This Is an Apology

January 20, 2017 at 12:00 AM
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The following manuscript, along with two video tapes of security camera footage, was found in the fourth floor of an empty office building next to what remains of a mangled, once locked, metal door. The building, located deep in the forests of North Dakota, was repossessed by the city, repaired, and sold to a software company. The tapes and files were thrown away and later stolen from the trash. Their current location remains unknown.

What follows is a letter written by Dr. Richard Banks, who has been missing for over two years.

This is an apology. I’ve gotten three people killed already, and I’m certain that more will follow. I’m sorry for that, I really am. Ten goddamn years of paranormal research tossed in the garbage, our big, revolutionary project up in flames, but I’m getting off topic. I should start from the beginning.

We were fresh out of grad school and newly unemployed, quickly realizing that a PhD doesn’t even get you a job teaching science to first graders. That’s when my good friend James Weldon approached me with an idea. All four of us had been obsessed with the paranormal, but James was really into it. He showed us this study out of Russia where these scientists were able to conjure what they referred to as “ten’ chelovek,” “the Shadow Man.” Though we were naturally skeptical at first, all of us were intrigued by this research.

The files went into explicit detail about how to conjure, contain, and study the Shadow Man that for the sake of public safety I will not repeat here. By some miracle, we acquired what used to be an office building that was far enough away from the nearest town. We set up what passed for a lab and three weeks later, began the ritual.

We just about shit ourselves when the inky form appeared in the observation room. We actually did it. The scientist in me was astounded, but the rest of me was deeply unnerved. The Shadow Man was downright creepy. The figure before me was a humanoid shape that didn’t look like it was entirely there, almost like it was made of smoke, like you could put your hand right through it. It had no discernable features.

We performed countless tests and experiments on this entity, but much to our disappointment and curiosity, the Shadow Man did not respond to stimuli. Heat, cold, light, dark, we tried it all. It did not react. That’s not to say that there were no changes, though. We noticed that, as the days progressed, the Shadow Man grew more corporeal. Its form seemed to solidify and take a more permanent shape.

As the Shadow Man evolved, it frightened me even more. It looked more human each day. James thought that the Shadow Man was copying us. While it did appear very humanlike, it couldn’t get it just right. The Shadow Man’s limbs were jagged, like they had been badly broken in several places and had not set properly. Jane Adams, behavioral psychologist and member of our team, had already begun writing a paper on the Shadow Man. We told her that absolutely no one would believe a word of it, that it might even ruin her career, but she didn’t care. I guess we were all too blinded by how strange this situation was to think rationally.

A couple days later, I was in the observation room by myself. I had stayed late that night, promising to close up when I left. I think the Shadow Man knew that I was alone. It approached the glass wall separating us, and pressed its bony, mangled fingers against it.

The lights went out. The power was still on, as the computers were still running, but the lights turned off and would not come back on no matter what I tried. Though it sounded ridiculous, I thought that the Shadow Man was smart. Now, it was impossible to see the creature in the darkness, and I think that’s what it wanted.

When I was turned around messing with the fuse box, the Shadow Man began to throw itself against the glass wall. Violently, these bangs rang out into the dark room, reverberating off of the walls and through the air. I ran out of the building and didn’t come back until noon the next day, when I was sure the sun would be at its brightest.

Aside from that night, the Shadow Man experiment was going pretty well until James called us into the lab at three in the morning. He took me aside, leaving the others in the observation room. James was freaking out as he threw a stack of papers on the table before us. “We fucked up.”

I picked up a few pages and thumbed through them, but I soon realized that, as they were all in Russian, I didn’t understand a word of it. I asked him what was wrong and what all of these papers were.

He told me that they were new publications from the scientists in Russia, the ones studying the Shadow Man. “They’re all dead now. The whole town just fucking vanished.” He went on about how after two weeks of their experiment, just a few days longer than our own experiment has lasted, they started noticing changes in the Shadow Man. It was becoming malevolent. Then, it disappeared.

James explained that the papers in my hand were the last publications the scientists released about the Shadow Man, saying that on several occasions, the creature tried to harm the scientists. The physical attacks started small, with the Shadow Man clawing and scratching the research team, but quickly escalated into life threatening incidents, even putting one of the scientists in the hospital.

As if this wasn’t scary enough, James continued, telling me that the Shadow Man got out of the Russian lab, which was certainly much better equipped than ours was. He rifled through the scattered pieces of paper on the table before pulling out an article from a Russian newspaper about six scientists found dead in an empty laboratory. They were ripped apart. An animal attack, the police officers believed.

“Now look at this,” James handed me another article. “Everyone in the town surrounding the lab died the same way.”

I started at the papers in front of me, not wanting to believe what James was telling me.

“What have we done?”

Maybe we should have waited for the results of the Russian experiment before trying to replicate it. I knew that we had to leave. I planned on staying with family living two states away, but James said that we had to kill the Shadow Man. Reluctantly, I agreed, knowing that I wouldn’t feel right about letting everyone in the city die, but I made James promise that if we couldn’t kill this thing in two days, we would leave. He agreed, and with some persuasion, the others did too.

Nothing could kill the Shadow Man. Not guns, knives, poison, we even tried spraying it with Raid. We just made it angrier.

All of us decided to leave the lab the next morning. We gathered all of our data on the Shadow Man and left it on the table, knowing that whenever the building was sold, someone would find it, and maybe even believe it.

Before we were able to leave, door to the observation room flew off its hinges, smacking against the wall and toppling onto the floor. We sprinted toward the exit, but only James and I made it out. The two of us stood outside, listening to the screaming from in the building. Abruptly, it ended, and James and I took off, not wanting to wait for the Shadow Man to come for us.

We came back two days later, and we found what was left of Jane smeared on the floor and walls. Lisa Altman, the fourth member of our team, tried to escape the observation room via a fifth story window. After seeing what happened to Jane, I can tell you that Lisa was better off.

This is my apology to you. The Shadow Man experiment was a mistake, and I fully admit that what we did was wrong, even if it’s not going to change anything. I’ve been scouring the internet for days, and there has been no mention of the Shadow Man anywhere. Hopefully, that means the Russians and us are the only ones who have been dumb enough to conjure it. James stopped returning my calls yesterday. The Shadow Man caught up with him. I know that I’m as good as dead.

I leave you with this. Ever since the beginning, the Shadow Man gave me a weird vibe. I was always frightened of it. Please follow your instincts and think twice before you get involved with things like this. If you do, just for a moment consider the consequences.

Regretfully,
Richard Banks

The first tape is from a camera mounted on the wall of what is assumed to be the observation room Dr. Banks describes in his letter. Four people look into a room behind a wall of glass. The footage is low quality, but five candles, three of which are unlit, surrounding scattered pieces of scrap metal, are visible in the room.

In the middle of the room behind the glass wall, a figure appears. It is dark and inky and matches almost perfectly Dr. Banks’ descriptions. The scientists are clearly excited as they begin to observe the entity, which remains completely still inside the observation room. All of them frantically scratch down notes and snap photos.

The second tape, released from police custody after an investigation into the disappearances of the scientists, contains footage of what is believed to be the night the Shadow Man escaped. It appears to have been filmed by the same camera as the first tape. All four members of the research team are in the lab, cautiously watching the Shadow Man from behind the glass.

The Shadow Man seems to disappear for a moment, and then launches itself at the thick metal door, ripping it off its hinges. The door lands on the laboratory floor five feet from the wall of the observation room. Richard Banks and James Weldon run out of the room. Lisa Altman forces open a window and quickly jumps out of it.

Jane Adams stands in the middle of the room, frozen. The Shadow Man pauses for a moment before darting across the room and throwing itself onto Jane. When it moves, its limbs swing out almost comically, but in such a way that they should not have allowed the entity to move at all, much less as rapidly as it did. The Shadow Man rips apart Jane Adams, flinging pieces of her flesh across the room, tearing her down to the bone. The Shadow Man then exits the observation room through the open door, eyes never leaving the camera as it leaves.

Local police departments in the surrounding area have reported a spike in reports of animal attacks and sightings of a “disturbing figure” stalking the town. Neither Dr. Richard Banks nor any of his potentially living associates have been located.

Credit: K. Brown

We found heaven, and it was empty.

January 19, 2017 at 12:00 AM
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Nearly three decades ago, work had begun on a machine that could punch a hole through the fabric of reality. A hole straight through to another reality and beyond.

The idea was that, with the right circumstances, we could find a universe with limitless energy. This would make up for the unimaginable amounts of power that the machine took up, and the irreparable damage it would likely do to Earth and the surrounding solar system. But if we found a universe at the very beginning of it’s creation, we’d have unfathomable amounts of raw undefined energy that’d last for a couple billion years. And at the same time, scientists would be able to study universes that followed entirely different laws of physics from our own.

A few years before I was born, this was accomplished. With this limitless energy expanding technology beyond anything possible before it and solving most of the world’s problems… War and struggle had been at an all time low.

Until a group of religious extremists tried to use the machine, to prove the existence of god.

This started a war, one of the largest uproars in history. Nearly every single religion turned on this small group of 30 people, protected by the United States government.

Some were scared that their god would be proven false, and some thought it wrong to try and prove their god real rather than simply having faith.

But in the end, there was no war. World leaders would not attack the U.S., which supplied their power. And the countries who did were often far too small to do any major damage.

The machine was set to search for a universe with the coordinates of various holy numbers from the christian bible. For weeks it searched, finding nothing. Different combinations inputted every time a search failed.

Until a little over four months ago, January 19th, 2234.

We found heaven. There was nothing else it could be. It was a reality of endless sky. Nothing but clouds and blue as far as the eye could see. As far any creature, machine, or natural entity, could go. The air was breathable, fresh and sweet even. And the light was dim, but not too dark to see.

And it was entirely empty. The only thing of note were red lakes.

Every cloud had them, and they were incredibly fresh. They were still rippling, upon entering the universe. Some, in fact, hadn’t even fallen to the ground yet. The first three in even claimed they looked humanoid for a second.

The damage to our world upon opening a portal is irreparable and devastating. But we now know the damage to the other world is a thousand times worse.

