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I’m Not Scared

May 31, 2013 at 12:00 AM
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I have to be brief, for I don’t really know how long I have until it finds me.

My name is Daniel Lockwood, I’m a 20 year old British citizen and I’ve been living in China for the last 18 months. My Mother’s name is Deborah Lockwood. I am typing this on an Ipad. It’s around 10.45pm on Tuesday 30th April 2013. I am unsure of my exact location, but I am somewhere in the mountains south of Beijing, on the border of Hebei province, close to a small village named Shidu.

My fingers are trembling as I quietly tap away at the touch screen and tears are flowing heavily from my eyes, creating a satisfying patter sound as they slam against the smooth surface of the tablet. A cigarette is hanging loosely from my lips. This space is tight and unwelcoming, not the kind of tomb I had hoped for.

Please forgive any spelling mistakes or nonsensical ramblings, my vision is slightly blurred and my mind abundant with unimaginable horrors. Isn’t it funny, that even in death the brain is concerned with such trivial things as grammar?

Anyway… This is my legacy. If you are reading this, I hope to God that you are warm and safe, within the confines of a locked room or in a heavily populated area. I hope that your friends and family are close by or that your pet cat is cuddled up on your lap. The tale I’m about to tell is not for the faint hearted, nor is it fabricated or exaggerated. It’s the telling of a desperate man’s final hour in existence, one filled with horror, fear and experiences he wouldn’t wish upon his worst enemy. The purpose of this final entry is to reveal the truth, to let it be documented that there are still things in this world that we don’t understand, that we’ve not discovered. There are still things in this world that haven’t emerged from the darkness to reveal their twisted and unholy faces. But I’m not scared anymore.

If you are reading this, I am surely dead.

Around 11 hours ago, myself and 4 others embarked on a ‘mini-adventure’ outside of the familiar and into the wild. I won’t waste time on back stories and the like, all you really need to know is that the 5 of us were intrepid travellers, a close group of friends who thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company and frequently enjoyed treks and hikes together. Of this 5, only I remain, and soon my life will too come to a grizzly end.

This particular escapade landed us in Shidu, a small and rural village far on the outskirts of Beijing municipality, China. Shidu is famous for its beautiful scenery, adventure activities and serenity. It’s also famous for its rich and colourful folklore, an area of Asia that often attracts crypto-zoologists from around the globe.

If you live in a foreign country for long enough, and take enough of an interest in its traditions, you will reach further and further into the foundations of its culture, learning about the food and history and mannerisms. You will eventually and undoubtedly come across an aspect of that culture that is often a very defining and unique feature – Fairytales and stories about beasts and boogies that hide in the forests or under your bed. Goblins and ghouls that will suck your soul out through your mouth, or drag you kicking and screaming through the earth until you reach the burning core of hell. You’ll learn about graveyards and rituals, superstitions and spells, curses and ghosts. All of these things add a certain charm and elegance to a culture and Chinese culture is brimming with such legends.

I have taken that step from reality into the realm of legends. No longer am I skeptical of the shadows in my cupboard or the creaks from the attic. I now believe that people have been possessed or abducted or probed or haunted or eaten or defiled in horrifying ways by horrifying things. These things I now know to be true. But I’m not scared anymore. I just hope that there is a God who can offer me some form of peace after this ordeal comes to its inevitable end…

We departed from Beijing’s city centre at around 11am, excited and well prepared for a couple of days in the mountains, armed with snacks, cameras and a sense of adventure. As the concrete jungle behind us slowly faded away into the thick layer of smog that frequently engulfed the city, the 5 of us enjoyed a long and comfortable ride through the Chinese countryside, passing large open fields and seas of rotten wooden shacks, which became less recurrent as we entered the sloping valleys and canyons that twisted through south-western Beijing.

The first port of call was a brief stop at the guest house, where we could stretch our legs, wash up and offload any unnecessary baggage. I’m not going to attempt to make this into a cliché horror story by providing falsifying claims of unsettling landlords or shaky warnings from deformed locals, because none of that happened. It was an ordinary guest house within the confines of ordinary mountains, inhabited by ordinary folk living ordinary lives. There was nothing extraordinary about this place just yet.

After a quick shower, a bite to eat and a cigarette, we hopped back onto the bus and started the brief journey to the beginning of the hike, which would take us through the most rural and unexplored section of this particular mountain range. At 5.20pm, we arrived. The driver, a stern but pleasant local man, told us to call him roughly 30 minutes before we wanted to be picked up. We responded by informing him that we should have completed the hike by about 9pm.

I guess he’s getting pretty worried by now.

We purposefully chose to start the hike slightly later than usual, to avoid swarms of other tourists, but admittedly not as late as we did. The sun was already waning in the sky, foreboding the fading light that would soon be devoured by darkness. The last few drips and drabs of sightseers were funneling out of the narrow opening ahead, shooting us concerned looks as we shambled past them on our way up. We had traversed tough terrain in the late evening before, so we didn’t give much thought to the implications of a night hike.

The first hour or so of the hike was relatively undemanding, lightly inclining slopes and steps, paralleled with rows of stone carvings and badly translated signs. All of the stalls and markets that accompanied the first section of the trail were deserted now, save for the one or two remaining locals gathering their cheap tat and trinkets, ready to sell on the next day. We only passed a handful of others, who shot us yet more disconcerting looks as we strolled past them in the fading sunlight. Areas of the mountain had already been swallowed up by shifting shadows, other sections were relishing in the last few minutes of luminosity.

The trail gradually became more demanding as equally spaced steps became less and less frequent. After about an hour and a half of trekking, we came across a tattered notice board which informed us of our current position and distance from the peak, not too far away.

The only sounds that filled the evening air were our voices as we discussed the next day’s activities – water rafting and horseback riding. Gaps in conversation would bring a dead silence. There wasn’t even a breeze to rustle the trees, not a cricket chirping, not a bird tweeting. Just silence. Even the sounds of our heavy footsteps seemed to be drowned away by the enormity of the mountain.

Close to the peak, we came across a small, traditionally crafted pagoda. The path split in two here, one lead straight ahead, further up the mountain and towards the peak. I remember from the map that this was also the exit route, which eventually wound down and intercepted the entry path close to the bottom. The other path strayed off to our right. This route, dutifully named ‘cloud road’, was steep and led to a large raised viewing platform about 200 meters above.

We spent a few moments deliberating whether or not to take the minor detour to catch a glimpse of the setting sun from one of the mountains few viewing platforms. Sarah and Thomas, the couple of the group, decided that they would have a rest at the pagoda. The rest of us, assuming that they just wanted some alone time, sighed and began to make our way up to the platform.

It wasn’t much of a detour, perhaps 10 minutes each away, but a tiring walk nonetheless. Neither of us really spoke much on the way up, the path was too uneven to focus on conversation, but the top of the platform rewarded us with a breathtaking view of the landscape. The mountains stretched on for as far as the eye could see. Even in the waning light, I could see far into the distance. The rolling hills seemed to carry on forever and signs of early summer blossomed and cascaded over the slopes. We spent 5 or so minutes catching our breath at the rest stop. I enjoyed a celebratory cigarette, resting against the lone fir that occupied the platform, appreciating the spectacular view that lay before me.

I found myself unable to take my eyes away from the scene. The hills seemed to twist and ripple around me, not in a sinister way, but in a magnificent display of beauty. It wasn’t until my friend Jay nudged me that I awoke from my day dream, crushed the cigarette butt into the ground and turned on my heels to begin the descent back down to the pagoda.

The sun was hanging very low in the sky now, disappearing behind a large set of mountains to the west as we fumbled our way down. Gradually, the pagoda emerged from behind the shrubbery and into view. Sarah and Thomas were no longer perched on one of its colourful beams as they had been before. My first thought was that they were probably responding to a call of nature in a nearby bush, or that they had gone on ahead without us.
Then Clare saw it. Then she screamed. Then we all saw it.

