Myriad Boardwalk

February 28, 2017 at 12:00 AM

As I walk down the familiar venue of Myriad Boardwalk, I realize that this shoreline amusement park is different from it once was. I remember the bright, rich colors of the tents as vibrant displays of red and white. Colorful flags always flapped in the cool ocean air. At its prime, this popular retreat hosted locals and travelers nearly every weekend since its opening in the summer months of 1945. Now, with its dwindling number of guests and lack of ambiance, the Myriad is quite literally dead.

I continue forward, only passing a few others every now and then. None of them look familiar. Today is unlike most; the sky is gray and spotted with shadowy clouds that block the sunshine rather than welcoming it onto the beach. Most of the concession stands and games are closed. Only a few offer a moment’s amusement for a hefty price and a high chance of failure. To be quite honest, it is sad. The staff that now patrols the boardwalk reeks of oil and the sick stench of bitterness. The rides are useless in their mechanics. Nobody rides them anymore. With the passing times, the Ferris wheel became the symbol of amusement parks across the globe. At the Myriad, it is the symbol of a faded era.

When I was a little girl, I loved Myriad. As a small girl bouncing around in a yellow sundress, I went from stand to stand and begged the cheerful men to slip me a free treat. The first stop on my routine Myriad run was the cotton candy stand. The man who operated the machine, Pops, as I called him, always patted my bouncy curls and handed me a large swirl of pink cotton. I would thank him in my own girlish way and go off to bother someone else. Then I made my way to one of the numerous games. The staff all looked the same in their white suite jackets lined with red stripes, but that did not stop me from creating personal nicknames for each one.

I can remember this place as being grand and filled with life. I sometimes wonder both how and why I end up back here even when I know the memories I’ve made have died. Back then, my parents were young, jubilant, and in love. They took me to Myriad nearly every weekend. My mother always wore her high-waisted denim shorts with a polka dot bikini top. My father, the business man, wore a stunning brown suit with sleek pinstripes. I would later come to know that my father played a large role in the organized crime ring upon which Myriad was, more or less, founded. When he wasn’t placing loving pecks on my mother’s rosy cheeks, he was usually somewhere inconspicuous with his colleagues. Too young to thoroughly enjoy most of the rides at Myriad, my parents were sure to take me on the giant Ferris wheel. If we happened to get conveniently stuck at the very top, I squealed with delight. Then, against the setting sun, my parents would share a loving kiss that always made me feel as if I was the luckiest girl in the world. I knew heaven had to be real, because the Myriad Boardwalk was nothing short of paradise.

Even though the ocean was only a few feet away from the Boardwalk, I cannot say that I spent much time in the water. Sure, on the hotter days, my parents and I would splash around in the cool water, but most of the fun occurred on the Boardwalk itself. It was something that had become a part of me. The Myriad was a part of my life, and when I wasn’t dancing down the Boardwalk in my yellow dress, I didn’t feel like myself.
I haven’t since. It has been a good number of years since I have been back on these very same sandy planks. And like I previously mentioned, nothing is quite the same. It is depressing, really, to see such a vital part of my childhood eroded away by time.

Still wandering around, I spot off in the distance a couple holding hands and strolling down the shoreline. They look familiar to me, but I cannot see their faces. From behind, the couple seems old, but their love is still obvious as they share warm smiles and hands. I quicken my pace to have a better view. As I finally recognize who they are, my breath hitches in my throat. I start to jog, thinking that the faster I reach them, the better of a reunion it will be. It warms my heart to see their faces again.

I reach out to them, to place a hand on the older woman’s shoulder. Before I touch her, the woman stops and looks back at me. She studies me for a second as I say, “Momma?”, but she turns away. My father asks her what is wrong. Her brow furrows, and she says, “I thought I felt something, but it was nothing.” They continue their stroll down the beach. I jump to grab my father, to beg him to stop and turn around, but my hand grabs air.

Some time ago, I strayed too far from my parents’ watchful eyes. Not because I disobeyed, but because I was a teenager. I thought boys were cute, but my father made boys nervous, so I often wandered off to meet my friends during our routine weekend trips to the boardwalk. My parents were particularly preoccupied with my father’s business affairs. He and his colleagues had gone too far in their quest for complete control of the city. It was around this time that my father had struck up a lucrative deal with the local police. In exchange for some exaggerated information about a rival family and a good amount of cash, the police effectively eliminated my father’s rivals from the city, killing some and jailing the others. My father and his associates walked away from the deal completely satisfied and with no blood on their hands.

The rival family’s remaining immature members raged at the news. Suddenly their fathers, uncles, and friends were behind bars or buried underground. Cash stopped flowing; instead it was rerouted into the pockets of my father’s fine-tailored suits. The struggling rival gang formulated a plan for retaliation, ensuring it would be painful, effective, and yet extremely personal. They decided on a course of action. When the time was right, they planned to load a car with weaponry and men and drive until my father lay dead in the streets. My father caught wind of this plan but chose to ignore it. He scoffed at the idea of such a public retaliation. He refused when my mother persuaded him to alert the authorities. Instead, he insisted my mother and I get into the car for another weekend trip to the ocean.

I didn’t have the chance to say goodbye. What my father’s source failed to tell him, because his source was a rat, was the intended target was not my father or his friends.

It was me.

On a warm sunny afternoon, I stopped believing the Myriad Boardwalk was heaven. I died with a pink swirl of cotton candy in my hand. For now, I aimlessly wander here, stuck in this wasteland of memories, transparently observing life from the other side.