Credit: dogman_35

The Pixies

January 18, 2017 at 12:00 AM
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Chapter 1

What I’m about to tell you will seem unbelievable, inconceivable, and I’m sure downright made up. I can’t help the way that it sounds. I can only tell you what happened, what I remember, and hope that someone finds it within their compassionate soul to believe me. I know that I have to tell someone now because my time is short. I am no longer a spring chicken, nor a middle aged woman, let alone the innocent child I once was. I am now what people call over the hill, elderly, kaput. At 87 years old I am not in denial about my worsening health, loss of memory, or lack of ability to care for myself. I also am no longer in denial about what happened to me when I was just a small girl living in the beautiful forest of Upstate NY.
If you care to hear the story please pull up a chair and put on your listening ears. Bring an open mind and an interest in the unexplainable and I will spin you a tale of small children and pixies. Ahhhhh, I see you doubting already. No matter. You’re already here so you mind as well hear my tale before calling me crazy. However you should be forewarned that this is not a cute little tale of children making friends with cute little winged people. This is a dark and frightening tale of abduction and terror the likes of which most people will never experience. I hope none of you do. It’s why I tell my tale. If I can prevent one person, 1 child, from going through what I went through then I have lived and died for a purpose.
So let’s see here. Where should I begin? It was the end of summer when I was just a small girl of the age of 4. I lived in the woods on a long winding road without a neighbor for miles and miles. It was just my mother and myself. She was a single mother which in those days was unheard of. The towns people always gossiped and stared when we came into town but she was lucky enough to gain employment from a kindly older lady named Mrs. Willow who widowed by her husband had taken over the small motel they had run together. Mrs. Willow in her elder years had hired my mother to do the room cleanings she had done herself for nearly 45 years. She paid her a meager wage of just $1.50 an hour and of course didn’t need her for many hours per week as it was rare to have more then just 1 or 2 guests in a week.
Anyways as for my father. I never got to ask her about him. Someone once told me when I was about 13 or so that he had been a drifter whom my mother had loved deeply but who had left before knowing of her pregnancy and was never seen again. At the age of 4 though my mother was my whole world and I was hers and we had what I would call a wonderful life. That was until THAT day. A chill runs down my spine just thinking about THAT day again. It was the day that I went from being an innocent carefree girl to an adult in a small child’s body.
On THAT day, it was a Saturday evening, my mother and I were playing outside the small little shack we called a home. We were having a tea party on the small stump of an old tree that had fallen in a storm years before we moved in. My mother put a small table cloth over it and we got out my little tea set that I had gotten for Christmas the year before and we sat on the warm soft grass and toasted to another beautiful day together. We smiled and giggled and even though I can’t remember the exact words either of us said I can remember the feeling of being happy. Just purely joyful in the evening sun. I can remember the sun shining through the leaves of the trees and glittering all around. I can remember the smell of my mother’s hair like the lavender perfume she wore. How I miss that smell. How I miss her. Even now, all these years later I miss my mother more than anyone else I’ve met in all my years. I suppose I shall be seeing her again soon enough though.
I digress. THAT day as we sat giggling and having tea time we suddenly heard the ringing of our phone through the back door we had left open. Mother loved to air the house out daily as often as she could and today being warm and lovely she had it swung wide open with a concrete cinder block holding it in place. My mother told me to stay put and she’d be right back. I watched her walk away, up the 3 crooked wood steps, and disappear into the house. Her long lavender scented hair glistening in the sun as she went. It was then that I heard it.
“It” was the faint sound of…….hmmmm how do I explain this? Maybe like a wind chime or a small flute. A soft trickle of music emanating from the woods at the edge of our quaint backyard. It was beautiful. Soothing. It drew me in and without even knowing what I was doing I was getting to my feet and headed towards the woods. The soft music growing slightly louder as I neared the edge but still faint and soooo, hypnotic. I wanted to see what was making that wonderful sound. As I neared the woods there was something else too. Something sparkling here and there when the light from the sun caught it just right. Curiosity drew me closer and closer. I squinted my eyes to try and bring whatever it was into focus but it was small and even though at 4 yrs old my eyes were a far cry better than what they are now I still didn’t see what that glittering thing was until I was just about on top it. Even when I did see it my brain didn’t register what it was right away.
This is where my story may make you question my memory or my sanity, perhaps both. Please bear with me though and allow an old dying woman the peace of knowing she told someone, warned someone, whether you choose to heed those warnings is entirely up to you. Anyways. I leaned down close to the ground and there on the soft bed of fallen leaves was a very small unicorn with a jewel encrusted horn. I know that’s hard to believe. At first I thought it was a toy but then it moved. To be honest it scared the crap out of me and I jumped back in shock. However then 4 yr old me was reaching out to touch it before I even knew I was doing it. I felt like I was in a dream. The world around me hazy and fading into the background. It was like the only thing I could see was this unicorn with it’s amazing horn and all I wanted to do was touch that horn. Just once. If it would let me. But I knew it would. A little voice in my head said go ahead and touch it. It wants you to. So I did.
As soon as my soft skin touched that horn I felt it stab into my flesh. It was the tiniest thing, no bigger then the end of a sewing needle, but it was sharp and it hurt like someone had sliced my finger with a kitchen knife. I started to scream but my voice caught in my throat and I hit the ground twitching and struggling to breathe. I remember laying there on the ground with the world shaking around me, the sun glaring down on me, blinding me, and thinking I was dying. Even at 4 the logical outcome was undeniable. Even then I knew that no air meant no life. I scratched at my throat and slowly, it seemed an eternity, the world around my went black. I thought I was dead. Later on I wished I was.

CHAPTER 2

When my eyes opened again everything around me was still dark. I automatically began to scream for my mother. Surely she would hear me and come running. She would turn on the light and brush my tangled hair from my tiny face and rub my cheek. She would tell me to “breathe baby” and follow it up with “shhhhhhhh” as she hugged me to her and that wonderful lavender hair would brush against my cheek and I would be safe. That’s not what happened though. Someone did talk but it wasn’t her. I wasn’t even sure it was a someone. It sounded more like a something and the very sound of it’s voice nearly drove me to the brink of insanity. Something in the dark let out a stern sounding “shhaddduuupppp you whining little crybaby.” The voice didn’t sound human though. It sounded moist. Bubbly, as if there were liquid in the throat of the creature who’d said it. It was a, for lack of a better word, evil sounding voice. I was silent but tears rolled down my little round cheeks and I struggled to see into the darkness.
I reached out with tiny hands into the dark. I reached out cautiously but I reached out. I seemed to be on a bed of leaves and twigs. The leaves were wet and the twigs were hard. Some of them were poking into my little bare legs that stuck out from underneath my pretty yellow sundress mother had made me. It hurt but I was too scared to think about it or even notice. Even as I felt blood trickle down my right leg from where one of them had punctured the skin I didn’t notice. As I leaned a little further into the darkness I touched, something, it was all around me but my hand could slip past it in parts. Suddenly I knew what it was. It was a cage. I was in a cage. Why was I in a cage? I didn’t understand. Cages were for birds or other animals, not little girls. I crawled to the edge and stuck my face up to the bars and realized there was light coming from below me. I struggled to see what it was and then fear swept over me. Not only was I in a cage, I was in a cage about 15 feet from the ground. Just dangling up there in the dark.
I peered down into the faint light below me and that’s when I saw IT. My fear turned into pure terror and I was sure something snapped in my brain. I once again began to scream. This time it’s return screams of “shaddduupppp” didn’t silence me. My screams were not a choice. They weren’t an option or voluntary in any way. It was like something was pulling them out of my stomach by way of my mouth. That thing! OH MY GOD that thing that was down there. It still rocks me to my core to even think about it and I’d rather not. I can’t tell you my story without you understanding though. Fully understanding what I saw, what had me in that cage precariously perched high above the ground.
What I saw below me can best be described as petrified wood that has started to rot and grow moss and mold. Rotted, mossy, moldy, wood that had come to life in a vague shape of something that resembled human form. The dimensions were all wrong though. The arms and legs too long, too thin. The back curved much like my own back does now. Even in the darkness I could see things slithering around it’s body. Living things and I wasn’t sure if they were feeding off of the things growing on this creature or putting it there. Maybe both. When it moved it made sounds that were both dry and cracking yet wet and mushy. It’s back was to me and it looked as though it was preparing something. A meal maybe? The light was coming from under a very large pot with liquid in it. I suddenly became aware of the smell coming from that liquid and it turned my stomach. At the time I didn’t know what that smell was. No 4 yr old would or should. No 4 yr old should ever know what human meat cooking should smell like.
That creature heard me scurrying around in my cage and turned to look up. I wish it hadn’t. The sight of it’s grotesque body and the sound of it’s hideous moist voice were enough for me, but it turned none the less. It turned and I saw the face of evil. The face of evil knew I saw it and sneered showing it’s pointy uneven teeth in a mouth that was much too large. My God that thing had teeth that looked like the rear end of a porcupine. They were long, skinny, and pointy. I knew right away if this thing bit me those teeth would go all the way through my arm like a sharp knife slicing some butter that’s been left out in the sun all afternoon at the family picnic. It’s eyes were nothing more then little slits with glowing yellow coming from the centers. I didn’t see a nose but it’s ears were tall and ended in a point that leaned back away from the face. It also appeared to have something growing out of it’s back. If I were older it may have taken me longer to figure it out but being just a little girl who often fantasized about fairy tale creatures I knew almost instantly what they were. I mean they weren’t like any I’d ever imagined but they were wings nonetheless. They looked like more of that dry wood jutting out from the back in multiple branches. The “branches” were strung together with something that looked like skin. It was stretched and thin with holes in it here and there as if it’d been torn by something and the light shown through them illuminating them in a way that made me quiver. Suddenly the world was going out of focus again and I fell to the bottom of the cage cutting my cheek on a twig as I did.
I’m not sure how long I was passed out for either time. I do know that some time did pass and when I awoke I was being lowered downward. My cage kind of bouncing and swinging as I got lower and lower. Panic hit me and it hit me HARD! That THING down there was lowering me. It was going to eat me up with those sharp, skinny, pointy teeth it had. I began to cry and slid myself back against the far corner of the cage. I had not been to the restroom since earlier that day and while at age 4 it had been a good long time since I had any type of accident I can assure you that when I came to face to face with this monster from the dark my bladder let loose and urine spilled out of my body and down my legs. It ran in a river to the edge of the cage and off onto the floor. I thought the creature was going to be mad but it smiled happily instead. It was loving the fact that it scared the piss right out of my little body. It knew I was frightened and it loved every minute of it.
Once lowered I came face to face with a creature most people never even see in their nightmares. It was like a combination of every horrifying creature created for the big screen all thrown into one beast. It sneered and then from between it’s long skinny teeth what appeared to be a serpent like tongue jutted out and licked it’s lips. This time I was so scared I couldn’t make a sound. My eyes squeezed shut tightly and I prayed I was just dreaming. Inside my mind I screamed for this to please be a dream. When the creature spoke again I knew it wasn’t a dream though and I opened my eyes to face this monster. It said “Time to eat child, you’re far too skinny.”
I slid back from the cage door as the creature removed the lock and pried it open. It had a bowl of something in it’s creepy long fingers and it slip it onto the floor of the cage and then closed the door once more. “Are you going to hurt me?” I asked. Hopeful that the answer was no but knowing that even if this thing said no it would mean yes.
Opening it’s gaping mouth once again into a grin evil enough to drive a sane man mad it said “Eat!” and then I was being raised back up into the ceiling of this dark hole where the creature resided. What ever was in that bowl smelled horrid and as hungry as I was I wasn’t going to touch it. I laid down in my cage and cried myself to sleep. I wanted my mommy. I wanted my bed. I wanted my stuffed bunny Marshmallow who’s fur was tarnished and dirty from the love of a 4 yr old girl who took it everywhere. I wanted to be anywhere but here. Here I would stay for another 2 weeks though.

