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They Mostly Come at Night

January 5, 2017 at 12:00 AM
Rating: 9.3. From 3 votes.
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‘There are no such thing as monsters.” That’s what my mommy used to say. She would tuck me into bed, make sure that my favorite doll, Casey was in my arms and tell me, “There is nothing to be scared of; there are no monsters, no real monsters.”

She would whisper these words to me mostly at night because that’s when the monsters like to come out. At night when the walls would vibrate from machinery humming in the service tunnels and sub-basements below. I needed to hear those words when the wind would scream and howl from the unstable air currents and unpredictable weather patterns that came with an atmosphere being changed by a terraforming station. The turbines from dozens of filtration exchange towers ensured the sky was never still as it took in the cold, alien environment and infused hot oxygen-nitrogen gasses into the air. Just like the rhyme my daddy would sing with me, “Bad air goes in, good air comes out.”

I would need reminding one more time when the giant atmospheric processing station brought the rain by releasing electrical discharges into the clouds. That was when the monsters scared me the most. The lightning and thunder were the sound they made when they tried to get inside. The wind was the monster’s voice, and the rain was its nails, clicking and tapping at the windows of my living quarters. My mommy would come and make it all better and say, “There are no such thing as monsters.”

Monsters killed my mommy and daddy.

They were real. Monsters were real, and they were here. The grownups promised they would keep us safe. They told us everything would be all right, and help was on its way. They lied. Our little settlement was so far away; it would take up to two weeks for the nearest outpost to reach us. The monsters were smart and patient. When there was only a few of them, they quietly picked off the families living in the habitat modules on the outskirts of the colony. The ones whose disappearance wouldn’t be noticed right away. As their numbers increased, the monsters began to hunt in packs. It wasn’t long before there was enough of them and they didn’t need to hide anymore. The monsters were coming. They were coming for each and every last one of us.

The central air processing station was just outside the colony’s perimeter. It was the primary terraforming control center for the other automated terraforming substations spread across the small planet’s surface. The majority of the grown-ups spent most of their waking hours here, including my mommy. They were all doing their part to make this tiny world breathable. “Building Better Worlds,” like all the signs and videos say.

The monsters crashed through the ceiling and tore through the floor grating; catching everyone by surprise. Only a week ago, there was one hundred and fifty-eight of us. After the attack on the processing station, we had lost eighty-four people. Those of us left, gathered together for safety. We had to move quickly. We knew what the monsters did to you if they took you. We knew that for every one of us taken, their numbers would grow. We knew we didn’t have much time.

The monsters grew so fast. We learned that from my daddy. He was the first. They thought I couldn’t hear. They thought I wouldn’t know. But I saw it all. My daddy was still in the infirmary, and I would visit him often without him knowing. Hidden within the ventilation shaft, I would see him in the morning and whisper a “good night” before going to bed. He was just talking to the doctor when he cried out in pain, and they rushed him out of the room.

The grownups may have ruled the corridors and hallways, but the kids owned the vents and shafts. That was our playground! That was where we would play games like Monster Maze, and I was the best! The other kids were jealous because I could fit into places the others couldn’t. They couldn’t memorize the turns and corners like me. I could go anywhere in the complex and never be seen, not once. So finding my way to where they took my daddy was a breeze. I didn’t need to remember which shaft to take through the winding and turning tunnels—the screams echoed loud and clear.

I followed the sounds to the grilled screen that would allow me to peer into the medical compartment. I made myself look, but in the end, I closed my eyes to the horror. The screams hurt my ears. He was in so much pain. I covered my mouth to hold in a scream when a deep snap of bone startled everyone in the room. My daddy fell quiet and still. Suddenly, I could hear his body thrash and convulse violently, and the medical personnel began yelling in confusion and fear. They tried to hold him down, but the convulsions were too strong. People gasped and screamed at the sound of a loud crunch and snaps followed by what sounded like a bucket of water spilling to the ground and spraying the walls. My daddy’s screams were no more than wet gurgles by now and then I heard it. A loud and piercing screech came from something in the room, something that was angry, evil, and alien. It hissed loudly and scurried violently in the opposite direction, knocking over tools and equipment as it made its escape.

The last of us gathered in the safest place left, the Primary Operations Center. My daddy once told me it was the very first building in the colony. The original settlers had lived in here back when they couldn’t breathe the air and the Operations Center’s thick walls, and many pressurized doors protected them from the freezing temperatures and poisonous atmosphere.

The adults put the kids in the center of the complex on the top level. They said the Medical section was the safest place for us. We listened as the grown-ups did everything possible to block off entryways, weld shut each blast door and close off every service tunnel. All access points were barricaded, and all the main entry gates were sealed shut. When all was said and done, there was nothing left to do but wait in the silence and fear the approach of nighttime, because everyone knows that the monsters mostly come at night, mostly.

The planetoid rotates once every fifty-seven hours; that makes for a very long night. Here, when the darkness falls, it feels like it will never end. The monsters didn’t come the first night or the second night, but they were there. Their large bodies pressed and slid against the outer bulkheads. Powerful talons scraped against steel and drooling jaws extended and clenched. A piercing shriek would call out and echo in the distance now and then. The monster’s cries would startle us, causing screams of fright and tears from most of the children.

We continued to wait.

It started on the third day with a metallic “thunk,” “thunk,” “thunk,” from the North Gate. It echoed throughout the corridors. Anything not bolted down, rattled and shook. I could see relief wash over some of the adult’s faces. The waiting was finally over. The beating at the massive door, three levels down, grew louder in intensity. The children were gathered together and hurriedly rushed into medical isolation bays only used for storage. I didn’t like this room. Even though it housed many rows of containers and equipment and good places to hide, there was no vents or shaft in here; there was no way to escape.

We watched from the monitoring station that had been set up within the medical bay. The adults began readying themselves. Most had small handguns and charges used for geological excavation. There were even a few crude flame throwers. The strikes to the massive door became relentless.

The pounding grew louder from massive blows now coming from the West Gate.

The monsters were slamming into the steel door so hard and so fast, I could swear I felt the floor vibrate. They screamed with such anger from behind the barriers that blocked their way.

The sounds of pounds and bangs became deafening. Claws and talons were now beating at the East Gate.

The echoes of metal being hit with massive, inhuman force now came at us from all directions when impacts fell against the main, South Gate.

The bending and tearing of metal were heard throughout the complex and shrieks of victory roared out from alien lungs. We watched the blurry, dark shapes fill the monitor screens. Screams and hisses echoed from the lower levels as they tore down every barrier or obstacle. They filled the hallways, scurrying on the ceiling, walls, and floor. They were coming for us.

The monsters fell on the people defending our last and only defense like a wall of black water. The grown-ups opened fire, tossed their explosives and sprayed fire from flamethrowers. Smoke filled the room making it hard to see. Powerful arms shot out from the ceiling, and long fingers grabbed at anyone within their reach. The monsters poured into the cramped space, slamming into the people. Screams of terror and breaking of bone came over the speakers. Images of blood and flesh filled our eyes from the small video monitors. Despite the wounds and injuries inflicted on them, it was painfully obvious that none of the adults had been killed. Every last one of them was alive when they were dragged away screaming into the darkness.

It was over quickly. Soon, every last grown-up in Operations was gone. Dangling legs lifted into the air vents disappeared. The monsters gathered around those who struggled or were capable of fending them off. They were cornered and maimed by teeth and claws. Hands or feet were torn and severed from their body. Obviously, it was easier to manage and carry off their prey if it was crippled. Screams for help and pleas for death slowly faded into the distance.

The remaining grown-ups sealed the hatchway to the main access door for our section and stood between us and the approaching nightmares. They peeled away the hatch as if it was tin foil, and they were at the view ports and observation windows that lined the medical bay, hitting and scratching at the dura-glass. They shattered it in no time and began swarming into the medical bay. Gunshots rung loud and screams from adults and children came from all directions. Monsters were leaping through the air, pouncing on any victims within their sight. They crawled on the walls and ceiling, plucking running children off their feet by their hair or even by their entire head from large, six-fingered claws.

I cowered under an overturned medical bed when I locked eyes with a boy who couldn’t have been more than seven. His arms were locked in a death grip around a support beam. Two monsters pounced on him and began pulling and jerking him violently. Amazingly, he maintained his grip around the metal beam and would not let go. I screamed in horror when they broke his arms and pried him off of that beam. His face had no expression or emotion. His limp arms trailed loosely behind him when they carried him away. He never broke his stare on me. He did not scream—not once.

A woman flew across the room, smashing into a large fume hood to the right and rear of the large room. Her broken body lay over the destroyed workstation. The impact had toppled over the instrument and dislodged its upper panel, revealing a narrow ventilation duct within the wall. In a flash, I remembered the school day-trip last month to see the scientists. It was the same type of instrument. The one used for dangerous chemicals. It was a dura-glass enclosure with two access openings for the hands. They would stick their hands through the openings attached to thick gloves and pour their chemicals from the inside without breathing the fumes. The scientist said the fumes were then removed from the complex by the exhaust fans.

I got to my feet and dove for the tiny opening. Three monsters, hunched on all fours, charged from the destroyed viewport. I entered the duct only to discover it immediately went from ground level to a vent that went straight up the wall. I pressed my body as far as I could to avoid the claws that were reaching in for me. It pushed itself relentlessly into the small opening, wedging itself further into the duct. The slick coat of slime glistened on the claws that were inching closer. The tips of its nails were nicking my clothes. I could feel the pull of the fabric grow firmer each time before the threads would break.

I had one chance; I stood and placed one hand on each side of the vent, hopped off the ground and pressed my feet against the walls to hold me up. I shimmied up the shaft bit by bit. Carefully, but as quick as I could manage, I had made it more than halfway up the duct’s distance when the scraping and beating of claws filled my ears from below. When I lifted myself into the junction, I twisted myself into the opening and briefly my eyes fell on the monster beneath me.

I had never seen one this close. Its arm were extended and wedged under its massive head. The elongated head was cocked at an abnormal angle to face me. Transparent lips were quivering and curled over long and shiny fangs. Thick, clear drool poured out of its open mouth. It didn’t even struggle anymore; it just looked at me. It had no eyes, but it still looked at me. A low and deep hiss began to build from within its chest until it was a piercing shriek! It was speaking to me. It… it was trying to tell me something. It was screaming how much it hated me. I turned from the shrieks of rage and quickly made my way into the ventilation system. It wasn’t long before I knew exactly where I was. I disappeared into the network of ducts, shafts, and pipes—the maze I knew so well.

I have been all by myself for two weeks now. This tiny sub-compartment cradled in an entanglement of pipe and support strut beams of the environmental control system has become my home. The ventilation fan spins above me; the monsters keep their distance from its blades. The metal beams and large pipes keep me far out of the reach of any monster’s claws. I only leave my haven to scavenge for food. I avoid the main conduits in the ventilation system and stick to the smaller secondary shafts where the monster cannot fit.

The monsters rule the corridors and hallways, but I own the vents and shafts. That is my playground! That was where I used to play games like Monster Maze, and I was the best! The monsters are angry because I can fit into places they can’t. I have every turn and corner memorized. I can go anywhere in this complex and never be seen; not once.

