The Haunted Game Boy Camera

October 4, 2015 at 12:00 PM

“I’ll never ask for anything else again, I swear, Mom!”

As kids, we’ve all said it at one point. We find something that seems the most amazing item in the world and we just have to have it, no matter what. For me, it was the newest handheld, a Game Boy Color. It was the most beautiful thing to a six year old, especially when all my friends were getting theirs. Growing up with four brothers and sisters and not especially well off, my parents did their best, but we struggled to get by most of the time. They did their best to give us comforts and toys, but new electronics were out of the question. Hell, we were still working off an old television that still used rabbit ears. I was the youngest of the five of us, so that meant a lot of hand me downs as well. I was used to it, but still held some resentment to my siblings and of course, still begged for the Game Boy Color. They said they would do their best, bless their hearts.

Shortly after my birthday, my mom and dad presented me with a box. I was surprised, but they said they had found something they knew I wanted very badly and I had been good. My heart raced with excitement as I tore into the box, but sank into the pit of my stomach. It was not a Game Boy Color. This poor excuse for a handheld was a badly abused original Game Boy. It looked like it had been bitten and melted by something in the corners, as well as stained. Up on top, a strange camera stuck out of the cartridge inserted inside. When I picked it up, it read Game Boy Camera. They’d somehow managed to find it with the crappy little printer as well, complete with fading printer paper.

“You see? Daddy and I found it at a garage sale, it’s exactly the kind you wanted. It even has a cool little camera to take pictures!” They said, far more excited than I was.

I’m not sure if it was the fact that this was the first thing that had ever been given to me first and it still was someone’s used piece of junk, or that they had no actual idea what I had wanted, or maybe they had and just decided it was too much so a replacement would suffice and I’d never know the difference, but in my utter disappointment, I threw the worst tantrum I’d had since I was a toddler. I tossed the box on the ground and cried my eyes out, screaming how they were awful and I didn’t want this and I wanted my Game Boy Color. Well, you can imagine how that turned out. I got a good whooping from my father in front of all my siblings and a long lecture on gratefulness and how hard they work. In punishment for my selfishness, they gave my gift to my brother Ryan, only a couple years older than me. I was so angry, I didn’t care though and was happy to be rid of the thing. Ryan, being the jerk he was, teased me about it endlessly.

It was a few days after that that he figured out the camera and printing on it. He would tease me from his room, talk about how he got to play with the cool system and I was too little and bratty to ever touch it. I would either yell back at him or slam the door to my room and ignore it. Shortly after though, I heard him leave his room and call out to our mom, claiming the printer was acting weird. She was busy making lunch and told him it was probably due to being used, and to keep trying and see if it would fix itself. I heard him go back into his room, then go back out a little while later, saying it was probably busted and that he was going to go to his friend’s house.

Wondering what was wrong with it, I snuck into his room and found the papers lying on his bed. He’d taken photos of himself, making weird faces into the camera. The game system had been turned off, as expected. The first few pictures were normal, then they changed into those strange faces that everyone knew about. The way the printer paper was stained, they looked even weirder. As I looked down at the later pictures though, they looked…different.

Obviously, the camera in the game was not the greatest, so it was sometimes hard to see details of someone’s face or it would look blocky or blurry. The later pictures however…seemed to change. It wasn’t just scribbles or silly words written on his face. His features seemed to change, and there were dark spots around his eyes and mouth. His expression didn’t look goofy anymore; instead it looked scared. Each picture seemed to change it more and more. Eventually, the pictures changed to where it didn’t even look like he was holding the camera anymore, but that…someone was taking the picture of him. He got farther and farther away and what seemed to be a horrible story unfolded. It was showing Ryan running from the camera. The last picture was showing Ryan’s face half missing, dark pixels spilled out from the side of his head, and lying on the ground.

I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t even know the little camera was capable of things like this. It frightened me immensely and I jumped from the bed and ran to my mom, telling her about the pictures. She didn’t believe me and got angry I was playing with it after my behavior. She scolded me and sent me back to my room. I was too nervous to be angry though. I wondered what was wrong with that Game Boy. Why did it print those pictures?

