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Instant Messaging

April 4, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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Rating: 7.3/10 (609 votes cast)

It all started on the fourteenth night of March, the night of my parents’ 20th wedding anniversary.

It was a wonderful, sunny day, if memory serves. Surprisingly warm for before the beginning of spring. The beautiful weather was perfect for the atmosphere of the day – being married for twenty years is obviously a momentous occasion, so my parents had booked a table at our favourite Italian restaurant.

Of course, this was a formal occasion, so I had my best suit on. It was 5:33, and I was just straightening my tie when my phone went off – I’d received a message. That’s strange, I thought, that never happens. I checked the message: it was from my mum. It was quite a jumble of numbers and letters, but through the vocabulary stew I could make out one legible phrase: “Please help me.” It should go without saying that this worried me greatly, so I immediately replied, “Are you okay?” Just as instantly, I got another text which read, “Oops. Pocket text!” I sighed with all the relief I had and continued to prepare myself.

A few minutes later, I received yet another message, this time from my dad. I checked the text, and once again it was a massive mixture of letters and numbers, with the phrase “Please help me” concealed within. Creepy though this was, my dad was always a joker, so I presumed he was just joking around, until I was sent another text saying, “Oops. Pocket text!” Now this sparked panic. Pure, unmistakable panic. Exactly half a minute passed when I received the exact same two messages from my sister. This could not be coincidental. It just couldn’t.

In a state of sheer anxiety, I started to run to the restaurant. I made it about a quarter of the way before I was stopped by a police officer. “Main road’s closed,” he said, “Huge car crash.” This was the exact moment I realised just what had happened. I demanded to see the wreckage, a request which I was surprised was allowed. When I got there, it wasn’t the remnants of the car that caught my eye, nor the flames billowing from the destroyed vehicle. No. I was horrified to see the lifeless corpses of my mother, father and sister. I asked for the estimated time of their deaths – all three of them were killed instantly by the collision, at 5:32.

A minute before the very first text.

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The Guide

March 6, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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Rating: 6.5/10 (490 votes cast)

I never knew you existed before, but now you’re all I can think about.

From the moment I saw you, something within me said “That’s it! That’s the one!” I was nervous because I have never been a guide before, but I know I am ready for this moment. The last thing I remember before dying was reading a small card, then looking up and seeing terrible red eyes peering into mine. Since this is my first time, I decided to do what my guide did for me.

You finally step outside your car and walk inside, stumbling a little on the icy sidewalk and peering tentatively at the icicles above. If I was able, I would laugh at the memory of my mother… or perhaps it was my grandmother… so long ago warning me of the deadly danger that icicles pose, but now I know better; that isn’t how death works at all. You slam the door behind you, but I glide through confidently, for I know I am still invisible to your eyes.

You turn toward the bathroom, and I blush and choose not to follow. Instead, I explore your house and ponder on what sort of person you must be. I wonder if you will take this gracefully or filled with terror; I wonder if you are ready. I self consciously pull at my long black robe and glance again at the card I hurriedly wrote, making sure my writing is legible. As you exit the bathroom and head to the kitchen, I take my opportunity and lay the card gently on your table, where I know you must sooner or later notice it. Take your time, though, we are in no rush.

You hum “Bohemian Rhapsody” to yourself as you pull a frozen dinner from the freezer and pop it in the microwave. I consider starting a fire to make my first guiding experience more grand, but I think you would prefer it my way. I could almost feel an echo of my long-stilled heart as you turn around and fixate on my note. Peering around anxiously, you bend down to pick it up and read it. I get into place, because I know as soon as you read my name, you will be able to see me, and I must make myself terrifyingly presentable.

This is so exciting!

My name is Death.
I am not the only Death, but one of many. See, most people think of death as falling asleep and waking up on another side, but that’s not right at all. Death is like being pulled by your ankle deep into the depths of the oceans- sudden, inexplicable, and suffocating. I am here to drag you there, for none can achieve death on their own.

You shudder in confusion, and look up to see me. A guttural and unearthly scream escapes your lips (really, am I that terrible?) as I reach out for your hand and pull you through your dimension into mine. As the mortals see it… to your death.

Credit: Amanda Lloyd

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The Sleepwalker

January 27, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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I have dreamed more than once that a man may attain immortality by assiduously avoiding daylight, for it is only by the light of the sun that he ages; knowing this secret, one might go on living indefinitely. Only a few hundred people in the entire world take advantage of this arcane knowledge, moving anonymously by night among the larger cities, and actively shun the attention of those who would expose them to the curiosity, or worse, of the masses.