The monsters can’t see me.

Monsters.

My mommy used to tell me there were no monsters, no real monsters; but there are.

Credit: Killahawke1

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The Hot Springs

January 4, 2017 at 12:00 AM
Rating: 10.0. From 3 votes.
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A couple important things to note before I tell you about my experience: you are more than welcome to go check this place out for yourselves. Do a quick google search of “Diamond Fork Hot Springs Utah” and you’ll get hundreds of results telling you exactly how to get there (for those of you that are curious it is about an hour and a half drive from Salt Lake City). I would not, however, recommend that you go by yourself, or at night.

Another important thing to know is that where my experience took place and the land surrounding has a significant history, especially related to Native Americans. Unfortunately much of the recorded history is about the exceptionally bloody conflicts between these Native Americans and early settlers. Just a couple examples are Black Hawk’s War, the Provo war, and the Walker war. I also wish it to be known that I am quite fond of Native Americans and what I know of their culture, and I have absolutely nothing against them (in fact I have several close friends that have Native American heritage). I do not mean to offend or accuse by telling my experience, and I mention this side note only because of the possible link between my experience and various legends about so-called “skin walkers”. I will provide the facts and you can make of it what you’d like.

That being said, the Diamond Fork Hot Springs are a gem nestled a good half an hour drive and subsequent hike up the canyon and away from the city. I had been there several times before my wife Kenna and I decided to take a Monday off and hike there again this past winter. The springs are quite popular and during the summer they tend to draw a large crowd of college students, scout troops, and old men that are overly fond of publicly bathing nude. I had gone in the winter with my cousin several years previous and at that point we had the springs to ourselves, so I convinced Kenna to spend one of her days off hiking to them with me.

January 11th, 2016:

We began out hike just before 1 PM, thinking that this would give us ample time to hike to the springs, enjoy soaking for a couple hours, and get back to the car before sundown. I had hiked to the springs in the winter before, and knew that each winter the road is blocked off to cars well before the trail to the springs begins. This is due to snow (though honestly it seemed to me like it wouldn’t be hard for a plow to go the additional four-ish miles). I guess I forgot just how far four miles is when you’re walking through snow and ice. Nevertheless, we walked through the gate (the road was still open to hikers/snowshoers) and began our hike.

We enjoyed ourselves and took breaks about every 30 minutes, each break thinking that the trailhead must be around the next bend in the road. Shortly before our first break, I noticed a hole (cave would be too generous a term) in the side of the mountain to the left of us. It was obviously a man-made hole, as it was covered by a section of chain-link fence, but it still perked my curiosity. It was only about 30 feet from the trail, so I told my wife I’d like to check it out and she happily came up with me. Upon further investigation, we found that it was not much more than a boring hole. We used our flashlights to shine as far back into the hole as we could, but all we could see is some abandoned piping. After taking another 5 minute break, we continued on further into the canyon.

We walked, and walked, and walked. The time wore on and much earlier than we would have liked, our feet began to ache. I was beginning to regret insisting that we go on this adventure when finally we turned around a bend and saw the bridge that marks the trailhead. With newfound energy we rushed over to the sign with information about the various trails. At this point it was about 3:00 and I was beginning to become a bit concerned about having enough light to make it back before sundown. But we were already this far and we weren’t going to turn around before spending at least some time soaking in those springs. Plus we had flashlights just in case, and the way back to the car, albeit lengthy, was very straightforward. So we pushed forward knowing that we were well over half way there. Our strength seemed to diminish at an exponential rate, which was concerning because we’d have over a five mile hike back to the car. But I knew that we’d make it back somehow, perhaps with more frequent breaks than on the way up.

We soon began to smell the sulfur odor that was a sure sign that we were getting very close. We ended up seeing some bikers as we approached the springs. They were riding some of those “Fat Bikes” that have huge tires and are designed for the snow. We were happy to see them coming towards us, as this meant they were leaving and we would probably have the springs to ourselves. After letting them pass we hiked another ten minutes or so and finally reached the springs. I cannot explain how heavenly of a sight to behold those springs were. The combination of the milky blue water, the red rock with snow on it to our left and our right, the blue sky above, and the waterfall about 100 yards ahead were too much to take in at once. And best of all, we had it all to ourselves. We quickly stripped down to our swimming suits and hopped in.

It felt incredible, truly like stepping into healing waters. We relaxed for a bit and our noses quickly adjusted to the sulfur smell. Unfortunately our bodies also adjusted to the water temperature, and before long the water didn’t feel as amazingly warm as it did at first. There are a few places between the first spring and the waterfall further along the trail where water bubbles out of the earth and flows into a pool of it’s own, so I figured I’d check out a couple of the other pools and see if I could find a hotter one. I managed to climb up the runoff of some of the other pools, thinking that this would save my feet from freezing. It did, but in the process my feet slipped several times on the mossy rocks and were fairly banged up by the time I reached the other pools. To my delight these pools were significantly warmer, so I rushed back and beckoned my wife to come join me in these warmer springs. After a very brisk 30 second dash, we jumped in and I yelped briefly as I realized I may have jumped a bit too close to the mouth of the spring.

We soaked and enjoyed ourselves for about an hour. We ate some of the chips and granola bars that we had packed in and I downed a good deal of Cherry Coke (perfect drink for a hike, right?). At this point I had accepted the fact that for at least some of the hike back we would be in darkness and have to use our flashlights. From the springs it was hard to tell just how much the sun had set, since there are mountains rising steeply to both the east and the west and the sun is only visible overhead for around 5 hours in the middle of the day.

At about 5:00 we decided we really needed to get going, as much as we were dreading the hike back, so we dried off, took a few pictures, and headed out. Shortly after beginning the hike back I realized that my feet were immensely sore, and that my legs were already begging for a break. I mentioned this to Kenna and she mentioned that she was feeling the same. I could tell that we were both in a mood to complain, so I determined to try and keep the mood light and the conversation lively to distract us from our discomfort.

Things got very dark very fast. We hadn’t even reached the half-way point from the springs to the main road when we started seeing stars above us. We a couple flashlights with us, but I figured we should put off using them as we could since I had just grabbed them from my parents house and had no idea how long they’s last. I also hadn’t thought to bring extra batteries. All was well though, as our eyes had adjusted with the darkness and making out the snow packed trail wasn’t too difficult.

I could tell that Kenna was getting as tired as I was, so in an attempt to distract ourselves from our weariness, I asked her about a scary movie that she had seen with a friend a few days previous. As she told me the plot I began to feel a bit anxious and jumpy, but nothing more than what would be expected. It was part way through Kenna’s explanation of the plot, though, that I felt a surreal sinking feeling. It was as though my insides were being squeezed and I was descending into a state of panic. I generally don’t get overly scared when reading or hearing scary stories, especially if I know it’s just a movie, but this was different. I determined that this must be due to our circumstances, being isolated in the mountains far from anyone else with darkness surrounding us on all sides. From the beginning of the sinking feeling to attempting to justify it and brush it off was only a matter of seconds. I hadn’t realized it but Kenna had paused her explanation and hiked in silence for those few seconds, then hastily wrapped it up and moved on to another subject. I was secretly glad that she had finished so quickly, and figured that some discussion on a lighter topic would probably push out the overwhelming feeling of panic and paranoia that had overtaken me.

It was about at this point that I began to hear the whispering. There is a river that runs next to the trail and down about 5 feet in most places, and I tried to brush the noise off as the sound of rushing water. The thing that made me especially uneasy though was that the noise wasn’t just coming from the river to the left of us. It was coming from the right and from behind as well. Kenna had gone silent and again I hadn’t paid much attention as I was quite distracted by the noises. They started out very quiet, almost too quiet to even notice over the sound of the river, and slowly grew louder. They never grew loud enough to completely get rid of the doubt that they were actually there, but I was sensing a change in Kenna’s disposition as well. Shortly thereafter she said my name (which nearly made me jump out of my skin) and asked if I’d be okay taking a break. I tried to appear calm and said I would, though the feeling of panic was still as strong as ever. It seemed to scream that we needed to get away from where we were now.

We sat down in the snow and didn’t talk much. I think I mentioned something about how we must be getting close to the road, and that then at least we’d be on a wide paved road rather than this thin dirt trail. I didn’t dare ask Kenna if she was feeling or hearing anything, in part because I didn’t want to sound like the scary movie plot was getting to me, and more in part because I didn’t want her to confirm that the weird stuff going on wasn’t just inside my head.

Unfortunately the whisperings hadn’t stopped while we rested; in fact they seemed more real than ever. I was getting antsy and again anxious to at least be making our way towards our car and sure safety. I suppose it was more a desire to be making our way away from whatever was behind/around us. At this point I began to shiver, and pointing this out to Kenna, I suggested we keep pushing onward. I knew that I wasn’t too cold, at least not cold enough to make me shiver like I was. Put simply I was overwhelmingly terrified of the darkness around us and what it contained.

We hopped up and continued onward. All the time I was hoping and praying that we would see the bridge marking the trailhead and at least make it off of this dirt trail and back onto pavement. I knew that we would have a several mile walk back to the car after crossing the bridge, but there was something comforting about the thought of being on the wider road.

As we came upon a rather steeper part of the trail, recognized it as a landmark that was very close to the bridge. I decided we should pull out our flashlights for this portion. I didn’t want either of us slipping on ice or tripping on a root and falling into the river below (and among whatever else might be down there). We each took a flashlight and I decided to go behind Kenna just in case she started sliding backwards.

As we started climbing up I looked at down at the path and noticed the strange tracks that the bikes had left in the snow. I also noticed some other strange tracks that were going around and over the bike tracks: it looked like a small party of people with bare feet had gone through with a pack of large dogs. My mind was trying to put things together quickly, but was struggling. Those bikers had been the only people that we had seen, but these foot/paw prints were certainly from people that had come after the bikers. Another strange thing was that these prints were not only on the trail, but were left deep in the snow to either side, seeming to go off in random directions. Some tracks came to the trail, others left it, and everywhere there were large paw prints mixed with human footprints.

At first this came as a relief to me. My first thought was that there must be some very dedicated campers who had decided to bring their dogs along somewhere close by. The thought of some tough burly campers nearby in these forsaken mountains was like a ray of light to my mind. Then a point of confusion began to form, small at first but then very concerning. Campers don’t go hiking around in the snow in bare feet, and this point was much too far from the springs for someone to be walking around without shoes.

This thought process, from terrified to hopeful back to terrified and concerned happened within a matter of seconds. Kenna had stopped and turned to me and pointed out the prints in the snow as well. I tried to brush it off with a chuckle and a “yeah, what the heck are people thinking?”. But the look of concern on her face only confirmed that I was not alone in my worried thoughts. The panic was again overcoming me, and I wished more than ever that the whispering would stop. All I could say is “let’s go”, and we pushed on with even more determination than before.

I kept looking behind us, every time expecting to see something following. Each time before I looked back my stomach would do a flip, but not once did I see anything suspicious. We kept our flashlights on for the rest of the hike out, and at long last we saw the bridge ahead. We quickly crossed it and without a word continued onto the main road. Roughly four more miles and we would be safe and sound in the car.