Credit: Ali

Family Secrets

February 27, 2017 at 12:00 AM

Family Secrets
By Brenda Ader

The clock stood in the hall. One of the truly magnificent pieces of the Walter Family’s estate, the clock was made of heavy mahogany and showcased a large, mother-of-pearl face with hands of sculpted bronze. Each hour the tall clock rumbled in the hall, resolutely calling the hour, the passage of time.
No one knew who originally designed the clock. Some in the family claimed it was made by an Austrian watchmaker by special commission. Others said it was given to the family many generations back as payment for some debt. No one knew for sure, but it mattered little. The general consensus was the same: although the clock was magnificent, there was something oddly sinister about it.
It was a hard thing to explain, really. It wasn’t that the clock was ugly. Indeed, quite the opposite was true. It was heavily decorated with carved cherubs, shined glossy. The face radiated pink, blue, and ivory in the sun, while the heavy bronze hands moved about elegantly, their pieces intricately carved. Even the deep groan of its chiming bells resonated with a kind of stately grandeur.
Guests to the house often stopped to comment on its beauty, but only at a distance. Even the most ardent admirers of its artistry rarely approached it directly. Indeed, most people walked by it quickly, suppressing a shudder. Even Nadia, one of Old Lady Rose’s many descendants and the current owner of the estate, rushed passed it when outright avoidance was impossible. In fact, the only person who seemed able to maintain her nerve in the face of the clock’s strange atmosphere was Nadia’s youngest daughter, Isobeth.
At thirteen years old, Isobeth was the quintessential misfit. She preferred books to play, spiders to dolls, and twilight to midday. Although she was both pale and blonde in appearance, she was a dark spirit drawn to all things macabre. However, even she was not totally immune to the influence of the clock.
She’d never mentioned it to anyone, but she’d always felt oddly drawn to the elegant timepiece. Sometimes, as she made her way down the mahogany-paneled hallway, she felt as though it were actually calling to her. She found this somewhat unsettling, but also intriguing. She’d approach the wooden monolith with an odd mixture of curiosity and trepidation. Then, she’d stare it down as though she were challenging it to a duel. Sometimes Nadia would catch her daughter in the act; her back rigid, her violet eyes peering into the clock’s iridescent face the way one might stare down an adversary. Nadia was never quite sure what to make of it.
“What on earth are you doing, my dear?” her mother would ask.
“The clock…it watches me,” is all Isobeth would say.
Nadia was always left standing, awkwardly, in the shadowy hall. After her daughter had gone, she would approach the clock gingerly, trying to feel what Isobeth had felt. But, she could never feel anything but the vague uneasiness.
Things took an odd turn when, suddenly, the nightmares began. Each night at 3am Isobeth would awaken, screaming. It was a blood-curdling scream; the kind that caused one to freeze upright in bed, unable to move. Servants inevitably rushed in to assist her. They always found her in the same posture: in a tight ball under the covers, face on knees. When she was extricated from her sheets, she always seemed oddly surprised, as though she’d been set free from a terrible trap. Then she’d roll over and go right back to sleep as though nothing at all had happened.
This went on for a fortnight. Various attempts were made to explain the sudden appearance of the nightmares, but no solution could be found. When queried, Isobeth could never really recall what had happened to cause her to scream, but she felt, vaguely, that it was somehow connected with the front hall and the clock. After two weeks of disturbed sleep, Nadia became desperate. The staff looked half dead and she was at her wit’s end.
Determined to find a solution, Nadia decided that, since Isobeth seemed bothered by the clock, perhaps she should try having it removed for a while. She called some friends at the local antiques dealership and asked them if they would be willing to keep the clock for a spell. They reluctantly agreed. After all, who would want to take on the protection of such an expensive heirloom?
Removing the clock was a massive undertaking, but in the end, Nadia was glad she’d gone through with the operation. Almost immediately, the screaming stopped. Indeed, Isobeth slept soundly for another fortnight. After two weeks of peace, Nadia was on the verge of declaring the whole experiment a rousing success. However, she soon discovered that she need not have been so bold.
On the fourteenth night, instead of screaming, Isobeth rose at precisely 3am. In a dream-like state she walked out of her room, down the upper hallway, down two sets of stairs, passed the landing, through the gallery, all the way to the front hall where the clock once stood. There, she stood absolutely still for about 10 minutes. And then, as if someone had snapped his fingers, she’d awakened, startled and confused.
This was all discovered through pure chance. A servant had risen to get a glass of water because she couldn’t sleep. When she entered the front hall, she saw Isobeth standing there in her nightdress. Then, while she watched, Isobeth seemed to stir and look around. It was clear the girl had no idea why she was in the front hall. The same set of events transpired on the following evening. This went on for another two weeks. That’s when Isobeth began to see the girl.
At first she was a small, clear light, strangely fog-like and murky. However, as time passed, she became more and more distinct. The first time it happened, Isobeth didn’t know whether she should stay and observe the strange apparition, or run screaming from the hall in terror. She chose the former, much to the relief of the rest of the household.
This went on for some time (the walking, the waking, and the seeing of the bizarre, glowing girl in the hall); however, it was tolerated because Isobeth didn’t seem to mind, and neither did anyone else. No one was being awakened at 3am, no one’s sleep was being disturbed, and Isobeth rarely spoke of it.
Indeed, a kind of routine developed. The only thing that seemed to change was Isobeth’s location. Sometimes she was directly across from the clock. Other times she was kitty-corner from it. Sometimes she was down the hall farther. It became a game among the servants to bet on where she would turn up from one night to the next. Indeed, the serving staff drew lots each evening to determine whose sleep would be disturbed. In most cases, the servant who “won” would have to rise at 3am and take a peek over the banister to see where she was. The following morning, the staff member would report Isobeth’s location on the previous night and payouts would be made.
One December night, Susan, the pantry maid, drew the shortest straw. However, her room was in a different part of the house than much of the serving staff because her room was located right next to the kitchen. This is why, when Susan came to the front hall she was able to see, not only Isobeth, but also the little ghost.
Isobeth had awakened several minutes before Susan’s arrival and, therefore, had heard her approaching. Isobeth turned to look at Susan, but the maid seemed not to see Isobeth at all. She was completely mesmerized by the shimmering light glowing softly at the base of the wall where the clock once stood.
Isobeth was completely unmoved by the sight of the ghost in the hall. She’d seen it for weeks. Instead, she looked at Susan and asked: “What are you doing up?”
“Who is that?” pointed Susan, ignoring the question.
“The girl,” Isobeth answered, quite naturally, “she comes every night.”
“Does she always look like that?” Susan moved closer, calmed by Isobeth’s seemed indifference. She studied the strange apparition, unable to take her eyes from the figure of the ghostly little girl who sat with her face down and her knees drawn up.
“Yes, she’s always in that position. I don’t know why,” Isobeth shrugged, “she seems sad.”
“Does she move?” Susan took another step forward, “Does she speak?”
“I’ve never tried to speak to her,” Isobeth replied, “all I know is, she doesn’t move, and she never looks at me.”
“I wonder if she’d speak to you if you addressed her. She must be here for some reason, mustn’t she? I mean, you don’t just camp out each night in a drafty hallway for no reason, do you?” Susan reasoned.
“I don’t know,” Isobeth shrugged again, “it’s not as though she can feel the chill.”
“For shame!” Susan said quickly, chastising her in a harsh whisper, “You know not what she feels.”
“True, but neither do you,” Isobeth challenged.
“Aye… I suppose that’s true enough,” Susan admitted. A brief silence followed before she spoke again, “it is odd, though, her sitting there like that.”
“I feel like she’s here for a reason, but I don’t know what it is….like she has something important to say, but she doesn’t speak.”
“Maybe you should try speaking to her,” Susan suggested.
“I don’t think she’d speak with someone else here. I’m not sure why.”
“Well, maybe I should go back to bed then…” Susan whispered before attempting to tip-toe away.
Just then, the glowing figure faded in brightness and disappeared.
“She’s gone,” Susan breathed, walking forward suddenly.
“Aye, she does that. She’s only here a short while,” Isobeth answered, nonchalantly.
“I wonder where she goes,” Susan said, not really expecting an answer.
“I’ve often wondered why she suddenly started appearing. The clock was always there before, wasn’t it? It’s odd. I used to walk down this hallway after dark all the time, but I never saw her until recently,” Isobeth replied.
Susan grew brave and moved closer to the wall. On a whim, she began running her hand through the air near the place where the spectral girl once sat. She glanced absently at Isobeth and noted the girl’s confused expression. Slightly ashamed, Susan began tapping on the wainscoting instead. She wasn’t even sure what she was looking for, really, except some clue as to where the ghost might have come from or where she might have gone. At one point, as she patted an area of the wall, she was startled by the strangely hollow sound that emanated from it.
“I wonder what that is,” Susan murmured.
“What do you mean?” Isobeth saw the look of wonder on Susan’s features, “Is there something there?”
“I’m not sure,” Susan answered, before kneeling down to knock more aggressively. She started near the place where the spectral girl had just been seen and then moved down the hallway, rapping on the wall as she moved along. There was no mistaking it. The area behind the clock sounded different than the rest of the wall.
“It IS hollow there,” remarked Susan, walking back toward Isobeth.
“I wonder what it means,” Isobeth wondered aloud.
“There must be an empty space behind the wall,” Susan suggested, “maybe the little ghost is guarding something? Maybe there’s a treasure?”
“Or, maybe a grave,” Isobeth countered.
“Why must you be so morbid?” Susan sighed.
“It’s just as likely as a treasure.”
“Who’d bury someone in a wall?” Susan challenged skeptically.
“Someone who didn’t wish to be found out, I suspect.”
“Ugh,” Susan shivered, looking up and down the long, dark hallway, “let’s talk of something else.”
Isobeth merely sighed and began to walk back to her room.
“Will she come tomorrow, do you think?” Susan pursued.
“Most likely,” Isobeth remarked, not turning around.
“If she does, I think you should try speaking to her. Try to find out what she wants.”
“Perhaps,” was all the answer she received.

The following night, Isobeth awakened at 3am and walked down to the hall as usual. Again, she encountered the young girl who sat with her back to the wall and her knees drawn up. Isobeth said nothing for several minutes, gathering courage. She pretended her bravery in Susan’s presence, but there, alone, with the strange apparition, she was terrified. Suppose the ghost was angry? Suppose it didn’t wish to be disturbed? In the end, however, Isobeth collected her wits and spoke:
“Why do you sit there?” she began in a voice that was barely audible.
The ghostly child sat perfectly still, its posture unmoved for several moments. Then, as if roused suddenly, the little head came up and the face of a young girl was clearly visible in its evanescence. And then, a voice like wind in dry grass-
“I sit because I cannot stand. I stay because I cannot leave.”
Isobeth did not answer at first, taken off guard by the sound of the voice. How often had she shared silence with the little ghost? Now, they spoke; two girls in the same hallway, separated by time and life.
“Why can’t you stand?” Isobeth asked, finally, “And why can you not leave?”
“I stay because I cannot leave. I sit because I cannot stand,” the girl repeated.
Never one to be sentimental, Isobeth dove into her questioning, determined to get to the bottom of the child’s sudden appearance:
“Well, how long have you been sitting there?”
“I cannot tell how long I’ve been here behind this clock. It counts away the hours. Day and night, and night and day, I hear the hours fly away.”
“I imagine that’s quite true,” Isobeth began, noting the girl’s antiquated clothing,
“but you can’t have heard the clock much lately. I know, because we’ve had it removed. It unsettled me so.”
“And what now?” asked the ghost.
“What do you mean?”
“Are you settled?” pursued the ghost.
Isobeth paused at this.
“No…I suppose not…Here I am, after all, mulling about in the middle of the night. But I don’t scream anymore, at least.”
“So much the better for the rest of them, I should think,” replied the ghost with a hint of sarcasm.
“Well, what of you? We’re both here at this hour, aren’t we?” spat Isobeth.
“I can’t help it!” snapped the ghost, “Who can blame you for what you see?”
And then, in a huff, she vanished.
Isobeth was equally miffed. She crossed her arms impatiently and marched up the stairs to her room.