A human scalp, sprouting long, blood-matted blonde hair lay on the ground towards the back of the pagoda. Folds of tattered skin were hanging loosely from the main bulk of the flesh. It looked like a piece of road kill and as though it had been clumsily removed using a blunt instrument, or perhaps a giant animal’s claw. It was clearly identifiable as being from Sarah’s head. The rest of her was nowhere to be seen. Long streaks of crimson had stained the wooden floor of the pagoda, and lead away into the foliage just past it. My eyes shifted from the gory mess in front of me to the left, where a detached jaw lay clumsily on the soil. Velvety tendons protruded from the thing. Whatever had ripped it from its owner did so quickly and with almighty strength.

I began to taste acid on the back of my tongue as mouthfuls of thick hot vomit made its way out of my stomach and up my esophagus. I could barely distinguish between the sounds of my friends screaming and the throbbing retches that accompanied the stream of bile that flowed from my mouth. My stomach had emptied itself onto the earth before me, stinging my nose and eyes as it did so. Somebody grabbed me by the shoulder and was yelling maniacal and undecipherable words at me. My legs instinctively began to carry me away from the nightmarish scene and along the unexplored path ahead.
The sounds of heavy breathing and clumsy footsteps rang through the trees and bounced off the rock faces surrounding us. Dusk was settling in and the first few stars began winking in the void above me. We sprinted for several minutes, plummeting through thick shrubs as we lost all sense of direction, fuelled solely by adrenaline.

The path was tight here, barely enough space for two people to stand side by side. I glanced over my shoulder to see that the others weren’t far behind me. Their panic stricken faces only served to heighten my own desperate fear. Another 20 seconds of sprinting led me to take a sharp left turn around a protruding rock, after which I stopped dead in my tracks.

Fear is a horribly difficult emotion to describe. It does things to the human body that can traced back to the earliest species of man. It forces hair follicles to stand on end in an attempt to make our forms seem more menacing. It commands a fight or flight instinct, designed to secure our continued existence when confronted with something potentially life threatening. Fear can also paralyze the human body, a reaction to frightening stimuli that is less understood by those who study it.

This latter reaction, being paralyzed, is the unfortunate response my body decided to commit to when confronted with the terror ahead. The path in front was again long and narrow. It was lined with brooding trees, most of which hung delicately over the lane. Roughly 100 meters along the trail stood, or rather ‘hunched’, a figure. I immediately came to the conclusion that it was not human. It was far too tall, perhaps close to 8 foot, even with its drooping posture. Its arms and legs were massively out of proportion to its body, stretching almost to the floor. I couldn’t quite make out any defining features; it was far too dark to pick up on anything other than its overall size and shape. One thing I did notice, however, was that it was clutching something in its right hand. This ‘something’ was dripping a thick liquid, which was pooling in the earth below.

I assumed that the others had witnessed the same horrific sight as I had; I could sense them standing close behind me. Even in this situation, the closeness of others provided the slightest amount of comfort. I’m not really sure how long we were standing there. It could have been as much as several minutes. I can’t say for sure how I knew it, but I was certain that I was staring into whatever it had instead of eyes. Dark voids occupied the space, a shade of such complete blackness, it was unnatural.

It dropped whatever it had clasped in its claws, extending its slender fingers so that they scraped the ground below. The object, which I now assumed to be a chunk of flesh, splattered onto the soil. The thing began creaking and moaning as it shifted slightly.

Then it began running straight towards us. Life swept back through my limbs as I launched myself in the opposite direction, pushing past the others in a selfishly desperate attempt to put myself ahead of them. The thing was screeching now, a blood-curdling sound that quickly intensified as it grew nearer. I had been running for a few seconds when I heard a different kind of scream. I can only assume that it had mounted Jay, for the most unnerving shriek, obviously that of a male, stung my ears, quickly followed by a loud thud. His screams were soon cut off by a sharp snapping sound that echoed through the night. It certainly was not the sound of a branch breaking.

Tears blurred my vision, making it difficult to navigate the uneven path. Frequent glances over my shoulder confirmed that Clare was not far behind me. Looking past Clare, I could see the thing, sitting atop Jay’s chest and greedily gnawing on his face. One prolonged look treated me to a view of the thing pulling Jay’s eyeball out of its socket with its teeth. The optical nerve stretched to a surprising length, before eventually snapping and bouncing back and forth like a child’s play thing. It slurped the sensory organ into its gaping maw and swallowed it down whole, sending it down into its abyssal stomach.

I turned again, making eye contact with Clare, whose face was a mess of colours as her makeup was sent sprawling across it in a mixture of sweat and tears. My stomach lurched again when I noticed that the thing was no longer in view. Jay’s mangled corpse still lay awkwardly on the floor. I screamed at Clare.

“IT’S GONE, IT’S GONE”

Clare immediately swung her head around in an attempt to confirm my claims. As she did so, her foot caught on a stray root that had defiantly pushed its way through the rock floor. I tumbled to a halt, only catching a short glimpse of her rag-doll like form as she toppled over the edge of the steep bank on her left. I could do nothing but stand and listen to her muffled yelps as she crashed down through the foliage. The drop was at least 20 meters and strewn with ragged rocks and tangled trees.

I made a necessary and self preserving decision right then, to carry on without her. If she managed to survive the fall, then surely the thing would get her anyway. I pelted my way back down, past the pagoda and the scalp and the jaw. I fell down a couple of times, quite seriously hurting myself.
I ran until I could physically run no more, and collapsed in a heap on the floor. My chest and head were pounding violently and for the first time since the start of the ordeal, I had a few seconds to reflect on the reality of what had happened. 3 out of 4 of my friends were certainly dead, the fourth’s fate as yet unknown. This thing was fast and likely had super-human sensory abilities. Was there just one of them? Or had a whole clan of monsters evolved in this untouched region of China. The thought of a group of the things made me whimper audibly.

I screamed quietly as my phone vibrated against my leg. I quickly fumbled it out of my pocket, so as to silence the damned device and use it to call for help, now that I had a chance. Clare was calling me. I answered it immediately and put the phone to my ear. She was sobbing painfully. Through the weeping, I could hear her saying,
“Why did you leave me? Why did you leave me? Why?”
And then,
“It’s here. It’s here now. It’s just standing there. Watching me. Just standing there. Right in front of me”
A screech, a scream and a sickening squelching noise bellowed through the speakers. I scrambled along the ground and into a crevasse in the side of the mountain, behind a bush, and buried my face into my knees. Indescribable sounds continued to stream out of the mobile phone, which I had placed on the ground in front of me. A brief moment of silence followed, eventually broken by the sniffing, creaking sounds of the thing. It handled the device for a few seconds before screeching, dropping it and galloping off into the night.

I threw the phone away from me and rustled through my backpack for a cigarette and my Ipad.

I’ve spent the last 30 minutes chain smoking and immortalizing my last words. It’s almost time, I can feel it. I’m not scared anymore, because I know it will be all over soon. Anybody reading this might think it insane of me to just sit and wait for death as opposed to attempting escape. I don’t really know why I’m not currently cascading through the night; it just feels right that I sit here and wait. I’m not scared anymore.

It’s here now. I heard its silent footsteps a few moments ago. Now it’s standing about half a meter away from me, on the other side of this bush. I can see its pale, scaly, thin legs through the shrubbery. I can see its crimson-stained claws hanging freely by its side, almost touching the floor. I can hear its controlled breathing and croaking. I can smell its thick musk and the drying blood around its face. It’s my turn now, and I’m not scared.

Credit To – Reece Ayers

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Admin Update 5/30/2013: New Comment Features & Tracking Favorite Posts

May 30, 2013 at 9:14 AM

After some recent suggestions, I’ve added some new features to the comments sections. I just wanted to make a quick post to let you guys know what exactly has been added and some details on how some of the functions work.

