The Merton Account

March 23, 2017 at 12:00 AM

Dear Mr. Valentine,
As per your request, I’ve collected reliable morsels of information from the many and often incoherent accounts that detail the events which transpired in Merton on September 2nd, 1996. It is only with great reluctance that I reveal this information to you, for I fear for my life that I am pursued with the intent of execution. Yet, I am a professional, and as such I will hold up my end of this terrible bargain, but I warn you that you may be better off unaware of the events which transpired in Merton on September 2nd, 1996.

August 31st, 1996
According to the more reliable sources, even with which corroboration was a cruel goal, the event began on August 31st when the librarian, Ms. Laurie Lasalle, came across a leather bound book called Apocriphex which she believed to be worth quite a great deal of money, for it’s binding and contents suggested great age. The book, though I now dread to speak of it, was written in a language which Ms. Lasalle could neither understand nor distinguish. Determined to discover it’s value, she brought to the nearest university, LSU at Shreveport, where she presented it to some of the faculty for appraisal. Among them (the varying sources cannot seem to agree between the presence of three faculty or four) was Dr. Vance Ridley who told me in my interview with him in 2004, “I felt a deep uneasiness about Apocriphex and could tell Dr. Smith [alias] felt the same way. I’m not a religious man, but the closest I’ve come to belief in the spiritual was when I beheld that ancient book, and now I am glad to believe not, though Dr. Smith believes I do so foolishly.” According to Dr. Ridley, an authority in cryptanalysis and linguists, the book was written in some perversion of Latin and Occitan. The bastard language was very pleasant to hear, nearly musical. Though Dr. Ridley assured me that the translation, though he could only produce a rough one, was not so easy on the ears. The document which contained the translation has since been lost before it could be shipped to me, though Dr. Ridley has told me that the tome was a collection of old alchemical recipes, perhaps written by an Aquitainian monk in the 9h century, though it’s condition would seem to place it a much more recent date. He assured me that the translation bordered on nonsense, though from out conversations, Mr. Valentine, I am lead to believe that you would disagree. I am still searching for the translation.

September 1st 1996
On September 1st, early in the morning, Ms. Lasalle retrieved Apocriphex from the University who warned her to take caution with the book, for it was a priceless artifact; considering it’s bizarre contents and pristine condition. This information was relayed to many friends of Ms. Lasalle on their September 1st book club meeting. I have spoken with many of those women, and it is from them that I have gathered much of this information regarding Apocriphex, though the current location of the original copy alludes us all. After her book club, which ended around noon, Ms. Lasalle went home and showed the book to her boyfriend, Mr. Gary Rogers, who owns that quaint diner on the bluff near Caddo Lake. Mr. Rogers, excited by the nature of Ms. Lasalle’s find, urged her to bring Apocriphex to the city-wide picnic to be held near the lake. She agreed to do so. This information regarding Apocriphex cannot be tied directly to the event which would transpire the next day, though the arrival of the old book only two days before the event seemed too ominous to ignore and with this suspicion I present this report. Ms. Lasalle died on September 2nd, 1996, and so I could not question her. Mr. Rogers spoke with me briefly before suggesting I leave the town, which name has since changed (as you know) and which I am obligated not to report here.

September 2nd, 1996
At 9:00am, then Mayor, Frederic Murphy went out to the site of the picnic near Caddo lake with two wildlife experts and four members of the city council, one of whom still serves to this day. It was a clear day and the lake was calm. The wildlife experts confirmed that there were no alligators in the area and set up a monitoring station in the thicket of some nearby trees to watch for any unwanted wildlife that may intrude about the picnic. The city councilman whom I could reach for questioning reported nothing unusual during this precaution.
At around 10:00am, volunteers began setting up tents, tables, and chairs. A local extermination company was hired by the city to treat the area for mosquitoes and did so. Some of the volunteers think that the chemical used to repel and kill the mosquitoes may have somehow been connected with the event. Scattered reports claim there was an altercation between one of the exterminators and volunteers, both of whom were in the process of divorce. None of the exterminators who were present that day still worked there when I reached them for questioning, but the manager, who was only present for the treating and not for the picnic itself, suggested that the volunteers had set up the grill too close to the water’s edge. Comments from the former mayor suggests that neither of these reports are reliable since he recalls a distinct division between the exterminators and volunteers regarding the nature of the divorce.
At 10:30 am, Merton Police arrived and began setting up cones. Most of the police officers who were present are now deceased, but one survivor, Officer Daniel Patton, says that nothing seemed out of the ordinary besides having to escort a hysterical woman off of the lot.
At 11:00 am, residents of Merton who were taking place in the annual chili competition were allowed to set up a their tents. According to Mr. Rogers and a few volunteers, Ms. Lasalle was quite a contender for this event and showed up early to set up her station. Officer Patton reports that there still seemed to be nothing of note occurring at this point. According to Mr. Rogers, she had brought Apocriphex with her. At some point between 11:00 and noon, the wildlife experts had to chase away an alligator who had come to close to the lot. According to the wildlife experts, it was rare for alligators to travel so far away from the deeper channels of Caddo Lake, though it certainly wasn’t unheard of. Otherwise, they reported nothing of note.
At noon, the picnic was officially open to the public. Before 1:00, a good portion of the residents (the population of Merton was 426 as of 1990) had arrived and begun setting up their areas. Many witnesses report a general uneasiness, though this likely only a sentiment believed to be felt in hindsight. Officer Patton recalls seeing Apocriphex when sampling Ms. Lasalle and Mr. Rodger’s chili, but didn’t think much of it. This is the last reported sighting of the book before the incident, though Mr. Rodger insists that Ms. Lasalle had shown the book to several people who had stopped by for chili. When pressed for names of people who may have remembered having contact with the book, he could only provide names of individuals who have since passed away. This is where reports begin to vary. According to the wildlife experts, there were two alligators swimming quite a distance from the shore who were being closely monitored. According to Officer Patton, reports to the police ranging from one to seven alligators required for most of the Merton Police force to be stationed at the shore to watch for alligators. Most of the residents I interviewed were unaware of the alligators or stated there were none at all.
At 1:00 pm, on September 2nd, 1996; disaster struck in Merton, Louisiana. What happened exactly is nearly impossible to say but I have tried with the utmost meticulousness to string together what seem to be incoherent and unrelated reports for the sake of clarity, though I believe this to be a laudably hopeless pursuit. Most witnesses recall the picnic being interrupted by what sounded like a large nearly muted horn above the clouds. This phenomenon has been reported all over the world at various times, and has even been documented on video if you are interested in researching it further. These sounds, according to witnesses were comparable to two enormous pieces of machinery grinding together. Next, a few reports claim that a swift wave swept over the lake, but the wildlife experts watching the lake disagree that this ever happened. The horn sounds ended abruptly, and many witnesses recall- often with a shiver or a reflective sigh- the brief and stunned silence that settled over them. Then, the waterfront erupted in noise. The police officers began firing into the water, panicked. Officer Patton claims that one of the officers screamed and began firing into the water, leading to a sort of hysteria amongst them. Once the firing began, he quickly left his post to make sure the residents didn’t get hurt in the panic. Most witnesses attempted to flee once the gunfire began, but some faced the water to determine what the threat was. Scattered reports say that an alligator emerged from the water to grab one of the officers. Whatever the case, it was only moments after the firing began that an impossibly large wave burst from Caddo and swept the officers into the lake. The water rose so rapidly that it flooded around half of the picnic site and swept many residence, including Ms. Lasalle, off of their feet. Many were dragged into the lake when the wave receded. Witnesses report that dozens rushed in to try and help those being washed towards the water when a second impossibly large and rapidly forming wave crashed over the picnic, this time covering a wider area. One witness who was swept into the water recalled, with bitter tears, screaming as those trying to swim back to the shore were dragged under the surface of the lake by powerful jaws. In the horror of the frenzy, many witnesses, guided by Officer Patton, fled to the parking lot. Officer Patton returned to the scene to find a horrific mass of writhing bodies, hoping against hope itself to reach dry land. The water was red from blood and swimming calmly between the wildly thrashing figures were the scaly spines of reptilian predators. A third (though some insist it was the fourth) wave washed over the scene and dragged many more of the citizens and officers into the depths of the lake where massive jaws were bursting forth from beneath the water and crushing flesh and bone before dragging the helpless victims below the surface. Finally, six survivors clambered to the shore where they were treated by Officer Patton and a medical team who had now arrived. Witnesses report that after the survivors had escaped, there was an eerie silence which seemed to last for several minutes. Though the water was dark red from the blood of the slain, no bodies, or even articles of clothing, were ever recovered from the lake. The incident was so crushing that most of the witnesses left Merton, which would later be renamed. Of the six survivors, one committed suicide, two were admitted into mental institutes, one joined a cult, and once died of cancer two years later. The event was never published in any paper and those who died in the incident were said to have died of natural causes. You and I both know, of course, how detestably unnatural this entire ordeal was. Perhaps the most disturbing detail of all came from the wildlife experts, who were safe in their perch. Across the lake, in a mass of swampy foliage, alligators were watching the carnage intently, though the experts claim that no alligators ever neared the shore. Worst of all, the experts tell me, is that no alligators were present during the attack at all.
Mr. Valentine, I beseech you not to look any further into the matter. One of the eyewitnesses I interviewed has since sent me several death threats and has made claims so wild that I dare not publish them in this report. Please, sir, if you value your life and your sanity, be satisfied with the account I have provided you and above all, please do not seek after Apocriphex. I am a professional and as such have fulfilled my contract with you. I will not further investigate the events which transpired in Merton on September 2nd, 1996, less I suffer a fate worse than the now constant terror that grips me even as I write this letter. God bless you, sir, and God help us all.

