The Beast and the Businessman

September 20, 2015 at 12:00 AM

John drifted in an immense void. There was no way to control his movement, and no place he could have gone. He wondered if anyone even knew he was alive.

Not long ago he had been a traveler. In another time he would have been called an astronaut, but in his time such things were more common and words like “astronaut” seemed unnecessary. He had been moving with his family to another part of the galaxy. They were being transported through space, moving thousands of light years to reach a new home on a distant planet.

One morning he had attended a briefing on safety drills, along with the rest of his family. These were held regularly on board the ship to ensure everyone was ready in case of disaster. The first drill was always to get a protective suit on.

An instructor had stood in front of his family, demonstrating how the pieces of the suit fit onto the body. “Alright,” he said “everyone just go through the motions, then check the person beside you.”

John began to put his own on, and moved more quickly than the rest. Seeing his son Jim, a boy of five, struggling with the suit he bent own to help.

“No no,” the instructor rebuked, “do your own first, then help others. You can’t help much if you can’t breathe.”

Nodding at the instructor, John moved away from his son and reached for his own mask. He snapped the last straps into place…

…And woke up in space.

He had no idea what had happened. The last thing he remembered was putting his suit on. He dimly recalled a loud noise on board, something like metal scraping, but he wasn’t sure if he had simply imagined it afterward. There was no way for him to find out.

He guessed there was an accident, or perhaps something struck the vessel. By some miracle, enough of his suit survived to keep him alive. However, he had no food, and he knew his oxygen would run out eventually.

Really, it was nothing more than an accident that he had survived. If he had been a second slower, he wouldn’t have been ready. By all reason, he should have been killed along with his family.

Part of him wished he had been killed. While the thought of an instant, sudden death was terrifying, it was better than the inevitable slow death in space. Here he could only wait for a painful, lonely end as the feeling of loss at his family’s sudden passing filled his heart. Death on the ship would have at least been painless.

He thought about simply ending it, smashing the mask on his suit with his hand and waiting for space to kill him. There was only a thin layer of glass that kept the vacuum of space out and his suffering alive. However, he couldn’t bring himself to do it. Though he knew it would be better than the slow wait for death, the idea suicide seemed impossible for him to grasp. An impossible hope came back every time he thought about it, telling him something would happen to save him. This hope, whether a curse disguised as a blessing or a blessing disguised as a curse, kept him from death. At the same time, he knew his mask was made to withstand space, and he wasn’t sure if he had the strength to break it.

Instead he remained alive as he floated aimlessly through the emptiness of space. He still hoped to run into another ship, or perhaps even a planet or a star where people lived, but there were none in site. All he could see was a deep, eternal blackness.

It wasn’t too long before he noticed something had begun to change. The change was so subtle he wasn’t sure it was even occurring, and even then he had no way to comprehend it. He could not relate anything to it, or put it into words. The best he could say is that space itself had come alive. The darkness was moving.

He knew this was not right, that what he imagined was impossible. Nothing in front of him could truly be alive. But something had begun to take shape. A portion of the darkness had become darker than the rest, blacker then black. It wasn’t just that it was dark, it seemed to absorb the light around it. It made black seem light by comparison, and a void seem full. The blackness billowed out, moving and taking form.

And it was coming toward him.

This moving nothingness stretched further in each direction then John could see. In space you can see almost any distance. The human eye can see a star that is thousands of light years away, and a galaxy even further. However, this thing, or this lack of anything, appeared to cover all existence, leaving nothing visible and disappearing at the edges of the universe.

It was too large for him to see or even to determine if it had a shape. However, in his struggle to understand what he knew he never could, he began to see it as a massive, living being. Portions of the billowing darkness changed shape and color, forming gigantic eyes that glared at him. He saw arms reaching out of it, gigantic shapes that were coming to grasp him. It became a titanic, raving beast. In a way it seemed soothing to make it something tangible and understandable, even a giant beast, rather than think of what it truly was. It was nothing, but less than nothing, an all-consuming nothing that was coming inevitably toward him.

In his terror, he flailed his arms and legs. He struggled to get away from it, though he knew there was no way to move and get away from it.

He began to panic, and in his fright his limbs became frozen in place. He remained still as he watched the mammoth being of darkness descend upon him. He was helpless before the eternal darkness that moved like a deadly but starving animal on the hunt. And he was its prey.

Something else took his attention, and filled him with awe.

A light had appeared. It seemed to close to him, only a few feet away. He knew it wasn’t a star, as it was far too small and hadn’t been there before. It held the rough size and shape of a man, and he felt comforted staring at it. It was familiar in a way, and for that moment he forgot about the void. He struggled to move toward it, twisting his limbs as if he was swimming. It was a pointless attempt, but it felt soothing to think he had control over himself, and his actions could somehow move him toward the light and away from the dark beast.

He stared into the light. It began to change. Beams of light moved up and down its sides, leaving solid shapes behind them. The image took form as a tall, man like creature. “Man like creature” was how John would have chosen to describe it, but the only thing that distinguished it from a man was that it was in space without protection. From its appearance alone it was a brown haired, middle aged man, well dressed in a business suit and seemingly lounging in a non-existent chair.

John stared at it with his mouth agape. For a moment he forgot about the darkness and about being in space.

“Well?” the creature said.

“Wh…what?” John stuttered.

“I presume you want something. You may as well ask for it,” the creature replied, sounding bored. Though it seemed impossible for him to be speaking, the sound still filled John’s ears whenever it moved its mouth.

“What are you!?” John almost shouted.

“What am I? Don’t worry about what I am. It doesn’t really matter, does it? You have a problem, and I think you want a solution.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I am talking about that,” the creature said impatiently and indicated the encroaching void.

John looked back and forth between the infinite nothingness that was slowly coming toward him and the creature in a business suit directly in front of him.

“But… What… What is that thing?” John asked.

“That thing, is nothing. It is the infinite oblivion that existed forever before you and will exist forever after. You, and all like you, are only here for the briefest amount of time. Then that thing will claim you, and you will be forgotten in time and space. You not only be dead, you will no longer exist, and cease to have ever existed. What is not now may as well never have been, and to say you ever were in a meaningful way is almost an exaggeration. I know you don’t want that, and there is a way out, which I can give to you.

John listened, trying to understand what he had heard. The beast was still coming toward him, and seemed far closer than it had before. At this rate it would soon it would take him. The words of the businessman resounded in his ears, and horrified him. All his life, everything he did, everyone he knew, all gone forever as if it had never occurred. Simply nothing. It truly was a fate worse than death.

“You can save me from it?” he said, pointing at the seemingly unstoppable void.

“I can. It is my trade, in fact, and my job, though I do it mainly from boredom. This is why I appear as something you may understand as a businessman. But let me tell you, if you take too long, I frankly don’t care enough not to leave you to your fate.”

“No please don’t!” John cried. “Wha… what do I have to do?”

The creature smiled. “It’s simple. I want you to smash your mask. I want you to kill yourself.”

John gaped, unable to believe what he had heard. Had it really asked him to end his own life? “What!? Why would you want that?” he demanded.

“Think of it as a trust exercise. You prove you trust me enough to give your life for me, and I let you live forever.” The businessman chucked, “anyway, it will amuse me, and I am the one with the ability to save you. Do it, or you can sit here and rot while space consumes you.”

John pondered the options. The truth was, he didn’t trust this creature. He had no idea what it was, and it demanded that he do something that could end his life simply for its amusement while trusting the creature would save him. He thought back to all he had gone through before, the idea of suicide…. It was still beyond him. “I can’t,” John said, almost in tears.

The creature turned away to go, leaving John in the darkness.

“NO WAIT!” John shouted. The creature faced him again, staring apathetically towards him. Though what it was asking was horrifying, he couldn’t let it go while the Beast was still coming toward him. He needed for it to take time while he thought. “Wha.. What are you? Are you God?”

The strange businessman laughed out loud. “GOD?! HA! You think I am your god? You really do think there is a god waiting for you at the end of all this, do you? Just smiling and ready with open arms? Do you really think anything like a god, with power enough to create a universe, would care about your tiny existence? You prideful little creature, no god would ever want you, and there is none waiting.” He convulsed with laughter.

“What?! But… I thought that was what you were? Wasn’t that what you said?”

“No, you idiotic, insignificant excuse for a creature. There is no god for you. You think a god that cared about you would let you exist in same universe as that?” He pointed at the beast. “What a strange species. You fear the darkness so much that you create a thousand lies to avoid thinking about it. All your religions, all your ideals, your pathetic attempts at science, your arts, your delusions of glory in war and violence, all a feeble attempt to protect yourself from its truth. In the end you just hasten your own way to the darkness thinking you can avoid it. You are a species so foolish that you think you deserve respite from the eternal darkness and so vain that you’d send a thousand of your into it rather than simply go yourself. In the end, it is all for nothing, all lies, all fake, and you end up in the same place as the ones you killed. Not that other species are any better. ”

The businessman laughed again, and pointed at the beast. “You want a god? THAT is your god. Nothingness is your god. Nothingness is infinite. Nothingness lasts for ever, and extends everywhere, like your beliefs of a god. You came into it, a cosmic accident the cosmos forgot. From nothing you came and into nothing you will return. I am not your god. I am simply a businessman. I can offer you respite from that thing, and allow you to keep existing. That is all you need to know.”

John stared at him for a moment. The Beast was closer now, so close it was almost touching. He tried to remain calm despite the panic inside him. “So… you will save me from it? How do I know it isn’t a trick?”

“I will, and I guess you don’t,” the Businessman said, looking away from John and into space. “I am almost out of time. I don’t care at all if you trust me or not. Do you want me to do it, or not?”

John stared back and forth from the beast to the businessman. The horror of the void was too much to handle. Slowly, he nodded his head. “Yes,” he said,” I do want you too.”

The creature grinned. “Good. Then smash that mask. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure you have the strength.”

John paused for a moment. He still had no idea if the creature was being honest but he knew he had no option. He swung his hand at the glass, and saw it crack slightly. He tried again. The cracks grew, and he began to feel sick with fear. He knew that soon there would be nothing left keeping him from a thousand horrible deaths in space. The terror began to make him shake.

He sung again. The glass shattered, sending shards driving into his eyes and skin. He screamed in pain, and the sound was silenced by the void. The air was sucked from his suit, and he felt his lungs collapse, making him suffocate. All heat left him, getting replaced by the absolute cold of space. The pain was excruciating, and if he could think he would have wished for death. He knew he would be dead in seconds if nothing happened. He stared at the creature, hoping it would save him.

It began to chuckle, then to laugh out loud. It was a cruel, horrible laugh, like someone who has succeeded in a terrible crime. It sent chills down John’s spine. “The funny thing about you humans,” he said “is that you all seem to think your life is a good thing.”

John stared at it in shock. It began to transform, changing from something recognizable into something horrible. Dozens of tentacle-like limbs spurted out from his chest, twisting and turning with multiple joints and ending bizarrely human hands. His eyes grew and multiplied, appearing all over his body and matching the limbs in number while the rest of his face disappeared completely. What resulted was a writhing mass of sharp jagged angles, formless and constantly changing shape as the limbs moved and the eyes peaked out at seemingly random intervals.

The beast touched John, but nothing happened. It retreated back into space, and slowly disappeared forever.