  • You may now preview your comment in real time as you’re writing it. This means that you can make sure your comment is formatted properly and that any html tags you’re trying to use are correct. Note that there’s also a spellcheck button (the green checkmark), which you are encouraged to use if you tend to struggle with that sort of thing. If you need a larger comment box, clicking the gray arrow icon next to the spell check button will open up an expanded comment input window.
This is how the comment preview looks and functions!

This is how the comment preview looks and functions!

  • If you’re replying to multiple comments (or one really long comment), you now have the option to use a quote function similar to a forum. This won’t be necessary for a lot of people since threaded replies can make it clear who you’re replying to, but it’s nice if you want to make your replies look a certain way. Here’s an example:
Answer: Yes, it is.

Answer: Yes, it is.

  • You may also edit your comments in a brief period (five minutes) after making them. So if you messed up and said something dumb and had instant comment regret, or you just made a typo, you have five minutes after hitting ‘submit’ to make edits. There’s even a helpful timer to let you know how much time you have left before you lose the ability to make edits!
To start editing your comment, hit the red "Edit" link below your comment. Also note the timer - it will count down in real time.

To start editing your comment, hit the red “Edit” link below your comment. Also note the timer – it will count down in real time.

When the edit link is clicked, this form will allow you to edit your comment.

When the edit link is clicked, this form will allow you to edit your comment.

  • If you really, really messed up and you just want your comment to be gone completely, you can request deletion. Once again, this only works for five minutes after you hit ‘submit’ on your comment. Hit the “Request Deletion” link and fill out the form that pops up, and I’ll handle it when I log in to the comment queue.
For when you instantly realize that you've made a horrible mistake.

For when you instantly realize that you’ve made a horrible mistake.

  • You may also now report comments. This is really only meant to be used in extreme cases – I tried to go through all the old comments with certain words and delete anything incredibly offensive, but it’s possible that I missed some. If you see anything that’s racist/sexist/homophobic, really sexually inappropriate, personally abusive, spam that somehow both the filter and myself missed, or revealing personal information of another user, feel free to report it and I’ll take a look at it. That said, please keep a few things in mind before going report-happy:
    • Each comment can only be reported ONCE. If I get a report and deem the comment okay, it cannot be reported again. This is to prevent people who are tempted to go on a troll report spree from wasting my time with dumb reports.
    • Do not report someone simply because you disagree with them, don’t like their username, or any other petty reasoning. If they hate Jeff the Killer and you’re his biggest fan, that’s not a reason to report them.
    • Racist, sexist, homophobic, etc slurs are not acceptable – please do report these. However, don’t waste time by reporting generic swear words. I don’t care if someone said “shit” or “fuck” so please don’t bother reporting comments for cussing.
    • If you ignore these and fill the report queue up with dumb reports, I might decide to ban YOU from commenting. This varies on how bad a mood I’m in and how many pointless reports you decided to send in, so please think before you start spamming that report button, okay?
This would have been a good comment to report if I hadn't already removed the spam link.

This would have been a good comment to report if I hadn’t already removed the spam link. Just say no to shilling your scraper sites, guys!

  • Lastly – and this isn’t a comment feature, but I’m not making a new post solely for its introduction – you may now keep track of your personal favorite posts. On each individual post page, there will be a link with a heart that says “Add this post to your favorites!” Clicking this link will add a cookie to your browser that tracks it on the View Your Favorite Pastas page. You may access this page at any time via the top menu bar. Note that clearing browser cookies will also clear your favorites, and if you have cookies disabled, this function will not work for you. You can remove a pasta from your favorites via your favorites page or the individual post – just click the “Remove” button. Also remember that the list will automatically add sticky/announcements to your favorites in an effort to get more people to actually read them, so don’t be surprised if you see them on the list without actually having added them! And since everyone loves random data: as people add posts to their favorites, the top ten favorited posts will be displayed on the sidebar.
I fully expect this post to be added to everyone's favorites.

I fully expect this post to be added to everyone’s favorites.

Disclaimer: This doesn't actually reflect my favorite pastas, as it would be a much longer list if it did!

Disclaimer: These aren’t the only two pastas that I like, of course.

That’s all the new stuff for today! I hope that helps you all to understand what all the new features are, and please enjoy using them. Now I’ll fade back into the submission-reading void…

The Darkness

May 30, 2013 at 12:00 AM
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Rating: 8.8/10 (1760 votes cast)

Call me outdated, but Counter-Strike is still at the top of my all-time favorite video games.

Late night at the dorm alone, playing up until 3 am, with full volume on. Yeah, that’s my style. Today was supposed to be no different.

I turned on my MacBook Pro. The glossy screen made a clear reflection of my long, narrow room. The dorm’s rooms were all made just for one person, so I was always alone. My laptop was propped up on my desk at the end of the room, opposite the door.

It was almost too routine. After a long, boring day of classes, I’d get back to my room at 10 pm. I’d go Facebook, Twitter, 9gag, up until I’ve surfed every nook and cranny of the net. Then, bored as fuck, I’d open Counter-Strike, and go firing deep into the night.

But tonight, while surfing, a friend suddenly messaged me on Facebook.

“Hey dude! Check out this sick CS Map! (Download link)”, Kevin messaged me.

As he was a CS addict just like me, I opened the link. The map was called ‘de_darkness’. With my 10 mb per second internet, the map downloaded in a flash. Excited, I immediately opened Counter-Strike to try out the map. I set it up to play a good old fashioned, 5 v 5 affair.

The map, living up to its name, had many dark areas. Set late at night, only the pale blue shade of the night sky and a few lamp posts gave light to the area. Stone walls lined each corridor, filled with long, green vines. Dark hallways and tunnels snaked at the center of the map.

Around it was an elevated area, perfect for sniping unwary players on the bottom, through ceiling holes in the tunnels. Bridges also kept the map interesting, hovering across the width and length of the vicinity.

‘Darkness’ seemed to have nothing special to it. There were two ways of getting kills in the map. The first one, which I like to call the ‘pussy’ way, was camping and sniping in the elevated areas of the map. It was almost too easy, as the darkness gave you instant camouflage. You could rack up tons of kills immediately.

The next one was the more interesting part of the map, which was running the maze of tunnels at the center. It was perfect for sneak attacks or point-blank kills.

As usual, I racked up more than half of my team’s kills in the first few rounds, even while switching between the 2 ways to play.

It was after the first 5 rounds that I started to notice things.

One time, while roaming the map, I started to hear creaking noises; they were nothing like the usual sound effects I hear in CS maps. Some players’ footsteps also started to sound different. Instead of the usual thud of military grade shoes, a metallic clink and clank would be heard, even when no player seemed to be in the immediate area.

And then, I started to notice an extra character in the map.

While staying in the elevated area, a shady figure appeared in the outskirt forests of the map. It was impossible to get up there. Curiously, I zoomed in my crosshairs on the human-like figure, but he disappeared.

Next round, the figure appeared again. This time, he was only a few paces away, so I was able to get a better look at him. He wore a brown overcoat, extending to the knees, fully buttoned up. A matching pair of brown slacks completed his outdated fashion statement.

The only thing more puzzling than the man’s clothing was the face that rose above it. He had dark, round eyes, with an empty stare straight at me. A sinister smile accompanied it, but the man didn’t seem to have any lips. A grey, faded complexion covered the rest of the mystery man’s face.

Just like any other opposing character I see, I fired at the guy. Bullet after bullet, aimed straight at his thin, 6 foot body, all seemed to have no effect. Before I could try other ways to kill him, another player killed me.

Wow. This map has something special after all. An extra character, almost impossible to kill? A sense of excitement hit me like never before, like it was just the first time I got my hands on this game.

