.
- I turned Faith away before she could look at it. I could barely look at it. The guard was right. As much as I would like to know what happened in there, I would much rather walk away and never see it again. The metallic stench was already assaulting my sensitive nose. I hurried Faith down to the nursery and dropped her off for the day. Before I left, the woman that once attacked me, the medium’s sister, called out to me.
- “Please…” She cried. “I’m sorry… You need to leave, child… You need to leave now!”
- I let her mutter. When I came back to my dorms, I opened my computer and played back the footage I captured from Faith’s DS. I listened to the sounds toward the end. They were just… too odd. I searched up the dialogue for that particular cutscene as well. I was right in it wasn’t correct. Where Marx should have said: “Well, I want to rule all of Popstar!” Instead it read: “Well, well… I was wondering when you’d show up…” This is some scary stuff right here. The game DOES look a bit screwed up, though. I’m going to go ahead and give it the benefit of the doubt.
- In the meantime, I’m sending the video to a buddy of mine out in California. After playing the recording over and over, I concluding there’s something off about the background noise. It sounds too rhythmic to be static. I’m hoping my friend could help me find out what that’s about. She works the soundboards for big movie deals like Dreamworks and Sony Entertainment. Hopefully, she can play with it and find something out.
The Fifth Day
- Oh god! Jesus Christ, a boy is DEAD!
- Oh god, I can’t write this down. I’m crying. I’m hanging over a wastebasket. Every time it tries to wriggle into my mind, I can’t hold down my guts. I can’t think of it, but I’ll never forget! I can’t write this down, but I have to write it down! Dear god, help me. Dear god, protect me. I went in this morning and a crowd of nurses were blocking the door. I could only open it slightly at first, but the moment I heard that first bloodcurdling scream, I had to get in. I had to see if Faith was alright. I pressed the door open as hard as I could, and knocked a few of the nurses out of the way. I fell on the floor. A few of the children rushed past me and into the transition room, banging on the door. I looked up. Jesus Christ, I looked up. I’ll never forget.
- The boy was just standing there, facing the wall. But god, all the blood! The wallpaper was ripped away. There was nothing left but solid concrete. His face was just digging, just digging into the concrete! You couldn’t see his face! It was all blood! All of it! The skin was ripped away, the nose was gone, it was just nonexistent! It had been smeared across the concrete wall with his blood! The front of his skull just caved! But he just. Kept. Going.
- I couldn’t move. I couldn’t do anything but just sit there and watch the damn horror again and again! Right when you expect the boy to collapse, to just be done for, to just die already, he pulls back and slams his face into the wall again and again. He wasn’t doing this. He couldn’t have been doing this. He was a lifeless carcass. There’s no way in hell he could have been doing this! He was dead!
- And that’s when I looked beside him. Why did I look?! What possessed me to look in that direction?! Of everything that was going on right in front of me, why did I look away?! It doesn’t matter. The moment my eyes moved in that direction, I saw him. If only for a split second, it was like something in my screwed up nightmares from the days I was a prominent gamer…
- I SWEAR TO GOD, WHOMEVER IS READING THIS, BELIEVE ME! I SAW MARX!
I wrote this while I was in my car, while the memory was still fresh and burned into my mind like a brand. It was the last of my notes. It had all escalated so quickly. I was already set, packed up and on my way out. No way in hell I was going to hang back. Not after that. The description isn’t as thorough as I want it to be. That’s why I’m writing this down to fill in any blanks. With every fiber in my body screaming to let it rest, I can’t let it rest. I need to let the world know. But to be honest… I’m not sure what I saw. My eyes screamed that it was Marx, the jester from her godforsaken game. But I don’t know what it is. Whatever it is, the bastard is using Marx as a veil. It’s using an image we know.
