July 2014 Creepypasta Book Club: Cults, Conspiracies & Secret Societies – PLUS “The Secret World” Giveaway [Winner Chosen, Congrats to Kristela!]

July 1, 2014 at 12:00 AM

Welcome to possibly the longest-named post on the entire site! It fits, because this is going to be a long post – I’ve got a lot of ground to cover about the whole book club idea before we begin. Exposition, go!

Today we’re going to start the “creepypasta book club” that was discussed in previous announcement posts. If you’re not familiar, the idea is to read some books together that will help cultivate inspiration and nurture more original ideas in our writers. I don’t believe that I’m overestimating when I say that lately, a solid 75% of the incoming submissions are simply retreading the same few topics – I suppose that, for whatever reason, serial killers, haunted games, and fanfics of previously-created Creepypasta “characters” are extremely trendy right now.

The problem is, though, that after the 5000th rip-off of Jeff the Killer or the latest attempt to copy-and-replace Ben Drowned with the writer’s favorite game franchise, these stories get mind-numbingly boring. New ideas and inspiration are CLEARLY necessary now, because I for one am absolutely sick of reading about serial killers. I’m not sure if it’s just because they’ve been so in lately in pop culture (what a strange thing to say, but it seems to be true – Hannibal, Dexter, Jeff the Killer, so on and so forth), but we’ve gone way past the point of oversaturation.

You guys need to find something new to write about.

So that’s where this book club idea comes into play. Every month, I’ll select a general theme and give you guys one or two books to read. Now, to avoid confusion, this won’t be about reading already established “creepy” fiction like King or Chambers. Though we may do that another time, the book choices for the inspiration club will be, primarily, nonfiction (though some selections will definitely be “nonfiction” – we’re going to indulge in some pseudoscience and conspiracy books because, after all, we’re trying to get ideas for fiction anyhow). This will hopefully allow you guys to expand your comfort zone of creepy into realms like secret societies, cryptozoology, high-risk exploring like mountaineering, ancient cultures and pseudeoarchealogy, aliens, mysterious disappearances, and more.

The other added benefit of using nonfiction is that spoilers won’t be a concern. Since this post’s comments will act as the discussion forum for our book club, we need books that people can easily discuss at all sorts of different points of progress without ruining each other’s experience.

So, yes, to alleviate some of the confusion and concerns that initially came up when I presented this idea:

THIS POST is your book club. The comments here are where you should air out all your thoughts and ideas that spawn from reading the suggested books. There’s no requirement for how fast you progress through the book(s), whether you read both books or only one, or even if you finish the book(s) or not, so please feel free to jump in and discuss the books whenever you’d like.

If this takes off and you guys want it, perhaps in the future we can try and organize some sort of chat at the end of the month, but for now please don’t worry about that and just post here whenever you have things to talk about regarding this month’s books.

Okay, all that said – here are the two books I’ve selected for July 2014. As stated in the title, this month we’re going to explore the world of cults, conspiracies and the theorists who love them, and secret societies.

It should be said that these books were chosen with mature readers in mind. If you are under 18, please do check with your parent/legal guardian before reading these books. I’d really prefer to avoid a pitchfork-mob of angry parents who find this topic inappropriate for their kids. I’d also like to say that the opinions expressed in the books are, of course, the opinions of their authors and the people profiled only – I’m not advocating or co-signing any of the groups covered in these books. I’m not telling you to believe in the Illuminati or anything, I just think such topics are a cool and fun thing to learn about and will probably inspire some people to write better pastas.

The first book is by Jon Ronson, a British author/humourist that I personally really enjoy. Them: Adventures with Extremists is exactly what it says on the tin – Ronson meets and spends time with a lot of famous faces in the world of conspiracy theories and extremist beliefs. David Icke, Alex Jones, Omar Bakri Mohammed, and more – as Ronson says, the only criteria was that the people/organizations he features have been called ‘extremists’ at some point in their careers. Each episode gives you a look into the beliefs, day to day lives, personalities, and habits of the the various extremists that he profiles. If you’re interested in writing a character-driven story about conspiracies, cults, or societies, this book will be helpful. It also tends to be rather irreverently funny, which is a plus.

As a bonus, Jon Ronson was recently on WTF with Marc Maron, where he gave some behind-the-scenes details on this book (they also delve into The Psychopath Test, another book I’m considering for future months if this book club turns into a long-term thing) as well as more personal opinions and anecdotes. You can stream/download the episode here for now (it will eventually become a premium-only episode, so keep that in mind – based on the pattern, I’m guessing it will go premium-only sometime in August).

If you want to go more in depth, the second suggestion is Arthur Goldwag’s Cults, Conspiracies, and Secret Societies: The Straight Scoop on Freemasons, the Illuminati, Skull & Bones, Black Helicopters, the New World Order, and Many, Many More.

Unlike THEM, this book isn’t really a narrative – rather, the author has researched many of the world’s more infamous and interesting cults, conspiracy theories, and secret societies, and he’s done nice write-ups on each. The entries are organized thematically and can easily be read out of order if you’re so inclined. Beyond the organizations in the title, he also covers the origins of the Assassins (it’s not just a random word), Area 51 and all it encompasses, the Yakuza, the Kennedy assasinations, etc etc and so on. This book is really useful and interesting if you’d like to get a sort of crash course in this month’s topic.

Lastly, to celebrate the first book club post, I’m giving away ONE online game code for Funcom’s online game The Secret World.

Since the raffle is over (congratulations to Kristela A. for winning!), I’m putting the rest of this entry under a cut. The main page has so many stickied posts at the moment that I think it’s necessary to de-clutter wherever I can.

How to Write a Vidya Gaem Pasta

April 1, 2014 at 2:00 PM
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(A last hurrah to the Haunted Game ‘genre’, as it were.)

So, you’re wanting to write a video game crappy – erm, creepypasta? Think you have what it takes? To be honest, you probably don’t. But fear not! With just the submission form (who needs proofreading? Or drafts? Hell, who needs edits? Not you, that’s for sure!) and this handy guide, you’ll be writing terrible pastas in no time!
Wait, did I say ‘terrible’? Like, out loud?
I meant ‘beautiful’.
Yep.
Totally.
————–
First of all, you’re going to have to pick a topic! Maybe you should go for something well known? Maybe try your hand at more obscure games? It’s your choice! Let’s get creative!
(And by ‘get creative’, I mean ‘write the same shitty pasta that’s already been written a thousand times before’. But that doesn’t matter. Whatever.)
>Try a Pokemon pasta! They were the most popular video game pasta subject for a reason, you know. Don’t know anything about Pokemon? Doesn’t matter – just as people who have never played Pokemon can pick it up easily, you don’t need to know anything about it to write a pokepasta! Just throw in some peekachoos and charozords and you’re all set!
>Maybe a Minecraft pasta? Just like how you can do so much in Minecraft, you can write so much about it too! ..Or you can just write about Herobrine! ‘Who’s a hero brown,’ you ask? Why, only a slightly original monster that was mutated into a cliched horror monster by thousands of bad fan misinterpretation!
>Try your hand at a Legend of Zelda pasta! Hey, you remember that one ‘ben drowned’ pasta you read about a year ago? Well, let’s write that again, but with all grammar or decent writing absent! I’m sure it’ll get thousands of upvotes! (read: downvotes)
>Something a bit more obscure? Why not? You could be contributing to the large amount of stories that only make sense to a small, unknown group of people! A scary story… about lawyers? Farming? Why? Why the hell not?

Wow, that took a while! Time for deciding the name of the pasta! This is nice and simple!

[GAME NAME]: [DESCRIPTIVE WORD] [WORD RELATING TO THE PASTA]

Sounds relatively simple! Let’s try it out a bit!
Pokemon: Bloodied Diamond
Minecraft: Curse of Herobrine
Ace Attorney: The Demonic Testimony

Do you like those names? I like those names. Let’s move on!

Of course, your main character has to get their game in some way. What’s that? Introducing the character? No, no, no, no, no. You’re doing it all wrong.
>”I got it from a garage sale/market sale/yard sale” – The oldest and best one in the book. If 99% of people write it this way, then it can’t possibly be bad, can it?
>”Some shady guy/girl/being of unidentifiable gender gave it to me” – Sometimes, we just want to skip the boring introduction and get straight to the action, and there’s no better way to do it than this.
>”I downloaded it online” – Who goes to garage sales anymore? Keep up with the times with this new, hip trend!

