Statten Cready & the Fear

February 14, 2017 at 12:00 AM

Inspired by the news article: The mystery of the 132-year-old Winchester rifle found propped against a national park tree

“Gid’yap, Goldie… jes’ a little farther now.”

Statten Cready rolled exhausted in the saddle of his beautiful flaxen mare and tapped her lightly on the rump to get her to pick up the pace a bit. He was loathe to put knobs to such a beautiful beast, having recently euchered her from a finical greenhorn in Carson City in trade for his pack mule, Old Dumb Bastard, a fist-sized knob of Fool’s Gold, and most of a bottle of jack o’ diamonds from Back East.

He was wondering where he should make camp for the night and wondering even more, as he watched the sun hover at the edge of the horizon, why he hadn’t thought of making camp earlier. He didn’t want to take a chance of Goldie stepping in a gopher hole and leaving him stranded out here in the Great Basin. Especially not before he got to the mining camp on the other side of Sevier Lake. Statten had heard stories about this stretch of the California Trail in Carson City and had hoped to be well away from here by now. Although he didn’t give any credence to the stories of bogeymen or ghasts by the besotted jinglers in saloons, he knew the trails held their share of unsavory characters, not to mention the ever-present danger of running into some of the heathen braves of some tribe of savages.

He espied a copse of trees off the trail a bit and caught the sound of running water.

“Perfect… whoah, Goldie! Whoah, girl!”

He dismounted and walked her off the trail, careful to search the ground ahead for snakes and holes until he found himself under a juniper tree of no great size. He ground hitched Goldie and rubbed her down before removing her bit from the bridle and strapping on her nose bag to give her some oats from the sack. She was a city horse for sure, thought Statten as he brushed her out and checked her shoes for stones and pips, she looked damn near sewn up after just one day on the trail. He walked over to where he heard the water running and found just a tiny bubbling spring running only about six feet before it disappeared underground again. He leaned down and tasted the water. Statten was mightily pleased that it was both sweet and teeth-achingly cold. He scooped some into a bucket for Goldie and let it sit out until she was done with her feed bag.

As she gnawed loudly at her feed, Statten busied himself about camp, getting a fire started, and gathering the ingredients he’d need for a beef and bean stew for his own gnawing hunger. He could hear the sounds of the tiny animals of the Basin rustling between the rocks and dislodging pebbles as they tried their best to find supper while also trying not to become a meal for something else. He gnawed on a piece of salted jerky and unshipped his trusty Winchester from the saddle holster to check the loads. He had only had the gun a year, but he already knew it would be there by his side until the day he died. He had purchased it fire-new in 1882, the year the new model came out. He never went heeled on the trail, instead relying on his rifle to dissuade would-be bandits and to hole the occasional predator that found out too late that human meat had sharp edges and hot, flying lead. His six-shooter, a Colt 1881 SAA pistol chambered for the same .44-40 as his Winchester, was packed away in with his other belongings in his yannigan bag.

The story of the six-gun was a funny one: Statten had picked up his shootin’ iron for a song. In Texas, the most common (and probably the most desired) six-gun was the Colt SAA in .45 Colt caliber. The Texas Rangers were issued SAAs, but they were military issue, sighted for the .45 Schofield round. That’s because the Rangers were both police officers and part of the state’s militia. In 1880 or ’81 Colt sent the Rangers two SAAs chambered for .44-40, since back in ’78 the state bought two cases of ’73 Winchesters, one of carbines, one of rifles; then offered them to the Rangers at state cost. Unsurprisingly, both cases sold out in a single day. Since the state didn’t issue .44-40 ammo and the Rangers had been reloading the Winchester ammo for a couple of years, they tried the new six-shooters with some of the reloaded ammo and found that the primer backed out and locked up the weapon completely, rendering it useless until taken apart. The Rangers blamed the pistol, of course, instead of their reloads. For years you couldn’t give a Texas lawman (or most Texans, for that wise) a .44-40 six-gun. When Statten had gone to the gun shop and saw the old Ranger weapon, he asked why it was only $5 and the clerk said, “When you need it, it’ll lock up on you ever’ time. You need a .45, young sir,” but Statten saw that Colt with the ivory grips and the shiny nickel finish and knew he had to have it. He walked out of the mercantile with it that very day with the shiniest gun in Carson City and had never had a reason to pull it from his custom holster except when he got to his lodgings and took the time to admire it each night before turning down the lamps and hitting the hay.

Thinking about hitting the hay, Statten pulled his velvet couch from his war bag and unfurled it on the ground. He wandered among the stones until he found one flat on top and bottom and pulled it up to the fire to set on while he heated up his supper. The sun finally dipped below the horizon and as the orange light of the sunset faded to red, and then to the deep purple of the gathering darkness, Statten could smell the beef and beans cooking up nicely.

Goldie snorted from her feedbag, which was Statten’s cue to unhook it from her and take the saddle off of her. As he wrestled with the saddle, he could hear the sounds of the Basin suddenly cease. He pulled the saddle off, set it down on some boulders and listened intently… nothing. No animal sounds, no bird sounds, not even the wind moved here any longer. An unnatural hush descended upon this part of the trail as the light faded completely from the sky. Rattled, Statten grabbed his Winchester and cocked it, readying it for trouble. He stared into the night, cursing himself for looking into the fire when he grabbed the rifle. His night vision completely destroyed, he stared, unseeing, into the gloom.

He could hear Goldie softly whinny and he walked over to her to pat her on the neck for comfort. As he touched her, he had to pull his wet hand back in alarm as she reared back in terror, covered in sweat and eyes rolling madly. He tried to soothe her, but she was too badly spooked and took off into the night in a fright before he could even try to grab the reins.

Statten backed up against the tree as he willed his night vision to return. He was going to have to ride shank’s mare if he couldn’t get her back, but he’d be a shave tail indeed to go haring about in the dark, off the trail, to find a spooked horse. He hunkered down, on the shoot, for whatever was coming.

The silence continued, stretching his nerves with fear playing them like a fiddle. Statten began slowly walking a circle around the fire, peering out into the night as the stars lent their faint illumination to the landscape.

“What I wouldn’t give for a nice full moon tonight,” he muttered under his breath.

“And what would that avail you, Statten?”

Statten spun around in a panic as the voice came from behind him. He fired at the dark shape sitting near his cookfire from the hip, confident now that the nameless terror was there in front of him, instead of playing spook out in the night. The roar as his ’73 barked rang out in the Basin, deafening him for a moment. As the ringing in his ears subsided, he saw the shadow stand up from where it had been perched on the stone he’d dragged near the fire.