But what it did to that image… it’s just sick. I only saw him for a split second, his smile curling into a toothy sneer. He had been waiting for me. He wanted me to see this. His soulless, black eyes bore into my own. He wanted to watch every moment of my terror. This wasn’t Marx. This was a monster. Claws extended from his signature brown leather shoes, like a hawk. These claws protruding from his left shoe wrapped about the boy’s head, digging into his skin each time his skull was pulled back before plowing once more into the concrete wall like a grater. I watched in utter horror as, in some kind of sick finale, he raised the tip of his wing, placing it on the boy’s throat. Where there were once the images of hearts tipping his wings, there were spires sharp as a knife. I watched it slice through the boy’s neck. I remember every… single… detail.
I can’t remember if I screamed afterward. The next moment, I was rushing down the corridor like a madman. I can’t remember if the medium’s sister said anything. I can’t remember if any of the children ran out after me. I just had to get out. I didn’t even think about Faith. I was blinded. The only second my eyes were open was when I reached the front door. There: that woman. It was that woman from the first day, who escorted me halfway down the hall. She grasped in each hand a suitcase, and had pulled on a coat like she was prepared to leave that place forever. Seeing her like that, at a time like this; it was pure hatred.
I grabbed her scruff before she slid out the door, and pulled her to the side with the demand. “What the hell is going on?!”
“Please! Let me go!” She pleaded. But I didn’t let her go. I screamed in her face like nothing I’ve done before. I can’t remember what I said. I held her there as she cried like a infant, until she gave me all I wanted. “She had a friend! Before she got game thing! SHE HAD A FRIEND!”
My rage grew by the second. “What’s that suppose to mean?! TELL ME!”
“I don’t know!” Tears were actually streaming down this woman’s face. “She always talk about friend! She got game! Things start to happen! That’s all I know!”
It made me stop a moment to think. This was suddenly sounding so familiar. My mother and I were always fascinated with anything paranormal, so we pride ourselves in what we know. I suddenly began to take the medium’s warnings seriously. I shouldn’t have been so close-minded about this. I’m sorry, to the medium AND her sister. I didn’t believe them at first. I should have left. I shouldn’t have provoked this demon to this point. Demons feed of of that! Yes! They feed off of fear, off acknowledgment!
… Acknowledgment… “What was her friend’s name before she got the game?!”
I already knew the answer, I was just praying to god it wasn’t true. “Marx.”
… You idiots! You goddamn idiots! Do you have any idea what you’ve done?!
The day Faith was given that damn game was the day she was convinced Marx was real! It was the day he was given an image! It was the day whatever demon, whether attached to the game or Faith herself, got some kind of acknowledgment! Oh my god… that was what he wanted. That bloodied message from the other day: “YOU WILL BELIEVE IN ME”. It all makes so much sense now! Dear god… and I’ve given him what he wanted. I played the game.
I left the asylum that day. I left straight for the city of Baltimore, and got the first affordable hotel room I came across. I stayed there the entire day, through the night. I didn’t even leave to find some kind of food. I felt as though the moment I opened that door, Marx was there waiting for me. I believed in him. I believe in him now, and there’s no changing that. Seeing is believing, and I cannot unsee something like… that. I spent the day pacing, trying to calm myself down, drowning my thoughts with television, distracting myself with my artwork. But it never went away.
I suddenly got an email from my friend over in California, the one I sent the footage from the DS Capture.
Message: Wtf r u messing with, Nicky?! Is this some kind of prank? Whatever u r doing, its not funny! I found this at the end of ur crazy ass recording!
When I first listened to this, I didn’t believe her. Though it didn’t make any sense, I wanted to believe she was pulling some prank of her own. But she wasn’t. I never once told her about Spring Grove, or what I was doing there. It took me time and time again to make sure what all I was hearing was clear as day.
He spoke to me.