The next day she told Susan everything that the girl had said. As she spoke, Isobeth noticed that one of the older maids in her mother’s employ was watching them closely, listening to every word.
“How now,” Isobeth said rather loudly, staring at the woman, “what do you find so interesting?”
“I meant no harm,” Bertha answered, rising from her chair and coming closer, “I just couldn’t help overhearing. You’re talking about the little ghost, aren’t you?”
“Aye,” Susan began, “Isobeth sees her.”
“The little girl…” Bertha murmured.
“Yes,” began Isobeth, “I think I made her quite cross with me last night.”
“She speaks to you?” Bertha seemed surprised at this.
“Yes,” Isobeth answered matter-of-factly.
“I’ve never spoken to her, but I, too, have seen her,” Bertha began, “years ago when I was a girl, like you. I think she only appears to young girls. Girls about her age who come into the hall when the clock’s gone.”
“When did you see her?” asked Susan.
“Oh,” Berth chuckled, “many years ago now. My mother worked in the laundry back then. I was maybe twelve or thirteen at the time. I remember that the clock was being repaired and had to be taken out. It was a rare thing, I recall. A clock that heavy isn’t easy to move, you know,” Bertha paused, recalling events, “I remember I woke one night, came downstairs, and I saw her sitting there. When I asked my mother about her, she hushed me and told me never to speak of it. She was very superstitious. But, I was a curious girl. When I could get no answers from her, I asked one of the other servants. It was Miss Watkins, the scullery maid, who finally told me who she was.”
“Well, what did she say?” asked Susan.
“She told me a dismal story,” Bertha began, “and I’m not even sure I have the right of it. Miss Watkins heard it second hand. It’s a very old story.”
She paused, gaining momentum, and then began again to tell the story:
“She was the daughter of a poor woman in town who came to work in the house. This was in the time of Old Lady Rose’s mother, Julia, mind you. She was in her prime then. Not yet thirty, I believe. It was many years ago…Queen Victoria had not been on the throne very long as I recall.
“This poor girl was ordinary in every way except that she suffered from a sleep disorder which caused her to walk about when she was sound asleep. Virtually every night she rose from her bed and walked the halls. After several years, it came to seem normal and no one even remarked on it anymore. Indeed, the situation became so routine that the girl actually began sleeping in her slippers so that she wouldn’t catch a chill from walking on the cold floors after nightfall.”
“What time did she rise?” Isobeth asked, curiously.
“I don’t know,” Bertha shrugged, “but very late at night, I think. Just a few hours before dawn…why?”
“It’s at that time that she wakes each night,” Susan answered, motioning toward Isobeth.
“Three o’clock,” Isobeth remarked.
Bertha looked at her for several moments, a kind of sad interest spreading across her features.
“Aye, so it was with her. She rose and no one paid it much mind. It became routine, the way a thing will, given enough time. The situation was never cause for alarm because everyone in the house knew about her condition. However, things turned tragic one winter’s night.
“It was right before Christmas. At that time, Christmas trees were novelty items enjoyed by the wealthy. They were, therefore, displayed in places of great prominence. That is why the front hall was chosen. The location offered not only a wide open space for lights and decorations, but was also in close proximity to the marble fireplace where the stockings were hung.
“Well, on Christmas Eve of that year, some thieves broke in, most likely drawn by the prospect of holiday gifts waiting there. You can imagine their surprise when, in the midst of their crime, they noticed a young girl standing in the front hall.
“She couldn’t see anything, of course. She was just standing there, asleep. But these thieves would have had no knowledge of her strange condition. They would have assumed that she’d caught them in the act.
“No one is sure what happened next, but it was widely suspected that foul play occurred. One of her slippers was actually found in the snow several miles from here. Some assumed she was kidnapped while others were sure she’d been killed and the body disposed of somehow.
“I’m not sure when the ghost first appeared, but it must have been several years later when the clock was removed from the front hall again. She’s only visible when the clock is removed, you understand. It’s said that she always appears in the place where the tragedy occurred.”
“Terrible,” murmured Susan.
“Why do you suppose she’s always sitting with her head down?” asked Isobeth.
“No one knows,” remarked Bertha.
“She said that she could neither stand nor leave,” asked Isobeth.
“Is that what she told you?” Bertha inquired.
“Aye,” Susan interjected, “she repeats it, according to Isobeth.”
“It is odd…”
“True. Tis strange,” Susan stated, “clearly there’s a mystery in all of this.”
“Well, there’s nothing else for it. You will just have to speak to her again, Isobeth,” Bertha remarked, “there’s no other way.”

That night, as before, Isobeth rose at 3am and walked down into the hall. The phantom girl sat, back against the wall, just as before. A soft white light emanated from her in the darkness. It was both comforting and eerie.
Bravely, Isobeth addressed the girl again.
“Why do you sit there?” she asked.
“I sit because I cannot stand. I stay because I cannot leave,” replied the ghost.
“Why are you not visible when the clock is in its proper place?”
“The clock is more than just a clock- it hides the spot. It hides the spot.”
“What spot?” asked Isobeth, “A stain?”
“The clock, the clock, you cannot see. It hides the place that hideth me.”
“You make no sense at all,” Isobeth fumed with impatience, “you speak in riddles. Speak plainly!”
“The clock, the clock, you cannot see. It hides the place that hideth me,” the ghost repeated.
Isobeth merely shook her head, confused. She paced the floor for several moments, trying to make sense of the ghost’s riddles. In time, the apparition disappeared completely and Isobeth found herself alone in the hall once more.

The next morning, she told Susan all that she’d heard. Susan considered the ghost’s riddles, shaking her head frequently. Suddenly, her face went white. She sat forward in her chair, her hand covering her mouth.
“Have mercy…it can’t be…” she began.
“What?” Isobeth peered into the woman’s face curiously.
“She said that the clock hides the place that hides her. Old Bertha said the girl’s slipper was found miles from here, but that was just her slipper. The girl isn’t gone…Don’t you see? She’s still here.”
“You mean –” Isobeth released the breath she’d been holding.
“I mean, the clock…it hides…where she is,” Susan looked Isobeth in the eyes meaningfully, “she’s still there…in the wall.”
“Who would do such a thing?!” Isobeth exploded.
“Aye, indeed. Who would hide a little girl in a wall?”
“And how would they get away with it?” Isobeth paused, realizing the rudeness of her next question, “I mean…wouldn’t it….smell? How was it not discovered?”
“I don’t know…” Susan’s head moved side to side very slowly. They sat quite still for several moments before Susan seemed to come to life. She took Isobeth’s hands and looked into her face almost imploringly, “ye know what ye must do, aye? Tonight, you must ask her. You must confirm it. If she says it is so…what we think…”
“Then we must open the wall,” Isobeth answered flatly, as though there could be no argument.
“Aye,” Susan nodded, “she’s been in there long enough.”