To my immense relief, the whisperings seemed to quiet down now that we were on the road. My legs and feet were aching like the dickens, so I asked Kenna if we could take another quick break. She obliged, and I very quickly regretted making the suggestion. The river still flowed by the road, but it was not nearly as close as it was to the dirt path, and therefore didn’t mask any sounds. At this point the whispers, though quieter than they had been on the dirt trail, were very clear and undeniably existent. I stared back to the bridge wishing that this maddening noise and accompanying sense of extreme paranoia would go away. As I looked to Kenna to see how she was reacting to the menacing noise, I noticed she had her head in her hands and seemed to be shaking. I put my arm around her shoulder and pressed my head up against hers, and as I looked down I froze.

The snow we were sitting on was covered in human footprints, along with those enormous paw prints. Again, there seemed to be no method or destination in mind for whoever/whatever had been stomping around here. I shined my flashlight with a shaky hand in each direction, trying to figure out where these things had gone. I followed one set of footprints that ascended up the side of the hill to our right and saw that the human prints ended and those huge animal prints picked up right where they had left off.

I felt as if I was descending into madness. I wanted to cry. I began to feel angry towards these things. Was this some sick joke? I wanted to scream and call out these things to stop messing around get on with whatever they were going to do to us. More than anything I wanted this all to END.

With hot tears stinging my face, and with this newfound anger giving me a boost of energy, I pulled Kenna up by her hand and without a word we continued at a brisk pace down the road.

I could not shake the darkness. This was so much darker than anything I had experienced. It was horrible and overwhelming. Even the stars above seemed extremely dim. The darkness was pressing in all around us, above us, below us, and worst of all it seemed to be inside us. Strange thoughts entered my mind, wondering what acts of evil could bring such a feeling to this place… wondering if we had done anything to bring this upon ourselves. Was this some sacred place that we were trespassing on? Had we done something to offend these creatures?

Whatever the case, I hated this area and felt that I was beginning to give in to the evil ambient darkness that seemed to be consuming us. I wanted to give up. The thought entered my mind that embracing this evil might be the only way out.

Kenna saved me from my own thoughts. Her sweet voice pierced my dark thoughts and halted this internal spiraling. She had stopped and softly said my name. After taking a second to recover, I asked how she was holding out. She pointed off to the right, toward where her flashlight was shining on a patch of juniper bushes.

Again, that invisible hand seemed to clench my stomach and I froze momentarily. A pair of eyes were reflecting back at us. I tried to regain my composure, and after a few seconds I noticed that the eyes remained unblinking. I quickly realized that they were that of a dead animal. The awkward angle and lack of movement gave that away. As I continued to stare I realized that this was not just a single dead animal. There were five or so dead deer, and what made my stomach really churn was the amount of blood covering a large patch of the road. I turned away as the sight made me light headed and shifted my focus to the ground right in front of us.

Again the snow was covered in those cursed footprints, this time painted with blood. I’ll spare you the details, but let me say it seemed that these creatures had enjoyed themselves immensely at this horrid spot, and there were several trails of blood streaking the snow. Still focusing on the ground, I led us forward and to the left around this horrible scene of carnage, averting my eyes from the worst of it. I kept expecting to encounter the smell of rotting flesh, but it never came. I guess the deer carcasses were too fresh and the cold weather probably helped too.

Soon thereafter we passed a campground, a landmark that meant we were getting close to our blessed car. It was at this point that the hollering began. When I heard the first shout a chill went down my whole body, and I felt sick to my stomach. This was an inhuman shout, and it wasn’t far behind us. I looked back, nearly tweaking my neck in the process, but STILL I couldn’t see anything! It was indescribably terrifying! I wished that I could see something so that at least I would know what we were up against. Anything, I felt, would be better than being kept in this state of knowing something was there but not knowing what it was!

We hurried forward toward the car, our legs and feet protesting every step, and the hollering seemed to grow ever closer and louder. Every 20 seconds or so I would quickly scan to the left, right, and behind. Each time I hoped that I would see something to relieve me from this deranging state of not knowing. Still, I was terrified to the core of what I might see.

Finally, after hours of wishing we were here, we rounded a bend and saw our beautiful car. Never in my life was I so happy to see it. My moment of joy was cut short, however, as I did one of my brief scans of our surroundings.

Upon looking behind us, I saw several dark figures moving slowly towards us. A few had their heads raised, and I wondered what I had been thinking when I had wished that I could see what these creatures were. Each of them were humanlike in form, though they were unusually tall and walking on all fours. They were all covered in thick, reddish brown hair, and had bright red eyes that reflected perfectly in the dim light of my flashlight. I will never forget those eyes.

What terrified me to the very center and still haunts me to this day is the expression they all wore. Each that had their head up was staring right at me as they slowly crawled forward, and they were each wide eyed wearing a toothy grin. It felt as if they were boring inside me with their stares, and I was certain we were going to die. At this point I wasn’t afraid of death; I was instead terrified of what the alternative would be once they caught up to us. I could see an excitement and twisted joy in their faces, as if they were playing a favorite game of theirs, feeding off of our terror. And oh, how I wish I could describe the blackness that surrounded them! It was a blackness that was felt as much as it was seen. It was horribly fascinating, almost even enticing, but those terrifying creatures were so vile that at no point did I consider moving even an inch toward them.

At this point I nearly went berserk. Luckily Kenna hadn’t looked back yet, and was marching faithfully on toward the car. When I finally unrooted myself from the spot and found my voice, I cried out to Kenna to run and not look back. I had caught up to her at this point and she turned to look at me and possibly behind. I screamed “DON’T!” and she seemed startled by my state of near insanity. She looked forward toward the car again and we both sprinted straight for it, adrenaline overcoming weariness. We jumped in, slammed the doors, I fumbled with the keys and let off the clutch quicker than I intended, nearly killing the engine. The darkness seemed to be thickening by the second. As I unintentionally peeled out, flinging mud and snow all over, Kenna turned around and screamed. I looked in the rear view mirror and saw the creatures mere feet from our car. Their sick faces were ecstatic with excitement, and their wide grins made me shout and put the pedal to the floor. Soon we were zooming along the canyon at about 40 miles per hour (very dangerous for such a small, winding road), and somehow these fiends were keeping up with us! Everything about them was incredibly unnerving, from their horrible gallop to those perverted smiles. I prayed that we would reach a straightaway where we could go faster and perhaps by some miracle outrun these beasts.

Out of the blue the darkness seemed to lift, the stars shone more brightly than they had all night, and I was overcome with relief. I looked in the rear view mirror, and saw the creatures, now far behind us, leaping up the sides of the hills to our left. It was still a sickening sight, but somehow I knew that they were done toying with us at last. We drove in silence for several minutes until we reached the highway.

What a sweet relief it was to see other humans. Seeing the warm glow of their headlights was like walking up to a hot fire after being cold. I turned to Kenna and saw that she was crying, and I in turn began to cry. We cried and hugged, but remained silent as we sat there next to the highway. There was nothing to say at this point. Shortly after getting back on the highway I noticed I was quite nauseous and shaky. I pulled over and threw up, and felt much better afterwards. At long last the paranoia left me, and I felt like a new person.

We got home around 7:30. We turned on all the lights, shut and locked the door, and stayed up all night. Neither of us wanted to sleep, so we stayed up holding each other tight and trying to distract ourselves with movies.

Neither of us talked about what we had gone through until well into the next day, when the sun was high and everything was bright. I could tell neither of us wanted to be the one to bring it up. I felt that if we talked about it, we would solidify that it really happened. But I finally brought it up and it was almost a relief to have it out in the open.

We’ve told a select few people about this experience, and much of it is still quite confusing to us. We still have some questions that may forever remain unanswered, such as what in the world were those creatures? What did we do to warrant their pursuit? They were certainly the quickest creatures we’ve ever seen, so why didn’t they catch up to us? What would have happened if we had tried to confront them?

All we know is that there is a serious evil presence up that canyon. And if you don’t believe me, you know where to find it.

Credit: Tyler T

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The Manor House

January 3, 2017 at 12:00 AM
Rating: 9.7. From 3 votes.
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Part 1: Discovery

Let me start by saying, I’m no professional writer. I just have a story to tell.

Every summer my parent’s would drive from our home in rural Lincolnshire, to our holiday home in a little village in the West Norfolk coast. I won’t say where exactly, but it was a beautiful village, a 10 minute walk away from the beach. All the houses were made from Norfolk stone and flint, quiet, picturesque and the kind of place where everyone knows each other; there was a real sense of community. I loved it there. My house was in the heart of the village, it was called Manor Lodge because it used to be living quarters for the servants who worked in the Manor House that backed on to my garden. The Manor House had been abandoned since I could remember. No one ever went back there and no one knew who owned it, so it was just forgotten about. Left to become derelict.

I would spend my time playing with my friends Dylan and Peggy, their parents had holiday caravans on the main site in the village so we spent a lot of time together in the school holidays. We would ride our bikes to the beach and play, or hang out in the park, typical things 10 year old kids would do. In 2001 it was normal for parents to let kids out unsupervised until dusk fell. That was our call to go home, before the darkness descended. And, seeing as we were in a safe village, no one really worried about us.

My story starts here. It was the beginning of the summer holidays and neither Dylan nor Peggy had arrived with their families for the summer. I had been at our house for a week already and I was bored so I went out into the garden to play. Our garden was fairly large, a few flower beds that my mum liked keeping herself busy with and a conservatory where my dad sat in a lounger and fell asleep in most days. The end of the garden was like a mini forest. Noting major, save for a few all trees that I could hide under, or make a den in. This particular morning I found the very end of the garden. A 6 foot wooden fence sealing off the boundary. It was quite rotten and was clear that no one had been back here to check on it for quite some time. Now, me being me, I thought it would be a wonderful idea to kick a hole in the rotting wood and see what was on the other side; I was quite a curious and inquisitive kid so I just went for it.

When I made a hole big enough I wasted no time in scrambling through. I found myself in a small, over grown field. Tall, yellowing grass and thistles dominated the expanse but it was quite easy to navigate my way through. I was tall for a 10 year old so I could see over the top of it with ease. The Manor House was on my right. I had to stomp down a path to the middle of the field before the surrounding trees subsided and the house came into view. It was huge, more of a Mansion than a Manor. Dark red brick, brown, wooden window panes and covered in thick ivy. I carried on making my path until the field ended and a gravelled driveway at the front of the house appeared. The front door was incredible. Painted black wood with cast iron decoration, it was like something out of a Harry Potter film. I noticed a small number 1 etched into the wood; I just assumed it was the house number.

I lifted the cast iron latch and tried to shove the door open but it must have been locked from the inside. On the right of the door there was a window that looked into what I though was the living room. I pressed my face to the glass trying to see inside. It was pretty much empty. Old fashioned wall paper had been ripped from the walls and there were crayons strewn all over the floor. It looked like a child had ripped the paper down so they could draw on the walls, but the room was so big I couldn’t quite make out what the drawings were. As I mentioned before, I was quite a curious kid, so I scouted the exterior of the house to try and find another way in. I carried on walking along the right hand side of the house when I came to a small side door over grown with ivy. We don’t have poison ivy in England so I knew I’d be ok pulling as much of it off the door as I could. You might think this was predictable, but this was genuinely what happened, as I pulled the ivy off the door I saw the latch was broken, it didn’t shut properly so it was ajar, ready for anyone to walk in.

