A Cabin in the Swamp

October 8, 2016 at 12:00 AM

This pasta was the first place winner of our Ghost Stories Creepypasta Writing Challenge. Congratulations!

You may read the other winners here:
Second Place: The Blaganschlor
Third Place: The Tavern on the Borderlands

Thank you so much to everyone who participated! A number of entries were not in the top three, but are still scheduled to be posted in the upcoming days. We had a really great turnout this time around!

My brother and I bought the camp in Des Allemands for a song. It was an old trapper’s cabin, set back down a bayou, well off the main lake and back in the swamp. It had no electricity, no water, no modern appliances, and needed some work. A while back, the old man who’d owned it couldn’t manage the taxes and was run off. We only had to pay a small fee and what he owed, which really didn’t amount to much.
At the time, we thought it a real steal.

The paperwork was finished on a Wednesday, and my brother and I met in Lafayette to sign everything. We loaded the bateau on Friday afternoon after work and left the launch about suppertime for the weekend.

It was hot—Louisiana hot—and even as the sun dipped to touch the treetops, the heat was merciless. A. Lee turned the bateau north and opened her up. The wind in my face was cooking me thoroughly and I could feel my skin crisping in the sunset. I looked back at my brother in the stern, his hand on the throttle of the old Evinrude as it purred and pushed us up the lake. He has our father’s complexion and was as dark and tan as aged cypress. I am more like pine—our mother’s color—and he had been after me about sunscreen from the moment we left the truck.

A heron leapt from its perch at the sound of our motor and I dipped by fingers in the passing water. It was black as good coffee, and but for the curls of pale foam, impenetrable to the eye. Alligators are plentiful in Des Allemands, and this evening was no exception as they cruised the lily pads and marsh grass for supper. A. Lee was keeping to the right-hand side and every now and then the brown and green of the swamp was broken by the surprising white of an egret. I took a deep breath. The air was full of the odor of life and decay, of the living and the dead.

Maybe half an hour later, we sighted the surveyor’s tape that marked our path. He turned the bateau up into the bayou, barely slowing, his hand sure. Nearly instantly, the cypress and Spanish moss cut the sun, leaving us in the humid shade.

An alligator slid into the water from its place on the muddy bank among the palmettos. It churned the grass, but by the time we were past, there was no sign on the water of its going.

I turned back to my brother and smiled. He raised an excited hand, thumb up.

We reached the cabin maybe an hour before full dark, and A. Lee slid the bateau against its weathered pilings so I could tie us off. A rickety ladder allowed us to climb to the porch, built high to keep the inevitable tidal surge of the hurricanes from washing the house away. The Evinrude puttered and died, and the chorus of tree frogs and insects swept in to fill the absence. Spiders’ webs were stretched from piling to piling, full as shrimp nets with writhing bugs.

“Get your ass up there, Joseph!” My brother was laughing. “We ain’t got all day!”

I grabbed the spare rope. A particularly fat spider scurried away from my hand as I gripped a rung. I watched it disappear into a wide crack between two beams.

“God damn but you’re slow!” My brother was impatient at the best of times.

I climbed to the porch, letting the line down to A. Lee so that he could pass up our gear. It was all easy enough except for the full cooler of ice and water, and my brother and I struggled mightily to get that up.
A. Lee’s head was just visible above the deck as I pulled the key from around my neck and unlocked the new padlock with which we had latched the door last week.

“You going to open the door or what?” he said. I could hear the excitement in his voice.

“Quiet down, old man! Don’t make me put you in your place…”

If you have a brother, you know how the banter goes. I watched him step onto the deck and dust his hands on his pants.

“I’d like to see that,” he laughed, opening the lid of the cooler and tossing me an icy bottle of water.

I pushed the door open and stepped into the sweltering heat of the cabin. It was dark and still and all the more uncomfortable for it.

The cabin wasn’t big—twenty by twenty or thereabout—but it had a largish table and a few serviceable wooden chairs, a bunk, and a wood burning stove. It smelled musty. It smelled like it had been closed for a long time.

It smelled like the family vault in Abbeville.

I shook this thought off and took a long swallow of water. I could feel the cold coil itself through my guts. A few mosquitos had already found their way through the open door and were buzzing around my head despite the lacquered coating of Deep-woods Off.

“We need to get on that screen, pronto.”

A. Lee nodded and swallowed.

“Damn but it’s hot!” he yelled from the porch.

I returned to the deck and grabbed my work belt. He unrolled the screen as I opened the windows and called out the numbers on my tape measure. A. Lee cut the screen to size, and held it while I hammered a few staples in to fasten it flush with the wood. My eyes stung from sweat and I rubbed my wet forearm across my face in a dubious effort to dry them.

I turned to drop my belt on the table just as a filthy, white cat walked through the door. Its hair was matted in clumps, dirty with only God knew what. It eyed my brother and me, its lips curling back slightly to expose its teeth.

A. Lee stomped his foot, feigning a leap.

The cat hissed and stood its ground.
I tried to edge around, putting myself opposite the cat and the door. I hoped to flush the cat out onto the porch, but it had other ideas and rushed passed me into the cabin.

“Where the hell did it go?” my brother asked.

I turned. Again, the cabin is a single room—table, chairs, bunk, and stove, but no cat.

“There must be a hole somewhere,” I said.

“Yeah, maybe behind the stove,” my brother said, crossing the room to inspect it. With the windows open, there was enough light to see, but the shadows were deep enough to hide a cat.


On the porch, I unzipped my pack and found my headlamp. I tossed it to A. Lee and watched as he searched behind the stove. I heard him shake the stovepipe, heard its firm contact with the wall. He shook his head.


He drew the beam of the headlamp over the bunk and corner in which it lay. The wall was good there, too.

“Fuck it, then,” I said. “The cat’s gone.”

“Good enough,” he replied.

The sun was down by the time we had our stuff in the cabin. A. Lee lit the propane lantern and set it on the table.

I used my pocket knife to cut the tops off the empty water bottles, scooped some ice from the cooler into the makeshift glasses, and poured a few fingers of Crown Royal into each. A. Lee smiled and took a sip, smiled again, and took my hand.

“We got ourselves a camp, brother!” His eyes twinkled in the lamplight.

We dusted off two of the chairs and set them side by side near the table. There was no sense putting the cap back on the bottle, at least not this early in the evening. We sliced cheese and dried sausage, sipped whiskey and re-told the misadventures of our youth.

Outside, the frogs were singing their hearts out.

The bottle was about half full when we our conversation turned to the trapper.
“I wonder what happened to that old guy,” A. Lee mused. I could see that he felt sorry for him, sorry in some sense that the old man had lost the camp the way he had. He was always a fan of underdogs.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I’m sure he moved on.”

A. Lee freshened his drink. “You know what was strange?” He looked troubled and his eyes tightened in that way he has when he’s thinking.

“What?” I asked.

“That cat wasn’t wet.” My brother paused and took another sip of whiskey. “Out here. On the bayou.”

It was my turn to sip and think.

“Maybe it lives in the cypress? Jumps from tree to tree?”

“Maybe,” he said.

“You wishing on a colander?” I asked, smiling past my cup.

We both knew what that meant. Down here, the loup-garou is the bogeyman that keeps kids up at night. Supposedly, it’s a bit obsessive compulsive and stops to count all the little holes before it can enter a house at night. The more superstitious have been known to hang a colander or cheese-grater by the door for just this reason.

Suddenly, A. Lee laughed. “Ain’t skeered of nothin!” he said, twisting his voice into his best imitation of a Marksville hillbilly we used to know.

I joined him, jumping to my feet. “Nothin!” I yelled.

Just then, the hiss of a cat strangled our laughter. It was long, sharp sound that carried through the walls of the cabin, and something in the tone of that angry wail was almost human.

The swamp creatures felt it too and the frogs went silent.

Neither of us said a thing for a few seconds.

“The cat?”

A. Lee nodded. “Yeah. I think so.”


“Fuck’s right,” he said, setting his drink on the table. Beads of condensation rolled down the side of the plastic and onto the table.

“Wish we had a .22,” I said.

My brother nodded and mimed shooting. “Pop-pop!”

A breeze rose and stirred the palmetto leaves into their characteristic growl. The air was thick with humidity and A. Lee’s shirt sagged with damp. Mine was much the same. I ran the side of my plastic cup across my forehead and the whiskeyed ice numbed my skin in a few seconds.

God bless the man who invented the cooler.

The frogs’ voices rose in chorus again, supported by the low growl of the corrugated leaves.

“Whiskey?” I asked.

A. Lee lifted his cup and I sloshed in a few swallows. He took a sip and sighed.

“We got ourselves a camp,” he said.

Another quarter of a bottle of Crown later, I threw a sleeping bag over the bunk. A. Lee pulled a chair over to the bed and secured a mosquito net from one of the exposed roof beams. We’d want that, even with the windows screened, until we could do something about the door.

We peeled our clothes off and stretched them across the backs of the chairs.
“Fuck it’s hot,” I said. I took a handful of ice from the cooler and mopped my face with it, relishing the momentary cool.

My brother grunted an affirmation. “Rethinking the generator?”

“Now I am.” I flopped into the bunk next to him. “Now I am.”

My dreams were troubled as I baked and turned like a rotisserie chicken. By morning, I was well done. I heard A. Lee rise at dawn as I drowsed in half sleep.

“Fuck you!” he laughed, shoving the bunk with his foot and startling me awake.


“You know what, asshole!”

“No, really,” I said, wiping my eyes and yawning. I sat up.

“The table,” he said.

“What about it?”

His mouth twisted for a second and his eyes narrowed.

“Come see,” he said.

I rolled out the bunk, found my feet, and joined him. In the center of the table, cut into the boards in rough letters, were two words:


My pocket knife was open, stuck point-first just above the “T.”

“You’re telling me you didn’t do this?” my brother said, looking me in the eye. I could tell by his tone that he wasn’t kidding around.

I shook my head. “No.”

A. Lee nodded and pulled my knife from the wood, folded it closed, and handed it to me.

“Don’t leave it out again,” he said.
I was spooked. My brother was spooked. Hell—who wouldn’t have been?

Folks down here have more truck with the weird—that’s a simple fact. From voodoo to hoodoo, from loup-garou to traiteur, we’re immersed in the strange. Some tread water, some dip their feet in—hell, a few dive deep—but it’s like the heat south of I-10: there’s no getting away from it. Maybe that’s why, spooked or not, we wordlessly gathered out rods and tackle, our Off and sunscreen, fished a few nearly frozen Starbuck’s canned espressos out of the cooler, and started the bateau into the patch of swamp that never really became ours that Wednesday, when A. Lee and I signed our names in bold blue ink at the realtor’s office in Lafayette.

The cypress knees rose from the black water like the lower teeth of some great monster.

Here and there, small lagoons of lily and still black water broke the swamp. A. Lee cut the Evinrude at the most promising and sent a sparkling white rooster-tail in a long, slow arc to land next to stump with a soft plop. Within seconds, he had a strike, and seconds later, a fat sac-au-lait was wriggling in the bottom of the bateau.
The sun sent fingers through the cypress that fell on the water, the lilies, and us. A bright blue dragonfly, iridescent in the sun, settled on the bow next to me, still as stone. I watched it for a few seconds between casts. The fish were biting, and I made a stringer from a length of bank line and a few fresh twigs cut from a low branch. It was soon heavy with our struggling dinner.

I was feeling better and so was A. Lee.

“We got a mess of fish,” I said.

A. Lee smiled.

“You want to clean them here or back at the camp?” Fresh fish guts in the water wouldn’t hurt the fishing any, so I decided to do it now. Out came the pocketknives and off went the scales. Bellies were slit, entrails pulled, and A. Lee—always meticulous—scraped the back of their cavities to remove any sign of the bitter innards. As we worked, we rinsed our catch in the swamp water, and every so often, a flash of silver-white told me that a cannibal was feasting just below the surface.

My brother fired up the motor, spun us neatly around, and brought us back to the camp.

I took the stringer of fish and climbed the ladder. My head was just even with planks of the deck when I saw it: the white cat stood just by the door in the dark of the cabin. We had forgotten to close and lock the door.

It hissed a warning to me, long, pale teeth bare to the gums.

“Shoo!” I yelled. “Scat!”

The cat hissed again and turned slowly, watching me with its green eyes as it slunk farther into the cabin.

I dropped the fish on the deck and pulled myself up.

“The cat?” A. Lee asked.


“Fuck him.”

I could tell the spook was back on him. In truth, the hairs on my neck were straight and stiff.

“I don’t know, A. Lee…” I began. “Maybe we should just go.”

“Fuck that,” he said. “This is our camp.”

The cat hissed from somewhere in the cabin.

“Ours,” A. Lee called from the ladder.

I dug through our gear for a skillet and a bag of fish fry. From the porch, I watched my brother unscrew the lantern from the propane tank and replace it with a small camp stove.
“Joseph, you going to help or what?” he asked. His mind was set, and like an anchor, kept me falling farther into the spook.

It took an effort, but I made my legs move and managed to cross the threshold.

I was picking the last bits of flesh from the bones when A. Lee poured the whiskey. I nibbled the tail—fried hard and crisp—and took a long, slow sip of cold Crown.

“A. Lee,” I said.


“We got to do something.”

“We ain’t got to do nothing but have a good time,” he said. He touched his plastic to mine as if he expected the fine ring of crystal. “Drink up and I’ll pour another.”

“Maybe we should talk to Richard.” I said, saying his name like we do: Ree-shard. “He knows about things like this…”

“Nobody knows about things like this. Hell, this ain’t even a thing. Just some fuckin cat in an old cabin.”

Neither of us mentioned the table—it wouldn’t bear mentioning, if you know what I mean. I noticed, clearly for the first time, that my brother had covered the carved words with a cutting board.
A. Lee sensed my fear.

“It’s just a cat in a cabin, Joseph. Drink up.”

I did, emptying my cup in slow swallows. A. Lee poured more whiskey over the ice.

“We may have to make a run for more Crown,” he said, forcing a laugh. “Don’t want to run dry.” He sloshed the last few fingers in the bottle for emphasis and then caught my eye.

“Our camp,” he said. “Ours.”

The hair on my arms prickled and despite the heat I shivered. Behind my brother, a dark shadow hung suspended from a ceiling beam: a man on a rope, his feet swinging inches from the floor.

“What?” A. Lee asked. “What’s up?”

I could feel the blood leave my face and pointed. A. Lee turned and the shadow was gone, but it hadn’t been my imagination; I was sure of it.

The rope—I knew it was a rope.

A hanged man.

The trapper.

“A. Lee…” I said, my words a whisper.
“Fuck that,” he said, taking another long sip of whiskey. “And fuck you.”

He wasn’t talking to me.

My brother is a stubborn man and he will have his way, come hell or high water.

We did indeed make a run for more Crown. Down the bayou again, Spanish moss dancing in the wind. Clouds were building and the sky was a blue-gray tinged with black and purple. The lake was already rough, and the wind was teasing the waves into small crests.
“Storm’s coming,” I said, as we pushed off the pier.

My brother nodded. We needed to get up the lake in a hurry or risk swamping, and he opened the throttle and the Evinrude roared into action. This time I sat in the stern near him to avoid most of the spray, and we took turns sipping from the bottle, swallowing whiskey like it was medicine, which I suppose in a way it was. It was grim revelry and our mood was as dark as the sky.

Our camp, A. Lee had said. Ours. It didn’t feel like that, though—blue ink in Landry’s Realty or not.

By the time we reached the shelter of the bayou, the lake was nigh impassible for a small boat. But here, the close trees and swamp sheltered the water, and though the cypress were cutting a rug above us, the bayou’s black water was as still as the grave.

A. Lee raced the storm and the swamp whipped past. There was an excitement to it, an anxious, fearful energy crackling before the storm. Lightning pealed overhead, and the sky opened up, spilling rain in great drenching sheets.

The cabin came into view as we rounded a last bend, and my brother waited to release the throttle, sliding us between pilings and under the camp. I batted webs away with that terrible feeling you get when you just know a spider’s on you when the silk’s in your face. A. Lee was having none of it and seized a piling, bringing the bateau to a stop.

I felt stupid and childish. I stopped fighting the spiders and tied us off.
We had bought some more ice for the cooler at Lucky’s, and A. Lee threw the bags over his shoulder and climbed the ladder without a word. I grabbed the bottle and followed him up.

We both paused after I unlocked the door, rain streaming down our faces, shirts plastered to our skin with water. My brother broke our paralysis, giving the old wood a push with his foot. I looked—and I’m sure he did too, though he made an effort at nonchalance.

The cabin was as we had left it.

I could breathe.

In we went, the wind now howling in the trees. The rain beat the roof in a steady drumming, revealing copious leaks.

A. Lee had the lantern going shortly. The cloud-dimmed sky wasn’t giving much light.

I cracked the ice on the floor a few times to break it up, tore the bags open, and spilled it loudly into the cooler. My brother scooped our plastic cups full and poured a hefty measure of Crown into each of them.

He pulled up a chair and stirred his drink with one of his meaty fingers.
The storm was raging across the swamp.
“Do you remember Erline’s doll?” he asked, still spinning the ice.

“Oh yeah,” I said. Our Aunt Erline had an old doll with a porcelain face that she kept in a chair in her bedroom. Its painted features were weathered and worn, its glass eyes terrible and deep. It had a pull-string on its back, but we never dared to discover what it might say. We used to dare each other to pull it, but neither of us ever had the nerve.

“It’s like that,” he said, taking a sip. “Just like that.”

“What do you mean?”

“This cabin. It’s spooky, but it ain’t gonna hurt us none.”

I considered that as I swallowed a mouthful of Crown. We never pulled that string—but here we were, pulling on something that felt far worse.

“I suppose,” I said. But A. Lee is my older brother: even as a grown man, if he said so, I had faith—old school, kneeling on pine plank faith.

“This is our camp,” he said, tapping the table for emphasis. “And I aim to enjoy it.”

Our camp.

I needed to piss something fierce, which is not a good sign when whiskey has been your only beverage. I made my way to half open door, and wet as I was already, stepped onto the deck to pee off the edge.

Our camp.

Lightning flashed bright against the dark sky, and the thunder hurt my ears and sent my head pounding.

I turned to see A. Lee—that lightning had been close.

What I saw froze my mouth and it was as if my heart struggled against a firm grip, one crippled, sideways thumping beat at a time.

There was a man behind him, on the other side of the table, an old man in raggedy clothes. He had long, white hair. But what struck me most was the coiled noose around his neck and the dangling rope, lost beneath the shadows of the table.

The trapper.

His camp.

I tried to call out; my mouth opened but no sound slipped out.

“GET…OUT!” roared the old man, his voice like a storm wind.

The door slammed shut, loud as the thunderclap had been.

A. Lee was inside his camp.

I felt a cold hand on my neck and I was falling fifteen long feet to the bayou. I hit flat and hard, felt the slap of the warm water, felt the embraced of its black arms…sinking…sinking. I tried to kick but something had me, something cold as the ice in our cooler. It was pulling me down and down, deeper into the muddy water.

I was going to die right there, right then.

But then I thought of A. Lee, in the cabin—his cabin—behind that closed door. I couldn’t leave him, not like that, not in his cabin.

I kicked viciously and worked my arms like mad. Whatever it was let me go and I rocketed to the surface, my head breaking water in the rain. A few strokes had me to the ladder and I pulled myself onto the lowest rung and climbed for all I was worth.