CHAPTER 3

The days pass slowly when you’re being held hostage by a creature in the dark. 1 day slowly rolled into 2 and by the 3rd day I was so hungry so that I ate the food that the beast gave me. He informed me that his name was Trekin as in “Trekin says EAT NOW!!!” He took me out of the cage to clean it after a couple of days of me using part of it as a bathroom. Even then I knew it was disgusting but I didn’t have a choice. I tried to hold it. I begged him to let me out so I could go. He responded to my cries with screams and guttural noises that I wasn’t sure if it was a language or just noise. I never told anyone about having to go to the bathroom in that cage but if I’m going to give you the full account of my time there then I’m going to go ahead and lay it all on the line.
The 3rd day was also the day that Daisy showed up. I really liked her. I saw Trekin carry her in slumped over his shoulder and imagined I must’ve looked much the same when he brought me in. He popped her into a cage and raised it up near mine. She lay sleeping for what seemed like hours and then slowly began to stir. It was very dark in there but after time your eyes adjust and you can see well enough to make due. I saw when he brought her in that her hair was dark. Either brown or black. She had a plump little body that had been poured into some pink overalls with a white shirt, already dirty from her trip here, under it. Her hair in 2 braids that hung to about the middle of her back. She was wearing a little pink shoe on one foot but must’ve lost the other in transit because her other foot was bare. When she started to stir I tried to quickly calm her. It didn’t work. As soon as she opened her eyes to the darkness and then finally figured out what was happening she had much the same reaction as myself. There were screams and cries and even some begging and pleading to be let go. Trekin paid no attention to any of these except to tell her to shut up.
Once Daisy calmed down and began to accept her new reality I spoke to her again in a whisper. “Hello, are you ok now?” I asked. I knew that neither one of us was ok but I wasn’t sure how else to begin our first conversation in this dark and dank environment. Daisy replied in a weepy voice, tired from screaming and crying that she was for now. We talked for much of the night about our homes, our families, even our toys. I learned that she was 6 and in the 1st grade at her school called Hillside Elementary. She had a teacher named Miss. Buckner who was nice most of the time but sometimes got mad at this one kid named Shawn and would yell loudly at him which scared her. Daisy was shy and sweet and in some ways even more terrified then me. She was older so maybe she had everything figured out before I did. Either way I liked her and I felt so much better having someone to talk to. There were times over the next couple of days where I almost forgot where I was. There were times we even giggled as little girls do.
Happy times were often cut short as we were lowered to face that horrid thing that resided below us so that he could feed us or clean our cages. If he thought we were too happy he would poke those long fingers of his into our arms or legs until he punctured our delicate skin bringing blood to the wounds and tears to our eyes. He loved to torment us, he loved to remind us that this wasn’t summer camp.
6 days into my stay with Trekin I asked him shyly what he was? He looked pleased. “Have you never seen a pixie before child?” That sly smile touching his crooked mouth. I shook my head no and dropped my gaze to the floor of my cage. Looking into the murky eyes of that creature was something I cared not do for long. “I am a wood fairy. My kind has ruled these forests for over a thousand years and will continue to do so for many many more.” I had no doubt he was telling the truth.
“What do you want with us?” I asked
“Dear sweet girl, there is only one use for a child of man……………” He paused dramatically and smiled in a manner even more gruesome then usual. “You’re food!” he said as he threw his head back and began laughing like the lunatic he clearly was.
I wasn’t surprised by this news. I mean part of me hoped not but part of me knew. He was feeding us often and somehow I knew it was to fatten us up. Somehow I knew that this creature had one plan all along and I knew that his plan never involved us going home again. Tears rolled down my face silently as he raised me back up next to Daisy. All the while he was laughing to himself.
It was that day that I decided that Daisy and I needed to escape as soon as possible. Of course poor Daisy would never step foot out of this creature’s den again but I didn’t know that. I also didn’t know that this creature while nothing like the pixies I had imagined in appearance did in fact have magical qualities that would make escape even harder then imagined. It was in fact Daisy’s death that led to my escape. I’ve always felt terrible for the loss of her but at the same time at least her torment ended. Mine still continues all these years later as I wait for the return of that hideous creature named Trekin. I don’t know how I know that he’s coming but I know none the less.

CHAPTER 4

After being raised back up I whispered to Daisy that we were going to have to get out of there. She agreed and we started hatching a plan. It was simple and not very well thought out at all. We were just young girls ages 4 and 6 if you recall. Our plan was simply to wait to have our cages cleaned again and then to make a run for it. One of us, whoever he cleaned first, would push past Trekin and grab the huge spoon he stirred his pot with and hit him in the head with it as hard as she could. Then that girl would open the other cage and we would both run as far and as fast as our legs would carry us. It was simple. It was foolish. As if it would be that easy. Our young ages blinded us to the reality. Of course reality is a fleeting thing for small children locked in cages in the den of a wood pixie anyways. Irony was definitely laughing at us throughout this ordeal.
On the 8th day in Trekin’s possession our chance to escape came. It was Daisy he let out first and she did as we had planned up high in our perch above his elongated head. He unlocked her cage and she made a mad dash pushing into her door and knocking him off balance as she sprawled out past him on the dirt floor of his abode. She quick jumped to her feet and grabbed the large spoon and swung it hard as she could smashing Trekin right in his mouth full of pointy sharp teeth. I saw him grimace in pain and part of me relished it even in that small moment of time which was most likely no more then a microsecond. I yelled for Daisy to hurry and let me out as I shook the bars ferociously.
Trekin wasn’t knocked unconscious as we had planned though. While being knocked down had shocked him and being hit had hurt him it wasn’t long before he recovered and was on his feet headed straight for Daisy with his long fingers reaching out for her. I saw panic in her face and an apologetic look as she turned away from me and ran for the door. She was leaving me. She was going to run and leave me here to be eaten by this creature. I understood though. In that small flash of time I knew I would have done the same.
Daisy reached the door of the den and swung it open throwing herself through it as fast as her pudgy little legs would permit. That’s when it happened. That’s when I realized that leaving this place was going to be even more of a challenge then I had previously thought. Daisy’s body hit the doorway and not just bounced back but was thrown backwards with the force of a mac truck hitting her. She flew through the air and hit the far wall of the dome shaped room. What I’m going to tell you next is graphic but I see no point in making this out ot be anything other then the full account of what I saw and heard during my stay with Trekin the wood pixie. Daisy hit that wall with such force that I could literally hear the bones in her little body break into pieces inside of her. The back of her skull flattened against the wall and as she bounced off and hit the floor face first she left behind what could only be blood and brain matter with chunks of skull that actually stuck into the wall. I let out a scream and fell backwards in my own cage. My only friend in this hellish place was dead. I know this sounds awful but I didn’t know what upset me more. The loss of her, the realization that I was alone with Trekin, or the realization that my own death was next. Either way I lay there in the bottom of my cage crying uncontrollably.
Trekin had walked over to where Daisy lay in a pile of broken flesh and bone and was hovering above her. I heard him laugh maniacally and then even through my own sobbing I heard him say something that caught my attention. “Silly child of man,” he said. “You can’t leave this enchanted space without the key.”
I opened my eyes and looked at him and saw that he was holding out a rope from his neck. He was holding it out over her body and laughing. On the end of the rope I saw a small charm. It wasn’t a key at all though. It was……….MY GOD!!! it was a tiny little unicorn. I had seen that tiny creature before. The last time was the day I was brought here and it was alive. This time it was more like a little glass figurine but it was the same creature. I was sure of it. Trekin picked up what was left of my new friend and carried her into the next room. I sat there debating in my mind how I could get that necklace from around Trekin’s neck and escape this awful hole that he called enchanted. The events of the day had worn on me though and I fell asleep leaning against the bars of my cage.
When I awoke again I peered down into the faint light below me to see Trekin coming back into the only room I had known for days now. He had a tray in his hands and on the tray was pieces of meat and blood. He tipped the tray up and they slid into the boiling pot below me splashing some of the hot liquid inside onto the floor. It was then that true terror touched my soul yet again. It was then that I realized that was bow cooking my friend Daisy. It was then that I realized that the food I had been eating since the 3rd day of my capture was whatever child had sat in this cage before me. The world got all wobbly and I felt everything in my stomach lurch up into my throat. It spewed from my mouth violently and then the world went dark as I fell face first into my own freshly spewed vomit. Not a pretty picture I know. One I wish wasn’t locked into my memory but that’s what happened.
Some time later I opened my eyes to my cage being opened and I jumped backwards so hard I hit my head on the bars of the cage and saw stars. Trekin was peering in at me with his teeth showing in a snarl and saying something about I’d better not try anything or I’d be joining my friend sooner then later. His long wood like fingers grabbed a hold of my tiny wrist and he dragged me out of my cage in one movement and threw me to the floor. He towered over me and then grabbed a large bowl and to my shock dumped cold water right on top of me. “Dirty, filthy, creatures, children of men are.” he said shaking his head. Still you could see the enjoyment he got out of dumping that cold water on top of me while I was still dazed and confused from the events of the day. One side of his face lifted in an Elvis like sneer and he dumped a second pot into my cage rinsing away my vomit, urine, and feces. He grabbed another pot and dumped in some new leaves and twigs and then grabbed my drenched body and lifted it back into the cage. He peered at me through the open door for a moment. I thought he was going to say something but then he shut the door and locked it once again. He didn’t raise me up though. He left me hanging just a few feet from the ground and started to fill a bowl from the large pot in the center of the room that he had generously fed me from all along. I instantly started shaking my head and crying. He re-opened the cage door and slid the bowl in. “Your friend is sweet as pie.” He said laughing as he started pulling the rope that rose my cage into the air.
Once raised I looked at the bowl and I cried. I told Daisy I was so sorry. I knew then that I would go hungry either until I finally died, Trekin finally killed me, or until I escaped this place. I was hopeful for an escape. My little brain just couldn’t think of how to do it though. No matter how much I tried I couldn’t figure out how I would ever be able to get down, get the “key”, and escape without being killed. 4 more days passed and with each day I grew weaker from lack of food. The weaker I got the less hope I had. I was now on my 12th day here in this hell and I was now hoping more for death then anything. I just lay in the bottom of the cage. Not moving, not speaking. I didn’t cry. I didn’t do anything. Honestly I think that was also a big part of being able to escape. Trekin grew concerned. Not because I was weak but because I was getting thinner and thinner. “You’re no good to me without some meat on your bones!” he said. He was clearly angry. He lowered my cage and stared at me. He must have been thinking of ways to get me to eat or deciding if he should just kill me now before I could lose more weight but he said nothing. Just stared. He stared for what seemed an eternity but I was lost to my own little world, slowly dying as I lay there in the bottom of my cage.
Trekin didn’t bother to lift me back up. When he went to the other room for the night he left me down low. I’m not sure if he didn’t feel I was strong enough to be a problem or if he just plain forgot. As I entered into day 13 I sat up slowly and looked around the room I was in. Escape hadn’t crossed my mind just yet. At first I was merely looking to see if there was any food near enough to me to reach and eat. Across the room on a small table I saw something that looked like bread. My stomach growled and I touched the lock on my cage door as if it would just pop open because I wanted it to. It didn’t. I reached my arm through the cage and tried to grab the edge of the pot in the center of the room. My fingertips were about 2 inches shy of reaching it and so I stretched and leaned. It was then that I realized my entire arm was now out of the cage and half of my head. I realized that if might be possible to slip my entire head out of the bars of the cage. I pushed and pain hit me instantly as my ears bent up tight against my head and one of them scraped against the rough metal of the bar and ripped open. Blood came pouring down my neck and onto my shoulder. It wasn’t enough to stop me from pushing though. The pain in my ear was nothing compared to the pain in my stomach and I pushed with barely a sound as my head popped out of the bars of the cage. Of course now here I was with my head and an arm hanging out of my cage about 3 feet from the ground and not sure what to do next. I was sure the rest of my withered body would slide through as well but what if Trekin caught me?
Fear made my heart pound against my tiny rib cage almost hard enough to physically see it. I decided I’d rather die fighting then laying in that cage. I don’t know why I decided it. I don’t know where that strength was for the days before this moment but I was suddenly filled with the desire to live. Pushing through the bars was easier then I imagined it would be. After 4 days of not eating my tiny body was little more then some skin and bones. Had I been in the air this would have been pointless but this close to the ground it was an easy task. Of course going head first was difficult as I had to lean downward and fall to the ground head first as well. As I left the cage it swung back away from me ever so slightly and when it swung back it hit me right in the side of my head just as I was setting myself upright. The metal created a gash that instantly began to bleed about an inch long and I grabbed my head and cried out before I could stop myself. I stood there like a deer in the headlights quite sure that Trekin was going to come running and and destroy me with one hit from those pointy wooden claws of his. Everything remained quiet and nothing stirred though.
I walked over and grabbed the bread like stuff from the little table and began shoving it into my mouth. It was the most delicious thing I had ever eaten in my life. It wasn’t bread. It was better then bread. It was moist and sweet and after just a few bites I was already feeling full. I kept eating though until my little belly protruded. When I was done I looked around the room once again. Something in my brain said I should climb my butt back into that cage and live to fight another day. Something else in me was screaming though. It was screaming to me to find a weapon. To look for Trekin. To take that necklace. Finally to ESCAPE this place. I listened to the 2nd voice. After all, that one was much louder.