-Mr. L

Credit: Alex Lowe

Die Teufelsbrücke

March 14, 2017 at 12:00 AM

People always get the wrong end of the stick when I tell them that my grandad was a Nazi. I mean, of course he was in the Leipzig branch of the Hitler Youth as a teen, joined the party when old enough and, in December of 1943, was drafted into the army to fight in the dying years of the war. That said though, he was never really committed to all the anti-Semitic, fascist ideology. In fact, just three years after the war, he married my grandmother Rokhl, a Polish Jew, in the same church hall that years earlier had hosted the Hitler Youth meetings, before crossing the border into British Germany and, then, across the sea to a new life in London. That said, he did have some great stories from what I grew up thinking of as “the other side”.

He fought on the Eastern Front mainly. Though never sent to the worst conflicts of the region, battles like those at Stalingrad, Kursk, and Kharkov, he met many soldiers both in the standard army and the Waffen-SS who had fought there, who told him their stories. Years later, he would tell these stories to an impressionable young child on his knee who would listen, enrapt in the story, sitting on the floor of the little apartment that smelled of wood smoke and cigarettes.

Grandad passed away early last year, surrounded by his closest family. I’ll always miss him. In memory, I’m going to pass on a story he himself passed on from a wounded soldier, who himself heard it from a Waffen-SS friend of him. The story of Die Teufelsbrücke.


The camp lay quiet as the snows fell that night. The canvas of the tent bulged inwards, pregnant, as four men talked angrily over a table smothered in sepia brown maps and charts, pins marking the path they should have taken days ago. The only heat and light in the room came from a spitting naphtha lamp in the corner that cast long, dark shadows over everything. One of the men was talking with ice in his voice.
“Look! I don’t care about the fucking mission right now! If we don’t move on tomorrow, we are all going to die. We need help!”

The officer was young, too young perhaps to have been promoted to Scharführer. Exasperated, he ripped off his hat and ran a hand through his blonde hair. The older men noticed this lapse in discipline.

“We have our orders,” one of them replied, his voice a flat monotone. “We are to hold the bridge until further orders are given. We cannot give in to the Bolsheviks!” As he spoke the pasty skin of his jowls quivered. One lock of the greying hair stuck out from under the brim of his cap.

“What bridge?” the Scharführer cried, ignoring the man’s higher rank of Standartenjunker. “Look at it!”

He strode across the tent and threw the flap open. A blast of horrifyingly cold air forced its way into the room, but the officers did not react. The snow had paused for the moment, and through the thinning clouds a half moon shone fiercely. The undisturbed snow reflected the light into a pale blue sheen across the land.

Just beyond the perimeter of the camp, the once lazy river was now frozen, a thin crust of ice and snow separating the air from the rushing waters beneath. Jutting up from the bright expanse were shattered pieces of masonry, charred and humbled.

“For three hundred years that bridge stood tall, but all it took was one Petlyakov to flatten it and kill half our god-damn section as well! Look, we can’t cross here, but there’s another bridge just a day’s travel south of here, day and a night tops in this weather.”

“When they know of our situation, they will send engineers to rebuild the bridge,” another man said, his skin pale white from the days of cold, and the oncoming illness that would be his death. He was also higher rank than the youth.

“And just when will they know of our situation, Sturmführer? We haven’t had radio contact in days, have we? We are on our own here! It is time to take action!”

“Steurmannsmatt, how long will our provisions last?” the pasty-skinned Standartenjunker asked, ignoring the Scharführer. The timid, diminutive quartermaster looked up from the corner where he had been sitting quietly. He spoke with a mild, stuttering shiver.

“We have food for four days, six if we start seriously rationing. Ammunition is fine, we haven’t fired a single shot in weeks. The petrol is frozen solid in the trucks, though, and as for the naphtha,” he gestured at the spitting flame, “the tanks ran dry this evening. What is currently in the furnaces is all we have.”

“What about water?” the pale Sturmführer asked.

The Steurmannsmatt shrugged, his unornamented lapels lifting and dropping with a futile little rustle of fabric. “I couldn’t say. Until now we’ve been melting snow with the naphtha, but I guess we’ll have to start drawing dirty water from the river. We have no chance of digging a well in these conditions.”

The Scharführer quietly looked out of the flap at the heap on the camp’s edge. Wells weren’t the only thing that they were having difficulty with digging into the frozen, hard ground, and the pile of preserved, ice-white bodies had been steadily growing over the past few weeks. Unable to rot in the cold, their gleaming pale skin was naked where people had harvested their clothes in an attempt to stay warm. As the steadily increasing mortality rates showed, it was a tactic that seldom worked.

“We have enough to survive for at least a week then. Make sure we do, Steurmannsmatt. Oh, and Scharführer?” the Standartenjunker called. The Scharführer turned to face him.

“You’re dismissed. Be sure to close the tent on your way out, won’t you?” he said mockingly, tossing the cap to the youth. Glaring at the older man, he firmly forced it onto his head and stamped out into the snow, purposefully leaving the door open.

With each step, his leather boots crunched knee-deep into the icy crust. The clouds had gone now, blown away by the same fierce wind that now rattled the tent poles and sucked at the canvas, bringing a thousand diamonds of ice stinging into his cheek with each raging gust.

“Scharführer, the officers are arschlochs, no?”

The youth stopped walking, glancing up from the snow-bound path ahead of him, searching for the source of the voice. He didn’t recognise it. Most of his men were from bigger cities, harsh in voice and temperament. The voice he had heard, though, was sophisticated, cultured. Carefully, the officer readied his pistol.

“Behind you, Scharführer.”

He turned and saw a dark form standing in the shadow of a tent. Slowly, he walked towards the figure.

“Identify yourself, soldier.

The man stepped forwards into the light of the moon and, for a second, the young officer was unable to believe his eyes. With shaking, numb fingers he struck a match and, by the wavering, long yellow flame, looked upon the face of a dead man.

“Rottenführer Pfeiffer? I saw the bombs fall! I saw them drag you out of the water, lungs full of water and a belly full of shrapnel! You’re dead! You can’t be here!”