Moving on to step number three – of course, because this is a creepypasta, the game has to be haunted, right? But what’s it going to do?
>Absolutely nothing out of the ordinary – because hey, if you put in no effort here, you can use that effort later, right? That’s how it works, isn’t it? Right? Right?!
>A couple of graphical glitches – because nothing makes your viewers tremble more than the screen flickering a little or some colours changed. This is a true fact.
>Noises. – More specifically, weird noises. Glitchy sounds. Muffled screaming. The usual.
Okay, those are some basic ones, but why not step it up? Add some blood! Lots of blood! Also, make sure to use some of these words at least three times in the story…
>Hyper-realistic
>Bloody
>Demonic
>Ghostly
>Scary
Alright, we’ve got some scary shit going on, but if the main character ran away now, the pasta would stop half-way, right? Let’s choose an excuse for them to stay around.
>”I thought it was just a glitch”
>”I thought it was just a glitch”
>”I thought it was just a glitch”
Just kidding. You get no choice on this one. Trust me, this is for the better.
Alright, now just fill in the rest of the story using more glitches (as always, consider adding more blood and hyper-realism to your story), until WHAM! Something really scary happens! This can be anything – hell, it doesn’t have to be scary. Just as long as your main character responds fittingly. Or, alternatively, not-so-fittingly.
How will your protagonist respond to the sheer creepiness? How will this story meet its conclusion?
>Throw their console out – Destroy their DS! Pulverise their Playstation! Erm, throw a TV out the window? Whatever. It works.
>AND THEN THE PROTAG DIED – Dead things are creepy. People dying are creepy. Why not kill off the protagonist? I’m sure that, with the large amount of characterization we gave them earlier, it will really shock the readers. Honest.
>YOU’RE NEXT – Did you know that all creepypasta readers have a constant fear that there’s a monster behind them? Use this to your advantage? Everyone’s terrified of walls!

Alright, now we have the main story and -
Oh?
Did you think that was finished?
Oh no, this is the fun part. Now we add some… er… personality to your story. And by ‘personality’, I mean ‘bad writing skills’. I mean, let’s face it, nobody really misses punctuation. I sure don’t.
Choose one of the following typing quirks – I mean, writing styles.
>capital letters. get rid of all your capital letters. no-one likes them at all. too old fashioned.
>WHY NOT HAVE LOTS OF CAPITAL LETTERS? BE NEW AND DANGEROUS. MAKE YOUR ENTIR STORY CAPITAL LETTERS. (Obviously, don’t use this one with the previous one.)
>Make Every Capital Letter Refined And Pronounced. This Makes You Seem Posh And Smart.
And at least one of these. You can have more, if you want to be EXTREME.
>Motherfucker, let’s get some fucking swears up in here. Swears are bitchin’ as shit. It makes you sound fuckin’ hip and cool. Fuck yeah.
>No punctuation ever at all because seriously having things just constantly flow is so much easier and better in every way wow
>Waht if you where unabel to spel things right? Sonds fun!
———————
Congratulations! If you’re reading this, you’ve most likely just finished writing your first video game pasta! Now just publish your beautiful (read: horrendous) story (read: crap heap), and watch it get thousands of upvotes (read: downvotes) like it deserves! Good luck!

Credit To – Yu “The Operator” Meigns

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Succession Of Nightmares

August 8, 2012 at 12:00 AM
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Nightmares.

We all have them, one time or another.

Everything has a dark side, our dreams were meant to be a place of jubilation, and contain our most wonderful fantasies.

This is kinda like an award. Some of us work our asses off all day long, and then come home to a nice cozy bed. Sleep by itself is a nice gift for our turmoils, but dreams make sleeping hard for us to want to wake up sometimes.

But there is of course a darkside…there is always a darkside.

Nightmares have a certain way of creeping up on us when we don’t want them to…its almost like they know…

Some may say that nightmares are our own fault. Watching scary movies, or reading scary stories can fuel our nightmares.

But….what if there are things out there…that can control our dreams?

What if there are beings who can purposely give us nightmares.

What if these things are there to drive us insane…to the point where we want to sleep forever.

Now is when I tell you about my nightmares…

A couple weeks ago I started to get really into reading creepy stories. All humans have this certain want of excitement…but sometimes we take it way to far. You know what I’m talking about. Surfing videos on the internet late at night, reading creepy stories, or making our own stories.

You know how it works. You sit there, tired in front of your computer. The room is dark, the voices in your head are telling you to shut off the computer and finally get some fucking sleep. But then it happens. You find a video that has a creepy description. Perhaps a video about a ghost encounter, or a video of aliens.

This is how my nightmares started.

My friend Zack has a youtube account where he plays video games and gives them commentary. You know, a “Let’s Play.”

But one day he decided to do something different. He narrated a story off of a website called “creepypasta.com.”

I have heard of this somewhere, I know I have. Its hard to surf the interent for so many years and not hear about something so popular.

He told a story of a man called “Slender Man.” Now I had obviously heard of this character. I’ve seen the MarbleHornets videos, and I’ve seen the fan art, and the so called “pictures.”

The story was interesting, and it made me want to read more, so I did.

Within a few days, I had read all the populare stories that this website had to offer. “Squidward Suicide” “Ben Drowned” “Dead Bart” “Jeff: The Killer” “The Tails Doll” “Smile Dog” And all the Pokemon hacks.

These stories…they give you a feeling of terror. You start to notice all the small things around you, all the creaks and moans. You look over your shoulder and think you see a shadow of some sort. Nothing…huh…silly you.

You finally get the courage to go to sleep, and then you start to understand the position you just put yourself in.

I understood what I was doing to myself…but I didn’t stop.

I saw them all…I saw all the creatures from those stories in my dreams.

I saw the Smile Dog try to make me spread the word…I saw Jeff telling me to go to sleep…Squidward staring at me with his bloodshot eyes…

Jerking myself awake everytime I encountered one of these freaks got old real fast.

But then, the nightmares begin to get so much more real.

No longer was I imagining the characters from the stories…but now…my nightmares were taking their own shape. Contorting themselves to make me even more uncomfortable.

One night, I was laying soundly in my bed. It was almost like an out of body experience. You see, I had a bird’s-eye view of myself. It was as if I was laying on the ceiling. I was laying on top of the covers, and my eyes were closed. I must note that I was not breathing. No snoring, no indication of my stomach rising and lowering. In fact, I was utterly motionless.

My room was pitch black as it usually is when I fall asleep, but I could see myself perfectly. Its as if I had some type of night vision, but it wasn’t all green and shit like it usually is.

Then my eyes shot wide open. It startled me a bit. I just stared up at the ceiling. It seemed as if he was looking at me, like I really was on the ceiling.

A drop fell…a ruby colored drop of blood fell onto my face. Then another…and another…and another…
The drops began to fall slow, but then they picked up speed, similiar to when rain begins to fall.

The version of myself laying on my bed then begins to smile. The blood soaks his teeth, and started to drip into his eyes. But he did not blink or close his mouth. Just let the blood fall on him.

Suddenly, the view switched to me being on the ceiling. Now I was the one laying on the bed.

On the ceiling…was a bloody, mangled, wounded version of me. My eyes were missing, and my teeth were missing as well. But I had the same smile as the version of myself on the bed.

My hands and legs were pinned to the ceiling…almost…as if I was being crucified.

Then the view began to slowly zoom in on my face. Blood still fell, and my view was being distorted. I wanted to see what was going to happen, so I tried my best to see. The view then zoomed in on my face at an alarming rate, and then I spoke.

“I am your God now.”

I woke up. Breathing fast and hard. I felt paralyzed, like I was stuck.

I felt liquid around me. Did I really just piss the bed from this nightmare? Or….or was it blood? I quickly jumped up and found out that I had knocked over a cup of tea in my sleep, and I was laying in it.

Sometimes when I have dreams I feel as if the interactions of objects in the real world affect my dream. In one dream I was being stabbed repeatedly in the arm, and I could actually kinda feel it. I awoke to my friend obnoxiously poking me in the arm with a pen. I thought that him poking me in the arm made the stabbing from the nightmare be all the more real.

Since dreams and nightmares are derived from our brains, we can experience things in our dreams that seem real. When you eat something, you can taste it. This is because you remember how the object tasted.

This dream made me not want to sleep anymore that night, so I didn’t.

But that wasn’t the end.

I had this same nightmare over and over again for a few days. Happening the same way everytime. There wasn’t anything I could do. I couldn’t change the dream even if I wanted to.

This nightmare scared me everytime. You think I would have got use to it…but I didn’t.

I began to think about ways I could avoid this nightmare. This was my first thought.