At 3 am Isobeth opened her eyes and found herself, once again, in the front hall across from the wall where the clock once stood. Within moments, she saw the little ghost appear opposite her. Isobeth began in the usual way-
“Why do you sit there?” she asked.
“I sit because I cannot stand. I stay because I cannot leave,” answered the ghost.
“Where is your resting place? Far from here?” asked Isobeth.
“I think you know- you do, you do. Behind the wall, I am entombed,” the ghost replied.
Isobeth tried to keep her voice steady as she asked her next question: “And who put you there, pray tell? Robbers?”
“The workmen came to fix the clock. They came and took it all away. They saw the wealth and began to plot. They planned to rob the house some way.”
Isobeth almost snapped her fingers. It made perfect sense! She paced, speaking as she walked-
“Of course they did. They’d seen the house. They knew its layout. They planned to do it right before the clock came back. Great Grandma Julia would have insisted it be back in time for Christmas. They decided to break in on Christmas Eve. Then they could reinstall the clock on the morning of Christmas Day…Of course…They’d be eliminated as suspects. Who robs a house and then returns to it the next day?”
But, what about the girl?
“They didn’t expect you, though, did they? That part wasn’t planned. They didn’t know about your sleepwalking…”
The girl’s face was turned downward once more.
“But, how did they…” she paused, “how did they hide you? Where…? In the wall?” she asked, finally, almost fearful of the answer.
The ghost looked up at this. They shared a long, even look. Their faces were so similar. Their ages, so close. They might have been friends, cousins…sisters even.
Finally, the ghost answered her-
“This house is old, it’s not like new. This is no wall, but another room. You see me here, but not inside- within you’ll find the place I hide.”
A second later, she vanished.
“Another room…” murmured Isobeth, “it isn’t a wall at all; it’s another room.”
There was a long pause as she considered this. HOW would they have known that there was a room behind the clock? They were workmen, not the architects of the house.
From the darkness of the hall, she heard the little ghost again-
“I tell you true, there were not two that came for me that evil night. But three, but three, came in to thieve and bury me without warmth or light.”
“A third man?” Isobeth stepped forward, “Another workman? Another man who’d come to fix the clock?”
“One who knew the wall was deep. No workman knows this house so well. Only heirs are privy thus. It was by his hand, I fell.”
“Whose hand?” Isobeth demanded, “If it were a relative of mine, I’ve a right to know!”
“The heir, the heir. Old Walter’s blood. The only male. The only son.”
And then, it was like a dam breaking inside of her. The old story. It all made sense, all of it. All of it going back to when she’d first heard about her grandmother’s Uncle Colin. All of it coming back to her in the oddly vivid way that children recall the stories of long-dead relatives. She remembered Grandma Rose’s references to Colin’s quirks. His nervous twitches. His inability to relax. The number of brandies he’d drink in one sitting. His obsession with the clock remaining in its “rightful place” in the front hall. The way he’d become angry if anyone started snooping around the house….It all made sense now.
She recalled the hushed talk about him. His gambling debts. His troubles with alcohol and women. The way he’d gone to ask for an advance on his inheritance all those years ago and his parents’ refusal.
She imagined him planning it all out. Him deciding to call in the workmen; men he’d probably promised a cut if all went according to plan. The room behind the clock chosen to hide the loot….But one question remained: how would they retrieve the stolen items if the clock was back in its place?
“There’s another way in…” Isobeth said it out loud, “of course…there’d have to be another way in so that he could go in, get what he needed, and get out again without raising suspicions. And people never look right under their noses…Never. That’s why they never found the body…”
She had walked some distance from the wall in her thoughts. But, she stopped and turned back suddenly, walking quickly toward it. She put her hand on the wainscoting.
“Where are you?” she asked in a shaky whisper, “I can’t help you get out if I don’t know the way in.”
“The way, the way is here- just here,” a light appeared, glowing softly on the wall just a few feet from where she stood, “just pull the latch and the way is clear.”
She moved toward the light, allowing her fingers to roam along the grooves in the woodwork. Suddenly, she felt it. There was a small latch, invisible to the eye.
Her first instinct was to pull on it, to open the door. But, being practical, she knew she must wait until sunrise. Otherwise, she wouldn’t be able to see anything, even with the spirit’s glow.
“Wake me, will you?” she asked the ghost, “At daybreak. I can’t see much now.”
In response, the light glowed more warmly for a moment and then went out.
She noted the place on the wall. Then, moving into the front hall, she lay down on one of several sofas. Just as the sun peaked over the horizon, she woke with a start. It was just light. No one was stirring.
She rubbed her eyes, rose, and walked toward the wall. She moved her hand along the wainscoting, searching for the lever that she’d found before. She fitted her fingers into the grooves of the wood where the light had shown softly a few hours earlier.
Then, suddenly, her fingers caught on what felt like a bent metal nail. She wiggled this, curiously, her thumb finally knocking it loose. There was a sigh of stale air and a creek of ancient hinges as the hidden door made itself known. She pulled forward on the wooden door, suddenly timid.
It was very dark inside. She knew she must enter, to see what she must see…but, she hesitated, fearfully, at the edge of the dark mouth that yawned before her.
“Do not fear,” the little ghost whispered reassuringly, “I am with you.”
A soft light radiated in the darkness, growing brighter by degrees.
Slowly, Isobeth entered the room. The air was sour. Dank. Stale. Heavy. She felt sick in her stomach, but she moved forward. She had to; she felt that. This girl, this ghost, was depending on her in some way.
She moved further into the casement. This had once been a private parlor of some sort. There were no windows, except in a small adjoining closet. There were plaster walls covered in fabric with wainscoting underneath. There were several small couches, a mahogany table, and a trunk pressed against one wall. A trunk.
Normally, an item like a trunk would have gone completely unnoticed. She would have scanned the room and made no note of such a thing. But there, in the room, the trunk took on a dark, oddly sinister, quality. The words of the little ghost echoed in her consciousness suddenly: I sit because I cannot stand. I stay because I cannot leave.
A key lay on top of the trunk. Isobeth moved forward and took the key between her fingers. She contemplated its significance. What it could mean. A heavy, hitching emotion rose in her chest and she found that she could hardly breathe. A tear stung her eye as she leaned down to put the key into the lock. She turned it roughly, pulling the rusted arm out of the sleeve.
She was torn between two impulses: throw open the chest in one swift motion or run away. She found that she could do neither. She was afraid to flee…afraid to look inside the trunk.
She sat there on her knees for nearly a quarter of an hour. Then, turning sideways, she allowed herself to fall limply against the wall. She ran her hand over the lid of the chest, trying to will herself into action. She must do this thing. The servants would be downstairs soon. What would they say to her if they saw her in there?
She took a deep breath, gaining resolve. Then, she took hold of the corner of the chest and pulled upward. She did not turn her head…at first. She rose to her feet and took a step away from the chest before turning.
Inside, the girl’s head was down, her face pressed against her knees. Her hair, once brown, had gone an ashy grey. Skeletal shoulders arched downward over boney legs covered in what remained of a dress. Isobeth scanned the small body and noted that her feet were bare. Why had they removed her slippers?
Isobeth looked at one of the feet, pressed flat against the wall of the chest, and then she understood. The slippers might have allowed her to make noise. She could have kicked her slippered feet against the inside of the trunk and made just enough noise to alert someone outside of her presence there….which could only mean….
“She was still alive…” Isobeth whispered, horror slowly spreading across her features.
She looked at the horrid visage again. There were tethers inside the chest for securing items before travel. The men had used these tools to keep her largely immobile. Her mouth, all skeletal, was still gagged with the remains of a lump of cloth.
“She suffocated…or starved,” Isobeth murmured, “and all the while she could hear the passage of time….seated here behind the clock that counts the hours…that’s what she said. How long did she wait here for the rescue that never came?”
She looked around the room, seeking the little ghost absently.
“How long did you wait? A week? Ten days? A fortnight?”
Just then a click sounded behind her. An adjacent hallway was revealed, illuminated by the rosy glow of dawn’s first light. It was lined with several old, burlap sacks. Stepping forward, Isobeth gingerly opened a sack a few inches. Inside the first bag there were several boxes wrapped in brown paper.
“The Christmas gifts,” she murmured, “they must have hidden them in this hallway when they’d disposed of her,” she looked over at the girl again, sadly, before speaking again, “they must have planned to hide them in here all along, but you changed things, didn’t you?” she spoke to the skeletal girl, “They couldn’t risk coming in here to get the gifts with you tied up in here…and later…later, they wouldn’t come in because they were too disturbed by the thought of what they’d done.”
But, there still had to have been another doorway. If the clock was put back, they’d have had no way to access what they’d taken, dead girl or not.
She began moving the burlap bags. She was sure the answer lay in the short hallway. She found her answer in the far corner. There, she found a small door knob hidden by some loose wall fabric. She walked closer and turned the handle slowly.
The creaking door hinges grinded as the door opened by degrees. She couldn’t believe her eyes. She recognized the table barring her exit almost immediately. She was in the parlor adjacent to the front hall. The table’s location and height masked the outer door handle. How often had she walked through that parlor, unaware that there was a doorway into another room right under her nose? She had no idea the door existed, and she doubted anyone else did either.
She closed the door resolutely, putting her back against it, sealing it once more.
“Well, I’d say you fouled that up, Uncle Colin,” she began, “oh, you killed a child and got away with it, that’s true…but you did it for nothing. You never got your hands on any of this treasure either. Poetic justice, I’d say.”
She would tell Susan everything when she woke. It would be soon, she was sure. Isobeth walked through the short hallway into the main part of the hidden room again. Out of habit, she scanned it, finding a small clock lying face-up on the table. She walked toward it, noting its cracked face. It must have been knocked down in a struggle, she mused. The time on the cracked face read 3 o’clock.
A great heaving thing rose in Isobeth’s chest as she gazed at the clock’s face. So many years…so many years, trapped inside.
“But, you’re free now,” she announced through her tears.
Isobeth made her way toward the door and stepped out into the front hall again. She paused briefly, turning one last time.
“You need not sit, for you can stand. You need not stay, for you can leave.”
Then, smiling, she turned on her heel and went to wake Susan. Isobeth couldn’t be sure, but she thought she heard the jingle of laughter as she made her way up the stairs.
The morning sun made its way through the curtains as winter dawn came on fully. It was time to get up.