I was immensely relieved when Ryan came back home that night for dinner. He seemed fine and after that night, I convinced myself it must have been a problem with the system since it was so beaten up, some kind of error. At some point later in the week, Ryan tried again to take pictures. I heard him call it a piece of junk and then chuck it into a drawer. He threw all the pictures he had taken in the trash can.

I didn’t think much of the Game Boy and the camera until the week after. I had been coloring in my room when I heard a terrible scream from outside and the sound of brakes squealing to a stop. Immediately, we all jumped up and ran outside to find out what had happened, along with our neighbors. The sight that greeted us all still is burned into my memory.

Ryan had gone to walk across the street to his friend’s house, just as he would any other day. A man had come speeding down the street and hit him. He’d been pulled under the car and his head half crushed under the tires as the man hit the breaks. My older brother’s brain and skull were splattered under, a pool of blood soaking into the street. I still remember the cry of agony and horror my mother let out, and the rage and grief in my father’s eyes as he pulled the man from the car and shouted at him, asking him what in the hell he had been doing to hit a child. My sisters pulled me back inside, trying to comfort me and shield me from the sight, but the damage was done. I’d seen exactly what the picture had showed me and I knew that Game Boy had been the cause. In my naivete, I tried to tell them, hoping they would believe me. They didn’t believe me at all and it made one of my sisters fall apart.

The next few weeks were miserable. My parents were inconsolable and my mother could barely take care of the house and us. My eldest sister Andrea took over her role and struggled with it, angry with us and dealing with her own grief. She also took over cleaning out Ryan’s side of the room that he shared with my other brother. At some point, she found the Game Boy and the Game Boy Camera and asked if I wanted it. I told her it was cursed, that it had killed Ryan. She said that I was being cruel to our parents by turning their gift that was meant for me into a guilt trip and that I needed to stop being so selfish. The funeral for Ryan caused even more money stress on the family and slowly, even at the young age I was, I could see they were not able to handle any of it well. I did my best at that point to keep out of trouble and didn’t say anything more about the Game Boy Camera.

I don’t know when she took them, but at some point, I guess she’d needed a distraction from trying to hold up the house. I went into my sisters’ room to find a missing sock and thought maybe it had landed into their clothing. Her trashcan had the same printer paper in it. An ice cold sweat came over my body when I realized. I couldn’t stop myself. I reached in and looked at the pictures. They were the same. Andrea’s face was slowly transformed into looks of horror and fear before showing her in a grotesque and terrifying position that I could only assume was a clue to how she would die. In the ending pictures, her face was barely recognizable and her skin was black.

I was definitely sure now. This thing had to be destroyed. I thought to myself that maybe if I could destroy it, I could save my sister from the same fate. I tore her room apart searching for the Game Boy. Eventually, I found it and the printer. As I held it in my hand, something chilling happened.

It turned on.

The screen flashed the logo before it began to make noises and music. The sound was wrong, as though it were being played backwards. I had been looking straight at it and suddenly, my face appeared on the screen. It began to print. In my panicked state, I went to shut it off, but found the button was down already. It should not have been running. I then proceeded to rip the printer paper out and the game out of the system. The Game Boy began to spark and error while the printer spewed out ink all over my Andrea’s bed. I felt it heat up in my hands and dropped it, watching the screen begin to smoke and the sparks fly out from both the Game Boy and the printer. After a minute or two, it seemed to die.

Needless to say, I got in major trouble when my sister came home and found her bed sheets stained with ink and the system broken. My parents were furious and forbid me from going out with friends at all, as well as no tv. I was now considered very irresponsible and not allowed to touch any of my siblings’ things. It didn’t matter though. I had saved her from a horrible fate and the cursed system was gone.

Or so I thought.

I think back and realize that of everything I did, the thing that may have saved me was not letting the printer finish. Six months later, my sister was killed when she was driving home and slipped on something in the road, crashing her car and being trapped inside as it caught fire. When the police came to my parents, they had told them that she was burned beyond recognition and the only reason they knew it was her was because she was driving my dad’s car. I couldn’t save her. I didn’t dare tell my parents about the pictures. I don’t think they would have believed me anyway.

Years have passed and we’ve grown up. My parents never really recovered from Ryan and Andrea’s deaths and they have struggled immensely. The three of us take care of them now, though we still have the old rabbit ears television for comfort’s sake.

There’s still one thought that haunts me though and makes it hard to sleep at night.