CHAPTER 5

I slowly and quietly crept into the next room. Trekin was not there. It was a small room with tables and cabinets on one side. This was the room where he prepared the meat for his stews. There was also a hole in the floor to one side of the table. I peered in and the smell came up and hit me in the face like a baseball being pitched by a professional pitcher. I knew right away that this hole was where he threw the parts he couldn’t use. I almost lost the new food I had in my belly but managed to keep it down. I rose from my knees and started to quietly open drawers looking for a weapon of sorts. On the 3rd drawer I found a knife. It wasn’t very large but it was sharp and it fit in my tiny hand nicely. I grabbed it and walked very slowly, one step at a time, to the next dark room. Although it wasn’t a room. It was a hallway. I was so glad the floors were made of dirt. No squeaky wood boards like in my house. Down the hallway there were 2 doors. Both closed. It was clear that Trekin was behind one of them. I was terrified that he was just standing there in the darkness of one of the rooms waiting to pounce. Suddenly I was sure he left me down on purpose. I was sure this was all part of his game. He knew I couldn’t escape the house so he was playing with me before killing me. Maybe fear makes little girls taste better. I almost turned around and ran for the cage. I didn’t though. I continued down the hall and turned the first knob slowly.
The room behind that first door was dark and smelled of mold and mildew. I knew immediately it was some sort of bathroom. I could hear drips of water coming from some source within the room. Most likely some sort of sink or shower. I suddenly wondered if Trekin really showered and also if he pooped. Silly thought I know. I even giggled a bit when I thought of him sitting on a toilet in that dank smelling room. I clasped my own mouth so I wouldn’t laugh out loud and continued on to the next door. I stood outside of it contemplating what I was going to do when I opened it. I couldn’t for the life of me think even a minute ahead of my own actions. Finally I just reached out and touched the knob. It was made of metal like my cage but smooth. My hand almost slipped right off of it but finally caught hold and I turned it slowly and pushed.
This door seemed heavier then the last and as I pushed it open a faint light hit me. Trekin it seemed slept with the lights on. Another thought that almost brought a laughing fit to my lips. I scolded myself inside my own head. There was nothing funny about this situation. Had I lost my mind? Although I suppose in some ways I had lost parts of it I told myself it was just because I was so scared. I opened the door just enough to slip into the room that Trekin used as his bedroom. It wasn’t like a human bedroom. There was no bed, no pictures, no decorations. It was simply an empty room with a large branch from a tree of some sort reaching from one side to the other. It stuck into the walls on either side and Trekin was hanging from it. He was upside down and his grotesque toes were wrapped around the branch holding him there like a bat. His arms folded across his chest. He was snoring. This horrible, guttural, sound that made me cringe and took away any feelings of wanting to giggle immediately.
I walked over to him hanging there by his feet. I walked slowly but I walked. One foot in front of the other I walked until I was close enough to see those little bugs and wiggly things living on, or in, his body. I wondered what would happen if I stabbed him with the tiny knife I held in my hand. I decided that it wouldn’t do much to this creature made mostly of wood and decided against it immediately. I instead leaned in close and searched his neck with my eyes. There it was! The necklace with the unicorn pendant. I reached in and just as I was about to touch it Trekin moved. I thought it was over. I thought after all this he had woken up and saw me reaching for it and any second those teeth would be cutting into my arm probably tearing it off of my body in the process. My eyes closed tight waiting for the pain. Nothing happened though. I re-opened my eyes and realized that he was still sleeping. I let the breath I had been holding in escape my mouth very slowly and sucked in a fresh batch before proceeding. My tiny fingers wrapped around the necklace and I reached out with the knife in my other hand and sliced the rope holding it together around Trekin’s neck. I backed up slowly all the way to the door in disbelief. I had it. The “key” as he had said. When my back hit the open door I turned and left the room as silently as I had come in. Back down the the hallway, through the prep room and back into the main living area where I had been kept.
I walked slowly to the main door realizing now that I had no idea how the “key” worked. What if I opened the door and went through only to be thrown into the wall like Daisy. A memory of her skull flattening against the wall popped into my head and I shuddered. I took a deep breath, held the pendant in my hand and opened the large door to the outside world. Shock hit me almost instantly. The sun was shining out there and it was glorious but something wasn’t right. Everything was much too large. Trees jutted up into the blue sky that looked to be a thousand feet tall. The leaves that had blown up next to the door of my captors residence were taller then me. A bird flew by overhead. Just a simple blue jay but it was the size of a minivan at least. I gasped. Then I heard something behind me. Trekin was awake and coming down the hall. No time to wait. I reached out and stuck my hand holding the pendant out of the doorway. It went with ease and grew instantly. There I was a tiny girl on one side of the door and a giant hand on the other. Footsteps were growing louder and I flung the rest of my body out of the doorway instantly growing back to my original size. I stumbled and fell to my knees. I looked back to see a very small door opened in the base of a large old oak tree. I quick shut it tight and held my hand against it while looking for a rock to put against it. Just as I spotted the perfect one I heard a ghastly howl from behind that tiny door. Trekin had discovered my escape. He sounded furious. I grabbed a rock, stuck it against the door and ran. I ran as ast as my legs could carry me. I wasn’t sure where I was or where I was going but I ran.
After what seemed an eternity of running, just as my tiny legs started to give out, I came across a small dirt road. I fell to the ground as I got to it and just laid there sprawled out and gasping. I heard something coming closer and I knew in my heart it was Trekin. He had pushed that rock aside, escaped his home, grown to enormous size, and tracked me down to the side of this little road. I was too scared to even move as the noise drew closer. I closed my eyes tight and hoped maybe he wouldn’t see me. Maybe he would run right past me but then I heard a voice. “Oh my god, it’s a little girl.” It was a man’s voice, not a monsters. “Quick Ilene get a blanket and come quick, she’s still breathing.” A Pause and then “Sweety? Sweety? Are you ok? What happened?”
I couldn’t talk though. Tears were running down my face by the gallon as this stranger and his wife Ilene wrapped me in a blanket and put me in their car. Ilene hugged me to her as her husband rushed us to the nearest hospital. It was there that the questions began. There that the strange stares, whispered disbelief, and judgement started. It was also there that I finally got to hug my mother again. It was there that I got to bury my dirty, tear soaked face into her wonderful lavender smelling hair. My mother was always a proud woman. Well put together, well groomed, and one of those never let them see you cry types. When I saw her again after my 2 weeks in the woods she had changed though. Her hair a mess, she had lost weight, her clothes disheveled, and her face covered in tears to match my own. “Where have you been baby?” was all she could muster in those first moments.
Days passed and my mother never left my side. I was cleaned up, my wounds dressed, and rehydrated. The staff sent a psychologist to talk to me when my story of where I had been didn’t change for the police. They were convinced that I had created this story of an evil pixie to cover up the weeks of abuse I must have suffered at the hands of whatever man had kidnapped me. They were grateful that I hadn’t been violated physically, and couldn’t understand how they had missed this man’s residence in all the searches they had done of the woods. They were going to continue to search though and they assured my mother they would find the monster responsible. The doctors eventually had no choice but to send me home with my mother and hope that someday my memory would return so they could know what the man looked like and maybe more about his home. They said it was perfectly normal for me to make up stories and not to worry but I could tell my mother was worried. Not because she thought I was crazy. She was worried because she knew me and she was worried I was telling the truth.
About a week after I returned home a police officer named Dan Peters stopped by our little home in the woods. He asked my mother if he could speak to her in private. My mother asked me to go to my room and wait there for a moment. I didn’t like being away from her and had in fact slept in her bed every night since I had been home but I did as I was asked. I left my door open and stood near it though. Ready to run back to her should anything happen. From my doorway I could hear them talking in hushed tones. I heard something about Daisy. I could hear my mother say what a shame it was and how badly she felt for the family. I could hear her saying that she would talk to me and let him know. Then I heard our creaky front door close and my mother’s footsteps coming toward my room. She smiled as she entered into my field of vision but her smile was no longer the same as it had been. My absence had not only changed me, it had changed her.
“I need to ask you something baby girl.” An undertone of seriousness. Maybe sadness. “The little girl Daisy you said you met while you were away………you said she………was killed right?” I could tell this topic wasn’t something she wanted to discuss but the officer had asked her to question me and she had little choice because she wanted to find this man who had stolen her daughter from her. I nodded. She asked me if I could describe her? Of course I could. Daisy had been my best friend, my only friend in that disgusting little hole, and I remembered her vividly. The doctors and police had thought I made her up too. Like a sort of imaginary friend as it were. It wasn’t until weeks later that they realized a little girl named Daisy had been reported missing in the next town over and put 2 and 2 together. Daisy’s family wanted desperately to find her of course and their only hope was a little girl who claimed pixies had done it and their little girl was dead. My mother questioned me off and on for days. She explained how important the truth was. She told me how much it would help if I could just remember even 1 thing about the man who had taken me. That even if Daisy was in fact dead finding her body would be tremendously helpful for her family and would provide closure for them. I told her over and over that I was telling the truth. Finally my mother called the police officer and told him that I still had no memory of the man or the home. I heard her apologize and tell him she would call if anything changed. It never did.
Years passed and mother and I moved to Georgia to be closer to her sister Annie. She said she could use my mother’s help with her 4 children but I knew it was more like my mother could use her help. Our bills were behind and since Mrs. Willow had passed work for my mother had been scarce. We were still the talk of the town and I was always known as the strange little girl who had lost touch with reality. I was teased by children and pitied by adults. A change was just what we needed according to my mother. So we moved. We decided there would be no more talk of the past. Everything was fresh and new from that moment on. I had agreed and never spoke another word to her about my time with Trekin. He was never far from my thoughts though. Even though I was now 9 years old I still feared that creature coming for me. I stayed close to people and even after the move slept in the same room as my mother until I was nearly 13 yrs old. I was terrified to be alone. I was right to be.
At age 13 I saw Trekin again. I saw him briefly but I saw him. I was outside in the yard with my little cousin Abby. She was running through the sprinkler and squealing with joy. Every time the cold water touched her it bounced off of her and the sun hit it making it glitter like silver. Back and forth she went and I sat under the tree nearby and watched giggling. I envied her youth. Her innocence. It was something i had lost at age 4 and though I was still just a young girl of 13 my eyes told a different story. My eyes were those of an old lady who had seen much and lived long. Then something else caught my eye. There was something by the tree off to the side of the property. At first I thought it was just the tree but then it moved. My heart skipped a beat and my breath caught in my throat. The smile left my face along with all the color. The thing next to the tree sneered. I saw an enlarged mouth filled with long, sharp, pointy teeth and yellow eyes glowing through small slits in the wooden face. It was HIM. I screamed and passed out.
I could hear someone calling my name and I was sure it was Trekin. I started punching, hitting, thrashing about before I even opened my eyes and I heard “Owwwwww, she hit me.” I stopped and looked around to see my Aunt standing there holding her bloody lip and the rest of the family staring at me like I was a mad woman. I started to apologize immediately but then fear caught me again and I pushed everyone out of my field of vision. I looked at the tree across the yard but Trekin was gone. When everyone asked me what was wrong I apologized again and said it must’ve been the heat was too much for me. My mother helped me into the house and got me some ice water asking if I needed a doctor? I told her no, that I’d be fine but I’ll tell you, I was shaken to my core. Trekin had escaped. Not only that, he had found me. I saw him again a week later and a month after that. He never came close but he always popped up when I least expected it and sneered at me in that sly little smile that said I would pay for escaping.
I started to research pixies. Turns out there were others who had been abducted and escaped their grasp as well. Not many. None currently living. There were a few accounts of their stories in books though. Most of them were pretty similar to mine. One little boy named Jonathan had escaped and then much like myself began seeing his captor later on down the line when he was older. He said for years she, yes a girl pixie although similar in appearance to Trekin, had just popped in almost as if to say hello. He said he had finally come to the conclusion that she could not capture him again. Something about the magic only worked on the mind of children who believed in magic. Once you had matured or lost your innocence the hypnotic music could no longer be heard by your ears and whatever pendant they had used as their key no longer came to life to lure you in. I had brought Trekin’s key with me when I escaped but the police had put it in evidence. Weeks later it had disappeared and was never seen again. I knew he had retrieved it.
As I’ve gotten older though and my mind has grown dimmer, more like that of a child at times, I have sworn I could hear a faint music in the distance. During these episodes I’ve been told I just get up and head off towards the woods as if in a daze. I often awake to one of the nurses here at Wildwood Nursing and Rehabilitation Center shaking me gently and calling my name. It terrifies me because I know that even though Trekin could not get revenge on me all these years ago I have now come full circle back to the innocent mind of a child at times and I know he is just biding his time and waiting for me. I have tried to tell the nurses to please watch me closely. To please not let me go into the woods. I have begged them to please keep me safe from the pixies. They always smile at me and tell me to calm down and not to worry. I worry though. I worry every moment that my thoughts are lucid. I look over to the woods and I see Trekin sometimes. Standing there by the trees and smirking. He hasn’t changed a bit even though I have aged decade after decade.
I fear I shall be gone soon but I wanted someone to know my story. I wanted someone to know that I did not wander off and disappear into the woods. I want someone to know that when I am gone, it is because I have heard that hypnotic music and once again seen that magical little unicorn with the jewel encrusted horn. I want someone to know that I have reached out even though I was scared and touched that horn and that I was then shrunk down and dragged into a doorway. A small doorway in the base of a giant tree. Once there I want someone to know that Trekin will be waiting for me to awaken so that he can torment me before finally lunging at me and sinking those horrible teeth deep into my throat. The last thing I will see is the ceiling of that little dark dome as the blood leaks from my body and I die the death I should have died many moons ago. I know in my heart of hearts that Trekin will look at me laying there on his dirt floor and he will smile that horrendous, crooked, jagged, smile and enjoy his sweet revenge. No one ever truly escapes a pixie. I know that now. No one ever really escapes true evil.
Wait! What’s that I hear? Do you hear it? It’s music. Sweet, melodic music. Like an angel playing a small flute. It’s beautiful. I wonder what it is. I’ll continue this when I return from seeing where it’s coming from. It sounds like it may be coming from that tree over there……………