I can’t remember ever having a nightmare while I was napping during the day. So my frist plan was to sleep during the day, and stay up during the night. Hopefully this would work.

First day, no nightmare. I was relieved. I thought that I had found the solution. I had no problem sleeping during the day, I didn’t sleep much as it was already.

Second day, my plan failed. The same nightmare happened again, but this time. There was no smiling from the body on the ceiling…actually…there were no emotions at all. My head was missing…more blood fell quickly this time making the dream end faster. My body laying on the bed looked down, and my decapitated head was laying in my lap. And it was smiling.

I’m pissed now. What, I just can’t fucking sleep anymore? Fine, I won’t. I’ll stay awake! Yes, that will work. I’ll stay awake until I pass out from exhaustion. I won’t encounter the nightmare unless I absolutely have to!

I wrote this…quite a while ago…back when the nightmares first started. It’s been about a week since I decided I wasn’t going to sleep.

I’m so tired…I don’t think I can stay awake anymore. My bed…sounds so heavenly right now. I guess my plan didn’t work how I thought it would…

I’m going to go to bed now…I think I could stay up for a few more hours but…I don’t want to.

I want to see my smile…I want to see my bloody body hang from the ceiling…It sounds so interesting to me now…Oh how that blood felt so refreshing cascading on my face.

I have a bottle of pills…extra strength…I’m going to take them all with some alcohol…

I don’t want to be awake anymore. I’ve been awake for a couple days…and I now realize how horrifying it is.

I’m seeing all those creepypasta characters in real life now…I’ve gone completely fucking insane.

I know they won’t be there in my dream…they were never there before.

I’ll sleep forever…so I can look and smile at my God for the rest of days.

I just swallowed the pills…I’m going to have a quick drink, then I’m going to bed.

Why not join me?

It will be your God soon enough.

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The Little People

August 28, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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For as long as I can remember, strange things have happened to me. When I was young, my mother and I lived in my grandmother’s house; a big, drafty Victorian beast of a thing squatting in the middle of acres and acres of hilly country land. My grandmother was old and couldn’t take care of herself, and I often heard my mom whispering to her friends about how crazy she was and how she couldn’t wait to put her in a home and get on with her own life.

Me, being only three or four at the time, didn’t understand. I thought my grandmother was the most wonderful person on the planet, as little children do. She told me stories about “the little people” that lived in the hills around the house, and how long ago, when she was only a girl, she’d made a pact with the little people that allowed her to live on their land. My mother once overheard her telling me one of these stories and forbade Grandma from ever telling me anything like that again, claiming she’d just scare me. I wasn’t scared – I loved fairy stories. That’s what I thought they were – Fairy stories, and I didn’t understand why Mom was so upset. She’d grown up in that same house listening to Grandma’s same stories, right? But every time I tried to ask her about them, she’d shush me and tell me I’d get in trouble if she heard me and Grandma talking about the little people ever again.

Mine and Grandma’s closeness never set well with Mom, and as a child, I never understood the reason. I knew Mom and Grandma didn’t get along, and never had, but I didn’t know why. I didn’t press the subject; I loved my Grandma and I loved her stories. My mother, who was serious and dark-featured, took after my Greek grandfather more than anyone, while I looked like my grandmother. We shared the same awkwardly big ears, fair freckled skin, and thick red hair. I remember she would often stroke my hair and sigh, saying my mother would never have been prepared for the responsibility of having red hair, so it was passed down to me. I always thought she was making some sort of joke, but her face was a little sad when she said it, so I never further questioned what exactly she meant.

When I was six, Grandma died. She’d been sick all my life, always fragile in health, and one night she went to bed and never woke up. Though I was only a child, I usually helped Grandma get ready for bed – Brushing her long, still vibrantly red hair and braiding it, helping her into her nightgown and tucking her in. Mom always got angry, saying a boy my age shouldn’t have to do those things, but I enjoyed any time spent with my Grandma. The night she died was like any other, but as I tucked her in, her thin hand suddenly grasped mine in a vice grip.

“The pact is up, Gearoid.”

My name is Garrett, but Grandma always said it the traditional Irish way, Gar-roid, her lilting accent making my name seem special to me instead of the name of three other boys in my class.

“The pact is up.” She repeated herself, her voice sounding more intense than I’d ever heard it. “I’m sorry, Gearoid. There is nothing I can do. You must go from here, so they cannot find you.”

I was confused, and a little scared then, being only six. I held her hand close.

“Who will find me, Grandma? What’s wrong?”

She only clung my hand tighter, her voice a steadfast whisper. “The little people, Gearoid. The denizens of the hollow hills. The sidheóg. You must go from here.”

I wanted to ask her more, but her hand relaxed in mine, suddenly, and she was asleep. She looked peaceful, and I felt like I almost imagined the strange conversation we’d just had. I figured I would ask her more about it the next morning, but the next morning she was dead.

Grandma had left all her money to Mom in her will, but the house and surrounding land to me. Since I was too young to even think about owning a house, Mom decided we’d live there until we found better prospects. As a single mother with hectic hours at her job, a free house was too good to pass up.

I went to school, Mom went to work as a nurse, life went on. I continued to play in the hills and woods surrounding the house as I always did, despite Mom’s insistent warnings I did not. I thought she was afraid I’d fall in a ditch or accidentally get shot by hunters during hunting seasons, and my six-year-old bravado thought I was above this.

One day, on a warm August afternoon just before school started again (I must have only been eight or nine) I came back from the hills covered in scratches and bruises. She thought I’d fallen down the biggest hill leading down to the woods in our backyard until I told her “the little people had hurt me”. She didn’t believe me at first, who would? But I continued to tell her about the little people, how they came out to play with me ever since Grandma died, but they were never nice. They pinched me and scratched me and told me to leave, or else.

My mother turned white as a sheet and put down a lease on an apartment in town the very next day. Within a week we were moved out of Grandma’s house in the hills, surrounded by asphalt and car horns.
When I ask Mom about the strange things that happened to me in childhood such as this, she claims not to remember. But she always changes the subject, and her mouth gets in a tight little line. I know she remembers.

Moving into the city didn’t stop the strange things from happening to me. On the playground, I saw eyes in the bushes, watching me; I would blink only for nothing to be there. Walking home from school I would hear strange music on the breeze, music that jolted me to my bones and made my head hurt. It always sounded wrong, as if it was out of tune or played on broken instruments. Once I asked a friend if he heard the music, and he called me a freak and never walked home from school with me again. As I lay asleep in our small apartment, I would see lights bobbing just outside my window, lights that were definitely not from any of the neon signs of the inter-city. When I was ten, I wrapped myself up in my blankets and followed the lights, which seemed to whisper my name the way I remember Grandma saying it, Gearoid. My mother found me a five-minutes walk away from our apartment, about to take another step over the edge of a steep ditch. She never saw any lights, and made me an appointment with a psychiatrist the next day. I learned to keep what I saw hidden after that, and not to follow any strange lights that whispered my name.

Keeping the weird things that happened to myself didn’t stop them from happening, unfortunately. They still did, even into high school. By then I had learned to ignore them, to convince myself it was all in my head, just like my psychiatrist told me when I was a child. I never tried to figure out what was happening to me or who the “little people” were. Would you really want to know?

I was seventeen and an early senior, falling asleep in my literature class as my teacher droned on about speculative fiction. It was only when she said a word, sidheóg, that snapped me back into awareness with the force of a kick to the stomach.

“The sidheóg, in Irish folklore, are what we common people would call faeries. They have plenty of names, the Fair Folk, the Fey, the Shee, the little people. They’re not as we think of faeries today, small women made of flowers that grant wishes, but something between an angel and a demon that isn’t entirely of this world. They are cruel and delight in trickery, and can be vindictive and sadistic, particularly when their land is threatened. Most mortals, that is, you and me, can’t see them unless they’re born with the Sight. Ways to have the sight naturally were considered being the seventh child of a seventh child, or being born with red hair.”
She said more after that, but I wasn’t listening.

Little people. Between an angel and a demon. Their land. the Sight. Born with red hair.

The bell rang, and I almost fell out of my seat. I was breathing so hard and must have looked so pale that my best friend, Sarah, put her hand on my forehead to check for fever when she came to stand by my desk.

“Jesus, Garrett, are you okay? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

No. Much worse, I wanted to say, but didn’t. I just shook my head instead. “Fell asleep. Bad dream. You know how lectures get.”

She laughed, and we walked off to our lockers, with Sarah asking if I was still going to spend the night at her house that night. I said sure, and left for my car feeling like a husk with everything sucked out of me. I felt watched.