“A temporary setback,” the man drawled in his aristocratic tongue. “Touch me, Scharführer, and you will see that I am here.”

The dead man held out one hand and, tentatively, the officer took it.

The corpse was warm. Not just warm, really, but hot, near painfully so. His skin felt like as if fires were raging beneath the surface, only just held at bay by the Scaphian Bull of the man’s skin. Terrified, the youth tore his hand away from the cadaver’s grip, and noticed that the ground around the two of them was steaming, snow melting and leaving the floor a shiny quagmire of new, saturated mud.

“You… you’re not real!” the officer exclaimed.

“And yet I am,” the dead man replied. His eyes still looked glassy and blind, on the edge of rotting.

The Scharführer looked over to the towering pyramid of unburied bodies. Was it his imagination? Or did it look like a couple were missing? The glassy, dead eyes followed his gaze.

“I am flesh, like you, Scharführer. If you look at the heap, you will not find me there.”

“What… what are you?” he gasped out, terror clutching about his heart like the icy, asphyxiating mantle of snow that enveloped the heap of dead men, men his leadership had killed. The corpse shrugged.
“We are Legion, Scharführer.”

“Dear Christ, are you the devil?”

The man laughed, a dry, croaking sort of laugh that sounded airless and gasped out of his mouth. On the breath, the faintest odour of dry rot was carried. The officer wrapped his hand around the well-worn grip of the automatic pistol in the holster at his hip.

“We may not be the Devil, Scharführer, but we’re closely related enough to Him that that peashooter you’re clutching will do nothing but anger us, and we are not a group you want to anger. Now, we have a proposal for you, one that will not cost the lives of a single man in your service.”

“Make your offer, demon,” the Scharführer said. Normally, he would have wanted to talk inside, but the snow that had started to fall again now melted into a thin mist of drizzle as it approached the two of them. The officer didn’t take his hand off of his pistol.

“Let’s take this inside, shall we? We don’t feel the cold, so much,” he said, reaching out of the circle of warmth and plunging his bare hand down into the deep snow up to his elbow, the ground frozen from days before, at his side. He never broke eye contact. “But you do,” he continued.

The two men entered the tent.


“So, you will build me a bridge?”

The dead man nodded. “We will. You have dozens of ready hosts out there that we can use. It can be done by morning.”

“Where will the materials come from?”
The cadaver shrugged. “It won’t be a problem.”

“And what payment do you require? My grandfather always said that when you deal with the devil, you have to pay the price.”

“A wise man. We require a soul.”

The man shivered at the way the corpse uttered the word. What business do you have with souls, when you yourself lack one? he thought. As the man was warming up, the smell of rot was becoming far, far stronger than previously, to the point where the Scharführer began to feel a gag coming on.

“Any soul?”

“Any will do. We will harvest the soul of the first man to cross the bridge.”

“But you said that this did not require the deaths of a single man in my service!”

“And that is true. I believe there are three officers at this camp?”


The two sat in silence for a couple of minutes. The Scharführer wondered whether the smell of Pfeiffer’s reanimated body would linger in the tent after he was gone.

“Do I have your agreement, Scharführer?”

The man nodded. The officer wondered whether it was just a clever trick or true, evil magic that the corpse used to produce a pre-written contract and a quill pen, tipped with a single ruby drop of fresh blood.


The officer did not sleep that night, the sounds of the dead labouring away at the edge of the river keeping him away from what would have been, he had no doubt, uneasy dreams. Eventually, a rosy finger of dawn light broke through the seam of his tent and, not bothering to clothe himself, he walked out and into the snow.

More snow had fallen, and the deep whiteness reached up to his thighs, soaking his thin pyjamas through. The heap was gone, a little rough rectangle of bare ground with footsteps leading away. The man faltered and tripped, plunging whole body into the snow.

It sure was a fine bridge ahead of him.

Three long, Roman arches crossed the water. A few broken spires from the previous structure still poked out of the ice, though the red bricks of the new construction seemed entirely unrelated from the older, late-medieval structure. Strangely, the ice seemed entirely smooth, unbroken and treacherously clear. Underneath the frosty glass the Scharführer could see the supports, where algae seemed already to have been growing for years, despite the youth of the bridge.

The officer had been dreading seeing the dead on this final walk but, mercifully, they weren’t there. He reached the perimeter gate and saw that the guards were still asleep. Just as well. He didn’t want there to be any witnesses to what happened next.

The smooth paving of the bridge had just the barest dusting of snow, the newly laid tarmac modern and high-quality. The man whispered one final prayer and, eyes closed, stepped onto the bridge.

When his eyes opened, he was looking into the eyes of the dead- not just the eyes of Pfeiffer, but the eyes of all the dead at the camp, their flesh now sloughing off as the skin discoloured and their faces drooping heavy with death. The thing controlling Pfeiffer’s form smiled and, plunging a hand into the soft flesh of the Scharführer’s stomach, shrieked with all the ancient anger of the thousand demons that made up Legion.

The dead fell upon the officer, fingers grasping and claws tearing.


Officially, the Scharführer died of suicide by hanging. What the officers left out of the report was that the young officer had been hanged from the bridge by his own intestines, his belly torn open with savage force and his scalp ripped off. His face was left intact, save for his lower jaw which, by the account of the camp medic, had been bitten clean in half by human teeth. The upper mandible was missing all its teeth, and it looked as if they’d been pulled out while the officer was still alive and, worse, conscious.

As it happened, his self-sacrifice was in vain. Just two days after, as the men trudged to what they were told was safety, two Petlyakov dive-bombers attacked the soldiers, one of which was flown by the same pilot who had bombed the bridge days earlier, killing all but two men- the pasty-skinned Standartenjunker, and a junior soldier. The Standartenjunker ended up killing the man to survive in the cold, planning to cannibalise him, when he was captured, tortured, and executed by Soviet forces.

To this day, the Teufelsbrücke still stands, reaching between the banks of the Taseyeva River.

Credit: HulloThere

The Mummers

March 12, 2017 at 12:00 AM

When I was a child, the mummers came to town.

It was not quite Solstice’s Eve yet. The nights were long and dark, and most nights a thin, jagged coat of haw frost would top the trees in glistening frigidity. What few horses the rich owned would stamp and whinny at their posts, billowing clouds of icy fog filling the air from their nostrils. The windows in the village had flickering tallow candles in the window, and the stores continued the custom of handing out sweets and cakes to the half-starved children. A thick, smoky fire was always lit in our house.

My father took me one night to the tavern. I myself was young, not yet a man but old enough to be trusted to drink without the barkeep watering the beer down. As we crossed the threshold, the thick wave of village chatter washed over me, and I remember feeling the rich acceptance that only a homely community can extend to you. In one corner of the squat, one-storey building, a performer strummed his instrument carefully, leaning against the black, ancient oak beam that supported the white plaster wall. Although he had a half-finished cup of strong liquor within arm’s reach, his fingers were not dulled by the alcohol, and the fast rhythms and leaping melodies comfortable backed up the incessant murmur of the village gossips.

I remember standing at my father’s side, sipping gently at the drink in my little hands as he talked to Arem, the local farmer who owned the barely fields up on the crest of the hill. He often did business with the next village across, set deep into the rolling chalk valleys, and it was gossip from the next village over which he was talking to my father about.

“You know, Gure, there have been whispers of strange folk around.”

“From beyond the valleys?”

He shook his head. “More foreign still than that. They apparently hail from across the sea, came over on strange filigreed boats from the Silk Isles. They don’t even follow the Great One.”

My father gulped down another mouthful of beer, his eyes widening in shock. “What? Dear One, what is upon us? What faith do these foreigners have?”

“I don’t know, but whatever it is, it’s something stranger, something…” the farmer dropped his voice to a coarse whisper, years of dusty farm work evident in its low harshness, “older.”