THE END

Credit: Dawn Marks

And Mira, part 8: Rivalry

January 17, 2017 at 12:00 AM
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I need work.

Now that I’m alone, I need to be able to provide for myself and my daughter, I need a job. I have some military compensation from the war and my…loss, but it will only go so far. I want to be able to provide the best for Maddisyn. She’s had a difficult young life already, and I hope for her to grow up with joy and accomplishment. Without fear.

It’s hard to grow up without a father

So I approach a tall, beautiful office building, the RSL Headquarters, and walk in. At reception I assure the sweet girl at the phones that I indeed have an appointment, and let her know where I’m expected. She directs me to a line of elevators, and wishes me luck. What a nice girl!

On the way up to the top floor, I practice my lines. I rehearse how I will sell my strengths and skills, sure to become a valuable asset to the company. And, just in case, I rehearse how I will beg for anything in the event things don’t go well. But, it turns out I have little to worry about. As the elevator doors open, there, waiting for me all the way at the top, is Jack Robinson, the President of Robinson Savings and Loan, and my former Math and Business Teacher from High School.

He is happy to see me, and wastes no time in giving me a huge, comforting hug, before leading me down to his office., the office of the President of one of the most successful S and L firms in New York. And he’s happy to see me not just because he is in desperate need of a new Administrative Assistant, but because he is a genuinely good man. He was a good teacher who cared for his students, and, being aware of my situation, and what happened with Andrew in Vietnam, was thrilled to be able to help me get back on my feet.

He invites me to relax into the plush seats of his vast office. And we talk. He doesn’t ask me a single question about the job. He simply takes stock of how I’ve been since school, and it is assumed that I will work as his Administrative Assistant. And he knows about Andrew, and the heart he had for a student years ago transfers into an extremely human act today.

What is interesting is that none of his purposes appear to be out of pity or…well…out of trying to take advantage of me. He simply sees my condition, and wants to be a part of allowing my daughter a safe and healthy childhood. After a few hours he ends the meeting and simply requests that I come in at 8am on Monday. He will allow me time to get after school care for Maddisyn resolved of course, and to let him know if I need any help. I spend the entire time holding back tears, because other than Andrew, Nathaniel my father, and Joe, my stepfather, I have not known such kindness.

Choosing after school care proves to be the most difficult hurdle. There aren’t very many in the area, to be frank, but choosing a caregiver for your most precious is heavy work for any parent, and especially a mother who is alone. But I didn’t want to let Jack down, so I got down to the heavy work.

The first school was very quiet and cute, with happy children studying, playing and engaged all around. Unfortunately, the teacher for the older children was named Nathan. There was just no way I could do it. The second school was a little more raucous. It quite seemed as though the inmates were running the asylum! But it was in a very convenient location proximate to our home, so I gave it my due diligence.

There was a set of twins in the classroom Maddisyn would be in. A girl and a boy. Nope.

In the third school, I noticed that the owner smoked. I know it’s a stretch. But no.

Finally, I settled on a school that was closer to where I would be working. It was very plain. Not special. Quiet. Boring, actually. It promised nothing in terms of field trips, tutoring, exceptional curriculum, or even highly educated staff. But it had no Nathaniels, no twins, and no ghosts! It was close to work, so I could get her easily if she were ever ill, and most importantly it was affordable. Done!

So, the following Monday I put Maddi on the school bus and set off for work. Mr. Robinson was very forgiving my first day. I had to learn to do everything the job required including answering a complicated phone system, taking messages and forwarding them properly, keeping a calendar and a schedule, trying to become a model employee and all the while knowing that my proficiency didn’t matter. It was fun. Even more, it became a career!

One of the problems I faced living where I did, were the gangs and the boys looking to cause trouble. There was a very trendy gang where I lived, and often the members would harass me when I would return from work at night. I’m a strong woman, that has lost friends and family to a killer ghost, and can handle the stress of violence quite well. But often they would approach me with their crass demands while I was with Maddi, and that upset me.

One night, not long after I started my job, two of the bangers, Staar and Skreem, approached me as I was coming home after a hard day. Staar was apparently the leader, such as it is, and Skreem earned his name just from having a big, filthy mouth. They made all of the typical disrespectful remarks about my body and what they’d like to do to it. I sent Maddisyn inside quickly so that I could face them. My mouth was harder than my heart, and I let them know precisely the brand of scum I took them for. Then Skreem showed me a knife and I retreated inside. This particular dance repeated for many months, but thankfully despite the threats and the discomfort, they never actually harmed my daughter or me.

Jack wasn’t interested in keeping me as an assistant forever, but wanted me to grow as a financial professional. Over the years he sponsored my education, and slowly gave me accounts to manage. He knew I was more competent than a secretary, and worked to allow me the freedom to grow into a much bigger role. Within five years, I was an expert financial planner in my own right. And it was fun!

That is when Smoke decided to appear.

”Hello Mira,” he seethed.

“What?”

“What a nice little life you’ve made for yourself. A great job and a great boss, and you have a wonderful little family!”

“Smoke, you’ve all but destroyed my family. All I have is my little girl and my job. I’ve worked, and I’ve worked hard to clean up the mess my life became after I lost Andrew. Because of you! I know. I know what happened to Andrew was your doing you heartless chalky little prick! Dammit! Damn it I’m sorry that our birth was so bad for you, and that you were born the way that you were. You’ve gotten even in spades, so just leave now. Leave me be!”

“Oh Mira,” is the unemotional reply from Nathaniel Mirras. “Mira you are responsible for everything that went wrong in my life. And you will continue to pay, with misery and loss, for the rest of yours. I’m so happy for your job and your child, and it’s true, there’s not much I can do with your job, unless you let me…”

“But there’s always your daughter, you little bitch. And you have the choice right now to decide which part of your life I will control, and ruin.”

With that, Nathaniel is gone. But his words echo mightily in the weeks to come, and I realize there is a choice I must make. I can put Jack and all of the other workers in the office at risk. After all he’s done, I would have to be an absolute ghoul to make that choice. My life is finally bearable, back on track, and in many ways happy, because of Jack Robinson. And Nathaniel is demanding I offer up Jack’s company, his friends, and his life, simply to satiate his murderous hunger.

But the other choice is the life of my child. It really is no choice.

So, I give in to Nathaniel. I allow him to possess me whenever he chooses. This has made for some very interesting events over time. At first, he didn’t use me as a contact for his victims, but rather as his window to a world he never was able to join. He enjoys the cutthroat nature of finance, and for a while, he removes enough of my professional inhibitions to allow me to become very very successful. In a strange, sick way, Nathaniel Mirras actually does much to provide for the future of his niece. All while dead!

There’s more to it of course. He compels me to agree to dates with men. Thankfully I don’t remember much, but what I don’t know fills me with guilt and regret for Andrew. He is still my only love, and while I’m sure he’d forgive my actions on behalf of our daughter, I’m not so sure I will ever forgive myself.

I’ve also gained a bit of a dangerous reputation at the office. Not violent, but aggressive. I become somebody very confident and secure, and one to be avoided at all costs. Success is very lonely. Jack even had to call me into his office to discuss my change in behavior. That hurt. It was also stressful because between his affirmations and admonishments, every moment of that meeting had me fearing for his life. But Jack Robinson’s death was not yet on Nathaniel’s agenda.

Then, today, when I went home, there was Staar and Skreem waiting for me. We would have our usual banter, but now they would wait until Maddi went inside, and it became more of a game. Skreem was still inappropriate, but Staar had begun to keep more control of him, and the remarks became almost…complimentary. Almost.

Tonight, Staar was in the frisky mood. He looks me up and down, and I can sense a change in his breathing. I would expect that from a normal teenage boy his age, but we knew each other, and it had never gone past words. But this time, Staar came very close to my face, with a look of salacious glee and said, “Hey beauty, I got something for that booty! How about you put that little girl to bed early and we can spend some quality time together.”

It sounds less like a question and more of a statement. I’m stunned at first, but decide to respond with one of my best comebacks.

“Staar,” I say, “You couldn’t satisfy me if you had a Snickers bar in your pants…”

And I thought that would be it. I was pretty proud of myself for coming up with that, but then immediately sorry I had said anything. Staar grabbed me and shoved me up against a wall, again getting very close. His voice seethed, “We’ll see who is satisfied tonight!”

And then it hit me. Staar had been getting more friendly for just nearly a month. At this point I realize that Smoke has him, and I am no longer afraid for my own safety, but his. I realize that Staar is going to die right now in front of me, and I kick myself for not seeing this sooner. He’s just a child himself! But, Nathaniel has not chosen to kill anyone that I work with yet, and though a child, Staar is a criminal, so in some ways I am grateful. I feel terrible for feeling that way. But at this point, Staar is Nathaniel, I can see it in his eyes, so all I can do is watch and wait for what will certainly come.

Poor Staar. He probably never knew love, and will never know it in this life.