“Such a smart girl.” He/she/it says. “Such a… curious girl. To have come all this way to uncover a secret that’s not… Yours. Curiosity comes with a price, and rewards. So… Is this reward worth it? Are you willing to pay the price, and discover the truth behind Spring Grove Asylum? Because you’ve found it. I hope you’re happy. I hope you enjoy our little game. Because you can span the earth ten times over before you realize… once you play the game… there’s no escaping when the game decides to play with YOU…”
How the hell something like that came from the original recording, I had no idea. My friend was the sound expert, not me. But I swear it: comparing the before and after, there were a couple sounds I KNOW weren’t there before. Nonetheless, the recording didn’t terrify me like I expected it to. If anything, it made me angry. That THING was back at the asylum, right now. That murderous demon was still there, and so was Faith.
But what could I do?
The Sixth Day
I had fallen asleep with my artwork again. Doodling on the GIMP program was a pastime of mine, and I used it to calm down. This night was no exception, only when I woke up… there sat an image in my art style that I had no recollection in drawing whatsoever:
It was him. Marx.
It was noon by the time I decided I had to go back. Whether he was planning to hurt Faith or not, I wasn’t going to take any chances. Both she and the innocents at the asylum were in danger. And I loved Faith. I would do anything to make sure she was safe. I knew in the pit of my gut that she was still there. She had mentioned Marx loved her very much, something I knew was only half true. What he really loved, I know, was the attention she got him. Almost like an incubus. The more people she got to play the game, the more people would know the name Marx, a name he adopted. But I had to hurry. I’m not sure how many of the nurses actually saw his ghastly image. Every one that did was in danger. I wasn’t sure what I was planning to do, but I had to do it fast. Either he had hid himself to this point on purpose, or he had grown in strength since I arrived.
When I reached the asylum merely an hour later, clouds had rolled in and blocked the sun. I was really hoping that coming this time of day meant more daylight, being the wuss I was. I liked to convince myself it gave me an advantage, when really it gave me a shred of peace of mind.
I entered the asylum. My worst fears were realized right when I stepped through the door, which I noticed was ajar in the first place. There was no man behind the front counter. The bars that once protected the Men’s Wing was ripped from place, and the message still bled at the end of the hall. It was like walking straight into Mount Massive Asylum itself. I wanted to turn back. Every fiber in my being wanted me to turn back, but I couldn’t. I had to get Faith and get out.
The hospital wasn’t in as bad as a condition as you thought it would, with a bloodthirsty entity roaming its halls. It just seemed… barren. It was though the nurses had just abandoned ship. When I made it to the Violent section of the wing, some of the patients weren’t even scathed, just quiet. Before I entered the nursery, I turned to check on the medium’s sister. When I poked my head through the bars, I braced myself in case she made a lunge toward me again. I pulled out for a completely different reason. There she sat, in the corner… her throat slit.
Fearing for Faith’s life, I rushed into the nursery. My eyes immediately went to where they did the day before, and they weren’t disappointed: though the body of the boy was gone, the wall was still dyed a deep crimson red. The children were gone. The nurses were gone. I had to search around frantically before I heard the little voice:
Thank the gods! I turned around as Faith met me, curled around my legs in a hug. I scooped her up in my arms. I hugged her and cried. But it wasn’t over yet. I pulled back and told her we needed to leave, NOW. She asked me if her friend could come. I told her no, he couldn’t. She was upset, as I hobbled down the hall towards the front door. She was confused. She began to threaten that she wouldn’t go with me if her friend couldn’t come. I told her no again. I told her we were going on a little trip, and we would be right back. I told her to leave her friend here until we got back. I stopped. I turned around. I swear to god I heard a light bulb short-circuit down the hall. I began running. Faith looked over my shoulder. Her friend was following us. He wasn’t going to let her leave.
When we got outside, out to the parking lot, I quickly strapped her into the back seat. The moment I clicked her seat belt, however, was the moment my heart stopped. There, grasped in her little claws, was the Nintendo DS. Despite the horror that I knew was at my heels, I hesitated. Marx didn’t manifest out of nowhere. This demon had to be attached to something, I thought. It was 50/50. He could be attached to Faith… or he could be attached-…
“Faith, honey,” I begged, “I need to see your Gameboy.”