Opening the door and stepping inside, I found myself in a small corridor that lead to the living room and what I assumed was the kitchen beyond. I wanted to see the drawings so the living room was my first stop. As I entered, a pungent smell hit me, stale and damp, like something had died in there. Holding my sleeve over my nose I walked up to the back wall where the drawings were and took a closer look. They were clearly a child’s drawings, simple but had enough detail to know what was happening. My eyes widened as I processed what it was I was seeing. They had drawn a story. A dark story. An expressionless, young girl, I think about my age, was pictured holding hands with a black silhouette of a man, he was terrifying. As my eyes scanned to the next drawing he was beating her with his bare fists, a punch reigning down onto her face, another showing him twisting her arms behind her back, her bones snapping like twigs; all the while the girl was completely expressionless. The last drawing was of the girl locked in a cupboard under the stairs. It looked like she was banging against the door, crying and trying to get out. It surprised me to see this was the only drawing she had an expression in; it was one of true desperation and fear. The man wasn’t in the last picture, but the child had started to write something in black crayon. The letters R U N were shakily drawn onto the wall, but before the child had a chance to finish the letter N it trailed off, the crayon mark furiously running across the wall as if being dragged away. I followed the crayon as it ran across and then down to where the wall met the floorboards. I wasn’t expecting there to be anything else but I was wrong. Splatters of deep red were at the end of the crayon trail as well as on the floor. It didn’t take a genius to realise what it was…Whoever drew those pictures died right after drawing the last one.

I ran. I ran as fast as my legs would carry me, right back through the side door, through the field and back into the safety of my garden. My mum was in the flower bed and saw my disheveled appearance.

“Are you ok love? You look like you’ve seen a ghost back there!”

“I- I’m fine mum. I just got a bit too into the game I was playing, that’s all.”

I hurried back into my house and didn’t come out for the rest of the day. Something bad happened in the Manor House, and I wanted to know what… But there was no way in hell I was going back there on my own.

Part 2: Investigation

Dylan and Peggy arrived 2 days later. I hadn’t stopped thinking about what I saw in the Manor House. Who drew those pictures? What happened to them? Who was that man? These questions floated about in my head but I couldn’t figure it out with the little information I knew. I had to tell Dylan and Peggy, I wanted them to come with me.

The day after they arrived, they both came over to my house. “Guys, I have to tell you something but you have gotta’ promise not to tell your parents ok? Swear?” Dylan and Peggy both glanced at each other, obviously hooked on what I was going to tell them.

“Ok” said Dylan, “What is it?”

“The Manor House…” I told them, “I went there 2 days ago. I saw… Well, I don’t really know what I saw, this is why we need to go back”

Dylan was always keen for an adventure, Peggy not so much.

“Alice, what exactly did you see?”

Peggy asked, a little unsure of what I was asking her.

“This is the thing.” I replied, “I saw drawings, kids drawings, but they weren’t of dogs, or fairies, or anything like the stuff we draw Peg’s. They were… dark. The last one was just a word, RUN.”

My 10 year old self couldn’t quite describe the menacing, murderous drawings accurately. But Peggy understood.

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” she asked both Dylan and I, “Won’t we get into trouble?”

“Oh come on, Pegs!” Dylan exasperated at her, “This sounds awesome! Don’t you want to explore?”

“Fine! I’ll go, but I still don’t think it’s a good idea” Peggy folded her arms and winced as she asked her next question.

“So, when are we going to do this?”

“Now!” I quickly answered back, “I need to figure this out guys and I don’t want to go alone. I’m scared.”

We walked down to the end of the garden, through the gap in the fence, followed the path to gravelled drive and walked to the side door I found 2 days ago.

“Through here, follow me” I beckoned to them. Both Peggy and Dylan followed and I showed them the drawings in the living room. “See?” I said, “What do you think?”

Dylan took a closer look. “I thought you said they stopped with the word RUN?” he said, confusion in his voice.
“It- it did”

Underneath the word there was a new picture. A little girl in a pink jacket was holding hands with the silhouette man. It definitely wasn’t there the day before.

“Alice, I really don’t like this. Can we go?” Peggy said this with unease, like she was truly afraid. I didn’t understand why until 2 days later.

We made our way back into the hallway, and there he was. A tall, black silhouette of a man stood at the end of the hall blocking access to the main entrance hall. All 3 of us froze, staring into the only part of him that had any features; his gleaming white, evil eyes. The form moved towards us with a jolt. We turned and ran.

Panicked and in shock we raced through the field and I lost Dylan and Peggy.
My parent’s weren’t home when I made it back to my bedroom. I slumped down onto the bedroom floor, my back pressed against the door and tried to catch my breath. I assumed Dylan and Peggy made it out of the house as I was certain I heard them running after me. Kid’s didn’t have mobile phones back then so it wasn’t like I could text them to make sure they were ok. I had to just hope…

Dylan finally showed up 2 days later. His mum saw what state he had returned back to his caravan in and thought he was ill so kept him in for a couple days until he appeared better. Neither of us had seen Peggy. We went to knock for her at her caravan but no one was home. Her parents were very sociable people so were probably at the beach or out with friends for the day so we didn’t think much of it.

Dylan and I played for most of the morning. Neither of us brought up the Manor House incident. I think we were both scared to even think about it, let alone talk about it. We were pretending like nothing happened and, to be honest, I was more than ok with it. This was probably the one time that my curiosity was curbed through pure, unadulterated fear.

As lunch time approached, Dylan was getting ready to go home. He left his bike in my back garden so went to go get it.

“Uh, Alice, is that Peggy?”

I squinted to the trees at the very back of the garden and sure enough there she was!

“Oh my god, Peg’s!” I cried out, “Where have you been? We called for you but no one was there.”

Peggy smiled. “I’m ok” she said, “I’ve been playing in the field. Come and play.”

Peggy disappeared back into the trees so Dylan and I followed, eager not to lose her again. We were all stood in the over grown field, unsure of what to do next.

“I keep thinking about the Manor House” Peggy casually told us, shocking both Dylan and I.

Peggy seemed so afraid the last time we went, and now Dylan and I were afraid too. How could she seem so nonchalant about what happened?

“Really?” I replied, “Why?”

“I don’t know. I just feel drawn to it. I want to go back inside. Come with me?”

She was very eager for us to say yes, so we reluctantly agreed. Were we mad?! 2 days ago we were running from an evil presence in that house and now we were going back?! It was classic, ‘Don’t go in there!’ horror story moment, but we stupidly did it anyway.

We slowly walked up to the front door and decided what to do next. I surveyed my surrounding again, familiarising myself with quick exit routes should I need to run again, when I noticed the number 1 on the doorway was scratched out, and in it’s place was a freshly etched 2. Weird, I thought.

I refused to go back into the living room so this time we chose to explore the kitchen. Peggy seemed a little more anxious now she was back inside the house, which although was a bad thing, it was more normal than her carefree attitude to the situation outside; that unnerved me much more.

The kitchen was tidy, no plates or bowls, kitchen equipment or anything like that left around, but an inch thick layer of dust coated the counters, cupboard doors hung off of their brackets and mice droppings everywhere. It looked like it hadn’t been touched for years. Strange considering someone must have been living here, I mean, who else could’ve added that drawing in the living room? Or changed the door number to 2?

We had a look in some of the cupboards, wiping away the dust but found nothing unusual or out of the ordinary. Dylan kept a look out for the silhouette man, but he never showed. Maybe we imagined it? As I was scoping out a cupboard that was full of canned food from 1902, Dylan called out to us, laughing.

“Guys, a crayon just rolled through the doorway…”

“Ha, we’re in a creepy house, you’d think something more frightening would appear through the door than a crayon!” I replied trying to stifle my laughs. Although I was scared, I took this opportunity to laugh down the situation we were in, make it appear like I was less frightened than I was, and to be honest, laughing at a crayon was helping.

I followed Dylan through the kitchen side door that led into the main entrance hall. It was a large room with a double staircase to right side, double doors that led out into a courtyard at the rear and the dark wooden door with the cast iron decorations to the front. The door was bolted shut from the inside; that’s why I couldn’t get in the first time I came here. Dylan was stood by the side of the stairs, holding the black crayon that rolled into the kitchen. The stairs cupboard door was open and he was transfixed on whatever it was that was inside.

“Dylan? What’s the matter?” I asked as I walked up to stand next to him. When I saw what was inside the cupboard under the stairs I gasped.

“What the-?”

The walls were covered with bloody finger nail scratches, like someone had desperately tried to get out. I instantly remembered the drawing in the living room of the terrified little girl locked in the cupboard under the stairs. This blood was fresh… The person’s fingernails had come off on to the wall they had scratched so much. It was a scene of absolute horror. In a state of disbelief I noticed something crumpled in a pile on the floor of the cupboard.

“Dylan, what’s that?”

Dylan bent down to pick up the heap of pink material and we realised.

“Wasn’t Peggy wearing this jacket when we came here the other day?” Dylan asked me.

She was. Peggy’s pink jacket was now on the floor of the cupboard under the stairs, soaked in still wet blood. And above it on the only clean patch of wall was a drawing of the silhouette man, his eyes boring into us like he was coming for us next.

A scream erupted throughout the house and that was all it took to jolt Dylan and I from our shocked states and once again run from the house. Dylan dropped Peggy’s jacket and sprinted to go back through the kitchen and out the side door, but our pathway was blocked.

Silhouette man was stood in the kitchen door way, this time grinning at us; he made no other movement which rattled me to the core. Why didn’t he come for us? Thinking quickly, I remembered the front door could be unbolted from the inside. Dylan followed me to the door and helped me with cast iron bolts. They were heavy and stiff, I couldn’t have moved them on my own. When we saw daylight again I was relieved. The house was so dark and dingy it was easy to lose track of what time of day it was, and something about the light felt safe. I didn’t look back until I was once again in my garden, Dylan behind.

“Where’s Peggy?” I asked, panting for breath.

“I don’t know” Dylan replied, equally as exhausted, “I thought she was following me, but I guess not.”

Just as he finished his sentence, my dad came out into the garden with Dylan’s parents and 2 police officers.

Part 3: Over-Active Imaginations

“Alice, Dylan. You need to come inside. Now.” My dad demanded.

We obediently followed, thinking we were about to get the telling off of our lives for trespassing, but when one of the officers opened his mouth and started talking I was absolutely dumbfounded.

“Alice. Dylan. I’m sure you are aware by now your friend Peggy Langdon has been missing for 2 days. Have you seen her in the last 48 hours?”

I literally couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

“No she hasn’t…” I replied in confusion, “She was just with us. We were exploring the Manor House. I know we shouldn’t have been in there, but she was honestly just with us!”

Dylan nodded furiously in agreement as I began to explain everything to the police officers.