When I got home, I cursed myself for saying yes to Sarah’s offer. We hung out almost every weekend, but always at my house – A larger apartment my mother had bought further inner-city when she got a promotion a few years back. Sarah lived in a big farmhouse on the edge of the hills, and it reminded me too much of Grandma’s house for my comfort. I always made excuses on why I couldn’t come, but I’d been too distracted today to say no.

I finally knew now what had been stalking me all my life – little people, Fair Folk, whatever you wanted to call them. My grandmother’s stories suddenly made sense to me. Her father had built their house, unknowingly, on fey land. The faeries had probably tortured them and pestered them until Grandma, the only one able to see them, somehow made a pact with them to let her family live on their land unharmed for as long as she lived. When she died, it left my mother and I at their mercy. I had no clue what sort of pact Grandma had made, as she’d never said. I remembered her asking about it, but she would always pat my hand and say it was a story for another time. Now I almost didn’t want to know.

As I was waiting for Sarah to come pick me up, I heard the tapping.

At first it was faint, and I thought it had begun to rain and hit against the windows. I checked my phone, but there was only light rain scheduled for much later in the evening. I brushed it off, but it continued. It sounded as if someone were standing outside my window and slowly, rhythmically, tapping on the glass with one finger. I turned around to look at the window the tapping was coming from, and it stopped – Only to sound as if it were coming from further into the apartment. I must have spent five minutes running all over my house like a crazy person trying to find the source of the tapping, only to have it come from a different window each time I investigated. I was near angry tears when Sarah beeped her horn outside, jerking me out of my frenzy. Never had I been so happy to leave my house as I scooped my overnight bag off the floor and locked the front door behind me.

As I jogged to Sarah’s car, I chanced a glance into the bushes outside the window where I first heard the tapping and froze. There was a shadow in the bushes – The shadow of something huge and looming, gnarled and twisted. I felt the breath go out of my lungs as the shadow began to move – Away from me, further into the few trees planted around my complex. I don’t know how long I just stood there, staring into the darkness between the trees, until Sarah laid on her horn and stuck her head out the window.

“Gar-rett! Come on, you lazy-ass!” The sound of her laughter broke my trance, and I turned and ran headlong to her car, almost slipping on the pavement as I lurched into the passenger seat.

“Whoa. Are you okay? Are you sure you want to do tonight? Cause you looked pretty sick at school, and you look pretty sick now.” Her voice was almost worried, which was uncommon for loud, brash, unafraid Sarah.

“I’m fine. I just thought I saw something in the bushes – A dog, probably. The shadow freaked me out.” You’ll never know how much it freaked me out, I thought.

She shook her head as she put the car into gear. “You watch way too many horror movies, Garrett Carter. Now let’s go. I stole my dad’s Netflix password so the internet is our oyster.”

I forced myself to grin back as we pulled into traffic. I chanced a glance over my shoulder at the trees – Nothing. No shadow. I still kept my eyes on the spot until we turned a corner, and I could see it no more.

By the time we’d driven out to Sarah’s old farmhouse, the rain had begun. Sarah was annoyed, claiming her internet shorted out every time so much as a drop of rain fell from the sky.

“I guess that’s what I get for living out here with my family in the middle of nowhere,” She sighed as we unloaded the frozen pizza and french fries we’d picked up to make for dinner later.

I checked my phone to see what the weather predicted for later, but I had no signal or WiFi. Figures, as it was like she said, we were in the middle of nowhere. Her nearest neighbors were at least half a mile away.

We put dinner in the oven and set up her Xbox so we could watch Netflix, but as she said, the internet wouldn’t connect. She about threw her controller through a window but I suggested we just play video games instead, which calmed her down. We were trying to find a vampire in Skyrim when Sarah went to check on dinner, and I heard it again. The tapping. It sounded louder this time, but I figured it was just the rain until I remembered it had been raining for almost half an hour and it hadn’t tapped on the window like that once. I swallowed the panic in my throat and tried to ignore it as I fought off wolves and bandits in the game, but the tapping continued, and I realized Sarah hadn’t come back from the kitchen yet.

I called her name, no answer. But that wasn’t too odd, Sarah had a large house and if she’d gone upstairs or towards the back of the house she probably wouldn’t be able to hear me. I paused the game and stood up, intending to go look for her, when the tapping suddenly stopped. I’d been hearing it for so long now that the absence of its sound was almost louder than the sound itself, and I froze in my tracks. I was trying to psych myself up for taking another step when thunder suddenly rumbled deafeningly, shaking the glass in the windows. I’m ashamed to say I yelled, startled, as the power suddenly clicked off.

I was suddenly alone in Sarah’s dark living room when I heard my name being called. Not in Sarah’s cheerful voice, but in a hoarse whisper that sounded like a bow being sawed across violin strings that were drawn too tight. Gearoid, it whispered. Gearoid.

I managed to talk around the lump in my throat as I fumbled my phone out of my pocket, clicking the built in flashlight on. “Sarah? Sarah!”

There was no answer but the continuous whisper of my name, and I knew I had to find the source. I somehow willed my legs to move and navigated towards the voice, my flashlight illuminating the dark halls. The whisper became louder as I neared her parents’ bedroom, which I remembered too late had the largest window in the house; A big picture window with a window seat we used to sit on and read when we were in middle school. As I slowly opened the door, thunder rumbled again and my flashlight winked out. I thought I might have hit the off button with my shaking hand, but as I raised my phone to my face I saw it had died, even though the battery had been at 92% when I arrived at Sarah’s. As I stood on the threshhold of the master bedroom, my eyes squeezed shut against the darkness, the whisper became almost deafening, and I felt a cold, stale wind blow around me.

I had to go in, and as I stepped forward into the room, the door slammed shut.

As I opened my eyes, I fought the urge to run back through the door and leave, but I knew I had to find Sarah. There, at the picture window (which was open, despite the fact that it only opened from the inside and I knew her parents would not have left it unlocked) was a creature out of my nightmares.

Its shape was large, towering almost to the top of the eight foot high window, and it was crouched in the side garden like some monstrous toad. I had expected my first sighting of the shadow from the bushes to look like some sort of Eldritch monster, but this creature looked more natural than I could imagine. Its hide looked like bark, its long, wizened arms like tree branches, the hair hanging lankly around its head like moss. It would have almost looked like an enormous stump if not for the face, which was huge and pointed with a long, witch-like nose, and a mouth full of broken, green, grinning teeth.

“At last,” the creature said in a voice like groaning trees and snapped violin strings. “We meet.”

I had been frozen solid upon first sight of the creature, but I somehow found my voice upon hearing it speak. “What the hell did you do with Sarah? Why are you here? What are you?”

The creature looked at me, simply, as if it were appraising me, then laughed. Its laugh sounded like wind shrieking through the slats of an unkempt house, and its voice was slow, as if it had all the time in the world.

“Some call me the Old Man of the Crossroads. Some call me the One Who Answers. Some call me troll.” It grinned, as if this was amusing to him. “We have come for payment. The land, the land, the land. Caoime made the pact. The land, the land, the land was hers. But no longer. It is yours, and we have come for payment.”

I stared at the thing, uncomprehending, until it dawned on me. My grandmother’s name was Caoime, and she had made her pact for the land when she was seventeen – My age. After she died, the fey waited until I was of age, and came for me. For payment. For the pact.

I kept my distance from the window. “That doesn’t answer all my questions. Where is Sarah?!” I yelled over the howling wind, but the creature just chuckled its shrieking wind laugh.

“The girl, the girl, the girl. Perhaps she is under the hill. Perhaps we shall keep her there until the payment is made. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.”
I felt my blood turn to ice. These things had Sarah, my best friend, and they seemed to have no intention of giving her back.

“What do you want? I don’t care about the land, take it. Just give Sarah back and leave me alone!”

The creature sighed, as if it were thinking. Its earthen, hulking body shivered as it scratched its chin with one long, gnarled, tree-branch finger.

“You are a strong one. So was Caoime.”It chuckled, heaving another sigh as it settled its body further into the side garden, releasing a smell of overturned earth and damp moss.

“I will extend to you the same challenge I extended Caoime. For the land, the land, the land. And for the girl, the girl, the girl. Should you beat me at my own game, the land, the land, the land, and the girl, the girl, the girl, are yours. Should you fail…” The creature trailed off and grinned, its leathery face splitting in two as it showed all its broken teeth. “You are mine.”

I felt unable to speak, unable to move, unable to breathe. The thing – the troll was going to take me, my best friend, and most likely my mom to god knows where to do god knows what to us if I didn’t accept his challenge. I didn’t know what to do.

