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The Bicycle’s Trip

July 11, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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It was a beautiful morning when I woke up that day. The sky was clear and the weather was perfect. It had been a hot summer, much more so than usual, and I like so many other residents of my town had decided the best place to be was inside an air conditioned room. It was around midday when I decided to go out for a bike ride. It had been a long, cold winter, and I had sworn to myself that when summertime came I would make the most of it. I decided to act upon that promise. I forced myself to put down the book that I was reading. I was just pages away from finishing it, but I desired to do something else, something new. I told myself that these solemn, inactive activities were to be best left to days not as fine as this, and so I set off for a bike ride. I had purchased a new bicycle a couple of years before, and since that time it had mostly rested indoors, much like me. The bike was a reproduction of a vintage model made before my time and its rustic appearance had stroked my interest.

When I had got outside I noticed that the morning’s beauty had been replaced by cloudy skies. It was not a matter of significance to my determined mind, as I had a craving that could only be satisfied by the fine looking burgundy coloured bicycle stored in the back of my garage. I took the bike down my driveway and past the forested area that surrounded my isolated house in the countryside. The wind shook my hair and blew my clothes against me as I rode down the hill towards the town beneath the mountainside. I had walked down this road many times in the past and had even biked down it before when I had first bought the bicycle two years ago. I reckoned the ride would take me less than fifteen minutes. I coasted down the hill, managing the curve in the road with controlled braking. Geese called above me as I rode past the cliff side to my right. From atop the mountain I could see the clusters of houses and buildings which formed a town at the bottom of the valley. It was an incredible sight on a summer’s day such as this, and I was only interrupted from its beauty by the sudden drops of rain upon my body. I watched the water seep into my clothes before my vision was contorted into a series of blurred images.

I was sent forward from the blow. Something had struck my bike from behind and thrown me from my seat. My mind didn’t have time to process what had happened, and I was barely able to react. I was falling, and I instinctively raised my arms ahead of me to break my fall and keep my face from hitting the concrete. My body hit the pavement and I was tossed into a roll down the steep mountain road. My hands, legs, and arms drew blood when scraped against the rough pavement. I rolled for what seemed like miles before I stopped. My mind felt fuzzy but I remained conscious, and after a few brief moments of confusion I managed to summarize what had happened in my mind. I realized that I had been hit by something, a vehicle of some kind and had been thrown to where I was from the collision. As I was sitting there, for the first time since the accident I felt the unbearable pain from the scrapes on my bloodied body. When I opened my eyes and looked up, all that I could see was darkness. It had been midday when I started my bike ride, and I couldn’t comprehend how nigh time had fallen so quickly. The country sky, which was normally packed with the bright lights from the heavens, was devoid of any such light, not even the moon. Living in this part of the country, I had had my fair share of eerie outdoorsman experiences, the kind you would tell around a campfire over a couple of beers, but those stories paled in comparison to this. My confusion was broke from the surges of pain as they shot through my body. I could not see anything in the pitch black around me, but I could vividly feel the stinging pain. My shirt and shorts had protected my body to some degree, but I felt most of it as being bruised and bloodied. I remembered memories from my childhood then, experiences of being lost and alone in the woods around my house, and those painful memories of fear and helplessness surrounded me like they had once before. I knew this area off by heart, yet in the darkness I could sense nothing familiar.

I was sitting in the fetal position, fearful of the dark abyss which had surrounded me, and scared of causing myself more pain through movement. I could not see, but I knew I had to do something, anything. I needed to find help. The town below had a local clinic, but it was miles down the road. I knew it would be faster to walk to my home; I had a first aid kit there. My hands and legs burned in excruciating pain as I tried to push myself up onto my feet, and my right leg buckled under my weight before I could do so, sending me falling back onto the ground. My hands burned at whatever they touched and I could not feel whatever it was they fell upon. I couldn’t feel anything besides the raindrops which poured down upon my agonizing face. I was at my limit and I broke down into tears. I cried so hard that my sobs replaced my agony with silence. I called for help, knowing no one was there to hear me, but my voice was caught within my throat. I tried to scream, but could produce no sound. When I moved my hands to my throat to coax the voice from my breath I found I could not do so. I could not express my agony through words and so I pounded the ground in frustration. My foolish actions were met with pain and pain only, and it was then that I discovered I could not hear, too. I was deaf, blind, and crippled, and my body panicked at the thoughts as ran through me. My mind processed a life of nothingness and immobility, and those thoughts of helplessness sent my mind into a state of terror. My sanity returned when I saw the hope which was a light at the bottom of the hill. My pupils retracted and my eyes struggled to focus the image of blurry light in front of me. I was relieved that I could see something, anything. The light grew closer and brighter as it advanced upon me, its faint gleam growing slowly taller to reveal the blurry image amongst its dim yellow glow.

The image before me was a person, what I had believed to be an angel. However that thought was soon erased from my mind as I comprehended the horrible image in front of me. A pair of grotesque horribly mangled legs limped towards me, and blood lurched from the beings legs as it stalked its way to my direction. I blinked when I saw this, not wanting to believe what I had just seen, but the image was still before my eyes and shaking body. The figure slowly revealed itself from the darkness as it grew nearer. I could see more blood, more gore, and for the first time in my life I experienced absolute terror. I tried to get up, to run, but I could not muster the strength to do so. My outstretched hands tried to pull my body back away from the body of pulsing blood and guts that was coming towards me, but I could not do so, and that helplessness was what drove me from my sanity. As the body drew closer, the light revealed the figure’s torso and lower chest. The horrible figure wore a tattered and bloody white dress which was draped upon its boney and pale body. The sound of static accompanied by falling rain flowed into my eardrums as the now headless figure limped towards me. I was shaking uncontrollably in terror as the body’s face was unveiled from the blackness, and I felt the splash of rain brought from the figure’s step in front of me as I caught a glimpse of the pale face and piercing blue eyes of the monster. I closed my eyes then, unable to bear seeing these last few moments of my life. Cold hands tightened around my shoulders before I opened my eyes from the grasp of tightened hands… As my eyelid coiled back I saw a flashlight shining into my eyes and the face of a paramedic behind it. I felt the rain fall upon me as I was lifted from the ground and placed gingerly into a stretcher. I could hear the raindrops hit the pavement around me and the static of a paramedic’s radio as he spoke into it.

After weeks in the hospital I was finally released. I had a friend drive me home after I had been discharged, and when I arrived back home he presented me with the bicycle I had lost in the accident. He told me he went to retrieve it after he had heard what happened, as he thought I would want it returned. He said apart from the scratches, the bike still seemed to be in good condition, but what couldn’t seem to get off was a pair of small hand prints on the right side of the bike’s frame. They seemed to have been stained on with some sort of chemical, and that he had found it this way when he found the bike near the edge of the cliff, where the girl who fell to her death ten years ago had supposedly fallen from.

Credit To – 9753

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The Darrow Curse

July 10, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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This story was transcribed by Randy Baker, editor of Penguin Books, during an interview with comedian Becky Somers at 4 p.m. on October 31st, 2013. Baker was orchestrating an urban legend anthology for Penguin Horror, and sought out Miss Somers after hearing that she was knowledgeable about the little-known Darrow Curse of Wheatleigh, Kansas. The interview took place in her home in St. Louis.

“The Darrow Curse” was one of many entries cut from the final edition of the anthology, for reasons Baker never explained. He’ll decline to comment when asked about it.

Celts used to believe the dead walked the earth between the last of October and the first o’ November. They called it Samhain or somethin’, and it was a lot like Halloween as we know it, where people’d dress up like the dead and make asses o’ themselves. But the Celts had a good reason for it: dead folks leave you alone if they think you’re dead, too. The dead, accordin’ to the Celts, are somethin’ to be feared and respected.

Already told this story a hundred times to the police and the shrinks and friends and family. But it’s been years since last I told it, and it seems appropriate to have someone get it down on paper on the eve o’ November First.