Unexpectedly, Skreem comes to my aid. He begins hurling all manner of filth toward Staar, demanding that he let me go, and what the flying Hell is the matter with him? I suddenly find myself liking Skreem, the hopeless pig, just a little more. But I realize too that this act of genuine courage will likely also cost him his life. All I can do is watch. I have given control of my life to Nathaniel Mirras for the sake of my daughter. And he is a killer.

Staar does not immediately address Skreem. He continues to look into my eyes to be absolutely sure that I see that it is Nathaniel in charge here. Without letting me go, Staar looks over to Skreem and says, “Give me your knife!”

Skreem does not want to oblige, but Staar incites the name of someone called ‘Prime’ and Skreem hands him the large, dangerous blade. Staar, with the same crazed look stares at me for just a moment, then quickly turns around and plunges the blade deep into Skreem’s throat. Skreem was clearly not expecting this move, and his face shows confusion, betrayal and wonder, all at once, as the life passes from his body which then slumps to the ground. Then there are only the two of us left. And I know that Staar’s death will be brutal. The battle is not between Staar and me, but Nathaniel and Staar, and the young gang banger is assured to be the loser.

So Nathaniel turns to face me, the bloody dagger in hand, and stares at me, making sure I recognize him in the eyes of Staar, already devoid of life. The eyes of by brother, already long-dead, and I wonder how he will choose to now destroy Staar. Will he have me do it? Will he have me mutilate the boy to resemble the chalky child?

But Nathaniel says to me, “Well, Mira, it has been such a long time since I’ve had this much fun! Vietnam, I believe. This feels sooo good! And I promise you, I’m just getting started. Don’t get too close to anyone in your life. No one will escape me. You thought you had won with Andrew, by sleeping with him, you little whore! But all you did was give me the same power over Andrew that I have over you. And I was able to destroy him by destroying everyone around him that he cared about, right before his very eyes.

“Were you proud of yourself, Mira? Did you think you had beaten me? I carry all the hatred for you that I have held since the uterus! And I will destroy everything that I have created for you these past years. You will know the loss I have felt for the rest of your miserable life. So don’t get too close to those about to die. If you do, it will cost you the life of that sweet little girl of yours…”

He is right, of course. I saved Andrew by being with him, but in doing so all I did was open him up to the same curse I have endured my entire life. What a fool I am. And Nathaniel was right. I had been proud. That alone makes my misery that much more complete. But, I am doing the only thing I can do to keep Maddisyn safe. She is my first priority, so I have to sacrifice everyone else. My grief knows no limits, starting even with Skreem and Staar. But I have no choice.

Nathaniel speaks, and as he does, he takes the blade and turns it on himself. In the grisly fashion I have sadly become accustomed to, he plunges it first into his left eye socket, digging around and finally removing the eyeball itself! I literally lose my lunch at the sight of it. I can only hope that Staar is unable to feel the pain and trauma of this action.

As if reading my thoughts, Smoke continues, “No, Mira. Staar is under my control, but he feels all of the pain and fear that I create for him. He will die a truly agonizing death fitting for a piece of crap gang member of his like. He would have killed himself one day. Don’t waste your tears on this garbage!”

And as Nathaniel Mirras continues his tirade, he plunges the knife into the right eye, then removing it from the socket. I want to cry, to kill Nathaniel for the pain he is causing this poor boy. But I can do nothing. It is out of my control. Nathaniel Mirras is a killer, and he is plying his craft at this moment.

He then looks at me one final time. I say he looks at me, but having removed Staar’s eyes, it is really just a figure of speech. He glances my direction with a smile that mirrors both Nathaniel’s murderous glee, while reflecting at the same time, the pain the body of Staar is enduring. He smiles that smile of pure insanity, then inserts the blade into his mouth, under the tongue. I am sure he will force me to watch him cut out Staar’s tongue, to reflect Nathaniel’s deformed mouth. But he does much more. He pushes me to the side, ramming his head, the head of Staar, into the wall, at an angle that plunges the blade through the top of his skull. For only a moment, I see the pain and confusion of Staar, as his body finally gives in to the torture and simply falls before me, to the ground.

I am still standing over the bodies, in horror, as the police and medics arrive. As has always been the case, the cops overlook my involvement. They believe that Skreem attacked and mutilated Staar, and in defense of my life, I killed Skreem with a quick plunge into his throat. It was meant to look that way. After all, these were two menaces that threatened the well being of the community on a daily basis. The cops, and most of our neighbors, actually feel that I have done a great service. If only they knew.

So this is my life again. I am no longer in control, and can be assured that a large body count will be a part of my life once again. I was warned not to get to close to anyone in my life, but I begin to mourn them. All of them. Jack especially. He deserves so much better.

And the very next day, at work, I am surprised to see Ms. Laurenne Day, the Hall Monitor from high school, busily typing at my old desk. I was surprised to see her working at my job, but just as surprised to see her even alive after all these years! I’m guessing that will not last long.

You would think that she would be happy to see me as well, but such is not the case. As though I were running late to class, she flashes me a disapproving look and states, “Mr. Robinson is waiting to see you. You must go in right away.”

Good old Ms. Day. Nope. She won’t last long.

I enter Jack’s office, and he is beaming. He invites me to sit, and says, “I see you saw Ms. Day! How wonderful! She agreed to come out of retirement to help me out. You are now too busy to help with the administrative work, and she’s perfect. That old fussbudget will outlast us all!”

I doubt that. Seriously…

“But Mira, there is a reason I’ve called you in here.” His demeanor drops slightly. “I’ve called a meeting for tomorrow at 11am. We’ll have lunch delivered and work through the afternoon. There are things happening with the company that we need to strategize on. Absolutely unbelievable things! And even though you aren’t a senior member here you are definitely an integral part of our business, and I’d like you to attend.”

“Of course Jack,” I reply.

I can’t imagine what could be so important that Jack would call a meeting of all the division heads. The company doesn’t seem to be in any trouble, in fact we’ve been investing heavily for the past few years. But, whatever it is, it feels good to be included, and demonstrates Jack’s faith in my abilities. Maybe I am going to be given a promotion during the meeting!

These thoughts keep me up all night. I’m used to not sleeping, but oftentimes it is due to Smoke. I’m not used to being kept up over a happy excitement! In fact, this worries me to the point that I can’t sleep over the anxiety.

OK. That’s more like it.

The morning takes forever to come, but as soon as my eyes close it appears. I quickly get Maddisyn situated, and work on presenting myself for this meeting. Assuming there is news regarding our company’s growth, I want to be sure to put on as professional a face as possible. And, if this happy feeling is just an omen of my impending death, well…I want to look nice for whoever finds my body.

I make my way into work with what I think is plenty of time before the start of lunch. I enter the tall building housing RSL, and enter the first empty elevator. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stay empty for long, as it seems every floor has a stop and a single individual waiting to board. I recognize some of the people and wonder if they are heading for the same meeting. After the 15th stop I realize they are all heading to the meeting. I recognize Mr. Maximillian and Mr. Vincent, from finance. The elevator ride takes nearly ten minutes and we will all just make it.

The doors open, and the other men and women brush past me and quickly enter the boardroom. Nobody bothered to hold the door or wait for me. In fact, no one spoke the entire ride up. Now, suddenly, I am alone as I step out of the elevator, and into the sight of Ms. Laurenne Day. She is standing next to her desk, the unofficial welcome committee of the big meeting. She taps a worn-down, nubby #2 pencil on her desk, and looks at me with a strange grin. I would worry about Smoke upon seeing this grin, but it occurs to me that of all of the people in my life, Ms. Day always had Nathaniel’s look about her.

“You’re late, honey,” she practically sings. “You’d better get inside, or I’ll have to give you detention!” At this, she can no longer contain a series of inappropriate giggles. There is something already very ominous about this day, and this meeting, and I wonder if I should just turn back and go down the elevator. But, no, that won’t do. If Nathaniel Mirras is up to something today, it’s best I go along regardless of consequence. For my daughter.

I enter the boardroom.

It is surprisingly calm. And…normal. All of the division heads are seated around a large set of four rectangular tables, set up into another rectangle, with Jack seated at the head. “Mira, I’m so happy you could join us. We are just beginning lunch. Have a seat!” There is no irony in his voice, in fact it seems completely normal. I begin to think that maybe I was overreacting to my own fears, and that today would be a perfectly normal day of business. Business we were about to begin.

And yet, something seems off. The people seated around the table, including the head of investments, the head of finance, labor, AV, and Jack’s Vice President, along with all the other invitees all look back at me in unison, and as I take my seat toward the back, all turn again toward Jack. No one makes a sound or speaks a word. As though they had rushed past me in the elevator just to get into position to wait for me to arrive. It felt as though no one had said anything until Jack spoke to me.

And seated next to Jack is a young man, mid-twenties at most. He is not dressed in business attire, and in fact looks to be dressed similarly to Staar and Skreem. He doesn’t seem to belong here, yet holds a place of honor at the table. Very odd.

Lunch has arrived, and it is a simple lunch of soup and finger sandwiches. Everyone has soup and three small sandwiches set before them on little plates. Everyone has a small glass of ice water in identical crystal glasses as well. As I look around the room, I notice that no one is eating, or drinking. And even more, each of the three sandwiches before each of the members is arranged in precisely the same pattern. The soup and water are filled at what seems to be identical amounts in each glass and each bowl, and set with the sandwich plates at exactly the same distance from each other, and from the person sitting in front of them.

Except mine. And the young man seated next to Jack. My plate has only two sandwiches and my soup bowl is empty. My water glass is only half-filled. Conversely, the young man’s plate is filled high with sandwiches, and his bowl and cup are up to the top as well. He seems to notice this too, looking around, but he isn’t saying a word.

And still, no one is eating. I decide to test my suspicions by picking up my water glass, as if to take a drink.

“Hold on Mira,” says Jack, almost jubilantly. Everyone in the room appears in a trance, but Jack is in the same happy mood as yesterday, and ready to charm the audience it seems. “Let’s hold off on the meal for just a moment while I make some announcements.

“Folks, I’ve called you, my A Team, here today to celebrate the last day of Robinson Savings and Loan!”

Suddenly, the entire room erupts with laughter. Jack is making a joke?

“I can assure you all that after today this company will no longer be in operation,” he says again with absolutely no change in his tone. The room erupts with laughter again. What the hell?

“Okay, folks,” Jack asserts, though not forcefully, while waving his hands downward to indicate quiet. “Let’s keep it down to a dull roar!” Again, laughter.

This is bad. I’m beginning to wonder if the entire room is possessed by Nathaniel, other than the kid dressed as a gang-banger, and me.

Jack stands up, and as he does, the entire room stops laughing, but Jack maintains his confident smile and happy demeanor.

“You see folks,” he begins, “our long term loans we had issued have fixed interest rates. But those rates are lower than rates at which we can borrow. We have also been liable for all deposits at our higher, fixed rates. We have not been able to generate new capital for years now. Due to an oversight, however, we were able to invest in some speculative, well, we’ll say questionable, opportunities over that time. Those also failed, and we are insolvent. We are completely out of business!”

Again, the entire room roars with laughter. The board members and division heads are completely out of control, coughing with laughter, patting each others’ backs as tears of humor pour from their eyes. It is absolute bedlam! I wonder how much of this is Smoke’s fault. Not just the condition of the room, but the condition of the company. How much of Nathaniel’s meddling in the business through recent years has brought on this mess. The absolute destruction of Jack Robinson.

How much of this is my fault?

All of it, I suppose. It’s more than I can reasonably handle, and I need some air in order to see what comes next. But I am fixed to my seat. I realize that I’m being held by Nathaniel Mirras’ power right now, and I suspect that the young man seated next to Jack is under the same power. He doesn’t seem to be under the same spell as the rest, laughing and carrying on, yet he doesn’t move.