Death never came. But nothing else changed either. The pain was still there. Every second seemed like a year, and he struggled in immense suffering that should have killed him. It would have killed him, if he could die.

John knew had had made some horrible mistake, but did not know what it meant. He tried to take back his words, but found he couldn’t move.

“Now changing your mind now!” the creature laughed. His voice came from all directions at once, filling John’s ears and his mind. “You wanted to see an eternity, and you will.”

John’s mind was blank with terror. The horror at the thought of eternal existence in the void of space, with never any respite or hope, filled him. He wished now that the beast would come back, that the void would claim him, that he could finally die.

But nothing came. The creature watched him struggle, laughing as it did.

“I must thank you, this really has been amusing,” it said. Another light had come, and began to rotate around it. “I hope you enjoy your eternal existence,” it said, and left the same way it had come in.

John continued to float through the eternal void. He didn’t fully understand what had happened, and doubted he ever would. Perhaps he had encountered some kind of demon, or the devil if there was one. Perhaps it was just some kind of prank played by a more powerful species. He had no way of knowing, and guessed it didn’t really matter.

The pain continued, and never changed. He wished he could die, as death would be better than even a moment of it. But he knew he never would. He simply remained. He remained as anyone who ever knew his name passed away. He remained as the last remnants of humanity vanished. He remained as all the living things in the universe died out, never to return. He remained as the stars shrank and turned cold, and all the energy in existence was used up forever. He remained until the only thing left in the universe was his silent, eternal scream.

Credit To – EricAMBM

The Caul

March 11, 2015 at 12:00 AM

Content warning: this pasta contains some gore.

He was born with a caul. That was all we knew, and that was all we needed to know. It was a hideous deformity, an extra layer of skin that covered at birth his face at birth and marked him for what he was. I never even learned his name, and I am not sure he had one. He was simply the boy with the caul.

In some places it was seen as a sign of good luck. People would say it predestined wealth, or ensured long life. Old cowls were sold to sailors to protect from downing. They were a blessing, outsiders would say.

But we knew better.

It was the sign of the devil. It was a sign of a creature so hideous, God himself would cover his face. His eyes would be sharp and mesmerizing, they would draw you in like magnets and hypnotize you. They would peer into your soul to see your secrets and possess you. His speech would be luring and tantalizing, it would demand your attention then bend words to trick and control you. His mind was clever, not with the wisdom of man but with the cunning of a fox, designed to outwit and trap you. A thousand times people like him had come into the world, and a thousand times they had used these traits to kill and destroy the lives of innocent people. And for these reasons our God had chosen to hide him from us, and mark him as evil.

When he was born they said he should be killed. The Pastor demanded it, calling the town to arms to take him into the forest and bury him alive. This, he said, was the only way to ensure he’d be taken back to Hell. Many agreed, and surrounded his parent’s house. They lit torches and shouted for the child, demanding he be handed over. They chanted and chanted, calling for his blood. They would not allow such a creature into their village, and would kill anyone who tried to get in their way. If need be, they would burn down the house with him inside then bury the ashes. The mother cried and cried, but knew it was what was best. They all did, and accepted that it must happen. The boy had to die.

For me the story began on a hot Sunday in August. Church had just ended, and most of the families had gathered for a small festival in the center of the village. The several dozen houses and buildings in the town formed a circle around a large field, separating the forest from where we were standing. The Church with its high steeple stood at one end, and the only road in or out was directly opposite of it. Along the road were the farms and lumber mills where the people nearby made their living.

The day in question was an annual celebration. Its date wasn’t set in stone, it just needed good weather and was always on a Sunday when strawberries would be fresh. Piles and piles of them were brought into the central field and shared among anyone who came by.

I was eleven at the time, and was eager to celebrate. I dressed in my best, a brown coat and matching pants, and was lead around by my mother’s hand. I already had a bag full of the berries attached to my belt, and I ate them slowly with my free hand. The red juice dripping down my face and hands, as we walked through the gathered crowds. I suppose there weren’t really that many people there, but to me it seemed like a huge event. I thought anyone who was anyone would be there.

However, when I was there I noticed something I hadn’t noticed before. By chance I had glanced toward a house at the edge of the village. It was a house I knew well, but had never gone in. It was the only one outside the circle, standing at the very edge of the forest and half consumed by it. Many times at night I had heard cries and moans coming from it, sounds that every child heard but every adult seemed to deny existed. I had never seen anyone enter or leave it in the eleven years I was alive.

Today was different. I looked at the highest window of the house. It was shuttered, but a crack in the shutter let me see into it. There I saw seen a face I had never seen before. It seemed to be the same age as me, with a thin face but thick, dark brown hair. It stared wishfully toward the celebration, a look of sadness and desire that comes from seeing something you desperately want but will never have.

I tugged on my mother’s hand. She was a pretty woman, with light brown hair, blue eyes and a face that was used to smiling.

“Momma,” I asked “who is that boy?”

She looked at me with a smile. “Who do you mean, John?”

“The young boy in that window over there.” I pointed towards the window I had seen him.

A look of dread came into my mother’s eyes, and she went pale. “That was… that was no one. Don’t ask about it.”

“But there was someone there! See…” I looked back, but the window was empty. “Well there was someone.”

“Well even if there is he’s gone. Forget about it.”

“But I was sure I…”

“No,” she said sternly. “No more of this. I don’t want to hear any more!” By the end she was almost shouting, and people had turned to look. Embarrassed, she took my by the hand and led my back to our house. I protested, wanting to get back to the party and not understanding what I had done wrong, but she dragged me into my room.

My father was right behind her. He was perhaps the largest man in the village, and was broad shouldered and muscular. His look of anger was enough to terrify anyone, especially me. He grabbed me by the shoulder and pointed a finger at my face. “Look boy,” he said “you better forget what you think you saw. Whether there was something there or not there was no person there. Get it out of your head.” He left and shut the door behind himself.

But I couldn’t get the face out of my mind. It was burned into it, etched into my thoughts. Every time I closed my eyes I saw his. My parents both told me there was nothing there, and ordered me to stay away. Sometimes I wish I had listened, or even could have listened. But I knew I had seen something. I wanted, needed to know what it was I was willing to do anything to see it.

That night I paced back and forth in my room. I had tried to sleep, but couldn’t get it out of my mind. The thought was possessing me, luring me toward the window and the boy who may or may not have been inside.

I made up my mind. Though I consciously decided against it, my unconscious mind that demanded I go, and after hours of fighting it I relented.

I opened the door to my room and stuck my head out, listening. I didn’t hear any movement, and assumed my parents were both asleep. I snuck out of the room, down the stairs and out the front door.

Once I was out I was running. It was dangerous to be out at night, especially near the forest. Wild animals filled it and could attack you at any moment, tear you to pieces and consume you before anyone could come to help. There were even rumours of things worse than animals, things that God could not look at, and we all knew to stay away. However, tonight I had to go through.

I ran outside the circle of houses and towards the edge of the forest. My heart raced faster and faster as I ran, warning me of the danger I could be in. The shadows of the trees blocked the moonlight, leaving me in near pitch darkness. The branches reached towards me like claws, waiting for any slip or trip to grab a hold of me and pull me inside. Every sound and movement seemed like a creature waiting for a chance to pounce on me.

I ran and ran, and finally reached the house. I looked up at it. There, at the top of the house, was the shuttered window. I knew I needed to find a way inside.

I looked around me. One of the branches of the nearest tree came very close to the window. I ran to the trunk and climbed it. I climbed along the branch and peered through the crack of the shutter. Inside it was pitch black. I tried the latch on the window. The metal on the latch was bent into place and wouldn’t budge, and the hinges were worn and rusted. I climbed down the tree again, grabbed a rock, and climbed back up.

Everything I knew warned against it. I had seen the fear in my mother’s face, and the anger in my father’s at the suggestion I may come here. Even the room itself seemed to scream danger. The darkness inside could conceal anything, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to see what it hid. My parents insisted I hadn’t seen another human, and I didn’t want to know what that implied.

However, I had seen something, and had to know what it truly was. I rammed the stone against the latch, bending it slightly back to how it should be. I rammed it again and again, until it was strait and I could open it. I did so, and yanked at the shutters, only to find they were tied with rope as well. I tore at the string, breaking it piece by piece until it fell down toward the ground. I paused a moment. It was clear that someone didn’t want the shutters open. They must truly have feared whatever was inside. I sat in the tree, shaking with fear for what seemed like an eternity. Every ounce of reason I had warned me against what I was doing, but the desire to see was overwhelming. While my dread pushed me away, the face and my curiosity of it drew me in. I looked back through the forest. The idea of going back was almost as terrifying as going forward. In the end, I simply couldn’t resist it. I pulled at the shutters, causing them to squeak and moan. I looked in.

The blackness inside was impenetrable. The only illumination was a small square of moonlight which came from the window, partially blocked by my own head. The rest of the room was impossible to see. With a gulp of fear, I stepped in.

Instantly I regretted the decision. I stumbled and feel as I stepped, my face landing on wooden floor boards covered in dust. The panic inside me rose dramatically, and I tried to gain my feet but tripped over an unseen object in the darkness. I hit my head against a wall, and remained on the floor for a moment, dizzy.

I became aware of another being inside the room. I could not see it, and had no idea what it was. At first there was only the indescribable sense of something being there, and the knowledge that it was watching me. Though I couldn’t identify it, I feared it, and everything inside me told it was dangerous. I didn’t know what, but there was something wrong with it.

I heard footsteps, light ones which were difficult to hear and impossible to place. My breath caught, and I looked around in the darkness, trying to find out where the footsteps where coming from. However, there was no sign of who, or what, made them. I was left immobile from fear.
“You shouldn’t have come here” a voice said. It was deep and low, with a hard edge that conveyed hate despite being little more than a whisper.

Instantly I scrambled toward the window of light. However, I heard the tell-tale creak of the rusted shutters. As I reached toward it in vain, the light was cut off from me, and I heard the latch go into place. I was left in complete darkness.

I squeezed my eyes shut, praying for something to save me. I begged for forgiveness for my sins, and desperately wished it was a dream. However, I knew nothing would come to save me from my mistakes.

A light flashed in front of me. For a second it was blinding, and my eyes stung from trying to look at it. Slowly it settled into the light of a single candle.

The light focused on the outline of a body holding a club, raised high in the air above me. The face was the one I had seen earlier, and it snarled at me. I cowered, holding my hands up and looking away.

“Please don’t hurt me!” I said “I only came to see who you were!”

“LIAR!” he said. “This is another trick! What were you planning to do while I slept? What would have happened if I didn’t get you first?”

“Nothing! I… I swear!”

“No! You’re a thief and a murderer! You were here for me, but I’ll get you first!” He kicked at my stomach, and I groaned from the impact.

“No, please! I swear I’m not! I’m a friend!” I cried desperately.

I lay still, waiting for the club to come down. I briefly wondered if I would even feel it, or if it would crack my skull on the first blow. I whimpered, wishing I hadn’t come.

But the club never came. I looked up to see him still standing above me holding the club, but he looked confused.

“Friend?” he asked. “Why?”

“I…. I don’t know. I just saw you earlier and wondered who you were.” I replied.

