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Has anyone else seen it, or an I the only one?

November 15, 2013 at 12:00 AM
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I’ve done my best to research this phenomenon, if it even is one, to no avail; there is not a single dream journal in print or through the Internet grape vine that can ease my unsettled heart. Two packs of cigarettes and a house to myself are all I have each night, and the light from the screen projecting the deepest and darkest corners of the internet are as comforting as a polite mugging; I just need to sleep without dreams.

A few years ago, my father died. He was a good, Nordic man, a sailor and a veteran with a heart of gold and a liver of blackened steel. After my mother stole my siblings and I away from him when I was a child, only to bring us to our jailor of an abusive stepfather, he has been my protector. My drunken, jobless, kind hearted saint of a father. In the last few years of the boozing haze of his life, an entire twenty-four pack of beer would be drained within twelve hours every day; each night he would fall asleep with a burning cigarette in his hand, and an aluminum can at his feet. Our ranch style deer shack of a house never burned to the ground, but that would most likely be an improvement. I’m currently nestled deep in the woods, the developments of concrete jungle miles away from the original homestead.

When he died, I was twenty-three years old. I had no family, no husband, and no morals. On my twenty-fourth birthday on an unseasonably cold day in May, I buried him. The priest and I had the occasion to ourselves. I’ve been doing drugs for most of my life, but the remainder of my money and pathetic inheritance fell into the deep hole that is cocaine addiction. A year ago I tried to sell my couch in exchange for a couple of measly lines; even today, I’m not far from that mess. No much longer after that, I tried to kill myself.

Earlier in that week, up to the attempt, I had been catching squirrels running lose in the attic, and had no idea how to get rid of them. So one day, drinking a beer on the back porch, I went to the sack I had them in, and tied it to the end of my black Mustang’s exhaust, got in and revved the engine for the entire woods to hear. When I opened the back, the corpses were charred black, slicked with grease and grime; it was then, I knew I wanted to die.

I jumped into her, my Black Widow, the Mustang, and shut the garage door. The ignition clicked over, engine blaring in the small concrete cube of a room. I laid back with a beer, and closed my eyes; not even crying. But fate, or so it seems, wants me to suffer; my father’s navy buddy, Ross, heaved the door open at the last minute, screaming, “Kris! Krissy!” and dragged me out, semiconscious into the gravel driveway. He saved my life, and after such a kind deed, he died of lung cancer three months ago.

Fast forward to two days ago; I was upstairs sleeping, and suddenly the door slams. “I’m home!” my father bellows. Clear as day, as certain as the keys I’m using are real. I ran, tripping every step, to the stair overlooking our door, to see nothing. Just the cold and reassuring loneliness that there isn’t a soul on Earth that cares about me. Even my dreams have started to turn.
For years, I’ve read scary stories. They give me a sense of power over life, a feeling of control. The words on a page that send shivers down your spine are a thrill difficult to achieve in other places, but there is very little truth in any story out there. But my dream, the dream is reality. Reality is the dream. Only in the sense that reality is the escape, not the other way around.

The night of my father’s voice, I slept deeply. The bed in my father’s old bedroom sits in front of a closet door, but in my dream it was blocked by something. At the wooden footboard of the antiquated frame, stood what looked like a man. Very tall, well over six feet, dressed in dark colors; he wore what looked like a suit, but memory on the clothes is hard to come by. His face was very long, almost a horse like quality, and pale. His irises were dark as well, and his expression was both blank and sinister. His mouth was extremely wide, and when he opened to speak, there were so many teeth I would certainly regret referring to him as a human being. But he never spoke, acted like he had changed his mind, and smiled. An ear to ear, wider than the Grand Canyon smile. And with that same grin, he lifted an overly long arm with boney fingers like that of a massive spider, and reached out for me. With his pointer finger out, he touched my forehead, but never actually made contact with bone; rather, the finger pushed my brain inside the skull. I felt as if he was informing me, touching me with knowledge, but what? I have no answer to that question.

Last night the dream was similar, but he wasn’t at the bed’s end. He was standing at its side like a family member stands beside the hospital gurney. He leaned in close to me, the features of his smooth and pale face nearly translucent and corpse like; the corpse that’s been found floating under six inches of bathwater for days. This time he produced two fingers, like a peace sign, and with the same terrible smile, pressed my eyes back, again never touching skin. His touch this time was cold, like having an ice cube against bare skin, only worse. On both occasions I have awoken from the nightmare with the closet door ajar, when it was clearly clicked shut each night. And thus brings me to my current predicament.

The closest thing that even reminds me of my experiences come out of works of horror fiction, and certainly not legends or tales from other horrified victims. But the symptoms have been invading from the dream world more and more; I hear frantic running up the stairs in the morning, doors slamming, whispering. The closet at the foot of the bed is cold, like a meat locker, and I can’t find any family photographs. And worst of all, the sun sets in a matter of hours, and the closest hotel is sixteen miles from here. Would driving through woods in the dark actually help my situation, or just be another chapter in a grisly paperback in a five-dollar bin at the bookstore?

I’m preparing tonight, with light and heat, as well as nailing the closet door shut. If I need to, the car’s garage bay is open and the keys in my pocket, but I haven’t been to hell and back to be frightened off by a figment in my own head. This is my only home, and despite the crippling sense of being alone in the dark, I certainly don’t need a friend like him.

Credit To – M.D.T

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Dance of Flames

November 14, 2013 at 12:00 PM
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You’re probably like me, sceptical of all things unexplained. Never in my life have I believed anything that doesn’t have a logical explanation, even if it means I have to string together the most tenuous logic just to make something reasonable. This is me. Why then, do I sit here by this shimmering lake, desperately scrawling these notes on my last remaining pages, terrified? Something wants me. I cannot seem to escape them, I cannot explain them, I don’t know why they want me. All I know is that large volumes of water are crucial to my survival.

Despite my scepticism, I used to love sitting up late at night reading creepy stories about things like Slenderman, and the Rake. I used to regale freaking myself out with horror films, the creepier the better. For me, ominous creaking and flickering shadows thrilled me far more than hacking and slashing, however, no matter how much thrill I found in a story, I would always sleep soundly at night knowing it was just a story. That was until now, until they began to haunt me. This isn’t some made up story about being stalked by Slenderman, or about a ghastly haunted child watching me sleep. No. This is far worse. This is no made up story. This is a very real threat to my life, my sanity, a threat I don’t know how to stop. I am hoping that if I don’t make it, my satchel containing these notes will help someone piece together whatever is going on here. I realise I’m being vague, please, allow me to start from the beginning.

As I’ve mentioned, I love reading up on creepy things. One caught my eye in particular. It was the “real-life” story about the curse of the crying boy. If you’re unaware of this story allow me to quickly explain. In 1985, a house in Yorkshire, England was burned to the ground. The only thing that survived in near-pristine condition was a painting of a crying boy. After this strange event was reported, many others around the world began reporting fires where the only surviving relic was this painting. This caused widespread panic resulting in many people in possession of the painting to destroy it as quickly as possible. As I read on, fascinated, I ran across an article on some website detailing that a car spontaneously burst into flames after a crash. The only surviving object from the blaze was the driving license of a man whose name matched the name of the boy in the paintings. I quickly laughed and shrugged this off as people exaggerating on what was probably just coincidence. The reading of this particular tale marked the beginning of strange occurrences around me.

It was August 20th and that evening my mother and I had planned a bonfire to get rid of the old shed. We had invited the family round for a few drinks and decided to make a social evening of it. During the day we stocked up on plenty of beverages, beers, ciders and bottles of wine for the adults and fizzy drinks for the youngsters as well as some “finger food” in case anyone got peckish. Our garden was fairly large so preparations began early, bringing out the garden furniture from the new shed for everyone to sit around as well as some of the chairs from the dining table. Dad was at work so mum and I had to prepare everything ourselves; she yelled instructions to me from across the garden to set up the large fire pit and pile on the old wood whilst she set out the table cloth, plates and cutlery.

“Tom, make sure there fire pit is secure, we don’t want to burn the house down now, do we?” Jested my mother. I laughed with her and commented on how I wasn’t an idiot. Once the large circle of stones had been laid, I proceeded to move the old wood that was propped up against the far fence to the centre of the pit. I started with two long planks and set them up in a pyramid structure. I began to place other planks around it, also propped up until I had made what roughly resembled a wigwam. We used to burn all our old sensitive letters too, so I scattered a few around along with some dry twigs and other flammable junk from the garden. After about an hour of setting this up, mum began to lay the food out on the table and the family started to arrive. First to arrive was my dad who had just got home from work, he was eager to see the rest of the family so he promptly headed upstairs for a shower. From about 7pm until 8pm, the rest of my family turned up until all seventeen of us were here.