As though my thoughts could be heard out loud, Jack turns to the kid next to him, and as he does, Ms. Day enters, and takes a place on the opposite side of Jack Robinson. She has that crazed smile she had when I first stepped off the elevator, and I know she is also possessed.

I knew she wouldn’t last long. The old biddy.

Jack addresses the room, but looks straight at me, with a look of amusement. “Well, team, I’d like to present you with two gifts to celebrate our last day together. Beneath your plate, you will each find a crisp, new, $100 bill. It’s all yours. And allow me to introduce you to my friend here. His name is Prime Minister, a street name you’d call it, and he is the leader of one of the more prominent gangs here in our city. He has kindly provided us with our other gift, which you’ll find next to it!”

I lift my plate to find a white powder in one even line, next to a brand new bill. Before I can react, Ms. Day is next to me, grabbing the $100 note, rolling it up into a small straw. “You won’t be needing this honey!” she screams with glee and sucks the entire line of the powder through the expensive homemade straw, and into her nose. She ceases movement, then exhales, and takes her place again next to Jack.

At this, she begins to laugh much like the group had done many times during this meeting. And Jack says, “The hundred dollar bill is yours to do with as you please!” At this, all of the other members do the same as Laurenne Day, again with large bouts of shouting and laughter. The entire scene is chaotic, like something out of some future Gatsby, and I am still fixed to my chair.

“Mira,” says Jack, his face a mess of white powdery snot and tears, “it seems that you know some friends of Prime here. He tells me that you killed two of his men. Now…what shall we do about that?”

And again the crowd goes crazy, bloodthirsty, hoping that Jack will release the Prime Minister to have his way with the defenseless girl.

“Mr. Prime Minister. Would you like to address your grievance at this time?”

The boy called Prime Minister nods, and is suddenly able to move. He stands up, and sizes me up. He doesn’t really look like he wants revenge, but in fact has realized that he is in deeper waters than he has ever known. He tries to maintain a tough look, but his eyes show the truth of his fear. A quick glance toward the door betrays his true intentions, but it is too late. With Nathaniel Mirras, it is always too late. And Jack has produced a small revolver, from where I do not know, and quickly, gleefully, opens up the right side of the young man’s skull with a single shot.

Again, a cacophony of laughter. I’ve never seen Smoke cause such widespread, controlled chaos. This must be what Andrew experienced in Vietnam, in that hut, watching all of his friends tortured and killed. Like me, I doubt he feared what would happen to him, but rather thought about how much he would miss Maddisyn and me. That’s how I feel right now. Missing Andrew, and aching to hold my little girl again.

Jack, still standing, lifts his glass and announces, “A toast!”

The group of 12 around the table stand as one and lift their glasses with simple water in expensive crystal, and cheer, “A toast!” They all pause as one, in eager anticipation of what Jack would honor with a celebratory toast.

Jack smiles, his glass high in the air, matched by the group’s glasses as if all in one.

“To Nathaniel,” he states with majesty.

“To Nathaniel!” they all reply, Ms. Day cackling in the background, too far gone to participate in the toast. And, as one, the entire board, all the division heads, the vice-president, all drink the full drink as one, and scream in a furor, “To Natha…!”

But their voices are silenced within the last refrain. Their drinks have all been laced with cyanide, and their bodies writhe with impending death, though not now as one, and their mouths foam as the tainted liquid kills them all. Some begin to bleed from their mouths and noses, and many lose control of their bowels. Some slump on the table, and some fall to the floor. The body of the VP, Mr. Cygnus, gets caught halfway and hangs half off of his chair, his head scraping the ground. And all the while Laurenne Day laughs.

This is a bloodbath. I could never even imagine. And how the hell is Ms. Day still alive?

Suddenly, she stops laughing, and takes a composed stance next to Jack. Well, next to I assume Nathaniel at this point. Then she sits down next to him and somehow has a scissor in her hand. She begins to take pieces of her hair, and cut them off, small and large clumps at a time. Her eyes are dim, lifeless, as she quietly hums a tune I recognize from back in my childhood.

Jack looks at me, and I can see his features begin to melt into the horrendous features of Smoke. His eyes sink in and his nose and teeth simply vanish. He no longer has hair, and as he gestures I see his fingers have become connected, and webbed. His face becomes a smoky, chalky white. He hisses, “And now, Mira, it’s time to end today’s fun. I will end the life of Jack Robinson. I will kill him simply because he was kind to you.

“And can you guess the best part? I will leave this doddering old woman to take the fall! She will be deemed completely crazy, and charged with poisoning the drinks of the entire board. But she will be found to have done so under the influence of Jack himself, depressed and suicidal due to the fall of his company. He will be considered a mass murderer along with this old idiot, and his reputation will be tarnished even beyond the failure of his company. His family will then suffer too!

“And, Mira, and best of all, you will be set free. You will be found completely innocent, and free to build yet another life, with more success and more friends that I will completely destroy. And because you love your daughter, you will allow me to do this for the rest of your miserable life!”

Cue the chalky-child crying laughter. It is equal parts evil and pitiful. I have never felt so beaten, and can’t help but wonder if Nathaniel has considered that I really never asked to be his twin either. Logically even a killer would not hold his sister accountable for something that happened even before birth. But Smoke is a ghost, and a tortured one at that, so I suppose logic is too much to ask.

But he’s right. I have no choice but to allow him to continue to destroy my life and relationships all to protect my daughter. But the truth is, he can’t be trusted. Where is the scenario that ends with him leaving my daughter alone? What else can happen except that I eventually die, and Maddisyn, born of my flesh, simply becomes his next victim for another generation.

Nathaniel takes his pistol, and holds it up to Jack Robinson’s temple, on the same side that Nathaniel himself is missing an ear. I am unable to save yet another man who does not deserve this fate.

My left eye betrays a tear for Mr. Robinson, and all of the friends I have not yet made. But my right eye spots my water glass still on the table, and something Nathaniel said gives me an idea. I hope I am strong.

I take care not to look again at the glass. It is important that it stays where it is, full of water. I look directly at Nathaniel, and then quickly run toward him. Nathaniel causes Jack’s arm to aim the gun at me. But he forgets, he can’t kill me, and the moment he takes the gun off of Jack I am able to act.

I speak his name, and draw Nathaniel out of Jack Robinson and into me. I have to be strong! I’ve known for a while that I could compel Nathaniel to possess only me, for a time. I would have to control him for a longer time now, but Jack’s life depends on my being strong enough. My sudden movement causes Laurenne to drop her scissor and run through the door and out of the boardroom. I’m wrestling with Jack, who is stronger than I am, but not as a pawn of Nathaniel, and I make sure that Nathaniel is fully within me. Then I run out the door.

I expect to see an empty hallway, but instead I see feet. In just that brief moment, I find Laurenne Day hanging from above her desk. Her body swings back and forth rapidly, as though she were a near-expired piñata. She is still maniacally cackling, but the sounds of her laughter are frequently punctuated but the fact that she cannot get air past her rapidly tightening throat. I wish I could help her, but I’m afraid that deviating from my path in any way could endanger Jack. I will forever feel guilty for leaving her, but the greater good requires the sacrifice of Laurenne this day.

I race past the elevators. They will not take me where I need to go. I feel Smoke struggle to be released. It takes all of my concentration and will to keep him where he is, where I need him to be for what I hope to be my final move. I make it to the stairwell, and simply take it up one floor to the roof of the vast building. I go to the very edge, and look down, knowing that the tiny people below will soon seem much bigger.

Nathaniel screams in my head, “No! Stop, Mira! Don’t do this. We will both perish if you die with me this way!”

As I lift my hands sideways, look down, and then up, I say, “I know.” Then I bend my knees slightly and lean forward.

“Mira,” says Smoke in a panic. I’ve never heard him this way. I hear the cry of the chalky child deep in my mind. He is very scared and vulnerable. It is working. “Mira, what about your daughter?”

“Smoke,” I say, “it seems to me this is the most efficient way to protect my daughter.”

“Wait, Mira. Listen, if you do this, maybe I lose my connection in this world, but maybe I don’t. Can you take that chance? Can you be sure I won’t come back? Can you be sure that I won’t simply haunt Maddisyn?”

I smile, perilously close to the edge.

“Yes. I’m sure. You wouldn’t be so scared if it weren’t true.”

Silence.

Then, the killer Nathaniel Mirras bargains for his ethereal life. He says, “Okay Mira. You win. I don’t want to haunt or kill my niece. My grudge is with you. What do you want?”

Yes. I know. I win. “Okay Smoke, this is how it’s gonna be. You don’t ever, ever get anywhere near Andrew’s and my daughter. As far as you are concerned, she doesn’t exist. If I get even the sense that you are interfering in her life, it will be the end of you, I promise!”

“Also, however the rest of my life goes, you are no longer in control. I will make friends, and you will leave them be. In fact, you will mostly leave me be. I understand that your connection with me will be the only life you are able to enjoy, but killing my friends is off the table. Do you understand?”

After a short pause, Nathaniel Mirras, still under my control, begs, “But Mira, you know I have to kill. I have to silence the voices of the children our father killed. You can’t leave me to them. You may as well destroy us both!”

All right. I need to negotiate now. I’d like to take the moral priority, but the truth is, he has a point. He has no reason to leave Maddisyn and me be if the consequence is that he will suffer eternal torture. I have to throw him a bone. He is my brother, after all, and if my plan goes as it should, there should be ample, appropriate victims for him to spare.

“Smoke…”

“Mira, please don’t call me that…”

“Screw you, Smoke. You have never earned our father’s name. But, I suspect that if what I think will happen next does happen, there will be occasional opportunity for you to kill, if needed to quiet the voices that torture you. I do not want you tortured. I am your sister, and even though you do not deserve it, I would like to help you find peace. But, make no mistake, Nathaniel. If I even suspect that you are possessing me when I do not allow it, or threatening a single soul in my life that I consider a friend, or especially if you go anywhere near my daughter, I promise you I will take you and end you. I promise you!”

Silence.

Then, after a time, he speaks. “Agreed.”

And I do not simply have to believe him. He is my twin, and just as he knows that I will make good my threat to end both of our lives, I also know that he will keep his end of the deal for the foreseeable future. And, to protect my daughter, that is all I need.

The remaining events occur precisely as I had hoped. I am very fortunate that in all of the struggles my water glass remained unturned. As my fingerprints were on it, it was apparent to the authorities that I was the only one that did not drink from a poisoned glass. Laurenne Day, sadly, was no longer able to take the fall for all that had transpired. Jack Robinson, the kindest man I had known since Andrew and both of my fathers, survived! While his business was still in ruin, his reputation was intact, and in fact bolstered by these events.

What happened, as I had hoped, was that investigators would come to the conclusion that I was actually responsible for all of the killings. The prints on the mostly-filled glass showed that I intentionally did not drink the poison. The fact that I was found on the roof preparing to jump, proved that I was insane. Like with my stepfather, Joe Mirras, they were never able to discern how a girl like me could kill so many people. But in light of all of the evidence, there was simply no other explanation, and I was taken into custody.

Because, you know, no one believes in ghosts.

And I told my story. Why wouldn’t I? I told them about the chalky child, about my imaginary friend Smoke, and about the killer Nathaniel Mirras who was my twin marred at birth that spent his entire afterlife finding ways to torture and kill everyone I love. It was brilliant! And the wise powers that be, rather than prison, decide to send me to a state run institution, for the remainder of my days.

To be concluded!

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Credit To: MeGoMike/MeGoMirras

One Lone Long Haul

January 16, 2017 at 12:00 AM
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You’re an out-of-state truck driver, taking a load of bacon through Wyoming to Salt Lake City. Once the sun set, your trailer was finally released to you, you loaded up and headed out.