At the time I was goin’ steady with a wonderful fella named Harley Davies. He had a big heart, Harley did, and he loved to have a good time, but he never said much ‘cept if he was alone with you. Harley was only comfortable with crowds when he was onstage. He had a little sister named Sage who was even less inclined to talk to folks ‘cos mentally she was basically a child. Their mom and dad died in a car accident when they was little and Harley’d been takin’ care o’ Sage ever since. She followed him around like a puppy dog. The three of us was real close and we went everywhere together: a trio of dumb, drunk, perpetually bored twenty-somethin’s.

We formed a dinner theater troupe with our friends Teddy and Enoch in 1991: melodramas, murder mysteries, and hammed-up musical performances. Mainly played bars and restaurants in Laclede’s Landing, but we’d play anywhere if the price was right and the crowds agreeable. People mostly came for Harley — you put Harley in front of a piano and he caught fire — but Enoch’s off-color jokes and my skeezy wardrobe helped bring ‘em back every night. Sage had nasty stage fright and refused any part we offered, but she never missed a show.

We had friends in Colorado who gave us a ring one afternoon — good friends from college we used to have insane Halloween parties with, and who now run a fancy club in Aspenvale — and said they wanted to get together with us and set up a regular gig. Enoch and Teddy had stuff to take care of in St. Louis first, so me and Harley figured we’d drive out ahead of ‘em, and we couldn’t leave Sage behind if we put her in cement shoes and locked her in the basement.

Road trip wasn’t supposed to be that long, ‘specially with me drivin’ — Harley useta call me Breakneck Becky. Turned out he didn’t take as much care of his truck as he thought; so on October 31st, 1994, we was stranded on the I-70 in the middle o’ nowhere (or Kansas, if you’d rather call it that). It was only an hour before some nice trucker stopped by to give us a lift to the nearest town, which happened to be a Podunk farmin’ community called Wheatleigh. You can’t see it from the road because o’ the golden wheat fields guardin’ it like a castle wall.

Wheatleigh looked like the late nineteenth century had kept it as a souvenir. There wasn’t one paved road or light pole anywhere. Their phones probably still needed a switchboard operator. They didn’t even have a town sheriff: everyone knew everyone, so nobody could get away with nothin’, I guess. Harley found a modern mechanic there and they went to get his truck. Me and Sage toured the town and got to know the locals while waitin’ for Harley to get back.

The people was real friendly to strangers. Everyone welcomed us with a smile, asked what brought us around their humble community, offered us food, beer, or both. Despite the small population, the place was always pretty busy. The streets was always bustlin’ with trucks and tractors and people luggin’ supplies to and from the town center.

Mrs. Winston, the stout old farmer’s wife in charge o’ the inn, was happy to tell us all about the town’s history. Wheatleigh kept its economy goin’ for over a century with wool and wheat — it got its name for the bountiful wheat crop it’s churned out since the first house was built there. I pointed my thumb toward the huge field we saw on our way in and said I wasn’t surprised, and complimented how healthy and beautiful it looked.

Mr. and Mrs. Winston frowned and looked at each other. Mrs. Winston cleared her throat and pointed opposite where I had. “The Edisons raise their wheat crop up that way. What you saw was the Darrow place. Nobody uses that crop.”

“Is it just for show, then?” I laughed. Mrs. Winston ignored me and went on about the Wheatleigh sheep herders.

Harley and the mechanic came back with the truck pretty quick. The mechanic told us it would be in the shop for twenty-four hours or so, but he could fix ‘er up for cheap. On our way back to the main road we passed a cluster o’ little houses what looked like their roofs would collapse any minute, with a couple goats munchin’ grass in the nearest one’s front yard.

A crude scarecrow was propped in the middle o’ the yard with its burlap head hangin’ low as if it was prayin’, its eye and mouth holes stitched shut with black thread so it looked like it was sneerin’ like a fox. In a morbid touch, around the scarecrow’s neck was a hemp noose — not attached to nothin’, just severed and danglin’ like a necktie. Seemed an odd place for a scarecrow, since there wasn’t no crops in that yard, and I never heard tale o’ crows eatin’ goats.

While tourin’ the rest o’ the town we realized everybody in Wheatleigh had one o’ those things planted on their property somewhere, or was in the process of plantin’ one. When Harley asked Mr. Edison about ‘em, he told us an interestin’ story.

In the nineteenth century a serial killer known as the Harvest Phantom terrorized Wheatleigh for several years: every harvest season somebody would leave their home to run errands, only to turn up dead in the street, usually chopped up with sickle and axe. The yearly death tally ranged from as few as one to as many as five. The Harvest Phantom was revealed to be Tommy Darrow, the son of the big wheat crop owner. They never found out why he did what he did — the town was too hasty to lynch him.

After Darrow died, a plague o’ misfortune swept Wheatleigh every October, usually at the end o’ the month. Darrow’s mother was found drowned in the bathtub one year. Mr. Proctor’s sheep got sickly and started dyin’ for no reason. Houses caught fire and children went missin’. And everyone who tried to take over the Darrow property died in freak accidents, almost always while in the wheat fields: heart attacks, strokes, fallin’ on dangerous tools, one gruesome incident with a combine. People said it was the ghost o’ Tommy Darrow exactin’ revenge on the town for not givin’ him a proper trial; they even said his specter walked the streets at night on the 31st of October — the night he was lynched — and anybody who stayed out after dark would never be seen again. Not in one piece, anyway.

So they started puttin’ effigies on their property to ward him off, made in a scarecrow’s likeness, ‘cos the Harvest Phantom wore a burlap sack over his head that made him look like one, himself. The noose around the neck reminded the specter he was supposed to be dead and sent him back to his grave ‘fore he could kill again. Durin’ the harvest season, everyone erected their effigies in their front yards, and barred their doors and windows at 9 p.m., and they didn’t let nobody in or out no matter what ’til the sun came up. Since they started doin’ all that, and since the Darrow crop was shunned by everyone, there’d been no incidents.

“In all the time since, you never once had a nighttime emergency?” said Harley. “Or gone out for a midnight stroll, even?”

Mr. Edison looked at his feet for a moment, then said, “I had a rotten day one Halloween when it was past curfew. Got to feeling spiteful and told Sarah I was going to work on the tractor to let off some steam, ghostly killer legends be damned. The panic attack this induced in my sweet little Sarah is something I never wanna see again.

“When she calmed down, she told me her great grandfather was once the town physician. The Proctors’ youngest son was sick with fever one Halloween night, and needed treatment. Doc gave them instructions over the phone, but they insisted on a house call; he decided the boy’s health was more important than some archaic superstition, so he packed up his little doctor’s bag, said ‘Be right back!’ to his family, and scurried out the door.”

Mr. Edison took a moment to puff on his pipe, never lookin’ any of us in the eye. When he was sure we was all listenin’ intently, he said, “They found him the next morning in front of his house, slit groin to throat and gutted like a hog. He’d died stepping out of his yard.”

Not believin’ a word of it, I made some dumb remark about hirin’ Mr. Edison as our troupe storyteller. We had a good laugh, then we left the Edison place in search of any ol’ way to kill the next sixteen hours.

Suffice it to say, there ain’t much to do in a podunk town like Wheatleigh ‘cept drink and fornicate, and with Sage taggin’ along, the second was outta the question. So around 7 p.m., when the clouds slithered ‘round the moon and strangled most o’ the light out of it, we found ourselves on the road leadin’ up Wheatleigh Hill to the Darrow house. It stood in front o’ the shunned field like a soldier guardin’ the gate to a forbidden castle. It was only a minute’s walk from the main road and Harley thought it’d be fun to go check it out.

Front door wasn’t locked, so we let ourselves in, hopin’ to find some creepy souvenir to show our friends in Aspenvale. All the furniture was intact like nobody’d touched the place for a century. We turned into children: ran up and down the halls, makin’ a mess o’ the place and scarin’ the piss outta each other. After a while we mellowed out, passed around a fat joint, shot the breeze, reminisced. Sage checked her watch and got flustered when she saw it was ten ’til 9 p.m., when the town would go into lockdown. We considered bein’ festive and stayin’ the night in the spooky ol’ Darrow house, but Sage didn’t like that idea one bit, so we raced to the Winston place.