If you have seen one of these extraordinary beings it was without knowing it of course, there at the periphery of your view one evening at an out-of-the-way tavern, eyes half-shut, cigarette dangling from shadowy lips, sweeping the change before him on the bar into his pocket just as you arrived. You didn’t consciously mark him as he shuffled out of sight with the slow determination of a sleepwalker, but something in you did note him, and his memory returns so quickly and sharply because this is so.

Now that you acknowledge you have seen him, study what little remains to you of his profile, his peculiar slouch, for you will never see this individual again, or rather, he will never let you see him. No matter where you search through the blurred end of the night, he will always have left a few steps ahead of you, leaving behind some ashes, a drained bottle next to a sudsy glass, a layer of smoke on the stagnant air; his will be the joke at which the nodding drinkers still laugh, but you will never hear his voice.

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Children of the Moon

January 25, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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Rating: 7.8/10 (961 votes cast)

In the town of Bisden, nobody leaves their home after dark. As soon as the sun begins to set — shutters are drawn shut, candles are snuffed out, and doors are locked tight. Before the moon is fully risen, the entire town appears deserted, and silence reigns supreme.

“Did you hear that?” whispered Freja, sounding very small and afraid in the dark.
“Shut. Up.” Her older brother, Freud, hissed through clenched teeth as he eyed the black windows of the house nearest to them. They were probably locked. Nobody in their right mind would leave their windows unlocked at night. Not in Bisden, anyway.
“I told you we shouldn’t play in the forest,” continued Freja. “I said we should go back sooner.”
“And I said to shut up,” Freud went on. “Whining about the past doesn’t change the present.” Freud looked at his sister, shivering in the dark. “It doesn’t change the situation we’re in.”

Before Freja could respond, the faint sound of a child’s laughter floated across the wind. Goosebumps erupted along Freud’s neck and arms. Something about the sound seemed…wrong.

“Maybe there’s other–“, Freud clasped his hand over Freja’s mouth. Pulling her in close, he shrank back into the shadows of the alley. Again, the unearthly sound drifted across the air. Freja tensed in Freud’s arms as she realized the magnitude of their situation. A child’s voice, oddly distorted, broke the silence of the night like a fist through glass.

“Come out, come out, wherever you are!”

The Thing lumbered across the mouth of the alley — just a few feet from Freud and Freja’s hiding place. It was roughly the size of a child, yet shuffled with its arms hanging grotesquely close to the ground — making its disproportionate body appear markedly apelike. It was completely nude, and had skin so shockingly white that it reflected the glow from the moon. The Thing turned its shimmering bald head toward the alley as it crossed. Its face was perfectly smooth, and entirely devoid of feature — save for an impossibly wide smile with thin lips the colour of blood. The crimson slash of its mouth appeared to stretch from ear to ear. Freud felt warmth spread down his thigh as his bladder let go.

Freja whimpered.

The Thing froze mid-stride, its body becoming as rigid as stone. Slowly, it turned its torso until it was facing the alleyway. It took a tentative step forward. Freja sucked in a sharp breath through her nose as she began to hyperventilate. Freud clamped his hand over her mouth, but he was too late. Impossibly fast, The Thing twisted its head toward their hiding place, producing a sickening crackle from its neck.

“Found you!”

In the town of Bisden, nobody leaves their house after dark. Every day, young ones are sternly told to be home by dusk. They are told of the evil that haunts the streets at night. They are told to always remain silent, because if they hear you — The Children of the Moon will tear you limb from limb.

Credit: RadLad

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The Oneirophage

January 21, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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In the late ’40s of the last century, after a decade of private research involving experiments with binaural beat brainwave frequencies, extrasensory cognition, and rare extracts of a South American vine, Dr. Tomás Roessner perfected a technique whereby one could actually intrude into the psyche and “see” another’s thoughts. Despite having exhaustively documented his rigorous work, he could find no institution that would even offer to review it. Forced to sell his invention, he found by word of mouth among those through whom he procured narcotics a prospective buyer, the bête noire of an old New York family, Mr. John M. Dunn, a voyeuristic connoisseur of the supernatural and the obscene, who had squandered his idle youth in the great libraries of Paris, those catacombs of departed authors, rummaging among their hordes of dusty and obsolete works; a literary ghoul who disturbed with profane fingers the charnel-houses of decayed philosophies. He readily agreed to the Dr.’s asking price without haggling, delighted at the prospect of exploring such a bizarre novelty.