“Come now, Statten, I just want to talk. No need for theatrics or gunplay.”

“Who… who are you?” sputtered Statten.

“Call me Scratch, Mr. Cready,” the man said.

Statten peered at the interloper, unsure of what exactly he was seeing. While his eyes told him he was seeing a well-dressed city slicker from Back East wearing an ivory-handled Colt crossdraw-style, his gut (and nose) told him that he was seeing a week-old corpse gone to rot wearing tattered rags and a rusty Colt hanging from bony hips. Either way, the man wasn’t a threat as long as his Winchester was pointed at the man’s brainpan. How he had missed before, Statten didn’t know, but for damn sure with the man in full view right by a fire, there’s was no way he couldn’t hole him right in the forehead if it came to that.

He replied, cordially, “You have the advantage of me, pard. You seem to know me pretty well and I ain’t never seen you a’fore.”

“That ain’t necessarily true, Stat. You knew me the moment you start thinking about bogeys and ghosts and then stepped off the trail anyhow.”

“I don’t reckon I know what you mean, Scratch. How do you reckon stepping off the trail introduced us?”

“Because I’m the Fear, Statten. That niggling worm turning in your watery guts, all the sand draining out of you like a sieve. That’s where I live and you knew me. You met me the first time in the dark of your home in Atlanta when you cried for your momma as a baby seeing me in the dark just hours out of the womb. You knew me right well on the bloody soil of Virginia when Sheridan routed your forces at Five Forks. We spent the night together as you scrabbled your way into the dark, with the Union at your heels. See, Statten? We’re old friends, you and me.”

Statten could feel the fear emanating from the stranger as he pictured that horrible night once more, hearing his friends die mere yards from him as he hunkered down in a hollow; his kepi gone, his gray jacket thrown in a ditch along with his useless rifle. He could taste the coppery tang of other mens’ blood in his mouth like he was standing there in person and his muscles knotted in involuntary terror. He fired out of self-preservation and was rewarded with seeing a hole open up in the stranger’s forehead. He cocked the gun again out of habit, expecting to see the man go down like a puppet with cut strings, but all that happened was the fellow’s pork-pie hat hit the dust near the fire.

“What did I say about gunplay, Statten? I said I jes’…”

But Statten didn’t wait to hear what the stranger wanted to say about gunplay, because he was firing and cocking and firing and cocking as fast as he could. He put eight more bullets into the man, each one hitting him with a puff of dust and then pinging off the rocks behind him, barely slowed by their trip through Scratch’s body. As the trigger clicked on an empty chamber, Statten rushed over to his war sack and pulled the shiny Colt from his gun belt. He turned towards the man again and was shocked to see him mere inches away suddenly; the worms crawling in his eyes no longer disguised by illusion. He could smell the fetid stench of the grave on the man’s breath as he spoke directly into Statten’s face, “Well now, this was most discourteous, Mr. Cready. Most discourteous indeed. I’m afraid I no longer want to talk. I think it’s time I just snap your skinny little neck.”

As the Fear consumed Statten, he put his shiny six-gun to his own temple, thinking only to rob Old Scratch of his prey. He closed his eyes and with a quick prayer, commended his soul to God, praying that suicide could be forgiven just this once; for what man could expect to win in a battle with his own Fear? As his finger tightened on the trigger he heard a dull clunk as the primer backed out and locked up his revolver. He opened his eyes in shock and saw only red fading to darkness as Old Scratch’s bony claws found his neck.

After his meal, Scratch looked around the camp at what was left to show the world that Statten Cready had ever passed through here. He tossed the saddle behind some rocks, dropped the worthless six-gun into the spring, burned the bedroll, yannigan bag, and all of Statten’s clothes on the roaring campfire that burned the toxic green of balefire in his presence. He stopped and thoughtfully picked up the empty Winchester rifle, still warm from the slugs that had belched from it mere moments ago. Scratch knew he couldn’t take it with him where he was going, but he couldn’t think of a way to destroy it out here with so much of Statten’s love poured into it.

He ended up propping the thing under the juniper tree, confident that time and weather would take care of getting rid of the last of Statten. He looked around the campsite one last time, nodded in satisfaction at a job well done, and then faded away into the night.

It was as if he had never been there at all.

Credit: Jose Valdes

Red Lights

February 13, 2017 at 12:00 AM

Every family has its stories, those events that have passed on into almost legend, and my extended family is no different. Some families have stories which they laugh about, which are brought up with regularity at gatherings, stories that they share with others.

Ours is not one of these stories. If it’s discussed at all, it’s spoken about in hushed tones, with sideways glances at me in particular. I never bring it up myself unless directly asked, and I’m lucky enough that I can get away with telling people that I was too young, that I don’t remember any details, that it’s just a blur in a distant memory from my youth.

But that’s a lie.

I remember almost everything. I remember every time I have to look at myself in the mirror; and the nightmares still make me sit bolt upright in bed at night, gasping for breath and terrified. The event that became family legend took place two decades ago now, when I was about eight years old. We were heading for a short family getaway to our family’s cabin. To be honest, it was more of a holiday home than a ‘cabin’, my grandparents had bought it when my father was still young and it had been in the family for years. My brother and I called it the ‘cabin by the woods’; it made it sound more exotic. My grandfather used to take my Dad and his siblings up there when they were young, hiking through the woods, fishing & swimming in the nearby lake – and my Dad & his brothers & sisters now did the same with their own families.

We started the trips when I was about six – Mum, Dad, me and my little brother Peter heading up to the cabin for the odd weekend getaway. I vaguely remember a few of those earlier trips, I recall swimming in the lake with Pete one time and both of us being scared to go too far out because that was where the lake-weed started growing and you couldn’t see the bottom.

The cabin was right on the edge of the woods, right along the boundary of the treeline; fields and farmland on one side and heavy woodland on the other. The farm next to the site was owned by the Johnson family, old friends of my grandparents. We’d always stop in and say hi to Mr & Mrs Johnson on the way up to stay, occasionally we’d have dinner there. My Dad and his siblings had played with the Johnson kids when they were younger, but their children had grown up and moved away and it was just the parents left at the time. Mr Johnson kept an eye on the cabin when our family wasn’t using it.