We shacked up at the inn for the night and indulged ourselves on the free beer Mr. Winston was nice enough to offer us (that tall old fella was a spittin’ image o’ the one in that American Gothic paintin’). We didn’t get shit-faced exactly, but we was already high and gettin’ more obnoxious by the minute, be sure o’ that. God bless those Winstons and their kindness and patience, and their good humor when we joked to their faces about their town and the backwards yokels that lived there. They just smiled and laughed with us, like they’d heard it all before from the last dumbass city folk who’d passed through.

God bless ’em for savin’ my unworthy ass.

It was MY stupid goddamned idea to show the populace o’ Wheatleigh how to have fun on Halloween. Thanks to their rigid superstitions about the harvest season, nobody in that town ever knew what Trick or Treats was, or at least never got to practice it. After my fourth beer I pitched the idea of goin’ door-to-door Trick-or-Treatin’, and scarin’ people, and makin’ a general nuisance of ourselves. Harley and Sage giggled like the hatter and hare at the thought of it.

We decided NOT to tell the Winstons, for fear they’d have heart attacks and spoil our fun before it started, so we planned to sneak out the kitchen door while they read quietly in the lobby. It was 10 p.m. when we was set to leave, and when my clumsy ass tripped and stumbled into the pretty potted plant in the hall between lobby and kitchen.

SMASH. Beautiful vase and moist dirt scattered in billions o’ little pieces all over the hallway.

Mrs. Winston was heartbroke: the vase was a gift from a great aunt she was real fond of, and though she insisted it was all right, I could see her eyes wellin’ up with tears as she knelt to clean up the mess. This was the cherry to top our sundae o’ callous rudeness and drunken stupidity, and I said so and apologized for what assholes we’d been. I insisted on cleanin’ it up myself and promised to make it up to her somehow. She wasn’t exactly touched, but she appreciated my sincerity (I ain’t the worst actress in the world, despite what the St. Louis newspapers say).

So Harley and Sage snuck off without me to get a head start, with my promise that I’d catch up as soon as I was able. They slipped out the kitchen door and onto the dark, abandoned streets of Wheatleigh. I figured it’d take a half hour makin’ that hall as spotless as we found it.

I wasn’t five minutes into my chore when someone screamed two blocks up the road from the inn — a loud, guttural, throat-tearin’ scream that sounded like Harley.

At the second scream I was on my feet and runnin’ to the kitchen door. Mrs. Winston was smaller and stouter than me, but she had a farmhand’s muscle and stopped me like a wall o’ bricks: she leapt between me and the door, threw the bolts in place, turned and held me fast with steel hands.

“Don’t you dare,” she said over the third scream. She didn’t yell or nothin’. She said it calm and cold like she knew I’d obey.

I kicked and twisted and writhed and screamed. I fought ’til I was exhausted; she was planted so firm it was like wrestlin’ a slab o’ concrete. “That’s Harley!” I shouted. “Lemme go! That’s Harley!”

“What the hell they doin’ on the streets this late?” said Mrs. Winston, her voice hollow now, her eyes bulgin’ in a mix o’ horror and outrage.

There wasn’t a fourth scream. The town was quiet ‘cept for the rustle o’ trees swayin’ in the wind and my own short, feral, sniffly breaths.

I was sober now.

“Nothin’ to be done,” she kept sayin’ sadly. “Just wait ’til mornin’. Nothin’ to be done.”

I backed away from her, pointin’ a finger at her like I could magically turn it into a gun anytime I wanted. “This ain’t funny, you hillbilly bitch,” I growled. “Joke’s over, y’hear me?”

“Nothin’ to be done,” she said, shakin’ her head, her face wincin’ in sympathy.

“You better hope my Harley and Sage ain’t hurt.”

“Just wait ’til mornin’, Sweetheart. Nothin’ to be–”

I stamped my foot on the floor and shrieked for her to shut the fuck up ’til I erupted like a sob volcano. She moved toward me to take me in her arms, still sayin’ that same line over and over.

“Just wait ’til mornin’. Nothin’ to be done.”

Mr. Winston was sittin’ in his chair in the lobby when I tore away from his wife and made a mad dash to the front door. I didn’t realize he’d moved there from the couch, where he’d sat readin’ before; and I didn’t notice the coach gun in his lap ’til he leapt to his feet and pointed both barrels right at my nose. I froze with my hand an inch from the door lock.

His gentle face was hard as stone now, his eyes red and hot. “Back up from that door, Miss,” he said, “and set yourself down.”

I musta looked like a big-mouthed bass just then, my eyes buggin’ outta my head, mouth openin’ and closin’ and nothin’ comin’ out. He told me again, and I stepped back three paces.

“You people are insane,” I whined. “What if Harley’s hurt? What about sweet little Sage? You gonna just leave ’em there in the street?”

Somewhere out back o’ the house, another sound joined the rustlin’ of the trees: a hideous brayin’ sound that wasn’t quite breathin’ and wasn’t quite gaspin’.

We heard the kitchen doorknob rattle like someone was tryin’ to tear the door off its hinges. Then BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM as somebody’s fist pummeled the door in its frame.

Again. BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM.

The three of us stood there, not movin’. My feet started pointin’ down the hall, but my eyes went to Mr. Winston and his shotgun. Both was still watchin’ me hard.

The breathin’ faded away to silence as the source moved away from the kitchen door. It returned a few seconds later, louder and clearer as it approached the lobby door.

The doorknob rattled near outta its bolts.

BAM BAM BAM went somebody’s fist against the door. Now I realized what the breathin’ sound was: terrified, exhausted, inconsolable sobs.

I shouted Harley’s name and moved for the door, but Mr. Winston stepped between us, pressin’ the shotgun to my throat. His eyes was empty and dead like a doll’s. He’d blow my head off without a second thought.

“Please,” I almost managed to say without blubberin’. “Why’re you doin’ this? Let him in for god’s sake! He could be hurt!”

“Your Harley’s dead already,” said Mr. Winston.

“He’s right there on your doorstep!” I shrieked, spittin’ like a maniac.

“Right now that door’s a floodgate, and Tommy Darrow the flood. Understand? Better to have two dead than five.”

The sobbin’ continued as Harley clawed at the doorknob. I shot a pleadin’ look at Mrs. Winston, and it dawned on me that she’d been shuttin’ all the curtains in the lobby while her husband kept my attention.

A new rustlin’ sound, different from the trees: the Winstons had bushes lined up under the front-most windows of the lobby. Two windows left of the lobby door, the bushes rustled. Then there was a thud.

Harley’s grimacin’ face appeared at the bottom of the window, like he’d dragged himself to it. He looked right at me, his face splashed with red, his wet eyes bulgin’ out of the sockets with terror. He started bangin’ a blood-sopped hand weakly against the glass just as I ran to the window.

Mrs. Winston beat me there and grabbed me, wrestlin’ my hands away from the window latch. I started callin’ her every filthy name I ever heard at the top o’ my lungs.

She stumbled and lost her grip on my wrists; I threw her to the floor and clawed at the window latch, to fling open the window and drag Harley inside where he’d be warm and safe; to squeeze him in my arms and soak up all his pain and fear. I rattled off a chain o’ sweet, comfortin’ words through the glass, which mighta come out as utter nonsense, I’m not real sure. I was lookin’ at Harley again when I heard Mr. Winston shoutin’ his last warnin’ ten feet to my right, his coach gun starin’ right at my head.

I got a perfect moonlit view o’ the Winstons’ front yard through the window just as my thumb started to flip the latch open.

I still heard Mr. Winston’s voice echoin’ in my skull when I fainted, and later when I awoke at the Salina Regional Health Center — those words he’d spoke earlier, over the frantic bangin’ on the door and the ungodly sobbin’ on the stoop.

Your Harley’s dead already.

Standin’ over the windowsill, I saw Harley’s bloody face starin’ at my stomach, still bug-eyed, still grimacin’. I saw his left hand, still weakly rappin’ against the window, smearin’ blood all over it, the fingers limp.

I saw the thing that held ’em both like cheap Halloween props as it squatted in the bushes, its burlap face grinnin’ up at me with a crooked, stitched-up mouth.