I never found out what they did with the broken Game Boy, the camera and printer. I pray to God every night that the damned thing made its way into some kind of trash compactor or is tangled with the plastic floating in the ocean. I fear that they still wanted it to have use, and donated it, or sold it for parts. And someone, somewhere is repairing it and putting in new paper. And they will see what it was trying to print of me.

Credit: AMD

A Sailor Without Two Coins

October 9, 2014 at 12:00 AM

Many a sailor, no matter how brave and fearless, knows well how unpredictable and deadly the sea can be. Before every setting of the sails, a prayer goes throughout the crew, praying to God for the safety of their voyage. A wise man knows that prayers are not always answered and many a man has traveled to the briny depths of the sea, never to be seen again. Some men say though, they have managed to cheat death in those moments with a ritual that may not be worth living for later.

The ritual is fairly simple, but not one that one wants to use unless they are in mortal peril and know it. Providing that they are not sinking fast enough in the water to choke their words, a man must repeat the words, “Devil take my soul across the Styx, God has abandoned me,” three times at the top of his lungs. If he truly puts himself and his soul into it, the Ferryman shall come, no matter how much the waves rage and toss. His ship shall not be turned, nor shall he capsize. The man shall feel his wrist grabbed and be pulled into the boat. From there, he will not feel the waves rocking him. He will feel no hunger, no thirst, only the breath in his lungs and the wind blow softly across his wet face.
It is important that the man does not look up into his eyes. This is because calling him out is a trick. You see, the Ferryman will not take a soul across the Styx without payment. He will hear him speak, asking for payment. When he asks, he must proclaim that he is without payment and needs to go get it from home. The Ferryman will then begin to row to the sailor’s home shore.

He cannot look at him at all the entire way. If it takes three days and three nights, it will not matter. This is because if the Ferryman looks into your eyes, he will know you are lying and return you to the waters to drown.

When you finally reach the shore, the sailor must thank him and tell him he will return shortly. The sailor can never return to the sea after this. The Ferryman will never come to the shore to collect, only be there by the water, awaiting his payment. If a sailor ever does set foot on a boat again, he and all the men on it shall perish in a violent and destructive manner.

Be warned though. One cannot outrun the Ferryman forever. I know a man who is in his last years and fears closing his eyes at night, lest he pass from this world and his soul meet the Ferryman once more. He feels the grip around his wrist tighter and tighter at night with each dream when he finally falls into sleep, and sees a monstrous face looking at him enraged.

No one truly cheats the Ferryman. He is simply far more patient than most realize.

Credit To – AMD

The Deafening

December 8, 2013 at 12:00 AM

Everyone knows that kid in school, the one who spends half the school year at home because their immune system can’t handle the massive amount of germs and viruses that tend to accumulate in an elementary school. I was that kid. I found myself getting sick every other week. Something in my body was always fighting off illness and fevers were more than common. My doctors didn’t know what was causing it, but since it never was serious enough to warrant a hospital trip, they concluded that I got the short end of the stick as far as my immune system went.

This did not make my mother’s life easy, given that she had recently divorced my father when I started first grade. She needed to be able to go to work and having a sick child made it very difficult. She reluctantly asked my grandfather for help. They had been estranged for years after a fight, but he agreed to take care of me and took us both in.

Moving into my grandfather’s house was a new experience that I had never encountered. It greatly outshone the small apartment my mother and father had lived in, a large Victorian home that had been in the family for generations. It stood three stories tall and had a large yard behind it, leading into a forest. It had fallen into some disrepair over the years as my grandfather had gotten older and with no other children to want the house, he’d stopped caring for it. The neighbors had offered him help fixing it up, but he’d rejected them multiple times vehemently, stating that he didn’t want people in his business.

From what my mother had told me, he’d always been a very cold and unfriendly man, including to her. It didn’t change even around me, always feeling as though he would rather be doing anything other than talking to me. That he even took us in though made me think that there had to be some good in this man, being an optomistic child.

It was shortly after we moved in that my fevers started up. My mother had to work and my grandfather was nowhere near as attentive as my mother was, so he left me to my own devices. They were mild, enough to remove me from school, but after a few hours sleeping past when I would have woken to leave for school, I’d get bored with laying in bed and wander. And for a six year old who spent most of their time alone and stuck in a bed, a huge house was the perfect place to explore.