My father hurried me away, rushing me off. I found a couple of similarly aged children to play with, dancing around between the legs of our elders, getting yelled at and cuffed on the ear more than once as we collided with people’s pints and knocked their drinks to the floor. Soon though, we were brought still by the hush that descended over the townsfolk. Quietly, I snaked my way through the crowd and found myself at my father’s side. I tried to advance forwards, but my father caught me, and held me tight at his side.

The door of the tavern opened, and a troop of men and women came through. They wore thick, dark cloaks, dusted on the top with a thin patchwork of fresh fallen snow that melted as they came into the warm room. They had on cowls of thin, near translucent silky material that shifted over their forms as they moved, thin golden threads in the fabric casting long shadows on their features. As they trod in a thin column into the pub, they gently removed their cloaks, and people gasped at their clothes. You have to understand, we were country folk, simple people whose aspirations didn’t extend beyond the next village over. To see the rich, imported vermillions, purples, blues, and golds that were daubed liberally over their gay costumes left us dumbfounded. Outside of the pretty birds that the Great One had made for us, we never thought to have seen such colours, much less shaped by the hands of man.

The leader of the troupe was a vaguely androgynous character, the hood dangling limply around his neck like a slack noose. He approached Stryor, the barman, and produced a thin purse. From this, he drew curiously imprinted gold leafs, hexagonal in shape, and wordlessly gave them over to him. Stryor examined them briefly, testing their weight in his hand, and then nodded, finding them acceptable. He disappeared into a back room, leaving us alone with the Mummers.

I heard whispers from my own folk, growing in aggression as they stood there, looking blankly at us from their hidden eyes in perfect silence. Another member, a woman, moved over to the fireplace and gazed into it quietly. She reached deep into a pocket and drew out a strange, patterned pouch that stunk pungently of mysterious herbs and spices. She held it to her nose, inhaling deeply of the scent, before tossing it into the flames, watching the fire spit teal and violet hues. As she returned to her own people, the leader gave a simple hand gesture, and what few Mummers had kept their cloaks on threw them off, revealing wind instruments and stringed implements that left the poor old lutenist in the corner wide-mouthed in envy. Then, without even looking at each other, they began to play.

The melody was mournful and slow. High, descant drones were complimented with chromatic bass scales and chords, terrible, important notes. My father gasped and gripped my shoulder tighter as we saw things come from the fire. The colours and sounds became more vivid in hue and pitch, the emotions of fear we all felt more powerful. I watched fearfully as things stalked forwards out of the flames. They were not human in shape, nor form, for they were purely shadow, dark creatures that flickered over us all. What they were human in, though, was the careful thoughtfulness with which they scanned over everyone, seeking something, someone. All too soon, the Mummers were finished with their song, and the fire had died out, leaving us in stony, dark silence as they trooped out, donning their thickly layered cloaks as they dissolved into the night.

For a little while afterwards, I searched for the children I had played with earlier, desperately searching for people whose names I now cannot remember. The screams of their parents filled up the nights, for no one knew what had happened to them. I wonder if anyone other than me counted the Mummers in and out. There were nine who entered, and eleven who left.