As I reached for it, she snatched it away. “No!”
“Faith, please! I need your Gameboy!”
I turned around as I felt a quick gust of wind. The front doors were open. Though I couldn’t see him, I felt his eyes boring into mine. I felt his anger as the air grew thick. I could sense his ghastly image hovering over my shoulder. I only had one shot. Mustering every bit of strength I had left, I relaxed. “Faith, can I play the game again?”
I could see she was prepared to deny me again. But she didn’t. I knew she couldn’t deny me, and she wouldn’t. Because that’s what her friend wanted: to play the game. She slowly handed it to me. When I took it, it only took me two seconds to lock and close the car door. I heard her screaming behind me, banging on the window, but I didn’t listen. I needed to face this. So, in a quick move less than graceful, I flung the DS at the asylum wall. I didn’t stay long to watch it shatter, breaking apart into two separate screens. He hadn’t got to me. Not yet. He was as bewildered as she was, I know. I leaped into the driver’s seat, and tried to start up my car.
“Marxie!” Faith’s voice cracked between tears.
The car sputtered. It roared to life, but not without effort. Before I even had a chance to put it in drive, I heard the deafening screech of scraping metal. I didn’t let it faze me. I punched the gas harder than I ever have before. And so… with Faith squealing in the back seat… I left the campus of Spring Grove Asylum forever.
I wasn’t sure where I was going at first. I decided ten minutes into the drive to just head home. There was really no where else to go. Besides, my family was away this week, on a trip to the Great Wolf Lodge. I’d have a day to rest before taking off again. I remembered Marx’s warning. He wasn’t going to stop. We had to keep running for now.
I tried speaking to Faith on the way. It took minutes for Faith’s voice to grow weak from her wails. It took hours for her to stop crying. She hates me, I thought. After all that’s just come to light, I still felt bad for ripping her away from the one being that gave her love before anyone else dared, even if that love was fake. I tried speaking to her, trying to explain that I couldn’t let her friend hurt anyone else. She wouldn’t listen. I eventually put on some music, and tried to forget. It didn’t feel like it was over, but I was going to pretend it was. It took nearly two hours to get home.
When we made it home, I was unsure whether or not to let her out. She had been so calm up until now; it was a bit unsettling. I got out of the car, first taking note of the huge scrape across my left front wheel, as though something dug into it with his massive claws. I disregarded it. When I reached her window, she didn’t look at me. I opened her door. Thank god, she was still strapped in. I almost expected her to make a charging leap out of the car. We just… stood there a moment. I wasn’t sure what to do at this point, but thankfully, I didn’t need to. She looked up at me, and began crying. I knelt down and unbuckled her for her to throw her arms around me. I carried her inside, and tucked her into my bed.
Then I sat down and began typing. Even though my inner instinct screamed to keep moving, I just sat here, and typed.
As I sit here, pouring out my heart in as much detail as I can, I realize how absurd this all sounds. I mean, wouldn’t something like this make some kind of news? It’s been nearly two days now since Marx killed that boy, and I’ve checked Spring Grove website. Nothing. In big red letters on their front page, it reads: “AS OF APRIL 18th, 2014, SPRING GROVE HOSPITAL CENTER IS CLOSED FOR MAINTENANCE”. Bull. I checked the staff roster. There was no Doctor Denise Waters to speak of; looks like someone’s in trouble. The damn hospital didn’t waste a moment’s notice in covering their tracks. I wouldn’t be surprised if this isn’t the first time they had an incident like this.
But there’s something else… something I didn’t really consider until a few moments ago. If Marx had the freedom he did, then why was I still here? It didn’t take the drop of a pin for him to murder those children, those nurses, those patients. The moment they knew his image, his name, they were as good as dead. What made me so special? Why keep me alive? Why hold back, when I was the one closest to his precious cargo? Why was I, the one who was digging, also the one who was spared? WHY ME?
