I am wondering if anyone has ever shared this same experience, or anomaly – I’m not sure exactly what to call it. I’ve had it happen twice in my life so far. The way it just literally crops up out of absolutely nowhere, with only a last second warning, I live in constant fear that it will happen at any moment.
The first time it happened, I was seven years old. We had just won our little league game and the coach took us all to an ice cream shop in town. The ice cream shop was fairly small, so our team of ten kids created quite the rowdy and cramped environment. The teenage employees seemed overwhelmed, and looking back, I understand why: ten kids, hyped from a huge ball game win, were all pouring over the flavor selections and toppings. They pressed their little faces against the glass sneeze guard, smearing it with their dirty fingers and fogging it up with their hot breath.
During the game, I had gotten some dirt in my eye, so I slipped away to the bathroom. I locked the door behind me for privacy and took a look at my eye in the mirror above the sink. It was red, slightly irritated, and stung like maybe the dirt had lacerated it. I washed the dirt off my hands and then went to the stall where I proceeded to go to the bathroom. Once I finished, I exited the stall and returned to the sink to wash up once more before heading back out to make a decision on what ice cream I was going to order.
That’s when I saw something written on the mirror that I knew wasn’t there moments before. It said “Gaston’s turn.” It was written in red, but I wasn’t sure of the medium used. It didn’t drip like a liquid, but seemed more thick and smeary. I guess lipstick is the closest thing I could describe it to. After reading the two words in my head, the silence out in the ice cream shop became painfully obvious to me. It no longer sounded like a circus. I didn’t hear a single thing coming from the other side of the door.
Assuming maybe everyone had ordered and taken their ice creams outside, I hurried back out into the lobby. I immediately stopped, unable to process what I was looking at. Everyone was still there. Kids were at the counter, the two coaches stood by the wall, and the teenage employees were behind the counter. However, everyone was still. There wasn’t a single detection of movement. It was like I was looking at a frozen image of everyone, a screenshot of a moment in time. Their eyes were still open, a variety of expressions stuck on their faces. I thought it was a joke at first. I nervously laughed and made my way further into the lobby.
I approached my friend Tommy first. He was leaning up against one of the tables. I asked him what was going on, but he didn’t respond. His gaze was set on the menu behind the counter. I touched his arm and he felt like cold plastic. I looked at another kid close by and slowly approached him. He also felt like cold plastic. Next, I walked to the counter where the teens were. In the reflection of the glass, I briefly saw the image of a face. It was skeletal with huge, bulging eyes that almost made it look fake, or like a Halloween mask. I swung around, thinking someone was behind me, but there was no one except for the motionless room filled with my friends and coaches. Then I heard a whispering voice. It traveled through the lobby like a haunting wind weaving through a sea of trees.
“Now, it’s Gaston’s turn,” it said. It was barely audible, but I knew that’s what it said. It was just like the words on the bathroom mirror. A chill surged beneath my skin and I ran as quickly as I could back to the bathroom. I locked the door and looked at the mirror. The words were gone, but a splotchy red mess was caked in the sink like dried paint. I heard a scream come from the lobby next.
I rushed back out of the bathroom to where the rowdiness had revived itself. But something was different now. The kids were all screaming, some backed against the far wall, others gathered around something on the floor. I was beyond confused, but hurried to where half the kids had gathered. I pushed my way through and saw someone laying on the floor. His eyes were bulged from his face and his tongue languidly hung from his mouth. Blood was actively spilling from his ears and he was emitting a disturbing croak from deep in his throat.
His name was Roger. He was our assistant coach and the father of our second baseman. He was pronounced dead on the scene by the paramedics. No one saw exactly what happened, claiming there was just a loud thud and then they saw Roger on the ground. I tried explaining to my parents what I experienced, but they didn’t believe me and encouraged me not to tell any of it to the police.
Fast forward ten years.