Credit: HulloThere

The Banshee

March 11, 2017 at 12:00 AM

I consider myself to be a logical being. My experiences in life have led me to such a conclusion that approaching problems from a skeptical and logical viewpoint is in my best interest and is, as far as I understand it, the best way to live one’s life. Not to say that those who place a greater self interest and reliance in supernatural and spiritual matters are lesser in any way, but I am solely attempting to say that such beliefs haven’t appeared necessary to myself in my many years of experience as a lawyer (a career that I have practiced for more than 23 years). There has only been one episode in my life that I could with any certainty deem “supernatural” in nature, and that is the episode which I will attempt to recount to you, dear reader, from the best of my memory at this time.
The year was 1955, I was a young man at the time and had just begun my postgraduate studies in law at Yale University in Connecticut. I was a particularly adventurous youth, oftentimes to my own detriment, and sought out any and all excuses to travel, have adventures (as I liked to think of them) and escape from my studies, something which I now regret, though my experiences have provided me with plenty of knowledge for which I will forever be grateful. It was at one of these times, when my adventuring spirit was at a high point that my brother Josiah invited me to spend a few weeks with him in Brazil. Josiah had moved recently there to teach English at the Catholic University of Petropolis in the state of Rio de Janeiro, I assume he suffered from the same adventurous spirit as myself, a curse that no doubt impelled him to take up the venture in the first place. The thought of traveling to Brazil seized my spirits, and though I would certainly miss a period of classes, the trip would be brief and I felt confident that I could both complete any assignments while in Brazil, and catch up upon my return if necessary.
After some debate, it was decided that perhaps a period of only one week would be better for my vacation, and my brother wasted no time in purchasing the airline tickets and making the necessary arrangements. I felt that the pricing must have been expensive and I offered to pay for some of the expense, but he declined, insisting that his recent employment had given him more money than he and his young family needed and he was anxious to use some of his newly acquired funds for some good cause and that he was looking forward to seeing me.
The day of the trip arrived. I brought with me only a midsize suitcase with clothes for the week and a few school supplies. The plane ride was comfortable enough, although I couldn’t sleep to save my life. I never could sleep on planes, and the length of the journey was enough to exhaust one’s spirits. After what seemed hours of fitful tossing and turning, I drifted off.
When I awoke, day had already broken and it was almost time for our descent. I was served a small breakfast of something or other, and the plane landed in Rio de Janeiro. Josiah had spoken very highly of Brazil, so my expectations were somewhat heightened. My first impression of Brazil was that the landscape was very beautiful, and I found myself constantly looking around at the immense cliffs and green hills that seemed to roll forth from the ocean and out of the earth like something from a dream. The city itself was small, I thought, at least compared to the other great cities of the world that I had visited, but set against this tropical and gorgeous coastline one couldn’t deny that this was a desireable place to be. I can only imagine the kind of nightlife that took place here, the parties being somewhat legendary. I myself never got to see these for myself, perhaps one day I’ll return. I count myself blessed for simply having been there and seen the natural beauty of Rio de Janeiro.
The people I found extremely friendly, if lacking in fluent English. Many of them, I think, were overconfident in their ability to speak the language, but I guessed that they got by with what they knew in order to make ends meet, and as my bus took me through the sprawling brick suburbs I saw people peddling goods and selling food to the tourists, so it seems to me my hunch was correct in that regard.
The bus ride to Petropolis was easy enough, and there I did manage to fall asleep. When I awoke I looked out the window to see a sheer drop of several hundred feet. We were climbing a mountain on a thin stretch of road that clung to the side of the mountain. One more foot to the left and our bus would hurtle down to our certain doom! I closed my eyes until the terror had passed. Heights are something that even a logical man can be afraid of, I think, without anyone judging him for it.
Petropolis, I learned, is also known as “the Imperial City”. Back when Brazil still had emperors, this is where they had their summer homes, a fairly common practice at the time for aristocrats and important persons. The city was established by the Germans in the 18th century, and the cultural and architectural effects of the motherland are extremely evident. As soon as we entered Petropolis I felt as if we were in a different country. The streets were cobblestone, the buildings were constructed in semi-timber architecture, with the wooden cross beams exposed over white plaster, as is common in Germany. It reminded me of my trip to Europe and I must confess and I had not anticipated finding this level of sophistication and culture in Brazil.
Josiah met me at the bus station and we boarded a bus back to his home. Petropolis I found was constructed of individual neighborhoods, or bairros, as they are called here. Josiah lived in the bairro Coronel Veiga, outside of the city. The ride wasn’t long, and I found that Petropolis too was a city built into the mountains, with enormous, rising hillsides that stretched up into the clouds. It rained often here, in fact it was one of the rainiest cities on Earth, and the constant rain and humidity caused an almost constant fog to fall upon the hill, giving it a haunted and mystical quality. The rising hills seemed to disappear in the clouds. The houses were constructed in such a way that they were almost stacked, one on top of the other, built into the hills themselves. Long, straight stair cases climbed up the hills, providing the only access to the houses that weren’t directly on the street, which was most of them. It seemed a rather poor system, according to my judgement, and the thought of those poor people having to climb enormous staircases everyday just to arrive at their homes made my heart weep for them. No one had yards or actual property. To my eternal disappointment, I discovered that Josiah was one of those who lived on the middle level of one of these hills, so in order to reach his home, we had to climb up half a mountain to get there, up a long and steep staircase made of stone.
The home in which they lived was divided into two parts: the lower home, which was comprised of two floors and on the interior was very American in style, and the upper section which served as an extra apartment that they could rent out or lend to guests, and it was this section of the house that I was given as my quarters during my stay. The apartment had a separate entrance, and one had to step outside and climb the stone steps up to the next level to find the door to the apartment, as the apartment itself actually rested upon my brother’s home.
Now I’ve spent a great deal of time lecturing, it feels, upon the wonders of Brazil and of my journey and impressions of the country. I assure you, reader, my tale does take a darker turn. My first evening there was spent in good company, and Josiah and myself spent a good deal of time talking and reminiscing until long after dinner was over into the late hours of the night, as siblings often do after long separations. His wife retired the children, and rejoined us as we were finishing our second bottle of wine. As she entered the room, the clock on the wall signaled the hour. Midnight! How quickly the time had passed! Josiah was quick to apologize as he would have to excuse himself from my company, the college awaited him in the morning. I too, was exhausted from my journey, and wasted no time in bidding adieu to my family and heading out onto the dark staircase and into my chambers.
I lit several candles, but somehow that only seemed intensify my isolation. It may have been the elongated shadows, or the constant flickering of the flame that made me feel as if someone were in the room with me. My quarters were small, consisting of a sloped ceiling, a feather bed, a bathroom and a kitchen. There was even a desk that looked out a set of glass doors and a small balcony. Josiah had warned me not to use the balcony, as it was in repair and the railing was not yet sturdy enough to use. Frankly, I had no desire to use the balcony, as my previous description of my bus ride might have led you to guess, I am afraid of heights, though the view from the window was striking enough, looking out over the hills and valley below. I was content to view it all from behind the glass barrier.
I had hardly lay myself down upon my mattress when I heard a haunting sound. My first instinct was that it was the wind, howling around the jagged houses perched along the mountain. But the noise seemed to grow louder, as if it were growing closer. It was a woman, I realized, sobbing, somewhere outside. She must be hurt! I jumped from my bed and looked out the small glass pane above my bed. What I saw as I looked from that window was an image that is forever engraved in my mind. A ghostly apparition, it seemed, was climbing the stairs just outside my chambers. A woman wrapped in a ragged shawl, climbed, wailing quite loudly. Surely the whole neighborhood must be awake! Slowly, she climbed, until eventually her cries began to fade. For a long while I could not move. I was frozen in place, it seemed her cries had the effect of casting fear throughout my whole body so that I was stiff and unable to do anything. I do not know how long I stood there, watching, unable to move. At some point I must have, as I woke up the next morning in my bed feeling far from refreshed, the memory of last night still burning in my mind.
I dressed and went downstairs to join my family. In the light of day, the stairs seemed ordinary, plain. There was no sign or signal that this was a place where spirits walked and wailed during the night. A haunted place.
I could not resist the urge to bring up the subject over breakfast, though some might frown upon my engaging such a topic in the presence of children, I feel that it was not a sin, as they too must be victims of the woman’s nighttime visit.
“How are you this morning, Brother?” Josiah asked, that young and jovial smile of his ever present across his face. “Did you sleep well?”
“I wish I could say that I have, but it seems there was some ungodly creature who decided to scream the night away right outside my window.”
At my mention of the woman, Josiah and his wife shared a frightened glance. The look might have been looked over by some, but not by myself, a student of the law. They knew something.
“Ah yes. It’s a neighborhood drunk, no more. She does that from time to time. I’m sorry I didn’t mention it.”
“Mention it! My good brother, all is forgiven. She is not your doing? Then all is well. Tonight I shall retire a little more prepared. Though I can’t imagine what happened to that poor wretch to make her so dreadfully sad. Poor, girl.”
And that was that on the subject. A common drunk. Though I sensed she might be more than that, I dare not suggest it, logic constrained me. And what could she be, other than a drunk? A memory swam into my mind, of something Josiah told me when I was younger. There is such a thing as a banshee, he said, a woman who wails and cries warning of a death to come. A banshee! The lawyer inside me scoffed at the idea. Children’s stories, to keep them good and in their beds. But my memory of the night before would not leave my mind. It haunted me all the day long.