I am the oldest of my generation, nineteen at the time. My other eight cousins all ranged from five to sixteen. The younger ones were running around, fuelled on fizzy pop while the adults, myself included, had just started on our beers, ciders, and wines. It was about 9pm now and beginning to get dark so my dad decided it was time to light the fire. The older generation all took a seat ready to absorb the warmth of the flames.

“Who built a bloody Egyptian tomb then?” Shouted my uncle Kevin sat opposite me. I raised my bottle of cider, proudly admitting to my creation and laughed with him. He was the joker of the family and always kept us laughing. By this point, I was very excited as I loved fire. I mean… I used to love fire. There was something soothing about it, perhaps dating back to our more primitive times. Dad drizzled a bit of fire lighter fluid around the base of the pyramid and dropped a lit match on it. Instantly, the fluid ignited with small flames, licking their way up the wood. Everyone paused for a moment and smiled, watching the flames climb higher and higher. I distinctly remember the sweet smell of the burning wood filling my nostrils and the crackling of the blaze as fire grew stronger. Kevin had spotted some of our documents and made a witty remark about hiding evidence, but I wasn’t really listening at that point. I was transfixed on the dancing flame. Within a few short minutes, the fire was burning at about a height of seven foot and the family were lost in laughs and chatter, the kids still screaming and having fun as they played tag around the garden.

It wasn’t until about an hour later I started to notice things. I was on my third cider and feeling slightly buzzed from it. I had been lost in the inferno for about half an hour at this point but I can’t be sure. Intensely staring as each peak of fire whipped itself into the air and transformed to white smoke before drifting off in the cool night breeze. I’m sure you do the same, if a fire is burning you stare at it. There is something so calming, so tranquil, I was completely transfixed. I would imagine dancers inside the fire, swaying about in synonymous movement with the blaze. I could feel myself starting to be pulled in, I leaned forward and felt a rapid increase of heat on my face. The warmth was bliss. Staring harder and deeper into the flame was when I first saw it. A face manifested itself right in front of my eyes. It all happened so briefly but I felt like I had seen it for an eternity. The quivering lipless snarl, the eyeless sockets, the pointed chin, and the mane of flames. The face that I saw directed its empty sockets deep into every fibre of my being and I felt nothing but pure evil and terror in that hint of a moment. I startled backwards and my family blankly stared at me. I shrugged and told them it was an ember landing on my face. They all began to laugh and a few of my uncles joked about something I didn’t really hear. I tried to find the face in the fire again, but I couldn’t. I was certain I had imagined it, after all, I was drinking and it was getting late. Still, even my sceptical side was difficult to silence, I still felt an incredible uneasiness.

I went to bed that night, still filled with disturbance from the face in the fire. Although the eyes looked empty, I somehow felt they contained an immeasurable amount of pain. Allowing my mind to wander, I drifted off to sleep. The next morning I awoke with a start after rolling onto my side. Clutching my cheek, I groggily hauled myself to the bathroom and saw in the mirror I had a vertical burn about two inches long down my cheek. How the hell did that get there? I didn’t actually burn myself on the fire last night. Fortunately the burn wasn’t major and didn’t look like it would blister, but it felt sore enough for me to put some cream on it. I walked downstairs after getting dressed, both my parents were already eating breakfast. Dad asked if I was okay, he said I’d had a lot to drink last night and joked about me having a hangover. I didn’t remember having a lot to drink, however, I didn’t remember much between seeing the face and getting into bed, though I felt okay, if a little restless, when I got into bed. How was I drunk? Mum pointed out the burn and called me silly, then asked if I had put some cream on it. I confirmed I did in a half-attentive way. I was trying to make sense of everything. I asked dad what happened, he said he didn’t know as he was too busy catching up with his two brothers. My brain scrabbled to piece together some kind of explanation. I had been drinking which caused me to hallucinate the face, the shock of the hallucination made me drink more, I got drunk and burnt myself with a hot stick or something causing the straight line, and went to bed. That must be it… After all, faces don’t just appear in fires and stare at you, that’s ridiculous isn’t it?

Later that day, I walked down town to grab some essentials like toothpaste and shampoo. As was normal on a Sunday, the main high-street was lined with half a dozen street performers to entertain the tourists. Among the human statues and juggles was one young man using fire poi. Normally, I would have walked past them all as I usually do, but I stood to watch this man for a minute. Again, I was transfixed on the flame just as I was last night. I shook my head rapidly to try and shake this silly feeling. The man caught my eye and smiled at me, I gave a nervous smile back and turned back towards the shops. I had only taken a few more steps when I heard the crowd scream, I quickly turned to see what was going on and everything was plunged into darkness.

I woke up in a hospital bed what seemed like moments later. My parents were sat to my right and I could only see out of one eye. I panicked briefly but my mother put her hand on my shoulder and told me to calm down, and that it was all okay. I looked at dad who had a the biggest smile of relief on his face. I asked them what happened. Dad took the reins of the question. Apparently, the street performer with the fire poi lost his grip whilst swinging the poi about. The flaming ball hurtled toward my head and hit me square in the eye knocking me unconscious. I adjusted my position in the bed and put my hand on my left eye and felt the soft bandage cloth. Dad assured me the doctor said my eyesight was fine, and that I was lucky. I didn’t feel lucky. Two fire incidents in two days? Perhaps this was all a stupid coincidence, but perhaps it wasn’t. I glanced at the clock and saw that I had been unconscious for just over two hours. I was very open with my parents, and I decided now would be a good time to tell them about last night’s events. They both agreed that I was just drunk, and today just happened to be one of those accidents, wrong place wrong time type thing. I hesitantly nodded in agreement although I knew something wasn’t right at all. I suddenly grasped the bandaged eye in agony as I felt a wild burning ignite inside my skull. Mum shouted for a nurse in a panic and one came rushing in, she tried to give me painkillers but I was writhing in too much pain to take them in tablet form. She pulled out a small needle and a tiny bottle, filled the syringe with some clear liquid and jabbed it into my arm, injecting every drop. She assured us it was a liquid painkiller, and that the pain I was feeling was the exposed nerve endings and it would soon go. I knew that wasn’t right. I forced the ball of my hand into my socket but nothing helped this intense heat coursing its way into my skull and spreading down to my chest. My mother grabbed my hand, and once again the world turned to black.

My eyes flitted open about an hour later, I had blacked out from the pain. My parents were stood outside the door conversing with a doctor. I was shaking. I saw it again, as the pain happened, behind the eye that couldn’t see, I saw it. It was clearer this time. I was absolutely certain it was the same face I saw before. It was truly harrowing, it wasn’t just a face. I saw… It… The entire of whatever ‘it’ was, stood there engulfed in darkness. The Flame Dancer. Its hideous fleshy face was surrounded with a body of fire, humanoid in structure but without hands or feet. Instead, its legs and arms just ended in a sharp point of concentrated blaze. The face looked like a leather mask just hovering there, seemingly immune to the surrounding inferno. A pointed chin, a lipless snarl that quivered with the rage of the fire around it, seams ran tracks across the face as if it had been stitched together, but worst of all – the most terrifying feature was the eyes. Two empty indents. Empty, yet fierce. Angry in shape but when directed at me I felt like I was feeling the excruciating fear of a thousand tortured souls, as if I could feel the agony of each poor soul before me. It stared, flames raging around it. Then it lifted an arm and directed that fiery spear of an arm toward my very heart. I felt it as real as anything. I felt the burning fury of the sun scorching my chest. That was the point I had blacked out.

The following few days I wasn’t myself at all. My parents were worried, I was avoiding anything that could be linked with fire as best I could. I couldn’t concentrate all morning at work, and half the staff were off on holiday or ill meaning my workload was increased. However, it was now Friday and I knew the fire alarm tests happen at work on Fridays. The alarm itself wouldn’t have frightened me, but it was to warn of fire, and what if it wasn’t a test this time? I had become certain that the “Flame Dancer” as I had named it, was after me. I watched the clock nervously as the seconds ticked closer to 10:00am when the bell would sound. I couldn’t relax or focus, I kept trying to tell myself that the whole thing was just a stupid hallucination playing on my mind but it wasn’t that simple. The burning, the glare, and the raw panic I felt were all very real. My boss came over and mentioned that he’d noticed a decline in the last week and asked if everything was alright, I feebly explained to him that it was just the poi incident that had shaken me up a little. He told me to feel better soon and try to focus on work. I glanced back at the clock at noticed it was now 10:01am. The alarm didn’t sound. Oh God, it was broken, the safety mechanism that warns us of fire was broken. An official came to the office to inform us that the repairman was on his way. I couldn’t take it, I bolted for the toilets with a lump in my throat. What if they broke it? It’s them, I know it is. I tried my best to compose myself and walked back to my desk.