My bedroom had been set on the second floor, next to the master bedroom so I was always near and able to hear my grandfather’s snoring. There were multiple bedrooms on the third floor, which made me wonder why my grandfather had bought the house when he’d only lived with my grandmother and mother. My first exploration would be of downstairs though.

The kitchen was large and made me wonder how much cooking my grandmother had done when she was still alive. The tiles were chipped in many corners and it was easy for me to hide in the large pantry, thinking that it would be a perfect place to jump out from if someone passed by. Even the oven seemed oversized, darkened with stains from meals past. My grandfather didn’t cook much, but he kept a steady supply of basic things to feed myself and my mother. I had never had much of a problem with foods with a few exceptions, which was surprising when you compared most of my classmates who spent most of their days living on chicken nuggets and sandwiches with the crusts cut off and only grape jelly.

The living room was a bit bare, the carpet worn down and rough to the touch. An old and torn couch stood in front of a television that barely functioned, looking archaic and rabbit ears bent in multiple directions. The scratches on the couch looked animalistic and I wondered if my grandparents had once owned animals and just never bothered to get it fixed. Outside of a set of dusty coffee tables, a flickering lamp and a grandfather clock that rang out with a distorted chime, nothing else interested me in this room. I didn’t imagine that it was used very often.

What was used often was the study. It was where my grandfather spent most of his time, looking over books and writing down words and numbers that were impossible for me to comprehend. Even as an adult, I still struggle with the cryptic poems and drawings that seemed to be his entire life’s work. He’d taken up most of the wall space with bookshelves and stocked them to the ceiling. The constant smell of pipe tobacco wafted out from this room and hung on his clothing. I learned very quickly not to bother him when he was in there. The look he cast to me when I knocked on the door was one of anger and disdain. When I asked what he was working on, he shooed me out of the room and told me to never go in there again, that it was not a room for children.

When the downstairs became boring, I made my way up the stairs and to the third floor. This one was even more empty, nothing but the doors to the bedrooms and a stained bathroom, along with a window that you could see the forest behind the house from. I struggled to see where the forest ended, looking like an endless sea of green and brown, darker as you tried to see further.

I checked the bathroom first. Again, everything seemed a bit oversized, but I was a rather small kid, so I wasn’t particularly bothered by it. The bathtub made me happy, I could practically swim in it. When I leaned in to look, it was stained dark on the bottom, darker than porcelain normally would be, but with how run down the house was, it seemed to fit. I turned on the water and the water came out reddish brown before slowly becoming clear. In older houses, the pipes still had a lot of minerals and rust in them, but it still looked a bit unnerving. Seeing the clear comforted my imagination though, especially when the sink did the same thing.

I did notice something a bit strange when I opened the cabinet under the sink. Far in the back, behind a few cleaning supplies, was a lone and dirty rubber duck. I found it odd because it didn’t seem at all like my grandfather to keep something this childish about, but concluded that it must have been my mother’s when she was younger and just abandoned. Feeling a sense of fondness, I took the duck from the cabinet and did my best to wash it off. The poor thing had been left there so long, when the grime came off from him, his yellow body was almost bleached white. His eyes, once black and shiny, looked grey and lifeless. I still liked the little duck though, and decided to take it with me as I explored.

The bedrooms disappointed me for the most part, looking long unused. There were three all together. The first was the most barren of the three, a long faded blue rug half crumpled on the floor and the bare frames of a twin bed in the corner of the room. The wooden slats on the bottom looked cracked and broken, as though someone had stepped on them or jumped violently on the mattress when it was still there.

The second had a bit more in it, barren bookshelves with a few thin books far too high for me to reach. Again, another abandoned bed frame sat in the corner of the room, missing its mattress as well and in just the same shape as the other bed. By now, I certainly wondered why my grandfather had multiple beds up here and who used to live in these rooms.