Dad had pulled us out of school a few days before the weekend; we packed up the car and left early on the Thursday morning. It was late summer, the leaves were just starting to change colour and the air was becoming crisp and cool in the evenings. I remember being excited for the trip, I was looking forward to adventuring in the woods and Pete wanted to go swimming. Mom had warned us that it might still be too cold to get in the lake but we insisted on packing our swimsuits anyway, just in case.

“Marty! Pete!” My Mom was calling to us to head out, but Pete and I were in the car and ready early, eager to set off. Pete had decided he was going to put on his swimming trunks underneath his pants so that he’d be ready to go at a moment’s notice once we were there. The drive was uneventful; we napped in the back of the car. I remember waking up as we pulled up the gravel driveway to the cabin. Dad must have picked up the keys from the Johnsons on the drive in while I was still asleep. We bumped our way up the long, twisting driveway that ran along the treeline. We slowed to a halt outside the cabin, Pete and I looking excitedly out of the car windows. It looked just like I remembered it, framed by big trees, with a clear area in front of it which attached to the field that bordered the woods. The Johnsons’ fenceline ran along the edge of the woods, and normally there would be stock roaming around in in the field, (They had sheep and some cattle) but today it was empty.

Pete was bouncing excitedly in his seat. “I wanna go swimming!” he yelled.
“We need to unpack the car and set everything up first, bud”, Dad replied, opening his door and getting out.
Mom got out as well and unbuckled Pete. I got out on my own and looked around. Everything was as I remembered it. Looking off to the side of the cabin, I could see the gaps in the trees where twin paths forked off, one leading into the woods and one leading the other way, down towards the lake. There was a white blaze painted on one of the trees, marking the start of the path.
“You know, I could take them,” Mom said to Dad. “We can always unpack later, we’ve got plenty of time.”
Dad opened the trunk and grabbed his and Mom’s bags out. “Ok. Let’s just quickly dump our bags inside, and we’ll get changed and go down to the lake.”
“YAAAAAY!” Pete deafened us all, and began to run around the car until Mom snagged him in a hug. Dad grinned, and hefted the bags across the covered porch to the cabin’s door. Dropping them to one side, he fumbled with his keys and opened the door, then froze in the doorway.

“Dad?” I asked, unable to see past him into the shadowy inside
“Get your brother and get back in the car” Dad said, without looking at me.
“Right now, Marty.” Dad cut me off, using his ‘serious voice’.
“Dear…?” Mom sounded concerned as I grabbed Pete and pulled him towards the car while he protested loudly.
“Where’s the axe kept? Where did we find it last time?”
“Oh God, what’s wrong?” My Mom’s voice rose slightly, as Dad came back towards the car and hefted the tire iron out of the trunk, striding quickly back towards the open door.
“The place is all messed up. I think there might have been a break-in”
“The axe was in the laundry last time I think… Be careful…” she trailed off, sounding worried.
“I’ll be fine. Stay here.” Dad quickly kissed her on the cheek before stepping through the open door, tire iron half-raised in his right hand. Mom paced back and forth by the car, clearly concerned, and we sat in the back looking towards the cabin. We sat there for what seemed like an age, becoming more and more worried as the seconds went on.
“What’s happening, Marty? Is Dad OK?”
I tried to reassure Pete. “Everything’s fine. Dad’s tough, there’s nothing that he can’t deal with.”

I remember Dad once telling me that I had an over-active imagination, and this was one of those situations where it was free to run wild. Even as I spoke, I found myself imagining all of the horrific things that surely lurked inside the cabin just waiting for Dad to stumble upon them, and I could feel my fear levels rising. In my mind I saw dark shapes moving about in the gloom, silently stalking my father – and how they would come for us once they’d gotten him. I looked back towards the cabin, and suddenly the curtains in the front window were flung open, Dad looking out the window. We saw him walk around to the door and come back outside holding an axe, which he propped up against the front of the cabin.

“Looks like everything’s fine, guys; you can come out of the car now.” He went and talked to Mom. “How about you take the kids down to the lake while I get everything straightened up?” He explained to Mom that the place was a bit messed up, but not too badly. A fallen branch had smashed in a window at the back of the place, and he thought that a raccoon or something had gotten in and turned over some things while hunting for food. He’d found the axe in the laundry, where it was meant to be. Dad thought that it must have happened in the last day or so, after Mr Johnson had come to turn the power & water on. The scary things I’d imagined quickly receded in my thoughts, but I remember still feeling vaguely uneasy. Pete was still excited to go swimming, so Mom got our swimming stuff and the three of us headed down to the lake while Dad went back inside.
“We’ll be about a half-hour, dear!” Mom shouted to Dad as we headed around the cabin and down towards the woodland path that would take us to the lake.

Swimming was fun; I remember splashing around in the water with Pete while the sun shone brightly down on us. We were lucky that it wasn’t starting to get really cold yet, since we were just getting into the start of autumn. Mom read her book on the shore while Pete and I swam around in the shallows, once again avoiding the lake-weed. Eventually Mom called us back in and we got dried off and headed back up the track to the cabin. Dad had cleaned the place up, and nailed an old board over the broken window at the back. He told us to grab our bags and go set up in our bedroom.

We grabbed our gear and ran through the lounge area down the hall to the bedroom. Pete immediately claimed the top bunk, struggled up the ladder, decided it was too high and that he’d fall out in the night, and then claimed the bottom bunk. We unpacked our sleeping bags and then ran back down the hallway into the lounge. Mom and Dad had finished unpacking the rest of the car, they’d stowed the food in the kitchen and Dad was setting up the portable grill out on the porch.
“Can we go exploring!?” I asked excitedly. I liked the woods; I remembered playing games in them last time with Pete, pretending we were mighty heroes defending a fortress from an invading barbarian horde. There was a spot I had in mind where the narrow, winding path opened up, leading into an area where the trees widened out and there was space to run around and play. I recalled a bank on one side of the clearing, which we’d climbed to make our ‘fortress’.
“Sure,” Dad smiled. “But,” and he was using his serious voice again, “I want you to look after your brother. Don’t let him out of your sight. Don’t be away too long, stay on the path, and don’t go any deeper than that clearing we went to last time.”
“Don’t worry Dad!” I yelled, grabbing Pete and running off together while Dad was still talking.