He lowered the club slightly, but still held onto it. As my eyes grew accustomed to the light I saw that it was really the broken leg of a chair. The object I had tripped over was the edge of a cot which was on the floor.

“How do I know this isn’t some kind of trick?” He asked.

“Why would I trick you?” I had suddenly remembered the bag of strawberries that was still at my belt. I took one out and handed it to him. “Here! Have a strawberry” I said.

He reached for it and looked at it curiously. Suddenly he snarled again. “Liar! This is a trick again!” He threw the strawberry at me, and raised the club.

“No! I swear! Here look.” I took one out of the bag and began eating it, then handed him another.
He looked at it for a moment, then took a tentative bite. His eyes went wide, and he said “It’s good!”

I nodded, and he kept eating. For a moment I saw the same look of sad wish fullness I had seen earlier, of longing for something beyond his reach.

We were interrupted by the opening of the door. A grey haired and old but still hard looking man stood in the doorway. He glared at us and pointed his finger toward the boy.

“YOU! What are you doing?” he started to walk towards us.

The other boy, clearly frightened, through away the club and the strawberry and tried to stammer a response. “I… I don’t kn-know! He j-j-just came in! I don’t know who he is!”

The man ignored his words and picked him up roughly by the shoulder.

“You stay right here. We are going to have some words with your little visitor.” With that, he grabbed me by the shoulder and pulled me out the door. I tried to protest, but stopped when I saw my father standing behind him. My father took me to another room as the man walked back into the boy’s. I heard more of the moans and cries I had heard before. He returned a minute later.
“What’s going on? I just wanted to talk to him!” I said.

“That’s not the sort of boy you should be talking to,” he said, sounding as much genuinely concerned as angry.

I looked around the room. The old and frail Pastor was there, as was my mother and a blond woman I had seen before but didn’t know.

“Who is he?” I asked.

“He’s… he’s my son,” the grey haired man said, sounding guilty.

“Yes he is! He is my baby boy and yours too!” the blond woman said, on the verge of tears. “And you should remember it! He doesn’t deserve this!”

“I do remember it! God I think about it every day! But there is nothing I can do about it, is there!?” the man replied in a hurt voice.

“Now now, calm down,” the Pastor said “There is no need to be upset, or to blame yourself. It could have happened to anyone, and you have done your best.” He put a hand on the man’s shoulder, calming him. “And ma’am, you know it is for the best in the end. It may be hard, but you have to be strong.” He repeated the gesture on the woman’s shoulder, and it seemed to have the same effect.

“Now, we have another problem. Little Johnny here decided to meet the… other boy… and caused a bit of mischief.”

“Yes, and after I distinctly told him not to,” my father said angrily. “Didn’t you know how dangerous that was? You’re lucky you didn’t get hurt!”

The grey haired man reacted as if he was visibly struck at the mention of my being hurt. “You could have been, and it just isn’t right that you would be. I’ve done everything I can to makes sure nothing would…”

The Pastor interrupted him. “Alright, its fine. We know you work hard to avoid this scenario, and nothing bad came of it.”

I was getting more and less patient. “Alright, I won’t do it again, but who is he!?”

They all looked at me, then exchanged glances. Then the Pastor spoke. “When he was born, he had a caul. That is an extra flap of skin that covers the face like a mask. Do you know what that means?”
“Yes, I do” I replied in quiet voice. I had heard the stories of what people who were born with cowls could do. “What happened?”

The Pastor continued. “Well…”

After he was born, the families had gathered to destroy him. It wasn’t something they wanted to do, but they knew it had to be done.

However, they were stopped. The child’s mother, a woman named Margaret, pleaded with her husband Tom to spare him. She knew of the legends, but could not bear to part with her son. She claimed they could keep him apart from others to contain his demented nature. She pleaded and pleaded.

And he relented.

Though he knew it would have been for the greater good, he was convinced by his wife. He gave in, and told the Pastor and gathered crowed of his decision. They agreed, on one condition. The parents must watch and control his every move. They could not forget, even for a second, what he truly was. Even acts of kindness and sweetness may only be to deceive them, and he should be met with coldness and harsh discipline. Only in this way could they ensure his true side doesn’t break out. If they fail, they would be to blame for what happens.

They agreed, and the child was allowed to live.

However, his life wouldn’t be much like any other.

It was fairly clear why I had never seen him before. He was kept apart from other children, both because of his own parents hiding him and other parents not wanting their children near him. He was never allowed to attend school, there is no telling what he would do with knowledge anyway, he was banned from Church and didn’t attend any village celebrations. When it came to work, he always worked alone. He wasn’t trusted with an axe for wood or a rifle for hunting, but he could carry heavy objects or smash boulders with a large double handed hammer when digging fields or basements. Other children were either told to avoid him or never saw him at all. When they did see him, they never allowed him to join their games, and would either ignore him completely or taunt him until he left.

Most of his life was spent in the top floor of the house he lived in. The windows were always shut and locked, and the door to his room could be locked from the outside. When he was allowed out, he was constantly watched by his father and others generally avoided him. It was by mutual consent his family moved to the outskirts of town. The parents rarely came out, as they knew they would be blamed for anything that happened if they didn’t watch him. Margaret became constantly depressed, wanting to comfort her son but knowing she couldn’t, and Tom seemed to blame himself, so they didn’t want to leave much anyway.

Discipline for him was always harsh. His parents knew that anything he said may be a trick, and behind his every action was ill will. His father kept a stick near his door at all times to use if he got too out of hand.

The Pastor was another main influence on his life. Though he took no pleasure in causing the boy harm, he saw it as his duty to keep his evil away from others. He often took part in his discipline, or came to pray over him.

After the first encounter, my father too began to see him more. He would volunteer to watch him while he worked, and would get angry at any sign of disobedience. Like the boy’s father, he carried a stick when he was near him, but it was much thicker. When I questioned him about it, he only explained that he would do what needed to be done to protect his family, and he thought he could do that by controlling the boy.

I saw him a few times after that year. I watched him on occasion, and always from a distance. Over the years he became muscular and strong, used to hard work and not much else. Every time I saw him I would pay attention to his face. We were warned against it and most people avoided looking right at him, as he may try to control or deceive you. However, I needed to see his expression. People would pass by him, glancing with nervousness or anger at him. Conversations would stop within his earshot. Every time this happened he would look hurt for a moment, then his pain would become anger, and he would glare back at them. This would confirm for whoever passed that they were right to hate him, and they would continue on.

Over time I saw his looks of anger get worse and worse, harder and harder. The hurt looks all but disappeared, and were replaced with a constant glare that he turned on anyone and everything that he saw. I saw more hate in his eyes then I had seen in every other person I ever met. By the time I was fifteen, I was sure there was nothing else inside of him.

It was that summer when I was fifteen that the worst part came. It was the anniversary of when I had first seen him, and once again we were having the celebration with strawberries.

At first the party was going well, just like any other year. The sun was warm, and people were happy.

However, I began to sense a strange feeling of unease among the people there. I saw more and more upset faces, and people glancing around each other nervously.

It took me a while to find the source of the discomfort. Walking among the crowd was a stranger. Despite the heat, he wore a long coat and had its collar turned up and a hat with a wide brim that he turned down over his eyes. The result was that it was impossible to make out his face.
People watched him suspiciously, muttering to themselves. He walked around without speaking or looking directly at anyone there. Eventually it became clear he realized people were nervous about him. His stride became awkward and unconfident, his shoulders slumped, and he kept his head down. This only made people more nervous, and a wide circle formed around him.

Finally, a black haired man I recognized as a farmer named Rick approached him.

“Excuse me, but who in the hell are you?” Rick asked.

The stranger stopped walking and began shaking, but didn’t respond.

“I said, who are you? And why the hell are you wearing that get up?” Rick asked again, more angrily.

The stranger still didn’t respond, and began to back away slowly.

“Answer me!” Rick shouted, and grabbed the stranger’s hat.

There was a gasp in the crowed as his face became clear. It was the boy, and most of the crowd recognized him. They began murmuring and backing away from him.

“YOU!” a loud, angry voice said. It was my father, and he was approaching quickly. “What they hell are you doing here?”

“I just wanted… I just wanted…” the boy’s explanation was interrupted by a loud SMACK as my father’s fist slammed into his jaw. The crowd gasped, and the boy fell down.

“I just wanted to try the strawberries! I swear I meant no harm!”

“Oh yeah? Then what was with that disguise? What were you trying to hide boy?”

He had no answer, and fumbled around with his words. “I uhhh… ummm…. I don’t…”

“I don’t care what lies you have to say. Get out, get out now!” My father shouted and pointed away from the celebration. The crowd began to shout their agreement.

“But I… I just wanted…” the boy began, but was constantly interrupted by the shouts and jeers from the crowed. As one the people of the village condemned him and demanded he leave.

Once again, his had a pained expression, but it quickly turned to one of anger. He stood up and pointed at the audience, his eyes cold with hate and a snarl on his face.

“You….. You bastards!” He shouted “Every last one of you! I’ve done nothing to any of you, and yet you condemn me every day.”

“Don’t give us that! We’ve all seen you glaring at everyone as if you’re going to kill us. Why do you think we don’t want you here?” A voice said, and most of the crowed shouted in agreement.
“You LIARS! It was all from you! I don’t just hate you all, I despise you with the depths of my heart. And how you deserve it… I will show you all! And especially you…” he swept his finger around the crowd, then settled on my own father.

He turned away and walked through the crowed which opened up in front of him. He began running, and was pelted with bad berries until he was away from the celebration. Soon he was back at the house near the forest. His parents and the pastor followed close behind him.

The celebration ended soon after. Everyone had a sour taste in their mouths from the events, and didn’t feel like celebrating. It ended early, and everyone went home for the night.

Later that night I was sitting at the wooden dinner table in my home. The room I was in served as our kitchen, dining room, and living room all at once. However, it was simple, with furniture consisting of a stove, the table, and a few chairs, along with a few shelves on the walls and plain wooden flooring. The front door was at one end, a staircase leading to the bedrooms was at the other, and a few pair of windows were on the other two side walls.

I was attempting to read by candle light, and my mother was sewing. My father was out at a meeting with other members of the village.

Suddenly he burst in the front door, and closed it quickly behind him and locked it. I could tell by the speed with which he moved and the rare fear in his eyes that something was wrong.

“Alright, listen up you two,” he said. “We’ve got to lock up the doors and windows.”

“What’s wrong?” my mother asked.

“That caul boy is gone.”

“What?! Where?!” she said. She ran to each window, closed the inner shutter, and locked them.
“We don’t know. The Pastor and his parents locked him in his room after he went down to the celebration. However, when his father checked tonight, he wasn’t there. We don’t know where he went, or what he is up to. The advice for now is to lock all doors and windows. Don’t leave for any circumstances, he may play tricks to get people out of their homes.”

“But what if he comes here?” I asked.

“If we lock the doors he won’t be able to do anything. Anyway, I have my rifle.” He pointed to the corner of the room where it was kept.

We sat for a moment in silence, looking at each other. A nervous pit formed in my stomach, making me feel almost nauseous. That boy was out there somewhere, and we didn’t know where. I kept thinking back to the celebration. He had threatened everyone, and pointed around the crowed. However, in the end it was my father he had settled on. I knew he had more hate for my father then for anyone else in town, I could see it in his eyes. All those years my father had been the roughest on him, believing it would protect his family. Now it may have condemned us.