“I went exploring on my own about 5 days ago. I got a bit freaked out because I saw some weird drawings on one of the walls in the house. Peggy and Dylan came back there with me so I could show them and it freaked them out too. That’s when we saw him. The silhouette man! We ran and then we all didn’t see each other for 2 days. Peggy showed up this morning in my garden and she wanted to go back to the house. We found blood and fingernails and a pink jacket we thought was Peggy’s under the stairs. We got scared and ran again. We’ve all just come back from there… At least, I thought we all came back…”

I trailed off realising that when we got back to the garden Dylan pointed out that Peggy wasn’t with us.

“A pink jacket did you say?”

“Yes,” Dylan replied, “It was in the cupboard under the stairs, along with the blood and the fingernails. We thought Peggy must have dropped it when we ran away the first time, she wasn’t wearing it when we saw her today”.

“Children… Peggy was wearing a pink jacket the day she went missing. Are you sure she was with you today?”

I tried hard to think back to the first day we all went to the house; the day the police claim Peggy disappeared. And I remembered… As clear as day I remembered the new drawing in the living room. The drawing of the little girl in the pink jacket holding silhouette man’s hand. I remembered being freaked out that a new drawing had appeared. I remembered seeing silhouette man standing in the doorway of the living room, and I remembered me, Dylan and Peggy running. Peggy running in her pink jacket… Only, I lost them both when I returned to the garden.

“We were with her right up until I found the cupboard…” Dylan pondered.

I burst into tears at the realisation my friend was gone. It all added up. But I was JUST with her!? My mum enveloped me in a hug and tried to soothe me but I was just inconsolable.

“We need to investigate the house immediately. If what you are saying is true, then that blood may belong to Peggy Langdon. Thank you for your time children. I’m so, so sorry this is happening to you.”

The two officers left and within the hour there were more police officers with their sniffer dogs, forensic tents going up and men in white overalls flooding our back garden; searching the fence and the Manor House for any clue as to where Peggy could have gone. That evening, the tents were taken down as quickly as they were put up and the police left the area. I didn’t understand. Didn’t investigations take a lot longer than a few hours? I was playing with Peggy at lunch time and now it was almost 10pm and the police had pretty much left. All but 2 officers remained and they looked extremely irritated. There was a knock on our front door and my mum answered.

“Mrs Taylor, may we have a word with you and Alice?”

She called me down from the confines of my bedroom and the scalding began.

“Alice.” One of the officers addressed me. “Did you know it is against the law to waste police time?”

I obediently nodded and waited for him to carry on.

“Good. So you know that making up stories about your friend when they are missing is very wrong and scared her parents into thinking she was dead?”

At this remark a look of bewilderment spread across my face and I couldn’t hide it even if I tried.

“I wasn’t making it up! It happened! I swear it did! I was with Peggy at lunch time!” I couldn’t have sounded more exasperated if I tried. I couldn’t understand why he didn’t believe me until he spoke again.

“Alice, we searched that house for all the things you said. The blood, nails, even the drawings… There was nothing. Not a trace. We didn’t even find her pink jacket. There was no evidence to even suggest you, yourself, had been in that house.”

In frustration and anger I screamed and I cried. What was happening? My head felt completely scrambled and I couldn’t make sense of anything that was going on. Reality was a blur now and I didn’t know what to believe. The icing on the cake what when the officer continued,

“We haven’t been able to find Dylan since we spoke to you both earlier. His mum found a black crayon in his room, but nothing else out of the ordinary. Do you know where he is?”

I shook my head and tried to speak through my sobs.

“He- might- be- hiding- at- the- park. He – doesn’t- like- getting- told- off-“ I managed.

“Thank you Alice,” the officer replied, “And Mrs Taylor, I think your child may have an over active imagination. You might want to take her to see someone. Might be ADHD. You know what those kids are like…”

The officer shook his head at me then called his colleague to leave. I was still sobbing away in my mum’s arms. Fatigued and emotional my dad took me off of my mother and carried me upstairs to bed where my mum changed me into my yellow pyjamas. I drifted off to sleep quickly through sheer exhaustion.

The next day passed fairly quickly. I slept for the majority of the day and refused to talk to anyone or come out of my room. Every hour I’d look out of my bedroom window to the back garden and try to relive what happened. Try to make sense of it, but no matter how hard I tried to organise the events in my mind, I just couldn’t. It was impossible.

At 6 o’clock in the evening my parents announced they were going for dinner and tried to persuade me to come. I ignored them and after 15 minutes of trying, they left and told me to come get them if I needed them. They were going to the pub next door to our house so weren’t far away. To be honest, I was glad for the peace and quiet. I took comfort in being alone, adult’s were untrustworthy in my mind now and their presence disgruntled me.

7 o’clock passed and I did my new ritual of looking out of the window to try and piece my thoughts together, when I saw them…They were stood at the bottom of the garden waving at me, beckoning me to come outside. I rubbed my eyes in disbelief and looked again. Dusk was beginning to fall and the sky was an incredible burnt orange colour, but it was still bright enough to make out who it was at the bottom of the garden. I sprinted out of my room, down the stairs and straight out the backdoor that led to the garden.

“Peggy! Dylan! I knew I wasn’t lying!”

I raced over to them but before I got there they ran into the trees and back through the hole I kicked in the fence. I chased after them in elation that I knew I wasn’t going mad, or fabricating stories about my friends. They were here, not missing, and I knew it! I knew it! I could hear Peggy laughing with delight, and I followed her giggles all the way to the front door of the house. The numbers 3 and 4 were now etched into the front door and I still couldn’t figure out why but at this point I didn’t care. I just wanted my friend’s back. I wanted to prove to everyone that I wasn’t lying. I hesitated at the front door a little while longer, remembering all the negative things that happened in this house until I was snapped back to reality by Dylan calling my name.

“Aaaliiccee!” he chanted. “Aaaliiccee!”

I took one last look at the beautiful summer night sky and proceeded to follow Dylan’s chant to the living room. No one was in there and the room fell silent upon my entrance. A wave of dread suddenly filled my body at the realisation I never actually followed them into the house. I was here on my own. Looking over at the back wall the drawings were there clear as day, except this time, another new drawing was added. The picture of a girl in yellow pyjamas with the number 4 scrawled above her head, holding silhouette man’s hand. It was me…

Part 4:The Legend Of Alice

“And that was the last time anyone saw Alice again.” Toby announced proudly as he retold ‘The legend of Alice Taylor’ to his little brother, Harry, and Lily his school friend.

Toby’s grandparents bought Manor Lodge, Alice’s former house, 5 years after her disappearance. Because of it’s background history his grandparents bought it incredibly cheap. They knew the full story but they weren’t worried. Their child, Toby’s mum, was grown up and had moved out with her husband so it was just his grandparent’s that occupied the house. That was until his grandmother got dementia and kept wandering off… It was then that his grandfather decided to move them to assisted living accommodation and passed the house over to Toby’s parents. And then along came Toby, then Harry 2 years later.

Toby was a confident 13 year old boy, he had a lot of friends and was well known within the village for being a bright, aspiring boy. The kids at the village school talked about Alice regularly and a few even claimed to have gone to the house but those kids were exposed to be lying when they couldn’t prove where they gained access. The house was well guarded with barbed wire fencing and ‘No Entry’ signs warning people away from the dangers the house might contain. Alice and her friends went missing roughly 20 years ago now and the village tried hard to forget. It was never brought up by adults and if anyone mentioned it, it was quickly shut down as a legend and untrue to protect the villages credibility and safety.

But Toby being Toby, had other ideas. He wanted to the top dog of the school, and by proving he had gone to Manor House, he could gain that status. It would be easy for Toby, his house backed onto the Manor House after all. If anyone was likely to gain access it was him.

It was Saturday morning, around 9am, and Toby, Lily and Harry stole a pair of wire cutters from his dad’s toolbox in the garage and made their way to the end of the garden. A thick wire fence sealed off the boundary which Toby was able to cut through with ease. His dad would be furious when he found out he ruined the fence; It was incredibly expensive to put up. But at this point, Toby didn’t care. They all scurried through, being careful not to tear their clothes on the freshly cut wire, and found themselves in the over grown field, just like in the legend…

“Ok,” Toby said with assertiveness, “We need to do what Alice did and make a path that leads to the middle of the field. Then we should see the house on the right. Ready?”

Both Harry and Lily shook their heads. They had heard the story countless times before on the school playground, and even though it was said to just be a legend, they still believed it enough to be put off from going there properly.

“Can’t we just watch from here?” Lily replied nervously.

Toby scoffed, “Fine, but I get to call you both wimps for the rest of the year!”

Lily and Harry were willing to take that risk. Being called a wimp was better than being arrested for trespassing. They helped Toby make a path to the middle of the field but stopped when they saw the house. Toby continued stomping down the grass, it was harder than it looked and he wondered how on earth a 10 year old girl could manage to do this on her own, let alone a 13 year old boy.

Eventually, he got to the gravel driveway and took a moment to catch his breath and take in the enormity of the Manor House. It was just like they described in the legend; dark and menacing. But this spurred Toby to investigate even more. He walked up to a window that caught his eye, something was glinting from inside. As he peered through he saw it was the kitchen, a steel saucepan hanging up on the wall glinting in the sun. On closer inspection Toby noticed drawings all over the kitchen walls. It looked like a kid had drawn them with crayon.

“Who uses crayon’s anymore? Haha!” Toby laughed to himself, it was all about gel pens in school now, crayons were lame.

But none the less, he wanted to see what the drawings were a bit closer up. In the legend the drawings were in the living room; maybe the legend was wrong?

Alice was stood in the corner of the kitchen, hoping with all her might that the young boy outside the window could see her drawings; could see that the drawings were of him, locked in the cupboard under the stairs. But he appeared to ignore her warnings.

“Don’t say I didn’t warn you…” She whispered.