We sprinted towards the path that would take us into the woods, and were suddenly plunged into darkness when we hit the treeline. I realised that we’d been standing out in the bright sun and it was just taking our eyes a second to adjust. Pete stooped to pick up a hefty stick.
“This is my sword!” he yelled. To be honest, it was much more of a mace than a sword, the ‘pointy’ end was a bit bigger than the end he was holding, and quite knobbly. He had to hold it with both hands to easily control it.
“Nice.” I grinned. “I’ll find one of my own.”
We headed down the path together, going deeper into the woods. The path snaked around between trees, over rises and down through small gullies, and the occasional tree had a white blaze painted on it as a path marker. It was cool, with the bright sun being blocked above by the tree canopy. A few minutes later, the path opened up and we stepped into the clearing. The tree canopy still blocked out most of the sky, but was thin enough so that the clearing was fairly well-lit.

We ran around and played for a while, taking turns to guard and assault the ‘fortress’ and then both guarding it while we repelled the invading forces. After a while we were breathing heavily from all the running around, and we sat down for a break.
“Where does that path go?” Pete was looking around, pointing towards the far side of the clearing.
I looked in the direction he was pointing, and spotted a tree with another white blaze painted on it on the far side of the clearing. The path was hard to spot next to the tree, it seemed to be quite overgrown and the tree that was marked was gnarled and twisted, with only a few leaves still attached. It was covered in moss or lichen, which made the blaze a lot harder to see than normal.
“I don’t know,” I replied. “Let’s find out!” I stood, picking up my ‘sword’ stick, and Pete picked his up too.
“Didn’t Dad say not to go any further?” Pete sounded worried that we’d get in trouble.
“Come on, we’ll be fine…” I was using my ‘big brother’ powers of persuasion, knowing that Pete would cave in and come with me if I headed that way. I was soon proven right, as we headed towards the path together.

We were less than a minute past the gnarled marker tree when a sense of unease settled in. The woods felt different, there was less light and the trees were closer together – they seemed to be fighting each other, clawing their way up towards the light. I no longer felt the confidence that I had before, and I gripped my stick a little tighter, taking some comfort from its weight.
“Marty, did you hear that?” Pete asked, clutching at my arm.
“Hear what?”
“I… I don’t know. Like, something moving around? Something big, I think…” He trailed of as we slowed our pace to a near-crawl, and I listened hard. I hadn’t heard anything, but at that moment I realized I couldn’t hear much of anything at all. The woods were normally full of sounds, the rustling of wind through the trees, birdsong and the like; but it seemed eerily quiet all of a sudden. We heard the snap of a twig behind us and froze in place; the hair on the back of my neck prickling and standing on end.

Pete slowly turned his head to look at me, and I slowly turned to look at him. His eyes were wide and I could see he was breathing fast, and I realised that my own heart rate had risen as well. The woods seemed even darker than they had been moments ago, the shadows deepening and pressing in almost menacingly. We turned fully around at the same time; and were confronted suddenly by a tall figure looming over us.

“BLARGHBLARGHBLARGH!!!” It was Dad. We both screamed as Dad yelled and waved his arms in the air, and then he started to laugh at us.
“Heh heh heh, you should have seen the looks on your faces! He chuckled to himself.
“Daaaaaaaaad!” we exclaimed, breathing hard in fright.
“I thought I told you not to go any further than the clearing?” He didn’t sound too impressed. “Come on, your mother’s got lunch ready. Let’s not tell her how far into the woods we’ve come, OK?”
Pete and I nodded our agreement, and we followed Dad as he turned to head back down the path. As we walked back towards the clearing, I heard rustling behind us. It was like Pete had described, something big moving through the brush. Pete and Dad were laughing about Dad scaring us; I don’t think they heard anything. I kept walking, looking back over my shoulder as I went; but couldn’t see anything in the shadowy undergrowth. I quickened my pace to catch up.

The rest of the day was fun; we headed back to the cabin, had a late lunch, and then spent the rest of the afternoon down by the lake. Later that night Pete & I had been sent to bed, and as we lay in our sleeping bags, I heard something outside.
“Pete, can you hear that?” I asked. I got a snore in response, he was already asleep. I slid down from the top bunk and rummaged around in my backpack, grabbing my flashlight from the bottom of it. I flicked the switch and nothing happened, so I shook it around and the light flickered on, casting a weak cone of light across the room. I opened the curtains and looked out of the window.

The woods loomed out of the darkness, the beam of the torch just making across the clear area to the first trunks of the treeline. I shone the light back and forth, playing the light across the treeline, and something flashed in the darkness. It was only for a second, but in that instant there were twin red spots pointing straight at me out of the darkness, like cats-eye reflectors on the road. They would have been a couple of feet off of the ground level, and then as soon as they appeared they were gone. I heard rustling, which rapidly faded away. Whatever it was had gone, heading away from the cabin and into the woods. I turned off the flashlight; slowly closed the curtains and backed away, climbing back up onto my bunk and into my sleeping bag. I stared at the ceiling in the dark, clutching the flashlight and listening hard, trying to hear anything outside over the noise of Pete snoring softly.
“Just the raccoon, looking for more food…” I whispered to myself. It was a long time before I fell asleep.

I woke up during the night. I lay in bed, trying to decide if I could go back to sleep or if I needed to pee, and decided on the latter. I slid down out of my bunk, being careful not to wake Pete. Still slightly groggy from sleep, I stumbled down the hallway and into the bathroom, where I relieved myself. I was heading back down the hall to the bedroom, when I heard something from the lounge, further down the hall. I froze in place, listening hard. There was something in there! I crept ever so slowly down the hallway, passing the door to our bedroom, and peered through the doorway into the lounge. I relaxed when I realized what the noise must have been.

The front door was open, creaking slowly back and forth in the cool night breeze. It must have not shut it properly and it had opened in the wind. There were no lights on, but the lounge was half-illuminated by moonlight coming through the windows and through the cracked-open doorway. I stepped into the room, intent on heading to the door to shut it, and then once again froze a few steps in when I perceived I wasn’t alone.

Parts of the room were lit from outside, and this made it hard to see into the gloom of the other parts that the light didn’t hit, but there was something in one corner of the room. I couldn’t make out anything as I peered towards the shadows, but as the door creaked slightly more ajar once more in the wind, I saw the red lights staring out at me from the dark. With a thrill of horror that sent the hair on my neck standing on end, I realized that they weren’t lights at all, they were eyes! I took a step backwards, and as I did, the red-eyed creature in the shadows glared out at me. I could see a faint outline, a shape in the darkness, but nothing clear. Whatever it was, it was a lot bigger than a raccoon.