Credit To –Mike MacDee

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A Story About A Dog

July 9, 2014 at 12:00 PM
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I’ve heard it said before that if you believe in angels, you must believe in demons as well. I’m not sure if I truly believe that either really exist and my leanings change from mood to mood. But there are times when I wonder if there is something there watching us, cloaked in the dark, hating us. When I’ve felt the presence of something I couldn’t see, when instincts overrode logic and I couldn’t close my eyes or turn my back to it because I just didn’t know.

I can say with a certain amount of confidence that everyone has felt this way at some point in their life with varying degrees of intensity and frequency. But that’s not what this is about, not entirely anyway.

When I let myself believe in such things, I realize that it started around 10 years ago when I spent a week at my aunt and uncle’s house. They lived several hours away from my own home and this was something I had always hated, seeing as their children were the only ones in the family anywhere close to my age.
There were plenty of movies, games, and other activities to keep me occupied during my stay, bookending my experience in a way that nearly erased it from my thoughts altogether. Afterwards, it had seemed such a small thing to me that I mentioned it to no one.

It was late at night at some point in the middle of my stay. I’d woken quite suddenly in my bed for seemingly no reason at all and couldn’t get back to sleep, even after what seemed to be hours of laying in the dark. Defeated, I decided to get up and move around, maybe get a glass of water before trying again. I looked to the clock and noticed that it was very late, early morning in fact: three-something it said. But what could I do?

As I walked out into the hallway, I noticed that I didn’t feel quite right – a bit sick in my stomach and slightly… anxious? Unsettled? I turned on every light I came across, but maybe that was only my childish fear of the dark getting the best of me. I was only eleven at the time after all.

Despite my attempts to reason my dread away, to banish it as I had done the dark, the feeling persisted all the way to the kitchen. I needed to calm down if I was to get any further sleep that night. I got myself a glass, filled it from the tap, and sat down at the kitchen table. I felt a bit lonely, knowing that I was the only person awake in the house and I disliked looking at the empty chairs. So I turned my gaze to the large glass doors instead, the impenetrable pitch of the night blocking the backyard from view.

I couldn’t see anything out there, but I froze instantly, instinctively; I was being watched. Something was approaching the door, the windows – I couldn’t see it but it could see me clearly. With all the light flooding the kitchen, I was bathed in it, completely exposed but I couldn’t see out.

Everything was awful. I wanted to run but I couldn’t make myself move an inch, not even to look away. And these flimsy, hateful walls – a thin pane of glass – what good would any of that do? None. Nowhere was safe. And it was coming.

Soon enough, I could make out the shape. It was at eye level with me on all fours. I couldn’t see it with my eyes, not physically, but something in me inexplicably knew it was there, knew what it looked like and how it moved. Closer still and I could distinguish its features; thick, matted black fur against the black night, a chain around its throat, and yellow eyes that stared in at me through the glass. Its teeth and maw were dripping with saliva. It was a large dog and it wasn’t at the same time. It stopped just outside the door and glared at me. Snarls ripped from its throat, but I couldn’t hear any of it, not really.

I was too terrified to move, paralyzed by its malevolent gaze.

‘It’s not real,’ I thought, ‘Just get up and walk away. Go back to bed’.

Eventually, I did. I left my water on the table, full and tepid, and crept quietly up the stairs. It felt as if any sudden moves might set it off, so I did everything slowly and carefully until I was lying in my bed. Despite my expectations, I was able to fall asleep relatively quickly. I don’t think I even dreamed.

In the morning, with the light of day and the presence of other people around me, the whole thing could be written off as a figment of my imagination. I was obviously spooked by something from the moment I got up, so it wasn’t that far-fetched that my mind would play such a trick on me. I didn’t say anything to anyone, simply because I didn’t think it was anything significant. I mean, what even happened?

I didn’t exactly forget about it, but I didn’t let it worry me either. It wasn’t even something to move on from, just a strange thing that happened.

Life went on.

The next few years were difficult and rather hard on my family – financially, emotionally, and health-wise as well. We got along well enough even after our house was foreclosed on. We switched towns, switched schools, and moved to a much smaller house as we waited for things to get better. I was fourteen and starting high school when things started to settle down again.

I didn’t exactly approve of our new home. My brother and I lived downstairs in the basement and our rooms shared a wall. We enjoyed each other’s company well enough, so it wasn’t that bad spending so much time together, but there were times when he could get on my nerves. I would often stay up rather late reading in my room, and I eventually came to notice a strange clicking noise coming from his bedroom every couple of nights around midnight. It sounded as if he was flicking his light on and off… but why would he do that?

I decided to just leave him be for a while. But, the thing is, the more I noticed it, the more it started to bother me. I came to expect it to happen almost every night. A couple of weeks later, it was keeping me up at night wondering what my brother thought he was doing, waiting until it would eventually stop.

After a bit of internal debate, I decided to just ask him to ‘please stop’ (perhaps not so nicely though). However, when I knocked and opened his door, I found the room dark and my brother himself in bed, apparently fast asleep. How strange.

I closed the door and returned to my room. The odd noise persisted.
The next day, I decided that I was going to do a little experiment. Something must be making that noise after all. I told my brother what I noticed and asked him to go around the basement rooms and click various things – lights, doors, anything – while I waited and listened in my room for the sound that matched the one I was hearing at night.

Turns out, it was the light in the little closet with the boiler that was attached to his room. There was a bare light bulb inside, and the pulling of that chain made the noise I had been hearing at night. There was no further explanation to be found.

Soon after, my brother started reporting strange dreams and the eerie feeling that he was being watched, even during the day. I assumed this was in response to our discovery and mentally dismissed it while outwardly showing my support and sympathy. Until I started experiencing the same sort of thing. I would wake up at night paralyzed with fear, sometimes coming out of disturbing nightmares, other times out of perfectly normal sleep. I could no longer fall asleep with my back exposed. I found myself unable to bear leaving my door open at night. During the day, I felt paranoid, always looking over my shoulder and waiting for something to hurt me.

Weeks later, something finally happened to me while I was lifting my foot to climb the stairs and join my family for a meal. Not a single thought in my head, I was suddenly awash with terror. I just ran to the door at the top of the stairs, frightened out of my wits for no apparent reason. When I stepped into the daylight, I turned around and looked behind me. It was there, at the bottom of the stairs, watching me. That dog. I knew it was there, but I couldn’t see it – just like before. I closed the door and walked into the kitchen. No one saw or heard anything of my momentary panic and I didn’t feel like enlightening them. Not even my brother. Strange noises are fine, a creepy unexplainable thing, but you’re seeing phantom dogs now? Liar.

Stupid overactive imagination. Calm the hell down.

I didn’t want to go back down there – ever – but eventually, I just got back into the habit of it. Feeling constant dread? That’s just normal. Cringing away from empty air? Normal. Nightmare again? Totally normal.

My parents started arguing a lot. Dad would leave, going out on walks to ‘clear his head’, gone for so long we’d start to wonder if he was ever coming back. We moved again, switched towns, switched schools. My grades went down the toilet. My real life problems chased the unnatural fear away. Everything sort of peaked and then slowly started to get better over the course of the next year.

My aunt and uncle came to town and we went out to lunch one day. The conversation was light-hearted enough between my siblings and cousins until my brother brought up the weird happenings in our old house. My cousin latched onto this and told us a few paranormal stories of her own. One day, she said, she was playing with her friends in their old backyard when she ‘heard’ a noise. She said she didn’t really hear it exactly, but she knew the sound.
When she looked up, she saw a great big dog with a jingling chain around its neck. She had screamed and run inside to her mom, crying uncontrollably and completely inconsolable. She said she didn’t really understand what had happened.

Feeling distinctly unsettled, I asked her what the dog looked like. Big and black, she said, with shaggy fur. Yellow eyes? I asked. Yes, yellow eyes and it was bigger than a normal dog, taller.

“I saw that dog too, when I was staying at your house.”

I told them the short little story of how I woke up and saw a big, scary dog through the doors in their kitchen. We thought it was fun, this strange coincidence. Apparently, it was around the same time as well. What was going on then? I wondered aloud.