I am not a small man and I hit the door like a hurricane. It held. I backed up and hit it again. It resisted for an instant and then swung open, spilling me to the floor.

Lightning flashed. The propane lamp was dead. A. Lee was on the floor.
I grabbed my brother by his leg and heaved him across the floor to the deck. In the dim storm-light, cypress whipping in the wind, I looked down at my brother’s open eyes and dead-pale face.

He can’t be dead. He can’t be dead. He can’t be dead. He can’t be dead.

“Lee!” I yelled over the storm. “Lee!” I slapped him hard.

He choked and sputtered, and drew a loud, halting breath.

“Joseph?” he asked.

“Yeah. It’s Joseph.” I cradled his head in my hands. “I got you, brother!”

He had to close his eyes from the rain.

I slung A. Lee across my shoulder and tried to stand. My legs burnt with the effort and my bad knee gave a sickening pop, but I got to my feet and staggered to the ladder. I’m not sure how I managed to get us both down, but I did. I let my brother into the bateau as gently as I could, untied us, and got the Evinrude going. It puttered to life and I gave it gas.

I bounced the bow off a piling, got us clear, and launched us out into the rain. I swung the tiller hard and had the motor roaring, thunder pealing, into the bayou toward the lake.

I risked one look back—I wish I hadn’t.
There, in the doorway, was the trapper, his rope whipping in the storm like a lash. His mouth was moving, and though I couldn’t hear him over the engine, I knew what he said.


We spent a long, wet night in the swamp. I ran us aground under the thickest stand of cypress I could find, but I knew we couldn’t risk the lake in this weather. The wind and rain beat the swamp all night, but at least it kept the worst of the mosquitoes at bay.

A. Lee soon regained his senses, roused almost as if from sleep, and sat up in the bateau.


“Yeah, Lee. It’s alright. We’re good.”
That seemed to satisfy him. We sat there, in the dark, huddled in the bateau till first light. Needless to say, we didn’t go back to the camp. When it was light enough to see, I started up the Evinrude and took us to the launch. It was a long, silent drive home.

We’ve never been back to the camp.

His camp.

I don’t expect we will.

You can believe whatever you want: that I was drunk and fell from the porch, that my imagination conjured the trapper, that a gust of wind shut the door, and that lightning struck a bit too close to A. Lee that night.
But I know what I believe. I know what’s true.

On paper, we still own that cabin. By law, it’s ours.

But it’s not. It never will be.

It’s his.

And it will be till the whole thing slips beneath that thick, black water and is washed away in a storm.

Maybe even after that.

Credit: jd lucien

The Blaganschlor

October 7, 2016 at 12:00 AM

This pasta was the second place winner of our Ghost Stories Creepypasta Writing Challenge. Congratulations!

The first place winner will go live tomorrow. You can read the third place story here.

“Have you seen the Blaganschlor
Hung by rope composed of gore
Who says his name and nothing more
His true name lost in days of yore?
At the gray and barren meadow
Where ancient rivers used to flow
The dying light of summer’s glow
Will call him from the dark below.

Those are the first two stanzas of ‘The Blaganschlor’,” said Susan Ferris. “They describe Arbormill’s most famous ghost and how to find him. Supposedly, if you go into the gray meadow in the woods east of town on the hottest day of the year, you will see the Blaganschlor at sunset. It appears as a man being strangled by his own intestines. His name comes from the stories that the only sounds he can make while being strangled sound like blagh and schloooor.” Susan attempted to get a laugh from the class in front of her by mimicking the rough zombie-like sounds. It didn’t work. Most of the people in Mr. Edwards’ class looked bored, including Mr. Edwards.

“No one knows who he was or why he haunts the woods, but local tradition states that if you see the Blaganschlor and survive, you get to write a new stanza for the poem describing your encounter. The entire poem is kept at the public library. To date, at least four people have never come back from their hunt for the Blaganschlor, but it’s widely assumed that they just wanted to get out of Arbormill.” That one got a couple of laughs. She was about to conclude the report when the bell rung, signaling the end of the day and the school year. The majority of the class jumped out of their seats and sprinted for the hallway. Susan grabbed her books off of her desk and was about to head for the hallway when Edwards cleared his throat and beckoned her over to him. Susan tried not to groan too loudly.

“Well,” asked Susan, putting on a fake smile. “What did you think?” Edwards’ expression made the answer relatively obvious.

“For starters, I think you half-assed that presentation the same way you’ve been half-assing this class all year.”

“And what makes you think that?” asked Susan, in a tone of disbelief that didn’t seem entirely genuine.

“Susan, this assignment might seem easy, but it’s supposed to sum up the class,” said Edwards. “I ask kids to go out and write about a local ghost story. This is Arbormill. We have about ten thousand of them. I always hope that kids will bring in something close to home, personal even. I like students knowing that the history around them affects them.”

“And I totally understand that,” said Susan. “Can I go now?” She took a step towards the door. Edwards kept talking.

“You picked the Blaganschlor,” he said. “It’s an old story that everyone in town over the age of five knows. You didn’t say anything that the kids in here haven’t heard. It wasn’t anything personal; you just picked something you didn’t have to do work for.”

“I know at least two of the other students made up their stories completely,” said Susan.

“At least they put in the effort,” said Edwards. “Spoken like a true Ferris, though. Blame everybody else.” Susan winced. Her family was not held in the highest regard in Arbormill. ‘Not a one worth a damn’ the older residents would say.

“Yeah,” said Susan. “So what? It’s not like this class matters. This is just the easiest elective I could take this year. ‘Local History’ is not a class that’s going to go on my college resume.” Edwards leaned back in his chair and smirked briefly.

“Probably not,” he said. “But getting an ‘F’ in such a worthless class would look pretty bad on a transcript.”

“You can’t fail me,” said Susan. She crossed her arms and stood straighter, trying to be intimidating. Edwards wasn’t buying it.

“Final grades go out in a week,” he said, smiling. “If you don’t make this up in that time, I most certainly can.” Susan’s demeanor changed abruptly. She brushed her hair back and leaned towards her teacher.

“You’re sure you we can’t just move past this?” she asked, smiling innocently. Edwards rolled his eyes.

“I’ve been teaching a long time, Miss Ferris. Don’t even try.” Susan reverted back to being pissed off instantly.

“So what the hell do you want then??”

“You’re going to redo this report on the Blaganschlor.” Susan raised an eyebrow.

“I thought you said you didn’t like me doing the Blaganschlor.”

“I have a challenge for you,” said Edwards. “If you can bring me five facts about the Blaganschlor that I’ve never heard, I’ll give you your ‘A’.”

“That is BS!” said Susan. “Everybody already knows everything about that stupid ghost!”

“You’ve got six days, Miss Ferris,” said Edwards. “The public library closes at 7:30, so I suggest you get down there while you can.” Susan started to protest, but stopped herself short. She started to storm out of the room, but Edwards spoke up again, this time in a softer tone. “I’m sorry about the family remark, Susan. But you’re the only Ferris I can remember that might actually do something with their life. I want you to appreciate that.” Susan didn’t reply as she left the room. She thought again about changing her name.

An hour later, Susan Ferris found herself in the Arbormill Public Library. She had contemplated asking the librarian for help, but the glare she had gotten when she walked in had soured her on that plan. Susan thought that if she didn’t know better, she’d think the librarian preferred being the only one in the building. God knew there wasn’t anyone else in there.

As Susan approached the large shelf labeled ‘Local Legends’ near the back of the library, Susan saw the framed Blaganschlor poem on the wall. Twenty two verses of made up stories. For as many ghost stories as Arbormill had, Susan had never believed in any of them. She usually assumed it was for the tourists that came to see the most haunted town in the Midwest. It was possibly the most interesting thing in Iowa besides corn. Quickly scanning the poem, she saw the final four lines were by Chris Sanders, who had gone out to the woods on a dare after graduating last year.

Out in the woods I saw the ghost
It looked really gross
It went back in the trees
Because it didn’t want to mess with me

Chris wasn’t the best poet in the world. Susan turned her attention to the shelf full of books. There were dozens of books that might have information on the Blaganschlor. She decided to start with one titled ‘Legends of Arbormill’. It was the newest book, written by some lady named Laura Smoldt. Susan vaguely remembered her going around town last year dragging up every little story she could. She opened up the book and quickly found the entry about the Blaganschlor. It said pretty much everything she’d said in her presentation with one added detail. It said the last person said to be taken by the ghost was John Tracy, who disappeared on June 21st of 2013. Susan only knew him from vague rumors around town. From all accounts, he was a drugged up freeloader. The story went that he was bet a large sum of money to stay out in the woods all night. When he disappeared, the general consensus was that he’d taken the money and gotten out of town.

Susan looked through three more books with little to show for it other than a doodle of a stick figure Blaganschlor she had begun drawing on one of the tables. The fifth book she grabbed was titled ‘Ghosts of the Heartland’ and was from 1991. The Blaganschlor was one of three ghosts from Arbormill detailed in the book. She scanned the article, not hoping for much, when something she saw sent a chill down her spine. It talked about the three people that disappeared before Tracy. It said they had vanished in 1910, 1949, and the last was a man named Jeff Olson on June 21st of 1980.

Susan knew she had found something that no one else knew. 33 years apart, people had vanished in the woods on the exact same date. And now she knew the years of the other two’s disappearances. Susan began ripping books off the shelves, flipping through the pages and stuffing them back on if they didn’t have any dates in the entry. Two hours later, at 6:30, she was amazed to realize she had been through the entire shelf of books without finding another clue. Susan collapsed into a nearby chair in disbelief. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see the poem on the wall. It almost felt like it was taunting her. She was about ready to go smash the frame when an idea occurred to her. She sprang to her feet and made her way across the library, hurrying past the librarian’s desk, to find herself at the newspaper archive.

The entire section was filled with massive binders with old copies of the Arbormill Post stored in plastic sleeves. A sign on the wall informed her that she was not allowed to take the binders out of the library. Scanning the older section of binders, she found the collection from 1949. She laid it on a table and began flipping through the sleeves of yellowed pages. She paused at June 21st, hoping she was wrong and right at the same time. Flipping the page, she saw what she had expected.

On June 22nd of 1949, Matt Slater was reported missing. The article was very brief and set in the bottom right corner of the page. All it said was his parents’ names, his age, and that he was last seen heading into the woods. Susan slammed the binder shut and went back to see if the papers went all the way back to 1910.

“Yes!” she screamed, as she saw the year she was looking for.

“Quiet!” came the reply from the front desk.

She didn’t pause as she flipped through the pages this time. Susan knew what she was going to find. Brenda Baker had disappeared into the woods on June 21st of 1910. The article was much more informative, but also very strange.

“Some say that the disappearance is the work of the ghost dubbed the Blaganschlor, first sighted nine years ago in the Malone Woods,” read Susan. She had never heard the woods called the Malone Woods. Nowadays they were just the east woods. “Thought to have something to do with certain events taking place in 1890, the ghost is rarely seen due to the shunned nature of the forest. A reward will be given for any information regarding the disappearance. Residents are advised to avoid Malone Woods in the meantime.”

Susan sat down and stared at the page. Something happened in 1890 that had made the town shun the forest for 19 years. Something that the writer would not even give a name to. Something that had been covered up.

Susan felt anxious as she walked towards the oldest section of the archive. When she found the binder labeled ‘1890’, she had the urge to flee the room and take the F. Something drove her on, however. It was a notion that had finally taken hold that there was something out there in the woods. She was a believer for the first time ever.

Susan slowly turned the pages of the binder, not knowing exactly what she was going to find. Everything was normal for the first few months. Around the beginning of May a drought had set in on the county. That was all the Post talked about for weeks. On June 17th of 1890, everything changed.

The headline read ‘A Butcher Among Us’. It detailed the police discovering the body of a young woman that had been strangled and mutilated. Two days later, another girl was found dead. The exact method they were killed by was absent from the article, but the second mentioned massive wounds to the torso. One day after the second body was found, a young man was found dead with similar wounds. As Susan turned the page, she expected the string of bodies to continue. However, the next page’s headline was a different kind of frightening. Massive plumes of smoke were seen early in the morning over the woods east of Arbormill. With the severe drought, it was a possibility that the entire forest and town with it might go up in flames. Susan quickly flipped to the next page to see how they stopped the fire. It turned out that they didn’t. A massive rainstorm moved in overnight and drowned the flames. It had been the first rain in two months. When Susan read the first paragraph of the story from June 22nd, she knew that page was what she had been waiting for. Looking at her watch, she knew the librarian would be kicking her out shortly. She needed to look this over carefully and she needed it that night. Keeping one eye on the doorway, Susan opened the latch on the binder and took out the page. Seeing more of the same story in the next day’s edition, she took that one out as well. She could hear the librarian getting up from her chair and she rolled up the pages and stuffed them into her book bag. A moment later, she was smiling innocently at the librarian as she yelled at Susan to get out.

Later, in her room, Susan pulled out the pages and unrolled them on her bed. Rolling them up had damaged them a bit, but they was still legible. It detailed the events of the day, beginning with the pillar of smoke mysteriously disappearing. When police and firemen entered the woods they found three things. First, a large area of the forest had been reduced to ash. The burned woods were at the intersection of two dry riverbeds. Secondly, they found two dead bodies burned down to the bone. Lastly, they found a young woman in hysterics a short ways outside the burned area. After they got her calmed down a bit, she claimed that one man had kidnapped her and was going to kill her out in the woods. The other man had witnessed the kidnapping, followed them and saved her. She was unaware of how the fire started. The two bodies were identified soon after. The kidnapper’s name was Silas Malone, a man that had moved back to Arbormill after spending most of his life in the deep south. The picture of the man in the paper was unnerving. He had pale, staring eyes, a scar across one cheek, and part of an ear missing. The man who had stopped his was identified as Daniel Ferris. Susan stopped reading and just stared at the page as her family’s name stared back at her. She didn’t recognize the picture next to the name, but even in the black and white, she could tell that Daniel had the bright green eyes that were so common in her family.

She quickly turned to the paper from June 23rd. The police conducted a search of Malone’s property in the woods and found a charnel house. Several parts missing from the three human victims were found, as well as a number of dead animals. As far as they could tell, the oldest parts were from at least a month prior, the same time that Malone cut himself off from what few friends and family members he had. Reports said that he had become obsessed with the idea of mortality. After all was said and done, Daniel Ferris was a hero. Malone’s estranged family denied any inheritance and gifted all of his assets and property to Ferris’s widow and child.

Susan suspected two things from the reports. First, she knew that the incident had to have been covered up by the town. Malone and Ferris’s names had been stricken from the records. Even the name of the woods had eventually been forgotten. Secondly, she no longer thought the hottest day of summer was a factor. It was the date that it all ended: June 21st, which just happened to be tomorrow. She just had to talk to one person to be sure.

The next day, Susan headed down to the mall at ten to find Chris Sanders, the last person to go out into the woods. She remembered that he had gone out on the 21st because it was the day after school had ended. He came back with a wild story and added his lines to the Blaganschlor poem. She found him almost immediately, hanging out with his buddies outside the main door into the mall. He smiled broadly as Susan approached him.

“Hey there, babe,” said Chris. “Heard Edwards chewed you out good yesterday. Want to tell us how you got out of that one? In graphic detail?”

“Actually, I have a question for you,” said Susan. Chris and his cronies laughed.

“I’m free tonight, if that’s what you want to know,” said Chris with a smirk.

“Good, then you can come out to the east woods with me tonight,” said Susan. “You went out there last year, right?” The blood drained out of Chris’s face as his smirk faltered.

“Of course I did,” he said. “And I saw that stupid ghost. I wasn’t scared at all.” Susan stared him down.

“I know you didn’t go out to the gray meadow, Chris,” said Susan. “Because I know what happened to the people that really did on the 21st. They’re the ones that didn’t come back.” Chris’s face went from pale to gray.

“You’re saying that if I’d actually gone-“

“You’d have done the world a service, Chris. Nice talking to you.” As Susan walked away, she could hear all of his buddies starting to yell at him. She knew what she had to do now. She had to go out to the ashen meadow, where the dry rivers met, and prove all of it once and for all. She’d keep people out of those woods and save her family’s name at the same time.

Everyone said that the burnt meadow was easy to find. You just had to find one of the dry riverbeds running through the woods. Susan arrived at the edge of the woods around 8 o’ clock, with the sun still shining. That gave her about an hour to get to the meadow. She set her phone to go off five minutes before sunset so she could have her camera at the ready. Ten feet away from the tree line, she almost gave up and turned back. She had enough to give Edwards at this point anyways. Then she remembered Daniel Ferris’s eyes. That was her family’s legacy. He was a hero that nobody remembered. She had left a note in her room with everything in it in case she didn’t come back…just like Daniel. Susan stepped into the Malone Woods.

The woods weren’t overly dense, but the oppressive heat still made them seem claustrophobic. There was absolutely no breeze inside the trees. Susan couldn’t see a single branch or leaf moving. She couldn’t hear any birds or animals. It was like time had stopped inside the forest. She could imagine the woods having been exactly the same for a thousand years. Until Silas Malone decided to make them his own.

Susan had been hiking for almost twenty minutes when she finally heard the first noise other than herself. It sounded like footsteps behind her. She quickly spun around, hoping to see an animal of some sort. There was nothing. She waited for a minute, hoping the sound would happen again. It didn’t. She turned and began walking again. As soon as her back was turned, more footsteps echoed through the woods. She spun around again, more quickly this time, hoping to catch someone behind her. Again there was nothing. She walked back the way she had come, checking behind trees as she went. She searched the entire area the sound seemed to come from and could not find the source. Checking her phone again, she saw that she only had half an hour to find the meadow. She began walking very quickly into the woods. And, once again, as her back turned, the footsteps came from behind her. Directly behind her. Within five feet. Susan ran.

As she sprinted through the woods, the footsteps ran with her, never losing or gaining ground. Susan dodged trees left and right, trying to lose her pursuer in the more dense foliage. At one point, the feet behind gained on her and pulled to her right. Susan resisted the desire to look back and darted left, trying to run faster. A stitch in her side told her that she couldn’t keep the pace up much longer. As the trees around her began to blur, a strange thought occurred to her. She felt like she was being steered; directed towards a specific point. As soon as the thought materialized, the ground beneath her feet fell away at an incline. She instantly lost her footing and fell headfirst down the slope. As she fell, she finally looked behind her and saw only trees.

Susan woke up to the sound of her phone’s alarm going off. It was the alarm that meant five minutes until sunset. She sat upright and looked around her. Red light shone through the treetops as the sun began to set. She didn’t have much time. She looked back at the slope she had fallen down. Her eyes followed it down into the woods. Looking behind her, she saw another slope on the other side. Susan realized she had found one of the dead rivers. She rose groggily to her feet, rubbing the sore spot on her head. After a moment’s consideration, she faced the path of the riverbed away from the setting sun and ran as fast as she could.

The sun was still barely over the horizon when she reached the ashen meadow. She climbed up the side of the riverbed and into a large round area directly between the two valleys. It was a patch of gray dirt about 200 feet wide. There were some sickly looking weeds, but the only evidence that anything substantial had ever grown there were two charred tree trunks that were mostly rotted. The fading red light had an ominous effect on the ground. The gray and red combined to make the ground look as though there were fires still burning. Susan was almost grateful when the light finally faded and dusk set in.

