There's a local legend where I come from. They're simply referred to as the willow men. There's hardly a need for the law enforcement in this town. The willow men take care of all that. Every single step taken, every word spoken, every drop of blood spilt.. The willow men know about it before anyone else. Believe me, anyone that has invoked the wrath of the willow men has gone missing without a trace. That's why when I realized what I had done it was too late. The willow men were coming. She just wouldn't shut the hell up. No matter what I said and what I would do she was just hysterical. She kept pacing about the house screaming. She said she found this and that and knew I was cheating on her. She'd ask me who it was and I told her she was crazy. I guess I wore that excuse out. After a while, I couldn't take her damn voice anymore. I'd walk room to room and she'd follow me. When we got to the kitchen I had my fill. I reached for the first knife I could find and jammed it into her throat. The face of anger and sorrow melted into one of despair and disbelief. The crimson fluid ran freely all over her blouse and she dropped to her knees, scrambling around on the floor. She clawed at the tile and made gurgling noises which only served to infuriate me. I grabbed an iron skillet that had been pre-heating on the stove and took a swing at her head. A wet crack followed the impact and while I didn't need to keep going I did. I lost count of the number of times I hit her but I had a good deal of blood on me. What was left of her head was being held together by thin particles of bone and blood continued to rush out. I dropped the skillet to the floor with a loud clang. I wish remorse could have followed so I would've felt a least a bit human but it didn't. I was just happy to be rid of her. With a grunt I picked her body up off the floor and hoisted it unto my shoulder. Her face hung next to me, dead eyes staring with conviction. I could only chuckle. As soon as I got outside, I dropped the ragged heap onto the ground and went to find a shovel. That's when I knew they were watching.

I was born in Mexico, my father was a goat farmer, and my mother used to weave baskets so that we could have at least two meals per day. We were very poor, and me and my siblings had the misfortune of being born in extreme weather, my oldest brother was born on the coldest day of winter, my elder sister in a spring deluge, and I was born in the thick of summer, and despite the fact that the 80's had brought advances in the standard of living for the world's citizens, it seemed to have forgotten us, in our tiny two bedroom cabin. So when my father heard about the H1-B Visa program through my uncle, he eagerly signed up. Every spring, he would go to work as a laborer on a pepper and tobacco farm in Texas. The work was hard, but the pay was good, and he was always home in time for Christmas, so he didn't complain. He was saving up money so that we could emigrate to the United States, and so he worked from 1988 until 1991, saving what he could. He made sure not a penny was wasted, on the long winter bus ride from the farm to Mexico, he would sleep, so that the hunger pangs would not bother him. He doesn't usually talk much about his days as a migrant worker, but he did tell us that one day, in the winter of 1989, I believe, he could not sleep. The bus had made a rest stop near a small taco stand. the tacos smelled wonderful, and everyone on the bus formed a long line towards the taco stand, eager and salivating. The man behind the small dirty counter was very friendly, he said, but there was something that was a little "off" about him. The man scooped out the steaming, spiced meat onto fresh, piping hot, flour tortillas like a machine, taking the money in one hand and serving up a big loaded plate with the other. “Tacos De Venado!”, His voice rang out. Apparently he was selling venison tacos, or deer meat. “Compren sus delicious’s taquitos de venado!” My father debated whether or not he should risk spending 2 dollars of his hard earned money. Fortunately my father is quite impatient, and detests long lines, so he went back to the bus, and quickly fell asleep. The next winter the bus again made a rest stop at the man’s taco stand, and again the passengers formed a long line along with other people, they had become addicted they said, every year they waited impatiently to return to this small, dingy taco stand. My father of course, stayed on the bus. He was used to the feeling of hunger, he lived with it throughout his childhood, he would surely survive. So again, he slept, dreaming of a big bowl of my mother’s chicken soup, with a side of hot corn tortillas (which we could afford by then). The next spring, he left again, it wasn’t a very good year, the weather was horrible and so the crop yield was low, the farm had no choice but to let the workers go home a month early. My father said that the fellow workers were abuzz with excitement, they didn’t have to eat their tacos in the cold this year! The men eagerly counted the number of miles, their excitement mounting as they drew closer to the rest stop. Three more miles, two more miles, one more mile, until they finally reached the spot where the man had his taco stand.