Once adept at the operation of the apparatus, Dunn paid Dr. Roessner off and under an assumed name rented a shabby house within view of Sing Sing prison. In the timeless night, while the convicts fitfully slept, with the aid of a set of stolen blueprints and his new mindreading device, he raided their memories cell by cell at liberty to savor the forbidden thrill of thefts, molestations, moonlit homicides, in secret, without remorse or consequence.

Within a month, the prisoners, telling each other about the nightmares from which they had all begun abruptly to awaken, discovered they shared striking similarities: first, processions of alligators and tortoises filed through a swamp crowded with faceless people and shrieking orchids; next, a shadow man, at whom they looked directly but could never quite see, would watch them in utter stillness from an empty house while invisible hands probed behind their eyes as they had to stand naked, legs locked in place, unable to run away. Their compared descriptions of the house were identical, including its location just outside the walls. By mutual agreement, it was planned that the first of them to receive parole or be released would search this house out to find if it really existed, and investigate the source of their troubling dreams.

A few days after being freed, their chosen spy was able to inform them with a smuggled message in code that not only was the house real, but he had broken into it at night and found a gaunt, moustached man in a silk smoking jacket seated bolt upright, head thrust back, both eyes gaping, mouth stuck open in a stiffened gasp, clenched hands gripping the arms of his chair, in front of a “scientific machine.” A handwritten journal on the desk told the whole story of his adventures prying unconstrained through their psyches, plundering the haunted memories of criminal after criminal, seeking ever more shameful and audacious experiences until finally he wrote, on July 7th, of his overwhelming desire to witness telepathically the next execution in the prison’s notorious electric chair.

Credit: S.W. Rice

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Aqua Vitae

January 7, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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Traveling on into that sunless region known as the Land of the Blest, the good Knight Alexander of Macedon, accompanied by 40 friends, 100 slaves, and 1,200 reliable soldiers, found a misty waste uncrossed by any path or track, and decided that there the tents should be pitched. On the following day he took a thousand armed men and left in search of the end of the world. Those remaining in camp grew bored and restless in his long absence, and wandered the countryside for diversion.

One morning two soldiers stumbled upon a pool at the foot of a cliff surrounded by clusters of tall poppies with luminous purple petals such as they had never seen before. The water of this hidden pond was perfectly still, of an iridescent blue so deep that after looking at it for more than a moment neither of them could be sure if his eyes were open or closed. Across its placid surface shimmered wisps of a silvery mist that in the intricacies of its sinuous coils suggested brief glimpses of long-deserted palaces, voluptuous gardens overgrown, vast cavalries on the move through shadowy vistas; the merest flashes of a vanished world, imponderably old and incomparably beautiful. Awed by this equivocal vision, both knelt at the muddy bank to get a closer look. A faint whispering on the breeze like the mingled voices from far away of a multitude of departed souls lured them to dip their hands into the marvelous water. Upon doing so, each was rewarded with a warm wave of ecstasy that washed through his body: forgotten scents from early youth rushed back into memory, those of his first days in his mother’s care; and all the colors of the little village of his birth vividly burst forth in his imagination, as stirring as if both seen for the first time, and after a lifetime’s absence.

One soldier, shocked by such intense sensations, pulled his hand out, experiencing a sharp pain precisely opposite to the pleasure he had felt: a pang of regret swept over him as if in one stroke he had lost everything he ever held dear. Meanwhile, his comrade, discovering that the delightful feeling ceased almost immediately after contact, plunged his other hand, then both arms, into the dazzling blue liquid until he leaned precariously over it to the point of falling in. When his partner pulled him back by the shoulders he shrieked in agony. As acute as his pain was after withdrawing one hand, he could not imagine the torment his companion must have undergone. He released his grip, and the other dove headlong into the spectral water to disappear without casting a ripple. He thought he saw his face flicker among the silvery wisps for an instant, then evanesce into nothingness.

Terrified by what had just happened, he rushed back to camp to tell the other soldiers, many of whom ventured into the wilderness to witness the strange pond for themselves. Most were sufficiently frightened by the smart received upon pulling a cautious finger out of it, but several shared the fate of its discoverer, losing themselves in ecstatic nostalgia and diving in to leave no trace behind.

When Alexander, upon returning from his quest for the world’s end, learned of the charmed water’s fatal effect on his troops, he ordered a company of slaves with pickaxes and shovels to weaken the face of the overhanging cliff, and horsemen with chains to pull it down, burying the pool with its secret forever.

Credit: S.W. Rice

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