Dread aside, the day was rather pleasant. There was much laughter, as there often is when families come together. I took advantage of my visit to see some of the sights of Petropolis including the Palacio de Cristal, a building made entirely of glass for the sole purpose of demonstrating engineering prowess. It was quite remarkable, and reminded of me of the larger structure that had once stood in Chicago and I very much wished that I could have seen it. After exploring the city for the afternoon I found myself at the Imperial Museum, where the Emperor himself once lived. The most impressive structure to me, however was the church. St. Peter’s of Alcantara, an enormous Cathedral that overlooks the city square. I never would have thought coming to Brazil that I would find impressive Gothic architecture, yet here it was standing right before my eyes.
The interior of the church was just as impressive, and after exploring I found myself below ground, reading inscriptions on the ancient tombs in the burial crypt. This is where the last Emperor himself was buried, and as I looked around I found myself suddenly alone. Alone with the dead, I thought, how perfect. It seemed that death was following me everywhere I went. Well, seeing as I could not stay here by myself any longer I quickly made my way to the stairs and as I was reaching the top, the door swung closed all by itself. I tried the handle, but the door was locked tight! Minutes passed, I was alone in the dark and no amount of banging or shouting seemed to be doing me any good. Terror soon began to set in, and I began to think this trip was entirely a mistake. I had just about given up hope and resolved to die here in the dark when I heard footsteps. I resumed my pounding on the door. Evidently, this time someone heard me and the door was thrown open, light poured in.
“Desculpa, amigo. Quanto tempo voce estive aqui?”
“I’m sorry, I speak English. I’m an American.”
“Ah, American! English.”
The man before me was short, balding, with a long, single twisting eyebrow. I don’t want to seem judgemental or rude, but he was not a pleasant man to look upon. His eyes seemed to bulge out of his head, giving him a bug like quality to him. However, he was kind enough and he escorted me back to the chapel where we engaged in a friendly conversation. His name was Vagna, I learned, and he was a bus driver here in the city. His English was poor, but he seemed eager to talk to me and even more eager to learn about America. When I told him that I was a student at Yale, his eyes seemed to grow even larger “Yale…rich, your family, lots of money!”
“Well, I suppose you could say that. Yale isn’t cheap.”
“No…lots of money…to learn at university.”
And so our conversation went. Eventually I grew tired of trying to decipher what the man was getting at and the time was growing late, so I bid him adieu and caught the next bus back to Josiah’s house.
As I was walking down the foggy street to the long staircase, I saw something ahead of me on the side of the road. It looked almost like an animal, digging, but it was large and for a moment I was seized with fear. An animal that large could be dangerous. What kind of animals did they have here in Brazil? I felt a wave of uncertainty wash over me, I felt a stranger here, in a strange land. I assume most travellers at one point or another feel some level of this as they come to terms with a foreign place. But the fog cleared somewhat and I was able to distinguish that the creature was actually a person, digging in a pile of trash. I approached the person, their face was covered in filthy rags, ridden with holes. As I neared, the thing turned its head in my direction and I saw the face that was hidden from me the night before. The woman’s face from the stairs! It was a face that was completely unforgettable, insane pale eyes, a scarred face covered in dirt and warts, and hair that shot out in all directions from discare. This was no human, this was an animal!
I quickly turned and continued on my way, not daring to look back. As I reached the stairs, I felt impelled to run, which resulted in my walking at a slightly quicker pace just in case anyone was watching. I had almost reached Josiah’s house when I decided to look back and much to my surprise I found the woman standing at the foot of the stair, looking up at me, as if she were waiting to see which house I entered! Terrified, and unable to stay where I was under the foul woman’s gaze, I ran up the rest of the stairs and into Josiah’s house.
For the rest of the evening I was considerably shaken up, and Josiah could tell from my silence that something was off, but he could not get out of me what it was, and I could not bring myself to tell him what was causing me such anguish and paranoia. “I’m simply tired from running about all day, I don’t think I’ve fully recovered from the journey.” Such excuses continued until I almost believed them myself, and I excused myself much earlier than the night previous and left for my apartment. As I exited Josiah’s house, I carried a lantern with me, and looked both ways on the stairs to see if the woman was there, waiting for me. I could not see her, but it was a considerably foggy night and I could not see the bottom of the stairs. I quickly ran up to my apartment door, unlocked it, and slammed it behind me! Only once I was inside with the door locked did I feel safe, though it took a moment for my heart to calm.
I had to do something to distract my cursed imagination! Never had I felt this level of terror since I was a child! This was no spirit, no banshee! This was a human being, tormented, yes, but nothing more! I decided to try some reading to distract myself. I had to keep up on my schoolwork anyways, so I took out one of my textbooks and began to read. For the first while I couldn’t concentrate, my mind kept wandering to the woman on the stairs. But I must have fallen asleep because the next thing I remember I heard a sobbing and my head shot up, back to consciousness.
It was her! She had once again begun her nightly climb! I took up my lantern and rushed to the glass doors to the porch overlooking the valley. Down below, I could see her on the stairs, climbing and wailing, heading my direction! Chills began to run down my spine, I did not like the idea of her coming this way, or standing outside my door! But what could she do? Logic argued inside me, she was simply a drunk woman, the city was full of them! Then why was my heart pounding inside my chest? Why was I fixating on her and why did she terrify me? Soon the woman grew near, I could hear her feet shuffling outside on the stone steps. She was outside my apartment now, I could hear her cries. I could hardly take it, I just wanted her to be gone!
And soon she was. She continued to climb, upwards, into the fog, finishing her nightly ascent to heaven knows where! I decided that I was being a coward. She was just a woman, and soon a new curiosity took hold me of. I found myself crossing the room and unlocking my door. Where did this new bravery spring from? Where was it taking me? But I knew the answer. It was taking me to the woman. Up the stairs. My ascent was quick, and I carried the lantern with me into the fog, soon the mist enveloped me, and I could see nothing but the stairs in front of me. Before long, I found myself once again on level ground. I had reached the top of the stairs. The mist was somewhat clearer up here, and I could see that I was standing in a road, more houses were built on up either side of me. So this is where the woman climbed to each night. It seemed silly now, to have followed her here. Whatever her reasons for climbing those stairs, it was none of my business. I looked around for her, without success. She seemed to have vanished, perhaps into one of the houses. Perhaps this is where she lived. I suddenly felt very alone and vulnerable. Why had I come here? I was a fool! I turned to return the way I came, and there she was! Standing right behind me in the night! The woman! She screamed, and I’ll never forget the way my heart grew cold, those terrible eyes staring right into my soul!
The next thing I knew I was lying in my bed, caught in a terrible sweat. Had it really happened? I could not say. But I knew that the woman was real, and I was still in my apartment in Brazil. The memory or dream stood burning like a fire in my mind. I rose and looked out the wide window. The day was overcast and raining, clouds as far as I could see.
That day was spent indoors, as the weather would not allow me to leave. Somehow being close to the stairs was the worst thing for me, and I found myself dreading having to climb up to my apartment alone. After too much schoolwork and many card games with my niece, Josiah returned from the University and preparations began for dinner. We were short one ingredient, and I volunteered to go down to the bakery and fetch it. Some fresh air would do me some good, I reasoned. I put on a poncho and descended the wet, slippery steps to the street below. The walk was a brisk one, and the wind was howling the entire way to the end of the street. It seemed an ill omen, as if I could not escape the woman’s howling, even now during the day. The rain followed me wherever I went, and despite my poncho, I found myself soaked from head to foot by the time I stepped into the bakery.
Using my basic understanding of Portuguese, I was able to conduct a transaction for some additional flour, and as I about to walk out the door, who should I run into but Vagna from the day before! He seemed glad to see me, and though I didn’t want to stay and talk, I indulged the poor chap for a moment, mostly as a favor for my rescue the other day. He invited me to come with him to his place for dinner, I politely refused, some other time perhaps, I suggested. It seems he didn’t like my refusal of his invitation, I’m not familiar with the customs of Brazil, it may be that I offended his honor and broke some sort of cultural custom, but I did not trust the man and I would risk offending one villager for the exchange of my own safety. I quickly walked home and this time on the stairs I did not look back.
The evening seemed to pass too quickly. Dinner ended, conversation began, but once again I found myself distracted. All I could think about was the woman. What if she was a banshee? I wondered. Was she trying to warn me? Was someone going to die? I suddenly began to feel very ill, and paranoia set in. Who could it be. My brother? His wife? Myself? I returned to my apartment and no sooner had I entered then I heard the woman on the stairs, howling and wailing. I stepped back out to watch. I wanted to see her. There she was on the stairs below, howling and sobbing, making her way towards me. I stepped back inside, the rain was still pounding down and I wondered at how she was able to stay brave the elements. I stayed in the doorway for what seemed like an eternity. The sobbing had stopped, I realized. She was gone. Had I missed her? Perhaps she turned back because of the weather? I opened the door to see what had become of her only to find her standing right before me. She looked into my eyes and emitted the most terrible shriek I’ve ever heard. I felt like my bones had turned to glass and were about to shatter into a thousand pieces.
I fell back inside, stumbling and falling onto the ground. To my terror, the woman entered, she looked around, lifted a white, ghostly hand and pointed into the darkness of my bedchamber. She wailed again, breaking into a fit of sobbing. I turned to where she was pointing and was shocked again to find a man standing there in the dim light. He stepped forward, his hiding place revealed. It was Vagna, waiting for me in my own house! He carried a sharp metal pole in his hands, no doubt to be used with malicious intent. He wasted no time, swinging the stick at me, trying to impale me! I rolled out of the way, backing up towards the far end of the room. He was trapping me, soon I would have nowhere to go! Vagna wound up for one final swing, I dodged it, falling and rolling on the ground. But Vagna had put too much force into his swing, he lost his balance and fell forward. A heavy gust of wind swept through the house, pulling the glass doors open as he fell upon them. The balcony broke underneath his weight, and Vagna fell from sight. I looked out the window to see his body on the stairs below. I turned, but the wailing woman was gone. I ran to the door and looked up and down the stairs, but it was as if she had vanished into thin air!
To this day, I cannot say what became of the woman. But I do know what I saw, and I admit I cannot explain it. Some things cannot be explained away by ration, that much I have learned and am able to admit. And even if I live my life as a rational man, ruled by logic and facts, I will never be able to deny my own supernatural experience of the woman on the stairs.