In the last bedroom, there was a dresser and eerily enough, a crib. My first thought was that this had been my mother’s when she was a baby. It was very small, a change from so much of the oversized objects in the house, just big enough for an infant. Off to the side of the room was what caught my attention. There was a door in the wall, a small square door that I guessed led to the attic. When I tried to pull the door, I found it was stuck closed fairly tightly. I pulled again and once more, but being out of bed and having been wandering up and down stairs had made me tired. I could feel my body begin to ache and decided that it would be an exploration for another day, dragging myself back down to my bedroom and laying down on my bed, falling asleep. The duck that I had kept in my hand stayed on the pillow beside me.
Someone had their hand on my head, feeling my forehead. There were whisperings above me, but they didn’t sound like my mother or my grandfather. They sounded like kids, people my age. I thought I felt a weight on my chest for a bit. Another hand touched my arm, a small hand. Having had many feverish nights, I thought I was dreaming until I could feel fingernails starting to dig into my arm. The whispers turned to snickers and laughs, something dark. I wanted to open my eyes, but I couldn’t. Something had me pressed down and whatever was laying on my chest was pressing to my throat.

And suddenly…

It was quiet. The hands and whispers were gone. The weight on my throat and chest was gone. I could open my eyes again. When I did, I found the duck sitting on my chest, staring at my bedroom door. It was the evening now and I knew my mother would be getting home. A nightmare, I told myself. A fever dream. I’d had lots of them before, and knew none of them were real, this couldn’t have been real. I rubbed my arm where I had felt the nails, not bothering to see if they had been real or not.

My mother swooped me up when she came home, looking tired and worried, telling me how much she missed me. My grandfather had barely left the room all day and somewhere in my sleeping, he’d left me a sandwich and juice, not wanting to wake me. My stomach still was in a knot, but seeing them both in the house helped to ease my nerves.

I decided that night to take my rubber friend into the bath with me before I went to bed. My mother filled up the bathtub, making a comment of rust in the pipes as the reddish brown water flowed out and then faded into clear, and helping me in. It felt soothing and watching the little discolored duck float was amusing. It almost seemed to smile, being in use again. Remembering, I asked my mom when she got it. She looked confused at me.

“I wasn’t much for baths myself. I never had a rubber duck.”

I gave a small “oh” at her and looked back at it. It had been so dirty, it had to have been there from long before. In the middle of my thoughts, I could hear her cellphone ring.

“Ahh, sorry honey, Mommy will be right back.” She said apologetically, rushing off the get her cellphone and take the call.

Now it was just me and the rubber duck. All alone in the bathtub and not able to see my mother’s figure, the walls of the tub seemed higher and larger, almost growing. I felt like I was shrinking and brought the duck to my body, not wanting to lose him in the water that seemed to be expanding around me. I could hear the same noises from my dream earlier, the same snickers and whispers. The thought that I was still dreaming crossed my mind, or that I was getting sicker, but the sounds were getting clearer and clearer. I could make out two voices, a little boy’s and a girl’s, having a quiet conversation. The third made no sense. It sounded like a baby’s gurgle but it was much too…distorted and almost sounded like choking. They were getting louder. And closer to me. Until it felt like they were over the side of the tub. I felt as though if I brought my eyes up away from the duck in my hand, I would see them. As a hand touched my shoulder, I could contain my fear no longer and screamed for my mother.

Her footsteps stomped to the bathroom and she burst in, frightened and worried for me safety. When I looked up, there was nothing but her in the doorway. No children, no baby. Only me and the duck. I wrapped my arms around her and cried, scared and telling her that someone was there, that someone touched me. She held me and stroked my back, telling me that the fever was making me imagine things, that I was sick and she’d take care of me, make it better. I tried to argue with her, but she told me that crying would make my fever worse and to just breathe, that she was there.

She toweled me off and put me to bed, telling me how important it was that I get better, that she loved me and even though it was hard for her to be here, she always would be and if I really needed her, she’d come. I don’t know what drove me to, but I brought the rubber duck to bed with me. She didn’t seem bothered by it. She even patted its head and said it would be a good dream companion, keep me safe. It may have been my imagination, but when I looked at it before she turned out the light, it almost seemed to smile and its eyes darken a bit.