Credit: Brenda Ader

The Pea Farm

February 26, 2017 at 12:00 AM

“I really don’t think this is so smart,” a young woman, no older than twenty-one said. The fear and anxiety rang clear in her voice.

“I’ll be fine,” a male voice responded. He took her soft, delicate hand in his and kissed it gingerly.

“It’s nothing more than some locals who want to scare an out-of-towner. I’ll do this tonight, and I’ll be back at the dorm by tomorrow afternoon.” His voice was self-assured and confident. He knew he had nothing to worry about.

Sadness filled her eyes. “I’m local, remember? I grew up hearing about this place. It scares the hell out of me. Clay, please don’t go.” Tears began to form in the corners of her eyes.

“I have to, Courtney.” He dropped her hand, feeling himself becoming annoyed. “If I don’t I’ll be ridiculed until graduation. I don’t believe in any of this crap anyway.”

“You don’t have to. This place… it’s… it’s just evil.”

“Are you going or not?” another male asked. He and his two counterparts sat, leaning against the trunk of his car.

“Shut up, Dale,” Courtney snapped at him. Her curly brown hair fell into her eyes and she blew it aside. “I’m trying to talk him out of it.”

“Do what you want,” Dale replied. He smiled wide, baring his crooked teeth, and spit. A small brown trickle of tobacco juice slid down his chin. “But we’re about to leave. You can come back to campus with us, take Clay’s car and leave him stranded, or take that walk through the woods and stay with him. The choice is yours.”

Courtney turned back to Clay. Her green eyes were pleading with him, begging him to call off this bet. “There’s no changing your mind then?”

Clay merely shook his head.

She nodded in understanding. Taking his face in her hands, she kissed him passionately. “I expect you to call me as soon as you’re back in your car and on your way home.”

Clay smiled. “Yes ma’am.” He looked up at Dale. “Where is this place?”

Dale stood, followed silently by his lackeys, walked to his car door and opened it. Pointing over the roof of his car, into the darkening woods, he said, “Walk straight that way. You’ll see it.” He sat in the driver’s seat. A moment later his engine roared to life, the exhaust forming a cloud on the dusty road.

Courtney walked to the car. Taking one last distressed look at Clay, she got in the car. From the rear window, she watched as they pulled away.

Clay forced himself to turn away and looked into the forest ahead. The setting sun cast eerie shadows throughout. The last hints of the autumn sun low in the sky peeked through the near-empty branches and seemed to set the trees aflame. Fallen leaves rustled and cracked on the ground as some unseen animal scurried about.

A chill went up his spine. With a deep breath, he stepped into the thick of trees. He listened to the leaves crunch as he stepped closer to his destination. The forest was silent, void of any bird or insect calls. From above, a wind rose, howling through the branches high above. As the last rays of light began to falter, he pulled out his flashlight and switched it on. The howling wind continued, adding fuel to the ominous settings.

“Calm down, Clay,” he said aloud as he felt his nerves begin to rattle. “It’s just a series of creepy events, fueled by those hicks and their ghost stories. Nothing more.”

After walking for almost twenty minutes, the building finally began to come into view. The Pea Farm, an old, abandoned prison just outside of Shreveport. Supposedly, according to Dale, at least, this place had housed violent criminals back in the early 1900s, and had been closed in the 60s or so. The lesser offenders worked fields during the day and stayed in smaller buildings by the side, leaving only the most disturbed and violent to the main building. Dale had went on to say that the basement contained an old electric chair; one that was powered by a hand crank. He had dismissed this last fact as pure fiction. One of Dale’s underlings, Mac or Mike or Max, he couldn’t remember the kid’s name, said that the owners of the land couldn’t sell it because of the large number of bodies that had been buried throughout the yard. This he had also dismissed as a fallacy. What he saw now, he didn’t find impressive.

He lifted the camcorder in his hand, a small Sony with a built-in hard drive and a battery that claimed to last a few days, and switched it on. This was his means of proof that he had stayed the night (No one, including Dale, was willing to stay with him as a means of verification.). The red light flicked on and the small LCD screen jumped to life, casting a pale light on Clay and his surrounding area.

He passed the lens over the dilapidated building, and then turned it to himself. “Is this it?” he said into the camera. “Seriously? I thought you said this place was scary. I’m going to walk around outside a bit. Maybe explore the smaller buildings. Then I’m going into the main one.” He smiled. “So come along as I take this trip,” he said, giving his best version of a television narrator voice.

Walking around the main building, camera in hand, the smaller housing quarters came into view almost immediately. They were small and unimpressive, more like boarding houses than prisons. He supposed that was why the lesser criminals were kept there. They were the trustees of sorts. The buildings were overgrown with vines and other foliage, now dying as autumn pushed on. A tree had fallen through the roof of one of the houses, bringing down two of its walls with it, leaving nothing but a pile of rubble, broken brick, and twisted, rusted metal.

Clay walked up the steps to the other, intact building. The windows were covered by a frame that once held bars, long since cut away for some unknown reason. Placing a hand on the door, he pushed it open. He winced as the door screeched and whined as the rust on the hinges scraped against metal. The scent of stale air and dust struck him as he walked inside.

What little moonlight there was outside was absent within the building. The darkness pushed against his flashlight, threatening to envelop and consume him. Dust flitted upon the air, then wafted back towards its resting place. Vines hung from above, almost threatening to wrap him up and strangle him should he become entangled within. Broken pieces of plaster covered the floor, while some hung precariously from the ceiling above.

“I’m telling you now, Dale,” he spoke into the camera, “if I get tetanus, poison ivy, or even rabies from some woodland creature, we’ll have a serious problem.”

He began to feel an eerie feeling of being watched. Another chill ran up his spine as he continued his trek further into the building. As the minutes ticked away, he began to feel the effects of the stories he had been told. Despite his skepticism in the supernatural, his mind reeled at the endless possibilities at what lie just beyond the scope of his light. He shook the thoughts from his head and pushed on. There was no chance in hell that he was letting those bumpkins get over on him.

Clay turned to the side, shining both the light and the camera into various cells as he passed them. Water dripped from the ceilings, which hung low under the weight, and splashed softly into puddles collected on the floor. The cell bars had rusted and oxidized, leaving them a greenish tint. Small cots, bolted to the floor and wall, held ripped mattresses, stained with water, mildew, and God-knew-what-else. Paint bubbled and peeled away in flakes from the brick walls.

A thump from above caused Clay to jump. He turned the light and camera (it was now habitual to turn them in unison) towards the ceiling. Small clouds of dust puffed from the broken plaster. Another thump. Another puff of dust and falling debris.

Clay looked to the camera. “So… you left someone here to try and scare me?”

He quickly made his way to the end of the hall and turned up the stairs. Once on the stairs, he slowed his pace, trying his best to remain silent. Switching the camera to night vision, he clicked off the flashlight and shoved it into his pocket.

Through the LCD screen, he viewed the world in shades of green and black. He had to admit to himself that he didn’t care for it. The darkness had closed in around him. He could feel its weight crushing him, threatening to squeeze the very life from him.

At the top of the stairs, he panned the camera around, trying to find the would-be prankster. The room appeared to be empty. Not satisfied with this, he began a slow trek down the hallway. The floor was full of holes, results of water rotting the interior of the building. He almost screamed as a flash crossed across his camcorder’s screen.

He quickly pulled his light from his pocket and passed it over the room. There was nothing to be seen. It had merely been his imagination, he finally decided. He inhaled deeply, trying to regain his composure. You almost lost it there, he told himself. A thump from beneath his feet caused him a small yelp to escape from his throat. He could feel himself becoming annoyed with the situation, with Dale’ and his friend’s little antics.

Had Courtney been involved? She had left with them. It would take several hours to drive to the LSU campus to drop her off and then drive back to play these games. He had only been alone an hour, maybe an hour and a half. That meant she had to be with them. He felt anger surging within him. Maybe her begging and pleading was just an act, meant to rile him up, jangle his nerves. Maybe she was just another local that liked to play tricks on the out-of-staters.

Another thump on the floor snapped him back to the present. This one so hard that he felt it in his feet.