I spent pretty much all of the remaining rounds trying to find and kill this character, even if it meant lowering my kill-death ratio. I noticed that the man only appeared in dark spaces, randomly across the map.

Many times, the man would toy with me. When I try to run at him, he would stand still, but no distance would be made up. Other times, while firing at him, the man would contort and shake rapidly, like thousands of bullets showered his body all at once. But one thing remained: I was never able to kill him.

It must have been an hour or two already, as I was starting to get sleepy. Trying to kill the mystery man was now a boring, futile effort. It was great fun while it lasted, so I closed the application. Shutting down in 3…2…1…and my Macbook’s screen shut off.

But something remained on the screen. The same shady figure wearing brown was still on the right hand corner. Is my Macbook glitching now?

Then the figure came closer, and closer, and closer. Now, his grey face, empty eye sockets, and sinister smile occupied most of my screen. Then I realized.

I was staring at my laptop’s reflection.

Credit To – Brian Tan

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We Lie

May 29, 2013 at 12:00 AM
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Rating: 7.5/10 (211 votes cast)

Adam entered the living room and sat down with a glass of red wine, careful not to spill. He needed to have another talk with his wife. Things could get difficult. The wine helped him keep a level head.

“Clara.”

“Yes, dear?”

“I’m glad you’re here. We have to talk.”

“Okay,” she said. “About?”

“Can you help me to understand why you did it? Why you hurt me like that?”

Clara was silent for a long while. Adam took a sip from the glass, remaining patient.

“I was hurting too. And confused. Please…forgive me.”

“It’s hard, Clara.”

“I know. But I don’t want to talk about it now.”

Adam stood up, paced around the room a few times, and sat back down. “Well, are you happy? Can you at least tell me that much?”

“Yes, so long as you’re with me. I won’t leave you, Adam. You have to know that.”

“I know. And I love you, Clara.”

“I love you too.” There was another long pause. “Do you know I sometimes watch you while you sleep?”

“Really?” Adam idly swirled the dark liquid, observing how the glass refracted the room’s light. “I’ve been having bad dreams lately, so just knowing someone’s there watching over me really helps. Thank you, honey.”

“I have to leave now.”

“Already?” he asked, surprised.

“Hey, I know. You should come with me.”

His brow furrowed. “I…I can do that?”

“Sure. You already know how.”

“How?” he asked, sensing he wouldn’t like the answer.

“Same as me, silly.”

The room seemed to dim at the corners, as if its huddled shadows were conspiring to eavesdrop. “What? How could you say that, Clara?”

Another pause. “Clara’s not here,” came the reply.

Adam felt his stomach bottom out. “What…you mean…you’re not..?”

“No. Never was. But I did speak to her once.”

The deceit stung at his eyes. “Oh yeah? And what did you say?”

“Jump.”

He shot up from his chair, rubbing his temples. “No. No, goddammit. H-how? How is this possible? All those things she said…I was talking to Clara, dammit. I was talking to her!” At this point Adam was not so much talking with another as he was pleading with himself. But he forced himself to sit back down.

The planchette beneath his fingertips raced across the board, spelling out a simple message.

“We lie.”

Tears began to splash over random letters, blurring the ornate typeface. But Adam dared not remove his hands as the planchette continued to move.

“One more thing.” He did not respond, so it resumed without a prompt.

“Those aren’t dreams.”

Adam could recall only fragments of his nightmares – a dark alley, a dripping tunnel…the thrill of darting from shadow to shadow…a scream cut short…hands wrapped tight around something soft and yielding…and the reflection of the moon in a cold river, its black waters rushing at his bare waist.

He found his voice again, growling, “what do you mean?”

“I borrow you.”

At this, Adam withdrew his trembling hands and stared at them in disbelief. He choked out a single word: “Why?”

The planchette moved freely now, without need of human touch, and answered with a single word of its own:

“F-U-N.”

Credit To – alapanamo

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Any Final Thoughts

May 28, 2013 at 12:00 AM
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The overwhelming majority of your actions in life will have no effect on your eternal condition. After all, does a grain of sand have any effect on a prodigious star? Of course it doesn’t. The star cannot even discern the grain of sand, let alone, is it affected by the sand’s insignificance. The grain of sand is negligible, as is the condition of most of your life. The good deeds you perform, your philanthropy, your positive mindset, your hate, your murder, your lust; none of these things matter. None of these things determine whether you go to heaven or hell after you die. Heaven and hell do not exist as objective places. All that exists is what the individualized mind believes, therefore, the conditions of heaven and hell are contingent upon the individual’s particular notions.

To be more specific, roughly 99.9% of your life is immaterial, and this is the initial 99.9% of your life. All that truly matters is the last 0.1%. This small fraction is paramount. All that matters is your state of mind in the precise moment before death brings down his heavy, rusty scythe. Your state of mind, in this fleeting, unexpected moment, will remain this way forever, and at some point in the inconceivable eternity following death, you will forget everything about your comparably diminutive life. The final emotion is the only thing that remains, and it never dies. You exist only as this single, distilled emotion, or a combination of emotions, detached from your body, forever. This truth is fortunate for the 0.1% of the human population, whose last 0.1% of life is pleasant.

Credit To – Dylan Morone

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On a Hill – Part II

May 27, 2013 at 12:00 AM
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He awoke to the silence of the earth. Wisps of broken grass touched his cheek as the wind carried them away to an unknown destination. The sky was black, while no truly living thing stirred. John did not know how long he had been unconscious, but the blanket of stars above left him in no doubt that it had been for at least several hours. The sickness remained, though not as potent, but the wound in his side still wept blood. Rising to his feet it became clear that his body was still under the effects of whatever was on that hill. In the intoxication of it, the world still possessed a fluid, watery form, but on closing his eyes for a moment he felt that he had somehow become accustomed to it, at least to the point where he could gain his bearing and find a route to escape.

Luck was on his side as the moon was present above, albeit only as a partial, waning crescent. This provided him with enough illumination to gauge the strange world and its shapes which surrounded him. He was unsure if he remained where he had fallen as the ancient standing stones, which he remembered vividly and with no little sense of dread, were nowhere to be seen. But as he stood there with his hand vainly attempting to stem the blood from his side, a frightening realisation crept towards him. John found it difficult to convey to me in simple words what that was, but he described it as ‘the rules of nature upturned’. Nothing seemed to make sense, for a moment he did not know who he was, why he was there, and what abominable source was causing such illness in him. He seemed to retain the knowledge of the hill and a memory of the church, but his thoughts were turbulent and disconnected. Fleeting moments of identity would quickly be surpassed and replaced by utter confusion. But regardless of the affliction, one constant remained; his instincts pleaded with him to leave that place immediately. But in this fragile state of mind, he could not tell which way would lead him down to the land below, and which route would send him upward, to whoever or whatever sat on the summit. The sensory intoxication was an experience unlike any other – the world unravelled.

A smell of sickness tinged the air. Whether it was his own vomit or the illness playing tricks, he did not know, but within that stench there was something else. A smell of dampness mixed with the unsettling scent of burnt hair. It became so strong that it began to sting John’s eyes, which only furthered his disorientation. Though his eyes were clouded by tears and the world seemed wrong, he now sensed what he could only describe as a presence. The musty smell increased in potency and as it did, John let out a cough. The response to the noise was distinct, and though he believed that it was impossible to know the mind of someone – something approached and it did so with malice and hatred as its companions.

Terror now turned to fleeting purpose as he quietly wandered passed shadowed trees and amongst the wild grass hoping to find his way out. Staggering as he fumbled his way through the darkness, the pain in his side grew and thoughts of dying out there on the hill, never to be found by his loved ones, became apparent. For a moment he thought that he would collapse once more, but while the sickness intensified, it was now accompanied by the sound of dead grass and wilted flora being thrust aside, as something trudged through the undergrowth nearby. John’s vision was now so poor that he could not tell which way was forward and which back, and in fleeting moments of clarity he felt repulsed by the idea of ending up back at the church or the stones, or graves – unsure of what they had been. He was utterly lost, and something which called that hideous hillside home now approached.