“Well, boy, boy, boy? Is your silence a refusal?” The creature ran one gnarled hand over the windowsill, and something dawned on me.

“If you want me so bad, why don’t you just come in here and take me?” It was a foolhardy thing to say, but I figured I could run from it – It moved slower than Christmas.

My question seemed to anger it, and its mossy eyebrows met in a snarl. “I cannot come inside unless you invite me, boy, boy, boy. Your friend was kind enough to come outside to me.” It grinned then, and chuckled. My anger reignited. I needed to get Sarah back.

“Fine. I accept your challenge, whatever it is.” At that exact moment, lightning cracked across the sky and for a split second I saw the creature in its entirety, which nearly made my heart stop. It was bigger than I imagined, its back humped and covered in fungi and moss, reaching nearly to the roof of the house. I swallowed.

“Delightful. I shall ask you three questions, boy, boy, boy. If you answer all correctly, the land, the land, the land, and the girl, the girl, the girl, is yours. We shall leave you alone.” It’s cracked smile didn’t falter. “But if you answer a single question wrong…” It trailed off, one wizened hand sweeping a grand gesture. I didn’t need it to elaborate.

I nodded, not sure I trusted my voice to speak as I sat on the edge of Sarah’s parents’ bed, staring at the creature, backlit by the storm. It rubbed its gnarled hands together in pleasure.

“Wonderful. It has been so long, long, long since one of your kind accepted my challenge. Now.” It paused, as if deep in thought before beginning, its voice a low, almost melodic rumble.

“My tines are long, my tines are short. My tines end ere my first report. What am I?”

I almost felt like laughing with relief when I heard the riddle. Grandma and I would spend hours telling each other riddles back and forth when I was a child, and I had gotten so good at them I would even leave her stumped and come up with answers to her hardest mind-benders. Whenever I asked her why she was so interested in riddles, she would just stroke my hair and say, You never know when they’ll come in handy, Gearoid. You never know.

I knew now. I wondered if Grandma had told me all the riddles trying to prepare me for the troll to come and ask for payment, or simply to keep her mind sharp. There was no time to think about it now as I mulled over the troll’s question.

“Well, boy, boy, boy? Do you give up?” It sounded pleased, thinking I was so easy to break. I glared at it.

“No. I was just thinking.” I glanced past the troll, just as a bright flash of lightning forked and hit a tree not far from Sarah’s horse pasture, and my eyes widened.

“Lightning. You’re lightning.”

The troll’s eyes narrowed, and I could tell he was surprised at my answer. “Very well.” He readjusted his bulk, his contorted fingers resting on the windowsill.

“Never ahead, ever behind, yet flying swiftly past; For a babe I last forever, for adults I’m gone too fast. What am I?”

I swallowed, my eyes glued to the floor to keep away from looking at the creature in front of me. I thought of how it must have waited all this years, watching, and how the rest of the fey hated me for being on their land; for being able to see them. I thought of the strange shadows I’d seen melting across my bedroom floor at night, only to disappear when I turned on the bedside lamp. The strange laughter and broken music I heard on winter nights, always out of reach when it swirled in on the freezing wind. How many other children had made fun of me for screaming that I saw squat, froglike creatures with sharp teeth grinning at me from the woods around the edge of the playground. How I nearly drowned one summer swimming in the lake on Sarah’s property when we were barely in sixth grade, because I felt webbed fingers latch onto my ankle and try to drag me down into the darkness.

“Childhood.”

The troll’s semblance of a smile twisted into a scowl, and I allowed myself the faintest of grins. I thought of my grandmother standing in front of this same beast at my age, terrified, but willing to go to any lengths to protect her family and friends. It made my smile wider.

“You are a clever boy, boy, boy, I see. Not clever enough for my final riddle, I know you are not, not, not.” Its deformed hand raised, and though it couldn’t get into the house, its shadow stretched across the floor and sent a bolt of panic through my chest.

“The thing that all things devours; Birds, beast, tree, flower. Gnaws iron, bites steel; Grinds hard stones down to meal. Slays kings and ruins towns, and beats the highest mountain down. What am I?”

I took a deep breath, my fists clenched against the quilt on Sarah’s parent’s bed. My smile had faded as the troll told the riddle, it was one not even my grandmother had alluded to. I refused to let the anxiety show on my face, but as I sat there staring at the ground, trying to think, the troll laughed. I had been silent for several minutes, and the storm was getting worse. Every second I delayed Sarah was stuck under the hill, and I had no idea what they were doing to her. They could already have my mom for all I knew, and I wondered how my grandmother did this. How did she live her life knowing there was a secret world all around her, and everything in it hated her? That she had to risk her and everyone she loved’s life just to keep them from mortal harm? She was stronger than me. I didn’t know how I was going to handle day-to-day life if I got out of here alive.

“Do you give up, boy, boy, boy? It is a difficult riddle. Do not be ashamed to admit defeat.” His green teeth showed as he grinned, and I could hear the violin strings snapping and branches creaking in his voice.

“No. I don’t give up. I just need more time.” I tried my hardest to keep my voice subdued as the troll shifted to its full height, fingers unfurling.

“Time was not in the bargain, boy, boy, boy. Either you answer or you do not.”

My teeth gritted as I opened my mouth to say god knows what, but I stopped. It was as if Grandma was sitting next to me, stroking my hair and shaking her head. The answer was right in front of you, Gearoid, you’re just too impatient to see it! She’d always say that in the earlier days of our game when I’d give up in a snit after taking too long to answer a riddle.

I knew the answer.

“Time. Time is the answer!” I stood up off the bed and grinned.

The troll scowled harder than I’d seen it, opened its mouth, and howled. It was unlike anything I’d ever heard before in my life, a cacophony of broken, screaming instruments and wailing animals and crying women; As well as wind ripping through trees and ocean waves crashing against rock. The window slammed shut with a crack, a few panes of glass shattering and falling onto the window seat. The power flickered on and off crazily, the lights dimming and brightening as the troll howled.

Then, as soon as it started, it was over.

I opened my eyes from where I’d taken cover behind the bathroom door, and the troll was gone. The only proof of its existence was the faint smell of moss and lichen blowing in from the cracked window, and what I knew had happened. Sarah’s parents arrived home not long after, and found me sitting under their window clutching an iron poker from the fireplace, and their daughter missing. I think I passed out when Sarah’s mom started screaming. I don’t remember much after that.

They found Sarah later the next morning, about three miles away from her house. She wandered into a neighboring farmer’s barn, claiming she’d been abducted by strange women with deer forelegs and hooves and men with ribcages for torsos. She told the police they forced her to answer riddles to avoid them feeding her strange food and hurting her, but wasn’t able to answer all of them – The bruises all over her body attested to that. But the police didn’t believe her story. I didn’t think they would, but I knew better. She didn’t. She was new to this, she told people.

Her parents sent her to a psych ward for three months. I visited her almost every day I could, and I told her I believed her. She cried, usually, and told me about how food had no taste and she was hungry all the time, and she couldn’t sleep because of the strange music and voices calling her name. The day she was released, she looked terrible. She was skinnier than ever, with dark shadows under her eyes and hollow cheekbones. She hugged me tight, though, and told me she was sorry with tears in her eyes.

I wasn’t sure what she meant until she vanished out of her bedroom that night.

When her parents let me in her room to see if I wanted any of her things, it smelled like moss and lichen. When I left, I saw a hulking shadow under her window, and I thought I heard laughter like creaky branches and storm wind on the breeze.

Sarah never came back. I’m not sure if I should be happy or horrified that she didn’t. Her time spent under the hill changed her, made her a different person. Maybe she was happier there, now that she was one of them. I didn’t know. I’d never know, thank God, though I felt terrible for thinking it.

I had Grandma’s house torn down, even the foundation. I refused to sell the land even though I had everyone from farmers to developers begging me for it, offering me a king’s ransom for the rich soil. I wouldn’t put anybody through that. I wouldn’t will it to my children, as if I would have any. When I died, whenever that was, the pact would die with me.

I still hear the voices, the music, the whispering. I still see shadows out of the corner of my eye and I still won’t swim in natural bodies of water because water fey are notorious for trying to drown people. I still hear them calling, though I’ve gotten better at ignoring it. I won’t go to them, and I won’t listen to them.

On late winter nights, when I’m up in the wee hours trying to write another chunk of whatever it is I’m working on before my publisher’s deadline, the call is the hardest to resist. Sometimes I find myself out of my chair with my hand on the doorknob before I remember Grandma, telling me to be strong, calling me Gearoid. I remember the troll, thinking he’d won. I remember Sarah, how vibrant and full of life she had been before the hill took her. It’s enough for me to lock my doors tighter, put my headphones on and drown out whatever it is I hear.