Susan wasn’t sure what was going to happen, but it was going to happen on tape. She pulled out her phone and a flashlight and started recording the area around her. So far there wasn’t much to see; just trees and scorched earth. After scanning the trees for five minutes with nothing to show for it, Susan decided to turn off the camera to conserve the battery. She had just put the phone back in her pocket when she heard it from behind her. A low and haunting sound.


Her blood ran cold. It sounded just like she’d imagined. Words being stifled by a crushed throat. Susan turned her light behind her. Out of the woods came the Blaganschlor. It was exactly as she expected and far, far worse at the same time. It was a vaguely transparent young man that came stumbling out of the trees. Out of a massive hole in his abdomen came a distended mass of entrails that reached up and around his throat. Translucent blood dripped off of every wound and left a shining trail behind him. It was the eyes that she found the worse though. They were two bloodshot masses of pain, suffering, sorrow, and rage.

Susan began to back up slowly, not wanting the thing to reach her. As she studied the phantom, she realized that the ghost was neither Silas Malone nor Daniel Ferris. She actually recognized him as the third body discovered during Malone’s killing spree. Still backing up towards the riverbed, Susan pulled out her phone and tried to get the camera working again. She looked at the screen only to see the words ‘low battery’ before the screen went black.


The new moan came from behind her. Susan turned to see another transparent figure climbing up the embankment. This one was a young man in the same condition as the other figure. From what remained of his clothing, he had to have been from a much more recent time period than 1890. As this revelation came to her, moans came from the woods in every direction. Susan flashed the light all around the meadow and saw six more lurching phantasms coming out of the forest around her. A monstrous chorus of agonized groans filled the air. Susan looked around her for a way out, but the ghosts seemed to be everywhere she looked, pain and rage shining in their eyes.

Susan had almost given up hope when she heard a loud noise in the woods to her right. A figure that was definitely not a ghost leapt out of the woods and motioned for her to follow.

“This way! Hurry!” Susan recognized Chris’s voice. Somehow the asshole had summoned up the courage to come out here. Susan wondered if he wasn’t that bad after all before running to him. The new arrival had thrown the ghosts into disarray. Susan ran by them and into the woods as they were staring at Chris. As she hit the woods, he ran behind her. About a minute into the woods, Susan had to stop and lean against a tree. She doubted the ghosts were quick enough to follow them and all of the running from earlier had taken its toll on her body. She was amazed she was still capable of keeping upright. Chris walked by her and looked deeper into the woods. She shined the light on him as he faced away from her. She still couldn’t believe he’d followed her.

“They probably won’t follow us for long,” he said. “They don’t like straying too far out of the gray meadow.” Even in her exhausted state, there was something about his voice that sounded off to Susan. Chris had no accent, but she noticed a distinct drawl in the last sentence. She looked more closely at the figure in front of her. Susan’s eyes trailed up his body, becoming more concerned with every inch. At last, she saw the side of his head. A piece of the figure’s ear was missing. And she had seen that wound before.

“Silas Malone,” she said in a whisper. The figure in front of her jerked at the sound of the name. There was a long pause, and then the laughter began. It was a loud, hysterical laugh that sounded like he had just heard the funniest joke in the world.

“I haven’t heard that name in so long, missy,” said the figure. Whatever he had done to mimic Chris’s voice was completely gone now. Malone’s voice was low and hoarse. “So we got us a historian here.”

Malone turned and Susan saw the face from the newspaper. The pale blue eyes and the scar stood out on a face that was otherwise blackened by ash. There was a maniacal grin on his face full of jagged, smoke-stained teeth.

“What are you?” she asked, staring in horror. Malone approached her slowly, knowing she wasn’t going anywhere.

“Well, I ain’t no pansy-ass ghost,” said Malone. “That’s for damn sure. I’m what you’d call a revenant, caught between the dead and the living. I’m here for some very specific unfinished business.” He put one hand on the tree above her head and leaned down, his face inches from Susan’s. “So what brings you to these parts talking about ol’ Silas?” She steeled herself and looked him square in his pale eyes.

“I’m Susan Ferris.” Realization dawned on the dead man’s face. There was a hint of rage in his eyes before a wide smile broke onto his face again.

“Well don’t that beat all?” he asked. Malone suddenly grabbed Susan by the throat and threw her to the ground. He began to squeeze. “You’re gonna wish you’d kept that little tidbit of information to your damn self.” He let go of her throat and Susan gulped in a deep breath of air. She felt Malone grab one of her feet and begin to drag her. He was headed back to the meadow.

“Now, I usually like doing my work out here,” said Malone. “I like doing it right when people have that feeling of hope. Right when they think they’re getting out alive. But you, Miss Ferris, you’re going to have an audience. And I hate to inform you, but you’re gonna suffer a lot more than them.”

In her light summer clothes, Susan could feel every rock and twig on the ground scraping against her body. She attempted to kick her leg free of Malone, but his cold hand had a death grip. He wasn’t letting go and she didn’t have the ability to fight.

“You see, little girl, I had an arrangement with certain parties I can’t place a name to. The price for what I wanted was five souls sent downtown. Three were easy. Then your great-great-grand-daddy decided to be a hero and try to save number four. I knew he was following me the entire way. These are my woods, you see.” Susan looked ahead groggily and saw the moonlight in the clearing ahead.

“The dipshit thought he was being sneaky. He hung back a ways and kept lighting matches to see his way. Must have thought they’d be harder to see. So he comes up on my clearing, right? And I’m waving my knife around in front of that girl’s pretty little stomach and he can’t take it. Did exactly what I expected him to and tried to get the drop on me. I’m kind of proud to say that I had him gutted in under thirty seconds. Some hero he was.”

“He still killed you,” said Susan, still clinging onto some semblance of lucidity. Malone dropped her briefly and turned to her with rage in his eyes.

“That dumb son of a bitch couldn’t kill me in a thousand years!” he shouted. “He dropped one of his god damn lit matches on the grass as I was gutting him. It was so damn dry it lit up right under my feet. And what a sick, god damn joke it was. Last thing I felt was the rain hitting my face.” Malone cracked up at that and started to laugh like a maniac again. He grabbed her leg again and continued. “But I got myself a loophole. I was the fifth soul owed, you see. So I get a second chance. I needed five more to add to the pyre.”

Malone dragged Susan out of the tree line and into the ashen meadow again. The full moon had risen and the clearing was fully visible. Susan could count eight ghosts moaning in the darkness, all of them backing away from Malone.

“These dead heads get the whole week to spook people here,” said Malone. “But I get all of one night a year to do my work. Do you realize how many years it has taken for five people to come out here on exactly the 21st of June?” He dropped Susan’s leg and left her rolling on the ground in agony. Her leg felt like it had almost been dislocated and her back was torn up.

“Since 1891?” she asked, barely coherent.

“Oh, you ain’t lying,” said Malone, turning towards her. “And guess what? You’re number five. So I think they all need to see this. You think the summer’s hot up here, little girl? Wait ‘til you feel the heat down below. I can tell you, it feels a lot like burning to death. I’ve done both, you see.”

Susan struggled to get to her feet, but her body didn’t want to cooperate. The night had taken an awful toll.

“And what do you get out of it?” she asked, her eyes meeting Malone’s.

“I wanted to live forever,” he said. “And now I get to do it outside of this sorry little excuse for a forest. Although I might actually miss it, you know? That’s why this all works, you see. Because these are my woods, in life and in death. I control what goes on here.” What he said stirred something in Susan’s mind; something she read in a newspaper.

“No,” she said, rising onto one knee with a great effort. “They’re not.” Malone stared her down.

“What do you mean by that?”

“After you died, your family didn’t want anything you owned,” said Susan. “They gave all of your property to Daniel Ferris’s widow; everything including your land. These woods belong to my family.” Malone began to chuckle. He seemed to be forcing his laugh this time.

“You think anything a damn piece of paper says changes anything?” asked Malone. “These are my woods and my souls.” The transparent figures surrounding Malone took their eyes off of him and looked at each other. Susan gathered every ounce of strength she had left and rose shakily to her feet.

“I say that all of these souls are free,” she said. “And you, Silas? You can go join yours down in Hell.” Malone must have felt a change because he suddenly had a look of panic on his face. He looked at the souls around him. They were looking at each other more urgently now, their moans becoming louder. With a mighty effort, one of the ghosts yanked on the bowels around his neck. They let loose.

“No,” said Malone. “You belong to me. You can’t disobey me! Put that back around your neck!” Another ghost took the intestines from their neck; then another; then another. Malone turned back to Susan with a look of rage and horror. “Let’s see how much power you have here when you’re soul number five!”

Malone pulled a blackened knife from his belt and ran at Susan. She saw the blade seconds away from her. Then, as he began to thrust it into her, something caught his arm. It was a loop of intestine. Malone jerked backwards, caught in the loop. He reached out for Susan with his other arm, but two inches from her face, another loop of entrails ensnared his other hand. They yanked backwards and pulled Malone to his knees. Susan looked around in shock as she saw the ghosts gathering behind him, two of their intestines stretching impossibly long to latch onto Malone. Another stepped forward and its bowels shot forward, snaring Malone around the neck. He began to choke out muffled curses.

“No…she’s…mine.” Malone grabbed the noose around his neck and pulled it away briefly. “SHE IS MIIIIIIIIIIINE!!” After that deafening howl, the snares around him yanked back with a huge force. Malone reached down with a mighty effort and dug into the ground, his fingers leaving a smoldering trail of scorched earth as he slid back towards the vengeful crowd of phantoms. His pale eyes were filled with a fear more visceral than any of the ghosts’. More and more of the ghosts grabbed onto Malone and lifted him into the air in the center of the mob. Susan saw the ground beneath him light on fire. The smell of sulfur filled the air. Before she could see what happened, a ghost walked directly in front of her and looked into her eyes. She recognized the bright green eyes of Daniel Ferris. He raised a hand and wordlessly pointed into the ravine, telling her to go. She could not refuse. As she stumbled through the dead riverbed, she heard an inhuman scream filling the air around her.

“No! I am a myth! I am a legend! I am immort-“ The last word was cut off in a flash. That was the last thing she heard from the ashen meadow.

It was three in the morning when Mr. Edwards was awoken by his doorbell. Thinking it had to be an emergency, he jumped out of bed and ran to the door still in his pajamas. He was shocked when he opened the door and found Susan Ferris, disheveled and exhausted with bloodstains on much of her clothing.

“I’ve got those five things you asked for, Edwards,” she said in the most deadpan voice he’d ever heard. “I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed getting them.” Edwards had no idea what to think.

“What the hell happened?? Who did this to you??” he asked. He opened the door wider, inviting her to come in out of the sweltering night, but she just stood on the doorstep, eyes a million miles away.

“It doesn’t really matter,” she said. “I really just want to give my report and go home.”

“Alright,” said Edwards, grabbing a phone and starting to call for an ambulance. “Go right ahead.”

“The Blaganschlor was first sighted on 1901. That was ten years after a man named Silas Malone killed three people in Arbormill. He would have killed another, but a man named Daniel Ferris stopped him.”

“Jesus,” said Edwards, recognizing her family’s name. He took the phone from his ear as an operator picked up. “What else?”

“You won’t hear any more accounts of people seeing the Blaganschlor. If you do, they’re bullshit.” She paused a moment while she grabbed something out of her pocket. “Lastly, the poem’s finished. I wrote the last four lines myself. Give this to the lady at the library tomorrow morning.” She handed the piece of bloodstained paper to Edwards. He quickly read it and looked back at her.

“What in God’s name happened out there, Susan?” For just a moment her eyes watered, but she quickly wiped them with her hand.

“I already told you five things, Mr. Edwards. I’m going home now. Have a nice summer.” She turned and walked off into the night. Edwards reluctantly hung up the phone and read the verses she had given him one more time.

I too once sought the Blaganschlor,
As many others have before.
I found the barren river’s shore,
The trees, the ash, and nothing more.

Credit: Alex Taylor

The Tavern on the Borderlands

October 6, 2016 at 12:00 AM

This pasta was the third place winner of our Ghost Stories Creepypasta Writing Challenge. Congratulations!

The second and first place winners will be posted across the next two days. Look forward to it!

Cage didn’t know if Richie was serious, but then again he thought it didn’t matter. They’d been running down this thin country road for nearly one and a half hour, pushing sixty ever since the state line was out of sight. With a speed like that there wouldn’t even be jelly left if they crashed, but Cage didn’t really think that mattered either. He almost welcomed the thought. Just get me out of this nightmare, he thought, just get me the fuck out of this hell.

“Fuck are you thinking about, Cage?” Richie asked him, throwing him a scant smile and a naked look of contempt. A cigarette dangled from the corner of his mouth, bopping up and down with the irregularities of the road. The stink of tobacco and tar was almost unbearable, but none of the others seemed to mind.
“Just shut the fuck up and keep your eyes on the road.” Cage said. His head felt as if it was splitting in half. The side where that cop had socked him was sticky with dried blood. He was in a bad mood. In his lap he had a bottle of whiskey concealed in a brown paper bag, old school bum style. He took a gulp and felt the carousel in his head slow down a bit. He then passed it to Richie, the driver, who took a large swig himself before passing it to the backseat. Jimmy Cats, at least that’s what everybody called him, took his arm off one of the girls he was groping to grab the paper bag. He took a swill and coughed before he passed it to Anne, the redhead to his left. They were all high on something, but Cage didn’t know what. Jenna looked like she was seconds away from passing out, or as if she already had. Her head rested on Jimmy’s shoulder and her lips were parted in a rather unattractive way. It was how retards looked just before they started drooling.

“Where the fuck are we even going?” Cage exclaimed, making no attempt to conceal his frustration. Jimmy cackled and passed him the bottle, the women grinning at him from whatever drug haze they currently inhabited.
“Who the fuck cares, man?” He said, and Cage could see his pupils were as large as industrial plates.
“Yeah!” Jenna agreed as she flung her arms around Jimmy’s neck. “Who the fuck cares, right?” Cage gave her a short look of disgust before he peered back out the window. The woods flung by as the car sped forth. Its headlights illuminated the trees briefly before giving way to the dark, and the effect created a soothing optical illusion. Cage felt his eyes lull shut, and as his mind started to drift onto the oceans of sleep, he remembered the cop.

He remembered her stopping them just a few miles from the Texas state line. She’d seen the booze, ordered Richie to step out of the car. They had all followed, even the girls, and before anyone even knew what was happening, they’d been beating her half to death. Cage had been socked once with a black heavy duty flashlight, the kind cops wore when they wanted to feel important. No one else had been hurt, and after Cage took his revenge with a crowbar, they got back in the truck and raced off, leaving the hillbilly hick state behind with a trooper dying in the dirt. Cage thought of her face, how it had somehow caved in as he beat down on it with the iron. He’d been in a lot of fights. They all had, but he most of all. The first man he’d fought was his father, who’d been rather keen on fighting as well, but only five to ten year old boys. When Cage turned fifteen he’d broken the old fucker’s arms in three places and had him running out of the house like a squealing pig.

After that the fighting just sort of came naturally. He beat people up for everything. He didn’t get the right amount of change at the local diner; a sock on the jaw. A stranger bumped him on the street; a kick in the ass, one in the face too if he was stupid enough to protest. He fought anyone for everything, didn’t matter how big or tough they were, you just didn’t fuck with Cage Reynolds. Despite this however, he’d never killed anyone before. Sure, the cop was breathing when they left, but with a head injury like that, not for long. She was dead alright. The thought formed a thick lump of dread in his chest. Dread that he was responsible for the death of… someone, anyone. Most likely she was just a deadbeat bitch with two fatherless kids and too much of a taste for the booze, but so what? She was just doing her job. A bribe could have done the trick, maybe, unless she was one of the naïve the-law-is-everything whores.
Well, it was too late to be sorry anyway. It had happened and – a sudden sound, like an explosion, and the car span out of control. The wheels shrieked as Richie stood on the breaks, the car turning sideways across the road and coming to halt just moments before it would have turned over. Cage hit his sore head and the pain was immeasurable. It no longer felt as if it was splitting in two, but as if it already had. He felt as if in the next second he would be sitting with the two halves of his brain resting in his lap.

“Holy shit!” Richie exclaimed, and Cage was furious to hear a giggle just underneath his words. What the fuck did that stupid prick have to laugh about?
“What the fuck happened?” He asked, and the pain was so bad he couldn’t even bring himself to shout.
“Flat tire,” Richie said. “We hit a nail or something, I don’t know.” He opened the door and got out. Cage followed on trembling legs, feeling as if he’d stepped out of the car and into the sea. Nausea set in as soon as his maiden steps were over, and the wretched stink of burnt rubber didn’t precisely liven up the day. He struggled to reach the ditch, but it was already too late. He bent over and left the steaming remains of his lunch on the worn road, adding another glorious smell to bless the area.
“What the fuck, man!?” Richie yelled, and as in cue, there was another retching of sick bowels from behind them. Jenna was on her knees on the other side of the car, pale like bleak moonlight and in the process of spewing scrambled eggs and coffee on the road.
“Jesus fucking Christ….” Richie said, and the tired exasperation in his voice was thick enough to win awards.
“Guys… I don’t feel too good…” Jenna moaned, falling on her side next to her mess and curling up into a shivering ball. Cage didn’t have time for them. As soon as his legs stopped trembling he went around to the back of the car. He flung the trunk open, removed the hatch to the spare wheel compartment and blinked at what he saw. There was a white plastic bag splotched with blood. The crowbar was inside; the chosen murder weapon used to escape a charge of drunk driving. There was nothing else however.

He slammed the trunk shut and turned his ever rising fury on Richie.
“How the fuck can you drive around without a spare?! Now we’re stuck here in the ass end of nowhere, you piece of shit!” His face had flushed with a bright red and spittle was flying from his lips as he yelled. He wanted to take it all out on Richie, blame him for the cop and for this entire fucking nightmare. Yet he knew he couldn’t, it really wasn’t Richie’s fault. Even the spare tire wasn’t his fault. How could he have known they were going to get a flat out here? His reasoning didn’t catch up to him just yet however. He was half a second away from using his fists to relieve himself of all that shit clogging up his brain pipes when Jimmy said;

“Shut up a moment.” He’d gotten out of the car and was still holding Anne. “You guys hear that?” Cage was just about to tell him off, but then he too heard it. There was something moving around in the woods. Leaves were scuffled by heavy feet, branches snapped and bushes were rattled. It sounded like a very large man who didn’t mind announcing himself was tumbling around in the underbrush.
“Who goes there?!” Richie yelled, and even the rebounding echo carried his trembling anxiety back with it. The darkness was too thick to reveal anything, and if it wasn’t for the glaring headlights of the car, they would have been engulfed by the unsettling blackness.
“It’s just a fucking animal or something.” Cage said, the explanation more for his own sake than theirs. The relief in his voice was palpable, but then Richie shot off the newest, lovely idea.
“What if it’s a bear or something?” He asked, and if Cage didn’t know better, he’d bet the guy was close to tears.