Be still.

But silence, nor darkness could shield him. No realm of oblivion could provide obscurity, for a wickedness as old as the earth now stalked a man who once laughed in the face of superstition and myth. The air grew denser and what little light the sliver of moon above provided, diminished as though it were being sucked deep into the ground with no escape. Then, nothing. The noise of branches and grass being broken and pushed aside ceased, and in its place a void of sound, almost unbearable. At the end of his nerves, John could feel any remaining vestige of hope or escape abandon him. It was close, its breath could be felt upon the air; foul, rancid, as of something which long ago lived and yet had not relinquished the desire to cause hurt and pain. Then movement. Dead leaves cracked under its weight, the long grass which had seemed so impenetrable, so dominant now torn and broken with each shuffling stride. The only thought in John’s mind now was to hide. Slowly, his breath stuttered and quietly gasping, he sank into the long grass, and there he lay; silent, terrified.

The presence was closer still, and in the darkness he thought that at times he could see the vague shape of a figure wandering just out of reach. It circled slowly, coming closer then retreating as if searching the ground meticulously. Then finally, the sound of its cumbersome footsteps grew distant, and then ceased. John breathed a sigh of relief.

Then a hand touched his face.

Survival now took him and with a yell of utter terror he rolled onto his side. Searing pain ran through his body, as his own weight and motion thrust an uneven piece of ground deep into his wound. A low grown escaped from whatever monstrosity stood before him and then, without knowing which way to proceed, John became motivated by a new impetus, jumping to his feet and bolting in a random direction, hoping beyond hope that it would lead out of that madness. That nightmare.

Trees and grass flew by in the pitch black of night. A thick miasma of sickness and burnt hair encircled everything, eliciting convulsive retching as he ran. At last he knew where he was, he had his bearing and it was one which he hoped he would never possess again. The church loomed tall and twisted before him. Something hurtled through the trees behind and in a moment it would be upon him. At least he knew which direction to go, running as he did to the side, towards the path which he had ascended earlier in the day, a worn track which would lead him to safety. But the land appeared unfamiliar and unnatural. The very shape and construction of his environment seemed to have bent to an unknown and malevolent mind. He had to continue on, to get away from what pursued him. The path must have been in that direction!

Then, finally he broke through a line of bushes and trees into a clearing. His heart sank to depths he did not know. There stood the church once more, but it appeared different somehow. By night the building seemed to possess a more sinister and bizarrely altered form from its daytime persona. For a moment John imagined its steeple to be not of rock, stone, or concrete, but of vine and earth and wood, spiralling towards a heaven which had long since spat it out at the world.

The rustle of trodden leaves approached once more as he stumbled and gasped for air. The pain from his wound was now almost unbearable, each step forward accompanied by an internal, blinding, tearing sensation. Forced to flee across the face of the church by his stalker, John moved as best he could, staggering and limping, weak and exhausted, entering a thick network of brambles and thorns. His clothes caught as the barbed appendages of the plants scratched at his face and arms. It was no use, he could not outrun what was coming. Looking over his shoulder, someone was clearly ripping through the branches only a few feet behind.

Fear coursed through John’s veins as his stalker now bore down on him. Letting out a cry of pain and anguish, the thing amongst the branches seemed to stop for a moment, observing him struggle, his hands cut and grazed by thorns. John pulled and grabbed at the thicket in front trying to escape, and then to chill his bones once, the figure behind stared, letting out a harrowing groan – somewhere between a laugh and a sigh of satisfaction. It began moving at great speed, breaking through the entangled cage of thorns and branches with ease, closing in quickly.

With a scream of pain and disbelief, John finally broke free of the thorns’ embrace, but despair haunted him. There the church stood once more, almost mocking, twisted and warped in ways that no human architect could conceive of. Staggering with little fight left, he moved passed the church once more as his assailant broke through the tree line, rushing towards him. John increased his pace as best he could, but by now he could muster little speed. The heavens now opened, and swathes of liquid poured over the church, flowing to the ground beneath which quickly became sodden and water-logged.

John’s strength diminished as he fell to his knees, admitting defeat as a hunted animal relents at the end. Then, salvation. From far away shone a light. One which beamed and broke through the almost impenetrable surrounding thickets. Something to hold on to. To hope. An anchor to follow, a light from outside that terrible hill. As the sound of his pursuer neared, scrambling across the grass in darkness, one last surge of energy awoke John from his terrible fate. The sight of light and life reignited what small vestige of hope remained. He screamed in agony as he lifted himself to his feet, the rain now lashing down upon him, drenched to the bone, pouring into the hole in his side. But it did not matter. All that mattered was that light, and the safety which it promised. Limping as quickly as he could in its direction, he thrust himself into the vines and branches of the entangled woodland, fear overriding any pain brought about as thorns scratched and cut at his skin.

Yet, he was making progress, and the light began to loom larger and larger; vibrant and sustaining. It was clear now that he was heading downhill and as the momentum of his trajectory caused stumble and fall after fall. It also increased his speed markedly. Flashes of memories not his own once again invaded his mind, thoughts of anger and hatred filled his vision; images of the church never empty yet absent of the living – as the priest reared his hands, so bowed the congregation’s heads.

Confusion was beginning to seep into him again, and the smell of burnt hair once more filled the world around. Though cumbersome, his stalker could be heard increasing pace, yet it seemed more agitated than it had before. Angered, perhaps even frustrated. John felt sick with panic, the blood now pouring from the wound in his side, unimpeded. Just as the light seemed closest; the promise of redemption, safety, and escape loomed near, he flew down a steep incline of grass, slipping in the wet mud and tumbled at speed to the ground. Pain, exhaustion, and hopelessness ruled supreme as his body, already battered and bruised, came to rest on top of a large fallen tree trunk.

The clambering footsteps drew near, and as they did so John thought to himself that he and that which he laid upon had both been victims of a cruel and hidden evil which called that hillside home.

‘Come on, son. Get up! Get up!’ a voice yelled in the darkness, almost drowned out by the now fervent breaking of ground and grass behind.

The world seemed warped, but as consciousness now prepared to wither once more from his mind, clarity returned and John realised where he was. His body was slumped not against a fallen tree, but against the wooden gate which marked the boundary of that terrible place.

Something was close. That thing which had been hounding him in the dark only a few feet away.

‘Move, it’s nearly upon you!’ cried the now familiar voice of Dale.

With one last movement, with the final piece of life left in him, John R—— opened the gate, falling face down into a puddle by the roadside.

III

I sat transfixed, the words flowing from John in stuttering fashion, yet with a conviction and reality which I found difficult to ignore, regardless of my scepticism. This man believed with every fibre of his being that what he had told me was the truth. Dale had apparently went after him, against the wishes of the other villagers, he had long ago lost a son and did not wish for anyone else to succumb to the apparent malevolence of the hillside. The landlord, being an old friend of the farmer’s, eventually gave in and both men travelled to the foot of the hill in the hopes that John would find their light in the darkness; follow it, and be the first to escape from there in living memory. No matter how much they wished to help though, they would not dare touch that gate, nor cross the hill’s threshold. John had to do that on his own, and he did so just as his pursuer leaned over him.

I remember letting out a sigh of relief as he finished the last of the wine in front of the fire. There was a moment of silence between us, and I realised that the entire bar was bathed in an anxious reticence. One which was almost tangible, as if those present wanted to speak, but dared not.

Finally I spoke, attempting to be as reassuring as possible: ‘That is an amazing story, John, but it is just a story. I’m sure there is a rational explanation for it all.’

He bowed his head gravely, staring at the floor.

‘If it’s just a story, then why can’t I leave?’ he said, looking up at me with an expression half caught in fear, half trapped in desperation.