Sean’s house was covered from head to toe in family photographs. Some from family retreats to Ireland, others showing lost family relatives. Most of these photographs would include Sean in them, so it was only natural that he would look at them from time to...

I am currently sitting in front of my computer, scared witless. Any moment now I am going to be killed. Today a friend of mine told me a story. His aunt had taken care of him since he was a small boy, and she told him last night about how his parents died. He did a very fair imitation of her (I knew them both pretty well): "They were doing mission work in some nasty little South American country when a man burst into the mission hospital one night, terrified out of his mind. He told them that his sister had been killed by a Muerta blanca, and that he was certain that it was coming for him next. What is a Muerta blanca? Apparently it was some sort of bogey-man, something like that dumb chupacabra or whatever. They called it the White Death or the White Girl, because it was the soul of someone who hated life so much that they came back in their shrouds to kill those who told of them. The man had been told about the vengeful spirit by his sister hours before her death. It was a girl with dead, black eyes that wept bile. The thing moved without ever actually moving its legs, and it stalked its victims back to their homes. Now, if you weren't already aware that this thing was following you, once it got back to your house, it would start knocking on your door...

Still no messages on my phone. I guess he wasn't going to call me back after all. I can't really blame him, maybe I came on a bit too fast yesterday. I had noticed him long before he noticed me. His shiny black hair and unnatural blue eyes. I wasn't the only one watching him, that's for sure. His movements were elegant in a boyish way. And his smile...his smile. I would die for that smile. Still no messages... I thought about calling him, maybe apologize for going too fast yesterday. I'm a coward, I know, but I just couldn't bring myself to dial his number. Besides he'd promised he'd contact me when he's ready. So I'll wait. I'm patient. I know, I'll just casually stroll past his house. Just to see if he's home. Maybe he's out, that would explain why he couldn't call me yet. He only lives half an hour away anyway. Maybe he's shy and is scared to call me. Silly boy. I'll go to him and tell him that he doesn't have to be scared. That I don't mind if he needs time. He lives pretty secluded in a farm on the outskirts of town. I can hear the sheep in the stables as I approach. My heart skips when I see there's lights burning inside. He must be there, he told me yesterday his parents would be gone for the weekend. They left him to look after the sheep for those days. Poor baby, that must be hard work. He was probably just too busy to call me. I'll have to stay here until his parents come back and help him take care of all those sheep.

As Jake trudged through the cornfield, he recalled the argument he'd had that morning with his Pa. "But they've only been up a month-- they don't need changin'!", he had yelled. "Yes they do, Jake, every one! And I want that first scarecrow replaced by sundown!" He...