Time passed slowly as we waited for what we all half knew was coming. Then I heard a click at the door. Not a knock, a click, like something metallic.

We glanced at each other again, wondering what it might have been. Finally I stood up and walked toward the door, put my hand on the handle, and pushed.

“Wait! Don’t open it! It may be a trap!” My mother said, panicking.

Not that it mattered if I did anyway. It took me a second to realize what it was exactly I was feeling. The nervousness I felt in my stomach was replaced with fear, then outright terror
The door had been locked from the outside.

I turned back toward my family, eyes wide and mouth hanging open. I saw my expression matched with in their faces as they realized what had happened.

“Help help help!” I screamed, but suddenly realized no one would be coming. We had all been told not to leave for anything, and that he may try to trick us out of our own homes. Any call for help, unless there was an obvious danger, would just be treated as a trick. Even if they were almost sure it was real, no one would want to risk it with him out there.

We heard footsteps running around the house. A dark shadow passed by one of the windows, and the footsteps came behind the building.

We heard scratching at the back of the house, behind the stairwell. We backed away from it, not knowing what it was he was doing, and not wanting to find out.

Soon his actions became clear. Smoke began to drift into the room, and a fire began to build until the back wall was in flame.

“GET OUT!” my father screamed, and tried to push against the door. He rammed his full body against it, but it wouldn’t budge. From the small bit we could see through the crack on the side, he had rammed a steel bar against it and wedged it in place.

We glanced around in panic. The windows were glass, but that could be broken. My father opened the shutters, grabbed a chair and threw it through one of the windows. He helped my mother through, then myself.

I turned around to help him from the outside. However, he wasn’t coming. I looked in and saw him staring toward the corner of the room where the rifle was. The entire area was covered with flame, and the rifle was invisible behind it.

“Don’t do it Dad!” I said. “You can’t!”

“I know,” he said “but I need too!”

“No! Come on!” I shouted back. The room was completely full of smoke, and it burned me to even be close to the house. The roof was creaking and could collapse at any moment.

He relented, and began climbing out the window. I helped him through, and began pulling. However, he was much larger than either of us, and struggled to fit. As he came out, his leg ran along a sharp blade of glass, cutting a long gouge on his calf and ankle. He screamed, and collapsed to the ground.

“GO! Run to the sheriff’s house and get help!” he said. My mother and I looked at each other. “GO!” He shouted.

I began to lift him up by the arm. “Run and get someone, I will help him” I said to my mother. She nodded, and began to run.

Despite his protests, I balanced his weight across my shoulders. He stumbled beside me, leaning for support whenever he used the injured leg.

We moved as quickly as we could. The darkness of the night was even starker when compared with the fire we were just in, and our eyes couldn’t adjust. Everywhere we heard more screaming and shouts for help, and people ran about us in panic. At least three other buildings that I could see were burning, one of them the church.

We walked into the center field of the field, heading toward the sheriff’s home which stood across from ours. It occurred to me he likely wasn’t even there anymore, as he would be the only one to respond to the cries for help, but my mother had run in that direction and I had nowhere else to go. I strode on, pulling half the weight of my father along with me.

“Going somewhere?” a voice asked.

I turned to see who had spoken, and screamed as loud as I could. I was instantly filled with terror. There, outlined by the moonlight, was the boy with the caul. He stood up strait and held his hammer in his hands. He raised it up into the air and came towards us.

We both began running way. Forgetting all plans of seeing the sheriff we ran and stumbled randomly into the darkness, calling for help from anyone who could give it. I turned back again and again to see him chasing us, each time getting closer and closer. The tip of his hammer seemed to be within inches of my head, and he had it raised, ready to swing the instant he could. Every door we passed was locked, and every cry for help we raised went unanswered. I kept calling, though I knew anyone who would be willing to leave the safety of their homes would already be fighting the fires. I was losing my breath from helping my father, and couldn’t run any more.

“Where are you going? No one is going to help you! You’re all mine!” he screamed.

Finally we came near a house, and found the door to be unlocked. I pushed inside and stumbled into a living room much like our own. We both slammed the door shut then locked it. Not satisfied with simply locking it we leaned against it and pressed to keep it shut. We looked around. There was no one in the room. It occurred to me that the family who lived here must have been one of the few to respond to a fire or a call for help and had left the door unlocked.

Suddenly I heard a loud banging noise and felt the entire door shudder. The noise came again, this time accompanied with a crack as some of the wood began to break. It was him, smashing the door with his hammer.

“I know you’re in there!” He shouted, almost tauntingly. He slammed the door again and again, and it cracked more and more. “I’m coming to get you! This won’t protect you for long”

Each swing of the hammer brought the door closer to breaking. I could feel the swing of the hammer get harder and harder as there was less between me and the assailant.

Finally the door gave way with a massive crack and burst into splinters. I was thrown back from the force and landed hard against the ground. My father held himself against the table and tried to charge him, but the boy swung his hammer hard against my father’s knee, splintering it like the door. I tried to get up and grab him. He saw me coming and jabbed the hammer into my gut, winding me and forcing me down. He grabbed a cabinet and pulled it down on me, pinning me to the ground.
As I lay on the ground trying desperately to breath, I saw him stand over my father, his eyes filled with hate.

“Oh how long I’ve waited,” he said “how long I’ve waited for this day.” He kicked at my father, who moaned helplessly at him and grasped his useless knee. “All those year you treated me like I was nothing… well look at us now. Now look who really is nothing.”

He began kicking my father in the gut. “You will pay for what you did to me.” He said, still kicking. He grabbed the unbroken leg, and pulled it strait. My father tried to kick him off, but was too injured to fight and overpowered. The boy took a rope and tied his foot down to a floorboard he loosened with the hammer, then repeated the process with each of his arms. This left him with one leg broken and the other three outstretched.

He raised the hammer up and brought it down on the outstretched knee. My father screamed in pain. It was an almost unnatural sound, coming from a pain beyond anything I had ever experienced.

“You wanted to fear me? I will give you a reason to fear me!” the boy said. He raised the hammer again and swung it at my father’s arm. There was a loud crack, and the bone jutted out from his skin. I watched in terror as my father’s screams turned into a horrid gurgling noise unlike any I had ever heard a human make.

“I want you to feel as I always felt. Helpless, useless, with nothing you can do to ease the pain.” The boy raised the hammer again and smashed my father’s second arm. He didn’t even scream this time, he only convulsed and made the same inhuman gurgling noise.

“And now, I am going to kill you. I will kill you for all you ever did to me,” the anger in the boy’s voice had peaked, and he stepped toward my father’s head. I tried to call out to him and beg him to stop, but I could barely breathe and he ignored everything I did.

He stood over my father for a moment, the anger in his face become a twisted, triumphant smile. He raised the hammer again. I saw my father’s eyes open, staring at the end of the hammer with fear. But there was nothing he could do. His body was ruined and he had no defence against the onslaught. He turned his head away.

The boy shouted and swung as hard as he could into the side of my father’s head. It smashed into it with a terrible gushing noise. The hammer went completely through his skull and slammed into the floor beneath. Blood splattered around the floor, along with bits of his face skull. When he lifted it again, there was nothing left recognizable as a head. The boy snarled, and swung the hammer again and again into the body, causing it to break and burst.

I was beyond tears, and tried to call for him to stop. Finally he looked over at me. The same twisted smile was on his face, mixed with an unending well of hate. He came toward me, lifting the hammer up. I tried to speak to him, beg him to stop, but I couldn’t raise my voice.

He stood over me, looking down at my face. He kicked me in the chest, and I grunted.

“I don’t know who you are” he said “but you were one of them. All those years you rejected me, hated me, abused me… You deserve to die like the rest.” He raised the hammer again, and I cowered beneath him, holding my hands up and looking away.

The hammer didn’t come down. I looked back up at him to see him standing in shock.

“It… I-It’s you!” he said. “From that one night…” For the third time he had the look of sad wishfulness, a desire for something and a knowledge he could never have it.

He dropped the hammer, and backed away slowly. Finally he ran out the door.

I was found the next day by the owner of the house I was in and helped up. It was then I found out the extent of what had happened.

In totally he had burned down four buildings. Aside from our house it was his own, the Pastor’s, and the Church. It seemed he was targeting people who had affected him the most. Along with my father, the Pastor had been killed in the fire, and he had killed one other man who had tried to stop him. His parents, however, had managed to escape unharmed except for a few burn marks.
However, that wouldn’t last long.

The boy with the caul was soon found hiding in the forest. He was grabbed, tied up, and dragged back to the town to be charged. Along with him went his parents. They had argued for his life and refused to kill him, and were trusted to keep him in check. When they failed, they were guilty. They brought the evil into the world and failed to contain it.

I wanted no part of the events that followed but they were almost unavoidable. The crowds gathered again in the center of the village, but this time for a much more sinister purpose.

The parents, for the crime of bringing evil into the world and not controlling it, were sentenced to be burned at the stake. That way, their souls could be cleansed. The screamed and begged as they were dragged out and hoisted onto the poles of wood, but they were ignored. Sticks were piled around them, and a torch was brought. Margaret screamed and wept in fright, Tom only stared with an empty look in his face, knowing full well what he had brought into the world. Even from where I was, far away and sitting in another house, I could smell the flesh burn and hear the screams. The smell of smoke remained for days, and the sound of their screams never left my mind.

The boy, however, could not be redeemed even with fire. He was evil from birth, and nothing could save his soul. Instead, he was to be returned to the hell he came from. The method of doing this was clear. He was tied up and wrapped in thick, white cloth. A hole was dug, far deeper than any grave the village had dug before. They lowered him in, careful to ensure he didn’t die from the fall and lived through his full punishment. They began to shovel dirt on him and buried him alive. He shouted and swore, cursing those around him with his last breathes, and screamed in terror the entire time. However, he didn’t beg for mercy, as he knew there was no one there who would give him any. And that was the end of the boy with the cowl.

Many times, people asked why it happened, and how anyone could commit such horrendous acts. The people from the village always give the same answer.

He was born with a caul. That is all we knew,and all, or so they’d tell you, we needed to know.

Credit To – EricAMBM

The Dancer

January 22, 2015 at 12:00 AM

It began about a week ago, as I slept. I was having the most bizarre nightmare I’ve ever had.

I was alone, and surrounded by darkness. I couldn’t see or sense anything. I couldn’t even see my own body. Then something started.

At first it was just tapping, like the steps of a tap dancer. It was a low and quiet noise, so faint I wasn’t certain I had heard anything at all. They came through the pitch darkness from a source I could not see. They sounded hollow and distant, far too distant for such a quiet noise to travel, and echoed despite not having anything visible to make them echo.

Stranger still was the rhythm. The steps bounced and clicked like a tap dancers, but seemed to follow no pattern at all. They came in bursts of inhuman speed then paused at random intervals, following no structure or cadence.

Most unsettling of all, however, was the strange feeling I got when I heard them. The second I noticed the taps everything in me warned me of danger. Though I could never tell you why, I felt disturbed and nervous to a degree I had never felt before. There was a lot that was clearly wrong that I could explain with words. The irregularity of the rhythm, the inexplicable echo, the distant hollowness, the inhuman bursts of speed were all recognizably wrong. But there was something else that was far worse.