Well, that was right around the time a close relative started to get so dangerously sick.

That was right before Mom and Dad’s business started going down.

And Uncle lost his job.

And my various family couples started fighting.

And then we lost the house.

But then things started to get better… until it showed up again.

What if…?

No. No way.

This was just a figment of my imagination and hers, a coincidence. There was no demon dog following us around and bringing misfortune to our family. No way.

Demons aren’t real.

Angels… aren’t real either.

There’s nothing watching from the shadows, waiting while people sleep. There can’t be. Because, if there is, I don’t think I could ever feel safe again. I –

‘Shhh. There’s nothing there…’

Saying it doesn’t help much when I can feel it so strongly, watching, its gaze prickling all along my spine. What if our eyes aren’t seeing everything that’s really there? And there is something in the dark that just wants to spread pain and misery?

There would be no reasoning with such things, no fighting.
So they can’t be real.

Credit To – Amanda

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One Apiece

July 9, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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They arrived in the morning, any signs of good spirits drowned out by the roar of the boat’s engine. It was peaceful, like all graveyards. The divers dropped into the waves, taking shallow breaths in the sudden cold. They swam into the depths. Their flashlights cut through the darkness, illuminating the wreckage. The transatlantic cruise liner, Queen of the World, had capsized months ago. Most of those on board had escaped, but six souls remained. The families were done mourning. The estates had been divided. The sensationalist media had moved on to other stories. And yet, the divers, rescue divers, they were called, with a dry grin, had only just arrived. The names of the divers were Peterson, Smith, Rodriquez, Carson, Dennis, and Wesley. Half a dozen divers. Half a dozen bodies. One apiece. They entered the kitchen through a gap in the hull. Their flashlights cut through the darkness, illuminating linoleum countertops and industrial, galvanized steel appliances. They treaded water.

“So damn cold,” said Peterson, into his radio.

“It’s the ghosts,” murmured Wesley.

“Cut the crap,” ordered Rodriguez. “Peterson, check this deck, the rest of you, follow me, the stairwell’s in the stern.”

They departed, leaving Peterson alone. Their voices faded with distance, waves muffled by the ocean, then static, then silence. Peterson’s breathing was rapid, the pressure, he told himself. He gave the kitchen and the rooms nearby a cursory search, his flashlight flitting in and out of murky corners. After a while, relieved to have found nothing, he returned to the hole through which they had entered, drifting on the threshold, where the water was warmer, and where he could keep a watchful eye on the boat, and make sure that it did not leave without them.

“Peterson!”

“Jesus Christ!”

“Did I scare you, Peterson?” The voice of Rodriguez. Peterson turned to see the other divers approaching through the gloom.

“That’s ok. The water just got a lot warmer.”

Peterson laughed at his own little joke. The others remained silent. As they drew near, he noticed the body bag.

“You found one?”

There was a long silence. Dennis at last responded, his voice choked with tears.

“It’s the little girl.”

Again, silence. The five of them remained motionless. The five of them. Peterson’s heart skipped a beat.

“Where’s Wesley?” he asked.

“He disappeared,” said Rodriguez. “One of his sick jokes, I guess. I swear to god, I’m going to kill that kid if he doesn’t learn to treat his job with a little more respect. We’re taking this one up to the boat, oxygen’s running low.”

Startled, Peterson checked his gauge. Sure enough, it read a little under one quarter. He hadn’t realized how long it had been.

“I’ll go find Wesley,” said Smith. “We don’t need another body to worry about.”

“I’ll go with you,” said Carson. “Nobody deserves to be alone in a place like this.”

They went their separate ways. Within moments, Peterson, Dennis and Rodriguez had reached the surface. They passed the body bag to the somber crew and climbed onto the boat, masks off, enjoying the cool morning air. The respite was brief. The crew handed them fresh oxygen tanks, and they plunged back into the water.

They entered the kitchen again. No sign of the others.

“No sense waiting here,” said Rodriguez. “Let’s keep looking, get it over with. Peterson, come with us this time. I’m not sure it’s a good idea to split up again.”

They headed towards the stairwell in silence. Rodriguez thought about the job. Dennis thought about his family. Peterson prayed.

They found two more bodies in the passenger deck, and one on the way back, trapped by the ankle in the railing of the stairwell, a few flights down. They saw nothing of the other divers. They carried the bodies up to the boat and took another rest, and only when they had climbed onto the boat and taken off their gear did Peterson and Rodriguez notice that Dennis was missing.

They reluctantly returned wreckage.

“I’m going to go find them,” muttered Rodriguez. He swam off, leaving Peterson in the kitchen, but within minutes he had returned, struggling with a body bag.

“Don’t know how we missed this one before. Take him up to the ship, will you?” Peterson nodded and took the body, glad for an excuse to leave. No sooner had he given the body to the crew, however, than he had dived back into the depths, eager to find the others and finish the job.

He hesitated just inside the kitchen. There was no sign the others. Suddenly, Peterson felt very much alone. He drifted on the threshold, shining his flashlight into the murk. He noticed something then, an odd shape behind one of the appliances, an appliance that looked somewhat out of place. He moved in for a closer look. Sure enough, it had been disconnected somehow from its proper place on the opposite wall, and had slid up against the countertop. Trapped behind it was a body. The last body. Peterson felt a strange excitement. He could finish the job, right here, right now. He pushed the appliance aside and pulled a folded body bag from his utility belt. After he had bagged the body, he made for the boat, swimming quickly. As soon as he crossed the threshold, however, he felt a cold hand on his ankle.

In that moment, Peterson’s heart stopped. His vision glazed over, he saw the body drift away into the ocean. In that moment, as six pairs of cold hands pulled him back into the wreckage, Peterson realized something. Half a dozen bodies taken. Half a dozen divers taken. One apiece.

Credit To – Keenan Evans

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Snow

July 8, 2014 at 12:00 PM
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May, 2014

I opened the door, and I was met with the cold blast of Antarctica’s winter winds. I wasn’t really sure why I was here; I just needed to get away from the others. This was my first stay over winter in the base. I did it to escape my previous life. After basically going broke, and the divorce, I just needed to escape. I was employed here as a maintenance worker. The pay was good, and, since there was nothing to buy, I would have six months worth of savings at the end. There were 36 other people at the base, none of which I particularly liked. Commander Evans didn’t accept anyone questioning his command, even when he was wrong. He was the reason I was probably out here; an argument with him. He asked me to fix the lights in the geology labs, as Norton wouldn’t shut up about it, but I was already in the middle of fixing some of Bennett’s meteorology equipment. I told him to get Ripley, Young or Anderson, the other engineers here, but no, he asked me. Eventually we started arguing, and, just as we were both about to start unleashing an hour’s worth of built up fury, Norton heard us, and just told Evans it didn’t matter. This just pissed Evans off even more, as he didn’t like anyone telling him he wasn’t Doctor fucking Manhattan. Eventually, I just left.

I decided I needed to get out. It was dark outside; very dark. All I could see was snow whirling next to me, the lights of the base, and darkness. My destination was the tool shed. It was heated, of course, and I reckoned that no-one else would want to be out there. I didn’t tell anyone where I would be; I just wanted to be left alone. I clipped my harness to the guideline, and I stumbled into the snow. It was hard enough walking into the blizzard anyway, and it was even harder with the heavy clothes I was wearing. Still, I’d be dead without them.

It was about a 100 meter walk. I had a survival time of about one hour out here, if I wore all of the correct equipment. I did, of course. While going out of the main building without telling anyone was strictly against the rules, I didn’t care.

The blizzard tore through me, and I was holding on for dear life to the rope, as the increasing winds nearly took me off my feet. I slowly edged my way along the rope, although I couldn’t see anything ahead of me other than the snow, the rope and my hands. I was truly alone. Apart from the other 36 in the base, I was thousands of miles from anyone else.