The last storm was already on the horizon when I woke that Sunday morning. It hung in the south, a solid black wall of dust, churning and seemingly motionless. I’d every intention of sleeping late into the morning, as had been my Sunday custom since Adele and the girls had left, but the distant rumbling and crackle of lightning drug me from the bed just after sunrise. I shuffled drowsily around the farm in the early morning, lashing the doors of the barn, rounding up the two stubborn hogs, and shuttering the windows; but soon I found myself rooted in place, captivated by the writhing shape in the sky. It stretched impossibly wide across the open sky, rolling across the border from Nebraska. The air had a dry, electric chill, and already the sickly yellow wheat swayed in anticipation. I was in a trance, eyes locked on the distance when I saw a small light dust plume to the west, picked out in stark contrast with black beyond. The horse and rider at the base of the little dust devil approached the farm at a sharp trot, and my dust bleary eyes registered the silhouette. Carl Jordan had owned the farm next to mine for as along my family has been in the Dakotas, I grew up with his great booming laughter warming our home nearly every night. His usual broad, yellowing smile was absent beneath recently trimmed mustache and broad rimmed black hat; his dark suit was blotted with fine layer of grit that he brushed absently at. “Eddie.” His voice was tired and small as he looked down at me. “No church today?” I hadn’t been in months and he’d once admitted to envying me. I just didn’t see the need any longer, and I’ve relished the extra hours. I ignored the question. “What’s troubling you, Carl? Mattie all right?” I asked. He turned towards the south, to the storm and sucked loudly on his lower lip. After a few moments of thought he sighed deeply, with a phlegmy rumble. “The Hattersons are dead. All of them, ‘cept Saul.” He said evenly, not returning his gaze to mine. I drank this in for a moment, feeling the insides my sinuses beginning to burn in the cold and arid breeze. I briefly dwelt upon the image of the youngest Hatterson, a tow headed toddler with the dim looking smile I’d seen at the general store with Saul and Molly a few days prior.

You volunteer at the mental health clinic. Given the dangerous nature of the residents, they assigned you the rooms of the less violent patients. The suicidal. Those who hear voices. Those that don't say anything at all. You become close to a mute man named Arthur....

There was a time when I believed running might help; if I could pack up my few belongings and burn the rest under cover of darkness and flee, I could start over somewhere new. But in this bleak frostbitten place, I admit to myself, truly, that I cannot outrun him, that I can never escape him. And should I slip into the warm embrace of doubt after an unnaturally long stretch of peaceful, empty days, he will be only too happy to remind me of this. There's almost nothing left he can take from me. The days before him are fading like an aged photograph now, a hazy yellow dream of stability and happiness with a long future of happy possibilities stretched ahead. Today, I am huddled in the eaves of a collapsing barn in the Yukon Territory, desperately trying to start a fire with sodden and rotting hay. The more I burn now, the less I have to use as a blanket. It is a delicate balance that I have not quite mastered. I hitchhiked across the border two months ago, and have been making my way north steadily. Going any other direction than north is no longer an option. I do not know what I will do when I reach the Artic Ocean. Perhaps continue across the sea ice, if it has not thinned to the point of breaking. What I cannot do, ever, is return to my life, to Seattle. I can never see my son again.

It seems absurd to think that just less than a year ago, my life was unfractured, whole. The pieces of my life were trite and predictable. I was an insomniac, and used to lie awake staring at the ceiling, chewing over my doubts and secret fears: that I may not be able to keep up house payments, that I may not love my wife any longer, that I would repeat my father's failures with my son. These phantoms of doubt and fear filled my bleeding stomach with ragged holes that I recall now with almost fond nostalgia. How easy it all was, then.

This is the tale of an incident that occurred to me a few years ago, when I was a younger man, and convinced that the world was exactly as I saw it, and worked exactly as I was told it worked. I had just finished my undergraduate degree at a college I shall not name, in the middle of Wales. Though my degree was interesting enough, I really wanted to leave behind the books and the academia, and immerse myself in the study and practical research of the paranormal. Though my funds were slight, at best, and my student loan needed repaying, on returning to London, I placed an advertisement in my local gazette, asking for anyone who had experienced paranormal phenomena, and didn't mind talking about it to give me a call. I couldn't offer anything in the way of a reward for their troubles, but I did promise to buy them a drink or two while we talked over what they had experienced. It didn't take long for me to receive my first and only caller, and to be honest, I was quite surprised that my ad had this much success. But I am not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. The call came while my mobile was turned off, but a number had been left on voicemail, and a few days later, I called back. I didn't want to respond immediately, though I don't know why. Perhaps I wanted to seem more professional. Like I had a hundred people on a waiting list or something. Anyway, I called the next evening, and was greeted by the voice of a young man, who identified himself as Theo Twining. I asked if we could meet, but he declined, with a dry and solemn chuckle. I told him that it didn't matter, and that we could conduct the conversation just as easily by telephone. Perhaps he was shy, I told myself. His situation was this: Since about two weeks ago, he (and he paused for a good minute or two before recanting his tale, repeatedly telling me that I would think him stupid) had started to see worms, regular earthworms, across his path. I at first thought him a little bit paranoid before I heard the particulars of the tale. Not just outside, not just crossing his path, but in all manner of places. If he made a cup of coffee, there would be an earthworm, dried and boiled at the bottom of the cup. When he woke, he woke to find himself covered with five or six of them, and when he sat at his desk, they would crawl toward him from beneath the monitor screen, and from under his keyboard. He told me of how he lived in a neat-ish studio apartment on the third floor, and how this only happened very recently.