He was just about to open his mouth and tell him to get his fucking act together when a shrill shriek echoed between the trees. It sounded like the voice of a young woman, screaming to the point where her throat was just about to burst. Cage felt his heart grow tired of its original place and move somewhere up his throat. The blood drained from his face and he actually thought he’d pissed himself a bit.
“Get in the fucking car!” Jimmy screamed, abandoning Anne to force himself into the back seat. The others came after, Cage throwing himself in the passenger seat and Richie putting the pedal to the metal. The car screeched as it turned, leaning heavily on the flat tire and making a thunderous rumbling sound as it went. No one cared. Richie stood on the gas, barely having the time to switch gears which sent the engine into a roar of disapproval.

After a while, maybe after five minutes of rushing down the narrow road, Richie calmed down. He brought the car down to a slow roll and eventually stopped entirely. They just sat there, in silence, and eventually Cage started laughing. Richie stared at him as if struck by thunder. Then he first smiled, and was soon laughing as well. A moment later they were all cackling like loons. They didn’t stop until their eyes were teary red, their chests numb and hysteria leaked dry.
“That fucking animal scared the shit out of me.” Cage said, still smiling, and Richie answered it.
“You’re preaching to the coir, son.” He said and leaned back in his seat, panting. That’s when Cage spotted the sign on the left side of the road. The text was faded and tested by hard weather, but still possible to make out.
“Crawford Home; Bed & Breakfast,” Cage read out loud, his eyes squinting to make out the text. There was nothing odd about the sign, but as he read it they all shared a brief chill of superstitious dread.
“They may have a spare tire to sell, or give away. If anything, they’ll have a phone.” Richie said, trying to sound nonchalant without fooling anybody. His voice quaked with unsettled nerves. Neglecting the opportunity of civilization was a stupid decision, but Cage had no wish to go there, as a matter of fact his entire being told him to get out of the car and run for his god damn life. Inhaling, shakily and not knowing why, he said;
“Yeah. Let’s go.” Richie nodded and put his foot on the gas. The car moved unevenly and seemed to rock rather than roll, but they made progress. During all of this, no one saw the six shadowy shapes staring at them from the woods.

The house itself was a convincing sight. It was a cozy deep wood version of a Cape Cod, complete with an outdoor garage and a country style porch. A white wooden fence surrounded the building and a faint, oily light shone inside its tall windows. There were no other cars on the gravel driveway, and Cage figured the Crawfords must keep their own car in the garage. The alien feeling of wrongness had subsided, but it still lingered in the background. Cage brought it down to nothing but the rather fast paced events of the last few hours. His memory flashed to the cop dying in the road, her pale grey eyes staring up at him with a sort of accusing bewilderment. What happened, did you just strike me? If so, why would you do that?

He shook the thought and opened the passenger side door. He was immediately struck by the rather misplaced smell of newly cut grass. It was a grotesque mix of childhood harmony invading on his sinister sense of danger, making him almost lightheaded. Behind him he heard the other doors open, then the crusty protest of feet on the gravel. Jimmy came up to him and put an arm around his shoulders, smiling at him scantly with that pompadour greaseball haircut ruffled by the cool breeze. Something about that wind unsettled Cage further. It was like a breath of something large, cruel and dead.
“Fuck are you smiling about?” He said and shrugged him off. “I’m not one of your whores.” Jimmy rolled his eyes and shot back;
“You’re on your period or something, prick?” Cage ignored him and started walking towards the house, the others following closely behind. He wondered who’d build a place like this, surrounded by forest on both sides and situated deep in the middle of nowhere. Even the road, which was likely the closest thing this place ever got to a highway, was likely to go on forever into the uncharted wilds of nowhere land. He was glad to have found the place though, already forgetting about his earlier sense of foreboding. He strode up to the door and knocked like a fool before he noticed the doorbell. He rang it, and the chime from inside was also somehow strange. It rang with the metallic whine of something which was old and had stood unused for decades, like striking the key on an old piano.

There was no answer, and after some time Cage rang it again. The sleepy chime returned, wrapping them in a thick atmosphere of cold unease.
“I don’t like this…” Anne said and no one missed the fear in her voice.
“There is nothing to be fucking afraid of.” Cage said, speaking more to himself than to anyone else. After a while he beat the door in frustration, not very hard, but it swung open on whining hinges. Cage took a cautious step inside even though his heart pounded in his chest.
It was a narrow hallway with a staircase on the left. What looked like a century old lamp stood on a dresser just inside the door, emitting the oily light they’d seen from outside.
“Hello?” Cage said, taking another step inside. The floorboards creaked underneath his feet and Jimmy said;
“Well done, Gage. They didn’t hear the doorbell, but they’ll most likely hear your whispers.”
“Shut the fuck up, and don’t call me Gage, you know I hate it!” Cage roared at him, his cheeks flushed with anger. Jimmy threw up his hands in a I-give-up gesture and didn’t say anything more. Cage took another step inside and looked around, haunted now by a fresh bout of misgiving anxiety.
“Hello?!” He yelled, and this time there was no doubt that if no one heard, the place was either empty or all the residents were dead. There was no answer. Cage forced the chills away and said determinedly;
“Alright. The place is dead, let’s spend the night. Tomorrow we can look through the garage for something to use.” No one spoke up but Jenna, who held Anne’s hand tightly in hers and seemed to sway on her feet somewhat.
“Can’t we… Just go?” Her eyes pleaded to the group, but Cage knew the decision was up to him. Whether he or anyone else liked it didn’t matter; he was the leader. It was one of those things that just sort of happened. He was a take-charge-and-run personality, which made others just fall in line.

He ignored Jenna and stepped deeper into the narrow hallway. There was a musty smell about it, something which reminisced of old timber and dusty attics. Still, the place looked fresh. The floorboards were of a dark oak, elegantly veined and looking pleasantly antique. Them and the vintage appearance of the furniture made him sure this was the home of an elderly couple. Made sense he supposed. Old people living out here in the bushes must lack for company, so why not find it in strangers and get paid while you’re at it? While Cage, Jimmy and Richie went upstairs, Anne took Jenna by the hand and led her to a door on the far end of the hallway. It opened upon a medium sized living room, complete with a fireplace and old leather couches.
A gramophone stood on a desk in the left corner along with a neat collection of old photos. Jenna stepped inside first, looking like a girl in a dream. She moved slowly, as if sleepwalking, her fingers coming up to trail along the pictures on the walls, humming softly to herself. Anne wondered just how much X she’d been doing, for the moment neglecting to remember she’d been pretty shitfaced herself.
She strode cautiously across the room, reaching the fireplace and taking up one of the photos placed on the mantelpiece.
“Mom and Benny,” the picture said, and it showed a black and white photograph of a young woman in her thirties petting a large, black dog. The picture looked as if it had been taken sometimes in the late forties or the early fifties, and to Anne’s surprise, she noticed there was a rather thick sheen of dust covering the display.

“Jen, I don’t think anyone’s been here for some time…” She said thoughtfully, but when she spun around she was alone in the room. Opposite to the hallway and next to the desk with the gramophone, a door stood ajar. She couldn’t make out what was inside, the darkness was just too thick, but the sight of that wall of blackness made her more than just uneasy. It lit a panicked flame of cold dread somewhere inside her chest, and she felt a longing for the bleak light in the hallway. She swallowed, tried to gather her courage by thinking she might just be a little too old to be afraid of the dark. Then again, this didn’t feel like something that simple. It was not like being haunted by that anxious notion that someone, or something, may be waiting beyond the borders of what you could see. This was the heart curdling terror you felt when you were walking around the woods and saw a bear approaching in the distance. It was the sheer and simple instinct of preservation telling her to put her fucking legs on her back and get the fuck away, just away, wherever and never come back.
Of course, like in most such instances, two natural forces collided, fought and one prevailed. In this case it was human curiosity, mixed with the simple pattern of the taught knowledge that the darkness couldn’t hurt you. Anne proceeded forward. The open door loomed in front of her, silent and ominous like the gaping mouth of a hungry beast. As she came closer to the door, she became aware of a rank smell. It was not unbearable, but it was not very pleasant either. It reminded her of when she’d been a child, those golden days in her home town, where she and the other kids on the block used to catch bugs and place them in little jars. Like all kids, as soon as the game was over, they dropped the jar somewhere and forget about it. One time she’d found one of those jars, almost covered in dirt and concealed behind the shed in the backyard.
At the bottom of the jar, magnitudes of dead insects had gathered in some sort goo; a yellow liquid of some stuff she didn’t want to think about, not even then when she was six or seven years old. Then too her curiosity had prevailed, and she had opened the jar. The stink which had come out was exactly like that which emanated from the inside of that ominous door. Still, it was faded and not at all as strong. Her throat was too dry to let her make any sounds, but even if she could she didn’t think she would’ve. She stepped through the door, and she immediately became aware of a cool chill creeping up her back. It was like stepping into a cellar, but the room was so dark she couldn’t make out anything inside.

Her eyes did adjust however, and she could suddenly make out something in the distance. It was the human shape of someone standing against the far wall. She couldn’t make out any features, but then again she didn’t think she’d need to. She knew who it was. As she approached it, the smell became heavier. It seemed to surround her now, thick like a blanket of dead things, and she put a hand in front of her mouth and clamped down on her nose. She eventually reached what had been standing against the wall, but she never found Jenna.
The building had six bedrooms. This was something Cage, Jimmy and Richie had investigated thoroughly on the second floor. Each room was just what you would expect, situated on rows of threes on each side of a narrow hallway. It was neat, cozy and old. Everything was old. The three talked about it later, and all agreed that not a single piece of furniture could have been younger than the forties, some around the early fifties, but it was all vintage and worn in a loving way.
Cage got into one of the rooms and closed the door. He felt his day of exploration was over; all he really wanted to do was take something for his head and sleep. His muscles ached, or rather everything ached. The room was small, just large enough to fit a bed and a dresser, upon which an old mirror was situated. He trailed his hand over the wall on the side of the door, searching for the light switch, but there was none. So far they’d used their phones to navigate the area, but he wondered about the lack of electric lights. He spotted a candle on a nightstand next to bed and walked over to light it. Sure, a brilliant flash of modern ceiling lights would have been preferable, but you took what you could get. Small as the room was the candle managed it fine. Just when he’d lit it however, his peripheral vision caught a glance of something which shoved his heart right down his stomach before filling it with ice.

There was a shape on the bed, or at least he thought so. The shape of someone or something sitting on the other side, their back turned towards him and gaze staring endlessly into the wall. Cage spun around, a mask of fear contorting his face and a scream being born in his throat. There was nothing there, the room was empty and he exhaled deeply. His heart was still racing in his chest but he paid it no mind. Just a trick of the shadows, just his imagination, that was all. He sighed and fell backwards, feeling his muscles melt away as they relaxed. He groaned and allowed himself to close his eyes for a moment. It was heaven, absolutely heaven, and before his mind had even had the time to slow down, he was sleeping.
Jimmy didn’t hear what Richie said, but he honestly didn’t care. He found the old place neat, actually kind of awesome. It reminded him of his grandparents’ place back in New York, it even smelled the same. Old geezers such as they always saved all their stuff, never threw shit away and as such their place was always littered with vintage stuff. Like the others, he used the flashlight in his phone to navigate the dark rooms, opened drawers and even pocketed something nice here and there. What did it matter? The owners seemed to have gone awol anyway, they might not even be back in the morning, or even this week. He smiled his scant smile as he went from room to room, pocketed a nice looking porcelain figure here, a silver spoon there or something else which caught his eye. He stopped once to check his face in one of the mirrors and ran a hand through his jet black hair. He winked at his reflection. What a good looking guy he was, honestly. He was going to bring both Jenna and Anne up here together and let them tell him that as he fucked them. He hoped Cage would hear them moan, he always got pissed. Well, in truth he got jealous, but he got pissed because he knew it.
When Jimmy was about to leave for the first floor again, he noticed something odd. The wall panel was slightly ajar, and a cold breeze came through it. He put his finger in the crack and opened it, realized it was not the wall panel at all, but a door. A dusty staircase dwelt behind it, and he realized it was the way to the attic.

“Neat!” He exclaimed, smiling the way he always did and traversed the stairs. He didn’t hear the door close behind him. On top of the stairs was another door, or well, rather like a thin board of wood attached to a pair of hinges. He pushed it open with one hand and it whined quite forlornly, the rusty hinges almost screeching.
The walls were thin here, and he could hear the wind whining outside. It was an eerie tune, as if the world had gained a spooky voice. Jimmy didn’t mind though, he liked spooky, liked feeling a bit creeped out.
As he shone his light around the room, he wasn’t disappointed. It was full of old toys, and not just toys which had been put in neat boxes or scattered around the area. No, the room was set up as if someone was ready to play, but a silky sheet of cobweb covered them. It was a child sized table with four small chairs around it. In each chair a doll had been put, presumably to serve as guests, and the scene sure did a number on Jimmy. The thought that they had all been sitting here for twenty or even thirty years, left exactly the way some kid abandoned them decades ago, was a thought which sent chills down his spine.

“Just a fucking kid getup, Jimmy…” He said, trying to swallow his unsettled dread. He strode past the toys to explore deeper in the attic. As he passed the little table, a sense of real terror seeped into his heart. It was impossible to explain just how he felt it, but he got the notion as if he’d been invited to look at something, but he had disobeyed the rules. He’d walked right onto enemy territory. He tried to smile and shake the feeling, telling himself he was a tough son of a bitch and he sure as hell wasn’t afraid of nothing.
As if in defiance to the creeps, he put his phone down on the floor and started going through an old box. He uncovered an old diary which immediately caught his attention. He was just about to look through it when the light vanished. His heart stopped in his chest, and he sat there in the pitch blackness, unable to see even his hand in front of his face. He took a deep breath and reached for the phone. His fingers trailed over the floor, but they found nothing but dust.

“What the fuck…” He said, feeling tears welling up in his throat. He’d never been so scared in his whole life. That’s when the sound came. It was something from the deepest pit of his nightmares, born from the hell of his subconscious and manifested in the physical world. It was the sound of something very heavy being dragged across the floor, or in this case, up the stairs. It slammed against each step, creating a heart curdling “Thump” every time. It came closer, approached the attic, and soon he heard the thin wooden door creak open. It did so slowly, as if whatever was on the other side was in no particular rush. Jimmy felt a warm wetness within his pants and he realized he’d soiled himself. He was shaking, each breath strained and escaping him in short gasps.

The heavy dragging began again, this time inside the attic. There was a heavy, pounding step, and then came the sound of something slipping across the floor. Jimmy couldn’t make out what it was, just that it was heavy.
“Richie….?” He whispered, but his throat was so clogged up he only managed a thin wheeze. The dragging came closer, and the pounding step had vanished. Now there was only the drag and the slip. Drag – slip. Drag – slip. Drag – slip. Soon he could feel the vibrations from whatever was approaching in the floor, that’s how close it was. This is where his mind gave in however, where it decided to have mercy on his straining sanity. He managed to make out the faintest shape of something moving in the pitch black darkness, and then he fainted.

Cage awoke to the rumble of thunder. He had no idea how long he’d been asleep, not even where he was. He took a deep breath, and the air felt stale and wrong on his tongue. He sat up, the bedsprings creaking lightly, and suddenly he was aware that something was very off. When lightning cracked, he saw what. The room which lit up was not the same he’d fallen asleep in. Or rather, it was not the same version. Thick cobwebs hung in the corners, uncomfortably heavy with black spiders. The window looked as if it had first been bashed to pieces and then rotted apart. It was cracked inwards, the glass broken and scattered over the bedroom floor. A heavy blanket of dust covered it, dust which seemed to have been undisturbed for at least five decades. Confused and out of his mind with bewildered fear, he made the mistake of looking to his right. The lightning cracked again, and the pale, leering face of an old woman stared into his. Her eyes were wide and round, insane and hollow. Her wrinkled skin seemed as if it was just about to snap, stretched to its limit as the smile seemed to make up at least half of her face. She was there for a very brief moment before the lighting left him in the dark.

Somewhere, as the seconds passed by in a slow, tumbling motion, he became aware that he was screaming. He couldn’t even hear it at first, couldn’t even hear the window crack as he backed into it, the rotten wood give way and the air rushing past his ears as he fell. He was aware of the chill, but all other sensations had been lost on his way to hell. He crashed onto the muddy gravel, hard, a numbing pain shooting through his entire body. He was aware something had snapped, but only far away in the back of his mind. He stared at the house, and that was then the final strings let go and his sanity plummeted into the void.

The neat little Cape Cod, which indeed might have been just that once, was a miserable wreck. The paint had peeled off almost completely, leaving tiny flakes behind on the ground. The front door had been boarded up completely, so long ago that even the boards were rotting. Part of the roof had caved in and every window was either smashed or on its way to fall apart. The sign which had been saying “Crawford Home; Bed & Breakfast,” now said;


Weeping and laughing at the same time, he realized he couldn’t feel his toes. He couldn’t feel his legs either for that matter. He could still move them though, which was the weird part. If he’d snapped his spine, he should have been basically just a head on a stick, not much more. He realized his arms were numbing off as well, but before they did, he managed to feel his way down his body. He grabbed at the sharp piece of fence which had impaled him, not feeling any pain at all until that precise moment. Even then however, it was just an aching throb somewhere far away.

“Oh…” He managed, weeping a little more now, even sobbing. Something about this was just so fucked up. It couldn’t be real, it just couldn’t, it was one fucking tripped out ride of X alright. Thinking this, he saw pieces of his guts on the bloody fencepost, coating it like sausages filled with jelly. Something about this struck him as funny, and he died smiling.
A couple of days later, there was an article in the newspapers about a Jenna Caulfield, who were found wandering aimlessly on a corn field. Her feet were bleeding, clothes torn and face riddled with a magnitude of tiny scars. Nothing she said was intelligible, at least not then, and she was taken first to the hospital and then to the mental ward. She didn’t speak for nearly a month after she’d been found, but once she did, police officers investigated her testimony. The house, deteriorated, old and condemned, was found, but no bodies.

Richie Stewarts, Gage C Reynolds, Jim L Bridger and Anne Mores were all listed as missing.

Credit To: Catcid

Razor Games

May 21, 2016 at 12:00 AM

This pasta was the third place winner of our Gaming Creepypasta Challenge. Congratulations!

The first place winner can be viewed here, and second place is here. Thanks to everyone who participated!

My name is Tom. I am a sound designer for video games. I love my work and I have been doing it for quite some time. I used to work for a small indie game developer called Razor Games LLC.

My friend Jason, who hired me after I quit my last job for personal reasons, owned Razor Games. The company did very well and we had our share of small game development success but mostly did outsourced work for larger clients.

Jason’s brother Max was a producer at one of the largest game developers in the world. He often would outsource smaller projects to our company as a favor to his brother. That is where the bulk of our work came from.

We only had a dozen or so staff members at the company. I was close with several people at the company and considered them my second family. Jason was my friend of several years and was a rugged middle-aged man who had been playing games since he was five. Melissa was this quiet little blonde girl who loved fantasy books, game level design, and had been my best friend of several years. Tanner was this bearded teddy bear of a guy who worked as a game tester and had won my best friend’s heart. Melissa and Tanner had recently gotten engaged and I was elated for the both of them. The last person I was really close to at work was a guy named Nick. He was a character designer and A.I. programmer. He was a dark haired young guy and a prankster. The rest of the team was made up of various programmers, designers, and business-oriented people of whom I knew, but didn’t have as close of a relationship as I did with these four.

These people made my job the best job anyone could ask for. Things were great until two years ago when Max’s company laid off a bunch of employees due to a corporate restructure. Almost all of their development was kept internal, meaning we wouldn’t get any outsourced projects anymore.