I opened my mouth to yell, but all that came out was a whimper. The breeze stopped and the door creaked once more, slowly closing this time. As the door closed, the beam of light that was coming through the gap slowly narrowed, and then disappeared as the door came to rest against the jamb, just short of clicking completely shut. As the light disappeared, the red reflection in the creature’s eyes faded from view, and I realized to my horror that I could no longer make out its shape in the darkness! I took another step backwards, and the thing growled at me from the shadows; a low, throaty rumble that filled me with dread. I heard the clack of nails or claws on the hardwood floor as it took a step towards me, and I finally found my voice, screaming at the top of my lungs as I closed my eyes and covered my head with my arms, turning away from whatever the thing was and trying to cover up, to protect myself.

As I screamed my lungs out, I heard my parents yelling in alarm from the bedroom down the hall, and scrambling sounds of them and my other relatives trying to get up quickly to come and see what was wrong. I heard the door open again in the wind, and opened my eyes to see the end of whatever the thing was disappearing outside. It was big, at least dog-sized, but apart from a split-second glimpse of dark fur or hair I couldn’t see anything that would tell me for sure what it had been. My parents burst into the room, Dad running to grab me and Mom turning on the lights. They held me close, asking what was wrong, Dad was saying something about how I must have been sleepwalking and had a nightmare. Pete came in as well, and as the family gathered in the lounge, everything seemed much less scary in the light. Maybe it had just been my imagination?

Despite my protests, my parents eventually decided I’d just had a nightmare, and everyone eventually went back to bed. Mom stood by my bunk and whispered soothing things to me as I dropped back into slumber. I awoke the next morning to sun streaming through the windows, immediately feeling much better in the daylight. The events of the previous night seemed far away, like they had been a dream, and I wondered if that’s all that it had been. Everyone else seemed to already be up and about; it was just me in the room. I got up and got dressed; and headed out into the lounge, where everyone was gathered having breakfast.
“Good morning honey,” my Mom called to me. “Did you sleep all right?” I replied that I was fine, and set about getting some breakfast.

The rest of the day (and the next couple of days as well) were fairly uneventful. We swam in the lake while our parents read their books, and then Dad came in to throw us around in the water. We walked through the woods several times, taking different trails. Pete & I ran around like madmen out front of the cabin, playing tag and every other game we could come up with while Mom & Dad relaxed on the front porch. The nights though… I had bad dreams, dreams about a dark shape scrabbling around outside. I’d wake up and listen hard in the gloom, trying to figure out if the noise was just the trees or something else.

Saturday came, which would be our last night at the cabin. We’d be packing up and leaving in the morning. In the afternoon, Pete & I had gone back to the clearing in the woods, playing Star Wars this time – we were taking turns using the torch as a lightsaber. We must have played for hours, as I noticed the daylight was just beginning to turn to dusk; the woods growing dimmer as the light fled. For the life of me, I’ve never been able to explain what came next. I wish that we had just walked out of those woods, back to the cabin. But we didn’t.

You see after that first night, I’d been afraid. Whatever the thing had been, it had shaken me badly; but I was one of those kids who had to know everything. And I had an idea about where I’d find out for sure – deeper into the woods, where I’d heard something that first day.

I stared across the clearing at the gnarled tree with the faded white blaze, and decided that I was going to look before Mom & Dad came for us. Pete had piped up, saying it was getting dark and we should start heading back, dinner would be ready soon. I told him my plan and he shook his head vigorously. He didn’t want to go deeper into the woods. Once again, using my big brother powers of persuasion, I convinced Pete that he’d get in trouble if he headed back alone, as our parents had told him that he had to stay with me at all times.

I turned on the torch again, Pete hefted his ‘sword’ stick and we set off together, heading past the gnarled, twisted tree that marked the path deeper into the woods. We walked in silence, carefully picking our way along the path in the dark, my crappy torch lighting the way for us. Every now and again it would flicker, so I’d give it a whack and the light would come back. I found myself wishing I’d packed spare batteries for the trip; we must have drained the power while we were playing with it. The evening was getting rapidly darker, the moon coming out and casting some dim light through the gaps in the trees.
“Marty, I don’t like this,” Pete said apprehensively after about a minute on the path less travelled.
“Neither do I, but we can’t turn back now” I replied. Looking back, I just can’t understand why it meant so much to the 8-year old me. By this point I was starting to doubt the intelligence of the plan, but I was too headstrong to admit it and turn back.

We continued along the path, my torch’s light picking out the roots and branches that we needed to avoid. I felt apprehensive, and I’m sure Pete felt the same. This part of the woods had been bad enough in the daylight for the brief period we’d spent in it, but it was a hundred times worse at dusk. I was jumping slightly at every shadow, every branch that reached out of the darkness at us. Eventually, the path turned sharply and I lit up a gap between two trees that opened up into a second clearing. We stepped into it, and I noted with some relief that there didn’t seem to be a path out the other side – I couldn’t see a white trail blaze on any of them. I breathed a sigh of relief, deciding that we’d gone far enough and we could turn back now. I started to turn, and Pete grabbed my arm.
“What?” I looked down at him. “Don’t be scared! We’re leaving now”.
“Th-th-th-there’s something over there,’

He raised a shaky hand, pointing across the clearing. I looked across to where he was pointing, freezing in place when I realized he was right. There was something over there, lurking in the shadows. There was a little bit of light from the rising moon, but it wasn’t a full moon yet and the trees were a lot thicker here than in the other clearing, so it wasn’t much help. The thing growled, sending the hair on my neck standing on end. As Pete & I both took an involuntary step backwards, I managed to lift my arm to shine the torch in the direction of the growl. Red eyes reflected the light brightly back at me.
“Oh, shit…” I whispered to myself, as the full nature of my stupidity hit me. In my efforts to prove to myself that I was brave, I’d taken myself straight into harm’s way. And what was worse was that I’d taken my little brother; who I was meant to protect, along for the ride.