‘What do you mean you can’t leave?’

‘I’ve been here for three months!’ he shouted. ‘I sometimes wish Dale had just left me there.’

‘John,’ I said, leaning over and resting my hand on his shoulder reassuringly,‘You can leave whenever you want.’

But I could see from his expression that he did not believe me. He had been consumed by whatever myths and superstitions the locals had fed him. I concluded that his psyche had been poisoned. Of course I felt that the land lord and others meant well, but I was sure that a conventional explanation would hopefully cure him of his afflicted mind.

‘I’m going to Glasgow tomorrow,’ I said cheerfully. ‘Why not join me? The bus will be here in the afternoon and we can travel back together. But… Of course, I’m forgetting, you have your car with you. Please don’t think I was fishing for a lift.’

I laughed, but John just stared at me grimly, then answered: ‘ My car is sitting out back, wrecked.’

‘Really? I hope it’s not too bad. What happened?’

‘It took me several days to recover after my experience on the hill,’ he said mournfully before continuing, ‘but when I felt up to it I packed my bags, thanked Dale and the landlord, then drove out of the village. A couple of miles into my journey the rain came down in sheets. Visibility was terrible, but I just wanted to leave. I lost control of the car and went straight into a tree. I was survived, but the car is a write-off.’

‘Well, accidents happen. As long as you were OK. How about another drink?’ I said standing up. As I did so, John grabbed my arm forcefully.

‘It was no accident. There was something else on that road. I saw him standing there. A man… I think. At least, it appeared like a man. I swerved to avoid him.’

‘And a good thing too. The last thing you would want around here would be to accidentally kill a local.’ My jokes once more did not appease his frustrations.

I sat back down as he conveyed to me his predicament. After the incident with the car, which was towed back to the inn by Dale, John tried everything he could to leave. Each time he attempted to use the local bus there would be a problem. It would breakdown, or there would be a landslide stopping it from entering the village – he even claimed that was why I had been stranded over night, because he had intended to take the bus again that day.

The man was adamant. For three months he had been a guest at ‘The Laird of Dungorth’, and yet no matter how he tried, he could not leave the outskirts of the village. Several times he had even tried to hike to the nearest town, but on each occasion he was beaten back by bitter and perilous weather which appeared without warning. He had even tried to phone for help, but his mobile phone seemed to have no signal, while using a land-line resulted in a continuous static. The same applied for anyone who tried to make a call on his behalf.

While I could not explain everything that had happened, I was certain that a series of rational and conventional events could account for each. It seemed madness that someone so obviously intelligent and articulate be made to believe such nonsense. I genuinely felt sympathy for the man.

‘You are the victim of a self fulfilling prophecy,’ I said confidently.

‘What do you mean?’ John replied.

‘I’ve worked in many villages like this. You come to an old part of the country with a haunting landscape. It seems like another world compared to the modern life of London. Then you are provided with paranoia fuel. A myth that the locals believe about a cursed part of the land. Taking all that in, you have some terrible luck hitting a tree with your car, and before you know it, you believe the whole thing. Perhaps you even imagined the figure on the road. Maybe even the whole encounter.’

‘What about the hill?’ he asked, obviously intrigued by any possibility that escape could be achieved.

‘Probably a placebo effect from all the stories you’ve heard. That or, who knows, maybe you had food poisoning or a virus of some kind and hallucinated the entire thing. Maybe there’s even some nut up there living in that church.’

It was obvious that he remained unconvinced, but I felt that it was my duty to take this poor soul out of that village, back to Glasgow where he could hopefully make arrangements to get home. I had seen the damage that unfounded beliefs could cause amongst people and communities before, and I was genuinely appalled by it. I just wanted to help.

‘Tomorrow, we’ll get the bus together and I’ll buy you a pint in Glasgow.’

He never said much in return, other than nodding his head reluctantly in agreement.

IV

The next day I rose early with a singular purpose. While I had to get home to work on my assignment, the bus was not due until the early evening, which gave me just enough time to persuade John to come with me in the most dramatic of fashions: To go to the hill myself. I knew that if I returned without any of these strange experiences that perhaps he would forget about the superstitious nonsense which the villagers had afflicted him with, and leave on the bus with me. I must also confess that I was utterly intrigued by the idea of the place, and while I had absolutely no doubt that John’s experiences were mistaken, I actually felt that there might be an article, or even a story in the whole ordeal. As a writer, such opportunities rarely present themselves.

Before I left I spoke with him and made my intentions clear. He pleaded with me not to go, that his fate need not be mine, but after much protestation he accepted that I would not be dissuaded, and reluctantly agreed that should I return without paranormal, supernatural, or otherworldly incidence, that he would leave for Glasgow with me.

After providing me with directions – ones which I was sure would not be forthcoming from the villagers – I made my way out to the supposedly tainted hillside. I must admit that when I saw it at first it did appear… odd to me. Misplaced somehow. But again, I counted this as the subconscious effect of John’s tale. The environment appeared to be just as he had described. At least that much was accurate. The road was blocked with rubble and rubbish, and I too found the wooden gate lying at the foot of the hillside. There was even a stain of blood upon it, certainly making the conclusion of his story more believable. The thought of some maniac up there did give me pause, but even if someone had chased John through the undergrowth, they had probably moved on after being confronted by Dale and the land lord. In any case, a badly wounded John had been able to escape, so I felt confident I would be fine.

I did not feel anything out of the ordinary as I crossed the threshold, and while the tangled weave of trees and dead grass did provoke feelings of decay, I was surprised by just how innocuous and commonplace the environment felt. After climbing the steep path which clearly had been used numerous times in recent years, I reached a spot which was reminiscent of John’s descriptions.

And there it was. Obscured from the world by a wall of leaves, rotting wood, and grass: The church. I was significantly surprised as I had thought such a building would surely have been part of John’s hallucinations and I concede that I began to feel slightly unnerved by its existence, and hesitated for a moment before proceeding. I’m embarrassed to say that had the area not been illuminated by the morning light, I may even have considered retreating. But I did not.

The church was fascinating, and I, at the very least, wished to see if it was as John had said, with an altar undisturbed inside. It was not difficult to gaze inward, though I shuddered slightly remembering the description of the door being partially blocked by debris, yet it lay wide open unimpeded, and this discrepancy did give me pause once more. Yet, there I stood, at the threshold peering inside. It was exactly as he had described; the floor strewn with rubble from a failing roof, the altar raised up ahead, an inscription – which by now I had no doubt did indeed read as John had stated – and the doorway leading downstairs to an unknown destination.

You must understand that at no point did I genuinely think that something supernatural resided there, the very idea seemed laughable; but I did began to question my safety. Thoughts of a hermit or mentally deranged recluse living under a remote church did not fill me with confidence.

‘Hello? Is anyone there?’ I shouted, my voice echoing up towards the rafters above.

With no reply, I castigated myself for being so paranoid and stepped inside. Carefully I negotiated the rubble, noticing droplets of blood on a broken piece of wood which I assumed were John’s. Thoughts of blood poisoning now entered my mind: Perhaps the wound in his side caused the hallucinations, at least the ones which occurred afterwards? That could have explained his disorientation.

The altar stood as he had stated. Realising that I may need to prove that I had been there to reassure the man, I took out my phone and started taking pictures of the church interior. With each flash the hall lit up, and as it did so my mind crept back to John’s descriptions of a zealous priest and a fearful congregation huddled under the protection of the church – but protected from what?

Turning to the darkened doorway which led underneath the building, I felt my heart begin to race at the prospect of descending the stone staircase, but I was compelled to, although not for entirely altruistic intentions. Yes, I did want to show John that there was nothing down there, and that the beliefs which seemed to hold him paralysed within the boundaries of the village were unsubstantiated; but I also wanted to know what lay beneath, myself. Why did this church have a subterranean level? Was there a crypt? My curiosity piqued and my mouth watered at the possibility of a published article describing my discovery, of an unknown archaeological find with perhaps an important and valuable relic or two within.