As Toby walked up to the huge front door he thought he heard a voice, but shook it off and told himself to stop being stupid. The legend wasn’t true after all. He stopped and took in the beautiful features of the door as he opened it. Dark slats with cast iron decoration and the number 5 etched into the wood…

Credit: Alice1nWonder

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A Madman’s Guide to the Unrecommended 2

January 2, 2017 at 12:00 AM
Rating: 8.0. From 1 vote.
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(EN – You may wish to read A Madman’s Guide to the Unrecommended before continuing)

Hello again, my friend. If you find yourself asking ‘why is this strange person calling me a friend?’ then you’re obviously a bit out of touch… Hello, I’m The Madman and I’m back for round two. I’ll admit that I left you in a rather awkward place, and I must apologize. But there’s something extremely important that I need your help with. It’s in your best interest, if that sweetens the pot.
Last time we met, you were in a different world and I was, well, escaping from it. I hope you woke up and found your way home alright, and if you feel deceived I apologize for the inconvenience. But it was what had to be done, you see. At the very least, my advice and guidance on the supernatural world was no joke or tomfoolery. I knew (and still know) what I was talking about, and I trust you made it through any demonic encounters safely.
I also hope you enjoyed the little treat I put with this book –dark chocolate truffles are your favorite, aren’t they? Look, I know finding a strange manuscript with a baggie of rather expensive Belgian candies in your home wasn’t how you expected your day to go. But as I said; this is very important.
Oh, alright. I guess it’s time to cut to the chase. You released me from a prison of sorts, but something else got out as well. Something very dangerous. If I were to call it something, I’d call it ‘The Devil.’ Don’t laugh. I’m being very serious.
Quincy had indeed found himself smirking in disbelief. He caught himself at The Madman’s words and looked around apprehensively. The Madman knew him a little too well. He shook off his unwarranted paranoia and glanced back at the parchment in his hands.
It’s the best name to give it, honestly. It embodies things you can’t even comprehend –which can be quite a bit many things, but this is just… evil. That’s quite a nice word that has been unfortunately turned to cliché: evil. Look, this thing that you –we– let out isn’t something unique. But it is something dangerous. I know this is all quite sudden, but you don’t have much of a choice. It might even be a bit of fun.
Quincy ate another truffle, beginning to feel a little uneasy. If The Madman was worried about something, that thing was something to be terrified about –but why did The Madman need him specifically?
I need you because you’re the one who was in my… prison with me. Not to get overly technical here, but it has to be you my friend. Please don’t worry; it won’t be very painful–comparatively. Besides, I’ll be with you every step of the way.
Quincy was beginning to feel thoroughly uncomfortable now. He hadn’t signed up for saving the world. In fact, he had resolved to take a break from demons and summoning and the lot. The whole affair had taken a toll that he needed a rest from.
Quincy left the book on his desk and went downstairs for a cup of coffee. The stuff helped him calm down, and a little calm was something that he most definitely needed right now. He went through the actions mechanically: put the filter in the machine, pour in several scoops of ground beans, pour in the water, close it, turn it on. As the machine bubbled and steamed, Quincy’s thoughts did the same. He knew that he didn’t want to get back in any mischief with The Madman, but he didn’t think he had a choice. He was also shocked at the intimacy with which The Madman had been addressing him. The taste of the delicious truffles was now sour and unpleasant. He had been in Quincy’s room. His innermost sanctuary had been invaded. Understandably, Quincy was quite shook up.
The final drops of coffee made their way into the pot. The machine gurgled happily, proud of a job well down. Quincy emptied the liquid into a mug and gulped it down black. The bitterness brought him back to his senses.
Of course he shouldn’t help The Madman. He should burn the book and forget any of it ever happened. He even considered taking out his arsenal of protective items from their hiding place. Maybe if a cold shoulder wasn’t enough to keep The Madman at bay, a sackful of salt was. Quincy set his empty mug down and trudged upstairs, dreading having to face the looming issue above him. He picked up the book, and, in a fit of frustration, threw it across the room. It bounced sadly off the wall and tumbled to land on Quincy’s unmade bed.
“Leave me alone!” Quincy shouted at nobody in particular. Over the next week, Quincy did his best to forget any of it ever happened. He hid the book under a pile of refuse in his closet and tried to remove the word “supernatural” from his vocabulary. The Madman would just have to find somebody else, he told himself.
But The Madman wouldn’t find somebody else. One dreary morning, exactly a week after Quincy had first found the book, The Madman returned. This time, it wasn’t anything as gentle as a note in a book. Quincy woke at the usual time of much-too-early o’clock and fumbled to silence his screeching alarm clock. The early morning glow filtered in through the window. Birds chirped dully outside.
“Hello!” Quincy jumped and fell out of bed at the sudden voice. He scrambled to his feet and backed hastily away from the bed. Looming over the bed was a man. He was tall and handsome, with piercing eyes and a devilish smile. He had a very sharp, handsome jaw line and flawlessly styled hair. “Hope I didn’t startle you,” The Madman said, his smile spreading into a grin. Quincy’s heart dropped to his toes.
“W-wha-” he stammered.
“You look startled –did I startle you?”
“You-”
“Yes?”
“It’s you! The Madman! It really is you!” Quincy managed to stop his stammering and fumbled for his phone. The Madman patted himself in mock surprise.
“It is? Oh, would you look at that! It is me! Good detective work, Quincy. Oh what are you doing?” Quincy had dialed 911 and put the phone to his ear.
“I need the police at-” Quincy didn’t even finish the sentence before the line was cut dead. Static filled Quincy’s ear as he dropped his phone and faced The Madman’s bemused expression.
“What did you do that for?” The Madman asked.
“I told you to leave me alone! I don’t want any part of it!”
“I didn’t want any part of being stuck in an interdimensional prison for six-thousand years, but it happened. Sometimes, things are unfortunately out of your control. This is one of those things.”
“I won’t do it!”
“Don’t be so selfish –this isn’t all about you, you know.”
“Why do you care so much, anyways? You never even told me what I have to do, or exactly what happened.”
“I thought I made it pretty clear!” The Madman carried a note of genuine indignation in his voice.
“‘The Devil’ followed you out of Hell? Clear as day, excuse my ignorance.”
“Yes, it is clear as day!” The Madman seemed genuinely confused.
“Well, not to me.” Quincy said, crossing his arms.
“You saw what demons can do,” The Madman said.
“Firsthand –you taught me how.”
“Yes, well, it’s not pretty, is it?”
“No,” Quincy replied, shuddering involuntarily.
“Well imagine something a thousand times worse. Something you really don’t want to mess with.”
“You’ve said it a hundred times. Why should I care?”
“Do you like living, Quincy?”
“Yes, I like living.”
“Then you should care. Because nobody will be doing much living if you don’t help me.” Quincy was about to reply when The Madman cut him off. “Oh, and it is sort of your fault.”
“What?” Quincy was outraged.
“Well, you know, you were the one who let me out.”
“Don’t you dare blame me! You tricked me! You’re the nasty, manipulative, conniving demon here!”
“Ouch. Harsh. But then again, fair point.” There was a long and awkward silence. “So. Are you in?”
“I don’t have much of a choice, do I?”
“Nope.”
“Can I at least get out of my pajamas?”
“As long as you get into something else,” The Madman said distastefully. “Besides, I have to do a little hunting. Be back soon!” Before Quincy could react, The Madman was gone with all the noise of a snowflake falling onto a feather pillow.
Quincy wanted to believe it was all a dream –just a fantastic, ludicrous dream– but he knew it wasn’t. With a sense of great and dawning responsibility, Quincy dressed himself appropriately for saving the world. Two old sneakers, one pair of jeans with holes in both knees, and a college football jersey later, he was ready.
The next step was to retrieve his protective items. Quincy opened his closet and withdrew the gimmicky wooden chest in which he had stuffed all the materials he needed for summoning. He laid them out carefully: a large Ziploc gallon-bag of sea salt, an assortment of red wax candles, and collection of heirlooms that served as items of power. Like a hunter choosing the perfect arrow, Quincy selected his item. It was a plain gold ring on a plain gold chain. A relatively unremarkable trinket to look at, but it had belonged to Quincy’s grandmother, and had been in the family for generations.
“Is that a Ziploc bag?” The now familiar voice cut through Quincy’s remembrance.
“You have to stop doing that! Learn to knock!” Quincy turned as he retorted to see The Madman looking down at him with amusement.
“Your salt. It’s in a big old plastic baggie.”
“Yes, so?”
“Oh, nothing. It’s just a little sketchy, is all.”
“It’s all I had!”
“If you say so. Ah good, your item of power. That’s a strong one –I can feel it from here.”
“Are you sure it isn’t sketchy?” Quincy said bitterly.
“What’s with all the attitude? I found us a lead, by the way.”
“That was fast.”
“Don’t insult me. Did you hear about any disasters lately? Any huge, extremely destructive, fatal disasters?”
“There was a fire in some shopping mall that was on the news. Lots of people died –why?”
“Well, that wasn’t coincidence. Up for a little field trip?” And with that, The Madman strode out of the room with Quincy jogging to keep up.
“I didn’t pack the salt!” Quincy complained as they bounced down the stairs.
“Do you really think a thirty cent bag of cooking salt will save you from the Devil himself?”
“It would have made me feel better!”
“Sorry. I don’t care about your feelings that much. Do you have a car?”
The drive to the burnt-out mall was a long, awkward one. It was extremely strange to see The Madman sitting in an old 2002 Toyota Camry, fiddling with the window. He didn’t seem to belong.
“Could you stop doing that, please?” Quincy asked in irritation after The Madman had rolled the window up and down for the hundredth time.
“Oh, is it bothering you?” Quincy gripped the steering wheel harder. “I’ll take that as a yes,” The Madman continued, rolling the window up pointedly.
“I can’t go any farther, there’s a police line.” Quincy stopped the car several feet away from the hefty fortification of yellow tape and white wooden barricades. There were several police cars parked with their flashing sirens spinning silently. Officers stood stolidly, barking at pedestrians and news crews to stand back. Beyond laid a scene of utter carnage: the old mall’s parking lot had been turned into a dead border between the charred and melted carcass of the building and the healthy land beyond.
Quincy had seen the mall on the news, but in person it was much more terrible. He couldn’t shake the knowledge that over a dozen people had been burned alive in the fire, their ashes mingling with the rubble of their tomb. ‘Faulty wiring,’ the news report had said.
The Madman stepped out of the car confidently and began to approach the police line. Quincy leaned out of his window and called after him.
“Where are you going?”
“Come on, we’re going to take a look.”
“But there’re cops-” The Madman ignored Quincy and continued walking. Reluctantly, Quincy followed.
“I don’t think I can even park there,” Quincy complained. Once again, he was ignored.
“Hello, officer.” The Madman had grabbed the attention of the nearest police officer.
“I’ll have to ask you to stand back, sir. The area’s not safe.” The officer’s tone made it clear that he didn’t want to be dealing with the Madman at that moment. He eyed up the strange man in front of him.
“Yes, of course. Just one thing, if I may.” The Madman put a hand on the officer’s shoulder. Quincy jumped in his seat and scrambled out of the car.
“Hey! What are-” Before Quincy could complete his sentence, the policeman was smiling at the Madman jovially.
“You take as much as time as you need sir,” he said, docking his cap. “Your friend too,” he continued, glancing over the Madman’s shoulder at Quincy.
“I wouldn’t say he’s my friend, but thank you anyway! Come on, Quincy.” The Madman swept past the officer and ducked under the caution tape. Quincy jogged to keep up. As he passed the cop, he noticed a dopey smile on the man’s face. His eyes were glazed over and skated over Quincy as if he wasn’t there.
“What did you do to that cop?” Quincy asked as he caught up to the Madman, who was gazing at the ruined mall pensively.
“Hm?”
“You did something to him, he’s all loopy now.”
“I did do something, you’re right. I don’t know how you’re always so observant Quincy.” The Madman’s voice was loaded with enough sarcasm to floor an elephant. Quincy gritted his teeth and glanced back at the officer.
“Will he be okay?” Quincy asked.
“Who cares? Look at those burn marks…”
“Will he be okay?” Quincy said again, in a more slow and pointed manner.
“Yes, he’ll be fine. You should be more worried about yourself. Have you seen that shopping mall?” Quincy turned his full attention to the destruction in front of him. Up close, it was an even more gruesome sight.
“Are those-”
“Body parts, yes. Ooh, look, somebody dropped something.” The Madman bent over and picked something up from a pile of shattered concrete and held it up. Quincy almost vomited –it was a human finger with a diamond wedding ring perched below the second knuckle.
“Put that down! God, show some respect.” Quincy turned his attention away from the Madman and attempted to find something to distract himself. “What are we even looking for?”
“Clues. We’re looking for clues.”
“Isn’t that what cops are for?” Quincy looked back at the officer, who was now loading and unloading his gun while giggling, as if he were a fascinated child. “Are you sure that guy will be okay?”
“Yes. And I dare you to go and ask a detective if he has any leads on the evil demon. I’m not stopping you.”
“Point taken. Have you seen anything?”
“Not yet. But almost…”
“You haven’t even moved, and I think we’re attracting attention.”
“I’m not looking with my eyes.” The Madman could sense Quincy’s question coming. “Don’t worry about it. Look, just keep everyone away. I’m almost done.” Quincy glanced nervously at the police line. A couple reporters were talking to the befuddled police officer, who had dropped his gun and was now chewing on his badge. At least they’re focused on him, Quincy thought. At least they had made a good news story. Quincy could imagine the next day’s headlines: “Police Officer Gone Insane at Mall Massacre.”
“Got it!” The Madman turned to face Quincy. He did not look very happy.
“You know where it is?”
“Yes.”
“What? Wasn’t that the goal? To find out where it went?”
“Yes, but it’s here.”
“Here?! What do we do?”
“Hold on! I’m trying to think. It must be in the wreckage, but why has it stayed?”
“Are you really asking me?”
“Of course not! Just shut up for a second, there’s more.” The Madman dashed closer to the ruined building, stretching his hand out searchingly. Quincy, shocked, remained rooted to the spot. His attention had been drawn by a scuffle over by his car. The officer who The Madman had touched was being brought to the ground by two of his fellows. They hauled him up and dragged him to a newly-arrived ambulance. He kicked and giggled loudly as he was thrown into the car. Three more officers came over, and attempted to disperse the agitated press. One of the cops glanced over towards the building. As he did, he spotted The Madman and Quincy.
“Hey!” the officer yelled loudly. He pulled his radio to his mouth and said something into it. The other two officers turned, startled by the cry. They saw Quincy and set off towards him, shouting at him to halt. Quincy swallowed hard and began running towards The Madman.