It made me think of something I had been told a long time ago. Sometimes we can sense things we don’t consciously notice. If we walk into a room the moment before a fight, we will know, even if we don’t know why. The subtle cues- glares, avoidance of eye contact, tightened fists, barely heard threats- will warn us of the danger. If a wild animal were following us, we may here the noise of sticks breaking or of its breath, and our mind would tell us to run without us knowing why. This, in the wild, was life or death. Most superstitions come from these ancient instincts. We know there is something wrong, but we don’t know why.

And there was something wrong with those steps.

I woke to the sound of my alarm. I looked at my clock, which told me it was 7 am. For a moment I lay in my bed. What could have caused such an odd dream? The sounds in it were strange. I had never seen tap dancing before, and the rhythm was impossible for a human to maintain anyway. I looked around my room for something that may have caused it. My bed was normal. The same blue walls, single window and bookshelf as before. Perhaps something else in my apartment caused it, but I couldn’t think of what. I had never had a dream like that before and didn’t know why I had, or why it stayed so firmly in my mind.

I shrugged my shoulders. A dream was a dream, and nothing more. I needed to get to work, and strange dreams wouldn’t be an excuse for being late. I got up slowly, exhausted from a night broken by the unsettling nightmares. I checked myself in the mirror, and the signs of a rough night were clear. My eyes were blood shot with dark circles underneath them, and my skin was haggard, hanging as if it was loosely attached to my bones. Nevertheless, I got dressed, and headed to work.
For the most part my day was normal. I took the bus, paid the fair and said hello to the bus driver. I showed my card at the reception desk and went into the office. I sat at my desk, got down to work, took my breaks, and finished at 4:00 just liked any other day. People smiled and asked how I was doing, work was done, and all went well.

However, it was clear something was wrong.

It took me a while to notice what it was. Like with the tapping, there was simply a general feeling of unease which I couldn’t identify.

It became clear when I was talking to Carla, a middle aged and brown haired woman. We shared a cubical where we both worked at our computer.

“Jerald,” she asked, speaking to me, “did you see where my coffee went?”

I looked around. It was right beside her, within reach of her right arm.

“Yes Carla, it’s right there? Can’t you see it?” I replied.

“Oh, oh jeeze excuse me. I guess I am just a bit out of it today. Didn’t sleep well last night.”
I took in the words slowly, but something about them struck me. Then I realized what it was.

Everyone, from the bus driver to the receptionist to the people at my office, had the same haggard, exhausted look that I had. They all had bloodshot eyes with bags under them. They all moved slowly and spoke in low voices. Not a single person that I saw that day had slept well.

I began to notice small changes in the way people behaved. Things moved slower, people’s voices sounded slightly different. I tried to tell myself that it was all in my head, that I just needed more sleep, but the feeling persisted.

There could be a thousand explanations, I knew. Something on the highway had made too much noise, interrupting peoples sleep. Perhaps there was a storm I missed. Maybe people were kept up by a news report of some violent activity in someplace I had never heard of. Most likely of all, was that it was just a coincidence, and I was tricking myself by making it seem significant.

But the thought still stayed in my head. The more I looked around me, the more I was sure it was true. Something was keeping people from sleeping, and I had to know what it was.

I returned to my apartment and ate a quick supper. I packed everything for the next day, and got ready for bed.

I tried to make sure nothing would disturb me that night. Perhaps it was some outside factor, like a broken pipe or extra traffic that created the dreams and left me awake. I closed my door, and double checked the lock. I shut the window and closed my blinds. Finally, I got a pair of earplugs and put them in. I set my alarm, turning it up so I could hear it with the plugs, and lay down to sleep.

The noise was back. However, this time it was louder, much louder. While the night before it had been so quiet and distant I was barely sure I heard anything at all, tonight it was clear. It was the same irregular rhythm, almost inhuman and impossible in its steps, and with no music or beauty. The same echo and hollowness, like something distant in a cave.

I was still surrounded by pitch black. I had no idea what it was that was making the noise. However, each step sent chills down my spine, and came with the same sense of something utterly and inexplicably wrong.

They were getting closer. Each step was slightly louder and sharper, as if the movement of the dance brought the dancer toward me with each step, and the feeling of unease grew and grew. Soon the dancer would be in focus, and I was sure I didn’t want to see it.

I woke up to the alarm again, feeling more tiered then I did when I went to sleep. I got ready, and left my bedroom.

I wandered down the street towards my bus stop. The faces around me were more haggard and weary then the day before. People stared at the ground and walked in unsteady paces, not having the energy to straighten up. A traffic cop wandered by rows of cars without checking for proofs of payment. A homeless man with a hat in front of himself slapped his legs and the ground lazily as his eyes rolled back, possibly in a drugged or drunken stupor. The bus driver didn’t check the number of tickets and dollar bills that were handed to him, and I am not certain if I paid the right amount.

I got to work, and did my best to make it through the day. I moved slowly and barely got anything done, but it didn’t seem anyone noticed. All the people around me were absorbed in their own worlds, struggling too hard to complete their own work to pay attention to me.

Carla and I forced some chat between ourselves. However, for the most part we barely had enough energy to even acknowledge each other’s existence. Between to two of us we finished nearly a dozen cups of coffee, which lay piled up in and around the garbage can as the janitor didn’t seem to notice the mess.

There was something else bothering me. If I had been more awake and aware, I may have been able to figure out what it was more easily. As it was, it stayed at the edge of my mind, like a name on the tip of my tongue or a few seconds of a song which was stuck in my head but I couldn’t identify. I couldn’t get it out of my mind, and I couldn’t figure out what it was. Something about that morning had disturbed me greatly.

I took the bus back and went through my nightly routine, still mulling over what it could be. I lay down, still thinking about it. I was at the edge of sleep when the idea hit me, bringing me fully away and conscious for the first time in two days. My heart beat so loudly and quickly I could hear it in my ears and my breathing came in great gasping pants. Instantly sweat poured off my forehead and soaked my bed sheets. I knew exactly what was bothering me.

It was the homeless man I had passed by that morning, the one I thought was drunk. He had been tapping the same rhythm I heard in my dreams.

At first I didn’t notice that I was in the dream

I had tried to stay awake. The second I realized what it was I had heard that morning, I had gotten out of my bed and walked into the kitchen. I remember making coffee to keep myself awake.

However, here I was again. The thought that I must be asleep on the ground somewhere, or perhaps passed out on my couch, passed briefly through my mind.

No matter.

I was here, and here I stayed.

The tapping was back. Once again, it was far louder, almost deafening.

But something had changed.

At first it was just a light. That may not be the right word for it, however, because like everything else in this dream it didn’t behave like it should.

Everything around me was still pitch black. If the dream had allowed me to have a hand and I had held it in front of me, I would not have seen it.

However, what I could see was a tiny dot in front of me, seemingly coming over a horizon that was far closer than it should have been. There was just enough light to see it and nothing else.
I watched the dot in horrid fascination. It was clear to me that it, somehow, was the origin of the tapping noise. It gave me the same chills and sense of unease as the sound had, but far stronger now that I could see it.

It slowly grew and grew, becoming the shape of a head. As it moved towards me it also came higher, clearing the horizon until its entire body was visible.

It was at that point I realized that all my horror and feelings of something inexplicably wrong were justified.

It took my mind a moment to comprehend what I saw. I almost wanted to laugh, break down and fall into insanity rather than accept that this was in front of me. This thing broke all the laws of nature I had lived with. It was something that, from what I knew, could not have existed in the same world I did.

But there it was.

I had no idea what it was, but it was not human. It may have had the shape and outline of a human, but it wasn’t.

If it had been human it would have been a tall man with light brown hair and a face I couldn’t see yet. It wore a bright red and white suit, with tight leggings and a chest split down to the belly button. If it were standing still, everything about it would mark it as human.
The way it moved, however, was distinctly inhuman.

The limbs moved randomly about, flailing as it stepped. They bent at odd angles, impossible for any living creature. The spine twisted and twirled into bizarre knots and shapes. The joints would bend all the way forward and continue on past the natural point, looping around in circles they shouldn’t have been able to make. Then they would twist back and in entirely the wrong direction. At times it would bend where no man had joints to bend, with twists occurring halfway up the fore arm or on the shin.

This grotesque, disfigured thing moved toward me at a slow but unending pace. The tapping of its feet continued along with the cracking of its own limbs, still making that disturbing rhythm. The sound was off from what I saw, like hearing gunfire seconds after seeing it happen miles away. Everything about what I saw was wrong.

If I could have closed my eyes, I would have.

The alarm woke me up and I found myself lying on my living room carpet in front of the TV, which was turned to the news. It took me a second to realize the alarm may have been going for a while.
I looked at the clock. It was 8:23, and I was almost late for work.

I rushed out of my apartment, not bothering to eat, shave, or even turn off the TV. I ran and barely made the last bus toward my office.

I sat down on a seat.

The air on the bus was thick with anxiety.

Everywhere around me exhausted eyes were kept awake only by terror. People were jittery, glancing around nervously and tapping themselves to stay away, fearful of what would happen if they slipped back into sleep. I swore that every so often someone, in their sleepless absentmindedness, would begin to tap the same irregular rhythm that had haunted my dreams. Though it may have been the exhaustion that clouded my own mind, I am certain that eyes would dart towards them, filled with fearful recognition, until they had stopped the awful sound.

People tried to maintain a semblance of normality. Conversations continued in broken and winding sentences, drifting off into the gibberish of a sleepless mind. All around me was the constant noise of a city. The whine of the bus’s engine, the squeak of tires, and the conversation of countless faceless people in the crowds continued.

But something was different.

Every so often, a noise would come through the endless moan of the city. It was like hearing your name while in a noisy crowd or the phone ring when in the shower- the sounds would meld together to make something they were not.

And that sound was a tapping. But not just any tapping, the tapping from my dreams.

I tried to tell myself it was my own imagination, that a lack of sleep was making me hallucinate. But It seemed that a moment of silence that always occurred after it, or the eyes that darted in every direction when it happened. People had heard it, and were reacting to it. I was certain of it.

I got off the bus and headed straight to work. I ignored the street musicians who, despite having music in front of them, lost track of their place and broke into an all too familiar rhythm.
I got to the office, and did everything I could not to pay attention to anyone around me.

They seemed thankful for my efforts. Everyone around me was too exhausted, and too frightened, to talk. It was on the tip of our tongs and no one wanted to say it. There was something wrong, and we all knew it.

I returned to my apartment that afternoon. The TV was still on, and I went to turn it off. Just as the screen was turning black, I caught the last snippet of sound. For a second, I was sure I had heard the word “Dancer.”

As quickly as I could I turned the tv back on. I had missed it, and they had moved on to another conversation.

However, the signs were all there.

They had the bags under their bloodshot eyes, the lose skin, the sad, dreary expressions that came from days of constant nightmares.

I wasn’t the only one.

If he existed, the dancer was everywhere.

Once again I had no recollection of going to sleep. I hadn’t tried to, and would have done everything I could to stay awake.