In that very moment I sat down, I heard someone curse loudly from the kitchen followed by a buzz of electricity. I jumped up and as I glanced toward the kitchen I could see the microwave had malfunctioned and a small fire had started in the kitchen. My worst nightmare had just been realised. I screamed for everyone to get out and raced to the fire exit running full speed into the push bar. It was jammed. I ran full force into it and fell backwards. In the next moment, I awoke with one other work colleague who was desperately trying to haul me onto his shoulder. The flames raged around us, the rest of the staff had escaped through the main entrance, ignoring me in their haste. I staggered to my feet, an orange haze surrounding my vision. I coughed violently as I inhaled a large breath of smoke before pulling my shirt up over my mouth and nose. Sam pointed toward the exit and said something which was inaudible over the crackling and roaring of the flames. I followed Sam’s finger and saw that all exits were blocked, there was no way out. The burn on my face was particularly tender when in close proximity to the curling tendrils of fire. It was then that it appeared again. Sam saw it too. The mask-type face emerged from flames, followed by the body before the two conjoined. Every step it took toward us left a smaller fire in its wake. Sam bellowed at me demanding to know what it was. I told him I had no idea but I’d seen it before. It loomed closer, teasing us with a slow pace and staring intently at us. Two more twisted up from the fiery footsteps either side of it, into magnificent columns of fire, contorting into the humanoid shape, and parting the flames to reveal the leathery face that conjured out of nowhere. Three of them, looming slowly toward us, they raised their pointed limbs slowly as they took each step, and we both clutched our chests in burning agony. I grabbed Sam’s collar and dragged him toward a window with a strength I never knew I had. He kept his footing but was crippled due to the pain in his chest. As I began to move, one of the Dancers twisted back into the ground and appeared again behind me. I was hell-bent on survival at that point and continued toward the window. As I approached, I could see the fire engines outside. Sam collapsed behind me and fell unconscious. I picked up a chair and threw it at the window, the “Flame Dancers” only metres from me now. A powerful jet of water burst its way through the window and hit the Dancer closest to me. It let out a shrill cry and dissolved into a puff of smoke, no sign of the face. I glanced back toward the other two, and the third separated from out of the body of the one at the front. I screamed at them asking what they wanted from me, the snarls turned to disturbing smiles, and they all stopped, turning their gaze to Sam. Realising there was nothing I could do to save him, I jumped from the ground floor window onto the hard concrete outside. An ambulance scooped me up and rushed me to hospital for the second time.

I sat quaking in the hospital bed as the nurse checked me over. I deeply inhaled the oxygen being fed to me through the mask. I turned my head and asked the nurse about Sam. She seemed puzzled and asked who Sam was. I told her he was in there with me, she told me to wait a second and went out the room. She returned moments later with two police officers who sat down next to me. They wanted a statement from me so I nervously told them everything I knew about the fire. Everything except the Dancers. I knew how insane it sounded and I didn’t want to be carted off to a mental institution. My parents burst in the room at that moment, but held back from pouncing on me in relief due to the officers present. I asked about Sam. They gave me the same puzzled look the nurse did and informed me the building was completely empty of bodies, and nobody was reported injured. At first I thought Sam had made it out, I breathed a brief sigh of relief before an office began to ask questions about Sam. Although his body wasn’t found inside, he didn’t turn up for the roll call outside. I shrugged gingerly. The officers thanked me for my time and walked out. My parents replaced the officers in the two seats by my side, and my dad joked about my affinity for fire.

“Three fire related accidents in one week, my son!”

I just gazed emptily at him. My mind rested on Sam. Maybe he just went home out of shock. He saw those things too. But he was unconscious, none of this is making any sense. I finally settled on one conclusion that drained all colour from me and turned me skin ice cold. They got him. My mum had that same look of panic on her face I had become accustomed to. Mum asked me what was wrong. I told them I had seen the “Flame Dancers” again and how they have Sam. She didn’t laugh this time. She was an aromatherapist, so she had suggested some treatment when we got home as something was causing me to see these weird creatures. I snapped at her about Sam being missing. She stayed quiet. Dad just looked at me, he had a good front but I could tell he was just as concerned. We all just sat there, motionless in awkward silence until a nurse came in and told me I was fine and could go home. My dad thanked her but neither me or my mum reacted.

Later that evening, I was furiously racking my brain trying to figure out what to do. I felt lost. There was nothing. My mother’s voice called me from the dining room and I ambled in to see her, still limping on my right leg slightly. As soon as I got close to the room I stopped in my tracks at what I could smell. Scented candles. Mum was going to try aromatherapy. Oh God, candles! I jetted in and blew out the six candles as quickly as physically possible, one didn’t go out properly so I threw my mum’s tea on it and sighed heavily. Mum didn’t understand and tried to assure me it would help. All I could say was “no fire” over and over. No fire. No fire! I felt my sanity slipping from me. I drearily looked up at mum who I don’t think had been so worried in her life. Her tearful eyes gripped my heart. I hated doing this to her. I walked up to her and hugged her whilst assuring her that I was just tired and that I should just go to bed. She just nodded and told me she loved me. That night may have been the worst night yet. I drifted off to sleep fairly easily, but there they were, in my dreams. Six of them, surrounding me. I screamed at them, demanding to know what they wanted from me. One stepped forward and stared me right in the eye. By this point I was fed up and I could feel the fear escaping me. I wasn’t sure whether they could hurt me in my dreams if it even was a dream. Nonetheless, I tried to avoid those harrowing eyes but caught a glimpse as one of them moved to my right. I gasped when I saw Sam’s face, contorted in sheer agony, shimmer for a nanosecond in the right socket. Then it spoke. I thought the eyes were horrifying enough. Several voices emitted from it ranging from a high-pitched shriek to a demonic grumble. The words that followed re-ignited the fear that had briefly subsided. In a slow, chilling tone, it spoke.

“You… Belong… To us…”

The limb came up, just as before. I had to wake up. I screamed, I pinched and bit myself but nothing worked. I thrashed about but I could not get out of this reality. A raging fire storm build up around my heart and I bellowed as pain engulfed my every sense. Then nothing. They had gone. Was I safe? Were they toying with me?

My eyes opened and my bedroom light was on. I was sweating and panting heavily. Mum was sat beside me crying. She begged me to go to a doctor. I tried to convince her it was just a bad dream, and that I knew how to help myself. She hesitantly nodded and questioned me about it. I needed to go away for a bit, change of scene and clear my head. She didn’t want me to at first, but I told her it was the only way and I would be fine.

“We’ll discuss it with your father in the morning.”

I agreed, and she left still sobbing. I couldn’t sleep for the rest of that night. My heart was still pounding, and still felt hot. The look I saw on Sam’s face as it briefly appeared was more contorted and agonising than I had ever seen anything before, worse than any horror movie I’d ever watched. I belong to them? What did I do? Was it because I read that tale of the crying boy? Staring into the bonfire? Maybe Sam was collateral as they tried to get to me. I didn’t know what was real any more. I spent the next few hours trying to formulate a plan. Could I run from them? Hide from them maybe? Would I have to evade them for my whole life? How can I live a life like this? I contemplated suicide, then dismissed it believing that they would claim my body after death. I would outrun them for as long as I can. Stay smart, stay ahead. I got up and found my old school bag. I stuffed it with rope, pens, a notepad, scissors, money, and various other things I thought I’d need to survive. I would find or build a house next to a lake, and live there, shielding myself from fire for as long as was possible.

When morning came, I still hadn’t slept. I walked downstairs with my packed bag to meet my parents sat at the dining table. We discussed the idea of me leaving for what felt like hours, but I had made my mind up. I was going whether they agreed or not. I didn’t want to put them at risk. My dad realised this, and consoled my mum. He glared at me and demanded I call them every day. I promised I would and told them I’d be back before they knew it, just think of it as an adventure. I cried a bit, and hugged them both goodbye, not knowing if I’d ever see them again. I left the house that morning, almost two years ago now, and have not been back since. I used to phone my parents daily, but my mobile stopped working a while ago. Now I only phone them when I get the chance. It took me about six months to find this little place after I left. A very small abandoned log cabin on the edge of a lake in a clearing in the woods. It was perfect. I disposed of everything that could cause a fire and called it my home. It may sound like I had found peace, but that is far from the truth. I sit here now, by this lake, scrawling my notes in the moonlight. I kept this satchel I stole from a fire station a long time ago with me at all times, I don’t want to lose it. I live every single day wondering if I’ll see them again. I have long since discovered that the dreams only happen if there is a source of fire nearby. I am far from safe though. I’ll never be safe again. I still see the haunting eyes every day in visions and flashbacks. I can feel their sinister presence watching me, just out of sight, waiting for the perfect time to strike. I can almost touch the tendrils of evil that emit from the very thought of the horrors I have endured.