The doorbell rings, and you get up from where you sat staring stonily into space. You already know who is at your door, and why he is there. You open it, nodding numbly to the man. You make a note in your head that the man looks… sneaky, but you assume that must be because he’s a lawyer. You show him into your living room, dreading what is to come. The man hands you a CD he produces from his briefcase, and sets what looks like a birdcage on your coffee table. You can not see what is inside the cage, as it is covered in a blanket of embroidered silk. The man sits as you put the disc into your stereo and press play. You hear the sound of stressed breathing from the speakers as you take your seat. The lawyer hasn’t said a word, but you know the breathing to be that of your late friend, the last breathes of your friend. You can hear something in the background, behind your friend’s heavy breathes, as if someone, or something, was scratching at a door. You wonder if you’re hearing things, as the sound is barely audible in the recording. You look up as you hear her voice, as if she was in the room with you, as if she was alive. “The date is September the first of two thousand eight.” Her voice is shaky, every word she speaks is saturated with fear, “This is my last will and testament. Now, I don’t have much time. They’re almost here, so I’ll dispense the formalities and get on with what I have to say. This is the last day of my life, as you have probably already figured out."

Do you know what a Cordyceps is? I didn't either until 20 minutes ago. It's a family of thousands of different types of fungus, grows all around the word in various rainforests and jungles. The awful thing about them is they're parasitic, they grow on other animals. An ant happens to run into some spores, and then it starts to colonize his insides, starting with his brain. At some point, the ant starts to act visibly ill; standing in place and shivering, or walking in circles. If a fellow colony member sees him in this condition, he will be dragged to the border of the colony and exiled. Then, when it's almost over, the ant weakly climbs as high as he can up the vines, and locks his body on tight. Finally, he dies, and the fungus emerges from the back of his head, bursting forth like a long and foul fruit. After a short time, the little stalk spews forth its own spores, leaving the mummified and broken ant clinging to the stalk, his eye cavities filled with drying fungus. I mention this because last night, when I was up on the roof of my apartment complex, I found my brother's body. He's been back from 18 months on duty in the Philippines for less than three days. This was the first I'd seen him. My parents called me up the day before yesterday to tell me that he was on his way up. They told me he'd stayed in his room since he got home, and then suddenly got up and announced he was on his way to see me. They thought he was drunk, I'd thought he'd never made it. He must have come straight up to the roof and died, by the smell of it. I was just finishing a cigarette, all torn up with anxiety and head throbbing, and when the acrid smoke vanished I caught a whiff of rot on the hot wind. It took me just a few minutes before I'd found him; face down behind the vents and fans. A slimy gray column rose up obscenely from the base of his skull, and a frozen waterfall of roots and tendrils was dangling from his eye sockets and mouth. At the top of stalk was small arrangement of feathery wisps, a white powder drifting idly from it tips.

As a child, I was always quiet, and my conversations with others would always end up awkward. Because of that, I always preferred to be alone growing up. Which probably explains my strange obsession with toys, being as old as I am. They never talk....