The thing stayed just out of the weak range of the torchlight, the dim cone of light just enough to make out it’s outline against the trees behind it as it padded back and forth, a low warning growl rumbling continuously in its throat. I could see it only a little better than I had been able to in the house, just an outline, and the red reflection of the light in its eyes. It was powerfully built through the shoulders and forelegs, a small head on a large frame that tapered down towards its back legs. Maybe it had a tail? I couldn’t tell in the dark, all I could really see was those damn eyes. It just seemed… wrong somehow, twisted like the tree that marked the entrance to the part of the woods it seemed to live in. Pete was beginning to hyperventilate and my heart was hammering at a million miles an hour, but I knew I needed to try and stay calm to try and get us out of this mess.
“Pete?” I asked, not taking my eyes off of the red eyes being reflected in front of me.
“What?” He stammered.
“We’re going to back away slowly, OK? Just stick with me, we’ll be fine. It doesn’t like the light”. I was praying that I was right; the thing seemed reluctant to come into the torchlight.

We backed slowly out of the clearing and back down the path that we’d come in on. We rounded the first corner and kept backing away, I kept the torch pointed in front of us as we slowly edged down the path, hoping that maybe the thing wouldn’t follow us. My hopes were dashed when a shape appeared, and the reflection bounced red off its eyes again. It was following us, stalking along the path after us, staying just out of the reach of my torch and making its way around the odd patch of moonlight that made it through the tree canopy above. And of course, it was at that moment that the torch started to flicker and die again.
“Shit. Shit shit shit,” I cursed, whacking the side of the torch to try and hit the light back into existence, but it continued to flicker, and then it died completely as the batteries finally gave up.
“Marty…?” Pete sounded as terrified as I felt, suddenly enveloped in the dark. I heard the thing growl again, so I flung the torch in its direction and screamed at Pete to run, as I turned to do the same.

Whatever the thing was, it was now chasing us and I could hear it gaining, getting a little closer with every step. Outstretched branches tore at our clothes, one whipping into my face and cutting my cheek. I barely felt the sting, the fear I was feeling at that moment was almost immeasurable. Pete was sprinting as fast as he could, but with my longer legs I was beginning to outstrip him.
“Come on!” I urged, reaching for and grabbing his hand to pull him alongside me. “You can do it! Just! Keep! Running!” I spat the words out between frantic breaths.

I realized that Pete was still carrying his ‘sword’ stick, and without breaking stride I stretched over and tore it from his grip, flinging it behind us as we ran. I heard a meaty thud as it landed, and then growls that sounded of pain and anger. I must have hit the thing, I just hoped that it would slow or distract it enough for us to get away.

We kept sprinting down the track in the now near-dark forest, which had been difficult enough when my torch was working. As we ran, I silently prayed that we wouldn’t snag on a branch or trip on a root, as that would surely be the end of us. I silently wished I still had my torch; it would have made our flight easier. There! I saw the twisted tree, the outline just able to be made out against the dark sky thanks to the dim moonlight. By this point we were both nearly out of our minds with fear, all that was keeping me going was the adrenaline, and I knew Pete would be much the same. We were both sobbing as we ran, taking in deep, ragged breaths as we ran.

We burst into the clearing, and were about halfway across it when Pete fell, tripping over a branch laying on the ground. He landed heavily, and my momentum from running carried me well past where he lay. I skidded to a halt, turning to head back to get him; and as the thing bounded out from the path behind us I caught my first real glimpse of it, eyes widening in horror as it came into view. It was a twisted thing, like a huge dog or a wolf but… wrong, somehow. Its proportions were all off; forelegs were much longer and muscular than the hind. It didn’t run like a canine either, moving more like a gorilla charging on all fours, its long dark fur shaking back and forth as it lolloped forward towards my brother – long tongue spilling out from behind jagged white teeth in a snapping, slavering maw; and those horrible red eyes, glowing brightly with hunger in the dim moonlight.

Pete was struggling to get up; he saw the thing come from the path and then turned his head to look at me; pleading, petrified eyes locking with my own. I’ll never forget that glance. In that second I saw exhaustion, confusion and an all-encompassing fear, bordering on the brink of madness. But worst of all was the unbelieving, horrified betrayal that came into his eyes as I did the only thing that my terrified eight-year-old brain could think of – I turned away and fled, Pete’s screams echoing after me as I went, rising in pitch and seeming to go on forever, then cutting off suddenly.

I charged down the path, sobbing and shrieking as I fled, in disbelief at what I’d done and sure that the thing would come for me next. Suddenly, two tall figures burst out of the dark in front of me and grabbed me – I thrashed about and screamed, before realizing it was my parents! I could see Dad had the axe, they must have heard our screams. They frantically asked me where Pete was, but I was well past the point of being able to speak, and just flailed my arms back down the path, pointing desperately back the way I’d come. Dad sprinted past us, raising the axe as he went and Mom held me close before scooping me up into her arms and following him.

As Mom & I rounded the corner into the clearing, I could see my Dad kneeling in the centre of it. I’ll never forget the way that the moonlight glinted off the axe head as it lay on the ground next to him. I’ll never forget my mother’s screams as she saw what was left of her son. I’ll never forget my father crying on his knees; great, deep sobs wracking his heaving chest as he tried to shield us from seeing the worst of it. I’ll never forget seeing past my father and spotting Pete’s hand, skin stark white in the rising moonlight, but spattered with dark red gore. I think I passed out then.

From what I was able to gather later on, Dad stayed with Pete while Mom took me in the car to the Johnson house to call the police, and left me there as she returned with the State Troopers and the ambulance. I’d gone into shock by that point.

I never told my parents what really happened, that we’d gone past the first clearing and deeper into the woods. I’d spent weeks in a near-catatonic state of fear and guilt by the time I was actually able to talk about what had happened. I told them that we’d lost track of time and were about to head back to the cabin, when the thing had come from the path and gotten Pete before I could do anything. I already hated myself enough; I couldn’t have dealt with them knowing it was all my fault. I told them that I didn’t get a good look at it. My Dad had seen a dark shape looming above the fallen figure of his son, but it had turned and ran as he came at it, and he hadn’t seen more than a flash of indistinct fur and red eyes. The police decided it had been a wolf or a feral dog, but despite a search of the woods they couldn’t catch it.

We never went back to the Cabin, and neither did any of the rest of the extended family. Dad made a brief trip up at one point to clear it out, but as far as I know, it’s sitting empty right now. Our family sold the land to the Johnsons a few years later, but I heard a while back that they’d sold up and moved away to retire, so I’m not sure who owns it at this point.