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The notes ended there. After reading them, George looked uneasily at the charred pile of ash he presumed used to be the log cabin upon which he was now stood, and felt an icy chill trickle down his spine. His breath stopped and his chest felt warm.

Credit To – Thomas Lay

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Miss Fortune: Part One

November 14, 2013 at 12:00 AM
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Miss Fortune: Part One
By Michael Gilbert

At some point everyone asks themselves how different their life would be if they had been given a second chance. It could come in any form you like. You could have been one number off of winning the lottery. Maybe you’re one of those people who wondered what would have happened if that ex of yours had taken you back. Whatever it is, at some point you think about those things and you notice people who were given those opportunities and it seemed to work out all right for them, on the outside anyway.

Take it from me; I used to be like that. I used to kick myself all the time for letting myself miss out on some opportunities I was too dumb at the time to follow through with. Then I started loathing the people I saw who were better off than me, and sometimes I would curse at god for picking them over me. I know better now. I don’t think god has much to do with how things like that get chosen. I think now that things all really come down to luck, and our choice as to what to do about it. At least I hope we have a choice when it comes to our own lives, that luck doesn’t rule that too. What I more importantly learned is that sometimes you are better off doing the best with the cards you get dealt, and not trying to change your hand.

The day that I learned this left me looking over my shoulder ever since. Sometimes at night I can catch a glimpse of a faint glow of green eyes watching me. They are never there when I turn around. Whenever I find money on the street, or lose a sock laundry I can feel those eyes staring at me. I was in a car wreck a week ago, a cat ran out in front of me and I swerved to avoid it, hitting the road barrier. As I got out I could swear this chilling giggling came over the radio. The sound was all too familiar to me now. I know it is waiting for me. It’s waiting for one more shot at me, toying with me as time passes. It toys with you too. With everyone.

It all started for me one night at a local casino…

What was that count again? I thought to myself as I stared down at the table. Was it up two or was it three? I doubled down last hand and I was so thrilled to win it I didn’t see the last two cards the guy to the left of me was dealt. The dealer is showing a three so my best bet was to play it safe with my twelve and stand. The old dealer makes a hand gesture on the table and flatly tells me good luck before he moves on to the guy to my left. I only recently learned to count cards, but I had never actually done it at a casino before. It’s easy to do at home on your coffee table quietly saying the numbers out loud, but when you are actually there if you are too obvious about what you are doing it’s an express lane ticket to meeting the pavement outside.

I’m here again tonight. The last time I came in I won some decent money. Not really enough money to do anything meaningful with, but enough to make me want to come back. This time I came prepared with the counting system I learned watching YouTube videos and gleaning what I could from various internet sites. This system is supposed to improve my odds at winning in the long run, but I guess that’s why the call them odds and not surety.
For a moment I look up and stare at the other gamblers on the floor. There are some people around the roulette table, the usual old women parked at their nickel and penny slots, and the other blackjack players. I look in the direction of the high roller area and see men and women in suites and nice dresses throwing money around like it was a game of monopoly. This resentment builds up in my gut so I look away. I was really just pissed at myself.
There was a time when I could have been like that. If I hadn’t dropped out of law school the previous year I could have stuck it out. I could have done something meaningful. I guess I still can, I’m still fairly young. The issue with that was I kept a dead end job at the moment. My father used to help me out financially while I was in school. He was a high end divorce lawyer for people unlucky enough to fall in love with the wrong person. Needless to say he did very well. We had a huge fight when I told him I dropped out of school. My mother had died in a car accident when I was thirteen so I didn’t have her to run to. He said I gave up too easy. I won’t admit it to him, but I know he was right.

I guess I don’t really hate those rich people over in the high roller corner of the room. I’m just angry that I couldn’t cut it to make it like they did. I hate myself for giving up, and blowing what I had away. I saw gambling as an easy fix for how I felt, and maybe, just maybe I could eventually get good enough to turn it around just enough to go back to school and try again.

I glance back at the cards to my left slightly and change the count accordingly. Statistically at this point the dealer should bust. The old man throws the other player a card and then goes back to his own hand. He flips over his down card to show a seven. There is a voice in my head somewhere that goes “Are you kidding me?” He hits and gets a queen of spades.

“Twenty, sorry about that son” The old dealer says in that flat rehearsed voice

“It’s alright, not like I was about to break even or anything” I try to be cool about it.

“Tough break” goes the voice in my head.

“Tough break” I hear somebody say behind me. Almost in unison with the thought I had. I turn my head to the side as this small sinking feeling hit my lungs. It was the kind of jarring feeling you get at weird coincidences like that. To my right was a blonde woman who looked to be in her early thirty’s wearing a dark expensive looking dealer’s uniform. A moment ago the seat on my right side was empty. She was looking at me with these green eyes. It was a strange look she was giving me, almost like she was noticing something nobody else could see. Sometimes you hear people use the term piercing gaze, that didn’t even begin to describe the vibe I was getting from her. Then she smiles at me, slowly, revealing every white tooth at her own pace. The lips hover over her canines slightly and for a moment I almost expected to see a pair of vampire fangs.

“I’m not that pretty” She laughs slightly. I turn my head slightly back to the table. I must have looked stupid staring back at her like that. Normally I would have blushed staring at a woman like that but for some reason I wasn’t getting the blood to my face fast enough. Instead there was this drained feeling.

“Sorry, didn’t see you sit down was all” I tried to brush it off.
“I forgive you….for now…” Out of the corner of my eye I see her smile that vampire’s smile again.

The dealer interrupts her and asks how many chips she is going to buy. She tells him five dollars’ worth.

“Ma’am, it is a five dollar table but are you sure you don’t want any more?”

“Five dollars will be just fine”

The cards get dealt again and see I have a fifteen total for this hand. I realize I had completely forgotten the running count I was keeping. The moment that thought crosses my mind the woman turns her head towards me and says “It all comes down to luck anyway” in a quiet voice. I’m not sure anyone else at the table heard that.

I might have thought she was with the casino, catching card counters, but she was playing like all the other people here. Still she had my attention as we played. I have never said this about anyone else I have ever met but she was eerily fascinating to watch. She was pretty of course, but not the kind of pretty you would see on television or in a fashion magazine, more real to life features, she wasn’t thin (not by today’s standards anyway), but I would not call her fat either. She wasn’t tanned at all but not really pale either. What drew my attention the most was how she played.

It was like watching a child playing a game of go fish. She was just kind of doing things, hitting, standing, doubling down, not really looking like she was considering anything. I would have thought she was just another dumb blonde girl except she was winning…every hand. At first I just blew it off as dumb luck, then after about five hands I started getting angry. I was playing to basic strategy, modifying my bets and my play as I thought the count was going, and I was slowly losing. In contrast I had woman sitting next to me seemingly without a care in the world never losing her smile, making ridiculous plays and having them pay off.

By the tenth hand I was just awestruck. This woman had a hard nineteen for a hand and she picks up her chips and places them by her bet and says “Double down”. The dealer was staring at her incredulously, as was I, and asked her if she was sure. She only giggled at him and nodded her head. She had this look on her face almost made me want to swear she was drunk, but she didn’t have a drink, didn’t even smell of booze. The dealer sighed a bit as he took the next card out of the shoe and placed it next to her hand. There was only one card that would help her, and there it was, a two. The guy to my left roars with disbelief and the dealer laughs. I just keep staring, not even caring about my losing streak. She didn’t seem surprised, or happy, just this look of drunken contentment. Calmly she picks up a five chip and pushes the rest to the table and stands up. The dealer asks her what she doing with her chips and the only thing she says is “Easy come, easy go”.

She turns over to me and says “Hungry? I was just about to go over to the diner if you are interested.”

I was dumbstruck at the sudden offer. The only thing I managed to say was “Sure”. I didn’t even really think about it. As I was cashing out what little I had left I had a short conversation with myself. Maybe she was an elite player who got kicks out of impressing new players; she did catch me counting cards…didn’t she? Maybe she worked for the casino, her outfit does resemble a uniform, but I had never seen any like it before, black with golden trim and silver buttons.