… Well, maybe it’s because I’m his goddamn puppet. Maybe I heard a sound in the other room. Maybe I went to check on Faith. Maybe she was standing there, her eyes lit up like stars, a smile on her face, as she held a perfectly functional DS in her hands. Maybe, for the past hour, I’ve been forced to type every single word as a knife I cannot see digs into my neck. Maybe, as his claws pierce my bloody shoulder blades, I’ve begged him not to let this document see the light of day. WHY? Maybe it’s becau
mAyBE He waNtS tHeM to bEliEvE. MaYbe He wAntS THem tO plAy tHe gAme.
I grew up in Northern Nevada, and have always had a love for the macabre side of things. Interested in ghost stories and the town’s folklore, I often found myself searching for haunted locations around the city. All through high school, I never found one that was truly haunted, and it let me down. I began to think that there was nothing in the city that was weird enough for me, so after I left high school, I went to college in Washington, in a town that I thought had much more history to it. I had only learned about the real dark stories of my home town when I came back to visit at the beginning of this summer…
During vacation I was working the summer at a sushi restaurant that had employed me a few years before, I only really got the job because most of my friends were still working there too. I was up talking with the sushi crew and they invited me to hang out on north fifth and talk about life and probably smoke a little. North Fifth is a street that leads (as you would guess) out the north side of town. If you follow the nicely paved road out far enough you will come across a cattle guard and the pavement will give way to sand and dirt and rocks. The roads are lined with gnarled sagebrush, the kind that grows everywhere in Nevada like a cancer. I felt like I hadn’t seen my friends in ages and I didn’t want to spend the night indoors so I agreed to go.
Once the clock struck 9 P.M. all five of us busted our asses out of the restaurant and headed up Fifth Street. My friend Liam and I were in his jeep, following behind Jay, Austin, and Jay’s girlfriend Danielle. We passed the cattle guard as we were following our friends, and Liam turned to me.
“I hope we don’t go out too far.” His eyes darted around his face, almost in a fit of paranoia. I had no idea what provoked that statement, but I felt like it would lead to something terrifying, so I bit down and swallowed the bait.
“Why shouldn’t we go out too far? Ghosts?” I chuckled as I spoke, because I was a supernatural junkie. There isn’t anything like the rush of encountering something that felt like it wasn’t totally there. We waited in silence for a moment as I watched the weeds pass the jeep while we got deeper and deeper into the desert. I’ll never forget how my friend looked when he replied, like there was a history. Like there was something out north fifth that Liam had run into before, and never wanted to see again.
“I’ll tell you later.” His voice had turned cold. There was only fear present in his words.
“Why?” I probably sounded angrier than I wanted. Admittedly, I was irritated and confused at Liam’s dodgy attitude.
“They don’t like it when you talk about them.”
My head was jumping from thought to thought, I was trying to delve into my subconscious and remember what my family and friends used to say about the desert. My brain never stopped thinking, I was coming up with all kinds of monsters in my head. After a while I began to think that I wasn’t going to get any sleep when I got back home tonight. That was par for the course though. As a matter of fact, my brain was often the cause of my sleep loss, and I hated it. Of course, if there wasn’t a piece of me that loved the adrenaline from this supernatural, paranormal terror, I wouldn’t have been driving out North Fifth in the middle of the night to begin with. I seek it out. I loved that feeling. I don’t think I will anymore, though. A few minutes passed, and Liam spoke again.
“Just be respectful. We’re coming out to smoke and talk. We won’t be destroying anything. We should be okay if we are respectful.” Liam’s words confused the hell out of me, because I wanted to know exactly what it was that he was talking about. Of course, he wouldn’t tell me. I wanted to respect his fear as much as possible. Even if I had to spend the next couple hours in a blind confusion.