I know they won’t ever go away, won’t ever stop trying and reaching for me, and I know no one will ever believe me. But for as long as I can remember, strange things have happened to me. And they’ve probably happened to you too. So next time you hear an unexplained noise in the middle of the night, or see a mysterious light just beyond the hill, don’t go searching for it. Don’t follow it.

Close your eyes, walk the other direction and be glad you can’t see the things that I can see.

Credit To – herchansen @ twitter

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Mermaid

July 20, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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I knew it, my friends all knew it, and everyone at school knew it. But, no one would believe us. School was quiet with the truth hanging everywhere. The other students silently drifted from class to class, no one really spoke all that much anymore. Between each period, there was a brief and hushed march of bodies before the halls died again.
All but a few teachers seemed to not really care- they enjoyed the silence. The teachers who did care did not know how to help, or even what to say.
It had started a few days after Zach Thompson drowned. His girlfriend, Mallory Andrew, said that someone dragged him into the sea; pulled him right off their boat. No one was there to see it, and she could not tell anyone what the person looked like, so when Zach’s body floated in, drowned but unharmed, everyone wrote her off. A few days later, Mallory went missing. No one had seen her since.
I did not really know Zach or Mallory. A few of my friends new them though, and they seemed nice enough. No one should ever have to drown. The thought of falling into the Atlantic, the darkness everywhere, the liquid pouring into my lungs… It terrified me. I hated to think what Zach felt as his legs flailed half a mile above the nearest ground. Did he just breathe in to get it over with, or did he keep holding his breath as long as he could?
My friends who knew them joined the first wave of mourning zombies that populated the high school. They all remembered listening to Mallory’s tear-stained story of the hand, and the splash, the screaming, the eyes.
A few days later, Matt Miller was found caught in the framing of his parents dock. Apparently, Matt had gone out in the night to look at the water and fell over. The police say that is when his shirt got caught.
I did not know Matt Miller that well either. He was never that nice to me. To be honest, he was an asshole. But you never hear about that stuff after the fact. You only get to hear the nice stories about what a great person they were. It was then that the school moved in a small fleet of councilors and social workers to help with feelings. The lines to talk to someone stretched out into the hall, at first.
It was maybe a week before Aubrey Strong drowned. She was found naked and bruised along the beach. Her lungs were filled with water. Her sister, Tammy, had been there when something attacked them. She told the police it had grabbed Aubrey and ran off. A few days later, Tammy’s story had changed from “something” to “someone”. Her body was found the next day at the same beach as her sister, still wearing the same clothes from school.
The city began hiring more lifeguards, strict curfews were put in place at all beaches, and students were questioned mercilessly by police and teachers. Students stopped going to the councilors. The meetings began to feel more like interrogations than anything else.
Then, Mark Sawyer and Ashley Corry died on the same night. I was with Mark Sawyer. He was my best friend. We were playing Call of Duty and eating pizza in his bedroom. He was winning. I had been tracking him for ten whole minutes across the desert and my sight was lined up on his guy’s back. Then, the lights went out. The T.V. made a weird whistling noise before falling black and silent.
“What the hell?” I said to him as he stood up and began messing with the light switches. He never had a chance to respond. I froze in terror when I heard it slap up the stairs and saw its hand reach around the door-frame. The smell- like under the docks. Mark could not move either as the net fell over him. I listened to him scream as he thudded down the stairs, one step at a time.
I ran home. I slammed my bedroom door shut behind me. I never said a word. The next day, Mark Sawyer and Ashley Corry were added to the list of people. Both of them were found in the shallows by a fisherman. Amanda Stoner had been with Ashley Corry when it happened. She spent all day being tossed around by councilors and police officers. Amanda told them about a man who ran at them and how they had struggled with him on the beach.
I could not speak to anyone; the words refused to leave my lips. Whenever I tried, I saw Mark fall beneath the net, his fingernails scratching at his bedroom floor, and then I saw him drowning, his legs kicking in an endless void of darkness. Did he breathe in, or did he hold on for as long as he could? The teachers looked on me with pity. They did not know what I had seen. The councilors made sure that I knew their doors were always open. They did not know I had been with Mark Sawyer.
I could not say a word to anyone, anyone but Amanda.
“Hey,” I said to her at a lunch table. We had never met. She was very pretty with dark hair and brown eyes and large, gorgeous lips; the kind of girl I would usually have to build up my courage to talk to; the kind of girl I probably just wouldn’t talk to.
She looked up at me- dismissive. Then, she saw a look in my eyes. She reached out and took my hand in hers. “You saw them,” she whispered.
I nodded. Again, Amanda told her story. It was just like mine… The hand, the screaming, the eyes…
From then on, the two of us were inseparable. I sat next to her with my beige lunch tray and that was that. We waited for each other on the bus in the morning, we met again after school. At night, when we had to leave for our own houses, we sat on our phones. Eventually, we even began to talk about other things, we tried to forget… We had seen them. Everyone who saw them disappeared.
As the month went on, the drownings turned into disappearances. For some reason, the creatures were no longer happy just killing. They now took their victims away, never to be seen again. The sea left us with a new empty desk every other week or so. Amanda and I were not sure why the creatures from the water left us alone. Maybe it was because both our houses were inland, or maybe because we were the only survivors who banded together.
Fall came and the leaves transformed into brilliant New England reds and golds, leaving a sad magic in the air. When our town’s annual October Festival arrived, most people could not find the heart to attend. Our tragedy had become so long lasting, we barely even made the news anymore when a new child went missing, and a melancholy sunk its fingers into the entire town. But, Amanda and I went.
We walked close, passing beneath the large banner that hung above the boardwalk. Pumpkins and gourds and bundles of straw festively adorned the walkway, placed along the streetlights and the porches of the homes that looked out over the sea. Fishermen worked at large vending stalls, and craft displays sold wares all the way down to the docks, punctuated by the occasional carnival game or food stand selling funnel cakes and grease. But it was quiet…
Amanda took my hand and pulled me along to everything she wanted to see. We had both seen it every year before, but that day was different. When she took my hand, I felt my heart leap back to life, and when I won her a giant teddy bear, I could not stop smiling; neither could she.
Then, something happened. We began to laugh. The people around us smiled, and the moment of happiness infected everyone. The vendors began shouting to the people passing by, proclaiming their fish was the best, or how you could not find a necklace like theirs. People began coming out of their homes, the carnival games had lines stretching back into the streets, little children laughed as their parents swung them between their hands, and everyone forgot…
That night, as the sun set behind us and people began heading home, Amanda and I sat on a black bench, barely big enough to fit us both and her teddy bear, looking out across the water. I did not even realize that we had been holding each other’s hands all day. Then, she leaned in and kissed me…
It was short and sweet and when she stopped she gave me a shy, embarrassed grin. It was the best day I could remember.
In the coming weeks, the temperature began to drop and the first flurry of snow descended on our town. The disappearances began happening more frequently and sadness evolved into pure terror.
With the attacks growing in frequency, many people began to leave, some not even waiting for their homes to sell, and others leaving everything behind. I came home one day to my parents beginning a stack of cardboard boxes in the living room. Neither of them said anything, we all understood. But, all I could think about was leaving Amanda behind.
That night, awoken by the sound of a frenzied dog, I saw something from my bedroom window as I looked out across an increasingly desolate town. The front gate of the yard had been opened, its lock twisted off, the black iron smacking into the fence as the wind swung it back and forth along its creaking hinges. It walked like a man, with a slow, heavy stride. The creature was tall and bulky, its wide torso resting on legs as thick as tree trunks. I could not get a clear look through the darkness, but its eyes, the size of a small dinner plate, reflected flashes of light from the street.
I dropped to the floor and peered from the corner of the window. I watched as the thing walked towards the front door, quietly fiddled with the doorknob, and then began pacing along the first-floor windows. At each one, it tested their weights, figured out which windows were locked, and which ones were not. Then, satisfied, it walked back through the gate, back to the water.
I told my parents I had seen someone sneaking around the house in the night. They called the police; the police took my statement and a description of a large man in the shadows. My mom began packing faster that day, and my father put a hand on my shoulder, looked me in the eyes and promised he would protect me.
I knew it would be back for me… Later on, just as the sun was beginning its decent, I packed a backpack, left through my fence with the broken lock, and headed for Amanda’s. The creatures had never attacked an adult, my parents would be fine. But for me, my home was no longer safe. They would drag me away like Mark…
“They scouted my house last night,” I said as Amanda let me inside. She was scared, we both were. She led me to her bedroom where we talked about my parents getting ready to move and she told me that her parents were planning to head up to New York.
“I can’t leave you,” she told me as we wrapped our arms around each other.
After dinner, she told her parents that I had left and hid me away in her bedroom. We stayed up late, lying on her bed, watching the movies she had on her shelves, and kissing whenever either of us built up the courage. Periodically, I would stand and look out her window to the town where the ocean fog obscured lights that lit empty streets. No one walked the stone pathways and most of the homes had all gone dark. If I stood at the right angle, I could spot the water from the ocean peacefully washing into the shore.
When we fell asleep, my arm was wrapped around her waist, and her fingers curled over my hand and rested in my palm…
The room was dark when I woke up to a dog barking in the distance. The light from the television cast the room in a pale, flickering glow. I reached out to touch Amanda, and when my hand felt nothing but the blankets, my heart began to pound in my chest. I shot up from the bed, the room smelled like stale water and the carpet was wet. I darted to the window, where along the beach I could see several figures dragging another…
Without a second thought, I raced down the stairs and slammed through the front door. By the time Amanda’s parents were flipping on the light in their bedroom, my desperation had carried me half way through town. Ahead I could hear the whispering roar of the waves, and Amanda… she was screaming.
“No,” I cried as my feet touched the sand. “Leave her alone!”
The creatures turned to look at me, stopping only a few feet before touching the water. Amanda struggled beneath the tangled weight of an organic looking fishing net, the rope of which resting in the clenched fist of the last creature. They were all large, muscled humanoids with massive webbed feet and hands. They stared at me with fish-like eyes and flattened faces; the cross between man and piranha. Each one carried a large spear that they aimed at me as I approached.
I stopped and lifted my hands into the air when one of them let out a hollow call like a whale and threatened me with a long, barbed weapon. The creature with Amanda protectively lifted her over its shoulder like she weighed nothing and held her away from me. One of the monsters moved towards me, its feet thudding against the ground and kicking up a wave of sand with each step. It stopped a foot in front of my nose and bared a row a sharp teeth, and with one of its great arms it motioned towards the net and then pounded its clawed fist against its scaled chest.
“No, no please.” I clasped my hands together and fell to me knees.
My begging did nothing as the creatures turned and continued their slow march back towards the water. I screamed for someone to help. When I saw Amanda struggle, digging her nails frantically into the sand I lunged forward only for the one who denied me to hurl my body away.
I smacked into the sand, shouting and screaming at them. Tears flooded over my face that twisted in rage.
“Take me,” I roared over the thunder of the ocean. “Take me instead.”
The creature I spoke at before turned to see me with my hands held out in front of me in surrender. It gave another hollow call halting its party.
“Take me,” I demanded again. It paused a moment, staring at me with its gigantic eyes. Then, it took a sharpened blade of corral and sliced through the rope that its companion held. Immediately, Amanda rushed from the net and flew into my arms. I held her for as long as I could, breathing her in, before the creature grabbed me by the arm and pulled me away.
Amanda screamed and chased after us only to be flung back by another of the terrible creatures. When she tried again, the one holding me aimed his blade towards her.
“Amanda, it’s OK,” I told her as my feet hit the water. “It’s OK.” The water came to my waist. “Promise me you will leave this place.”
She fell to her knees, sobbing.
“Promise me,” I yelled. She promised beneath a shower of tears and helpless screams. The water lapped at my chin as the monster continued to drag me below. I tugged back one last time to cry out above the cold blackness, “Amanda, I love you.”
Instantly, the surface shot away above me. I remembered Mark and so many others; how they fought helplessly as they vanished beneath the sea. Did they breathe in, or did they hold on for as long as they could? As I watched the world above me rip through my fingertips, falling deeper and deeper into the ocean, I could only think of Amanda. And I held on… I held on for as long as I could.

