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The Sleepwalker

January 27, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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Rating: 4.8/10 (333 votes cast)

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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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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It Started as a Leak

November 2, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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The rainy season began in early summer, and June had been no exception. It did not surprise the man when he discovered rainwater dripping from his dining room ceiling. Shrugging it off, he placed a tall pot beneath the leak and expected it to stop on its own. However, it continued to rain, and before he knew it, the pot would threaten to overflow. He had to dump the water out first thing in the morning and straight after he returned home from work.

Eventually, he began to notice water damage at the source of the leak. The white ceiling had discolored, turning a dull shade of brown. He checked the weather and realized that it would continue to rain sporadically over the next ten days. The man was worried about the ceiling mildewing and becoming an expensive repair, so he called a local handyman.

Unfortunately, the man could not sign to have the repairs done – only his landlord could. It was a frustrating policy. The man called his landlord but could not reach him. He left him a few voicemails, detailing how the damage was becoming progressively worse. The man was clueless as to why his landlord would not return his calls; they usually kept in touch, speaking at least twice a month. Finally, he reasoned that he would not be held accountable for any damages sustained.

One night, the man was startled awake by a massive thump. He quickly turned on his bedside lamp, and just vaguely, he could see an overturned table and a large shape laying across it. He sprinted out of his apartment and called the police, gagging at the smell.

The man sat in the police station with a blanket wrapped around his shoulders and a coffee mug resting in his hands. He did know one thing. There had been a dead body in his ceiling, and the water had saturated it so badly that it caved under the weight. So far, the body was unidentifiable due to the rainwater and was being autopsied. While the man waited, he called his landlord and finally reached him, panicking as he explained the situation. His landlord was just as alarmed, and the man pleaded for him to come to the station while he made his statement. The man paused as a detective crossed over to him, and he lowered his phone, wondering if the body had been identified. His blood ran immediately cold, and he shook his head with terror. The body belonged to Richard Thompson, his landlord, and he had died over a year ago. That’s not what disturbed him the most. If his landlord was dead, then who was pretending to be him?

Credit: Ariel Lowe

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“In the Broad Sense”

October 24, 2015 at 12:00 PM
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There is something wrong with me. I cannot hide it anymore. I fear my family suspects that something is not quite right with me. They reach out to me, but I pull away. If they came too close, they would know I am different and I am dirty.

Once, only my mother’s voice mattered. It is strong, soft, and pleasant. She tells me everything I need to know and I follow her instructions without question. She rewards me with her singing, which none can match in tone and beauty. It was only once, a brief distraction by another sound, I chose not to listen to her. For one brief moment, I listened to another song and that was all it took. I can still hear her voice, but now there is another voice; a malicious voice from within my head. I cry out for help, but it restrains my speech. It forces me away from the sight of others; my mother completely unaware of my absence. I struggle against the will that overpowers me and manipulates my limbs. One leg in front of the other, it marches me out into the forest beyond the safety of my home. It grants no rest or reprieve. It is not long before I can no longer hear my mother’s voice. I rebel against its control and it answers my struggles by making it clear, it is much more than just a voice in my head. I can now feel it moving in my head.

The pain in my head is causing flashes of light to explode in front of my eyes as I shuffle onwards. It halts my body in an unfamiliar place deep within the forest. An invisible hand grabs my head. It pries my mouth open to an unnatural width. With insidious intent, it clamps my mandibles down on the stem of a leaf. It is an eternal grip of death that will never be broken. I feel it severing the muscles in my six extremities, making them useless and immobile. The pressure and pain build in my skull and the light grows dim before my eyes. Just before complete darkness falls upon me, I think I hear faint singing from my mother coming from the distance. I hear a comforting lullaby being sung as a fleshy stalk explodes from my head.

It emerges from the shell that was its womb, glad to be freed from the constraints of its expendable vessel. Now, all it needs to do is grow and wait. Soon its spores will appear and fruit all over its body. They are separate but still one mind and one body. The spores will soon be released and travel on the currents of the air and across the lands, listening for the voice of another royal mother. Their only desire is for her children to listen to its song instead of hers. Just a moment is all it needs.

O. unilateralis only needs to grow and wait.

Credit: Killahawke1

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