I had a part time job at a golf course. I did grunt work mostly: cleaning the bathrooms, collecting the balls, taking out trash and other menial tasks that my boss would demand. I didn’t like the job, or any of the people that worked there, but it helped me earn some extra spending money. We had a clubhouse that hosted small events on the weekends. The events were never anything big, mostly just birthday parties for kids and other family or friend-oriented get-togethers. We’d do the occasional high school graduation, but they were few and far between. One Saturday night, my boss asked me to stay a little longer. There was a 40th wedding anniversary being held at the clubhouse that was running over the allotted time. My job was to wait until everyone had left, and then clean up. I did as I was told. When they all left, I took out the trash, wiped down all the tables and counters, and ran a vacuum across the carpeted floor. I returned the cleaning supplies to the maintenance closet and called out for my boss to let him know I was done. But he didn’t answer.
I didn’t think he would leave without me since I didn’t have a key to lock up the place. The guests had already left, so I knew he couldn’t have been tied up with them. When I checked his office, the door was shut. I knocked and called his name again, but there was still no response. I opened the door to find his office completely empty. But something did catch my eye; something that I had almost completely forgotten about, writing it off as a false memory from my childhood. On the wall behind his desk, in a goopy red display, were the words, “Gaston’s turn.”
My heart sank and I felt my entire body go numb upon reading those words again. Trembling uncontrollably, I raced through the clubhouse, office and pro shop, looking for my boss. I couldn’t find him anywhere and the deafening silence that surrounded me was hard to ignore. I exploded out of the front door and into the parking lot.
The lot was still full of cars. All of the guests from the anniversary party were in them, sitting as still as mannequins. At the edge of the sidewalk, my boss stood; his arm stuck over his head in mid-wave. I touched his arm — cold plastic. It all came flooding back to me. It was happening again. I rushed to the closest car and peered through the window. There were two adults in the front seats and two children in the back. None of them were moving. The children were frozen with eerie smiles on their faces and the adults were both staring straight ahead, expressionless. I tapped on the window, but they didn’t move or respond. I rushed to the next car where an older couple were in the front seats. I recognized them as the stars of the party: Mr. and Mrs. Flemming, happily married for 40 years. I tapped the glass, but it was useless. As I continued to stare at them, studying their faces, a familiar image materialized slowly within the reflection of the glass. It was a cadaverous figure with large, bulbous eyes that pushed out of their sockets like a pop-up book. I turned and ran as fast as I could back into the building where I locked the door and stared outside at the otherworldly sight. I felt something brush up against the back of my neck, paralyzing me in fear. The touch slowly moved to my ear, sending a cold shiver down my spine. I heard the whisper again: “Now it’s Gaston’s turn.”
I ripped myself away from the spectral grasp, and clamored back into my bosses office. I had a theory that the words would no longer be on the wall, and I was right. Instead, in the tan carpet at the base of the wall, was a red stain. That’s when I heard the scream.
Slowly walking back outside, I saw the excitement was focused on the car with the family of four that I had inspected first. My boss looked up and saw me exiting the building. He yelled at me to call the police. In a surreal state, I ignored him and continued to aimlessly wander out to the car where the frantic crowd of patrons were gathered. I stopped only feet away, but it was close enough. Through a gap in the people, I could see the passenger, the mother of the children in the back, hunched over with her eyes hanging out of her skull by stringy and frayed nerves. Blood poured from her mouth like continuous vomit, and the screams from her children and distraught husband are sounds that I still hear in my head to this day.
I am 37 now, and I have become obsessed with whatever Gaston is. I’ve dedicated the last twenty years of my life to trying to understand what it was that I experienced. In the last two decades, I’ve learned of The Hat Man and Shadow People, mysterious entities who appear at the foot of people’s beds late at night, sending them into a state of paralysis, mentally scarring them for life. Some of those people even fear falling asleep. Gaston seems to operate in a similar realm, but with variances. Time seems to stop in order for Gaston to choose his victim. In my experiences, Gaston has claimed a middle-aged man and a thirty-year-old woman. That isn’t necessarily consistent. Maybe an unfortunate third victim would shed some light on a possible pattern? I don’t really know. I also don’t know why I am physically able to move around within, and experience his anomalous routine. I don’t know when, or if it will happen again, and I don’t know what’s worse:
Living the rest of my life without answers, or stumbling across those two, red words again.
Credit: Scott Donnelly
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