When my mother turned off the light and left me in the dark, fear gripped my heart for a bit. I had wondered if those strange whispers and creatures were going to come for me when I went to bed. I had heard them before, I was sure of it. Would they wait for me to sleep? Would they just come in the dark? What were they, were they human? I couldn’t close my eyes, I was too frightened. The noises never came though. I could hear my grandfather’s snoring on the other side of my wall and my mother’s softer sleeping sighs as well. I couldn’t stay awake forever, as hard as I tried. I set the duck on the dresser beside me and bid it goodnight before falling back to sleep.
I heard them again. I was sure of it. Footsteps heading towards my bed. I had awoken before they got to me and could hear them. My breath caught and my hand moved slowly over to my dresser, feeling the rubber of the duck and where its head was turned, facing me. I’m not sure what compelled me to do it, but as a kid, you get some crazy ideas of what might help and protect you. In a moment, I grabbed the toy from my dresser and pointed its gaze to the sound, yelling “Go away!”

To my surprise, I heard a pair of tiny shrieks and something move through the open door, small footsteps on the stairs. I panted, holding the toy tight. Someone was there. They were real, I wasn’t imagining it. I wasn’t going to waste any time. I jumped from my bed and dashed into the master bedroom, duck still in my hand.

“Mommy, Grandpa, there’s something upstairs!” I called out, shocking them both and my mother turning on the light. I ran into her arms and buried my face in her chest, telling her of the kids in my room, the talking, that I heard them run up the stairs. My mother tried to calm me down, but my grandfather seemed angry and ripped me from her arms, holding mine and telling me to stop this nonsense and go back to bed, stop telling lies. My mother looked cross at him and told him that I was frightened and should stay with them. He argued that there was no one in this house and I wasn’t going to learn to handle myself unless I stopped being coddled. Not wanting to keep an argument going that late at night, my mother got up and said she’d stay in my bed for the night and keep watch over me. Looking irritated, my grandfather grunted and curled back up in bed, telling her to turn off the damn light on her way out.

My mother held me all night in my small bed. I think she must have been uncomfortable, but she didn’t seem to mind at all. Her warmth was comforting and within minutes, I had fallen back to sleep.

She did this every night for the next three nights, particularly as my fever got worse. The whispers stayed away when she was there, and after the first day, I grew nervous about napping when she wasn’t home. It left me worn out and exhausted, aggravating my illness. I felt a heavy throbbing in my ears and the morning of the fourth day, I couldn’t hear at all.

The doctor had said I had a severe ear infection and needed a lot of rest and antibiotics. It was an unnerving thing, not being able to hear. You take it for granted when you can, all the little things you missed. I wasn’t able to hear the tea kettle in the kitchen, nor the creak of the floorboards as I walked up and down the stairs, nor the sound of birds in the forest out behind the backyard. During this time, the duck, who I had named Leonard, never left my side. Whatever those things were, they didn’t seem to like him. He seemed to like me though and as I carried him around, his eyes seemed to get darker and shinier.

My fever spiked in the night and I could barely move from my bed. My mother watched over me, worried. She wrote things down on a notepad so I could understand what she was saying. She talked to my grandfather a lot and even though I couldn’t hear, I could tell they were fighting by the looks on their faces. When he left, she looked defeated and wrote something down on the paper.

“Mommy will be sleeping in Grandpa’s room tonight. You just call if you need anything, okay?”

I nodded and she kissed my forehead, the little concerned wrinkle in her brow as she turned off the light. I was so tired, that once she left the door, my eyes closed into sleep.

It did not last long though. I realized shortly after I had fallen asleep. I couldn’t hear them! I couldn’t hear if they were coming into my room or not! My skin tingled and a cold sweat started up in my body. My hand scrambled about my dresser, but somehow, I had dropped the duck from its place beside me. It wasn’t there. It wasn’t there! Tears began to form in my eyes, thinking that I couldn’t hear the creatures that were coming in, that my friend, my only friend, was gone and couldn’t protect me. Even calling for my mother wouldn’t work, they’d get me before she got there.

My blood ran cold as I could feel hands, two hands on each arm touch me, hold me down. The pressure returned to my chest. They were here. They were here and there was nothing I could do about it. Tears dripped down the side of my face and something else did. Whatever was on my chest was looking down at me, its head over mine and dripping something thick and cold, putrid smelling. It smelled like the rusted water from the bathtub, but far worse. I could see it staring down at me, small head silhouetted in the darkness by what little light I could see. The ones on the sides were digging their hands into me, and I could feel how slimy their hands were, cold and disgusting. I was sure I was going to die. My throat was being constricted, tiny malformed hands pressing to my neck and choking me. Everything was feeling tighter and tighter around me. The pressure was growing stronger and stronger and their grip on my arms dug into my skin. A feeling of resignation and relief came over me as I began to pass out.