Clay turned and ran towards the stairs. He was determined to catch whoever it was, then give them more than just a piece of his mind. Suddenly, a blood-curdling scream sounded out, freezing him in his tracks. After a moment, he continued down the stairs. He swept the light across the room, frantically searching for the mischief-maker. The room was empty.

Another scream pierced the still night air. It felt like it came from everywhere at once. Clay felt it in his bones. A third scream, this one from upstairs.

No way. I was just up there. It was empty.

He began walking towards the door, trying to think the situation through. Speakers. It had to be. Maybe wired to batteries. He looked down into the camera once more.

“The screams were a nice touch. You had me freaked out for a second. I’m still not biting though.”

He exited the building and continued to venture further around the side of the main prison complex. Behind the prison, acres of field sat open. They were wildly overgrown after years of no attendance.

This must be the farmland.

Off to the right, he noticed a stone structure. He slowly made his way towards it, trudging through almost waist-high grasses. The moon was now high in the sky, casting its wan light throughout the open area. As the structure grew near, it began to take shape. The structure was no structure at all. It was a stone wall that stood about chest high. A gap of almost three feet was towards the front, with an arching sign that read Potter’s Field in rusted, steel lettering.

Using his light, Clay walked amongst the headstones, which were crumbling and weather-beaten. Most of the names and dates were illegible, worn away by decades of wind and rain. Some of them had fallen over, a product of the constant rain and shifting earth. His mind began to conjure up images of zombies rising from the soft earth beneath his feet.

All at once, Clay decided that he didn’t want to be in the cemetery. He turned and quickly walked towards the entrance. He felt something brush against his skin. Something cold, almost icy. Goosebumps jumped to his skin immediately. He turned the light towards the direction, but saw nothing. The night had grown cold, that was all. He noticed that he could now see his breath on the air as he exhaled.

Suddenly, there was another scream. So loud that it hurt his ears. Clay knew that it had come from beside him, although he was alone. He felt the icy feeling on his skin, followed by a slight pressure. In his mind’s eye, he visualized the grip of icy fingers around his arm. Dead fingers. He screamed.

No longer able to control himself, he ran. He headed around the prison complex, sprinting as fast as he could. His panicked mind barely registered the heat rise as he fled the cemetery. He knew that he had walked straight to the prison from his car, so if he ran straight out, he would be back where he started.

Leaves crunched beneath his feet as he ran. Small branches and briars tore at his face and arms. His legs ached and his lungs burned. His body cried out for relief, for just a moment’s rest. Yet he continued to run. He dug within himself, trying to call up every ounce of reserve strength that he could muster. All around him he heard the crunching of leaves, as if some unknown assailant was in pursuit. This caused further panic within his mind, driving him forward. At several points during the exercise in panic and self-preservation, Clay could feel the icy pressure on his neck and back.

Catching his foot on a tree root, Clay collapsed to the ground. The camera and flashlight flew from his hands. The flashlight spun in the air, casting ominous shadows all around him. Exhausted, he laid there, trying to catch his breath. His palms burned from the skin that had torn away from them.

He slowly picked himself up from the ground. I have to be close to the road by now.

As he looked up, his eyes widened in horror. Before him stood the prison complex. He knew that it should have been far behind him. A small squeak escaped from his throat; it was all that he could manage in his terror. He bent and picked up the flashlight and camcorder, which was now smashed. He dropped it to the ground and turned, prepared to head towards his vehicle once more.

Another scream. This one from right behind him. Without thinking, he turned and ran inside of the prison. He doubted that running into the woods again would have accomplished anything anyway. He was trapped here.

He burst through the door, causing wind to stir up the thick layers of dust that had settled over the years. He looked around frantically. The brick walls were covered in graffiti. Paint, long since peeled away. Plaster lay on the ground, collapsed from the roof and walls. Spider webs hung from every opening, filled every corner.

He leaned against the door, desperately trying to catch his breath. The door suddenly began shaking uncontrollably behind him. The hinges rattled and the wood creaked and splintered. Clay ran down the hall, silently praying for it to end.

He ran to the stairs and stopped. The image of a person, translucent in the pale moonlight that shone through the barred windows, stood at the top, looking down on him. He blinked and it was gone. It was enough to dissuade him from taking the stairs, though. He continued through the prison, his panic causing him to turn randomly. He finally stopped. Looking around, he became acutely aware that he was now lost within the confines of the prison.

Metal began to creak and moan as the cell doors began to close, slamming shut loudly. Too scared to move, Clay waited until the activity had ceased. All was quiet within the prison once more. All except the swell of air. A breeze, very light, blew through the hallways and then returned. Clay got the distinct impression that the building was breathing. He tried to push this ridiculous thought from his mind, but it latched on and would not surrender its hold.

He walked down the halls, trying to remain calm and reasonable. Panicking would not help his situation in any way. He needed a clear head. The feeling of being watched returned in full force, or maybe it had never left him and he was merely recognizing it for what it was once more. He could feel his muscles twitching and convulsing involuntarily from the fear that coursed through his veins. Sweat dripped from his pores, soaking his shirt and causing the dust to stick to his face. The salt stung the cuts and lacerations on his face and arms. He had to get his breathing under control; he was on the verge of hyperventilating.

He placed his hand on the wall and leaned against it in an attempt to control himself. He jerked it away suddenly, pure horror washing over him at what he felt. It had to have been his imagination. It had to.

Clay tentatively placed his hand back on the wall to reassure himself. He yanked it away quickly, wiping his hands on his pants as if he had stuck it in something. The thought of what he had touched was revolting. It was definitely not his imagination; the wall was pulsing. It seemed to expand and contract in time with the breeze. Almost like lungs. The movement was slight, only really noticeable if he touched the wall, but it was there just the same.

The hall was suddenly cold. It chilled the beads of sweat on his brow and caused him to shiver uncontrollably. As he exhaled, he could see his breath in puffs of grey smoke.

Another scream echoed through the halls. He swung his flashlight around, searching for the source. To his dismay, he found it. Standing at the end of the hall was a prisoner. The top of his head was badly burned, the skin charred and flaking. Small patches of dried gore sat below each eye socket, which was empty. He clawed frantically at his face with his shackled hands. His movements were jerky and disconnected, almost like watching a film with frames missing in the reel. He continued to claw furiously at his face, then screamed once more. The metal bars rattled and dirt shook free from the ceiling in smalls clouds. As he screamed, he began to walk towards Clay. Small steps, inhibited by the shackles around his ankles. His body twitched and shook with each step in that same disconnected, strobe-light-esque fashion.

Clay ran down the hallway, frantic once more. He ran through cold spots that chilled him to the core, and back into the sticky Louisiana humidity. He searched for an exit, any possible way to escape the terror that he had been subjected to. He passed a multitude of barred windows, wishing that he could use one. Broken glass crunched underfoot as he ran. There was no exit to be found.

He continued down another hallway, stopping at something written on the wall. His eyes widened and his jaw dropped at the sight of the words:

We’ve Been Expecting You…

The wall suddenly cracked open, splitting from the roof to the floor like a giant, jagged mouth. The crack split the floor open, just as Clay began running once more. As he ran, the sounds of splintering wood, collapsing plaster, and shattering concrete followed him. Too terrified to look back, he kept running.

No longer able to breathe, legs weak and wobbly, Clay collapsed as the crack opened up beneath his feet. His head slammed into the ground, sending a bright light across his vision. Just before he lost consciousness, he saw… he saw… legs, bound in shackles.

Clay woke up momentarily as he was drug down the concrete stairs to the basement. He felt his head slam into each step as he descended. Stars flashed before his eyes with each successive blow. The darkness closed over his once more.

He groggily opened his eyes. He felt as though his head were going to explode. His face was on fire from where he had connected with the floor. He felt the warmth of his blood running down the nape of his neck from the repetitive strikes against the concrete stairway. He tried to raise his hand to check his wound, and found that he could not. The instant fear cleared the remaining cloudiness from his mind.

Looking down, Clay noticed that both of his hands were strapped down. He tried to move his legs, only to find that they, too, were strapped down. He attempted to look around, but something prevented it. He cast his eyes upward. He was just barely able to see a metal headband that circled around his forehead. Suddenly, he heard a whirring sound. It was the sound of a small lever being wound.

Credit: William Davis

The “Dark Afternoon” Tape – Real or Hoax?

February 25, 2017 at 12:00 AM


Not sure if this is the right place to post this story, but it’s way to creepy not to share it.