“Company!” The Madman saw the approaching men and cursed loudly.
“Now I have to kill them!”
“What? No! Let’s just go!” Quincy grabbed The Madman’s arm and pulled him towards the building. The Madman reluctantly broke into a run that matched Quincy’s.
“I don’t think you want to go in there,” The Madman said darkly.
“Better than being arrested,” Quincy replied, They reached the looming husk of charred metal that was once a pizza restaurant and entered. The building had collapsed in such a way that the interior of the shop was almost cave-like in nature. The outside light, though mere feet away, didn’t seem to penetrate very far into the inky gloom ahead. Suddenly, the sound of grating metal and cracking plaster came as the doorway collapsed. Unseen bits of dust and pebbles of concrete dribbled onto Quincy’s head. Instinctively, he reached out to feel for The Madman.
“Hey!” Quincy’s hand had connected with The Madman’s back. “Oh, it’s just you.”
“Did I scare you?” Quincy teased, trying to ward off a growing sense of terror. The Madman ignored him and instead muttered something under his breath. A spark flashed in the dark. It caught and exploded into a crackling orange flame, flooding the room with a warm light. Quincy could see that The Madman held the fire in his naked palm like a torch.
“You really got us into a mess here,” The Madman said drily. “Can you feel it?” Quincy swallowed hard and nodded. There was an overpowering sense of dread in the air. It was unnatural and off-putting. Quincy felt as if he was on the brink of bursting into shivers, or fleeing for any possible exit. Ahead lay only blackness; a darkness laden with an unseen horror.
“I feel it,” Quincy whispered.
“Stay close. Don’t trust anything you see in there, Quincy. Nothing.” The Madman raised the fire. They could see the door to the main mall space, which had been spared the fire’s wrath. Past the soot-covered entrance, however, nothing but silky black could be revealed.
“We’re going in there?”
“We can’t go back. It’s not letting us.”
“Why did you let me go in here if you knew this would happen?”
“Right, blame me if it makes you feel better.” Quincy didn’t reply. He was seized by another wave of anxiety and panic that he had to fight to control.
“Let’s just go,” Quincy said through gritted teeth. “Let’s just get out of here,” he continued, more quietly this time. The Madman took the lead, stepping one hesitant foot into the pool of ink ahead. The safe glow from his palm was almost useless; it was as if the tendrils of darkness were snuffing the flame like so many reaching, clawing fingers.
“Follow the light, and follow it close.” With that final vocation, The Madman disappeared into the void. The light, which Quincy had been looking at eagerly, was suddenly gone. Quincy’s heart dropped to his shoes. He took several steps after The Madman, reaching his hands out in a vain attempt to make contact.
“Hey! Wait up!” Quincy’s voice sounded faded and muffled. It was almost like he was surrounded by a thick curtain. He couldn’t see anything. “Come back!” Quincy’s voice broke. The cry was more of a plea –Quincy was beginning to panic. His resolve failed, and he decided to get back to the pizza restaurant. He had only taken a few steps into the mall, after all.
Quincy turned, took a step, and promptly ran into a hard obstacle. His forehead collided with a slab of concrete –a wall. A sob escaped him. That wall wasn’t there before, there was supposed to be a doorway. Had he gotten lost in the dark? He spun, hands grasping at the dark, hoping to find something –anything– that would bring him to salvation.
My phone! The revelation came like bolt of lightning. Quincy fumbled at his jeans, trying to fish his cell phone from his pockets. He grasped it, turned on its flashlight, and swung it up. As he did so, an unseen hand grabbed the phone and jerked it into the dark with inhuman speed. The light, like The Madman’s fire, was extinguished. Quincy’s heart stopped. He fell to the floor, breathing so hard and fast he thought his lungs would burst. What was that? What… what was..oh, God, what- His thoughts raced at an impossible tempo, leaving him incapable of rational thought. He remained there for what seemed like an eternity; hyperventilating on the cold floor, trying desperately to see what could not be seen through the shroud that covered his every sense.
Quincy had never experienced true terror. He was no stranger to fear, but what gripped his heart now was different than fear. He could feel it, taste it, smell it; a festering, ancient sense of utter dread. He was alone, oh so alone. A pattering of footsteps sounded from behind Quincy. They clicked and scuttled, thudded and squelched. It was almost as if each step belonged to a different creature. Quincy’s imagined what could be making the noises and began to shake violently. Cold sweat covered his entire body. The steps came again. They tapped closer and closer until they stopped just in front of Quincy. He whimpered involuntarily, trying fruitlessly to see what was in front of him.
Tap. The thing was coming. Tap. With each slow footstep, Quincy felt his sanity slip farther and farther away. He wanted to run, to stand, to kick out and yell, but he couldn’t move so much as a finger. Tap tap. It was right on top of him. Quincy squeezed his eyes shut instinctively, waiting for the moment of impact.
“Hey!” Quincy opened his eyes. He was met with a painful orange blaze. He shut his eyes again and put his hand up in front of his face.
“Madman?”
“I told you to stay close, what are you doing on the floor?” The Madman glared down at Quincy critically. Quincy fought down the urge to let out a sob of relief. He stood and dusted himself off shakily.
“I felt tired, wanted to take a nap,” he said, trying to distract himself from the shock of what had just happened.
“Get up, and don’t make jokes. This place isn’t very funny,” The Madman dragged Quincy up by the arm. Quincy was surprised at The Madman’s seriousness.
“Do you know where we’re going?”
“Sort of, just follow me and don’t lose me this time. Hold my shirt if you have to.” The Madman began walking again, barely giving Quincy enough time to grab his shoulder and follow. They continued in silence, skirting any obstacles that they came to. Quincy felt much safer in the company of The Madman, yet he still felt the underlying unease that seemed to infest the entire building.
They walked for what seemed like an eternity. Each minute that passed felt like an hour. Quincy’s nerves were still rubbed raw, yet nothing else happened. The ruined mall was completely silent. Suddenly, The Madman stopped moving. Quincy bumped into him roughly and staggered back.
“Ow. What’s going on?” The Madman gave no response. “Hey, did you find something?” Quincy asked, louder this time. Again, there was nothing but eerie silence. Quincy began to feel scared.
“Quincy, isn’t it?” The Madman’s voice sounded bored, disinterested.
“What?”
“Your name, it’s Quincy. Or am I wrong?”
“No –are you crazy? What’s gotten into you?”
“Is that why they call me The Madman? Am I crazy?” Suddenly, The Madman whirled onto Quincy. He held the ball of flame out threateningly, illuminating his face from the bottom. Quincy stepped back in shock –The Madman’s face was contorted evilly, his usually handsome jawline was tightened and twisted into a leering snarl.
“Wha-” Quincy tried to speak, but fear closed his throat.
“Am I crazy?” The Madman repeated slowly, putting a dangerous emphasis on each word.
“No, I wouldn’t say so,” Quincy said nervously, taking another step back.
“It’s very scary in here, isn’t it?”
“If this is your idea of a joke, I want to remind you we have more important things to be doing,” Quincy finally found the resolve to feel angry.
“More important things…” The Madman repeated the words, musing over them thoughtfully. “Like hunting the Devil?” In an instant, The Madman was gone. In his place was an impossibly black silhouette. Quincy’s heart stopped. There was no way he should be able to see whatever it was that had taken The Madman’s place. The fire had been extinguished and there was absolutely no light, yet the thing before him was darker than the blackness that surrounded it. It was like a void, creating a stark contrast with the very fabric of reality.
“You’re not The Madman,” Quincy whispered hoarsely. He was at a complete and terrified loss for words.
“Did you figure that out yourself, Quincy?” The creature bent forward, lowering its ragged head to look Quincy in the eyes.
“Where is he?” Quincy said in an even meeker tone. He could sense an overwhelming power emanating from whatever was before him. He didn’t have to be told that he was completely powerless to protect himself.
“That is a good question. Why are you here, Quincy? What did he say to you to convince you to come here with him?”
“He said I had to, to save to world.” Quincy answered without thinking, like he was forced to speak.
“The entire world? He thinks rather highly of me… Do you think I could destroy the world, Quincy?”
“I don’t know,” Quincy replied truthfully, if not against his will. “What are you?” As soon as the words left Quincy’s mouth, everything changed to sudden brightness. The darkness that had so greedily clung to every available space was, in an instant, gone. Quincy found that he was standing in the middle of the destroyed mall. Large beams of sunlight spilled down from the ruined roof above. They gloomily illuminated the sad, charred, and empty skeletons of shops, fountains, and planters. Quincy automatically looked around for any of the horrors his mind had created earlier, but there was nothing to be seen.
“What am I?” The question drew Quincy’s attention back to the creature. To his surprise, the looming dark monster was gone. In his place sat a child, raven-haired and pale-faced. The boy looked up at Quincy and smiled hollowly. “Surely, The Madman told you what I am,” the child stood, smiling thinly at Quincy. As Quincy watched, the boy changed grotesquely, his spine arching rapidly and his short black hair growing and graying at an alarming rate. His face, once youthful, chiseled with age. Canyons of wrinkles now sprouted from the corner of his eyes and crept down his face to loose, thin jowls that hung off his tight lips.
“The Devil,” Quincy whispered, his voice muted with terror.
“No,” the creature crooned, its youthful voice now a wizened croak, “I’m your worst nightmare.” It took a step forward, smiling wide, wide, until half of its decrepit face was swallowed up in that evil smile.
“Cliché, boring –overall a 3/10.” The creature paused its charge. Quincy recognized the voice, but he dared not look away from that smile. The Madman stepped into view behind the creature, chin up, shoulders squared, and a look of refined smugness on his face. The creature’s eyes never left Quincy’s.
“I was about to have some fun,” it said with the tone of a child made to go to bed early. The change in voice was so sudden that Quincy nearly looked around for the newcomer. In an instant, the creature was a young boy again. “I was about to have so much fun!” It said furiously, whirling on The Madman.
“It’s time to go home.” The Madman said coolly.
“It’s time to go home,” the boy mocked. “Maybe it is time. On the other hand, maybe it isn’t!” The boy screeched like a banshee and leapt at The Madman like a crazed wolf. They fell to the ground together, writhing and twisting like a knot of snakes. Quincy watched, dumbfounded. He wanted desperately to run, but something kept him transfixed. He watched the bizarre fight: boy against man.
With a heave, The Madman threw the boy off, sending him skidding across the ruined tiles. The Madman reached into his jacket a pulled something out. It caught the light, Quincy gasped. It was the mirror which he had buried when he had read The Madman’s guide.
“Quincy, take this!” The Madman tossed the mirror to Quincy, who caught it with a fumble.
“What? Why?” Quincy glanced over at the boy, who was starting to get up. He was changing, growing taller and thinner as he peeled himself off the ground.
“No time for stupid questions! When I say so, break that mirror!” The boy was now fully standing, but he was a boy no longer. It was as if some great hand had stretched his pale limbs like taffy. His hands, attached to boneless wrists, coiled on the floor. His neck teetered under his head, which was now several feet higher in the air.
The monstrosity flailed its arms towards The Madman and screeched as it broke into a loping, uneven charge. The Madman met the beast at a full sprint. Once again they clashed, but this time The Madman was engulfed in a tangle of tentacle-like limbs. A series of cracks sounded, and The Madman yelled out in pain: “Now, Quincy! Break it now!”
Quincy brought the mirror down on the ground with all the force he could muster. It shattered into a million shards and threw them in every direction. Quincy looked up, only to see that the ruins of the mall were empty. The Madman and his assailant were nowhere to be seen.
A sudden flash of white-hot pain flashed behind Quincy’s eyes. He fell to the floor, clutching his temples and groaning. From somewhere floated an echo of a voice. Quincy looked around, trying to figure out who was speaking, but seeing nobody. The pain came again, this time greater in intensity. Quincy screamed out loud, scrabbling uselessly against his own skull.
“Dismiss me!” the voice came again, more clearly. It was The Madman, but it seemed to come from within Quincy’s throbbing head. “Say the words! Quick, Quincy, now!” The frantic urgency in The Madman’s voice goaded Quincy to his feet. The world around him spun, but he fought to keep his balance.
“I will you to leave this place! Go from whence you came!” Quincy yelled out into the ruined mall. Silence followed. It was a pure silence, like the calm that comes when the final raindrop has fallen, when the last bolt of lightning has been cast. Quincy dropped to his knees. “Madman?” he said weakly. There was no reply, and no more pain. Mercifully, Quincy fell into unconsciousness.
. . .
Quincy woke in his own bed. He thought about the strange nightmare he had just had. The memories trickled in slowly, still shrouded in obscurity. His heart began to hammer. None of it was a nightmare; he had been in that mall.
“Calm down, kid.” Quincy then noticed the figure in the corner of the room. It was The Madman, leaning against the wall nonchalantly. “You’re fine. It’s over.”
“The Devil, you fought it, you disappeared-”
“Yes.” The Madman was very matter-of-fact.
“That’s all you have to say? What the hell happened? Where is it?”
“It’s back where it was.” The Madman’s voice adopted a tone of sadness. “And, as it seems, so am I. You’re dreaming, Quincy. But you’ll wake up soon enough.”
“Why did you tell me to break that mirror? Are you going to tell me what really happened?”
“No, that’d take far too long and I don’t think you’d understand it. I’ll give you the quick version, though. When you read my guide and freed me from that painting, I became tied to you. It wasn’t that different from a normal summoning, really. The mirror was a part of the ritual; it was my anchor to your world. But the thing that followed me out, it was also tied to you –to the mirror.”
“Breaking the mirror broke the summons.” Quincy said, understanding. “That’s why I could dismiss you –both of you.”
“Yes.”
“But you’re stuck again, with that thing?”
“Yes.”
“Well way to waste my time! I went through all sorts of hell to get you out, and then went through some more just to put you back!”
“Go ahead, throw a pity party. You’re alive, at least.”
“Aren’t you upset? You know, being a prisoner again and all.”
“I shouldn’t have ever left. I have to be here. You wouldn’t understand why.”
“To keep an eye on whatever followed you out?”
“Yes, something like that.” The Madman crossed to Quincy and put out a hand. “We aren’t going to see each other again. I want you to burn my guide and forget this demon business. I have no idea how you’ve survived this long, but it would be a shame to see you die. You’ve been so very entertaining.” Quincy took The Madman’s hand and shook it.
“It’s certainly been something. Bye, Madman.” Quincy didn’t want to dawdle with pleasantries. He wanted to be home safe as fast as possible.
“Goodbye, Quincy.” With that, Quincy woke. He was still on the floor of the ruined mall, alone. Two police officers stood over him, shining their flashlights into his face.
“Kid, what the hell are you doing in here?” one of the officers asked.
“Long story,” Quincy muttered, vowing never to so much as say the word “demon” ever again.