I watched Jason stress out about possibly cutting into the company’s emergency fund to keep it afloat while he tried to find more work. Razor Games had received so much work from Max’s company that we were too busy to pick up but a few other clients. In the end, that hurt the company more than it helped.

For almost a year Razor Games survived on the emergency fund that it had built up. We had work here and there but no big projects. Out of the blue late last spring, Jason landed a massive job for us.

I remember being in the conference room when he announced the job. Melissa, Tanner, Nick and I were seated together around the small conference table at our office along with the rest of the employees, eagerly waiting to hear what Jason had to say about this new job.

Jason had hooked up his laptop to the projector on the table and was about to take us through a slide presentation.

“Over this past weekend I accepted a large job from a game developer in Korea,” Jason started. His body energy was higher than it had been in months and the excitement in his voice could not be hidden. “The developer’s name is Violet Edge Digital. The president of development for that company is a woman named Mia Nasta.”

Jason flipped to a slide that showed a screen capture of their website. It looked very professional and sleek. I had never heard of this developer before but with so many different companies around the world, I didn’t give it a second thought.

“She emailed me last week with a proposition and the possibility of a massive payout,” Jason continued as he paced excitedly back and forth at the front of the conference room. “Her company has in the past made VR simulators for military and aviation training purposes and is now developing a VR headset system for commercial use to compete with Oculus, Sony, Samsung, and others. We all know there are rumors of a Star Wars VR game and others floating around the community.”

A series of several slides showed pictures of what was supposed to be their past work. They included everything from pictures of a flight simulator and a VR set hooked up to a military training simulator.

Jason stopped his pacing and put his palms flat on the conference table and leaned in as if he was going to tell us the world’s biggest secret.

“They want us to do something for them before anyone else has the chance to.” Jason paused looking at each of us in the eyes.

“Which is?” Melissa said in a drawn out tone as she leaned into the table mimicking Jason.

Jason slowly stood straight up. “I know we haven’t worked in a VR platform before but they want us to create the world’s first VR horror game. The developer is swamped with finishing their VR headset so they have outsourced the creation of this game to us.”

I wasn’t excited. I personally didn’t like horror games or movies but work was work. Others seemed thrilled to take on the genre or be the first to do so in an emerging technology field.

“The bad news is we only have a few months to make it happen because they want a Halloween release…”

“No way! That’s insane,” Nick said cutting Jason off abruptly. “I’d have to pull insane hours to get that coding done in time as would everyone else.”

Jason raised his hand to silence Nick. “I understand,” he said calmly. “The bad news is we are on a tight schedule and we’ll all have to pull some stupid crazy hours. The good news is that they have concepts and basic designs for us already drafted and have paid us the first 20% of the contract.”

“Which is?” Melissa said mimicking her tone from earlier.

“$9 million,” Jason said with a smirk.

The room started to buzz with chatter with a few of the classic “holy shit” exclamations floating into the air.

“We’re going to have a good year,” Jason stated proudly. “But, we need to start immediately. Let me go over the design concepts with you all.”

Jason took us through the rest of the slide show. The storyboard was already flushed out. The premise was that the main character (or characters since it was to be multiplayer) had woken up in an abandon building that represented something like a psych ward with no memory of getting there. The character(s) would have to fight his or her way through monsters and solve basic puzzles, like finding keys to open doors to escape. There were to be nine levels of increasing difficulty in the game.

The developer even had some pictures of character models they wanted included in the game. There were several monster models they had suggested but two that they absolutely wanted designed and included. They had included well-sketched pictures of the monsters the team was to create.

The first of the two that they absolutely wanted in the game looked like an emaciated man with pale shiny skin. His head was bald and contained no eyes or nose. The only facial feature was an overly wide mouth with thin lips and needle like teeth. The fingers on his hands were replaced by long bone like claws. The creature’s knees bent opposite of ours with the bottom half of the leg being a long bone like spike that it walked on.

The second creature to be included looked like a fat baby with an overly large peanut shaped head and collapsed face. Its eyes sat back in the skull close together. Its mouth was small and puckered with sharp teeth. The hands and feet were replaced by single bone spike like protrusions.

The creatures were very grotesque but I could already hear the sounds I wanted to create for them in my head.

At the end of the meeting each department received a folder with very specific and detailed instructions on what the client wanted. I even received a flash drive of sample sounds the client wanted me to use that Jason had received in an email. Most of the sounds were labeled as monster movement or monster growl. The sounds themselves were very well done and very complex. Sounds like these would have taken me a long time to get something so crisp and unique sounding.

The flash drive had over a hundred different sounds almost all exclusively to be used for the monsters in the game. It seemed strange that they would send already finished sounds to an undeveloped videogame to the developer. At that point, I decided to ask Jason what he wanted me to do.

Nick was standing in Jason’s office when I arrived.

“Am I interrupting something?” I asked as I squeezed around Nick to the side of Jason’s desk.

“Nah,” Nick said. “Violet Edge Digital is asking me to include some weird script in my A.I. code that isn’t needed regardless of whether they have a different operating system for their head set or not.”

“Just include it, Nick,” Jason said with a sigh. “I noticed it too. It’s in the instructions for anyone who is writing code. They stated it was unique to their VR system and insisted it be included. If it doesn’t work or screws up we’ll go with what we know but for now include the script as instructed.”

“Fine,” Nick said sighing and walking slowly out of Jason’s office.

“What can I do for you, Tom?”

“I just wanted to make sure they want to use all these sounds. It makes my job easier but I figured they’d want us to design unique sounds from scratch.”

Jason rubbed his forehead with his thumb and pointer finger. “Yes. I know they’ve given us very specific instructions but at the end of the day they are the client and to make the deadline realistic, they sent us over what they had already started.”

“Alright,” I said as I started to leave. “I’ll group and organize what they sent me and create the rest of what they need according to their instructions.”

The next two weeks were insanely busy. Ms. Nasta sent Jason an email stating she was going to send two prototype VR headsets to us to test the game on. Jason spent some of the initial deposit on a few brand new computers with the fastest processors, largest video cards, and most RAM he could cram into them. Nate, our IT guy, spent the better part of those two weeks setting up the new computers in the testing room, or dungeon as we called it since it had no windows.

I spent those two weeks recording various sounds in my make shift foley stage in my office. I followed the list of sounds that the client required of me, creating various initial sounds that I could later mix into something amazingly creepy and new.

A few days after Nate had installed all the new computers and the entire team was deep into their own portion of the project, the VR headsets arrived. It would be a month or two before we would have anything close to a playable alpha version ready but Jason wanted the headsets up and running in the testing room ASAP.

Jason pulled the packages into the conference room so we could all get a good look at this new VR headset we were designing this game for. Jason opened the first package.

“Well, shit. That’s not what I had imagined,” Jason said sarcastically, spilling foam peanuts everywhere as he lifted this old jet pilot like helmet from the box.

“They want us to fly a plane with that thing or design a game?” Nick said jokingly.

“I don’t see that as a platform for a multi million dollar developed game,” Melissa chimed in.

Jason sat the helmet down on the table and pulled an installation software DVD from the box. “Well,” Jason sighed, “let’s keep in mind that these are prototypes. Either way, I want them installed and ready by the end of the day so we can begin testing as soon as we have something ready. Nate and Tom. Take these down to the dungeon and get the software installed on the PC’s. The rest of you, get back to work so we can get something to test on these bad boys.”

I helped Nate carry the headsets to the dungeon and set them up. Both came with two controllers to manage the movements and actions of the player’s in game character.

Nate ran the installation software on the computers as I connected the controllers to the headsets and the headsets to the computer.

“What the fuck is that?” Nate said suddenly.

“What’s what?” I asked looking up at the screen he was staring at.

“This screen.” Nate pointed to a pop up window that was full of what looked like wingding text scrolling on its own but it clearly wasn’t wingding text. The window suddenly disappeared and was replaced by another that read “Installation Complete!”

“I’ve never seen that before. I’m gonna run a virus scan just in case.” Nate started the virus scan quickly.

“The computer isn’t connected to the internet so we should be ok and I don’t understand why our client would send us a virus if they wanted us to get their work done,” I explained.

The virus scan came back empty. Nate ran the installation software on a second computer and the same window with the same scrolling text appeared before being replaced with an “Installation Complete!” window.

We didn’t think anything of it after that. The rest of the day continued on as normal. For the next month and a half we worked 12-16 hour days constantly with only Sunday off. At the end of that stretch, we had a working alpha of the game.

Melissa and her team had pulled off some amazing level design and were about 5 levels into the game. I had the majority of the important sounds crafted and mixed by that point. The crew working on character models had the essential monsters done including the two that were specifically requested by the client and were now working on the extras.

Tanner could now test the game for bugs and issues that needed fixing. Tanner wanted me to play the game with him on the first test run. He wasn’t fond of anything horror and scared easily. Nick would often play jokes on him at the office and he hated it.

“I’m not looking forward to this so let’s get it over with,” Tanner said nervously as he slipped the large VR helmet over his head.

“Awwww. Don’t cry. I’ll be right here if you get scared,” I said jokingly with a chuckle as I slipped on my VR head set.

We started the game and the first thing I noticed was that the graphics were amazing. The 360-degree view immersed you in a way I had never experienced before.

“Damn the guys killed it on the textures,” Tanner said in awe. “The sound is pretty fucking awesome too.”

“Thanks!” I said dryly. I was so focused on the game before my eyes I wasn’t really paying attention to anything else. Tanner was right. The sounds in the game were almost too good. I guessed I had created better sound bytes than I thought I had. I was pretty damn proud in that moment.

We spent a few minutes in the game’s starting area trying out the basic mechanics and looking for bugs. Tanner noticed some texture tearing that needed to be fixed and I took note that the character run command was spotty. After messing around with the character mechanics we made our way through the first level.

The level was simple. We needed to locate a key to unlock the door to the next area. We spent a few minutes running around the labyrinth of corridors in the abandon psych ward looking for a key. There were several jump scares that involved the little fat baby like monsters dropping in front of you or jumping out from behind something. I screamed a few times and so did Tanner, which helped me loosen up and laugh at the situation.

As we rounded a corner in the game a vent above us dropped down slamming to the ground with a metallic echo.

“Shit!” screamed Tanner.

“Ha ha ha,” I cackled. “It’s just a vent cover.” I paused as the echoing of the vent hitting the floor dissipated. “Wow, I don’t remember programing that sound. Sounds really good though. Perfect reverb and everything.”

I watched as Tanner’s character walked over the exposed vent and looked up into the dark shaft.

“Holy fuck!” Tanner screamed as one of the larger monsters swung down out of the vent rapidly and jumped on his character.

A large thud hit the ground behind me. I couldn’t hear it but I felt the ground shake.

“Tanner?” I asked hoping he was all right. I tried to pause the game but the feature didn’t work. I took quick note of it and slipped my VR headset off.

Tanner was sitting up on the floor with his headset lying next to him rubbing his eyes.

“You ok?” I asked as I set down my own headset.

“Yea, dude,” Tanner replied somberly. “It just seemed so real like I thought I could actually feel the monster’s weight on my body.”

“It’s virtual reality. It messes with your senses.” I extended my hand to my friend to help him up. “You want to take a break?”

“No. We need to get this testing done so we can get the big issues fixed ASAP. I’ll be fine.”

“Ok. I’m going to take what I have to the programmers and make sure they get the ‘pause’ function working then get on creating the rest of the sounds since the ones in the game sound pretty damn good if you ask me.”

“Ok. Just leave the door open for me.”

Tanner genuinely looked frightened and I felt sorry he was the lead tester on this game. I took my notes to the correct departments and brought up the ‘pause’ function of the game not working properly.

It was another month before the game was in a very rough finished shape. The game was far from fully functional but the first several levels were nearly complete.

One afternoon I was sitting in my office mixing some of the sound effects I had created when I heard Tanner in the dungeon scream loudly.

“Who the fuck!” Tanner yelled in an angry tone. He wasn’t an angry type of guy so I knew something had caused him to blow a gasket.

I turned around to see Nick and a red faced Tanner standing in the hall.

“Dude it’s not fucking cool,” Tanner yelled.

“What isn’t?” Nick said with palms raised up and a confused look on his face.

“Dicking with me while I’m testing that game!”

“What are you talking about?”

“I know it was you. You’re the only prankster in this office. You came in and blew on the back of my neck while I had the headset on. I could smell your breath.” Tanner had gotten up into Nick’s face.

Nick backed up to create some space between the two.

“First, I just came from my office and am headed to ask Jason a question. Second, I know I joke around but you know that I know you hate horror anything so I would never mess with you while you were testing the game.”

“It’s true,” I said in Nick’s defense as I got up out of my chair. “My office door has been open the entire time and I didn’t hear anyone go into the testing room. I think the VR is really screwing with your senses.”

By this time Jason had entered the hallway to see what was going on. Tanner’s face was calmer but still red.

“Tanner,” Jason called. “Take the rest of the day off and relax before you have a heart attack.

“Sorry, Nick. I’m just on edge because of the game. I’m sorry, man.” Tanner hung his head down and sighed.

“Forget it,” Nick said calmly with a smile reaching out to grab Tanner’s shoulder. “Go take a break. I’ll do the rest of the testing today since I’m ahead on my work.”

Tanner looked exhausted as he walked off.

“Well, I guess there goes the idea of having a scare video compilation for promo purposes,” Jason said with a defeated tone as Tanner left.

“Promo video?” I asked inquisitively.

“Yea I was trying to convince Ms. Nasta that we should shoot a promo video of our testers getting scared shitless playing the game. I can’t get her to answer her phone during the middle of their day and the only email reply I got back was that they liked the initial alpha version I sent them and that she disapproves of the promo video idea.”

“You should do it anyway so we can watch it as a group for our launch party when this thing is finished,” Nick said smiling.

“I probably will,” Jason said. “What were you going to ask me Nick?”

“I still haven’t solved our A.I. issue,” stated Nick.

“You have an A.I. issue?” I asked him.

“Yea, it’s weird. Most people testing it and myself have noticed that sometimes the monsters won’t attack you and will run away like they want you to progress in the game or something. They should be programmed to run away when they are under 30% health but not while at full health. I just haven’t solved the issue yet.”

“Go hop on the game and see if you can figure it out. As far as I know the other programmers haven’t figured out how to get the game to pause either so you’re not the only one with some issues,” Jason finished.

Nick nodded and headed into the testing room. I went back to working on the last few sounds I needed to create. Before I left that night I asked Melissa to check in on her fiancé and let me know if he was ok. I had never seen Tanner like that before and it worried me. She eventually sent me a text saying he was fine and had calmed down. It was a big relief for me.

A week or two went by and I listened to several other people scream and fall out of their chairs in the dungeon from my office. Everyone seemed to be very pleased with the job we were doing with the game. Most people commented on the excellent sound and graphics. Plenty of people who tested the game also felt as if they could feel the monsters grab them or push them even though we all chalked it up to being immersed in a visually encompassing game.

I was finalizing the last sound in my office and Melissa was testing one of the game’s levels to check for any tears in the texture or glitchy spots in the dungeon next door when I heard her shout.

“Shit!” Melissa screamed.

I whipped around in my chair so fast I nearly flung myself out of it. As I stood up Melissa exited the testing room holding her left arm. A crimson streak of blood was dripping down on the floor.

“You ok? What happened?” I asked as I rushed to her.

Jason had entered the hallway at that point as well as Tanner. Both were speaking over each other asking her if she was ok.

“Yea I’m fine,” Melissa replied looking at her arm.

“You’re bleeding,” Jason mentioned as he pointed to her arm.

“I know. I’m ok.” Melissa was definitely calmer than the others around her.

“It looks bad. I’ll get the first aid kit,” Tanner said as he rushed off.

“What happened?” I asked again.

“Something scratched me. I was playing the game and I was on the 7th level when I was attacked by one of those bigger monsters with the bone like fingers. It swiped at my left side and I swear I could feel it cut me so I grabbed my arm and that’s when I felt the blood and the pain.” Her right hand was covered in blood. Tanner had returned with some paper towels and the first aid kit.

“It’s just a game,” Jason said. “Everyone is falling off chairs and sensing things that aren’t real because it’s a VR game. It’s supposed to immerse you. It’ll mess with your senses. You probably had a knee jerk reaction to what your brain sensed as an attack and when you grabbed your arm you scratched yourself.”

“I guess it’s possible,” Melissa said with a sigh as Tanner began dabbing the blood off her arm.

“You know what?” Jason stated with an exhausted tone. “We all need to take a long weekend off. We’ve all been pulling 12-16 hour shifts and I think we’re all burnt out.”

Jason wasn’t wrong. I was tired. My friends were tired. Jason himself was tired. He had been trying to get a hold of Ms. Nasta for several days voicing concerns over the pause function still not working properly and other business related issues. The only thing he was able to get back from her were a few short emails that said they approved of what we were doing and we should push forward.

We all took a long weekend. When we came back we pushed right back into the thick of things. Around the end of August we had a nearly finished beta. All of the sounds required of me were mixed and incorporated into the game. Since I was available, I ended up helping Tanner with a lot of the testing. Since the VR headset was not commercially available we couldn’t have an open beta so Tanner and I were going to put in some long nights.

The game itself looked amazing and sounded just as good as it looked. Tanner and I had begun to laugh when we were attacked by one of the emaciated man monsters or fat baby things. We knew where all the jump scares were on each level so we could anticipate them and make fun of each other if we jumped. Because the immersion of the headset was so good, we still felt like the creatures were breathing on us or could feel the impact of one of them hitting us. We knew it wasn’t real but our brain didn’t. Testing for several hours became the norm for us. Every now and then we would have to stop, especially after a long session because we would feel queasy. We figured it was because we weren’t used to playing in a 3D immersive game.

One day Tanner was out for a doctor’s appointment so Nick tested the game with me.

“Have you had a consistent experience with the monster A.I. when you’ve tested the game?” Nick asked me before we began.

“The monster’s always seem to be where they should be,” I replied.

“No. Let me show you what I’m talking about.”

We both slipped on our headsets and started to play on level seven. We pushed through the mini puzzles and hordes of monsters until we reached where you were to retrieve a key to open a door to level eight. The key was on a string dangling in the middle of a massive open room full of the baby like monsters and the emaciated man creatures. The creatures patrolled around in groups. We had designed this room to be a wave like boss encounter.

“So every level I’ve completed there is this issue where the first time through the monsters around the key should aggro at 20 yards but they don’t. In fact they’ll actually watch you instead of attacking.” Nick maneuvered his character to the middle of the room and stood by the key.

I watched with my character from the edge of the room.

“Come here,” Nick said.

I walked my character passed several of the monsters to Nick’s character. “What the hell?” I questioned in awe. The monsters let me walk past them. Instead of attacking they faced our characters. We stood in the center of the room with a dozen or so of the grossly disfigured creatures just watching us. They either swayed side-to-side or paced slowly back and forth in a small pattern. Their blank stares and creepy sounds, some of which I couldn’t remember if I had created or not, sent an ice like chill up my spine.

“Dude, this is really creepy,” I told Nick as I shuddered.

“I can’t tell if they’re bugged or what is going on but I didn’t program this. This isn’t anything compared to what I’m about to show you.”

Nick grabbed the key with his character and placed it into his inventory.

“Watch what they do now,” said Nick.