A friend of mine was at my house browsing the Dark Web with TOR (don’t ask what he was doing there) when he came across a site that supposedly showcased banned content from the regular web, like gruesome crime scene photos and such. Anyway, he searched around for a while when he came across a story with an audio clip that he thought looked cool. So he started listening, figuring it would be nothing special – until he heard it. The more he listened, the more upset he became. Suddenly, he stood up, took off the headphones and threw them on the desk. He looked really shaken. I asked him what was wrong. He said, “That ******* audio file!” So, now, of course I wanted to hear it myself. But he quickly deleted the sound file and closed TOR. I asked what was so bad about it and he said it was like hearing a real-life “snuff tape” only this was an entire group of people – including young kids! I said it was fake and he yelled back, “No! This **** is totally real!”

He quickly left, but forgot he saved the story. So I sat down and read it. This is the actual text, copied and pasted exactly as is. A real Creepy Pasta! I’m still to afraid to listen to the audio myself – if I could ever find it.

I did find a short movie based on the tape that shows a police photo of the real tape and it even plays a tiny piece of the actual audio at the end. It gives the town a fake name and changes some other stuff too, but doesn’t matter, it still sends shivers down my spine every time I watch it. Supposedly the actual tape is much more disturbing.


Editorial by **** ******
Associated Press: For Immediate Release

“As a journalist, I’ve investigated everything from political corruption to celebrity scandals to international cybercrime. But never have I come across something so bizarre and deeply disturbing as a simple audio tape.

I received it at work from my late aunt’s estate who possessions were divided amongst remaining family members after her death. Of everything she had, only one item was personally requested to go a specific family member, me.

It was a small box containing a tape labeled, “The Dark Afternoon”. I could not understand why she had wanted me to have the tape and no one else. Underneath it, I saw a note scribbled in her handwriting. My aunt wrote that the tape was an actual emergency recording made from the dispatch unit at the small town police station she once worked at in the early 1970s. The last sentence made the point that she personally knew a few of the callers on the tape. I thought, “So what.” I soon found out.

Curious, I played it.

An hour later, I was shaking, literally. It was without a doubt the single most disturbing thing I have ever heard. It’s something that gets under your skin in a way I cannot describe and I’ve seen plenty of gruesome things during my career. I’ve covered wars, crimes, you name it. Much is hard to stomach, but this was different. Maybe it’s the more intimate way you listen to it. Or the loud, in your ear, blood-curdling screams. I don’t know.

It begins with harsh static which is broken by a call from a citizen of the tiny town (which I will not name here) to report a dark, featureless form was outside their house. Standing there. Watching. Unmoving. The dispatcher tells the caller that it’s most likely some kid playing a prank, when a knock sounds on the callers front door. Here, the line goes dead. Creepy, but nothing extraordinary.

Then it happens. Call after call pours in. People all over town report the same dark forms have appeared everywhere. When the dispatcher tried to reassure them it was nothing to be alarmed about, the callers insist there’s something ominous going on and request an officer come by as soon as possible. But with only one officer in town there wasn’t much that could be done.

The callers report the figures were no longer standing there but closing in on them. You hear pounding on doors, windows shattering, sinister laughter, et. You also hear sheer panic and terror in the callers voices as this was happening. It’s very disturbing.

Then gruesome, bizarre things happen to each one. Things I don’t wish to recount.

Finally… there’s static until the tape runs out. All you’re left with is a mental picture of what you think might have happened. Your own imagination is always worse than any photo or video.

I told myself it must be a hoax, just a spooky “ghost tape” made to scare unsuspecting listeners. As a journalist I know there’s no way a town in Twentieth Century America besieged by ominous ‘things’ resulting in numerous deaths would not make the news.

Then, a thought occurred to me, could it be real? Maybe my aunt wanted me to hear it, to investigate it and expose everything on the tape in order to prove it did happen. And that’s what I did.

After checking, it turns out this small town did in fact experience an ‘industrial accident’ that unfortunately took several lives one afternoon during the early 1970s. Friends and family were told by authorities that the bodies of the victims were contaminated and not able to be claimed for burial. And they were right. They could not be claimed. Not because of contamination, but because none of the victims were ever found. No town, state or Federal records reveal that any bodies were ever removed from the town. They just vanished.

A deeper question now arose: Did the number, gender and ages of the people killed in the so-called ‘accident’ correspond in any way to the callers heard on the tape? Every. Last. One. This was no hoax or accident. It was something else, and my aunt knew it.

Needless to say, when I presented the recording and my findings to my press editors, they were more than a little skeptical. However, they were even more worried about the legal ramifications that might result from the town and state’s present authorities if they ever knew what I uncovered. I knew then and there they would never let me publish it.

But that doesn’t mean no one could hear it.

That’s what the Dark Web is for. Containing some of the most twisted things the human mind can come up with: Red Rooms, Murder-Cams, the Dark Web is also a place of anonymity. A place where both users and the sites they visit can remain hidden.

So it was here that I uploaded the audio in hopes that someone somewhere can finally shed light on what really happened on that Dark Afternoon. Do I really want to know?”