From then on, it was simple. I would move my hands forward, then step, keeping a tight hold on the guideline. I nearly lost my grip at several occasions, and I was even blown off my feet at one point, but my safety wire saved me from getting lost in the infinite bleakness of the blizzard. Eventually I reached the building, and I pushed open the door, collapsing into the room. I slammed the door behind me. I began to discard my heavy outer gear; it was a cozy temperature. I let out a sigh of relaxation. The toolshed consisted of just a wall full of tools, one solitary window on the opposite side, and an extremely old TV with some DVDs next to them. Five DVDs in all, all ones that we had a second copy of, or were just unwatchable rubbish. The first was The Thing, which was of course popular down here in Antarctica; we watched it every year as part of a “Tradition”. We watched it with The Shining, which we all found odd since this base had its own caretaker named Bill Watson. However, while the Shining!Watson was an ok bloke, the one here was a dick. I had probably watched both about ten times in three months, and I decided to just pick another DVD at random. I closed my eyes, and randomly pointed at one of the DVDs. I opened my eyes, and saw my index finger jabbing into the “E” on the battlefield earth cover. I grabbed it, opened the door, and threw it out into Antarctica. I smiled, as I hated the movie with a passion. Instead of bothering with picking randomly, I just picked up the Saturday morning Watchmen DVD, and jammed it into the DVD played on the side of the telly.

As the menu came up, I simply selected “PLAY ALL.”

Just as I began to lay back down, I had a part of me shouting that something was missing, but I just couldn’t figure out what. Then I remembered: cigarettes. I’d always been an avid smoker, so I was dismayed that they were banned in the base.

Of course, I had a pack or two smuggled away in the toolshed, so I pried open the loose panel, and grabbed the last packet left, along with the lighter. I sat back, and lit. At this moment, it seemed like everything was perfect. As Rorschach told Adrian to duck as he “Biffed” a criminal in the face, as I inhaled the smoke, as the radiator kept everything warm, as I had been up for the last 20 hours, I fell asleep.

It was all a series of unfortunate coincidences, wasn’t it? That Evans picked me, that we argued, that I smoked, that I removed my coat, that, half an hour after I went to sleep, my cigarette fell from my hands, and into some helicopter fuel that had been left there without my knowledge. I think it must have been either Benton or Harvey; either way it didn’t matter. The fact I didn’t die of smoke inhalation was just luck; the sounds of Storm Saxon getting punched in the face by Doctor Manhattan shaped like a boxing glove woke me. I woke nearly instantly; though I was tired, I had the ability to wake up instantly. I looked around, and for a second, I was utterly baffled as to what was going on. The fire had taken over an entire wall, engulfing my harness. I bolted upright, and leapt for my coat. I threw it on my shoulders, and I slid my heavy snow boots on. I threw the door open, and I was met with the howling winds, making me stumble backwards, towards the fire.

I had to make a split second decision: either stay in the shed, attempt to put the fire out, probably burn to death; or walk back to Amundsen-Scott’s main building without a harness, probably get lost in the snow and die of hypothermia.

You’re thinking about it now, and whatever choice I make I’ll be branded an idiot for letting this happen in the first place, but you weren’t here. You have all the time in the world to make your choice. I had seconds, if that.

I chose the ice over the fire. I jumped out, and grabbed the line. The winds were howling at me to let go, which would mean almost certain death without my harness. My hands gripped firmly onto the rope, and I slowly edged my way forward. After just a few meters, the burning shed was lost in the flames. I thought for a second what punishment I would face from Evans, but I instantly went back to concentrating on survival. I hugged onto the line, as the bitter cold dug into me, even with my coat on.

It was then that I slipped. My feet went flying off sideways, and my hands were hurting as the thin wire dug into them. My hands were tired, after just seconds. I knew if I let go, I was dead. The storm continued to batter into me, trying to convince me to let go. My feet weren’t touching the ground, instead my knee was supporting me. I pushed up with my knee, and I was finally on two feet again.

I was much more careful the second time, as I knew I was lucky to have this chance. My stance was wider, and I leant into the rope slightly. I put my left hand forward first, and I slowly released my right. I plodded my two feet forward. I was freezing cold. I was wondering whether my hands had frostbite, but I knew wondering things like that wasn’t going to help. I continued to march forward, slowly but surely, for about twenty meters or so. I wasn’t even halfway, and all I could see in any direction was snow and darkness. I was beginning to whimper, both out of pain and the knowledge that I’d probably die here. I started talking to myself, giving myself some false reassurance.
“You can do it, come on. Do it. Nearly there. Come one.”

About twenty minutes later, after I had cover a mere 10 meters, I began to cry. I wasn’t even halfway, and I was already beginning to give up. The tears froze on my face, causing even more pain. I screamed. Why? Why couldn’t Evans just have asked Young? She was head maintenance worker anyway! That stupid dumb cunt! Why couldn’t he have just asked someone else?

It was my fault, and I knew it. But having someone else to blame at least gave me a target. I imagined all the ways Evans could die painfully, and I must have covered twenty meters without realizing it.

Then, as I was imagining Evans’ head go flying from his body and crowds cheered, the storm picked up its intensity.

It must have bad, extremely bad, or maybe the wind just coincided with the flames somehow burning through the guideline, but, whatever happened, the guideline broke at the toolshed’s end. I fell to the ground, yet, by some miracle, I was still holding onto the rope.

I began to scream, as the winds tried as they could to knock me off the wire, to send me spiraling into the unknown darkness of Antarctic.

For a single second, I had a moment of self-doubt. That it would be so much easier to just… let go.
No. Not now. I’m not just bloody dying here, come on, you can-

The winds disagreed with me, as another gust caused me to let go.

Now I was truly lost; truly dead. I stood up, and walked into the winds.

Come on, there’s got to be something.

I closed my eyes, as the snow stung them. I knew my eyesight was useless now.

I’ll never know what exactly it was, but a piece of debris must have come loose, from somewhere. Whatever it was, it smashed into my leg at breakneck speed. I howled out in pain, and I fell. My leg was broken.

I clawed my hands into the snow. Come on. Come on. COME ON! There was that guy, they made a film about him, about how he broke his legs in some mountains, yet crawled his way to safety! His name was Joe, or Simon? It doesn’t matter, come on, nearly-

The wind made one final push, which forced me out of my weak grip on the ground, and out into the infinite snow.

Credit To – Come on, I mentioned The Thing. Take a guess.

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Chronicles of the Mark #1: The Crazy Place

July 8, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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This is an entry in the ongoing Mark of Canus pasta series.