We began to make our way back through the level towards the locked door, which would take us to level eight. As we walked back through, the monsters from the key area followed us through every corridor. They stayed their distance but they were definitely following us.

“They’re just following us,” I gasped in disbelief. “I know these things are just digital images but right now they’re giving me the creeps.”

“They’ll follow us right to the door.” Nick unlocked the door and our screens went black to indicate we were loading into the next level.

“The issue is that I don’t know how to solve this.” Nick slipped off his VR helmet. “The first time through each level the creatures won’t attack you unless you attack them. I’ve tried programming different ways and I just can’t fix it. The second time through a level they’ll act properly with regard to game play.”

Nick restarted level seven to show me. Sure enough, when we reached the area where the key was, the monsters attacked us when we were within their 20 yard range.

After we finished the second session Nick and I got ready to call it a day. We both felt a little motion sick from playing the game.

“You ok?” Nick asked as I leaned forward in my chair after removing the VR headset.

“Yea. I just need to rest for a second. The 360 view makes me feel queasy after I play the game for a while. It’s weird I haven’t gotten used to it yet after doing more testing this past month.” I concentrated hard to get my world to stop spinning.

“Yea, makes me wonder how this whole VR thing will go once it becomes commercially available,” stated Nick as he put away his equipment.

The next two weeks for me were intense. Tanner and I did a lot of testing on the last two levels. Ms. Nasta had emailed Jason asking for push on the delivery so Violet Edge Digital could release some game footage as promotional material. However, they wanted to record the footage and forbid us from doing it. We were almost finished with the game and as strange as that seemed, Jason wanted to push forward to our big payout.

I had started to develop more and more motion sickness as I played the game. It would often be a combination of head spinning followed by a stomachache. The sickness intensified after each session in the final week.

That Friday was the last test session. I stumbled into my office wondering how I was going to make it through the day. To make matters worse it was a cold day. Everyone at the office arrived bundled up in warm jackets and scarves.

“Jesus,” exclaimed Tanner as he stood in my office door way. “You look like shit.”

“Feel like it too,” I said with my head lying on my desk. “We need to complete the last level so Jason can send a final copy Monday morning.”

“My head is spinning and my stomach feels bad too but at least I can still stand. Go home, dude. I can grab one of the other guys to help me with this. Jake in programming is free I think.”

I peeled myself off my desk, drug my half limp body down to Jason’s office to let him know I was going home, and then slept the next few days away in my own bed. I didn’t sleep well Friday or Saturday Night. It felt like my eyes and my stomach were going to explode as if something was ripping at me from the inside. I somehow made it to Sunday where the pain subsided and I could finally rest. Monday morning arrived with no pain or dizziness.

I arrived at the office early at the same time as Jason and Melissa.

“Feeling better?” asked Melissa with smile.

“Way better,” I answered enthusiastically.

Jason turned the door handle to the building and it gave. “Damn it,” he stated in an annoyed tone. “Tanner and Jake left the door open when they left on Friday.”

We entered the building and made our way to our offices.

“Tom, can you look around the offices to make sure everything looks like it’s here and Melissa can you check the dungeon to make sure all the equipment is accounted for?”

“Yea just let me get my stuff put up and my computer turned on,” I shouted back. I hit the power button on my PC tower but no lights or spinning disk confirmation noise happened. I tried again. Still nothing.

I stuck my head out of my office as Melissa walked into the dungeon. “Jason, my computer isn’t turning on, is yours?” I called out.

“Damn it. No!” Jason called out in reply.

I heard the click of the light switch in the testing room.

Melissa’s scream was deafening. Her body tumbled backwards out of the testing room as she backpedaled feverishly nearly crashing into me. She didn’t stop scrambling backwards even as she fell to the floor and hit the wall opposite the door with force.

I stood there stunned as her screams mixed with cries and the sound of her trying to choke back vomit. It felt like an hour had passed before I ran into the testing room without any thought to confront what had frightened my friend.

I covered my mouth as my eyes grew ten times their normal size. I couldn’t comprehend the grotesque bodies before me. Two piles of muscle attached to bone with their entrails pulled from what would have been their stomachs as if they had been gutted lay on the floor. They lay there motionless in pools of what was probably their own blood surrounded by busted equipment. I couldn’t make out if it was Tanner and Jake or these two bodies were completely alien.

Reality hit me like an angry fist. I stumbled back the same as Melissa. I caught myself on the doorframe as Jason came running down the hall. Melissa was still on the floor sobbing her hands covered in vomit.

“What the hell happened?” Jason said as he gasped for breath.

“Tanner… Jake… I think their dead.” I stumbled through my words fighting back my own gagging at what I just saw.

Jason quickly turned from us and looked in the room.

“Oh my God,” Jason said in a sedated voice. “Call 911. I need to lock the door and keep the others out before they arrive. I don’t want them to see this.” Jason moved in a panic. I gathered myself and frantically called 911 before returning to Melissa to get her calmed down and cleaned up.

Jason kept the other employees out of the office until emergency services arrived. Within minutes our office front had become crowded with cops and paramedics. Out side was a sea of blue, red, and white lights. The cops immediately sealed off everything and asked us some questions. Jason offered to pull security footage from the weekend to see if it was possible to catch whoever had done this to Tanner and Jake, if that’s whose bodies were in the testing room.

Our office computers didn’t work but Jason kept the security cameras running on a computer in a supply closet that was hooked up to a separate power supply than the rest of the office.

The footage he pulled from the security hard drive was weirdly disturbing. Even the police were perplexed. Jason pulled footage from Friday night first. Everyone except for Tanner and Jake, the guy who took my spot for the evening, was gone by 5:30pm. There were only two cameras installed in our office. One covered the front door from the outside and the other looked over the main hallway. Jason bought good cameras though. They could zoom in to show explicit detail of anything in their view.

Jake and Tanner could be seen entering the dungeon to finish testing the game with their coats at 6pm. It had been a cold day and the testing room was often kept at a cool temperature because of the amount of consoles and computers inside of it. Two hours passed before any movement was caught on camera.

Almost two hours after the two had entered the testing room, both exited the room. They were both wearing their coats and moving in a strange manner. Tanner was walking as if he couldn’t balance on his own feet. His face looked as if it had been squished from the sides and his right foot was being pulled behind him as if it were completely dislocated from his leg. His knees appeared to be bent slightly backwards but it couldn’t clearly be seen at the angles the camera was filming from. Both his hands were tucked away in the sleeves of his coat. Behind him in his right hand he could clearly be seen dragging one of the prototype VR headsets from Violet Edge Digital carelessly along the ground.

Jake was following behind Tanner half hunched over. He too was walking as if he couldn’t control his own movements. His hands were folded under his arms as he swerved side to side down the hallway as if two different people where driving his legs. In his arms he cradled the second prototype headset.

Jason switched to the outside camera as the two exited the building. As Tanner put his hand up to push the door open gasps of confusion and shock filled the room. The hand that Tanner used to push the door open didn’t have fingers. In their place were long boney looking spikes just like the emaciated man creature in the game had. As the two exited the building the grotesque hand was pulled back into Tanner’s coat sleeve. As they turned to walk away down the street several humps appeared on each of their backs under their coats. The protrusions moved up to the coat necks as if something had scrambled from their butt to their neck.

There was no other person in any footage the rest of the weekend till we arrived that morning. There were several “What the fucks?” floating around the room at this point. The police demanded a copy of the video, to which Jason quickly obliged.

The office remained closed for the next few days as the police continued their investigation. I sat at home in the dark waiting to hear if it was ok to return to work or if I needed to give another statement to the police. I felt numb. I wasn’t sure how to feel. Jason called after the police investigation at the office was over. I could hear the sadness in his voice as he informed me that the office was closing. He had paid everyone his or her portion of the initial deposit from out client and shut down the office. He explained that too many people didn’t feel comfortable working at the office where their coworkers had just been murdered.

The next phone call was from Melissa. She was in tears as she told me that the investigators confirmed the dead bodies to be Tanner and Jake by DNA and dental records. I knew she wasn’t taking it well and I tried to hide the fact that I didn’t take that news well either.

I was numb for a few weeks. Halloween came and went. That was when we were supposed to be celebrating a big payday and having a release party. I took a job at postproduction company creating sound. Melissa and I stayed in touch. I wasn’t going to let my best friend go through something horrible alone. Nick took a teaching job at a tech college and left town. We stay in touch through social media although it’s not the same as hanging out. I didn’t hear from Jason after his phone call to tell me he was shutting the company down until a few weeks before Christmas.

He called me and asked me to meet him for coffee one afternoon. It was a cold day much like the last one I spent at the office before my friends and colleagues were skinned, disemboweled, and murdered.

I found Jason sitting at the designated coffee shop alone. He still had his coat on. There was a laptop sitting on his table and he sipped from a shaky cup. Bangs had formed under his eyes and his hair was disheveled.

“You look like shit,” I said sarcastically as I sat before him.

“Good to see you too,” He replied with a half smile. “I don’t sleep much anymore.”

“Why? What’s going on? I haven’t heard from you since you decided to close down Razor Games.”

Jason shifted around in his seat. He twitched his head side to side as if he was looking for someone.

“I’ve been working for my brother. Long days and nights.” Jason paused and gazed out the window.

I knew he had something else to tell me.

“Remember when Nick said I should tape people testing the game to get some reaction shots for promo or our release party?” Jason quietly stated.

“Yes,” I replied tilting my head down.

“Well, I did. I setup the camera in the room and connected it to the computer in the closet that was recording surveillance footage. I wanted it to be a surprise for our release party. I figured we’d have a drink and share some laughs at everyone getting freaked out and fall off chairs while testing the game. With all that went on and because I had set it up months ago, I forgot it was there until a day or two after the incident. I pulled the footage from the hard drive. You need to watch some of the footage.”

Jason opened up the laptop still twitching around like a paranoid crack addict.

“Remember people saying they felt like the monsters were actually hitting them? Watch this video.”

The first video was of Tanner and me testing the game a few months ago in the beta. We were laughing in the video after just being scared by one of the monsters in the game. Our heads were turning as we were looking around with the headsets on. Suddenly Tanner screamed and an indentation on his shirt by his stomach appeared as if someone had pushed hard on him. Seconds later he could be heard saying he was jumped on by one of the creatures in the game. Jason showed me several more videos of various testers being pushed and pulled by some invisible force. We had always chalked the feeling of something physically touching us to being immersed in a VR experience.

“Do you remember the day that Melissa cut her arm?”

My eyes were wide and my heart was pounding at this point. I shook my head in confirmation.

Jason pulled up a video from that day. Melissa was sitting in the chair. The VR head set covered her face and her hands were moving with the controllers as she tested the game. A small indentation appeared on her arm and quickly moved down her skin followed by a trail of blood as if someone had scraped her hard. Melissa grabbed her arm in pain as she had done that day.

“Something was in the room with everyone,” said Jason. His bloodshot eyes did not blink. “You need to see the video from that last Friday night.”

I was afraid of what I would see but I wanted to know what happened to my friend.

“Play it.” I knew I would regret my decision.

The video started as Tanner and Jake sat down to begin testing after everyone else had left. Jason fast-forwarded 20 minutes into the video. Jake could be heard saying he didn’t understand why the monsters were following them instead of attacking. He made reference to the glitch Nick had showed me where you would have to complete the level before the monsters would act normal on the second play through. Tanner exclaimed that he was going to unlock the last door of the game and then they could run through the level again. Tanner started to say he was finished and that he was going to reset the level before his words were cut short.

Tanner dropped his controllers and grunted in pain gripping at his stomach as he did so. His body slouched back into his chair. His stomach began to bulge. It began to ripple and swell as if something was struggling to get out. His grunts became mixed with wails of pain. His body violently contorted. Jake’s body soon followed in the same contorted motions accompanied by his own screams.

I clasped my mouth in horror and disgust.

“I don’t want to see the rest of this.” I could feel a tear form in my eye as fear began to grip me.

“You need to see it!” Jason said in a stern whisper.

Both bodies writhed violently, their stomachs swelling and collapsing as if something was pushing from within. Finally the bodies came to rest in their chairs, their VR helmets still on, and stomachs swollen to unrealistic proportions. I watched in horror as my friends’ stomachs burst open. I could feel the vomit in my throat as I watched and heard that horrific sound which I’ll never get out of my head. Two large thin membrane sacs emerged from their bodies pulling entrails with them as they fell to the floor. A clawed hand punched through the thin veiny membrane as the screen cut to static.

“That’s it,” Jason said as he closed the laptop.

“What the fuck is this? Why did you make me watch this?” Tears were trickling down my face. I was disgusted and angry at what I had just seen. “Please tell me this shit is fake and that you’re just being a shithead so I can move on.”

“It’s not fake. I didn’t tamper with any of the footage. I saw the same shit you did.”

“No… we saw them walk out of that room.”

“The hell we did. Think about it. They were skinned alive. The coroner confirmed it was their bodies. You know damn well that whatever looked like Tanner and Jake leaving that office wasn’t them. The distorted face… The clawed hand on the glass door… The dislocated feet… the strange movement under their coats!”

I threw myself back in my seat and stared at the ceiling for a few seconds as I sighed.

“What are you suggesting?”

“This is going to sound crazy. I have been doing some thinking. What if we did exactly what the client wanted us to do?”

“What do you mean?” I asked in confusion.

“Violet Edge Digital doesn’t exist. Their equipment got ‘stolen’ so I tried to do a follow up with them from my home computer to let them know what happened. All of Mia Nasta’s emails to me are gone. If I send an email to what I remember was her email, it gets kicked back as not being able to be delivered. The police were also trying to do a follow up with them to find out exactly what the VR headsets were labeled or a serial number or something so they could report the equipment as stolen and they couldn’t locate any company anywhere named Violet Edge Digital that was based in Korea. They couldn’t find anyone named Mia Nasta either. They checked my emails and my phone calls to her office. There is no record of any of it regardless of how sure I am that I had those conversations with her. Their website is none existent. There is absolutely no trace of our client except our word.”

Jason took another nervous sip from his drink.

“All of our equipment that was in the testing room that was hooked up to the headsets was burnt from the inside out. All the game data and software was lost. All of our computers were wiped clean except for the one in the closet with the surveillance footage. It was the only one not connected to the internet. All of those folders containing instructions are gone as is the flash drive that had the sounds on it I gave you.”

“So? What does all this mean? We worked for a nonexistent company?” I was getting impatient at this point.

“Before I closed the company’s bank account the rest of the money promised to us was deposited. I had someone trace the money to see where it came from. It had passed through so many bank accounts both here in the US and off shore that it was impossible to tell. That money probably passed through 1000s of accounts.”

“What did you do with it?”

“I gave it to charity. I want nothing to do with it. I was already freaked out by that point. The morning I called you to meet me I got this in the mail. It’s a letter with no return address.”

Jason slid an envelope with his home address on the front across the table. Inside was a letter. It was on a plain piece of paper. The letter read:

Thank you. This is everything we needed.
See you soon.

– Mia Nasta

“What if…” Jason started before pausing. “What if we weren’t actually programing a VR video game? What if those creatures weren’t made up?”

“You can’t be serious,” I stated sternly.

“Think about it. The weird script they wanted us to include in the code that no one recognized. The feeling of people being physically touched while playing. You saw the video! What if we weren’t programming a game where a player escapes but in reality programing a way for those creatures to escape? Remember the pause feature not working? You can’t pause what’s real. People always said the visuals and the sounds were too good and contained things they didn’t remember programing. What if we weren’t looking at a game but a real world with our game overlaid on it?”

I sat in silence.

“Nick said the creatures wouldn’t attack you until you had opened the door to the next level right? You ever read Dante’s Inferno? There are nine levels of hell. The client wanted nine levels that looked like an abandon psych ward. Mia Nasta… Think about it. That name is an anagram.”

Jason’s ideas up this point seemed possibly valid but he was reaching for straws to me with his last statement. He was mocking our friends’ death at this point.

“Jason, enough!” I shouted as I pounded my fist into the table in anger. I stood up quickly. “I don’t want to hear this mockery of our friends’ death. Yea some strange shit happened. Yea maybe you have some good points but you can’t seriously believe that we programed a way for imaginary monsters to enter our reality. If that is the way you want to cope with their death fine but I won’t entertain that idea because it’s insane.”

I stormed out of the coffee shop.

“We made a way for them to come into our world!” Jason shouted as I walked away.

I walked the whole way home without stopping, furious at the thought of what Jason was suggesting. It was a complete fairy tale and probably his stupid way of coping with things. I wanted none of it.

His idea seemed stupid at the time but the reason I’m writing this now is because I believe him. Everything he said. It makes sense to me now. I’m writing this and posting it anywhere I can to warn people.

That night I was on Facebook looking at old photos of my friends reflecting on good times at Razor Games. Then I noticed it. In the suggested ad column on the right side was an advertisement for Razor Edge Incorporated’s new VR headset system. It looked strangely like the prototypes we had from our client.

I clicked on the ad. The VR system came complete with the world’s first horror VR game guaranteed to be the most realistic horror simulator ever. The game was titled ‘Ascent from the Abyss.’ There were screenshots of the game. The monsters, the graphics, and the premise were exactly the same. There was a demo video available. The game play was exactly the same and so was the level that was demonstrated. It was an exact carbon copy of our game.

We never titled the game. We never gave our client a final copy either. I don’t know what is going on but if Jason is even close to being right, we need to warn as many people as possible.

It’s the holiday season and if this VR set and game catches any traction, God only knows what will happen.

Credit: Tom

The Shame

May 20, 2016 at 12:00 AM

This pasta was the second place winner of our Gaming Creepypasta Challenge. Congratulations!

The first place winner can be viewed here, and the third place story will go up tomorrow. Thanks to everyone who participated!

This is the bit where I tell you I’ve always loved games right? That I’ve been a gamer my whole life? Sorry, that’s not how it goes this time.

In all honesty I’ve always preferred book. So many games only give you this snapshot of a world, but a book could take you through so much more. My favourites had always been stories like Alice’s Adventures in wonderland and The Wizard of Oz, where the character would be thrown into a world far stranger, and often more frightening, than our own.

But, like a lot people, my friends went more and more down the path of the gamer and I found myself playing more video games since I had only a handful of friends and wanted to hold onto what I had. I began with a few of the easy titles like Halo, and just messing around with my friends in Minecraft. Nothing here really seemed to stick however. Not like books did.

I talked to my best friend about it, a guy named Mark, and he said he knew what to do. They next day he came by my house with a game called Planescape Torment on CD. He told me it was an old title he’d played like crazy as a kid, based on some strange, Dungeons and Dragons world. I thanked him and took the game.

I have to admit I had very little drive to play the game. The whole gaming experience seemed a little dry on its own to me and, without the benefit of talking to my friends online, I had very little interest in the idea.

Still I told Mark I’d play it, so I put it into my computer and installed it.

The experience was incomprehensible. The game had you playing as what could be best be described as a zombie with a floating skull for a side-kick. You would run around a city called Sigil and interact with the strangest characters that could be imagined. More than anything it felt full. Sure, there was no voice acting, but I’ve told you how much I love to read.

I loved every moment and played for hours every day. I put down my books, called in sick to work a few times, and went offline to my friends so they couldn’t distract me.

No longer was I sitting on the outside and watching one of these worlds, I was living it, interacting with it. The whole thing felt alive.