Credit: Brimar

Scorpion River

February 24, 2017 at 12:00 AM

I’d always been afraid of Scorpion River. Ever since I was eight, I’d gone with my aunt, uncle, and older cousin into the wilderness of southern Arizona where we’d spend two nights in their rickety, blue, camper. We weren’t alone. Around ten other families joined us for that December weekend. The adults sat around the fire, swapping stories of better days, back when the economy was stable and kids respected their elders. The seven or so of us children quickly grew bored of the talk and went exploring.
To call Scorpion River a river was an overstatement. Water only ran there once or twice a year. The rest of the time it was just an expanse of sand. Our campsite was close to the river, yet the sandy cliffs meant that one had to fight through half a mile of cat claws and ancient mesquite trees to get to it.
Yet every day without fail we’d make the trip. It was worth it to play games of tag in the flat sand or to make forts below the huge cottonwoods which lined that part of the river. Every time an adult would come with us, much to our annoyance. They made sure we kept to the stretch of cottonwoods. The only time we were allowed to leave that was when the group of adults decided to hike to what we called the Funnel.
The Funnel was a natural rock formation, a vertical tunnel cut up through the cliffs on the other side of the river. It was beautiful; a pipe of smooth, reddish stone which seemed to lead up into the sky itself. It was easily my favorite part of the trip. The only thing I didn’t like was getting there.
To reach the Funnel, we had to pass through what I called Raven Forest. Here the trees were close together, the bark blackened by some ancient fire. Every time we went through, the screeching of ravens would fill the air. The light played tricks on your eyes, making it seem as if there were figures standing in the shadows.
As I grew older, the feeling of unease grew too. I began to hear whispering in the trees, voices always too low to be understood, but distinctly unfriendly. I spoke about it to my cousin, Jade, but she dismissed it, telling me it was my imagination. Every year, more and more strange things would happen, explainable, but just strange enough to put me on edge.
Nothing stayed where we put it. Camper doors would open and close of their own accord. The campfire would sometimes flare without warning. My aunt and uncle once brought their German Shepherd, thinking he would have a fun time running with the kids. For the entire trip, he stayed close to camp, whimpering whenever we attempted to get him to come down to the river with us.
As strange as things got, nothing downright out of the ordinary happened. Not until one year, the year Jade and I turned 18, when my 16 year old cousin, Mason, decided to come camping with us. He was a tall youth, big for his age, a football player with something to prove. As there were three of us and we were older now, my aunt and uncle decided we could go out by ourselves. Every chance we got we went down to the river to explore, no longer hindered by the younger children.
Jade and Mason often got annoyed with me, as I always refused to enter Raven Forest. Jade wanted to climb the trees, as she was going through a gymnastics phase, while Mason wanted to prove he wasn’t afraid of an old, spooky forest. One evening, the two couldn’t stand it anymore and told me they were going in whether I came with them or not. I declined and the two disappeared into the woods, leaving me alone at the edge of the river.
I sat down on the little cliff and waited as the sun began to sink below the tree line. I gradually became aware of a horrible smell coming from a nearby stand of bushes. I grew curious and went over to investigate. The bushes were low and thorny, forcing me to crawl to get through.
I crawled on hands and knees over the uneven ground, finally stopping when my fingers touched something soft. I took out my phone flashlight and shone it on the ground.
Instantly I was moving backward, ignoring the thorns which tore at my hair. For, lying on the ground, was a pile of dead songbirds, heads missing, surrounded by blood and ants. I pulled myself to the edge of the river and stayed there, breathing hard, trying not to throw up.
Several minutes later my cousins returned, talking and laughing. They stopped when they saw me sitting on the cold ground, shivering.
“What happened?” Jade asked.
I numbly pointed towards the stand of trees. The two of them went over to look, returning a moment later, faces grave.
“What would do that?” I asked.
“Some kind of predator?” Jade suggested, “You know, like a fox, a coyote, something…”
“Why would it just pile them up like that? There must be fifty of them, all lined up in a circle like-”
“Let’s leave.” Mason interrupted. “It’s almost dark.”
We started towards the other side of the river, walking at first, then running.
“I really think we’re overreacting,” Jade said when we reached the other side and paused to catch our breath. “There must be some logical explanation. Maybe they just happened to be there and weren’t arranged like it seemed. Did any of us look very hard?”
“The heads were missing,” Mason said. “Explain that.”
“They might have rotted away.”
The longer we talked, the more reasonable the birds seemed. After around ten minutes of proposing theories, we were calm. Mason decided to try climbing the cliff to get to camp instead of going through the river bed, which was muddy from a recent rain. He’d just gotten a new pair of red converse and didn’t want them ruined. Jade and I, knowing how many thorn bushes were between us and camp, decided to go down the river before going up the cliff.
We split up. Once we were about halfway up the path, we heard rustling in the bushes. Thinking it was a deer, we ignored it and continued. Jade stopped to tie her shoe.
“We should go up to the funnel.” She said, bending down.
“By ourselves?” I asked, scared yet a little excited.
“That’d be-” I stopped.
Behind her, in the thorn bushes, was a dark shape. It was hunched, humanoid, though in the growing darkness it was hard to make out details. I glanced at Jade, and when I looked back it was gone.
“What is it?” Jade asked.
I pointed. “There was…something there.”
“It was probably Mason.” She stood up. “Hey! Mason! Get out here and stop trying to scare us.”
“Aw, come on.” He called.
I was relieved until he stepped out of the woods on the other side of the trail. There was no way he could have moved that fast and that quietly. I tried to explain what I’d seen to the two of them, but they just laughed it off.
We spent the night around the campfire, listening to my uncle play guitar. That night nothing strange happened and we all awoke early, eager to go on our trip.
We left just after the sun rose over the cliffs. In the daylight, the forest was decidedly less creepy. We went around half a mile down the river before climbing the cliff. This was the first time we’d done it alone, but we were confident we knew the way.
At first, everything went pretty well. We found a little trail and started towards the cliff ahead. But pretty soon I began to notice that this part of the forest wasn’t familiar. The trees were even closer together than usual, and even though the sun was by now high in the sky, it seemed dark.
Then the coyotes began howling. Though I knew they weren’t dangerous to humans, it was still eerie hearing them in the distance.
“Maybe we should go back,” I suggested.
“Nah,” Jade said. “We can still find the funnel. Let’s just get off this path. It should be like a mile west of here.”
“I’ll go first,” Mason said. “I’ve got a leather jacket and you don’t.”
When we left the path, I thought I heard the whispering, though it was hard to hear over the racket my cousin was making by breaking a path through the trees for us.
Finally, we reached a small stream bed, long since dried up yet not overgrown. A minute or two later we reached a funnel. We all knew instantly it wasn’t the one we were used to. It was smaller yet went further into the cliff face, more of a canyon than a tunnel. As we entered it I noticed something far up near the top, around two hundred feet above us. It was too far away to make out what it was, so I decided to climb a little way up the side of the other side of the canyon.
Meanwhile, Jade and Mason went farther into the canyon. I could hear them talking as I climbed as far up the wall as I could get. As I still couldn’t see what it was, I decided to take a picture with my phone. I pointed it and snapped the picture, deciding to see if my uncle, who was into photography, could somehow enhance it.
I started to climb down and tripped. I landed hard on the floor of the funnel, glad for my thick coat. I heard rustling in the bushes to my left and waited to hear the others laughing at my clumsiness. Yet no sound came.
“Guys?” I called.
“We’re up ahead,” Jade replied faintly.
I started to go after them, having to squeeze between the trees and under the bushes which clung stubbornly to the dirt floor of the funnel. Suddenly I had the feeling of being watched.
Again branches cracked. I wanted to turn and tell whoever it was to cut it out, but my body wouldn’t respond. I froze as the sounds grew closer and closer. The whispering increased in volume.
Then the spell was broken as Mason called my name. The frozen feeling disappeared and I turned, ready to confront whatever it was.
Nothing was there.
I hurried to join my cousins, who stood below the object on the funnel wall. From here it was apparent that it was a bit bigger than I was. Something dripped from it, leaving trails of dark liquid on the pale wall. Around it circled several ravens.
“Think that’s a nest?” Jade asked before I could tell them what had happened.
“Maybe,” Mason replied, shading his eyes.
We stayed there for a few moments, trying to make out what it was before growing bored.
“Race you to the entrance!” Mason called.
He ran off through the trees, ignoring the thorny bushes. Jade and I followed more slowly, knowing we couldn’t beat him.
Then, above the sound of our own footsteps, I became aware of a distant voice, rising and falling in some sort of haunting song. It sounded female, but there was something unnatural about it as if we were hearing a recording played backward.
“Do you hear that?” Jade asked.
I nodded.
We ran to the entrance of the funnel, where we met Mason.
“Did you hear singing?” I asked.
“No.” He replied. “What are you talking about?”
“Didn’t you hear anything?”
She shook her head. “No. We should head back.”
We were then confronted by a problem. We didn’t know exactly how to get back to the river without having to push our way through thorn bushes. Finally, we had no choice but to start moving. Mason led the way, pushing through thorns and bushes without a care. Jade and I followed more slowly, carefully avoiding the worst of the thorns.
After a few minutes, the two of us were separated from him. We found ourselves in a circle of thorn bushes with no easy way out.
“Mason!” I called.
He didn’t respond though he couldn’t have gotten more than ten feet ahead. We sat down, deciding he’d come back eventually. My feeling of unease began to grow.
Finally Jade spoke, voice small and quavering.
“I don’t think we’re alone.” She said.
I nodded, feeling my muscles begin to lock with fear. From the direction of the funnel came the sound of something pushing through the trees. Jade’s eyes met mine and I knew she could hear it too.
“We need to get out of here,” I said, eyeing the thorns which surrounded us.
For some reason, I had no idea how we’d gotten inside the little clearing.
The sounds were growing louder, along with the whispering. All at once I realized something. The voices had never been threatening me. They’d been trying to warn me.
I got to my feet and pulled Jade up.
“We’re leaving,” I said.
I pushed through the bushes, ignoring the stinging of the cuts the thorns left on my arms and face. Jade followed and we ran through the forest. At one point I tripped and Jade pulled me to my feet. Behind us, the sounds were growing closer and more urgent. The voices weren’t whispering anymore, they were screaming.
For what seemed like a thousand years we ran through the forest. Though it was only a mile, it felt like a hundred.
Finally, we ran out into the river, nearly knocking over Mason. The voices stopped, along with the crashing of whatever was pursuing us.
“Where were you?” He asked as we tried to catch our breath. “I’ve been calling for you for hours.”
“Hours?” I asked. “We weren’t apart for more than twenty minutes.”
He shook his head. “I was just about to go get help.”
I noticed that the sun, directly overhead when we’d left the funnel, was beginning to set.
Jade laughed, the sound a little too high.
“We must have looked dumb.” She said. “Running from nothing like that.”
“Nothing?” I asked.
“We must have just imagined it.”
“Really, Jade?”
“It was probably just some animal.”
We started walking back to camp, and soon I began to believe we’d imagined whatever had happened too. I heard the sound of the singing and ignored it, deciding I was imagining it again.
Then I noticed that the other two were looking at me in horror. They could hear it too.
We began running, not stopping until we reached the camp. When we told our story, the adults just laughed, blaming it on overactive imaginations. My uncle, who had been visiting the area since he was a child, claimed there was no second funnel.
We soon packed up and drove home. As it was late by the time we reached our hometown, I decided to spend the night with Jade and go to my house the following morning. While we were there, I remembered the picture I’d taken of the thing in the funnel. I asked my uncle to enhance it and he agreed.
“It’ll probably be a nest.” He said as he worked. “You probably disturbed the ravens, who decided to chase you off.”
I didn’t agree, though I didn’t say so.
“Oh, kids.” He continued with a smile. “I used to be like you. One time I remember thinking-”
He stopped, the smile disappearing instantly. He got up and backed away from the computer. Then he turned and ran for the phone.
Jade and I looked at the now enhanced picture. The thing was not a nest.
In fact, it was a body, headless like the birds we’d seen in the tree grove. Though the picture was still blurry, the jacket the figure wore was unmistakably black leather. On his feet was a pair of bright red converse.
Just then the doorbell rang.
“Girls!” My aunt called. “Mason is here!”

Credit: Roxanne Wilds


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