Two concepts exist in our world, the natural, and the supernatural. Humanity actively sees and understands the natural, as we progress in science and mathematics, but most of us refuse to observe the existence of the supernatural, as we usually cannot perceive it. Many outright deny the possibility of supernatural occurrences, artifacts, or entities entirely, on the grounds that these things cannot be logically explained. The supernatural cannot be explained logically because it is not based in logic, as logic itself is a natural principle.
The human mind, or at least the part our basic consciousness resides in, is another natural thing, an article of logic. This is why we are not able to accept the supernatural as real, because it goes against the very basis of our understanding. Many argue the supernatural is in a part of our minds, the usually dormant part from where psychosis comes from, the crazy part, and that our minds have the capability for the supernatural, but that portion is almost always locked for some reason. Either way, the supernatural most certainly exists, and there is a lot of power in it even today. One such case of supernatural power in the world is the Mark of Canus, a manifestation of evil in the universe, and a driving force for violent insanity and even deeper darkness in the confines of the mind.
Throughout time, the Mark of Canus has touched certain individuals to the point of total, unfiltered madness. Francis Bandersnatch, an English archeologist of the early 20th century, recounts his encounter with the Mark as it drove his compatriot off the edge of the human psyche, and sent him spiraling in to the dark depths of lunacy:
The year was 1912, and I, Francis Bandersnatch, had only just earned the position of head archeologist of a dig team at Oxford. A fetching 27 years of age, I was in the prime of my life, and ready for any kind of adventure, or so I had thought. When my first assignment came in, I was eager to test my wits and determined to make my country proud through discovery. However I was not prepared, contrary to my attitude, for the horrors to come.
Apparently, some American chap by the name of Edward Kripp had been exploring in the Yucatan, a jungle peninsula in Mexico, when he stumbled upon some odd ruins from a seemingly ancient civilization. He then proceeded to enter the main structure, as any self-respecting explorer would have done, and scope out the place. He found things quite interesting, obviously, interesting enough to contract a dig team from Oxford, with yours truly as head, to excavate to ruins and uncover the secrets within.
I must admit, it sounded marvelous, a great first assignment for my team, and I accepted without hesitation. In two weeks’ time, my team arrived in a small village outlying the jungle and met up with this American fellow. At first sight, he seemed like an eager man, full of energy and passion. We only exchanged a brief greeting, but I liked him immediately. The locals at the village, however, did not.
Strange lot, these Mexicans, they completely avoided Kripp, and refused to speak with him. The night before we set out for the ruins, as my team and Kripp all retired to get some sleep, one of them came to me. He looked grave, almost frightened, said he had come to warn me.
“You and team go to ruins. Stay away! I warn you, evil crouched in old temple. Aztecs from here, they build great temples all over. This one different, no Aztecs, someone else. They deny Aztec Gods, worship true evil. They gone, but evil remain.”
I listened intently to the man’s story. It was foreboding, I must admit, and I was a little spooked, but nevertheless I had an assignment. I was hungry for adventure. I realize now I should have heeded his warning, and left right then, that night. But I didn’t listen. The man looked agitated; he continued.
“That man, American explorer, he went inside temple. Now he branded with Mark. Evil has him. Stay away from him, do not keep him with you. We have seen It with him, the Mark has him, the evil is in him. Please, leave this place now, leave American! Run away!”
Determined to stick to my assignment, I told the man to leave my room. Yes, his words were marked with grave honesty, but I didn’t care. I mostly considered him a nut, as these Mexicans usually are. I decided to sleep off his weird story, to be refreshed for the next day’s journey.
In the morning my team packed up and left for the ruins, right on schedule. We would have to trek through the jungle for a day and a half to get to the ruins, and then commence the digging the following day. As we moved through the dense tropical foliage, I had a chance to speak with this Kripp. In the back of my mind, the Mexican’s words still sat. I had been mulling them over all morning. Now was my chance to actually see what the Mexican may have meant, why he was so spooked.
“So, Kripp. Tell me more about these ruins you’ve found.” I started the conversation off, and studied the man’s face as he began. Yet again, he seemed passionate about his find, as was evident in his words. His face held an almost enlightened expression as he spoke of the discoveries we would make.
“Well, Mr. Bandersnatch, I was just mapping out some of the terrain when I came on it. It was magnificent, the stone temple looming over me, just hiding the sun’s light; it seemed to almost glow. The normally aggressive flora of the area seemed to surrender to the temple, as it was completely clear for about fifty yards all around the structure, not a vine or tree penetrated the stone either, as was normally the case in these parts. I have to say it was glorious. The dark entrance just screamed discovery! So of course I went in…”
“Then what?” I pushed for some information, at this point I was equally excited for the dig. Suddenly his demeanor changed, only slightly though. An infinitesimal sense of confusion, almost irritation, was present on his face here. There was an almost unnoticeable twitch in his right eye as he continued.
“That, my British friend, is the best part. But explaining it wouldn’t do it any justice, so I’ll just let you see when we get there. Anyway, I’d better move a little ahead, the jungle gets pretty tricky at this part of the journey. You men can follow behind a few steps.”
As Kripp walked ahead, one of my own men came to my side to replace him. A taller, burlier gentleman named Harold Ross studied Kripp as he walked away. The man was one of my diggers, and a veteran of the trade, who had been to numerous excavations in Africa. He was a trusted member of my team whom I held highly. The look on his face was a distrusting one.
“Boss, I want to talk to you about something, if I may.”
“Why yes of course, Mr. Ross, what is it on your mind?”
“It’s just that I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation with the American. I’m not so sure of his story.”
“What do you getting at, old bean?”
“I’ve seen a lot of weird things in this business, things no one should see, but this man is odd. I don’t like him. Ever since I saw him, something about him seemed off, like he was hiding something. And when he wouldn’t tell you just now about the inside of the temple, which I’m sure any explorer would have relished in doing so, it just didn’t seem right. Also, the villagers back there never said a word to him the whole time. They all avoided him. I’m telling you, boss, I don’t think he checks out.”
I didn’t want to unsettle any of my team, I would have hated to dislodge their focus on the assignment, so I neglected to mention the Mexican’s warning. No doubt, Kripp did seem kind of odd, but I had no reason to be suspicious. However, I though it a prudent fear, as many criminals have been known to stalk these kinds of ruins. They would hire dig teams like mine, only to have them dig up treasure then in turn shoot the diggers dead and haul it off for their own gains. It was a legitimate concern for archeologists like myself. To ease his mind, and the fraction of mine which was paranoid, I told him we should keep an eye on Kripp, and he agreed.
We traveled the rest of the day through the jungle, and when night came we set up camp to rest. After dinner, we all retired to our tents and got ready to sleep. I was updating my logbook when I heard some voice talking at the camp. I thought everyone was asleep, so I left my tent to investigate. The voice was coming from Kripp’s tent.
I leaned in to get a better listen. It appeared as if he was talking to himself, but I couldn’t make out any words or sentences in his speech, just obscure ranting. It was mortifying, listening to his hurried nonsense, gapped by outbursts of chuckling and awful gargling sounds. The sound was positively unsettling, it touched the bottom of my gut and made my neck hairs stand. Just as I was about to open his tent to see if the fellow was alright, he fell silent, and I heard the sound of his head dropping on the pillow. Aghast at this incident, I crept back to my tent, and attempted to get some sleep.
In the morning we set out again. I was considerably less energetic than before, as I was unable to sleep well after listening to Kripp the night before. He looked worse as well, his eyes now lined with dark bags. He looked pale, worn out, quite the opposite of yesterday’s Kripp. The more I observed of this man, the more he puzzled me.
The jungle became denser and denser as we moved closer to the temple. The aura of it changed as well. Unlike the day before, no animals were around. Gradually, the sounds of the jungle started to fade out, until the area became completely silent. The only sounds were of everyone’s steps and breathing, everyone’s except Kripp’s. His breathing was inaudible, and is couldn’t discern his footsteps. It was perplexing.
We trekked on through until my watch read noon, and shortly after, Kripp stopped. He looked back at us, and with a grin revealing all of his teeth, he pulled back an elephant’s ear leaf, revealing the temple. It was not as he described. The stone temple had an ominous look to it, the grey stone appeared to be untouched by the elements. The structure was plain, yet almost insinuating vanity. The feeling I had from looking upon it was confusing. I had never seen architecture like this.
Then, my eyes settled on the large image above the entrance. It was a symbol of some kind I had never seen before, utterly unknown and mysterious. It had a parading look about it, but just seeing it gave me deep chills. I didn’t know what this place was, but I was starting to believe the Mexican’s words about some evil, as the building practically poured out an alien energy, felt in the deepest reaches of my mind.
I couldn’t take my mind off the marking on the stone face, until a member of my team fell to his knees. I watched him start crying and heaving, stupefied at what was happening to him. He heaved more violently now, and then he let out a mouthful of blood onto the ground. Terrified at his own blood before him, the man started shaking and looked up to me.