Credit To – Ryan Austin Gray

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Sonnet of the Deep

July 19, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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Kevin found it in his grandparent’s scummy old pond. He’d been chaining a pack of ten and watching the butts drift across the nebulous waters when he spotted it; dark and flat, floating motionlessly on the surface. Had it been there a moment ago? He must have missed it. Either way, it certainly wasn’t a piece of broken fence or a branch. There was no telling what that crazy bitch had thrown into the pond before she went AWOL. It could be something valuable.

He snatched up a long-handled net leaning against the nearby fence and fished the object out of the water. It was a box.

The surface was slick with slime and algae and the keyhole was clogged with silt and dirt, but he thought the craftsmanship looked fine nonetheless and decided to work on opening it later, providing the hinges weren’t rusted shut. He would have asked the old woman about it, but obviously that wasn’t possible: his grandmother was gone, most likely dead. He thought her only neighbour probably was too, judging by the dilapidated state of the only other house he’d passed on his way here. The damn roof had collapsed in on itself, for fuck sake.

Running the pads of his fingers across the box’s surface, he thought: I’ll ask granddad next time I visit, if I can get a sane word out of the old relic.

But he only visited the Blackwood Home, with its grimy walls, grim faced orderlies and iodoform scented corridors once a year – and only then if he could help it.

He hoped the old man would die soon; thirty miles was a hell of a trip to make every July. More to the point, he supposed, was that he was scared. Scared that one year, he would arrive with his customary cheap card and even cheaper present, only to find the old sailor lucid enough to ask him about that night. About the break in, and the masked intruder who had beaten an old woman unconscious before stomping on an old man’s head until it cracked like a rotten egg, until pieces of brain were splattered all over the linoleum like yesterday’s porridge.

Or ask him how the intruder had known to look for their jewellery and cash in the nook beneath the kitchen sink.

His grandmother had disappeared shortly afterwards, vanishing without even a single goodbye. Only now, seven years on, had she finally been declared dead in absentia.

He stowed the box in his backpack alongside the few odds and ends he’d found that looked remotely valuable: a gold (he didn’t know if it was real, though) plated fountain pen engraved with a date – 13-07-83 – that was meaningless to him; a pale-skinned porcelain doll in a frilled baby-blue dress with dirty golden ringlets, which he’d wrapped in an old t-shirt to hide its unerring grin; an elaborate silver frame containing a photograph of all the grandchildren and the smiling grandparents – he’d thrown the photograph away. There were other things, as well, but he wasn’t sure if they would be worth anything, and as such hadn’t bothered with them.

Mostly the house had been crammed with junk, sentimental shit acquired during his granddad’s naval career: boxes and boxes of washed-out photographs; amateur oil paintings of ships and lighthouses and anchors; pieces of driftwood lashed together and mounted on the walls; coils of rope thicker than Kevin’s leg; an enormous rusted anchor in the basement. How the latter had found its way through the narrow doorway and down the rickety flight of stairs, he didn’t know. His Nikes were still damp from slogging around up to his ankles in water while he was down there. Fucking foundations were probably subsiding by now.

A bird cawed overhead, snapping Kevin from his thoughts. He ran a tattooed hand across his shaved head, which was dripping with sweat. There was nothing else out here. He headed inside to dry out his shoes and eat. As he crossed the threshold, he thought he saw a drape in the hall twitch, and the scent of iodine seemed to linger in the air. But of course, that wasn’t possible, and seconds later the smell was gone.

~

Kevin was slouched in his granddad’s high-backed chair next to the patio doors with his muddy boots – he’d changed out of his Nikes – propped on the once-pristine coffee table and a greasy slice of pizza dripping between his fingers. Old sea charts and framed navigational maps, cracked and yellowing with faint blue ink barely visible, adorned every wall. A brazen brass telescope was mounted above the empty fireplace, and a score of wooden ships dotted the mantle. Pieces of rigging hung from the low ceiling, and fat black spiders made their homes amidst the dark wooden joists.

The whole place stank of salt and damp wood, and the wooden fishermen in every room, with their pointed beards and jovial eyes, were downright spooky. He’d turned three of them around to face the wall already, but there were dozens he’d missed. Mildew ran rampant in the corners and dark places of the house. He hadn’t expected to find any medals; he knew they’d all been revoked following the old man’s dishonourable discharge. Kevin didn’t really know all the details, nor did he care to. A bound man thrown into the Atlantic, another drowned just off the coast of China and a third keel hauled halfway across the Baltic Sea. His granddad had been implicated in all three, alongside six other men, although none of them had ever been formally charged. The whole thing had been swiftly hushed over.

Probably the old man got what he deserved. Unlike me, Kevin thought. So far, I’ve got shit all.