Our lives went on, forever changed. None of us was ever really the same. One side-effect is that I can’t be in a dark room with a red electrical light in it, or I start having panic attacks. There’s a lot of electrical tape covering lights on my appliances. The guilt gnaws at me constantly – it was my fault entirely, even if nobody else knows. It’s been decades but I still see Pete’s face every time I look at myself, and I hear the anguished screams of my parents echo through my head when I try to sleep. And I’m terrified that someday it’ll come for me too, that I’ll be walking through my house at night and it’ll be there like I deserve it to be – that dark, twisted thing with the glowing red eyes.

Credit: Abtrogdor

The Peculiar Painting

February 11, 2017 at 12:00 AM

The grandfather clock struck eleven as the wealthy old man rubbed his eyes, tired from reading one of his many dusty books that were stacked neatly on a tall oak bookshelf near the creaky chair on which he sat. He was a collector of the fine arts, having always had an affinity for them since he was a young adult. He had not acquired his wealth through hard work or luck. The man had the pleasure of being born into a very well-off family. He felt he had invested his inheritance well throughout the years, and took great pride in his extensive collection of all varieties of art. The first piece he had bought was a genuine Eugène Delacroix, who he admired for his expressive brushstrokes and eye-catching use of color.

The balding man cast an apprehensive gaze at the newest addition to his collection, a painting that was roughly half the size of his shelf. There were many mysteries surrounding the painting, such as the fact that it was by an unknown painter, or the fact that every previous owner of the painting had been robbed blind, the painting disappearing for months at a time, before inexplicably appearing once more in a different gallery. The subject of the painting itself was even more odd. A figure of nondescript age and gender stood in the dead center of the canvas, taking up most it, the background a desolate landscape with coins, jewelry, and other valuables pooling at the figure’s feet. It wore exuberant clothing that seemed to change with every disappearance, ranging from a heavy, berry-red fur coat to a light, airy dress that seemed to only be weighed down by the treasure at its toes. Some speculated that they were similar but different versions of the same painting, but testing revealed that every painting was completed at the same date, debunking the theory.

When the perplexing painting appeared in a local gallery that the old man frequented, he knew he had to add it to his collection. He inquired about it, and it was sold to him for a pleasantly low price, the man attributing the cheapness to the superstition surrounding it. He was so proud of his purchase he refused to display it with the rest of his collection, instead hanging it above the desk in his private study. He later regretted the decision, as day by day something began to bother him about the seemingly hungry gaze of the person in the painting.

Once again, he brushed it off as hearing so much about the ridiculous story of “The Painting That Stole Itself,” as the local paper had put it once receiving news that it showed up in the town. The shifting nature of the painting was just a bogus claim by the paper to get more readers, and the robberies were just a coincidence. He told himself no one in their right mind would try and rob him. His home, although not in the dead center of the city, was still close enough to other houses to where it would be almost impossible for them not to notice that something was wrong. With this reassuring thought in mind, the old man retired himself to bed.

He was slowly awoken by the clicking footsteps of heels on hardwood floor. Slowly opening his gray eyes, he searched around the room for the source of the noise. It was too dark to see anything. He groped blindly in the dark until he found the matchbox he kept on the bedside table. Striking a match, the yellow glow of fire lightened the room, showing no signs of an intruder. He picked up a white candle, lighting it and quickly blowing out the match before the flame could reach his fingertips, soft from years of idleness. Standing from his lush bed, the floor creaked obnoxiously, evicting a short yelp from the man before he grit his mouth shut, paranoid that whatever might be in his house had heard him. As tempted as he was to blow out the candle and go back to bed, sleepless, he was determined to prove to himself that the seemingly cursed painting was just childish superstition, and nothing more. As he turned to his desk, he realized how wrong he was. In the place where the painting had previously hung was nothing but an empty space and a small hole where the nail had been, as if the painting was forcefully removed from it. He gasped in horror as he heard the floor creak behind him. The man turned around, amber light slowly illuminating an androgynous figure in a berry-red fur coat, holding all that it could carry of the man’s lot. It chuckled, satisfied with its work, as the man’s candle was extinguished, the figure receding into the darkness of the old man’s now empty home.

Credit: Sanguinolent

The House in The Shade

February 10, 2017 at 12:00 AM

These events took place when I was five years old, in the rural south. You see, back then, my family was always moving from town to town because of my stepfather’s work. Among the memories I have of this time include some family secrets that we still don’t really talk about. What I’m about to relate to you is one such untold secret we would rather forget.
The modest white house we had recently moved into was surrounded by two large willow trees that blocked out the sun, leaving our backyard shadowed and apart from the rest of the world. My two older sisters and I would often swing from their branches and climb their thick trunks while our mother and stepfather would sit on the porch and contentedly watch us play in the late afternoon.
We would ride bikes, swim in the inflatable pool, fly kites and run on the slip and slide, you name it. We were very active children and never left a beautiful day unfulfilled. Across the street were a few other homes, and the sweet old couple directly across from us would often sit on their own porch and wave and smile at us as they drank lemonade from a large pitched and sat in old wooden rocking chairs. Our mother often waved cheerfully to them when we were brought outside, and their smiles and sweetness always made the day more pleasant.
Until, that is, a few months after moving into the old white home our mother got the three of us together, telling us there was something we needed to talk about as a family. She told us sternly that we were no longer to wave at the sweet, elderly couple across the street. She went so far as to tell us not to even look at them, and if we saw them waving at us we were to come inside and tell her.
This was an odd request to us. Nothing about the elderly couple seemed threatening or off in any way. Hell, our mother was the one who was always talking about how sweet they were to be so friendly. So this request baffled us and continued to baffle us for the rest of our stay in this particular home, but we minded, and no longer responded to the couple across the street. Soon they had been easily forgotten as we got on with our lives in other homes in other towns.
That is, until I was sixteen years old, having a pleasant dinner out with my sisters and mothers, a rare occurrence for sure during this time of our lives. For whatever reason, over our evening meal the conversation turned to that quiet old white house and the elderly couple across the street.
As soon as the subject had been brought up, my mother’s joyful face had darkened. Her eyes fell to her lap and it took her a moment before actually addressing us. She told us that she had been afraid to talk about the subject all these years, especially while we were still living in the home, afraid of needlessly making us afraid of staying in the quiet house in the shade of the willow trees.
At that time, our stepfather had been working at the local Pepsi Company, a well paying job that allowed my mother to stay at home with the three of us while still making a modest living for our family. Apparently, one of his coworkers had actually lived in the house beside the willow home for nearly six years and had only moved out the year before.
My stepfather and the man were talking about the neighborhood and the house, when at some point my stepfather mentioned the sweet, elderly couple across the street that liked to sit on their porch in the evening and watch us kids laugh and play. The man looked genuinely puzzled. He said that my stepfather must be joking, just pulling his leg. My stepfather replied just as perplexed.
With a sober face, the coworker told my stepfather that there was no elderly couple living across the street. Sure, there had once been such occupants in the small home, but they had both died horribly nearly three years before from carbon monoxide poisoning. The couple’s stove had leaked gas for days before they finally succumbed to the poisoning, and it took longer than that for anyone to find the dead couple. The man knew because he was the one who crossed the street to check on them, only to find the ghastly scene.
He recommended we leave the house in the shade.