And then it ended.

It was about 2:00 am and my new, exciting world of Sigil ended. Leaving me with nothing but the cold empty apartment and the whirring of my computer fan.

I needed more. I looked for my friends online but it appeared they had all gone to sleep or where elsewise busy. This was unacceptable.

Instead I went wider places of the internet. To forums. Looking for something else to satisfy my hunger. But as far as I could see, Planescape is the only game to have been set in Sigil.

There was one comment that caught my eye on a feed though. The commenter was called Redrum Gamer. And all he said was, ‘The_Shame: Play it and learn your heart’s desire.’

The message was weird, but that only got me more curious. What is The Shame? I wondered.
I looked further. It was tricky to find The Shame. None of the mainstream sight like Steam or Uplay seem to have it available. But soon enough I found it, available for thirteen dollars. I held my breath. I had a tight budget and thirteen dollars was a steep price to pay for a game that I had only the one limited opinion of.

I scrolled down to the comments section of the webpage. The only comment was Redrum Gamer, once again, and all he said was, ‘Your heart’s desire.’

The smart thing would be to let it go. The smart thing would have been to ask my friends in the morning. I didn’t do the smart thing. As I hit ‘Add to Cart’ and entered my credit card information I felt a tingle of excitement run up my spine. My friends had a kind of competition. There was this plastic trophy cup we would pass around called the Finders Cup. Once a month whoever had found the best obscure title would claim ownership of the Cup. Needless to say I’d never had it before. But maybe this time? I thought to myself as The Shame downloaded and installed.

Opening up the file named the_shame.exe, the screen went black for a fraction of a second. Well almost black… I think anyway. I swear I could have seen a face in that instant of a moment, one shade of grey above the total darkness that surrounded it. But then again, it was late and I may have been having a hard time focusing.

The title screed of the game featured a dark landscape of black, red and grey with wreaked buildings and strewn bodies everywhere all in 16 bit graphics. Hovering over the landscape was the words, The Shame in letters the colour of crusted blood, like a scar that had never been cleaned. Bellow this was two words, the first in white saying ‘PACISCI’ and another, below the first, this one greyed out: ‘EDURO’.

A tune played in the background of the scene of woe. It wasn’t distorted or eerie as you may be expecting. The tune rose and fell in a manner that, although seemed natural, also felt wrong… Like that sensation of nerves that shoot up whenever something touches your neck. It could be anything from a knife blade to a lovers kiss. Regardless, however, it still feels strange.

I tried to push down the felling the peculiar music gave me. I even considered turning the speakers off, but knew I had to give the game at least one try with the proper immersion. So, having only one clear option to me, I clicked enter on PACISCI.

The whole screen went black again. Grey writing came up which read: ‘What does your heart most desire?’ I hesitated at this. Is this what Redrum Gamer was talking about? I knew what I wanted to write, but also didn’t know whether it was crossing a line. Then I remembered that this was a video game and no one would have any idea what I typed Taking a deep breath, I typed in ‘Penny’.

The background was the same grizzled scene as the menu. The music became the same cringing notes that haunted me before. But the character, the character was almost featureless. Wrapped from head-to-toe in dark robes. The only part of him that wasn’t black was his face, but once again you couldn’t see it since over his face he wore a white mask I recognised as one that Italian doctors would wear during the years of The Black Plague. On his head he wore a triangular hat, which once again was black.
Glancing at the clock I saw that it was getting onto 4:00 am I realised I should have long since quit and gone to bed since I had work in the morning. But yet I still found my hands never going near the escape key. Instead they found their way to the W-A-S-D buttons. The default movement keys in modern games. Nothing happened.

Frowning, I then tried the arrow keys, to better success. I moved my character to the right, since this is how to progress in most side scrolling games. All of a sudden the scene started shaking, bouncing up and down. The chilling music was met with a low rumbling sound. Out of instinct I hit the left arrow and my character, my little plague doctor as it were, started running to the left.

The screen started moving left and the character kept running. I began to wonder if running form the presences to the right of me had been the right call after all. The rumbling never stopped however. And so I kept moving. This must have gone on for a good two or three minutes. I have to say that though the gameplay was beginning to become rather dull, I was impressed with the background. Where most games like this use the same small scene on a loop, the environment here always appeared to be changing, always something new, and considering the work was all in 16 bit it was visually stunning in its own twisted way.

I was so lost in the atmosphere of the whole scene, that when I finally had to respond it took me by shock for a moment. A vertical edge shot out from the scene leading upwards, a ladder just out of reach of my Doctor. The rumbling grew wilder, and more sporadic as my Doctor collided with the wall in front of him. Panicking I slammed my hand down on the spacebar hoping my character would jump like I intended. The Doctor shot up and grabbed onto the ladder dangling above him. With a heavy breath I climbed up and away from the rumbling.

As I rose up and away I became aware of my clammy hands and speeding heart. This startled me. I’d been frightened by games before, but they were games like Amnesia or Outlast. They were first person games that brought you right into the horror. I chalked it up to the music and my own exhaustion eating away at my sanity and with a heavy sigh to calm my nerves I climbed the top off the ladder.

Atop the ledge was what I assumed must have been some kind of checkpoint area. The rumbling had stopped, and there were even a few other living souls scattered about the broken environment.

I approached the closet of the other characters, a man wearing bright blue and gold clothes and a top hat on his head. For a time I pressed the buttons at random till shift brought up a text box.
“A wife I once had.
The light of my days and night.
But now she is gone.”
After a glance I dismissed it as meaningless dialogue and hit shit once more. But instead of closing it the conversation, it took me to yet another, although much shorter, text box.
“Such is shame.”

Hitting shift once again took me out of the screen, and gave me control over my Doctor. I kept moving forward to the second survivor, a women in a pink and red dress. Speaking to it again it said:
“I lied to escape
It. Tried to hold my head high.
Now it finds my dreams.”
Hitting shift once more I received the same second text box:
“Such is shame.”

There was one more character in the safe zone. A man wearing little more than what looked like a hessian sack, and was slumped on his knees. Curiosity getting the better of me once more, I spoke to him as well.
“I use to sing well,
Playing for all who listened.
Now they’ve gone away.”
Once again:
“Such is shame.”

I wondered what the messages meant exactly. It was clear these were all characters carrying shame, the game literally told me that so no secrets there, but is that all they were? In a game already so devoid of life, not just in gameplay but in people, colour and enemies as well, I’d hope for something more. Some reason as to why the four of us were here to begin with, and what had kept on my heels the whole run here.

After bouncing around for a while, and finding little else of interest, I decided to call it a night. I closed the game, hoping it had some form of auto-save function, and went to bed.

The next day, at my cubical desk job I E-mailed my friends about The Shame, asking if they knew about it, and telling them what I had done. None of them really should much interest, apart from Mark that is. Mark, the friend who had shown me Planescape Torment in the beginning, and I had always been close. We had met in high-school and stayed friends to this day even after I started dating and inevitably broke-up with his sister.

Mark was also an armature musician. And though he always said it was only a hobby even I could tell he harboured dreams of being professional. He was curious about what I had said about the music, having already started inserting some digital edits to his tracks, and asked if he could come around later that day and hear it for himself. I accepted, kind of relieved by not having to confront the game, and the music on my own again.

After getting home at 7:00 pm I grabbed something to eat, but while I was finishing I found myself torn between the desires to play more of The Shame before Mark arrived, and confronting the disturbing game world on my own. After all, at this stage it was still my discovery, but if Mark was around when I entered the meat of the game that I assumed was still to come, did it then become ours? Soon enough I settle for a third option, researching the game online.

I suppose it comes as no surprise: Googling ‘The Shame’ is a bad idea if you’re looking for specifics. You get this weird blend of Christians filled with it, and pornstars who are apparently without it.

So I tried again this time, adding ‘game’ to the end of the search. Once again, ‘The Shame Game’ harboured useful information.

Just as I sat scratching my head there came a sudden knock at my apartment door. It startled me, but I shock it off and opened up to let Mark in.

As Mark pulled up a second chair to the computer desk, I booted up the game. But as it started the piercing music never came. In fact what played instead was rather startling. It wasn’t 16-bit music or computerised in anyway. It was like a deep storm rising from a guttural rich vein. Like Mongolian throat singing. The kind that vibrates deep into your very core. This deep stir was then met by a striking higher note, the voice of a child, piercing into your mind.

I gave Mark a glance, his eyes fixed on the screen.
“Sorry.” I said. “It seems to have changed.”
“Not at all,” he replied, “this is outstanding…’

Looking back over to the game it was the same title sequence over the dead landscape. The two words, now both white, floating on the screen, ‘PASICI’ and ‘EDURO’. I looked at the screen for a moment. Mark tapped me on the shoulder.
“Are you going to do something man?”
“Yeah, yeah. Just last time I had only the once choice, I’m not sure what to select.”
“Try EDURO.”
“I just – I’ve just got a feeling alright…”
Shrugging it off, and trying to ignore Marks almost reverent stare at the computer, I selected the second option. The screen went black and Mark jumped back in his chair.
“Holy Shit!” he shouted.
“Didn’t you see it?”
“No… See what?”
Mark blinked a few times and shook his head before saying:
“I just… It doesn’t matter, keep going.”

The scene was the wrecked landscape with the survivors I had left it in. My Doctor sat idle, waiting for instruction. Doing a quick check of the other characters to see they all said the same thing, I decided to see how far left my character would go in this safe-zone.

Eventually an animation played where the screen wiped across and I was in a new location. The sky was now a dying gold, mountains protruded from the background, and the music had gone back to the sharp electronic notes it had been before when I first played. I smiled, even as my heart plummeted, pretending it didn’t bother me.

I looked over to Mark, he shot me a smile as well. But I could tell even his nerves were digging in. Then he looked back at the screen, and frowned.
“Were they there before?”
I looked over, my Doctor was running into the centre of the screen, but joining him were the three others I had met earlier in the broken village.
“No.” I replied, puzzled myself.

Then the rumbling returned. I slammed down on the left arrow key, my Doctor ran, and the others followed.
“So is this all it is?”
“So far, I guess I’m only in the first – level? I guess that’s what you would call it.”
My mind began to wander as Mark kept talking, I assume commenting on the music. The music which seemed to enter my mind, the music that brought me to thoughts of my parents. We hadn’t been on the best terms when I’d last left. After Penny – Marks sister and my girlfriend of a few years, – walked out on me, I kind of fell off the planet and into my books. I had been studying to get a medical degree, but after she was gone… it just took a lot out of me.

“… I mean you did say there wasn’t much to the game – Shit! Watch out!”
My mind shot back into the real world! I looked at the screen and ahead of my Doctor and his three companions was a whirling blade. I didn’t think I’d be able to stop myself before running into it, and I guess, in a way, I was right. When I was just by the razors edge my Doctor simply stopped moving. I couldn’t walk into the circular blade if I had wanted to. I hit space bar and jumped over, the spinning lumber saw.

I kept running, and my companions followed me. Bouncing over the rotating saw as they went. All but one that is… The man in the sack attempted to leap over, but, and I’ll admit it was hard to tell with the pixel graphics, it appeared his foot was caught in the saw and he fell on his face on the other side of the blade.

I panicked.
“What do I do?”
“Go get him for Christ sake!” shouted Mark, he wasn’t concerned, he was ecstatic.
I ran my character back to the injured man. I mashed shift, hoping it would do something to help.
“Help him!” Mark shouted, his voice growing more and more frantic.
Shift did nothing however. All that appeared was a text box with that message again:
“Such is shame.”
Hitting shift again presented me with a final comment from my beggar friend:
“This is the price of Satan’s game.”
The thing, the rumbling. It was too close now, I couldn’t try anything else. So I ran. Leaving the beggar to be taken in by the rumbling blackness that hounded our path.

The rest of the road was uneventful for my Doctor and his now only two companions, the Gentleman and the Lady. I played in silence, Mark seemed to be lost in his own thoughts too as he sat beside me, wide-eyed. Soon enough the trio arrived at another ladder, and we climbed it without incident.

Feeling bummed about the whole events I closed the game as soon as I reached the safe zoned and turned the computer off.

Looking at Mark, I saw he was biting his nails.
“Hey man, I know it’s late and all, but if you need a drink or something before you head out it’s cool.”
Mark blinked twice and looked at me before saying,
“Ah, yeah man. Thanks.”

I got up from the office chair and pulled out a couple of beers from the fridge before meeting Mark on the cramped area I had designated as the lounge in my two room apartment. All there really was to make it more liveable than the rest of the place was a couch and a TV.

The silence that sat between the two of us was irking at best. Though nothing was said, Mark’s tension grated away at my own nerves.
“So how’s Penny?” I asked, trying to make small talk. It’s sad to get hung up on your ex like this, I know, but this time I really wanted to just break the silence.
“She’s good,” was all the response I got.
The silence returned.
“Well what did you think of the music?”
Mark was silent for a time before saying,
“The music. It’s why you came remember?”
“Oh, yeah, yeah… Look man I’ve just gotta go. I’ll see you round.”
Then Mark got up, putting his bottle on the floor, and made his way over to the door. I got up to see him out, but by the time I picked up the half-drunk beer Mark had already left.

I shrugged, thinking little of it, and called it a night.

The next day I sat at my desk, staring away at my computer. The phone at my desk rang. I tensed. I normally only got calls on the work phone when a higher up needed to yell at me. Thanks to The Shame I hadn’t slept much lately and I worried the exhaustion may have been showing up in my job performance.

I picked up the phone.
It was Penny’s voice? It sounded stuffy though, as if she had been crying. I had given her my work number in some show of drunken affection, a ‘Sorry I ignored you for a year and a half as I spiralled into depression! But if you ever need me, don’t be afraid to call!’ sap move.
“Hey, what’s up?” I said quiet as I could. Hoping no one realised I was taking a personal call on work hours.
“It’s – It’s… Mark. He had an accident last night.”
“What?” I all but exclaimed before reminding myself to keep my voice down. I looked around the office, but no one seemed to be paying much attention, lost in there on clicking and typing no doubt.
“Is he alright?” I asked once I thought it was safe.
“Well he’s not hurt… Or at least doesn’t appear to be anyway… Just–” The line went silent.
“He’s what?”
“He’s in a coma. They don’t know when – I mean if – he’s going to wake up.”
Now it was my turn to fall silent. My body turned cold as ice.
“What caused it?” I asked. Mark had always been a safe driver, stuck to all those ‘wipe off five’ rules and everything.
“Well they’re not totally sure. Apparently there was alcohol in his system, a lot apparently.” Penny said through chocked breaths.
“What? Look the guy had one beer – which he didn’t finish by the way. If there was anything still in his blood it would be well below the legal limit.”
“Hold on Joseph, what are you saying? Did you see him last night?”
I froze, I mean I had, but I knew how Penny worked. If I told her then she would insist on drilling me for information and I was still at work.
“Joseph, you still there?”
“Yeah, yeah. Look I’ve gotta roll a hard six here, but I’ll call you later, you’ve still got the same number right?”
“Yeah, yeah. Okay. I’ll talk to you later.”

I hung up and fell back into my crappy chair that company claimed was ergonomic, and maybe at some point it was, but with all the springs and adjustments broken it was a rattling mess these days. ‘Rolling the hard six’ was a reference to the show Battlestar Galactica. Penny and I had watched and loved the series together and it had become our code for doing something harsh but necessary. Still I didn’t have time to think on that now. I had to get through the day, and figure out what I was going to tell Penny.

By the time I got home it was dark. I was putting off the conversation and had found any excuse to stay at the office, but there were no excuses now. I picked up my mobile and dialled Penny’s number.
“Hey Penny, just calling you ba –”
“Hi!” Penny’s chipper voice cut in.
“I’m not at the phone right now, but if you leave a mess –”
I hang up, I’m still not all that sure what I want to say, and I certainly don’t want to say it in a message.

Collapsing on the couch I turn the TV on, hoping to detoxify my addled brain from the stress of the day. It takes me into the early morning and through a lot of weird channels and programs, but soon enough, I crash.

I find myself in a forest. The trees are distorted and my breathing is heavy. Looking up the branches seem to stretch far out of sight. Then I hear a voice call my name. Looking about with a slow calm that feels wrong in this place I see Jayson and Kat, my other two friends. Jay is shouting at me, his face red with fury, while Kat seems to have broken down into tears. I attempt to ask then what is wrong but no words come out.

A beep from behind me rips my attention away and I spin around to see myself in a hospital. The beep is a heart monitor and Mark is laying in a bed, his face almost peaceful. I step closer and closer to his unconscious frame. Then his eyes shoot open and he turns his head to look at me.
“Why Joseph?” he asks.
“Why have you done this?”

When I awaken I find myself still half seated, half sprawled on my couch, perspiration built up on my face. I go to the kitchen and wash myself off. Looking at my phone I see I’ve get a missed call from Penny, and that it’s well past midday. I curse under my breath, but also feel a sense of relief that it’s my day off.

I was just about to call Penny again, but then I stop. I put down the phone and head over to my computer. I was acting out of some kind of instinct, an instinct that didn’t feel like my own. I switch on my computer, and open up Google Chrome, then my hands type the word ‘Pacisci’, the word from The Shame’s menu. The word was Latin, as I’d expected. However where I expected it to say ‘start’, or ‘begin’, it came up with, ‘to make a bargain or agreement’. My heartbeat rose as I typed in the next word. Whether it were by my own incentive or that of the outside force I wasn’t sure. I looked up ‘Eduro’ this was closer to what I’d been expecting. Yes it meant to continue in a sense, but with a little extra digging, I found it specifically applied went it meant to ‘persist or endure’. An odd choice for a game, something meant to be enjoyed.

I shook my head, attempting to clear my thoughts. I had to know what was going on here. I opened up The_Shame.exe and the background came up once more. I hesitated between the two options.
“But it can’t be?” I whispered to myself.
“This… This whole thing is insane…”
Eventually I selected ‘ENDUO’ and in that fraction of a second, where the screen went black, I saw in clear white letters: ‘No it’s not.’

I blinked in surprise, but that was all the time it took for me to return to the hillside. To my Doctor and his two remaining friends. I walk my Doctor about the scene for a while, even talked to the two other characters.

The gentleman says:
“So sad, that back there.
But we should move along now.
Move before He comes.”
And as always, clicking again he says:
“Such is shame.”
‘Jay is divorced…’ the stray though slipped through my mind as I remember the Gentleman’s first comment, ‘A wife I once had.’

I then found myself to speaking to the women, though dreading every moment of the approach. She said:
“It was his work not
Mine. Why should I pay the price?
I couldn’t do time.”
What did that mean?
“Such is shame.”

I picked up my phone and dialled Kat.
“Hey.” She said, her voice full of nerves.
“Hey Kat. I take it you heard about Mark?”
“Yeah.” I heard a chocking sound, as though she were fighting herself from breaking into tears.
“You doing okay?” I ask, despite already knowing the answer.
“Fuck no! I mean – You know Jays party two weeks ago?”
“Yeah?” this wasn’t where I expected this to go…
“Well remember how Mark said he’d give me a lift home?”
I stayed silent, knowing that she didn’t need an answer.
“I didn’t go home Joseph… I went to Mark’s, and we…”
“Jesus Kat!”
“It gets worse,” she said with a painful chuckle.
“I was late this month so I took a test and… I guess I’m pregnant.” Her words cut off and this time the tears really did come, I could only hear it through the phone but I felt my heart tense up all the same.
“Shit…” I had no idea what else to say. Eventually I found the right question:
“Did Mark know?”
“No,” Kat breathed in a high pitched whine.