And that was when he remembered the box. He rummaged through the backpack with his free hand, upturning a nearby vase filled with wilted daffodils with his elbow before his fingers closed around the slimy surface.

He was still scraping the last of the muck from the lid using a blunted knitting needle some time later, when the last rays of the setting sun reflected off the pond’s surface, staining the garden an ominous reddish-bronze. The box was much more detailed than he’d first thought; it was definitely worth something. The sides were etched with waves and whirlpools of the minutest detail, from which vague suggestions of great serpents and other beasts emerged. And once the lid was fully uncovered, it proved equally breathtaking.

A raging tempest, painfully detailed, littered with hundreds of shattered galleons. In the centre, blackness: a perfectly circular piece of dark stone set into the wood. Kevin ran his fingers across it – it was cool to the touch, surprisingly so.

Still, there remained the problem of opening it. Kevin knew that he could force it, but that risked damaging the box and its contents. Because the box was heavy; it had real weight to it. There was something in there. He’d get some rest for half hour or so, and then have a look around for the key. Tilting his head back, he shut his eyes and drifted off to sleep.

~

Kevin dreamed of waves. He was adrift in a tiny rowboat on a black ocean that extended as far as he could see in every direction. Dark clouds scudded across the sky, and thunderheads the colour of bruises grumbled ominously. But wait, that was wrong. The ocean wasn’t black. There was something moving beneath his boat, an unimaginable mass that darkened the water and roiled the surface.

He felt the boat rise beneath him, and he was pitched backwards into the abyssal waters. He was sinking, sinking, sinking to the depths. And something was moving down there, rushing through the darkness towards him. He opened his mouth to scream and the water poured in.

~

The bright, white light hurt his eyes. Kevin blinked like a mole dazzled by a torch, and then the world swam into focus. He was hunched over in front of the tiny window in the attic, affording him a perfect view of the moonlit garden and the mirrored surface of the pond. Strange, how it looked so much bigger from up here; so much more…oceanic.

What the fuck was he doing up here anyway? And what was that noise?

Dee-dum-di-dum-dum-dee

A soft, mournful tinkling, like putting your ear to a seashell or standing on the deck of a fishing boat in a light autumn rain; it was beautiful, yet it chilled him to his very core.

Dee-dum-di-dum-dum-dee

The box lay open at his feet, illuminated in a small pool of moonlight. The inside was a single compartment of plain wood, completely devoid of any carvings or images. Something silver was rotating slowly in the center. He reached for it with a shaking hand, and that was when the surface of the pond began to move.

A score of ripples spread across the still waters. A huge mass began to coalesce, moving sluggishly beneath the surface. Something sleek and dark broke the surface, lashing out and decapitating a nearby stone cherub.

Kevin watched transfixed as a smaller shape crawled forth from the water, moving with hunched deliberation across the lawn. The moonlight threw too many details into stark clarity; blackened skin like worn leather, bedraggled wisps of hair; sagging, lichen-covered breasts and arthritic hands curled into claws.

His grandmother stopped next to the headless cherub and looked up at the window, her eyes flaring with a hellish intensity, and smiled. Her teeth were mossy gravestone nubs. The wrinkled grey flesh of her thighs gave way to yellowing bone. Long silvery worms slithered through the hollow places of her body, and something many-legged and glistening emerged from a hole in the side of her skull and skittered sideways across her chest. Something that looked like a starfish clung to the side of her neck. But starfish didn’t have mouths bulging with razor sharp fangs.

She crooked a gnarled finger at him. Come on down, sonny. Let’s have us a little chit-chat by the water’s edge.

Dee-dum-di-dum-dum-dee

Behind her, the pond had swollen to monstrous proportions, the banks having long since fallen away. Water was spilling across the grass and onto the patio, jetting forth in geysers from the rapidly collapsing lawn. The sort of fish he’d seen on Discovery’s deep sea programs were floundering on the grass: phosphorescent and eyeless, utterly hideous. A crab the size of an Alsatian scuttled across the lawn and disappeared into the shrubbery.

The night itself seemed to take a deep breath, and the stars were snuffed out like so many tiny candles. Something gargantuan beyond comprehension broke the water’s surface. Piscine and loathsome, it bellowed in atavistic rage. The sound was deafening, like a blast from a ship’s horn. He had the sense of something crossed between an octopus and a dinosaur. No, that wasn’t right. The anatomy was all wrong.

He felt his mind slipping away like an eel between his fingers. This couldn’t be happening. He was dreaming. That was it. Of tentacles thicker than tree trunks and long spindly arms, at least three times the length of a stallion’s foreleg and ending in webbed claws the size of car bonnets.

Then the poignant tang of iodine once more filled his nostrils, and he knew he wasn’t dreaming. Something shuffled across the floorboards behind him. Wet breathing, coming in short shallow gulps like a fish out of water, and the squeak of rusty casters across rough wood.

The horror outside seemed to grow dim as Kevin turned to face his granddad. The old man’s piss stained hospital johnny fluttered in the draft from the window, exposing the wrinkled flesh of his thighs and buttocks. An IV pole trailed behind him, the bags deflated and crumpled. Tubes hung like transparent veins from his forearms.

Despite everything that was happening – and just how the hell had the old man gotten out? – Kevin found his eyes immediately drawn to the side of his granddad’s head: the side that was misshapen and crumpled, like a trodden on tin can. There was no guilt: only remorse.

He should have done things properly. He should have hit him harder. He should have fucking killed him.

Kevin stumbled to his feet as his granddad advanced across the cramped attic. And the old man was grinning, his saturnine features more animated than Kevin had seen them in all the years he’d visited him at the Blackwood Home. There he’d merely lain motionless and slack-jawed, drooling into a pillow that Kevin longed to hold over his face and shitting himself on an hourly basis.

There was water dripping through cracks in the roof now, and Kevin became aware not only of a sudden sense of scrutiny, but of an enormous pressure bearing down upon him, a tidal wave crashing over a coastal city, a force of incomprehensible enormity.

The grinning spectre before him fell to its knees with a sickening crack, sending the IV pole clattering across the floor. Splinters of bright white bone jutted from the old man’s kneecaps.

Somewhere in the gloom, the music box continued to sing its funereal song.

Dee-dum-di-dum-dum-dee

For a second, Kevin could have sworn he heard waves crashing against the side of the house.

And then the light disappeared. The room was engulfed in darkness, total and complete, and he found himself unable to see further than the tip of his nose. He could hear the old man’s laboured breathing, moving closer now. The sickly sweet stench of rotten gums and decaying teeth filled his nostrils, accompanied by the grate of bone against wood.

In desperation he whirled towards the window. And discovered why the world had gone dark.

The thing from the deep opened a cyclopean eye, and the attic was bathed in ultramarine.

His granddad, from the darkness, a rasp more like a rusted chain being lowered than a human voice: ‘…et akhlish… Nisroch… chtulzra dhrazgh et Nisroch boolusch…’ This was followed by a wheezy chuckling, a sound like water on the lung.

Then the roof exploded in a shower of tiles and wood, drowning out the guttural intonation, and an unimaginable pressure seized Kevin about the waist. His ribs snapped like matchsticks as he was lifted into the air. Red water spread across his vision. Only it wasn’t water, it was blood.

Through a haze of scarlet, he beheld a maw dripping with brine that was large enough to swallow an estate car and change. The stench was almost as overpowering as the pain crushing his torso, a thousand dead gulls rotting beneath the summer sun.

There was water everywhere, gushing from the pond at an impossible rate, and the garden now looked more like a small lake. Through a curtain of pain he could vaguely discern his grandmother scaling the thing’s vast body like a withered brown spider.

Kevin understood, in his final moments, that there was truly a God. But He didn’t love, and He certainly didn’t forgive. He was an old God. A God of the deep, whose fury against those above would be both beautiful and terrible to behold.

He was death.

Kevin’s shoulders dislocated with twin pops, and waves of searing agony rushed over him. Then he was gone, lost in pain and darkness. He died slowly. He died without hope.

~

Nisroch dropped the shattered human into the rushing water, threw back its head and roared with the wind. Rain poured from the sky, a hammering deluge that would, in the weeks to come, become a global catastrophe. One of the Seven walked the earth once more, and it would bring with it an ocean unending and suffering unbound.

Rain poured through the space where the attic roof had been, beating a relentless tattoo against the wooden floor. A torrent of water smashed through the patio doors, flooding the lower floor of the house and gushing out into the road. And amidst it all, the music box continued to sing.

Dee-dum-di-dum-dum-dee

Credit To – Tom Farr

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