Credit: D. M. Hutchins

The Coldest Day

March 7, 2017 at 12:00 AM

Bitter cold was nothing new for Northern Alberta, especially not for January, and the cacophony of wind that tore through the woodlands was nothing if not wholly familiar and almost comforting to the one that huddled in the tree line, obliterated from vision by the pitch of night and the swaying arm of evergreen trees. The figure stood there for a time and simply watched, waiting, head canted ever so subtly to the left and listened, staring into the dullness of the dimly illuminated window no more than fifty feet across the crisp layer of hardening snow that stood without a single scar, nothing to mar its pristine surface. Much like other homes throughout the reserve a family was nestled within and the figure could smell the promise of stew and bannock, could feel the sudden violent clench of hunger from the depths of its belly and touched the length of flesh that gurgled so very audibly that it was near impossible to ignore and the being halted peering still through the window to see if they had heard the noise, the ominous growl of need its traitorous body had emitted. Life continued as per normal within those heated walls, a family sitting down to dinner. A family blissfully unaware they were being watched… evaluated.

From the window it appeared as though the house was the same as any other, that the people inside were just like every other family. However there was something different about this family. A sense of dread and impending doom so thick that the Grandmother naturally assumed she could not only smell it in the air but see its lingering webs in the shadows of her home. Six families in the last month, six that were missing with little more than a struggle and vitae born finger painting that had decorated the walls and there was no one on the reserve that wasn’t talking about it. Six families to each bag a deer from the very interior of the forest. So far into the interior that the most experienced of hunters avoided it not to mention the average white man but times were tough and the pickings were slim. With so many out of work it became harder and harder to feed families and those with the proper knowledge and hunting rights were not about to let their own family let alone people of their community starve; such was the Aboriginal way of life. The issue however was not in the hunting so much as what happened within a few moons of the original kill. The deer caught and cleaned and then brought back home to be butchered and divided among those that needed it most. It was the third night after this when those that lived in the home went missing. Elders, parents, children and grandchildren… No one was accounted for and thinking of this caused the old woman to shudder. “Kokum? You okay?” A small voice asked and the woman turned her attention down to the small child standing by the family table and nodded, forcing a smile and patted the girl on the head.

“You go on my girl,” She said, not feeling nearly as confident as she sounded. “Everything is just fine and we have some time before dinner is ready. Go watch your show.” It was with a gapped tooth smile that the girl kissed her grandmother’s hip and fled, braid bouncing in the air behind her and in that moment the grandmother knew true fear. The ominous air felt positively heavy as did the heart that beat in frantic rhythm in her chest. “You’re sure about this?”

“Not in the slightest but what else can we do? Six whole families? What else could it have been?” Her son replied setting plates upon the table as his wife entered behind him with silverware and glasses. The table itself was filled reminding the woman of the last meal allowed to a prisoner before their time in front of The Creator. “You said yourself that something had to be done.”

“I didn’t realize that we’d be keeping the children here instead of sending them to your wife’s family.” In that moment fear sharpened her tone, anger causing her hands to tremble. “They shouldn’t be here.” The wife looked from mother to son, swallowing and set the utensils upon the tabletop.
“We had no choice and you know it.” She began slowly. “It waits for the most bountiful haul of meat it can take in one hunt, what were we supposed to do? Allow another family to disappear? At least we’re prepared. The others certainly weren’t.”
“That’s not the point!”
“It doesn’t matter what the point is, it’s too late.” In that moment her son ended the conversation and went back to the kitchen. It was time to bring food to the table for what could possibly be the last evening they would ever spend together.

In the treeline hungry eyes watched the three converse among themselves, the ever present gurgle of its belly becoming all the more impatient. It didn’t want to wait for the family to eat, the grandmother was plump and the children would be tender, succulent. It moved, taking a half step forward and could taste something bitter in its mouth with a rush of saliva. Vomit threatened to rise up, a sudden reaction the ravenous hunger that pulled at the creature’s very being. Its soul if it could be argued that the beast still had one. For a moment there was a sudden rush of dizziness and its hand rested upon the tree to its left, allowing it the briefest second of respite. A moment to shake away any other thoughts that weren’t related to the hunt and it was hard to focus on anything else. Ordinarily the beast would have allowed them to dine first but tonight would be different, the last family had been sick and the meat worthless. The creature starved and could not think strait, could not consider a thing beyond the next meal presented to it. Tentatively the first step came, foot breaking through the pristine layer of hardened snow with a subtle crunching and it paused for just a moment while cast in the darkness of winters early evening and when nothing else stirred it was followed by another and yet another. It crept closer still, impatient.

They sat at the table, said their thanks and began to eat. The deer was delicious but was hard to swallow for the old woman was not hungry but could not alarm the children whom ate with gusto. “Kokum? Kokum!” Cried the small girl. “You’re not eating.” The child frowned and to set aside her worry the old woman took a larger mouthful of potato that tasted no better than dirt in her mouth and chewed pointedly. The child watched her steadily seemingly now suspicious of her meat and leaned forward to sniff her dinner.

“Eat your supper.” The girl’s mother chided. “There are plenty of people in our community who have nothing to eat tonig…” It was then that first crack sounded, far louder than the sound of a car back firing and the child screamed in terror, grabbed by her grandmother and brought under the table with the command to hide with her younger brothers soon joining her. Two small children and a baby hiding in plain sight while their father jumped from the table and all but flew to the door pausing only to grab the hunting rifle that lay propped up by the frame their grandmother unable to ignore the sound of her own terrified heartbeat in her ears.

The creature had all but sprinted across the snow when the noise came, gunfire – a single shot. In that moment the beast froze and turned sharply, a figure in the darkness with two illuminated and pallid blue eyes that all but glowed in piss poor light. Darkness was the friend of this creature and over cast evenings were favored for this very reason and there while it stood hunched its head lifted and a single wet snuffling sound filled the deafening silence that had followed the shot. Gasoline. It had been so eager to feast that it hadn’t bothered to scent the air around it and had been trapped. In that moment a horrific, beastly roar filled the air before the sound of gasoline catching from a single match could whisper through the interrupted stillness. In that very moment it was as though the temperature dropped further from a considerable cold to something both bitter and angry when the line of fire began to close in in rapid succession. The beast bolted and howled when the circle of flames closed around it, illuminating the beast that stalked with rapid purpose in its trap glaring hatefully at the men that emerged from the woods with their guns and lights. The promising meal was stolen from it and rage tore at its breast, ripping from its throat with anger so great it staggered the men save for one… One that sang, a deeply and throaty sound accompanied by a painted hand drum that seemed to drive the beast back to the very edge of its prison. Rage seemed to give way to fear and this bolstered the men into believing that perhaps their shaman could keep the creature at bay with nothing more than song, the Creator and his magic.