We arrived at a clearing way out of town, and as we got out the car I heard him mumbling about “Reservation Land” and Coyotes. I was still confused, but out of respect to his fear, and the realization that he didn’t want me to talk about it, I didn’t say anything.
The two of us met up with our three other friends and they loaded their pipes as we all began talking. Our conversation bounced from parties we had been to, how life was for us now, how the restaurant was doing. We talked for maybe thirty minutes before Liam decided to speak up. He shivered when he did.
“Are we on reservation land?” His body was so cold that his teeth were chattering. At least, I hoped that’s what it was. He told me the next day that he was terrified and wanted to leave as soon as he asked that question.
One of our friends, Austin, spoke up.
“I think so. Why? Are you not supposed to be on Tribal grounds?” He was as confused as I was. Liam grabbed his hat and pushed down on his scalp.
“Oh my god I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to be here.” Liam’s face was hard to see under the black sky. The moon was cast behind thick shadowy clouds, all we had to light our adventure were a handful of dim stars.
“Did you guys see any coyote’s on the way here? It’s important.” He was leaning up against the door of his jeep, almost as if it was holding him up. At this point, I was pretty freaked out too. I didn’t know what was the matter and he wouldn’t tell me, so I was forced to sit in a cloud of confusion, which made me uneasy.
“Why?” came Jay’s voice, out the driver’s seat of his car.
“Wait… is that frogs?” Liam spoke up, more or less ignoring Jay’s question. The rest of us sort of chuckled, but Liam got excited. He turned his ear away from the rest of us to get a better listen.
“No, no. Frogs are good luck! They keep evil spirits away.” He said, leaning off of his car and now standing, the fear in him had subsided at least a little bit and it seemed like he was enjoying the experience a little more.
“Are you talking about skin walkers? Is that what you’re afraid of?” Austin let out a laugh, after figuring out what it was that Liam was so afraid of. As he spoke, his dreadlocks swung around his neck. “I don’t give a shit about a skin walker. Don’t worry. I will kill every single one of them if they come try and mess with us.” Austin patted Liam on the shoulder and the group fell silent, minus the sound of inhalation and the occasional lighter flick.
After ten or so minutes had passed, Jay and his girlfriend Danielle looked out the front of their car and turned the lights on. It wasn’t strange, because Liam had been randomly turning his lights on when he couldn’t handle being in the dark anymore. I was thankful, because I was growing more uneasy by the minute. I wanted to ask exactly what a skin walker was, but I was sure that I didn’t want to figure it out.
After a while Jay turned his lights on again, and we all shifted our attention to the front of his car after we heard him yelp. Standing in the road about thirty feet ahead of us was a single coyote. Its eyes were dark, and unreflective. Unlike the way animal’s eyes usually were. This one didn’t reflect light from anywhere. As a matter of fact, they looked almost… human but they were devoid of emotion, and staring at us. It wasn’t a blank stare, there was intent in it. Liam and I had screamed, but Austin remained quiet, Meanwhile, Jay and Danielle had tightened their grip on each other and Jay was trying to keep Danielle calm.
See, we all knew deep down what the skin walkers were. We knew the stories. We’ve been hearing them since we were little kids.
According to some people, if you find yourself on Indian Reservation land at night, and are causing a ruckus, or even just doing something you aren’t supposed to be doing, they will come out. They will crawl from the shadows, and peer over hilltops. They are sub-human, and often come disguised as coyotes. Vengeful creatures, and the only way to know what you’re really looking at is to look at its eyes. They will never look natural. The animal’s eyes will look flat like a humans. There will be very little gloss on them…
I pulled in a breath, and whispered to Liam.
“We need to leave…” I watched the coyote with him as he was nodding his head at me and opening his jeep door. I slid slowly from the side of Jay’s car to the door of Liam’s jeep. My eyes were fixed on the coyote’s eyes, and it followed me. It was staring at me, unblinking as I climbed into the vehicle. Before I broke eye contact, I could have sworn that I saw it smile. The sight of its fangs shook me to the core. Long, and sharp, they seemed to glow in the night. It howled, and was met with an echo of howling all around us. The sound of the dogs bellowing everywhere in the canyon twanged at my soul. It was an evil sound.