That was hours ago. You’d been on the same highway for what seemed like an eternity. All around you stretches nothing but shallow, rolling, grassy hills, stretching away till they meet the sky. In the fields edging the highway are dozens of wind turbines, but you can’t see them, it’s too dark. Nothing is discernable from the black but a red pinpoint of light, blinking, on the tip of each turbine. Stories off the ground, dozens and dozens of blinking red lights.

As you make your way down the highway, the blinking lights slowly begin to sync up, something your sleepy, bored mind is interested to see. The miles fly by under your rig, and, almost subconsciously, you feel yourself growing increasingly anticipatory, waiting to see all those lights brighten, then simultaneously fall dead, blanketing the landscape in a visual silence. You find yourself counting the blinks, fading in and out, 3….4…..5….in and out…..6……7……8….waiting for that last one, that ends in total darkness. You’re a bit more awake, as more and more of the lights are fading as one, only a few left to get into the shared rhythm….

At last, all the lights fade as one. For some reason, you are filled with an incomparable sense of satisfaction. A second goes by in the darkness. The only lights for miles in any direction are your rig lights, and the gauges on your dashboard, reflecting off your windshield. Another second goes by. Out in the distance, something catches your eye; a pair of red lights are still on! But wait, you notice they’re not blinking. That’s odd, because a second ago, darkness painted grass to sky. Odder still, they were much lower than the other lights. And…..they were moving? No, that can’t be right, all the lights are stationary….nope, they are definitely moving. You’re fully awake now, watching the 2 lights fly low to the ground, parallel to each other.

Another second passes, and all the other lights in the area fade in, glowing brighter till their apex. Even at their brightest, they did not come close to illuminating the ground, so you still cannot see what is making the lights move. Your eyes are glued to them, trying to make out an ATV, dune buggy, something, behind them. Slowly, you begin to drift into the opposing lane. You notice, tear your eyes away from the lights, and correct your rig. At that moment, you realize that the lights, whatever the hell they are, are moving towards the highway. At a substantial speed too, you’ve probably been watching them for 10, 15 seconds, and they’d already halved the distance between where you’d spotted them, and the highway you’re driving down. With how fast they are going, and how fast you’re going, it looks like your rig and whatever it is may collide. Unsure, and protective of your truck, you slow your speed a little, not wanting to risk any damage to the truck, or anything else. God forbid if that thing is an ATV, maybe with a stupid kid behind the wheel, looking for some cheap thrills by joyriding on private property.

Your speedometer needle drops below 60, and you notice a substantial drop in the lights’ speed as well. You think that perhaps the driver, because you’ve committed yourself to the ATV idea, may have noticed you as well, and also did not desire a collision. Strange though, if that was the case, why did the driver not turn on their lights? Even the most standard of ATVs, tractors, even the dune buggies, they all have SOME kind of light. And on the off chance that maybe it DID, and the lights were just out, why would the driver not have a flashlight, headlamp, even something reflective on? Jesus how stupid was this kid? Driving reckless in the middle of the night, on state-owned land, towards a (usually) busy highway, with no lamp, no lights, and no reflective gear? You press the gas a little more, thinking that you’ll either pass them first, or you’ll indeed intercept them, and you can give them a piece of your mind.

While you’re thinking, you notice the lights have also sped up again. That’s fine, let the little bastard meet you on the highway, you know whatever the hell he’s driving has no chance against your 80,000+lb rig, not to mention the 4,000+lbs of bacon in your trailer. He’s not ready. You laugh at your quip in your head.

Up ahead, you can see about where on the highway you’re going to intercept the little guy. You bare your teeth in a savage grin, and step on the gas. The lights accelerate as well, and you both move towards the same point on the highway at a blinding speed. You start to grit your teeth. Each second seems to stretch into infinity, and you eagerly await the meeting.

Finally, you both near the crux, and the lights on your rig seem to reflect off something shiny, pebbly, and small. You still have your mind set on ATV, but as you watch the lights, you fly right on by. Whatever it was seemed to have stopped short of the highway.
That thought passes through your mind, and at that exact moment, something collides with your truck trailer.

The entire truck shakes, and its weight shifts to the right; you can feel your driver-side tires come up off the ground, clear back to the back of the trailer! Whatever hit you wasn’t a fucking ATV, not to hit your trailer what felt like dead center, hard enough to rock it off a whole side of dually tires!

You mash the brakes, downshifting furiously, trying to maintain both the road and your rate of deceleration. You can feel something in your trailer, moving around. Thinking back to the fast and furious movies, you think that perhaps someone is interested in your load, and may be trying to steal it. What anyone but a distributor would want with thousands of pounds of bacon you have no idea, but being a criminal mastermind is just a hobby for you, not your job. The truck slows to a stop, and you grab your utility knife, stuff your P22 in your waistband, and pick up your shotgun as you hop down out of the truck. The trailer is being repeatedly jostled with some kind of movement inside, and when you slam your door, the shaking stops.

You come out from your cab wide, looking for some kind of vehicle, but your mind loses track as you see that whatever had hit you has left a gaping black hole in the side of the trailer. Upon closer inspection, it looks less like something hit you and went through the metal trailer side, and more like something with razor-sharp claws and jaws-of-life strength ripped it open. You can see claw marks, gouging the metal, and strips have been peeled OUT from the hole, not INTO it, like with impact.

You shoulder your shotgun, and pump a round into the chamber. You call out a warning, “Whoever’s in there, you better clear out quick or get an ass full of buckshot!”

Silence…..

You pull a mag light out from your pocket, and click it on. The moment it flashes into the blackness of the hole, something SHREIKS out at you.

You stop, torn between doing your job and protecting the load, and saving your skin, getting back in your truck, and hauling ass out of there. In your moment’s hesitation, something huge and black and scaly launches itself out of the opening in the trailer. It collides with you, knocking the breath from your lungs and your feet from the asphalt. Whatever it is, it’s on top of you, teeth going after your throat like a dog after a bone. Its momentary struggle with your jacket collar buys you the fraction of a second needed for its momentum to carry you both into the ground.

Your back hits the asphalt; the impact causes you to squeeze the trigger. The shotgun fires in an explosion of heat and light and noise that’s only slightly muffled by the body on top of you. Something sticky and warm gushes over your chest and hands; the pressure on you is instantly relieved as the thing convulses over onto the roadside.

You scramble to your feet, not about to let the thing get the drop on you again. You don’t have to worry, the body at your feet has a hole in it to match the one in your trailer. Looking down at your hands and jacket, you see you’re covered in its blood, the remainder of which is gradually collecting in the grooves in the road.

It’s the fucking weirdest thing you’ve ever fucking seen, a humanoid body, but black and scaled from clawed feet to muzzled head. It looked just like a big ass black lizard, complete with tail, but the claws on the ends of its digits were long and serrated. No wonder it could peel back the side of your trailer like a tuna can. How strong is the damn thing? How many pounds of pressure are required to peel back inches of steel like it was an orange? You stuck the shotgun down, and poked at it in the muzzle. Its jaw fell open, revealing rows upon rows of black, jagged teeth. There are still bits of fabric from your jacket stuck in the serrations of some of them.

Your mind takes you back to the lights, flying across the field as fast as your truck down the highway. Raising the barrel of the gun to its cheek, you press down, peeling open one of its eyes. A ruby orb stares out at you. You just stand, in shock, and almost don’t register the fact that there’s a light slowly coming back on in its eye.

Suddenly, the pinpoint of brightness comes alive, and swings your way, to land on you and glare, menacingly. You curse, and shoulder the gun again, pointing at the thing, and fire point-blank into its cold crimson gaze. Its head bursts open in a splatter of blood and bone and thicker things. A lump of matter lands on your shoe, and you take a few hurried steps back. The body on the ground twitches, and goes limp again. You stand braced, gun at the ready, finger on the trigger, waiting, not about to let your guard down again. Minutes tick by, and there’s no more movement.

You take a deep breath, calming yourself, and head to the back to check out any interior damage to the trailer, or your load.

The doors swing open at your pull, and your mouth falls agape at the mess in the trailer. Faint moonlight streams through the hole in the side. There is a lit circle painted on the opposite wall, occasionally hued pink by the dimly flashing lights outside. It illuminates turned over pallets, ripped open boxes, shredded plastic wrap, and the entire trailer reeks of raw meat. Scraps of bacon were strewn about, and you can tell by the massive dent in the product that you picked up, that the creature had eaten quite a bit of it. Several pallets had enormous holes, just eaten into the sides of the boxes, through shrink wrap and industrial zip ties and layers of cardboard. Your nose wrinkles at the stench.

A sigh heaves out of your lungs, how are you going to explain this to safety? To the distributor you’re delivering to? Hell, what are you gonna tell your boss? That the damn truck got hit by a fucking meteor? That a scaly reptilian beast chewed its way in? You close and lock up the back, shaking your head, and start towards your cab, turning over questions in your mind. So deep in thought, that you are almost completely past the huge pool of blood trickling off the roadside, before you notice the body is gone.

Terror makes your blood run cold. Bringing the gun back up, you keep your finger on the trigger, and put your back to the trailer. Your head whips back and forth, eyes scouring the darkness for any movement, ears straining for any sound.

The blood on the road draws your attention, and you notice that there are drag marks, pointing towards the field the creature came running from. Cautiously, you take a step towards the edge of the road. The night is too dark to see through, so you pull your mag light back up, and shine it out from the road. Its bright LED beam does little to penetrate the inky landscape, and you can discern nothing.

You turn back towards your truck, and hear a scuttling in the dry grass. Bones crack in your neck in response to you whipping your body around and bringing the gun up again in one motion. The only thing you can hear now is the blood roaring in your ears, backed by the thumping pressure of your heart. Wind blows past you. Whatever is out there, probably the THING, is upwind. The pounding in your ears begins to fade, and the moving air is bringing sounds of something’s progress to your ears. Whatever it is, was, whatever, is moving away, at a pretty good clip.

Eventually, the breeze reports no more movement. You consider tracking the creature, trying to find it, as some form of proof. Then you try to figure how hard it would be to bring it back, considering it was able to pick itself up and take the fuck off with a hole in its chest, almost bisecting it, and its head a loose, pulpy mass of blood and other things.

The image of its brains splattered all over the blacktop, all over your boot…there’s no way in hell you’re gonna go find that thing. No fucking way. You head back to your truck, mag light in one hand, shotgun in the other, nerves frayed and raw and on edge.

As you pull your door closed after you, and pick up your phone to notify dispatch of the accident, you see, off in the distance, a miniscule pair of shining red lights, much too low to be turbine lights, and pretty far away. But you see them. They flash, like a blink, in tandem. You roll down your window, never taking your eyes off the pinpoints of light in the distance.

Out of your waistband comes the P22, and you fire off 2 rounds into the direction of the lights. They disappear. You watch for a long time, not once looking away, all throughout your call to Dispatch, then 911, then safety, and finally your boss. Minutes tick by while you tell your story, over and over, to each person on the phone, not breaking your gaze. The lights did not return.

After explaining to everyone in the company and their mother, brother, and Uncle Bob, that you had been hit in the trailer, no you didn’t know by what, no the load wasn’t ok, and no you didn’t see anything, they finally agreed to let you turn your load around and come back home.

With no regard to the non-existent traffic, you make the most unprofessional, unorthodox U-turn in your semi, and blast out of there like a cat from a hound pen. The turbines slowly disappear into your rear-view mirror, and as soon as you cross the state line, you realize how tight your chest has been, relaxing as soon as you’re back in familiar territory. Like a fist around your heart suddenly letting go. You take a deep breath and relax, knowing you will not ever take this highway again, and if they try to make you, fuck em.

Credit: Lia le Fae

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