The children were terrified, clinging to one another and sobbing their mother climbing under the table after them to soothe and hold them. Afraid to take them from the house to the safety of the car and a house far, far from this one in which they lived. “Stay here.” The grandmother was soon moving to follow her son though at a much slowed pace. The rear of their house and the field behind it were nothing if not surreal for the shadows dancing from flame and the figure that twisted itself from the man working his medicine. She moved closer to it yet, holding her heart through her breast and willed as best she could for the pace to finally slow when she came around her boy and looked upon the face of the beast. “…The family that disappeared last winter?” She was the only one who spoke while he sang and the others looked to their elder in surprise. “White family,” She spoke as though distracted, looking with pity upon the beast. “Husband, wife, and young boy if I remember correctly. The Sheriff came to borrow some of our people to find them in the woods. All we could find was the car, we said prayers for them.”
“I wonder which of them she ate…” Said one voice.
“Could have been both.” Another chimed in.
“She must have been the reason that party of hunters went missing a few months ago, hungry girl.”
“They’re always hungry.” The old woman was bitter, the men realizing their impropriety in that moment and falling silent as she moved forward and cocked her head to the side. The woman, at one point, had been a dark haired beauty. One that had had her son later in life and had been easily in her mid-thirties with her husband who was still yet older and a son no more than three at the time. “If they were lucky they died before she ate them.” A frown formed upon that wrinkled mouth, deep set ebon eyes meeting the frigid blue of the emaciated bestial version of this woman. Twisted and malnourished, fingernails little more than claws and teeth broken so they could tear meat that much more effectively, gone was the pallor of humanity in her flesh and instead it was replaced with a grey that was reserved usually for mushrooms only. An impressive sight even as it began to lie in the snow, covering its ears and whimpering as best an abomination could it was strange to feel pity for the beast that had killed so many but it too had once been human, had once been loved and for that the old woman could feel pain and look at the creature with tears obscuring her regard.
“…Well I think we need to discuss what to do with it.”
“What do you think we do? We kill it!”
“Yeah, seems like the only way to know for sure that it’s gone.”
“We can’t kill it.” The son interrupted, sighing. “It’s not the flesh we need to fear, that only holds the spirit. You can’t kill the Wendigo, the spirit lives forever and is always hungry. If we kill it then it will go free and torment another.” He looked to his mother, resting a large and calloused hand on her shoulder. “It will go with the others.” It was then the tears fell, the old woman crying openly and turning from the thing before her, turning away from her son, and fled to the safety of the house behind her. The others had fallen silent in that moment, out of respect for their elder and looked to one another.
“Do we even have room for another?”
“Just this one, we need to build another place to house them.”
“Jesus Christ, Frank. We can’t keep them caged. Someone is going to die when they get loose.”
“If they get loose.”
“It doesn’t matter. We’re trying to end the spirit here.” The man, Frank, said sounding as though exhausted and watched his mother enter the house to be with his wife and children. “Damn woman wouldn’t listen when we told them not to go that way. We were just stupid Indians that didn’t know as much as her GPS and now she learned the hard way and we have to clean up her mess.” Headlights could be seen from the front of the house, someone arriving at the house, and feet crunching in the snow while another elder emerged carrying a cast iron collar on a length of iron wood. They would collar the creature and lead her much like cattle. A secondary staff was in his left hand fashioned with a hook that would secure to another loop in order to have two men lead the exceptionally willful and quick beast to where they wanted it to go.
Frank stepped away from the others and tried to block out the sounds of the captured creature being collared and ready for transportation through the woods to the cave where it would be kept from this day forward. The shaman stopped his song instead handing an iPod to the young man who would fit the ear buds into the ear of the creature to listen to songs that had been recorded for this reason exactly. It had happened so many times that now they could stop thinking, could simply go through the motions and for that Frank was grateful remembering the first time he had done exactly this. Back in those days the Shaman stayed and there was comfort to be had in that. “You alright, boy?” He was asked and looked at Paul. Paul had been there for his first and now looked so old.
“I will be, go stay with Mom and Nadine. I’ll be back as soon as I can.” He forced a smile, patted the old man on the shoulder and stepped away to take up the second staff and lock it into place. “Let’s go.” He nodded his partner ahead, taking up the left rear of the beast.

It seemed like they walked for hours in the frigid cold to the locked gate that sat upon a naturally formed cave. One that was dug clearly into the wall of the mountain and had no exit, hopefully still had no exit as no one could enter to check. A sigil was painted above the cave, a malformed skull of sorts with Cree glyphs painted along with it. She, the creature he corrected himself, recoiled from it as he opened the gate and released his staff from the lock. “Push it in.” It was easier if you didn’t think of them as being human once upon a time. Always easier. He took up the remaining staff with the other man and shoved hard, pushing this poor white woman through the cage door as shrieked and convulsed only to fall to the ground and begin vomiting a foul smelling bile upon the stone. Frank kicked the cell door closed and fashioned the lock into place. The warding would work for only so long before someday failing and when it did be damned if the reservation wasn’t going to have at least some time to evacuate.
“May the Creator ease your pain and forgive your mistake. Hunger does strange things to people.” He whispered, looking at the snow beneath his feet. “I hope it wasn’t your son that made you this way.” A growl was heard, weak from the depths of the cage. Another set of pale eyes staring from the darkness before the now desiccated creature moved forward and hissed lazily at him. A face much like his own if it had been born from a nightmare. “Hi Dad.” Thirty years almost to the day and the monster hadn’t aged a year. Not one year.
“I don’t know how you can manage to come out here every time. It’s like he knows you’re coming and is trying to figure out where he wants to bite first.” The other man – Trevor? – shuddered despite himself.
“Thirty years of starving, why else would it look like that at me? It’s not like he knew me, I was just a baby.” Frank shrugged; maybe this guy wasn’t named Trevor. He couldn’t really bring himself to care to be honest. “Now I’m just dinner. You accept it, deal with it and move on. Eventually they’ll die. Maybe. Who knows?” It was bleak to think about and even worse when he turned to look at his father, the woman now rousing herself and realizing what had happened almost instantly began throwing herself at the cage door with a shriek. Angry, fearful… Nothing that was new to him. “Just like they all do this. It’s like watching old shows; you know what’s going to happen because they never deviate. Never.” A shake of his head and he sighed, stepping back. “You know it shouldn’t bother me at all, I didn’t know the guy but it broke my mother. She still misses him; sometimes she comes to look at his face… I keep telling her not to but she does. Old woman is never going to learn but she says he was the love of her life. If it were Nadine I’d want her to move on, you know?” Frank rambled, he always rambled it was just how he coped with what he saw. With what he volunteered to do.
“Sometimes you just can’t fucking win, am I right or am I right?” He turned away then and saw the darkness on the snow first, brow furrowing in confusion. There was enough light to make sure that they didn’t have these shadows and they shouldn’t have appeared like splatter patterns. “Trev?” His eyes scanned ahead to the fallen man on the ground, his throat having been ripped out so quickly he hadn’t had time for a death rattle and upon his chest? A small figure no bigger than his own son of about two and a half, suddenly he felt sick and acceptance all at once. Frank was trapped; he would never be able to outrun this tiny creature that would likely tire him before he could make it that kilometer home. In this moment he knew he was done, he knew there was nothing he could do and the sound of hungry screams did nothing to lessen the blow behind him.
One cry however was almost… Joyous? Relieved? It was hard to describe as the female threw herself against the cage door to no avail time and time again. “…Well kid, I wish she had loved you enough to eat you.” The immortal wendigo child turned to him, a mouth full of blood and meat dripping from his small and broken maw while he stared at Frank. For a moment it was as though a stalemate began to declare itself and then… It pounced.

Wet slurping filled the cold night; the child ate like he had never eaten before. The meat was good. Healthy. It felt good between his teeth and sliding down his throat. He played with his meal as all children do, beaming at his mother when he turned to show her the puppet he’d made out of his second kills skull before pushing it forward with a soft croon, his mother whistling softly in the night to him. A lullaby that was for him only while trying to push a hand out from between the bars and found that she could not, so close and yet to so far from the son she’d kept alive for this long. The song turned sad and she found herself lying down, face pressed to the stone and her son soon mimicking the pose she held but out in the snow where she could not reach him. His tiny hand reaching for her but paused mere inches from her own and together they lay, singing softly to one another, waiting for the mark above the cave to simply wear with time.

Credit: Krys Rudderham


Submission Status

Submissions closed on February 21st, 2017. Please allow me time to work through the queue before I reopen submissions. PLEASE READ THE FAQ AND ANY RECENT ANNOUNCEMENTS BEFORE ATTEMPTING TO SUBMIT YOUR PASTA OR SENDING CONTACT REQUESTS.

Top Rated Pastas

  1. The Seer of Possibilities
    Rating: 9.3. From 6777 votes.
  2. Love
    Rating: 9.3. From 5062 votes.
  3. The Fairies
    Rating: 9.3. From 2041 votes.
  4. Artificial
    Rating: 9.3. From 1757 votes.
  5. Ubloo, Part Four and a Half
    Rating: 9.3. From 1046 votes.
  6. Turn It Off
    Rating: 9.3. From 789 votes.
  7. Psychosis
    Rating: 9.2. From 18641 votes.
  8. Bedtime
    Rating: 9.2. From 10700 votes.
  9. Mr. Widemouth
    Rating: 9.2. From 8376 votes.
  10. The Russian Sleep Experiment
    Rating: 9.2. From 5288 votes.

Random Pasta Menu