The worst part though, was what was just out of sight. The lights from our cars bathed the ground in front of us and illuminated the coyote, but on the edge of the light, my eyes caught multiple pairs of feet. There were maybe ten people standing there behind the coyote, staying out of the light of our vehicles. Their skin was dark. It was dark and unnatural, like is wasn’t really attached to the flesh. Like it could slip off at any moment. The feet then, began to move toward us. From dark skinned ankles covered with mud and paint, the light slowly illuminated the hunched over figures. Their knees were scraped from rocks and dirt, their legs covered in blood. I couldn’t bear to see the full figure, so I slammed my eyes shut and felt Liam shift his car into reverse.
Liam backed out of the clearing that we were parked in. the trees passed us, and I was sure that I could see glowing eyes in the shadows. The way the legends go, when the Skin walkers were in their human form, they would have the gaze of a beast. Their eyes would never match their bodies. Always shining when they weren’t supposed to be. We were backing up quickly. Dangerously. I don’t blame Liam for wanting out. He didn’t even want in.
As we broke through the tree line and back into the sagebrush, Liam turned the car around in a patch of grass off the side of the road. He must have seen an owl fly past, because he pointed it out and said that it was good that we left.
“Owls are observers. They are smart creatures, and they know to leave when there is danger. So… we should leave. Now. Is Jay behind us?” Liam’s voice was trembling and his fear was easy to feel. I’m sure that mine was too. I remember looking back and seeing jay’s truck, but not before I saw the man standing right behind the jeep. His eyes glowing white, skin painted black wearing the skin of a mangled coyote. He had a sick grin on his face, a grin I’ll never forget. His teeth were black and yellow, and his body looked like a gnarled root. I screamed, and ducked under the seat as his hand slammed against the metal frame. There were no words coming from his mouth, but we both heard a howling. A dark howling, coming from out in the darkness.
Liam knew that it was time to stop asking questions, and he slammed on the accelerator. For a moment, we quit caring about Jay, Austin and Danielle. We just wanted to get out of there. About four miles away from the tree line, Liam started to slow down. My heart was still beating furiously, and I was still huddled in the back seat of Liam’s jeep.
“It’s okay. We aren’t on reservation land anymore. We should be okay.” His voice came slowly, through long gasps for air. We drove until we reached the pavement and then stopped to wait for Jay. A few minutes had passed and we saw his truck crest over the sagebrush behind us. My head flashed images of the eyes, brooding, waiting, thinking, floating in the trees. It was so much darker there than it was here in the city. It was darker, but there wasn’t any less light than where we were. It was the air itself that felt dark.
I parted my ways with Jay, Danielle and Austin after I made sure that they got back to us safely. The ride with Liam was quiet, so I tried to break the silence.
“Man, I thought frogs were good luck.” I tried to joke with him, but Liam didn’t respond. He just pulled onto the street and drove me home. The silence bothered me, I felt bad for Liam because he didn’t want to be there, and yet we talked him into going with us at work. He pulled up to my home, and we then parted ways.
The next day we all talked about the experience. I still didn’t get a lot of information about them, so I left work and did a lot of research when I got home about skin walkers. None of the natives wanted to talk about them, so it was hard to hear the local stories. I did find out some interesting things online though… They say that they have all of these poisons, and dusts that they can use on you. Or that they can take the shape of anything they’ve consumed. Anything that they’ve consumed…
They say… When you lock eyes with one, it attaches itself to you. That it’ll follow you to your house, try and break in, try and take you. They try and take you. All I can think about is that coyote’s eyes. They seemed so… dead and empty. So here I am now, my dogs are barking downstairs, and there is a banging at my door.