Credit: Daniel Zaturensky

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Stonehenge

December 30, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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Stonehenge is one of the great mysteries of our world. Erected almost six-thousand years ago, these ten-ton slabs of stone make up one of the seven wonders of ancient times. But how did it get there, and why?

—-

Nan’uk stepped cautiously on the grass, his footsteps carefully muffled. The lone hunter had been stalking his prey for hours, the animal still unaware of his presence. It gazed around the plains before returning to graze in the tall grass, its shiny coat shivering slightly as it did. Nan’uk crept ever closer, the grass making a soft shushing sound, masking his presence in the wind. The blazing golden-yellow of the grass seemed to shine under the harsh sun. He looked around before noticing a small bead of water running down his forehead. Sweat. He knew he had to get out of the plains and into the shade before heat exhaustion and dehydration wore him down, but it seemed such a shame to waste all that time tracking an animal just to give up. Just a little while longer; he had to get some food for his tribe. Coming home empty-handed meant that he wouldn’t eat tonight, making the hunt tomorrow even tougher. He grunted, venting out hot air from his nose. He would succeed today, even if it meant risking death to do so.

The animal had run to a large plain just over the hill. Nan’uk stalked it slowly, making sure to stay below the grass so as not to be spotted and ruin his chance of making the kill. The animal, only about a hundred meters off, would be spooked if he got too close. Simply going across this hill was probably be enough to scare it off, but he needed a clear shot. He drew his bow off his shoulder, and took out one of the few arrows he had. Coming to the breast of the hill, he nocked the arrow, and drew his bow. He breathed out, a long stream air blowing from his lungs, before letting the arrow fly. It made a whistling sound as it streaked through the air, and hit its target straight in the side. The beast fell over, a burst of blood discolouring the grass below. Nan’uk grinned, the adrenaline from a shot on target bursting through him. He threw caution to the wind, and sprinted down the hill towards his target. It would be easy to make a coup de grace this time, the animal was already beginning to die. He drew his spear, the bullreed strap sliding off him smoothly. His kill lowered its head as he arrived, and he decided that the final blow would be unnecessary. He grabbed its leg, and began to drag it off before he noticed something.

In the distance, about four or five-hundred meters away, there was a structure of some kind.

Ignoring everything else, he started off towards the monument, dragging his kill cumbersomely along behind him. The animal weighed more than it ever seemed to when it was alive, making the relatively short walk seem like a monumental hike, but hell if he were going to miss this. His footsteps making a soft shuk-shuk sound as he walked, he carried on to the monument. The grass swayed in the wind, though as he came closer, he noticed that the grass seemed to gradually flatten down, as if bowing down to a mighty being. He smiled, before setting down his prey and turning around; up close, the monumental structure seemed even more unbelievable than it had in the distance. He gazed upward at it, shielding his eyes from the blazing sun with his large, hairy hand. His jagged fingernails created a strange shadow over his face, as he held his ever wavering hand up to the light. The rock pillars of the structure glared dully down on him, as if to say ‘go away’. This palace, Nan’uk realized, was meant for something bigger. Ignoring this, and all other instincts telling him to run, in a haze of morbid curiosity, he stepped into the ring.

Inside, Nan’uk could see everything about this place. It was a large circle, its edges defined by stone slabs standing upright like dominos, holding up other slabs on top of them. The dark grey pillars cast glaring shadows down into the middle of the circle, making the shape of a crescent moon. He walked up to a single pillar, his eyes darting around the place, as if to watch for something that wasn’t there. The way the grass bent down towards the center of the circle before wholly disappearing, the way the sun seemed to brighten nearer to the middle of the circle, everything about it offset him… just a little bit. Still, he had to know more about this place, more about the way it worked, enough to explain away everything strange about it. He wanted, no, needed to know more. He came up to a stone pillar. The smooth stone seemed to glow in the mid afternoon sun, the heat almost radiated off of the stone. He looked at it, before cautiously reaching his hand out.

Then, he touched it.

Every bone in his body screamed out with pain, creating a single, wavering howl. He drew his hand away, and staggered backwards, the pain still wracking his body. Waves of it washed over him like seas washing over rock; the frothing agony viciously attacked him, making him fall heavily onto his stomach before losing consciousness. He closed his eyes for the final time before all the life drained away from him.

A mortal had desecrated their meeting place. They could no longer go where they had gone so many times to discuss great matters that a mind like that human’s could never understand. They had worked tirelessly for years upon years to put this planet in perfect balance, to try to help its pitiful creatures reach the pinnacle of art, philosophy and science, but that was all gone now. It was a shame to lose so much from a simple man, running his hand along a stone pillar. Ah, well. They still had many more tries to get this right. Time and nature would wear away this place now that it was no longer protected. It would be interesting to see where the creatures of this planet went without help, but that would be a matter for later. For now, they simply had to find a new place to go.

—-

Stonehenge. A meeting place of the gods. The great stone slabs decorating the land weren’t put there by mortal man, but rather by god. So why, you ask, do they no longer answer our prayers? That’s simple. They’ve moved on. We are but one in a line of many, and they have long forgotten us since.

Credit: Derpyspaghetti

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