“Probably the jungle,” noted Kripp, “There are a lot of sicknesses that can be contracted from the various insects and plants out here. Let’s get him inside.”
I looked at Kripp’s face. I had a very dark quality to it now. This man was totally different, there was an insidious look about him. I turned to Ross, who was studying Kripp as well, that look of distrust intensified.
We drug the coughing man into the dark temple entrance. Kripp lit some torches, and when coupled with a few of our lanterns revealed a large chamber. I looked around at the walls, all bearing the same mark from outside. Corridors on all sides remained pitch black for now, to be explored later. I must admit, the find was incredible. To have a structure as old as this, completely intact, was an oddity. It was the discovery of the century.
The sick man was given some water and made to rest in the main chamber, and the rest of the team split up to start mapping the temple. Ross and I stayed together with Kripp, because I was the head, and because we wanted to have our eyes on him. We found passageways that led us underground, and the deeper we got, the more the temple appeared to have succumb to nature. We came to a point where the way was blocked by earth. And so, the digging begun.
The whole time I was in the temple, I kept hearing frightening sounds from the blackened corridors. The overwhelming sense of lurking darkness got to me after a while. It was like nothing I had felt before. The fear in my heart rose with every step, and a feeling of some terrifying discovery waiting for me kept reentering my mind. I never knew my digs would be like this. I began to feel sick, and agitated. My mind started wandering, until I had completely lost focus.
Suddenly, I felt I had gotten lost and separated from the two others. I felt completely alone, that is, except for the creeping entity which lurched forward in the darkness towards me at every turn. My mind kept going back to that mark. I saw it over and over again, covered in ancient blood. I had a vision, a nightmare from the very depths of my mind. A sacrifice, blood all over the walls of the temple; that Mark everywhere. People dead. Then the sounds came, a horrifying song in some foreign tongue, dancing to the beat of some drums, a great crescendo until the finale I felt was coming. That Mark the whole time. I felt a slight slithering inside my bones.
I wanted it to end, I reached for my eyes; gripped the eyeballs themselves, realizing the ultimatum of my situation. I was then yanked from my state by Ross, who said I’d gone blank for a moment. I shrugged off the shivers as those feeling completely resided. By then Kripp was looking at me. I could see him in the corner of my eye, grinning a dark grin.
A member of my team ran up to meet us, said that they had discovered something I should see. We followed him back to the main chamber, and down an opposite hall which led underground even deeper than the tunnels we were just in. At the bottom, the hall opened up to another dark room, with a great circular door at the opposite end. The Mark was carved with special attention to detail on this door, and I feared for what was inside.
I looked back to see if Kripp had discovered this as well, but he was gone. Ross looked surprised that he has lost Kripp, having kept a close watch on the man. We studied the current room for a bit, then went back up to the main chamber, where a base had been set up, and found Kripp there talking to a member of my team.
“He says a group of diggers hasn’t come back yet, as they were supposed to.” Kripp looked grim as he spoke, “I warned everyone to be careful around here. Someone could get lost easily in this place.”
A team was sent to look for the diggers, with Kripp leading them, and by nightfall there had still been no word. The rest of us decided to turn in for the night, and as we all sat around eating I studied their faces. My men looked worried, frightened, and irritated. They all had a desperate nature to their tone of voice, and a resigned quality in their movements. They talked about odd feelings they’d been having since the dig started, swapping stories of creepy moments that concerned them. Not a one felt comfortable in the temple. They said they could feel it enveloping them, and if they didn’t get far away soon, they would go missing as well.
Their concern was genuine, I had felt the same thing since entering the temple. I noticed a great many of them scratched their eyes a lot. When I asked a few about it, they said that their eyes hurt from the darkness, and the markings on the wall seemed to exacerbate the problem. Greatly puzzled and afraid, I agreed that we needed to scrap the dig, and leave as soon as we found the rest of the team. For now, we would try to get some sleep.
I awoke in the middle of the night to the sound of terrible screams. When I fully I came to, I realized I was tied up, and being drug along the ground through a familiar passageway. My thoughts scattered, and the screams continued from down the hall. I looked up at who was dragging me, and found it to be one of my team, he was moaning. When I called to him, the man stopped walking and turned towards me. He continued his moans while he revealed his face.
Blood ran down his cheeks like red tears, his eyes were shut. When I shakily asked what happened, he opened up his eyelids to reveal his sockets were empty. Blood poured from them down his face. I was terrified, it was a nightmare. I screamed for help, but he just turned around and kept onwards. When he reached his destination he pulled me to my feet, allowing me to distinguish the room from before with the circular doorway, which had now been cleared away.
I was led forward and into the bottom chamber, which gave me the single most gruesome, horrific sight I had ever and will ever encounter. The walls and floor were red with fresh blood, and mangled corpses littered the whole room. My entire team, even the missing men from before, all dead and mutilated. Their bodies had been positioned in ways that resembled a twisted reenactment of an excavation. Their faces had all been ripped away, and their chests opened up, their hearts removed. I fell to my knees immediately and vomited. This could not have been a nightmare, it was way too real.
That damned Mark was everywhere, covered in blood as in my vision. I gaped at the overwhelming terror as I realized just what that Mark really was. I was, as the Mexican had put it, ‘true evil’. Nothing in the world came close to its intensity of utter horror. I was paralyzed by the scene before me.
There was a stone table in the middle of the room, on which rested a miserable Ross, he looked over and saw me. His eyes bulged out of his head and he called out to me for help, but I was still tied up and paralyzed with fear. He was bound by his wrists and ankles, and was naked from the waste up.
A figure appeared before him. It was Kripp, covered in blood. He started laughing maniacally and turned his attention towards me.
“Cut him loose.”
The eyeless man who dragged me now cut the ropes, but for some reason I still could not move. I watched in horror as the eyeless man, now having no use left, was ordered to kill himself. He proceeded to take the knife he just used to cut my ropes and slit his own throat, gargling as his blood spilled out on the ground. He fell over dead.
“Welcome, Mr. Bandersnatch, to my Crazy Place.” Kripp cried out with a degree of lunacy, “When I found this temple, I discovered an ancient evil more powerful than any God or Devil. The markings on the wall are that of the Mark of Canus, they have revealed themselves to individuals over time. This was a place of practice for those taken by the Mark, as I am. I’ve been ordered to let myself go free, submit to my dark desires, and kill for the Mark. I must obey its blessed commands. I was told to gather a team to open this chamber, and kill them all. As you can see I’m almost finished. Now, I’m creating art. Care to watch?”
My feet moved instinctively closer to the table where Ross lay. Kripp laughed uncontrollably as he took a knife and slowly gouged out an image of the Mark onto Ross’ stomach. I watched in disgust at his practice, and Ross screamed as the blood ran down his sides. Kripp looked in ecstasy as he proceeded to make large craters in the squirming Ross’ cheeks.
“Now, you shall see the Mark with clearer eyes! The very Mark which haunts my own mind and drives me to this! Welcome it inside you, it loves you. Its loving insanity will be your life blood and your poison. The Mark is, and always was, and it lives in us now!”
The madness became much deeper as he continued his dark art. He revealed a mass of eye balls wrapped in a cloth. Carefully placing them into the sockets he’d made in the dying Ross’ face, he reveled in his craftsmanship. Having ran out of eye balls, with only two sockets left empty, he turned to me.
“Come now, Mr. Bandersnatch, let us have those eyes of yours, and your sight will be joined with theirs!”
I could feel my hand reach for my eyes, as I had done earlier, and a grinning Kripp extended his hand in anticipation. I fought hard, but the Mark had insinuated itself into my mind, and I had little control. I fought it, and with my other hand reached for my pocket knife.
Kripp loved the idea, “Ooh, nice choice, just be careful not to damage them.”
He didn’t realize my intention. I pulled out the knife, and stabbed my other hand. The blood ran down my fingers. The pain kicked in, freeing me from the Mark’s hold. I turned and ran, much to the surprise of a deeply insane Kripp. I ran hard, all the way out of the temple. The whole way I heard his incensed laughter and growls of intent, as I knew he was chasing after me. Running for my life, the darkness closing in on me, I ran into the main chamber and right out of the temple into the night.
I just kept running out into the jungle until I was stopped by a hand on my arm. Screaming, I lurched back, not realizing at first that it was the Mexican from the village, alongside several armed villagers. I looked back at the entrance to the temple, and saw two figures in the dark corridor, both had glowing eyes. One had multiple sets on his face.
“You see, true evil in its form.” The Mexican said, trained on the entrance, “Time to go. They will not follow us now.”
I stared as the two figures backed up into the darkness of the temple. Never to be seen again. I could still hear the maddening laughter and screams.

Mr. Bandersnatch’s story is only one of many involving the Mark, and all its innate evil. Bandersnatch would return to England, where he would spend the rest of his days haunted by the memory of his trip. In June, 1956, Bandersnatch would be found dead in his apartment. He had a knife in his hand, and he had gouged out both of his eyes. He must have figured it was the only way to rid himself of the visions he had of the Mark of Canus.

Credit To – Greg P.

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