I caught up with her as she entered the diner adjacent from the casino floor. She placed a small handbag on the table and motioned for me to sit at the chair opposite her. It was a nice looking place. It was a hotel diner and casino, not like Vegas or anything but definitely cared about, well furnished and well kept. There was even decent rock music playing overhead at just the right volume to still hear the people at your table. A waitress came over and asked us what we would like to drink. I checked my lightened pockets and I asked for water. The woman only said “No, thank you”

“Normally I’m the one who has to ask somebody out” I joked. She only stared at me with those green eyes of hers as we sat down, her smile no longer present. She reached over the table offering me a handshake. I clasp her hand, noticing an expensive looking ring she was wearing.

“I’m Jake, and you are…Mrs.?”

“Miss”

“Sorry I thought you were married” She looked down at her ring.

“Well, in a way I am. I’m married to my job” She lets go of my hand.

“What is your job?” As soon as I say this I can hear the beeping and whirling noises of a slot machine hitting a jackpot. At the sounding of the slot machine the woman’s eyes slowly close and she gave a contentious smile as the intoxicated look returned to her face.

“Miss, are you okay?”

“I’m wonderful” she giggles a bit as her eyes open again. I admit this woman made me a bit uneasy, but I was too drawn in by everything I had seen to just walk away now.

“Do you work here at the casino?”

“Today I am. Why don’t you ask me what you really want to ask me?”

“What do you mean?”

“At the card table. You want to know how I did what I did”

“How did you do that? It was like you knew what card was coming next” at that time I thought she might be one of those people you see on the news sometimes who have superhuman memory. I thought she might have kept track of where all the cards were. It was a far-fetched explanation I know, but I was at a loss for anything else rational.

“I didn’t know. It was luck”

“Luck…” She must be playing with me.

“So why did you win all that money if you weren’t going to keep it”

“I didn’t win anything I just moved it around a bit is all. It was fun”

“Moved it?”

“Do you keep everything you have ever gotten? Every dollar you earn at your job, does it sit in a bank somewhere or do you send it elsewhere?”

“Well everyone spends their money, but I don’t see how that has to do with your casino chips”

“So it’s not really yours then?”

“Are you talking philosophically? I guess in that sense nobody really owns anything”

“Why do you say that?”

“Well, ultimately you can’t really keep anything”

“And that is my job.” She smiles that drunken vampire smile of hers again as she closes her eyes and rolls her head.

“I’m still not getting it…is something wrong?” She ignores me, seemingly lost in something I can’t quite grasp.

“Somebody here just lost two thousand dollars at the roulette table” As I hear her say that, I can hear aggravated yelling in the distance. She has to be putting me on, I thought to myself. Whatever this woman was on she was really feeling it now. It was like waves of euphoria were washing over her as her body quaked slightly. Her giggling turned to laughter. I felt uncomfortable like people were starting to stare at us. Her laughing died down a bit as she tilted her head down towards her lap. She still had that smile on her face with she slowly brought her head back in my direction. Those green eyes opened as her tongue came out and licked her lips.

If this were any other woman I would have thought I was being hit on. This woman however made me feel like I was a deer staring a wolf in the face. A sudden instinct kicked in somewhere inside me, to run. I wanted to be far away from this woman as possible. I think the only thing that kept me from doing that right then and there was the fact we were in a public place. I would look stupid running away from a pretty girl in front of everyone. I always thought there was some irony about mankind being at the top of the food chain for our intellect and yet so fucking stupid to be able to ignore those kinds of voices.

“So tell me, what is it that you would want if you could have anything” She came to instantly and stared at me with that gaze. I didn’t like it, I wanted to look away from her eyes but I found that I couldn’t. This feeling entered my throat that worked its way down into my chest. At once I found myself talking without meaning to. I told her about how I dropped out of college last year. I was going to law school to become an attorney like my dad. I dropped out because it got too hard and I just gave up. I saw it as years of my life spent on something that may or may not work out. My dad was helping me with the tuition and when I gave up he cut off financial support completely. I told her all of this, every personal detail I wouldn’t tell anyone. I told her about how bad I felt letting my dad down, about how he tried to raise me on his own after my mother died.

“I guess if I could have anything, it would be the money to go back to school”

“So what you want is a second chance?”

“You could say that” I admitted. My control returned and I found I was breathing a bit heavier than normal. I didn’t want to sit here with this woman anymore. I tried to tell her I had a movie date with my girlfriend and I started to get up from the chair. What I heard next made me sit back down.

“You don’t have a girlfriend Mr. Reynolds”

I never told her my last name. She was right though, I didn’t have a girlfriend.

“How did you…” She interrupts me

“I’m going to make you an offer Mr. Reynolds. I can give you that second chance you want”

“What do you mean?” I hate to admit it, but I was curious.

“All you have to do is play your favorite card game again” She says this as she reaches into her handbag and pulls out an odd looking single deck of cards. The backs of which had a black and gold pattern to match her uniform. “The game is blackjack, rules are the same except you cannot surrender hands, and you play to ten hands before you cash out. It will be a game you won’t be able to walk away from once we begin”

“I don’t even have money to bet with”

“Its alright, you have ten chips to start out with” She pulls a handful of solid black poker chips from the handbag and pushes them towards me. “All you have to do is come out ahead at the end of ten hands, and I make sure you get your second chance”

“What happens if I don’t come out ahead” I didn’t fully believe what I was hearing but I just couldn’t pull myself away.

“You will never be able to get another chance again, at anything” She says this as I touch the chips pushed over to me; they were smooth, cold to the touch, and lackluster. As soon as I touch them the woman smiles again. “It has begun”

“What? I didn’t say I wanted to play.”

“You touched the chips, at the tables they make you touch chips that aren’t originally yours before you use them. You touched them, you play.”

I noticed my throat was dry and I looked around for the waitress. I hadn’t gotten my water yet and that’s when I noticed the waitress was gone, in fact the only ones in the diner were myself and this woman. I could no longer hear the music playing either. The air in here had suddenly just gone still. I couldn’t even hear the noises of the casino coming in from outside.

“Where is everyone?” I was definitely on edge now, looking around the room for anyone. The hairs on the back of my neck were standing up as gooseflesh appeared on my arms. I stand up and start calling for the waitress.

“Waitress? You and I are right here” She giggles at me as if I asked a silly question. “Sit down Mr. Reynolds. We have a game to play.”

I step outside the diner and back into the casino floor. Nobody was there, not a single person, no security guard checking IDs at the front, no dealers, and no gamblers, there were not even any old women putting pennies into slot machines. Some movement caught my attention out of the corner of my eye but it was only a roulette wheel still spinning, slowing down as the marble clacked into a slot. As I stare around a bead of sweat rolls down my cheek.

“Mr. Reynolds” I spin around to see the woman at one of the blackjack tables standing at the dealers spot, the black and gold deck in a dispenser. I never saw her get up from the diner, or heard her move. She points at a solitary stool at the opposite end of the table.

“Sit down” She orders me. I started walking hurriedly to the front doors. I pulled out my car keys instinctively. I was half expectant of her to start chasing me; I even took glancing looks behind me. She was still standing at the card table, smiling at me as I made away from her.

I start speed walking in the opposite direction of her, passed rows of slot machines. The machines are dead and lifeless. Then I see her again, the smiling figure between the rows of machines, moving in step with me but always standing there. I can’t see her move but she is right there keeping pace beside me. I go off into a full sprint. I’m zig zagging through the maze of machines; I start to hear the whirling sounds as one by one the slot machines kick on as their reels spin madly. Some spew coins onto the floor like waterfalls as I pass.

I turn the corner, trying anything to shake her. My feet catch a pile of coins on the floor and I fall. As soon as I hit the ground I spin to my back and look up. Nothing is there, nothing but the machines kicking on and off. This sensation touches my right ear and brushes my hair. I spin painfully hard on my tailbone to see her standing over me. This thing resembled her. The out stretched hand had elongated itself and her fingernails took on a sinister sharpness to them. Her jaw was off its hinges and gave way to a wide gait revealing edged teeth as those green eyes sank into the skull, darkening as they went into a faint glow.

“I know you want to play with me” It said.

I scrambled up, nearly falling again as I took off straight for the exit. A couple of my fingernails bent painfully as I scrapped the ground as I got to my feet again. My hands plunged into the jeans I was wearing, frantically searching for my car keys. I had them out as I collided with the door release bar. I had a split second to grab the door again as I drop my car keys, holding onto it for dear life.

When I collided with the door it did indeed give way to the outside. As to what outside I was peering into, to this day I am not sure of. I was looking at nothing. To say there weren’t any cars would assume I was looking at an empty parking lot. To say I was looking at an empty lot would mean I was still looking at a field, at ground, dirt with a sky over it. I couldn’t see any of that. I saw nothing, nothing but a black void giving way to infinity. It was a sickening feeling peering into it, watching my car keys tumbling downward, their jingling swan song fading as I lose sight of them.