Then the thought crossed my mind, why I had called in the first place. But I couldn’t ask now, could I? As I sat on the line to my sobbing friend, I felt compelled to run my Doctor to the left. And upon entering the next zone I felt my grip loosen on the phone and I felt it clatter to the floor. My Doctor, the Gentleman, and the Lady ran into the middle of the screen with a backdrop of a mighty forest, but not just any forest, the forest. The one that I had been lost in with Kat and Jay in my dream. The one with the stretching trees taller than the eye could see.

With a shaking hand and a brow all but dripping with sweat I reached down to pick up the phone once more.
“Joseph? Joseph? Are you there Joseph?”
“Yeah,” I croaked back in a broken voice.
“Is everything alright? I heard a crash a –”
“Kat I’ve got a question and it may sound dumb but I really, really need to know, okay?”
The line went silent, my screen started to rumble and I ran my Doctor onwards. I eventually hear Kat wipe back her tears and say:
“Ummm… Okay. What is it?”
“Have you ever been charged, or investigated for a crime?”
“What?” She snapped back.
“I told you it would sound dumb but I’m serious!” My eyes darted between the two figures running alongside my doctor, wondering who could be next. I knew someone would be next.
“I’m not talking anything major, just enough that you might get jail time.”
Kat said nothing for a long while. I was worried about how far I’d passed through the level, and how little I had left to go. But if I stopped the rumble would get us and somewhere in my bones I knew that would be far worse.

The music seemed to be getting louder and louder through the speakers, once again it had turn to the Mongolian throat singing. My hands were tight, every muscle contort despite only using the one finger to keep running onwards.
“Yeah, yeah I did,” Kat eventually spat at me. Then she continued.
“I dated a dealer after my parents kicked me out of home. I helped him out for a while but when he got busted I cut and ran. Now how the hell is that your goddamn business?”
I had no idea what to say? The truth would sound stupid and only make everything worse. But in what real-world scenario does any of this make sense?

I had to tell her the truth. It’s the only way I can live with myself, even if Kat never speaks to me again. I open my mouth to speak, and in that split moment it happens. My Doctor and the Gentleman pass over some form of rope-bridge, and just as the Lady goes across the panel breaks beneath her. My heart jumps and I run over to where she is still dangling.
“Joseph?” I hear Kat say on the other end of the phone.
Hitting shift I whisper an apology.
“Sorry, I’m so damn sorry.” I wasn’t sure if this was to the lady in the computer, Kat on the phone, or to both really.
The Lady said:
“Such a shame.”
“What the hell is with you today? I swear the next time I see you Joseph I’ll punch you right in the face!”
I hit shift again and I get one final message from the Lady:
“One last piece to be played.”
I hit shift and the Lady tumbles down in to the pit with no end. As the rumbling shakes the screen wildly I run my doctor away as fast as I could.
“Tell you what Kat,” I say to the phone as a tear rolls down my cheek.
“If I ever see you again, go right ahead.”
“What the fu–” Kat begins but I hang up before she finishes. Jumping onto the ladder I climb my Doctor and the Gentleman to the next safe zone, before shutting off the computer, climbing into bed, and crying myself to sleep.

I wake up to a banging on my door. Like a slug I ooze out of the cocoon I have made for myself and check my phone. More missed calls from Penny. The time reads 10:30 am, Sunday. So who the hell is at my door?

I slouch out of bed and drift my way over to the door. When I open the door one of the cops had his hand raised, clearly he was ready for round three.
“What is it?” I ask, looking them square in the eye.
“Joseph Ark I assume?” asked the cop who had been knocking. I nodded and he continued:
I’m detective Gabriel, this is my partner Fin.” The other cop gave a sarcastic wave.
“We’d like to ask you a few questions if you don’t mind?”
“Of course he doesn’t!” the cop called Fin says as he brushes past me and into my apartment. His matter-of-fact tone irked me.
Detective Gabriel shot me a glance, as though asking if this was alright. With a groan, I gestured him in.

“Joseph, mind if I call you Joseph?” Gabriel asked.
“As long as you tell me why you’re here?”
“Are you in anyway associated with a Miss Katrina Evans?”
It took me a second to recognise Katrina’s full name. A pang of gilt stabbed into my chest, I just prayed the cops didn’t notice.
“Yeah, I am.”
“How long you been sleeping with her?” Detective Fin, who had been idly drifting about my apartment, jumped in.
“What?” I scoff back. Seeing the script starting to play out before me. They must know about the pregnancy. But why assume it was mine, or that I was even involved.
“Hey!” Cut in Gabriel, holding up a finger to his partner.
“Were just asking a few questions. Now Joseph, are you aware that Miss Evans threw herself out a window last night?”
“Christ, really? Is she…”
“Dead? No.” Gabriel pulled out a pen and pad before he continued.
“It was a damn miracle to be honest. Five floors. Left her in a coma though, that’s why we’re getting involved.”
“Alright, but how does this all get back to me?” I knew the answer, well at least the answer that made sense in the way that nothing makes sense anymore but I continue to accept it.
“Because you made her do it!” burst Fin and he stepped towards me. Gabriel grabbed his partners arm and pulled him back.
“Wait outside.” Hissed Gabriel.
“But–” began Fin.
Gabriel cut him off:
“Save it rookie, I don’t want to hear it. Now get out.” Gabriel pushed his partner towards the door and Fin reluctant as a cat to water shuffled out, giving me one last glare.

“I apologise for my partner. Something like this happened to his sister.”
“Something like what?” I asked.
Detective Gabriel held his breath for a moment before going on:
“Miss Evans’ phone records show you two were chatting pretty late last night.”
“Yeah, that’s right.”
“Neighbours say it got pretty heated?”
“Umm, yeah,” I mumbled back.
The detective narrowed his eyes, looking me over.
“How would you describe your relationship with Miss Evans?”
“She’s a friend I guess, we’ve known each other for a fair few years.”
“Ever look like it was anything more?”
“No. Definitely not.” That much I could say with confidence. She’d always told me how pathetic I was, still being hung up on Penny.
“And were you aware that Miss Evans was pregnant?”
“Yeah, that’s what we were talking about, mostly…”
The detective’s eyebrows shot up.
“Really, what else did you talk about?”
I thought about trying to explain for a brief moment, then realised it was futile.
“It – it doesn’t matter. Just a stupid video game.”
Detective Gabriel nodded. It was clear he was in deep thought.
“Okay Joseph, let me tell you what’s going on here. You seem like a good guy to me, honest. You could have lied about knowing she was pregnant, hell you could have even lied about ever meeting her before! But you didn’t. I like that. Shows you’re trying to get this sorted just as much as I am. But at the same time, a girl is in hospital on an IV drip and I have a duty to find out why.”
I go to speak, but Gabriel shushes me.
“So let’s run through the facts here Joseph. Miss Evans comes home after finding out she’s pregnant. She call you, has a heated argument about that pregnancy. Then throws herself out the damn window? What kind of light do you think that shines on you Joseph?”
Gabriel stood there, waiting for an answer. I felt my fists clench and my body go tight.

“Okay how about you listen to me, and I mean actually godamn listen, none of this good-cop-bad-cop mind game crap!” I had no idea where this anger was coming from. Whether stress from all that had happened, or my own rage towards myself, but for now it will be set doing something useful.
“If what you are insinuating is even true – and believe me it isn’t. The Dad’s name is Mark Grey, you’ll find him next door to Kat in his own hospital bed – being an asshole isn’t a crime. So if you ever, and I mean ever, need to speak to me again, it will be with a lawyer present. Now get out!”
Detective Gabriel gave me a weak look. He moved towards the door, and just before stepping through it he looked back at me.
“You seem like bright kid. Make sure you keep it that way,” then he stepped through the door and was gone.

Now I want to make a few things clear. Yes my friends were in trouble. And yes it was likely my fault, even if I didn’t understand how. But at the same time, they weren’t dead yet, and somehow, I knew I was the only one to change that. The question was how?

The obvious answer was to beat the game, at least that’s what a lifetime of Hollywood movies had taught me. But that left two glaring issues. First off: Life isn’t Hollywood and I can’t know for sure that will even work. Second: I’d be playing with Jay’s life, as well as my own… Now Jay was a good guy, but even if I could explain the whole thing to him, this was a big ask for only a chance of fixing my screw up.

I take a heavy breath and dial Jay’s number. It rings three times before he picks up.
“Hey man, you heard?” he says, voice distorted and crackling through the phone.
“Yeah. I just had a pair of cops give me an interrogation on the whole thing.”
“Shit man, what did you do?”
“Nothing. They just though I was the father.” The line goes dead for second.
“Kat’s father?” Jay said confused.
“No of course not, the kids.”
“What kid?”
“Kat had a kid!”
“Jesus Christ! She was pregnant man! She and Mark hooked up.”
“Oh… Oh shit…”
Nothing but the buzz of the phone could be heard as the slow light of realization flooded over Jay.
“Now it’s making some sense…”

Jay and I talked for a while. Awkwardness colliding between us. I had no idea if I should tell him or not, and if I did, how could I say it in a way he would believe?

“Jay what are you doing tonight?”
“Nothing much, why?”
“Come round and have a drink. I’ve got something to show you.”
“Ummm, alright. See you then man.”
Alright now I just have to wait…

The knock on my door came by at about 8:00 pm that night. I’d been sitting upright in my bed the whole day trying to think about anything but that damn game. However, no matter how hard I tried, I always found my eyes wandering back to the computer, speculating. It’s just a game, right? I’ve worked myself up over nothing! Endlessly these thoughts passed through my mind and time after time I had to push them back down. It wasn’t that simple. No matter what my brain may say, my heart or soul or whatever you want to call it, knew otherwise.

My bones cracked as I moved to the door, stiff from little movement. Opening up, Jay eyed me over.
“You look like shit man,” he said.
“Yeah, it’s been a rough couple of days…” I said, gesturing him inside.
After Jay passed through the door I did a quick glance, up and down the hallway. Jay payed this no mind and fell into the couch before saying:
“So what did you need to show me?”
“You said you wanted to show me something? And let me tell you, I’m praying its good news. In the light of recent events we could sure use some.”
“Yeah… I’m afraid I’m fresh out of that…”
“Should have known,” Jay said in response, letting out a heavy sigh.
“Well hit me with it, whatever it is?”

I’d rehearsed this part in my head, I’d told myself what to say, and convinced myself Jay would play his part to a T. It took all of three seconds after Jay walked in the door for that plan to go out the window. Still, Jay was the son of a Minister, and had always been a bit driven towards the supernatural and whatever was going on here clearly wasn’t possible in the natural world.

“Jay what I’m going to say is weird, in fact it will probably sound impossible, but I need you to hear me through. Can’t you promise me that?”

Jay sat back on the couch awkward in his own weight. After his divorce Jay filled the whole in his life with fitness. And though the countless martial arts lessons had paid off and he looked fantastic, he still seemed kind of uncomfortable in his larger frame.

Jay was giving me a look that simply stated: are you serious? Without a single word. But when he saw that I was keeping a straight face he sucked in a sharp breath through his teeth and said:
“Alright, shoot.”

I told Jay what had happened. Everything form finishing Planescape to the discovery of The Shame. I went into every detail about the characters and the conclusions I was drawing. I talked about the cops, both Gabriel and Fin. All the while Jay’s face turned darker and darker. When I was done the last of my words hung in the air:
“… so what are we going to do?”
Jay had been staring down into his palms for the past while, slowly rubbing his hands together. Then the silence was broken as Jay spoke.
“There are three possible answers to what you just told me,” Jay began, rising to his feet and floating towards me.
“First, you’re legit crazy. If that’s true I’m going to pick up my phone and call you some help.”
I took a thick swallow, glancing down at Jay’s hands to see if he was already reaching for his phone. One of his large hands were in his pocket, but they didn’t seem to be moving.
“Two, this is a sick fucking joke, and I’m about to beat you bloodied.”
Needless to say, Jay was doing nothing for my already racing nerves.
“And finally,” he said, standing less than an arm’s reach away,
“It’s all true.” Jay’s arms shoot up and around my neck, forming a tight grip. “It’s all true and I’m going to do what I have to!”
I panicked and tried to push him back but it was hopeless. Trying to fight against Jay was like playing The Shame, my fate was sealed from the beginning.

One, two, three seconds. Then the world disappeared around me into darkness.

The world around me was a lie, or something close to a lie anyway. I was in the forest once again, its tall trees shooting far out of sight. There was Jay, dressed up in the blue and gold of the Gentleman, his face a blank slate.

Beyond my control I found myself drawn towards him. Moving closer to him he said:
“The deal is all but
Set. Have you worked it out yet?
Enter in the sleep.”
I tried to call out to Jay, ask him what was going on, but try as I might, my lips didn’t move.

I then felt my body moving once more without my permission. An outside force pulling me to the left. A large black wall appeared before me and, despite trying to stop, I drove onwards to it.

Soo enough I collided with it and was consumed by blackness. A blackness that cut away in less than a moment. I was surrounded by white. A white hall. A white, blinding, florescent light, and white tiled floor. Blinking my eyes adjusted to the light. I heard footsteps clattering on the tiles, not just my own though. Jay?
I tried to turn my head but it wouldn’t move. We just kept running onwards through the hall. There were no doorways or windows along the corridor. In fact the scene showed no form of life or decoration at all.

Then the rumbling came.

A tremor at first. Barely recognisable from my own body, shake with exhaustion from the run. But as it grew heavier, and the deep, throaty music began to play, I realised the reality I was living in. Jay has open the game. I am lying on my on floor, a helpless vegetable, as he checks the credibility of my story.

There are no other words for it. My heart plummeted. I knew Jay wouldn’t screw the level up, I mean all it really needed was for the player to hold one button down. But in a way that only made it worse. Because If Jay didn’t get my Doctor killed, then he was the one in danger. But even if he did lose at this stage would that help? If it would save the others I’d gladly throw myself away. But from all appearances Jay was behind me and that means that this thing behind us was only going to get him first if we slowed down.

Then the scene was changing. The lights flickered and soon died all together. The tiles on the walls grew larger and heavier. Till soon enough it was thick stone walls that had us boxed in. The rumbling had gone far beyond what it had ever been before. I lost my footing for a brief moment and found my head slamming into the stone wall.

Opening my eyes as fast as I could. Then I heard a bleeding ring pierce through my ears. As the world became clear once more I realised the original menu music had begun to play once more. The tunnel was tighter than it had been before. I tried to take a step but felt a stabbing pain in my leg from a twisted ankle.

I almost collapsed, ready for the growing rumble to take me. In less than a moment something snatched me up by my waist, I panicked at first but then realised it felt familiar, definitely human at least. I looked to the side, once again having control of my body, to see Jay. His expression was of a determination as hard as steel.
“Jay?” I gurgled as he dragged me onwards.
“How did we get away?”
“We didn’t,” he replied, not losing focus.
“It caught me and brought me here. It told me everything.”
“But then… What?”
“I got away from it for a moment, but I can only run, never escape. That means I still have time to get you out.” Jay paused and glanced at me for a moment.
“I’m sorry, for what I did, in the real world I mean. I took you out because I had to see this for myself. I knew you’d never let me touch it. I was wrong and I was stupid. I should have listened. Sorry.”
Feeling my senses return to me I could make out a door up ahead.
“I forgive you Jay but your wrong, okay? There’s got to be a way for us both to make it out of here.”
“If only…” he said. Grabbing the door handle, pulling it open, and throwing me into the bright, glowing light that radiated through.

When I opened my eyes my head pounded in my skull. Looking around I found myself lying on my own floor. I cracked my neck and got to my feet. Looking around the room I saw Jay was on my couch, a collection on my anti-depressants and anxiety medication scattered about him. His body devoid on motion apart from his slow breathing. I glanced over to my computer and see a green DoS override box was displayed over The Shames main menu. I walked over and took look at the message.

“Congratulations!” it said.
“You have officially completed The Shame and shall receive your award momentarily.”
Bellow this was a flashing green tab, as though I could write something in response. Taking a breath, my hands trembling, I typed:
“Who are you?”
The computer seemed to process this for a second before replying.
“Peter 5:8.”
Clearly a biblical reference, I wish Jay was still awake to tell me what it meant. Having no bible handy I asked:
“What did you do?”
“Upon completion of the first level of The Shame you agree to the deal struck between us. I find the three you hold most dear, and exchange it for what your heart most desires.”
What my heart most desires? Does it mean Penny? I wonder.

A sudden knock at the door brought me away from my computer and back into my apartment. Taking one last glance at the screen it read:
Step by step I approached the door. There was another knock.
“Joseph? Joseph? Open up Joseph I’m getting cold out here!” As I suspected, it was Penny’s voice. I opened the door and there she was. Dressed up in black lingerie and stockings. She leans in to kiss me and I wish I could say I was man enough to try and stop her.
“Hey Sweetheart,” she said. Leaning so close that her sweet lips brushed mine with every word.
“Can I come in?”

I stepped out of her way to let her in, my body feeling stiff as a tin-man. I watch her and her long and ever so elegant legs drift through my apartment to my bed.
“Come and join me?” she asks, fluttering her eyes.
“What about Jay?” I reply. My voice broken and cracked.
“Who?” she asks, looking puzzled.
I deliberate the idea of trying to talk to her. Trying to tell her what has happened and why this isn’t really her. But somehow I already know it would be futile.

Walking over to Penny I find myself kissing her once more.
“I’ll be over in a minute,” I say, returning to the computer.
“Oh,” she says, still seeming confused.
“What are you doing?”
I type in my final question to whoever it is on the other side of the screen before replying:
“Sometimes you’ve just gotta roll the hard six.”

DATE: 03/11/2016

The scene was a mess really. There was a guy [Jason Rowland] who had taken enough drugs to sink an elephant sitting around, confused but beyond that the picture of health. Then there was the girl [Penny Singer] all dressed up nice for her boyfriend, or ex-boyfriend… No one seemed sure of that one. Regardless it was for the victim by all appearances. Anyway she was claiming she had no clue how she got there.

Finally there was Joseph Ark, a suspect in the then ongoing case of Katrina Evans’ attempted suicide. [Miss Evens case has now been closed due to her and what is apparently now her fiancé making a full recovery.] Our old friend Joseph seemed to be just slouched at his keyboard, hacking some strange video game. I say hacking because when our specialist took a look at the computer they saw he had some override up that interacted with the programs base code.

The program in question appeared to be some kind of non- sensical communication between Mr Ark and the computer. The last part of this dialog, which my specialist assured me all happened offline, caught my eye particularly since it looked like an early-era chat room. It said:

Joseph Ark (JA): What if I didn’t complete level one?

Other (O): You would still get your wish. But I’d take your life instead of the others.

JA: I want to play again.

O: … What?

JA: You heard me. Start it up again.

O: Very well. But what does your heart desire now?

JA: I want my friends back.

Peculiar at best. I think I may attempt this game myself. See if I can find any answers there.

This is detective Gabriel signing off.

[This transcript has been withdrawn as evidence in the case against Detective Gabriel relating the hospitalization of Detective Jack Fin, Elizabeth Gabriel and Kyle Gabriel (Detective Gabriel’s with and son.)]


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