Credit: Frank Wagers

The Bus

February 7, 2017 at 12:00 AM

In 1975, my best friend disappeared. I’m going to tell you what happened. It won’t take long because the story is a short one, but that’s a necessity of the facts. Quite simply, there aren’t many.

Here they are:

His name was James Wade. He was thirteen years old. One night, he went to bed and the next morning, he wasn’t there. The front door was open and James was gone. The house – as far as anyone could tell – hadn’t been broken into and there were no signs of a disturbance. James wasn’t a troubled child and his parents were decent, loving and hardworking. They all lived together in a nice middle-class neighbourhood in the suburbs.

No one ever saw him again. The police had no leads, no clues and no suspects. The story pretty much starts and ends there.

Pretty much.

But not quite.

James disappeared on Wednesday night. I saw him in school earlier that day and he told me that, the previous night, something had woken him up in the early of hours of the morning. Exactly what, he couldn’t say. It was late November and when he’d gone to bed the wind had been shrieking with a vengeance but when he woke up, everything was deathly still. Maybe the sudden quiet woke him. Sleep is strange like that. Whatever, when he did wake, he woke with a crawling sense of dread, like he’d just surfaced from a nightmare and, as he lay there with his heart pounding in his chest and the silence pounding in his ears, he heard something.

Faint at first.

The low, heavy growl of big diesel engine. Somewhere close and getting closer. Then, as it approached his house, he heard a second noise. It took him a moment to realise it was a horn. Beeping gently like someone taking care not to wake the whole street, tapping out a friendly rhythm, a kind of toot-toot toot-toot but it was a horrible noise, James said, tortured and unnatural, like the honking of a dying goose.

He crept to the window and looked outside. Crawling down the empty street at the unhurried pace of an ice-cream van was an old school bus, a battered yellow GMC – one of those things that looks like a cross between a tractor and a horse box.

It looked like it had driven through a swamp. There were mud splatters radiating out from rusted wheel arches and dead leaves rotting in the windscreen grill. The windows were streaked with grime. At least one of them was cracked. Some of the body panels had been replaced and the bodywork was a patchwork of yellow shades, adorned with black lettering that was peeling away, hanging off the sides of the bus like shreds of torn skin.

James didn’t switch on the bedroom light and he didn’t open the curtains, he just kind of peered through a crack between the drapes. But when he did, the bus rolled to a stop. It stood there for a few moments, idling in the centre of the road.

Then, its headlights flashed.

By now, James’ skin was crawling in terror. Seeing an old school bus on a quiet residential backstreet in the early hours of the morning was a strange sight but it shouldn’t have been one that inspired blind terror. But it did. James could sense that something was very wrong. He dived back into bed and pulled the sheets over his head. He lay there for a while with his heart beating and sometime later, not long, maybe five minutes, he crept back to the window. The bus was outside his house. When he inched the curtains open, the horn went, beep-beep. A friendly beep. A come on, it’s time to go beep.

James went back to bed and this time he stayed there. The horn honked a few more times. A few minutes later, he heard the bus pull away.

On Wednesday morning, when I saw him in school, James had black bags under bloodshot eyes. He claimed he hadn’t slept a wink. He was clearly distressed.

I made a mistake, he kept telling me. I shouldn’t have looked, he kept saying.

It doesn’t mean anything, I told him. It’s just a bus.

But nothing I said seemed to reassure him.

I shouldn’t have looked, he kept saying.

And that’s where my story ends. Me and James went our separate ways at the end of the school day and I never saw him again. That’s it – no big reveal, no explanation, no twist, no climax, nothing. Unfortunately, life is like that – loose ends and unanswered questions.

I’m in my fifties now. Sometimes I get nightmares. Sometimes they’re the same and sometimes they’re different but even when they’re different they’re just variations on a theme. Here’s one: It’s late at night. My car has blown a tyre. I’m fixing it by the side road. I hear an engine. It gets closer and closer until I’m shielding my eyes from the glare of oncoming headlights.

A school bus rolls by.

As it passes me, I see a kid in the back window, banging the glass and screaming something that’s lost in the roar of the GMC’s huge diesel engine.

It’s James.

He hasn’t aged a day.

I’m not a superstitious man. There’s nothing in this story that can’t be explained rationally. Maybe the bus had nothing to do with James’ disappearance. Hell, maybe there was no bus – maybe he dreamt the whole thing. Even so, I’ve got two children of my own and when they were young, I told them an embellished version of this story – a story about an old school bus that cruises the streets at night. It moves slowly, like a stalking cat, its horn honking gently – a siren song to curious children and if any children get out of bed, go over to the window and look outside, the bus will roll to a stop. The next time they look out of the window, it will be parked outside their house. Soon after that, maybe even the same night, that child will disappear without a trace.

I told them that sometimes you can see the bus during the day. But during the day, it can’t hurt you. During the day it just travels from town to town. Sometimes adults see it too. It can’t hurt adults. Or maybe it can – it just doesn’t want them. Mostly, adults don’t even notice it but even when they do, they certainly don’t notice anything strange about it.

Because, although you can see through the windows, you can’t see inside the bus. You can’t see the children banging on the glass, crying and screaming and wondering why the hell you’re just standing there looking at them and why the hell you don’t do something. You can’t see the children who gave up hope long ago and now just sit there, staring into space or sobbing into their laps.

The children never get old. The bus never stops.

My children cried and wouldn’t sleep for a week. My wife was livid. I didn’t care. I’m not saying that what I told my children is true – it’s a bastardised version of what James told me with gaps filled in by my nightmares. Nevertheless, it seemed important to me that my children know that if they are ever lying in bed and if they ever hear the sound of an engine and a honking horn, they ignore it. Failing that, they should run out their rooms and come and climb into bed with me and their mother.


Just don’t go to the window.

Credit: fytoftora


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