A bright light flashed before my eyes, two small screams could be heard and all at once, it was all gone. I sat up, gasping for breath and heard something fall to the floor. Quickly, I turned on my light and reached for it. It was Leonard. All his color had returned, but it looked as though someone had tried to burn him, black misshapen patches on his body. He looked happy though. I hugged the small toy to me and cried, cried harder than I ever had before. It woke up my mother. I told her I didn’t want to stay here anymore and begged her to go somewhere else, to move, anywhere. She held me close and cried with me and promised me that we’d go somewhere else. Maybe it was the way I was crying or when she saw what looked like dark dried blood on my cheeks and arms, she knew something was deeply wrong.

Thankfully, one of my mother’s coworkers had the kindness in her heart to take us in. We moved out of my grandfather’s house, who barely said a word to us when we left, walking back inside to his study, I imagined. I would not leave Leonard behind. He stayed with me on the move and still stays by my bedside, even as I have long grown into an adult. I did not hear any whispers or feel any more presence in the nights. After that night, my illnesses suddenly cleared. I was able to go to school and function as a normal kid.
When my grandfather died, I was a teenager in high school. My mother called me and asked if I would help move a few things out of the house, though she did ask rather gingerly. I said that I would.

When we returned to the house, close to ten years after we had left, it was in even worse shape than we had remembered. The windows were coming off the hinges, the roof had rotted and fallen in at places from heavy rains and the plant life was overgrown outside the house. We walked inside and the smell was horrendous, reeking of mildew and the vague scent of death. She cringed and asked me to look for anything that may be saved, otherwise to leave it. I don’t think she wanted anything from that house and would have burned it to the ground right then if she could.

I walked into the study and the smell of death was stronger than anywhere in the house. The chair where he had sat often was stained with something unmentionable. I imagined that was probably where he had died. A book lay open on his desk and I picked it up. The text was close to illegible, but I could read small words and dates, March 13th and April 2nd. They showed up repeatedly. I glanced through some of his other books and many were just the same, scattered drawings and journals everywhere. I picked up the ones that seemed the most important and left the room, happy to be out of the smell.
After disposing of the long rotted food in the fridge and pantry, I made my way upstairs, a sense of apprehension in my body. I’m not sure what I expected, it looked just the same as when I had briefly lived there ten years ago. The forest still expanded out into a sea of trees, and even as an adult, I could not see where they ended.

I remembered the second bedroom and the books that were on the shelf and went to see if they were still there. Indeed, they were and I reached up for them. They were photo albums and a journal. The photos seemed to go from the most recent to the older. I looked through and found pictures of my mother, going from a teenager to a child, to a toddler. When I got halfway through, I found other pictures that left me confused. They were pictures of children, a boy and a girl. They looked old and worn away, slightly distorted and black around the edges of it. They were mixed up, but the oldest they seemed to be was around 7 years old. In one particular picture, they were standing and waving to the camera with my grandmother in her younger years. She looked to be pregnant. In another picture was the boy in the bathtub smiling up at the camera. Holding Leonard.

My skin prickled as I stared at the photos. No one had said anything about other children. As far as I had known, my mother was their only child. Why would my grandfather hide this from her, from me, from…anyone? I closed the album and put it in the box with the journals, looking at the other book that had been on the shelf. When I opened it, a small envelope fell out. It had never been sealed shut. With a shaking hand, I opened it and pulled out the documents. They were birth and death certificates. The dates…1950 to 1957. 1951 to 1957. Causes of death, drowning. And…my grandmother’s. 1922 to 1957. Cause of death, suicide. Down in the doctor’s notes, it detailed her autopsy.

“The patient suffered multiple self inflicted wounds to the stomach and chest. The largest wound was created on the lower abdominal region and ruptured the uterus and small intestine. A brief blood sample and the expanded uterus lead to belief that the woman had been pregnant. Blood and amniotic fluid had been found around the woman’s mouth, as well as unknown flesh found in her teeth. No infant body was discovered with her and investigation is still in progress.”