As I approached the door, I could feel the cold air breathing from below. Using the light from my phone, I calmed my nerves which had begun to grate on me and looked cautiously inside. A steep and narrow flight of stairs dripped down into the ground beneath. The walls were darkened grey and seemed to have been carved or formed with far less care than the rest of the church. I shouted down there once more, but again no one replied and I therefore assumed the place to be abandoned. As I descended, I was surprised by just how long the staircase actually was, and by the time I reached its conclusion estimated that I was at least fifty feet beneath the old church. It appeared peculiar to me that a level would be so far beneath the ground and questioned to myself the purpose of it – why had the architects, builders, or followers of the church dug so deep.

At the last step I composed myself, and turned to face a darkened doorway at the conclusion of the staircase. The blue light from my phone illuminated everything around. What I saw deeply disturbed me; a large room, the floor littered with rags, stone, and human bones. I could not tell how many bodies had been left to rot there, for they were too numerous. The chill in the air was pronounced, and I felt frozen to the core not just by the cold of the stone which surrounded me, but by the sorrowful feeling I felt inside. It was almost as if I could imagine people huddled down there, spending their last moments hidden from the sun. The very impression I had, was that they had died there, yet I did not know why I was so convinced of this.

Taking a few pictures, I then entered what I can only describe as… a mass grave. I was careful to not disturb the bones, but I am ashamed to say that I felt the crunch of a few under foot. To the right lay a doorway leading into another chamber, and while I did not wish to disturb the tomb any more than I already had, I felt compelled to know the entire story. That is, what else was down there.

Above the doorway sat a stone cherub, carved with a degree of artistic flair, putting it at odds with the room full of bones, but the childlike face wore a strange grin upon it. Not of joy or playfulness, but of taunting and sadomasochistic indulgence. The very sight of it left me with a feeling of revulsion, and so I quickly entered the other chamber to be removed from its gaze.

Inside was a large room, much grander than the one before. I could tell immediately that something of importance to those who had built the church had once been housed there. The walls were adorned with beautifully carved symbols, some Christian, but many of a nature I could not identify. In the centre of the room lay a block of solid stone three feet across. A large hole lay to its side. On the rock was the following inscription:

Here lies the father. Loved by some, hated by many.

As I pondered the epitaph I peered into the hole. The grave was vacant, but I was glad that I had seen it before walking around the room, as it was deep and wide enough to have given me a nasty fall. Being stranded down there with a broken leg was not something that I wished to consider. The dirt inside the grave was stained black by what looked like a deposit of charcoal throughout, and the fringe of the hole was surrounded by a circular pile of dirt. I assumed that grave robbers, or perhaps those who had ‘hated’ the man, had removed his body long ago.

The air of the place was beginning to affect me intensely. Each breathe inward was jagged and cold, and the discomfort was such that I decided I had seen enough. While taking a few pictures to document the tomb before leaving, the flash from my phone brought something on the floor into sharp focus. Covered in earth and dirt lay a book which poked out slightly from the ground. Gently blowing the dust from it, I carefully lifted it up, resting the book on top of the makeshift gravestone.

The binding was ancient, peeling slightly as I ran my hand over it. The dark red cover, which I could not identify the material out of which it had been made, spoke of time gone by and of stories lost yet important. Deep down I knew that such an item should be removed carefully and studied by scholars, but as a writer, my passion for a story compelled me to see what it contained. Opening it, I was amazed. This was a chronicle. A hand written account of the history of the church, its congregation and the hillside. A snapshot of a people long since forgotten.

It was written in a linguistically confused tone, as the wording seemed to be a mix of Old Scots English and phrases in a language unfamiliar to me, one which I assumed to be Celtic or Gaelic in origin, however, the passages in Old Scots I could read to a degree. What follows is a loose recollection of what had been inscribed there.

***

In the 15th century a group of refugees came to that area in search of a place they could call home. The valleys – or glens as they are known in Scotland – were uninhabited at that time, as too was a strange hill which dominated the landscape. The people were from a place called Dungorth, and they had escaped from the laird there who had ruled that region at the time; fleeing his persecution as he was a brutal and merciless ruler who punished all who did not follow his beliefs.

In all they numbered only in the hundreds, and while their elders wished to settle in the glens, a prominent priest amongst them claimed that to bless the lands, and to ensure that no ills would befall their community, the hill must be settled first – a beacon of holiness casting a shadow of protection on all below. While some were suspicious of the man’s fascination with the place, he was known for his kindness and as one whose judgement could be trusted. Disheartened, the elders began to follow his example, as it was typical of the time for people to be God fearing. There, on that isolated and baleful hillside, they built a small settlement, but almost immediately a few of the settlers began to fall ill. A sickness which could not be explained and which often resulted in a feverish madness.

The priest blamed a number of standing stones which were peppered throughout the hillside, remnants of – to him at least – an old and heretical religion. It was decided under his supervision that the people should build a church. With the presence of consecrated ground, it was thought that the effects of whatever resided on the hill previously, would be eradicated.

They were wrong.

Despite their efforts the sickness only grew worse, and many began to suspect that the priest himself was in league with the abhorrent forces at play. Some of the elders rose up against him, but under his orders, members from the church congregation executed those who rebelled. Fearing for their lives, many of the settlers who were outraged by the priest and his followers, fled in the night, escorting the remaining elders to the lands below. Most made it off of the hill, but some returned wailing and frightened, believing themselves to have been stalked by uncertain and unearthly figures in the woods, unable to escape. To save their lives, they pledged undying fellowship to the priest and his church.

Claiming to be receiving visions from the almighty himself, the holy man assured the villagers that if they carried out his explicit instructions that they would all be saved. Each night they gathered in the church as the priest spewed forth his visions and damning, seething hatred for those who had left. It became clear to some that he had gone mad, but by then the man had formed a strict and brutally loyal conclave of followers who hung on every word and prophecy, making any rebellion sure to be a violent, bloody, and uncertain one.

Many spoke of dreams without form, blinded by darkness, and several families were found in their homes, suffocated in the night. The priest blamed those who had escaped and told stories of how they were the source of the darkness which had persecuted his people, cursing them to a desperate end. Bitterness and anger swept through the community and several villagers were selected to descend the hill and bring back the elders who were to be judged and sacrificed if need be. But no one could leave. No matter how hard they tried, the church loomed large, no matter which way they walked, down or up, they would appear where they had begun, confused and disorientated.

The sickness spread, and the village watchmen one by one were found choked and mutilated in the streets, with witnesses claiming to have seen strange entities prowling around at night. In the panic, those left had no option but to cling to their religion for salvation, in the hope that the church would protect them. They huddled together underneath its roof, in abject terror for what approached from the shadows outside.

Here, the writing changed markedly, becoming jagged, fervent, and more pronounced. The priest himself had taken over from the town chronicler who he had deemed to be unsatisfactory. Several pages followed, pockets of English entangled with what looked like Latin, and a number of unusual and indecipherable languages. Each page was filled with pain and scorn for those who had left, and then, the words just stopped.

***

Standing there in that Stygian and foreboding place, I ran my fingers across the spine of the book and could see clearly that the last page had been torn out. What it could have contained, I did not know.

I felt overwhelmed by the account which I had just read as a very real and palpable fear surged throughout my body. The thought occurred to me, that the accounts of the sickness which had plagued the exiles of Dungorth seemed remarkably similar to John’s experiences. I could not avoid the coincidence and I began to suspect that something had in fact affected him after all; something tangible. Perhaps a contaminant in the ground. A poison maybe? I had read about pockets of methane gas escaping through the earth and at sea which had killed many, but it was not out of the question that something similar, perhaps in a smaller dose could in fact have caused mass hallucinations, sickness, and even madness. It was the most feasible explanation I could come up with. Yet, why had I not been effected? Perhaps, as the chronicle had stated, some people were more immune to the contaminant than others.