But there I was. The dream had surrounded me again, and I was trapped inside it until morning.
The taps were louder than thunder. The being, whatever it was, was moving toward me and getting larger. Despite the fact it was clearly getting nearer, the steps still maintained their distant, hollow sound, the echo, and the moment’s pause between the sight of disfigured feet hitting the ground and their noise.

The being was close to me now. It was close enough that, if it had been facing me, I should have seen its face in detail, down to the pupils in its eyes.

However, it had its back turned.

I swayed from side to side in its regular inhuman manner, coming close to letting me see its face. Each time, however, it turned away at the last moment. It was still moving toward me, and if I could have moved away, I would have. However, I could not control my own body, and was stuck in place.

Finally, it began to turn completely toward me.

First it stopped its horrid dance like movement. Then its feet twisted around, facing a full one hundred and eighty degrees from its body. Then its knees cranked backwards, and slowly its entire body twisted, rattling as it did, toward me.

And I saw its face.

I awoke in complete panic. The alarm hadn’t gone off, but my own breathing was louder then it could have been. I stared into the darkness around me, almost in tears from the fright. Everything from the clothes I wore to the carpet beneath me was soaked with sweat. I didn’t know what was worse-the image of the face, or the vague feeling that it was somehow familiar.

In the pale light of an early morning sun I could make out that I had once again collapsed in my living room. I got up and ran to the nearest light switch and flicked it on. Light flooded my room, only relieving my fright slightly.

I looked at my clock. It was 5:45, and on a normal day I would have gone back to sleep. Today, however, the thought of even maybe seeing that thing and its awful face again kept me awake.
I got ready slowly. I was grateful for the extra time, as every movement took twice as long as it normally did. I fumbled with my buttons, and cut myself twice while shaving. Every time I paused for even a moment, I slipped slightly towards unconsciousness and the horrible, inhuman rhythm filled my ears.

I drank as much coffee as I could and headed outside.

On the bus, all semblance of normalcy had collapsed. No one attempted regular conversation or bothered to hide their terrified jittering and glances around the bus. The sound of the tapping still came at times, and now the reaction wasn’t even subtle. The entire bus would turn and stare off in its direction with worried eyes, wondering when it would stop.

The bus driver, just as exhausted as everyone else, could barely work. He swerved left and right, and almost collided with a tree. Finally I hit the button and got off, deciding, as many had, to walk the rest of the way.

The first thing I noticed was an artist, offering sketches for five dollars. He had a customer, but seemed to be struggling to make the face look right. He kept trying over and over again, and finally threw the paper down on the ground in front of himself. I saw the edges of the half drawn face, and tried to tell myself they didn’t look like the disgusting creature I had seen the night before. The artist, as well as his customer, stared at it in horror.

The second one came from a group of children playing by the road. They ran around and flailed their arms, playing and kicking dirt to make lines on the ground. I watched, knowing I would regret seeing what I saw but unable to turn away. It wasn’t long before my horrible suspicions were confirmed, and the lines took shape. Slowly, it became the rough outline of the same face from the dreams. The children didn’t seem to notice, and continued playing, still jumping around and flailing their arms. I became nauseous watching, and for a moment I was certain one of the children was imitating the inhuman dancing that I had seen.

At the time I still wasn’t convinced it was real. It seemed like all the signs were there, but it may have been my imagination. Perhaps I was looking too far into things. Perhaps I was even going insane. That was almost a welcome thought at this point. Even telling myself this was all a hallucination, and that soon I would be tied in a madhouse until it stopped, was better than accepting it.

But all thoughts in that direction ended that afternoon.

I was working at my desk when I felt something hit me from behind.

I looked over to see Carla leaning over me.

“Oh jeeze, I’m sorry Jerald” she said.

“What? Did you trip?” I asked.

“No, I think I just fell. I’m sorry, I’ve had trouble sleeping. Its that god damn dan…..” she stopped as if she suddenly realized she was saying the wrong thing, and looked away.
I sat up straighter and looked toward her. “The dancer,” I said in a calm voice.

She turned toward me, a look of horror in her eyes. Every hand in the office stopped talking and everyone stopped working. Faces in the office turned toward me, filled with fright and exhausted helplessness.

“The dancer,” she replied.

“You’ve seen it took. That… that thing from the dreams.”

“Yes,” she said, and others around the office nodded.

“Do you… did you see what it looked like? What its face was?” I asked.

“Yes, just last night. I… I’m not sure if I remember it clearly.”

“Maybe we can figure this out. Get out paper, let’s see if we can draw it.”

Right now I can’t tell you why I said this. Looking back it was ridiculous, even insane to try something like that. Perhaps it was the lack of sleep. Perhaps it is just hindsight. Or perhaps it made me do it. But at the time, no one seemed to object. We took out a piece of paper, and someone from the office I hadn’t seen much before but claimed to be able to draw started working on it.
We all started describing what we remembered, like witnesses describing a criminal to a police artist. None of us could remember it exactly, but we recognized parts of it. And image began to form, and it was one we all knew.

On the piece of paper was the most terrifying face I had ever seen. Its features were sharp and clear. Its cheekbones poked out of its skin and its cheeks were sunken in like a skeleton. Its hair was parted on the right side, with a long lick of it extending halfway down to its left eye. Its eyes were narrow and deep in its skull, but blazed with the look of mischievousness and malicious intent. Its ears were thin and pointed, almost to the point of being inhuman. But worse of all was the cruel, toothy grin that it flashed as if baring its teeth to bite. The grin was far too wide, with its lips extending too high for any human.

We all backed away from drawing.

It was a face we had never really see before, but all recognized. It came in a thousand names that repeated again and again throughout history and in the subconscious of every human. Children today were afraid of the boogey man. Earlier it had been Spring Heeled Jack, the Black Horseman, the Wendigo, Beelzebub, Loki, Prometheus, the Titan, Lucifer. Its limbs were shattered and tortured, as if it was flung from the heavens and shattered on the ground or tied to a rock to be tortured over and over again, immortal but unable to stop the pain or repair its devastated bones. If it was the origin of the old names, or had taken them afterwards to feed on the fear on the fear of its victims, was unclear.

But every man knew it. Madmen knew it better, it was what haunted their visions and nightmares. It was the face of fright that every man knew in the deepest reaches of his mind but couldn’t bring out clearly. It was a face scrawled on the walls of madhouses, and painted into scenes of torture. Something we all told ourselves didn’t exist and created a thousand explanations for throughout history.

And it was here now, in our dreams.
I began to hear a noise.

We all heard it, though at first we all denied that we had. No one wanted to acknowledge the sound.
But it was there.

I prayed for a moment that I had slipped into a dream again, but I knew the truth. This wasn’t coming from a dream. This wasn’t random noise combining into a bizarre semi-hallucination. This was real.

All around me was dead silence, except for that tapping of that thing.

It was clear and precise. Gone was the hollowness or semblance of an echo. Whatever was making the noise was in the hallway outside the front door of the office.
And it was getting closer.

I began to back away slowly. Others did the same, staring toward the door and the origin of the noise.

It was getting louder and louder. From the sound, it should have been just outside the door.
The doorknob turned, and I screamed. I turn and ran as fast as I could along with everyone else in the room.

I didn’t dare to look behind me. I ran out the back door of the office, down the stairs and toward the parking lot. Behind me I could hear the screams and cries for help of people who knew they faced death. I didn’t turn back. There was nothing I could do, and I knew it.

I ran as fast as I could. The streets were empty. No cars were moving on the road, and nobody was walking on the side walk.

Miraculously, there was a bus waiting for me at the stop. Though there was no one waiting beside it, the door was open, inviting me forward.

I ran toward the bus, then stopped.

The driver was exactly the same as always, except for a horrid, impossibly long grin on his face. He extended an arm forward. The limb twisted and creaked in impossible angles and beckoned me inside. I shook my head, and kept running.

I ran as fast as I could. I passed by the same field I had seen the children in earlier. They were still there. Or, what had once been them was there. They were all staring at me with the same expression as the driver. None of them moved from the spot they stood on, but all of them extended their arms towards me, beckoning me with broken joints. I looked away, and kept running.

Everywhere I went it was the same. No one moved, at least not enough to leave the spot they stood on. They all stood staring at me with horrifying grins and waving me towards themselves with arms that twisted in wrong directions. I did everything I could to ignore them, and finally made it home.

I locked all my doors, shut my windows, and sat down.

I had no idea what to think, or what to do. I wasn’t sure if I was safe. Something had happened to all those people out there. That, or it had happened to me. It occurred to me that it was still entirely possible that I was insane. This could all have been a hallucination, or a horrid dream. What a welcome thought it was, and one I vainly wished was true.
But as much as I tried, I couldn’t convince myself it was.

The day wore on, and became night. I drank all the coffee in my house, trying to stay awake. But I knew deep down it was impossible

The sound was in my ears, as if it was mere meters away. At first I thought it was the dream again.
But I was wide awake.

It was the middle of the night. I had passed out on the floor just like each night before.
Unlike those nights, however, I had been woken up by a noise before the dream started.
The footsteps were inside my apartment.

I got up and bolted for the door. I didn’t bother to look around the room, fearing what I would see. But out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of the pointed ears and the terrible grin.
I ran out of the now empty apartment building and into my car, which I kept stored for long trips and emergencies. I got inside and drove. I had no idea where I was going, as long as it was away.
I sped down as fast as I could. The streets were completely empty, as nothing moved. I ignored all the faces on the side of the road, knowing full well what they would look like and what expression they would have. Once I had left the city, I saw no one and passed no vehicle.

I drove all day, siphoning fuel from a side of the road gas station that was as empty as everything else I passed, then kept driving.

The world began to seem different. I am not sure if it really looked different, or if it was more of a sense. Things were darker. Light wasn’t as light as before, and the sun wasn’t as bright. Even in the middle of the day, when the sun was right on top of me, everything seemed dim and cold. The little light I did see appeared a more reddish colour, like rust.
Or, though I fear to say it, like blood.

The sky itself begun to look different. It changed in an odd way, something like an optical illusion. If I looked at the sky, trying to see it, it was normal, blue with white clouds. But whenever I caught a glimpse of it randomly or saw it out of the corner of my eye, it was different. Much different. The clouds became darker, almost black, and the sky a deep red color like the light I saw all around me.

Soon it was nightfall, and once again it was different. Even the dark was darker than normal, and the black was blacker. There are no other words for it. It was more of a sense, an inexplicable feeling rather than outright site. But I knew it was true.

I began to feel my eyelids grow heavy. I knew that if I kept driving, I would fall asleep at the wheel, just like I had collapsed on the ground the nights before.

I pulled over. I had put a few hundred miles between myself and that thing, hopefully that was enough.

I fell asleep.

I awoke again in the morning. The first rays of a dim sun were shining through my windshield. At first I thought I had survived. I looked at the road, and considered what to do.
Something caught my eye. A distant speck appeared for a moment in my mirror, and began to get larger and larger. Something was coming toward me, and it didn’t take long to figure out what it was.

It was there. I could see it clearly now, and even at the distance, it was unmistakable. The random motion, the impossible twitches, the horrid, offbeat dancing, and worse of all the inexplicable sense of dread were all the same. I could hear its footsteps and the cracking of its bones in my ears.

I put my foot on the peddle and drove as fast as I could. I pushed my car to its very limits, trying to get away.