“Mr. Reynolds” I hear her voice behind me. My head turns to my back as I see the same horror now half an inch from my face. Through that terrible mouth came a scream that sent a shock through my stomach and the blood racing through my veins like fire. I jumped.

I could not tell you how far I fell, or how long I cried. Failing wildly as I screamed my throat raw. I do remember starting to drift off into my own thoughts as I finally was able to shut my eyes. I remember thinking to myself I would be lucky to finally hit the bottom in my sleep. Sometimes, I wish I would have.

“Mr. Reynolds” I hear the voice of the woman say sweetly. I open my eyes meekly and the smiling figure of the woman is there, behind a card table I find I’m sitting at. Her features were normal again, as if the horror behind that sweet face never existed.

“It’s time to play” She giggles.

Credit To – Author Mike Gilbert. Special Thanks to Bob Vetter and Eric Garcia for their input.

**This is the first entry in the Miss Fortune Series, which will be published one entry per day from Nov 14-16.

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“There might be some noise.”

November 13, 2013 at 12:00 PM
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“There might be some noise.”

That’s what she had said. A phrase that did not even begin to describe what we heard every night. Those agonized screams; nothing a human should ever make.

We had just signed the contract and wanted to go from house to house to introduce ourselves to the neighbors. Hers was the door to our right, the first door we knocked on. “J&K” was written on the doorbell in fancy letters.

She must have been around sixty but her pale skin and the large dark rings around her eyes made her look at least a decade older.

“I’m Kristina,” she said. “And I want to apologize in advance. My husband is not really well and sometimes there might be some noise.”

“No problem,” I said.

“Really,” she said. “Jonathan is not very well. But please don’t call the police on us.”

“Of course, we understand.”

“He is on his bed. I can show him to you.”

“It’s okay,” I said. “We will drop by another time.”

We turned to leave. She stopped us.

“Really, please believe me. He really is just sick. He is not dangerous.”

Claire and I exchanged glances.

“That’s okay,” Claire said. “Don’t worry about us.”

“Sure?” Kristine asked.

“Sure,” I said.

We felt her stare on our backs while we walked down the small path back towards the street.

The moving van came a week later. Our life was thrown into the center of the empty living room.

The day was soaking our shirts with sweat, but we were happy. A new place. The perfect place!

We had pizza and beer and walked in celebration around the house. Singing and dancing we enjoyed our new home.

That’s when we saw him the first time, in Kristine’s house. Ground floor, the window just opposite my new office.

He was wrapped into a blanket up to a chest. Blue pajamas. Wrinkled eyelids deeply shut. A white table with bandages and medicine stood to his side.

Jonathan. Hair and skin so gray that I wondered whether he had been alive when they built the pyramids.

The door in his room opened. We quickly walked on.

It was at precisely 11:45 pm. We were just getting ready for bed; Claire in the bathroom and I already on the bed and waiting for her.

Those screams. The word agony does not even begin to describe them.

There were no words; just guttural sounds, roaring and moaning, like an animal hoping for death.

His screams stopped exactly at midnight.

“Did it stop?”

“I hope so.”

“My god,” Claire said. “What’s wrong with him?”

I shook my head.

“No idea.”

“I hope it’s not every night like that.”

“I’m sure it won’t.”

I was wrong.

I used my office the next day. Only for a short while, but long enough to stare at the open window opposite my own and long enough to feel a nervous cold run up my spine.

Jonathan lay there all day. His eyes closed and his hands on top of the blanket. No sound. No move.

Still like a statue during the day. Screams of agony at night.

More and more I found myself in that office at night. I pretended to work but in truth I was watching.

At around 11pm Kristine would always enter the room. She held a bowl and then closed the windows and curtains. Fifteen minutes before midnight we would hear his screams again. From midnight on – silence.

We learned to listen to loud music. Drums and choir vocals worked well to cover the screams.

It was a Sunday, just two weeks after we had moved in. Claire had seen Kristine leave early in the morning. Kristine came back just before noon. I was outside when her car pulled into the driveway with boxes stuffed into the back of her car.

I took a few steps up her driveway.

“Do you need help?”

“No,” Kristine said. “I never need help.”

She walked around the car and stood in front of the back window.

“Anything else?”

“It’s okay,” I said.

“Jonathan is fine. You hear me? He is fine.”

“Okay.”

“We don’t need your help.”

“Okay.”

I turned to walk back to our house.

“And,” Kristine said. “As said, I’m sorry for the noise.”

That night I had the lights off and waited for her to come.

Kristine entered the room but her sleeve caught on the door handle. The bowl fell from her hands. That’s why she must have forgotten about the curtain.

She cursed and quickly left the room.

When she was back she had another bowl and set it down on the white table.

She pulled the blanket aside.

She placed a large strap over his chest.

She chained his arms and legs to the bed.

She placed another strap over his forehead and pulled it tight.

Kristine froze half-way while turning back towards the table. Quickly she ran towards the window. She glanced outside, first to the right and left, and then towards my window. Her eyes seemed to scan the darkness inside the room. Then she pulled the curtains shut.

It was another week later. Claire saw Kristine sitting on her own doorstep. Kristine was holding her side. The left side of her face seemed limp.

“Are you okay?”

“Sure,” Kristine said. “I’m always okay. Just a bit dizzy.”

Claire walked up the driveway.

“Do you need help?”

Kristine jumped to her feet but quickly felt for the wall.

“No!” she screamed. “We never need help!”

The door slammed shut behind her.

Claire was upset and angry. And still she was worried too.

I wanted to get our minds of those things. We watched TV rather than the window.

We only noticed half an hour after midnight that we hadn’t heard any screams.

I checked the window. He was there, on his bed, soundly asleep.

The room was dark. I guess that’s why I only noticed it in the morning:

Red stains all over his clothes.

The police said that half their basement was filled with empty baby food glasses.

They found Kristine’s upper half on the living room floor. A stroke, that’s what they said.

They found Kristine’s lower half on the bedroom floor, right next to him.

His body, they said, was long cold. Still they couldn’t find a cause of death.

Their burial was a week later. Urns buried in deep holes.

There were not many people at the burial. No friends, no family, just neighbors. It was one of the other neighbors that told me about it. He said he heard it from a friend.

He heard that the cremation was done faster than is customary. Normally they take two or three days.

But for Kristine and Jonathan, he said, it was done the next day.

“They didn’t even wait with the cremation until morning,” he said. “They did it just after midnight.”

Credit To – Anton Scheller

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The Lamp Genie

November 13, 2013 at 12:00 AM
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Many years ago, when I was a kid, I had a strange dream.

I was just six years old. It’s not that big deal to have strange, crazily detailed and realistic dreams at this age, when the imaginative parts of the brain are pulling around with excitement. But that one was different. I felt it; even being just a kid, I could feel that something with that dream was not right. It wasn’t natural.

And, not much later, what came to happen just served to prove that my feelings about it were not a mistake.

Let me tell you about it…

In the dream, I was alone in a park, sitting at a bank. The wind was getting stronger every minute, and for the grey and heavy clouds that was accumulating above my head, I could predict there would soon be a storm.

I’ve always liked storms. And I was happy there, just sitting and feeling the cold wind in my face. Until he showed up. A bald man, with a huge forehead and evil-looking eyes, wearing an outdated white suit with brown shoes. He just appeared there, by my side in the bank, sitting with crossed legs and staring at the horizon mockingly.

He turned to me.

“How are you, kid?”

“Fine” I answered, uncomfortably.

“Just fine? Oh, that’s not right” he responded, energetically “At this age, you should be happier than ‘just fine’. Kids were meant to be happy!”

I just consented quietly, feeling intimidated before his strong voice.

“What do you want to be happy, kid? What do you want to make your life better?” he asked, looking intensely at me with his deep dark eyes.

I stayed quiet. Thinking about it now, I guess I shouldn’t.

“Well, if you don’t know yet…” he said, finally “That’s fine. I’ll give you time. Just let me know when you decide.”

For a time that could have been minutes or could have been hours, we both remained quiet. It’s difficult to notice the time passing in our dreams. At some point, I really started thinking about all those things I would like to chance in my life. Before I could stop it, I found myself telling to the strange man:

“I would like to have my dog back…”

“Your dog?” He repeated, his eyes shining obsessively while he looked at me.

“Yes” I said. “Brown died two years ago… Mama said we could buy another dog, but I really miss him…”

“Well, THAT’S WONDERFUL” he shouted. And after, with a more restrained voice.

“I mean… that’s a pitty, my child. So, would you like to have him back, right?”