My attention now turned once more to the grave, or at least what was left of it. I wondered what the people did with the body of that loved but hated priest, assuming that was who ‘the father’ referred to. Did they re-bury it in another location? Perhaps his followers were worried that his grave would be vandalised. The answer became clear to me almost immediately: They had burned him in his grave, under the very church he had built; the hole where his body once lay, now marked eternally by the blackened stains of smoke and ember. I shuddered at the thought that he may have been thrown down there and set alight while still alive.

The air now grew noticeably colder, but this was not what marked the beginning of my ordeal. I leaned over, looking closely at what I saw on the rim of the grave. I could not bring my self to believe it. There on the brim of the hole was a callous signature left by the church’s former attendant. In the darkness I must have missed it, but now it was unmistakable. There on the edge of the grave was a hand print, blackened and burned, as of someone clawing their way out of their eternal and forsaken pit.

My breath spiralled slowly out of my mouth, congealing in the icy surrounds while my heart raced at the mere possibility of what had risen from that hole in the ground. As the air grew colder still, I stood up and made my way to the foot of the stairs – I had to get out of there, into the sunlight, into the open. It was then that I heard it. At first it was merely the impression of a sound. Then more definite, rising in intensity and clarity. Something stirred above.

People. Many of them, groaning and lamenting, crying for their lives in unison. Chants in the darkness, both Christian and of something older, a fetid religion that had best been left in the ground. As the wails of misery ascended, a single voice rose up out of the cacophony. Deafening and terrible, it spoke of the end of days, of betrayal, and of unimpeded sin. The voice yelled and screamed, renouncing all who did not listen, a vengeful sermon from that stone altar above.

I cannot put the fear I felt into words. Alone in the cold darkness of a defiled crypt, with no way out other than up and into that church hall where something hideous now relived forgotten and terrible times. The screams grew louder as the banging and scuffing of feet rushed towards the staircase, towards where I stood. Such pain in those voices, I ran in terror as they flew down the ancient staircase towards me.

Without thinking, I jumped down into the empty grave switching the light from my phone off and found myself cowering, shaken to my very core by the agonising voices which cried out against the world, and one another, in the next room – hate and utter despair at evil both outside and in. The roar of agony increased, men, women, children weeping and cursing a God they believed had forsaken them. Accusations, persecution, and the tearing of flesh. Then, silence. I clung to the bottom of that charred grave with my fingernails etched into the soil. Any scepticism I had for unseen and hidden forces had receded. Shaking violently in the cold bleakness, I waited for several minutes before switching the light of my phone back on.

Peering over the brim of the grave, I pulled myself silently onto the floor. The rooms were empty, all but for the broken bones and skulls of countless lives ruined by whatever evil lay in that hillside. I finally plucked up the courage and with nerves shredded and beliefs shattered, I climbed the stairs slowly, scared rigid at the thought of what might be waiting for me at the top, but it was my only way out, and I would be damned if I was going to end my days the way those poor people had, cowering deep below.

The hall was empty. As quietly as possible, I crossed the room negotiating debris and rubble quickly but quietly, cutting through an oppressive silence, finally exiting through the doorway to the open air. Once out of the church I fell to my knees, quivering with anxiety as I tried to process the entire experience. My mind then flew back to what had been in that grave, and more importantly, where it was now. Then I knew. Running as fast as I could through bushes and thickets, I reached the path quickly, unimpeded by whatever evil had blocked the settler’s escape, but I did not stop, half filled with terror at what might have been in pursuit, and half pleading for my instincts to be wrong.

The air burned in my lungs as I rushed down the path, within minutes the wooden gate was in sight and I was off of that wretched hill, a place I would never tread again. Not for money, not for a story, not for anything. I would have breathed a sigh of relief at this thought, but that was not in my mind. I had to get back to the inn as quickly as possible. Continuing to run as fast as I could, I fought exhaustion and the limits of my own body, and after a time across field and hedgerow, finally the Laird of Dungorth inn came into view.

Staggering towards the old building, it was then that I heard it. Screams, of agony, of terror, and for mercy. I knew instantly where and by whom. A new found jolt of stamina found me as I broke into a sprint once more, bursting through the doors into the bar. There, the room lay in silence. Villagers sat staring at their drinks while the landlord himself stood motionless, his eyes pointed to the ground. The screams continued from the rooms above. I begged and pleaded for someone to help me, but none would listen. Realising I was alone to confront it, I broke for the stairs, but the landlord forcefully intervened, dragging me back, his arms wrapped tightly around my shoulders.

‘Leave him son, you can’t help!’ he yelled as two other men attempted to restrain me.

I thrust my elbow into the stomach of the landlord behind and then barged passed the two men, knocking one to the floor. Tearing up the stairs I followed the awful cries straight to John’s room. The door was locked. Thrusting my shoulder against the door, again and again, it cracked and splintered against my efforts. With each strike I heard the garbled gasp of something unearthly inside in response. Finally, the door gave way and in I went.

For a moment I glimpsed something which looked like a man, at least something which once was alive. Blackened and burned, it turned its head as if to stare at me – I cannot say whether it truly saw me as it had no eyes to speak of. In its grip was the crumpled and lifeless body of John R———.

Then, it turned, wriggling through an open window, carting the poor man’s body behind. They were both gone.

The room then took on a volatile and fluid appearance. I do not know if it was the exertion of my efforts or just being in proximity to that grotesque miscreation, but a sickness overcame me, seeping through my stomach, and as I lost consciousness I cried out in helplessness.

V

That was several days ago. It seems I banged my head against the floor when I collapsed and somehow injured my leg in the process. The village doctor who examined me prescribed some antibiotics for what he believed to be a stomach infection, and a sedative which helped ease my anxiety. With little else to occupy me, I have committed everything I can remember about this entire horrid ordeal to paper. After all, a writer writes.

Yesterday I visited John’s Room for the first time since he was taken. It was silent, and it felt empty in a way I have never truly known before. An absence of life is the best I can describe it. The place lay ransacked, his belongings still strewn across the floor. I assumed that no one had been in there, the land lord was probably too frightened, but I do not blame him. As I turned to leave the now vacant room, I noticed one item which looked out of place – it did not belong. On John’s bed lay a withered and stained piece of paper. I knew where it had come from without even needing to read it, the last page of the chronicle, the account of those who had settled on the hill. A maze of repeated phrases in arcane and forgotten languages spread out across the crumpled and fragile paper, but one in English stood out. It simply said ‘No One Leaves’.

I do not know what to make of anything any more. I feel exhausted, yet my mind still picks over the last few days piece by piece. I am wracked with guilt, somehow I feel my very presence on that hill brought whatever that was back down here to take John. Otherwise, why did it wait so long?

My last thought on the matter is that perhaps I’ve just been lucky, that I visited the hill when that thing wasn’t on it probably saved my life. In any case, regardless of how the villagers wish to explain this I will be reporting John’s disappearance when I arrive in Glasgow, and asking the police to take a look at the number of residents who have went missing in the area over the years. I think they will be surprised by the number.

Home seems a million miles away, but I know that I will be there shortly, to my own bed, another world far away from the events of the past few days; perhaps there I will be able to put this madness into context. I have never been so homesick. Hopefully I will be there in a matter of hours, although, the bus out of the village is running a little late.

The End

Credit To – Michael Whitehouse

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Update from the author: Hi everyone. I’ve just self-published On a Hill via Amazon. I’m not asking anyone to buy it, but if you did read it and enjoy it here, if you could take a couple of minutes to rate it by clicking here and share it, that would be amazing. Sorry for the gratuitous self promotion. Thanks again for reading!

~ Mike

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