That night I stopped again, knowing I was going to pass out. I wished with all my heart I could stay away longer, but I knew that vicious spell would fall over me and I would collapse soon.
I barely made it through half the night. I awoke when it was almost pitch black. Slightly dazed, I wondered what woke me.

I heard a tapping.

Right outside my window was the grinning face of that horrid thing. It was tapping a finger on my window in the same irregular pattern I had heard in my dreams. It danced toward me, never breaking eye contact, never releasing its smile. It reached toward the handle of my car door.

I drove away.

Every day and every night it was the same. I moves as quickly as possible, siphoning gas and pushing my car to its limits.

And every time I checked the mirror, it was there in the distance.

Every time I stopped, it was closer than before.

Every time I fell asleep, I woke up after a shorter interval to see it standing there and hear its awful sound. I tried to stay awake every night, but somehow sleep always overcame me, and I would pass out without realizing it.

I became more and more exhausted as my intervals of sleep became shorter and shorter. My car, too, began to wear down. I had gotten lucky in the first few days, always finding gas stations when I needed them. Gradually they became further apart and harder to find.

Finally the engine huffed, and it ran out, the final fumes burning out of my car’s engine. I sobbed hopelessly. Night was drawing in, and I knew that no matter what I did, the unwanted sleep would come again.

This time I barely slept a minute when I woke up.

I felt something on my cheek.

Its finger was running down my face, caressing it.

I looked over. That thing was sitting in the seat beside me, grinning at me. I didn’t have the energy to scream, but I felt the tears run down my cheeks.

I got out the door and ran. After weeks of barely any sleep my body could barely move and objected to my commands, but I did what I could. There are few better motivators then mortal fear.
I ran as fast and as far as my body would allow. I didn’t bother looking back. The entire time I ran, I could hear the tapping of that thing’s feet coming up behind me. No matter how fast I moved, they never seemed to get further way. However, every time I stopped, they got closer with frightening speed.

Finally I found what seemed to be an abandoned house. It was a small, single story building, with only one window and one door. It was more of a shack then a house really, or maybe a hunting lodge. It had come out of nowhere, the only building after miles of road and forest.

For a second I doubted if I should go in. This could easily be a trap of some kind, set up by that being, whatever it was. But I had no other option. I was out of breath, and my legs ached and could barely move.

I stepped inside, and locked the door.

There was only one room, which contained inside it a bed, dining table, kitchen, and desk.
I locked every window and covered them with furniture and objects I found around the house. The footsteps were getting louder, and I would put anything I could between myself and them. I grabbed a knife, from the kitchen, not knowing what I would do with it when the time came. I am not certain if it will even work against whatever that thing is.

It is outside my door now, hammering at it. The pounding is ringing in my ears, and I can hear the door begin to crack.

I found the pen and paper for this inside the desk. I do not know if anyone will read this, or even if there is anyone alive to read it. However, I can only hope and pray that someone will come across it and know my story. Maybe, then, someone can find a way to stop this thing before it’s too late.

When I grabbed the knife, I told myself that I would use it on the thing. However, I know that this was wishful thinking, and I doubt there is anything that can stop this creature. There is a way the knife can save me from this thing, however, and I know what I must do. Someone told me that suicide is a sin, but I don’t know if there is a god and you don’t fear hell when its evil is outside your door.

Credit To – Eric, A.M.B.M.

A Dangerous Man

April 30, 2014 at 12:00 AM

He came into town on a cold, dry wind
Kicking up dust and blowing sand
The sun dimmed for a moment that day
The howling wind seemed to say
“He has the look of a dangerous man”

His eyes were hot and black as ash
Glaring at those whom he passed
A gun at his hip and a hidden knife
Surely he ended countless lives
Whispers rose like the hiss of snakes
“It’s plain to see, anyone can
He must be a dangerous man”

Not a word he spoke as he came through town
His mouth twisted in a constant frown
His footsteps echoed in an empty street
The locals hide when he came around
They closed windows with a tinny creek
Trying to avoid the dangerous man

He checked the inn where he planned to stay
The keeper shivered from his gaze
The man paid up front and spoke no words
That betray the thoughts of a dangerous man

The locals gathered around and spoke in fear
The Sheriff ran to grab his gear
The Pastor called out to his god
They wailed and cried out for a plan

Save us from this dangerous man

A young man named Johnny held his girl
As she trembled and shook with fear
“If you are a man you’ll confront him dear
To save me from the dangerous man”

So he grabbed his knife and found the Inn
He snuck into a darkened room
And creeped to prepare his mortal sin

When the bed he had in sight
He stabbed the body 20 times
But when he turned on the light
It was not the dangerous man

He shook and screamed in his fright
He had killed a man without a fight
A crowd was coming, no room for flight
Fearing the law and the people’s might
He leapt from a dangerous height
His bones cracked, his blood ran out
And he died damning a dangerous man

The sheriff stood by the dead
And removed the hat from his head
“Two lives he has claimed today
How many more will he slay?
We must stand up before we lay
At the feet of a dangerous man”

A crowd gathered round to chant and cheer
With torches and knives they came right near
The old in, where it seemed too clear
That inside slept a dangerous man

The keeper cried as they threw the torch
He choked back a sob and tears

And watched it burn his life and home
“You must be wrong! I was alone
I couldn’t let him stay inside
Though it may hurt my pride
I simply fear a dangerous man”

A scream was heard from the Inn
The keeper shouted “it’s my wife!
“I thought she left, but she’s trapped inside!

If you don’t help her, I’ll end my life!
A victim of the dangerous man”

“Liar!” the people shouted
“You work for him, and let him go
Now you want us to burn and die
We will punish you for your lie”
They tied him up with ropes and chains
And threw him into the flames
He screamed out loud and long
As his flesh melted and turned black
chocking he let out his final words
“I am not a dangerous man”

Confusion grew in the street
They had burned the inn to dust
But nothing was gained from the bust
Someone must face the wrath
Of a people ready to fight

A man was picked, his job to greet
The stranger he was first to meet
They chained him to the rock hard ground
And beat him beneath their feet
Till all that’s left was a bloody mound

All for befriending the dangerous man

The sheriff too incurred their wrath
He had failed to halt the path
That caused the pain that occurred that day

“You did it too, I’m not to blame!”
He shouted out, but was ignored
Some stood by and fought to death
Cursing former friends with last breaths
The sheriff was cut up in bits
An hour he suffered beneath their knives
As he screamed and tried to fight

His head was posted on a spike
A warning to the dangerous man

But in their haste to fix the wrong
The people missed a problem that grew
The flame spread on a wind that blew
The smoke rose and blocked the sun
All the people tried to run
But they burned and chocked on smoke
Till they were dead, every one
Without the help of the dangerous man

A stranger stood, feet in blood
Which soaked right through skin and ash
Bodies lay on the ground
Mistakes that worked like a plan
He stared at what he found
With the black eyes of a dangerous man

Credit To – Eric AMBM

The Writer’s Ink

January 22, 2014 at 12:00 AM

Jonathan sat trembling in the dark. He stared at nothing, his eyes not penetrating the circle of blackness that surrounded him. A single lamp illuminated the round table he sat at, allowing him enough light to see the edges of it and nothing more. A tea pot and half-empty cup sat in the centre. With a trembling hand he reached toward it and took it towards his lips, not truly looking at it as he drank. He set the cup down on a plate. The cup rattled against it, the only sound save for the thunder that rumbled in the distance.

He heard a switch flick. Jonathan shut his eyes for a moment, temporarily blinded by the harshness of the light that filled the room. He opened them again to see a small, white kitchen. A single window and two doors broke the array of cabinets the covered the walls.

Standing in an open door was Chris, Jonathan’s friend and housemate. He had a hand on the light switch.

“John, what are you doing? It’s after midnight!” Chris asked.

Jonathan kept staring forward and didn’t reply.

“John, answer me. This is the third time I’ve caught you up like this. What are you doing?”

After a moment’s pause Jonathan replied, speaking in a dry, quiet voice. “I had the dream again.” He still stared unblinking toward the window, though he didn’t seem to notice what was behind it. Chris flinched.

For months now, Jonathan had been experiencing the same recurring dream. In it, he stood outside his own life, looking in at it. He saw himself live his own life, going through the same daily routine and experiences over and over again. However, something about it all seemed unreal. All his actions were artificial, all his conversations seemed planned. A strange feeling that something wasn’t quite right filled him and grew and grew. Slowly, and so gradually he barely noticed, his actions were replaced with words. Instead of seeing things happen he read them in a massive wall of text that described his every movement. His conversations came in quotation marks which he read instead of spoke. Soon his entire life seemed to be a novel, running forward toward a conclusion that was always surrounded in haze. When he got to the end, he always awoke, but the feeling never left. Even sometimes when he was awake he began to lose his feelings of normality. For brief moments, barely noticeable, he saw objects described in text rather than in their own form, and his own movements seemed to be described by a nameless narrator.

Chris sighed and walked forward. He rested a hand on Jonathan’s shoulder and spoke in a reassuring voice. “Listen, John, I know you are worried. But you have to remember, it’s just a dream! You have been very stressed lately and started having nightmares. It happens, and its nothing to worry about.”

Jonathan chuckled slightly. “Oh no, no it isn’t.”

“What do you mean? Look, John, get back to sleep. You’re starting to worry me.”

For the first time that night, Jonathan stood and faced Chris. He was taller than Chris, and the shadow he cast obstructed Chris’ face. “Don’t tell me you haven’t had that feeling! That creeping, inching suspicion that something isn’t right? Doesn’t everything just seem too dramatic, too convenient? THIS ISN’T HOW REALITY SHOULD BE! THIS ISN’T HOW PEOPLE SHOULD BE SPEAKING, IT ISN’T HOW THEY ACT!” Jonathan realized he was shouting and stopped. He breathed heavily and tried to calm down, resting his head in his hands.

Chris looked at him with worried eyes. “Alright, John, here’s what we are going to do. Just go back to sleep for now. Tomorrow we are going to make an appointment with Dr. Limestone. She helped you with the dreams before, and…”

“No.” Jonathan said, shaking his head. “No, I am not going back to Dr. Limestone! She isn’t going to fix this, she isn’t going to solve the problem. She isn’t part of it and I don’t even think she is a character.”

“John, what are you talking about? A character in what?”

“THE BOOK! Don’t you get it yet? I don’t know if it’s a comedy, or a drama, or what… But we are all part of it, and I don’t think she is.” That was the most horrifying part of his dreams. He felt as if hundreds of eyes were reading the text along with him, learning his every movement as if they were plot points in a story. He still had the feeling at that very moment, that in a strange, twisted way, he was being watched.

Chris stared at him, not knowing what to say. Jonathan stood up out of his chair and faced him, holding his hands in front of himself as if pleading Chris to understand. The tea cup fell from his hand, shattering on the ground. “Look, isn’t this all just too convenient? Doesn’t it ever feel that way? Listen to that thunder. Doesn’t it seem like a perfect setting? And everything is like that! The lights when you entered, the tea cup, by god, even the way I’m standing! This isn’t how things work! They don’t come together to make themes! Weather shouldn’t just suit my mood like this. Do you not see it!?”