“Yes”

The man, then, stood up. He closed his eyes and, with a concentrated face, pointed to the amount of trees in front of us. First, I heard the barking. A few seconds later, a big, fluffy and brown-haired dog came from the darkness of the forest, running toward us. It was Brown, in all its details.

I could not control my happiness. I ran towards him too, and we shocked and rolled in the grass, hugging and kissing each other. I played with Brown for some minutes before going back to the man to thank him.

“That was nothing, son” he said “But tell me, what more could I do to make you happy?”

At that point, I wasn’t afraid or apprehensive anymore. I, actually, almost considered the strange man as a friend. I told him, without hesitance:

“My sister bothers me. You know, she is the eldest… She always thinks she is superior to me in everything. And she can do a lot of thing that I can’t, like going out with her friends at Saturday night. Mother never lets me go out alone.”

The man smiled largely, a crazy expression passing by his eyes. He seemed more and more delighted every minute.

“Well, that’s very simple” he said. And, closing his eyes again, he concentrated himself.

The park, the bank and the trees vanished, and in the next second, I was standing at home’s kitchen with the man and Brown. I went to the upper floor, to check my sister’s room. She was nowhere to be seen, and in the place of her pink room, I found a blue and green one with all my toys in it. Her room, which had always been the largest, had become mine.

I heard my parents calling me from the kitchen, yelling that the dinner was ready. I went there to eat and, for all that night, I experienced how it was like to be a loved and spoilt only child. I loved it. I found the man again in my room, when I went there to sleep, and I thanked him once more.

“Don’t bother thanking” he said. “It was nothing, my little man. Now, say to me, one more thing I can do for you before I go away.”

All my wishes had been satisfied and I had nothing more to ask. Then, I sat down in my bed and thought. What else could I wish? I looked out of the window, for the sky full of stars, and remembered of all that bible stories about the heaven. A perfect place, in the clouds, where all the good people went to. A place where anyone could never get sad.

What could be better than living a perfect life with my dog and my parents? Living a perfect life with my dog and my parents in a perfect place, where any of us would never be sad again.

That was when I said to the man:

“I wanna go live in heaven!”

And, again, he smiled.

He vanished, and for the rest of the night, I lived in a little house in heaven, right next to God, with a big garden where I played with my dog and my parents. There was chocolate cake and milk for us to eat when we got hungry. There was a giant bed where we all could lay down to sleep together when we got tired.

But dreams does not last forever.

When I woke up from the dream next morning, it was my birthday. As a present, my mother appeared with a new dog for me. It looked just like Brown.

The dog, though, was not exactly the same. It was much more aggressive than Brown, and it tried to bite me more than once. In a few weeks, I already hated him.

Ten years passed, and I didn’t think about the dog or the dream very much. But then, in my seventeen birthday, a tragedy happened in my family. My sister, driving home after having some alcohol in a party, crashed the car with a truck in the middle of the street. The car was completely smashed, and so was her. The doctors believe she died instantly.

After that, I started getting scared. “Could that be, somehow, related with my dream? Would I be responsible for my sister’s death, just because of a stupid wish I made ten years ago?” I asked myself.

I almost went crazy. I had nightmares every night, where my dog would came out of its grave as a zombie, and where my sister, with her bones crashed and covered in blood, would turn to me and blame me for her accident.

In these nightmares, I didn’t see the strange man even once.

But, today, I guess all me problems will be solved. All my questions will be answered.

I asked for my dog, and it came to me in my seventh birthday. I asked for my sister to disappear, and it happened in my seventeenth birthday. Finally, I asked for me and my parents to go live in heaven…

And today is my twenty seventh birthday.

Credit To – Natália C

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Pigs

November 12, 2013 at 12:00 PM
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Toby Mills winced as he felt the soft ground give way under his foot. He had stepped in a cow pie, ruining his brand new Armani loafers. “Son of a…,” he said under his breath.

Toby swiped at the shoe with his new handkerchief as he swayed and bounced on one foot. “Maybe trying to walk five miles back to the gas station was a bad idea,” he thought the split second before he fell backwards just scarcely missing the sea of droppings.

“Out of gas in the middle of Incest Bluffs, Kentucky. What a freakin wonderful setting for a Harvard Business School grad,” said Tody to no one in particular. “I was buying a penthouse, damnit!”

The involuntary lie down made Toby realize all at once how little he’d slept in the past couple of days. He closed his eyes and imagined the king-sized bed with satin sheets in his lost cause penthouse. A bottle of Petron on ice next to the bed, a three thousand dollar per night hooker in his arms. It might as well be Heaven.

If only chicks today weren’t so freakin hypersensitive,” he thought.

Sheila Jowski- luscious, young, obvious daddy issues- even now the thought of her in that tight skirt got Toby a little excited. Ever since high school, Toby had had an easy time with any girl he wanted. It didn’t matter how cynical, how feminist, how Catholic, how taken she was. All he had to do was flash that smile his parents had paid so much for and offer her a ride in the red Maserati nicknamed the Rubber Wagon and she was his for as long as he wanted her. Of course, when there were so many others pigeons in the sky, “as long as,” was never all that long to Toby. “Why should it be?” he thought.

“When you’re this much of a god, it’s a crime not to share it with the world,” he always told his friends when they asked why he’d never had a steady girlfriend.

That is until Sheila. As much as she still turned him on, Toby couldn’t help but feel a little rage when he thought of her. “Why did she have to be so sensitive? Why did she have to file a sexual harassment claim? It was only a little pinch. I was just being friendly for crying out loud,” Toby thought.

He wasn’t mad at his boss. How could he be mad at “Keg Stand” Greg Johnson from back at Theta House? Greg’s hands were tied. Damn political correctness. He did all he could to keep Toby from being fired. “I’ve called in all the favors that I can. This is all I can do for you, man. The sales division has an opening out in Louisville, Kentucky. Basically you’d be hoofing it around those parts of farm country with crappy phone service schilling grain and pesticides in person,” Greg said.

“C’mon, Greg! College intern work?” Toby said. “That’s really all you can do?”

“It’s either that or take a bunch of rehab classes and see if the mail room down at Chalmers Agriculture is available,” Greg said. “Times have changed since we were in school. All these companies have a zero tolerance policy, now.”

Toby sighed. “Well, thanks for doing all you can,” he said.“I guess I’ll see you on Phil Gunderson’s yacht on Labor Day if I don’t get shot by the Deliverance kid or something.”

Toby had to admit that Louisville was not as bad as he thought it would be. Yes, there wasn’t a woman in sight above a six or a seven, but Greg had managed to get him a nice enough apartment and the company car that he had free use of wasn’t too old and clunky. He could make a passable life here, he thought. Maybe he could even spread a little New York class to the Louisville club scene. That is, if he wasn’t wasting all his weekends driving into the sticks, staying in rancid motels and courting E. Coli in roadside diners to sell pesticides and growth additives to mouth breathers in faded dungarees.

But at least Toby always made it through without too many problems. These hicks were pretty easy to charm, after all. In no time he had become the Louisville sales branch’s top mover of pesticides. All he had to do was have some lemonade with them, tell their ugly daughter how pretty she was and sometimes he’d even get some farm fresh eggs or fresh venison out of the deal. As disgusting as it was for him out in the Valley of the Rubes, at least it was the easiest work he’d had in a while.

“Wake up, boy! You’re gonna get heat stroke lying in the road like this if someone doesn’t run you over,” said a voice. Toby yawned and opened his eyes to see a gaunt, older man in flannels poking him with a stick. Toby lept to his feet, startled

“That must have been your car I saw on the side of the road a couple miles back,” the old man said pointing to Toby’s gas can. The old man chuckled and extended his hand. “The name’s Pete Kearns. You look like you could use a ride.”

Toby almost had to cover his ears from all the squealing in the truck as he climbed in and buckled up. “Pigs, huh? We have a lot of local pig farmers on the client roll,” Toby said. He had always believed that the greatest salesmen were on the hunt for a score even when they were distracted.

“You must be one of those agricultural salesmen from Louisville, then,” Pete said as the old truck struggled to start. “We’ve had you folks out to the farm a couple of times. Can’t say I’ve really been interested in your products, though. No offense.”

“That must have before I transferred in,” said Toby. “You’d have bought if I was selling to you.”

“You’re pretty dang sure of yourself, boy,” Pete said. “You remind me of my nephew, Earl.”

“Was he in sales?” Toby asked.

Pete paused and inhaled through his nose. “No, he was a pig farmer,” he said, “You just remind me of the glint in his eye and the way he talked. I take it you’re one for the ladies, too? Yeah, so was Earl.” Pete sighed.

“He lives around here?” Toby asked, half-interested in the responses.