This…was sickening. Was I reading this right? It was saying that…my grandmother had killed herself and tried to eat her own child? There was no death certificate for any infant in the bunch. Had they never found it? I looked through the book, searching for anything that would give me a clue about the children, what had really happened. There were places in the book where pages had been torn out. I searched the room desperately and found them having fallen behind the bookshelf. The writing was not my grandfather’s, it was far too neat and legible. The first page had the date of March 12th, 1957.

“They’re gone. I can’t…even believe it. My babies. He won’t even look at me. He thinks I did it. I turned my back for a minute. Just a minute….what a cruel world, to take ones so young. He keeps staring at me. Those eyes are burning holes in me, I can’t stand it. He’s looking at the young one in my stomach. He’s thinking I’ll drown it too. That man…he won’t hold me, won’t comfort me, won’t shed a tear for them.

What if he’s right though? The thought of my child coming into this world and losing them…no! No, I can’t let it happen! I can’t let them suffer, breathe in this foul air of the world, to be forced into existance just because I wanted another child…how selfish am I? I need…to help him. Save him from this world, but…I can’t bear losing another. What will I do?”

The second page seemed to be a letter. I was marked with the date of April 2nd. I tried to wipe off the dirt that seemed to be staining the page before I realized what the splotches and stains actually were: long dried blood. My body trembled and I feared what it would say. How long had my grandfather been hiding this? Against my better judgement, I carried on.

“my darling child,
i don’t have much time. i held you today, covered in my life and fluids, cut from my womb. you’re crying so quiet, i didn’t think you’d be so big, able to cry. i had hoped you’d be small enough to just sleep. even though you’re not ready, you look so beautiful. i made a mistake. don’t worry baby. i’ll put you back, then we’ll go together. i’ll bring you back in my body before we leave this world. then you won’t ever be alone. Mommy loves you so”

The letter seemed to cut off there and a trailing pen mark led off the paper, which made me guess that my grandmother had lost consciousness while writing it. My hands were shaking violently and tears had stared to form in my eyes. I dreaded the thought of showing this to my mother, finding out her mother was…No. I’d keep this to myself. She didn’t need to know. I put the letters back into the envelope and took the album and the book. I’d clear out the album when I got home, give her pictures and burn the others. They somewhat looked like someone had already tried.

The last room to inspect was the third bedroom. The roof had collapsed over this one and rotted wood and tiles lay scattered about. The crib that had been there before seemed to be missing. I was about to turn and leave, seeing nothing of value to take when I remembered and a chill went through my spine. The attic. I had never made it in as a kid. Given what I had found on the bookshelf, I thought of just leaving it be. I didn’t want to know. But…I knew I had to.

With a yell, I yanked open the door, feeling it snap at the top hinge. The smell of dust and dampness seeped out. I could barely see inside, but there was a light bulb hanging inside. My hand searched the side of the wall and found the switch when I crawled inside. What I found made me scream out loud.
The crib that had been in the room before had been put in there. The floorboards were stained all over underneath it. Inside the crib, the small mattress was covered with a red and black sludge, looking like it was slowly breathing, gasping for air. It moved and what looked like a misshapen and contorted face. It opened its mouth at me and let out that same gurgling cry I heard so many years ago.

I did not stay any longer. I scrambled out the small door, slammed the attic door shut and grabbed the box, running out of the house faster than I had ever moved. My mother caught me outside and asked what was the matter. I told her that something was living there, something that needed to die, that we needed to get away. She worked to calm me down and got me to the car, driving off as fast as she could to get us back home.

I never went back. I never stepped foot in the neighborhood again. My mother told me a few years after that, a storm had caught fire to the roof and the entire thing lit up and collapsed from poor care. I gave my mother the journals and took the photos of the children, my grandmother’s entries and the death certificates. I tried to burn them, but they would not catch fire, as hard as I tried, only blackening the edges. The documents and pictures are kept far away in a storage of mine, hidden there to be forgotten and abandoned when I die or for someone who knew nothing of her or our family to find one day, far off in the future.

I do not know or care if that thing…is still alive. What I know is that Leonard still remains by my bedside at night. His head is always, always turned to the door. My husband thinks I’m crazy, but tolerates it. I won’t let him turn on the radio at night. I can’t take the chance of not hearing the whispers again if they ever do return. He says he doesn’t like the silence at night.

He doesn’t know what the real silence is.

Credit To – Ariane M.D.


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