Chris was taken aback. “Well uhh… John, that’s all just ridiculous. Storms happen, whether you are angry or not. The tea cup was an accident, and we can get a new one. Now what is this about Dr. Limestone? What do you mean she isn’t a character?”

Jonathan went back to holding his head in his hands. “I know I am not going to see the doctor because she hasn’t been described. I have no idea what she looks like.”


“If this was real life, then there would hundreds of little, insignificant things happening. I would know dozens of people and unimportant details. But this isn’t real life, and anything that isn’t part of the story won’t be described. I am not going to see Dr. Limestone. Outside of this conversation, she doesn’t exist, and we don’t even know what she looks like.”

“John, that’s ridiculous! This is beside the point…”

“Really? Describe her.”

Chris opened his mouth to respond, then stopped. He realized he truly had no idea.

“Well, she was a psychiatrist…”

“that had helped me with the dreams before? Is that what you were going to say? Because that was established for this conversation. You have no idea what she looks like, do you?”

Chris paused. That was exactly what he was going to say, down to referring to Jonathan in the third person. It did seem odd. “Well that doesn’t mean anything! We’ve just forgotten, that’s all. We haven’t seen her in months. Anyway, it isn’t important, what is important is that…” Chris said.

“STOP TRYING TO RATIONALIZE WHAT SHOULDN’T BE! There is no reason for us not to know what she looks like. It’s just a freaking plot device, that’s all it is. Even what you just did there, trying to change the topic to hide parts that haven’t been fleshed out! This isn’t how people act Chris.”

“Well, all right, but still that doesn’t mean anything. It’s just one person.”

“Oh really? Describe our neighbor’s to me. Describe your PARENTS. Describe anyone who isn’t directly related to this conversation, and I will believe you.”

Chris stared at him in shock, not knowing what to say. He searched his mind for anything, for his neighbours face, for his parent’s image, and found nothing. Over and over again he tried and came up blank.

“Well… Oh god… I don’t know. Maybe we are all just tired.” Chris said.

“Thank you Chris. Haha, Chris or Christ, my want to be protector and savior, who shines a light into my darkness! Nice imagery there, eh? Just like the storm? Alright then. What did you have for breakfast this morning?”

“I don’t know! It’s not important!”

“EXACTLY! ITS NOT IMPORTANT! We don’t know anything that isn’t directly important. Why is that? Why the hell should that be? It’s just too god damn convenient! Look, if this is actually a house we have been living in, you should be able to answer me this question at least. What is behind that door?” Jonathan pointed toward the closed door at the other end of the kitchen.

“I… I don’t know. I don’t know what to say.”

“Exactly! There is no reason for two people who have lived in a household for years to not know what is behind a single door. It just wasn’t relevant when you turned on the lights, so it wasn’t described. ”

“Alright John, alright. Say you are right and we are just in a story, what then? Do we open the door?”

“I don’t know. It is there for a reason now, we have drawn attention to it. Now there has to be something important.”

“Oh god, so now you think just be talking about things we can influence the freaking universe? That’s insane.”

“No, it must be! Look, it’s like the tea. I had the tea so that the rattling glass and the broken cup could represent my emotions. Now that we have drawn attention to that door, it must represent something. This is how it works, yes? You turned on the light, flooding light into my darkness, but I denied it and put you into my shadow.” For a second he closed his eyes. He hadn’t seen Chris hit the switch, but the words “he had a hand on the light switch” flooded his mind in black lettering. “It’s all foreshadowing! So when the kitchen had two doors, one open and one closed, there is something important behind the closed one. Chekov’s Gun, right? You came in from one to help me sort this out in part one. Part two occurs behind that door.”

“Well what then, should we open it?”

“I don’t know. We don’t know what is behind it. We don’t even know what type of story this is!”

“That’s true… This could be a drama, an action, a comedy… That wouldn’t be too bad. Perhaps this is all just a joke!”

“Really? You want to live in a comedy? Do you realize people would be laughing at us, our every move? What if we are just two buffoons for people to mock? God, If we were just two cartoonish idiots, would we even have the intelligence to tell?”

“I… I hadn’t thought of that. It is still better then a tragedy.”

“I… I don’t know. Look, we can work this out. It can’t be an action, neither of us really knows how to fight or carries any weapons.” Jonathan spoke, realizing he established it as fact as he said it. “I don’t think it is a comedy, because we would probably be able to remember funnier things happening. Then again, maybe we wouldn’t as part of the plot… I don’t know.”

“Hopefully it’s a drama, or a romance. Imagine if this entire thing was just to set us up with some perfect woman?” Chris said hopefully.

“I don’t know. Look, we should be able to tell what this is from our surroundings. The writing and descriptions should reflect what the plot is. We should see foreshadowing, maybe we can pick it out.” A slow realization began to dawn on Jonathan. Though he kept guessing, in his heart he knew exactly what sort of story he was in.

“Alright, well then what can we learn from this kitchen?” Chris asked.

Jonathan thought for a moment. “Everything in this conversation, and the things we have talked about, revolve around myself. I think it is safe to say I am the main character here.”

“Alright” Chris said, nodding and following along. “Then what has happened to you recently?”

“I’m worried Chris. With the thunder, the darkness, the nightmares, the falling cup… I don’t think this is a happy story. Something bad is going to happen, and it is going to happen soon.” As he spoke, thunder once again boomed on the horizon, and a flash of lightning filled the window with jagged light.

Chris swallowed. “Alright then. Do we open the door? Neither of us knows what is behind it, I think it’s safe to say we weren’t supposed to know. Somehow you’ve broken the mold. What do we do?”

Jonathan squeezed his eyes closed and gripped the back of his chair. He hadn’t even realized he had stood behind it. His knuckles turned white. Finally, he spoke. “If this is the sort of story I think it is, I don’t think we have a choice. Either we go through that door and figure out what is behind it, or it is going to come and get us. If we are the main characters, then we should be safe. Usually they survive.”

“Usually? Not always?”


Chris looked at Jonathan, then toward the door. “Alright then, we might as well get it over with. If I am the sidekick here, I guess that’s my job. I’m Christ anyway, right? I bring light into dark areas? I’m the sacrifice?”

“Chris! Don’t joke about that! Look, I don’t know…”

“Don’t worry! Like you said, we are safe, right? We are the main characters. We never die in the first act. Maybe it will just end up being a big joke anyway.”

Though he was still terrified, Jonathan slowly nodded. He couldn’t help but think that, by breaking their own plot line, they would no longer be safe as the heroes in a story. He feared to voice the complaint, as by saying it, he knew he would make it fact. He watched Christ walk forward and open the door carefully. The hinges squeaked as it opened, and a cloud of dust came into the kitchen. It was clear the door hadn’t been opened for a long, long time.

Beyond the door was near pitch black. Chris reached into a nearby drawer and took out a flash light. He turned it on and shone it into the darkness beyond, revealing a narrow wooden staircase that descended between two stone walls. He walked slowly down the stairs. Jonathan came behind him and followed into the unknown darkness.

Chris reached the end of the stairwell and paused. He turned to face into a small room, shining his light around.

“Dear.. Dear god John. This isn’t a comedy. This is a horror.”

Jonathan followed his gaze to find his worst fears confirmed. The floor of the room was covered with fine black dirt. Scattered across it were dozens of broken bones and skeletons along with ancient weapons. The walls were covered with blood red writing scrawled in dozens of languages, from ancient runes to modern letters in languages neither person could understand.

“RUN CHRIS! WE SOULDN’T HAVE COME HERE!” Jonathan shouted as he sprinted up the stairs. The entire building began shaking. The low rumbling he had once thought was thunder became a continuous noise that seemed to come from every direction at once. He ran toward the kitchen, but stopped in the doorway. The cabinets at the far end of the kitchen began to lose their form. They blurred then turned into written words, becoming replaced with descriptions of themselves. “Large white cabinet, with a silver handle. Small thin cabinet, with a golden handle. Electric oven, four stoves on top, black wit rnis of stl as black mltae slag asdf sdg
dsg sdfsdg&helli
p;” sdg dsg sdfg

sdgf gf


The letters began to slide down, mixing and forming indecipherable gibberish before disappearing into an ever growing sea of inky darkness. Jonathan realized that, having found out the truth and broken his role, he had removed the very thing that held his plot together. By going outside his own story he had destroyed his fictional universe.

Chris didn’t stop when Jonathan did. He ran into Jonathan’s back, and they both fell forward. Chris didn’t seem to notice what was happening and crawled forward, calling to Jonathan to keep running.

“NO! DON’T GO IN THERE! IT ISN’T REAL!” Jonathan shouted. Chris screamed as he finally saw walls melt around him. He crawled and clawed back towards the stairwell, but was overcome by the descending wall of letters. His feet began to change slowly. His face contorted in a look of incomprehensible horror as he saw his legs dissolve into letters, then disappear forever. He kept crawling forward, but nothing he could do would change his fate.

Jonathan watched in terror as his friend dissolved into oblivion. The very universe he lived in was dissolving around him. He turned and began to run down the stairs again, preferring the horror of the skeletons to the certain death in the kitchen.

He stumbled at the bottom and collapsed onto the dirt floor. His head scraped along the ground, forming a long gouge over his right eye that blinded it with blood. With his good eye he turned to see his fate. The oncoming wall of letters kept coming down the stairs, then stopped at the base. The letters molded together, filling in all the white space and forming a black wall. Jonathan felt it, and realized it became part of the same stone wall that now surrounded him. Using the dropped flashlight he looked around. He was trapped in a square stone room no more than twenty feet across.

Jonathan sat in the centre of the room, not knowing what to do. Time seemed to slip away, and he had no knowledge of its passing. He had no idea if he was there for minutes, or days, or years, or even centuries. He simply remained trapped alone in the darkness. Though he may have guessed he was there for days, the flashlight never dimmed, and the blood never stopped pouring from his head. There was nothing for him to do and he felt no reason to move.

Alone with an eternity to himself, he began to contemplate what had happened. He thought oh his own life, of his existence, and how he had come to be. He thought about himself. It seemed wrong to think that way.’Himself’ implied he was an actual living being, and he wasn’t sure if that was truly fitting. It suited him more to think in the third person, as he would have been written in the story. Was it fair to say he was ever anything more then that, a fictional creation?

His thoughts turned to the room. He had no idea where he was, or how the poor souls who had become the skeletons that surrounded him had found their way into the small, black cell. Perhaps he would join them. Perhaps someone else would come to inhabit the small space, and he would be gone forever. Perhaps it had already happened, and without a sense of time he hadn’t realized it. The thought sent a chill down his spine. He didn’t know what was worse- an eternal life in a cage, or simply ceasing to exist with no sign that he ever was. With no sense of time in this strange world, who was to say that it hadn’t already happened? Perhaps both were true in their own way. He realized he needed to leave some kind of permanent mark, so that somehow, maybe, another person might know he existed. He had to tell his story. With all the time imaginable to spare, and no time at all to lose, he thought about what he had to do.

After some time, though he had no idea how much, he stood up again. As if compelled by an unseen force, he walked toward the wall. He dipped his hand in the blood that flowed down his face and put it on the stone. He made lines which formed letters, then the letters formed words, and finally the words formed a story.

It began “Jonathan sat trembling in the dark…”

Credit To – Eric


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