Another silence, “He passed on,” Pete said. “We call it the Hog’s Breath. He didn’t last more than a few days. Still, I suppose he brought it on himself, runnin around on his young wife like he did.” Pete’s hands shook a bit.

“So this “Hog’s Breath,” has City Health been…” Toby’s head almost smacked against the window as Pete jerked the wheel left and turned onto a dirt road at the last second.

“Sorry bout that,” Pete said. “It’s getting dark. You’re going to have to stay with us tonight. I’ll take you into Lofton’s Bend for gas in the morning.”

“What? I’m on a schedule,” Toby said. “I’ve got to be all the way in Weams by tomorrow. You’ve got headlights. Why can’t we keep going?”

Pete’s countenance fell. “I’d like to help ya, son. I really would. But round here, folks don’t go out at night except in emergencies and your predicament just doesn’t qualify.”

“Why shouldn’t it?” Toby said. “Without people like me, smallholders like you would be out of business and I’m just barely going to make it to Weams as it is.”

“I just can’t,” said Pete. “Don’t worry. Just let me call your office when we get to Lofton’s Bend tomorrow. I’ll explain everything so you don’t get in trouble. Now, just relax. The misses’ll be cooking up a fine ham just butchered yesterday. We’ll get a nice soft bed ready for you and I’ll even uncork some of my good cider!”

Toby was a little tired, after all. Maybe this rube could work some magic on his bosses and get him off the hook. Toby had actually been ever so slightly impressed by old Pete’s communication skills. “Oh, alright,” Toby said and stretched.

As sunset faded into twilight, the truck came up to a well kept 19th Century farmhouse nestled in a dale about a half mile from the highway. A plump, somewhat greying woman stepped out onto the porch just as they pulled up to what Toby swore could pass for the set of The Waltons. The woman smiled and waved at them as two large men in ill fitting denim overalls rushed to the back of the truck to unload the pigs with Pete.

“Well, you must be the man from the city,” the woman said. “I’m Beulah, Mr. Kearns’ wife.”

“How do you do, ma’am? I’m Toby Mills.” Toby strained to remember when Pete could have made a call to his wife telling her to expect a houseguest.

He forgot all about it when he saw what came out of the door next. She was tall, buxom, brunette with a cute short haircut, wearing a blue floral print dress that hugged her midsection to show off her curves, and she had the most amazing pale blue eyes. They almost seemed to be of another world. They sparkled in the light of the porch with an odd reflective quality that nearly made Toby shudder.

The mystery woman shot a smile in his direction and, before Toby could open his mouth in greeting, darted off toward what he assumed was the barn. “That’s my daughter Polly,” Pete said from behind Toby. “She can be a bit rude sometimes but don’t pay her no mind. She couldn’t sit still ever since she was a little tiny thing. The kids can finish putting the pigs away. C’mon in and relax!”

Toby was about to comment on Polly’s beauty along with an obsequious comment on Mrs’ Kearn’s own when he was ushered somewhat forcefully into the warm house. It was a very quaint setup, hardwood floors and grayish wallpaper with little white flowers on it. It had a small kitchen with what looked to be 1980s appliances and a sofa and ancient looking armchairs huddled around an old TV that seemed to only be showing static.

In one of the armchairs, sat an old woman. She was so small compared to the chair that Toby hadn’t even seen her when he came in the door. Her old, claw-like hands gripped fast to the arms of the chair like the talons of an eagle. Aside from a quick sideways glance at Toby, she stared straight at the TV, her eyes boring into the static like a drill into solid rock.

“That’s my mother,” said Beulah. “She hasn’t been able to speak or move around much since the stroke, but she sure does love visitors! Don’t ya, Ma?” The old lady didn’t glance up, she just mumbled something angry sounding.

“Don’t be like that, Ma! Mr. Mills was stranded on his way from the city and he’s only staying here for a night.” It was almost as if she was in awe of her mother, maybe even afraid of her, even in this helpless state. Toby just brushed it off as the result of a lifetime of memories of deference.

“Well, she’s in a bit of a sour mood,” Beulah said. “I think she’s just mad that her game shows aren’t coming in right.” Beulah banged on the TV set to no apparent avail and the old lady strained as if trying to make out an image.

The oven alarm dinged as Polly and the two men came back in the house. “Were the pigs any trouble,” Pete said.

“No trouble at all, Dad,” said the one with the shaved head who Toby would come to learn was called Mike.

“Earl’s gettin’ pretty fat. Might be a good time to turn him into meat for the winter,” said the blonde one, Sam.

“You named the pig after your dead nephew?” Toby said as he attempted to sit down next to Polly.

“Oh, no. The pig is Earl Jr,” said Buelah as she set out the side dishes. “Earl raised it from a piglet,” it’s just a silly little naming custom around here. “We inherited it when Earl passed away. Bless his soul. Butter for your potatoes, Dear?”

“No ma’am! I’m set up fine right here,” said Pete. Toby noticed that Polly seemed to be tasked with feeding the old woman. He had never been more jealous of a stroke victim in his life. “So, you folks must be doing pretty well for yourselves this year despite the drought,” he said.

“It’s been fair,” Pete said nodding slowly.

“It’s all thanks to Gran,” Mike said before his mother shot him the stair of death.

“What do you mean?” Toby asked.

“Oh, it’s just a silly superstition the boys have. Don’t encourage them any,” said Beulah.

“Gran has what folks around here used to call The Knack,” Polly said from the living room.

“The Knack? You mean like witchcraft?” Toby said.

“She gives us rain and makes the hay grow fast and makes the pigs nice and fat and everything!” Sam said.

“It’s just a silly story she used to tell the kids. That’s all,” Beulah said. “And I’ll thank all of you not to make us look bad by spreading such nonsense in front of our guest.”

After dinner, the family gathered round the TV to see if they could get enough reception from the city to watch Nick at Nite but Toby felt a bit ill and decided to go to bed early. Pete showed him to the guest room upstairs- a cozy little room under the roof with a single sized bed and a bare bulb dangling from the ceiling.

“Well, sleep tight and holler if you need anything,” Pete said.

For a moment, Toby wanted to ask him if he believed the old lady was really a witch, but he decided it was best to drop the night’s silliness. “Er, good night, Pete. Thanks for putting me up.”

Pete nodded at the floor and shut the door. Toby lay there in the dark fantasizing about Polly and listening to the sounds of the night. He had wanted to sneak into her room and seduce her that night. By the time the faint sounds of TV and laughter had died down, though, he decided that it might look bad for him if he got caught or if Polly rebuffed his advances. He decided that he would find a way to approach her tomorrow, perhaps after breakfast.

Toby woke up with a start from a nightmare. Reaching for the pitcher of water on the nightstand, he swore as he heard it drop to the floor. Rising from bed to turn the light on, he happened to look out the window at the barnyard below just for a second.

That second was all it took for Toby’s blood to freeze. There, in the middle of the barnyard, distinctly visible in the moonlight, was a massive, fat black pig standing perfectly on its hind legs and staring up at him.

The two looked into each others eyes for what must have been at least five minutes. Then the pig let out a shrill screech that didn’t sound like any pig noise that Toby had ever heard. It sounded more like a foghorn somehow combined with the hissing of a cat and a woman’s scream at the same time.

As Toby slapped his hands against his ears to shield the pain, he saw what seemed to be a pale blue mist coming from the half open barn door behind the hideous creature. It circled around the pig in a lazy arc, almost beautiful as it reflected the moonlight. Toby was too frightened to move even as the pale blue mist wafted higher and higher in the air. As the mist reached his level, Toby willed himself through sheer adrenaline to shut the window

The mist began to somehow thicken and press against the window. Heavy condensation spread over every square inch of the glass. Toby began to scream as it fractured and shattered into uncountable tiny pieces on the floor.

“Pete! Anybody! For the love of God, get in here!” Toby wrenched his eyes away from the encroaching mist and pulled and banged on the door. Had Pete locked him in?

The thick, almost palpable mist now nearly filling the small room, Toby began to feel as if something cold and clammy was grabbing at his clothing, trying to pull him toward the window. He hurled himself against the door as he continued to scream, receiving not a peep of acknowledgement from the other side. In fact, the lights in the hall weren’t even on.

The next day, the Kearns family sat down to breakfast after a restful night. Pete made his good raspberry pancakes with eggs, bacon, and pork sausage- Sam’s favorite. As a crash rang out from the barnyard, Sam and Mike grumbled as they left the table.

The new pig must have been awake and making a ruckus. Polly waited till Sam was out the door and took some of the bacon off his plate to give a little extra to her beloved Gran.

Credit To – Cosmo Fish

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