Horror Fiction

The Infinity Game (Pt. 1)

My good friend Danie Dreadful did an amazing job narrating this one, please go show it some love so she’ll want to do the sequel too! YouTube or Spotify or Podcast

Narrated in Czech by Creepy Stalk here

Now a CreepyPasta

Has anyone ever played the Infinity Game? The one with mirrors? Most people don’t know it’s a game, they just think it’s a cool visual effect. Maybe it’s different for me, being raised by witches. Not Halloween witches, but the ones who practice Wicca. You can Google it if you really want to learn about them, but I’m here to talk about the game.

Most people don’t understand what it’s capable of. They have no idea they’re standing at a locked door or what’s on the other side. It’s almost like Wizard of Oz. If you can find your way to the Mirror Master, you’ll be rewarded with a wish; but getting there is not an easy journey… and you want to choose your words carefully.

To play, you need at least one other person, two standing mirrors, five black candles, a stick of chalk, warm clothing, and a red armband. The red band is the most important thing to remember. It’s not required to get in, but you shouldn’t leave without it.

While in the Mirror World, you must be wary of your reflection. Its only goal is to take your place in the real world – meaning you will be trapped forever. It cannot kill you, instead it will attempt to trick you. Never, ever speak to it. It will be dressed like you, except its armband will be on the left. Whoever you have waiting in the real world will be responsible for ensuring it doesn’t get out. Choose someone you trust.

Only your reflection can take your place, but everything else you meet will try to kill you from sheer spite. If you die in there, your soul will be trapped, and the mirror through which you entered will shatter. Make sure your friend is aware a shattered mirror indicates they should immediately destroy the other one as well. Though unlikely, there are a few entities powerful enough to use this situation to their advantage. To be safe… make sure the friend isn’t easily manipulated.

Now that you have all the supplies, draw a pentagram on the floor with space for the mirrors in the center. Then put the lit candles on each point of the star. When everything is in place, the reflection will appear as a never-ending hallway.

Stand between the mirrors and focus only on the infinite corridor. Soon you will notice a shadow far behind your reflection. Focus on that, letting the world around you fade. Do not look away or blink. Slowly begin to inch forward, but do not be afraid of bumping into the glass. Think of it as platform nine-and-three-quarters: you must know it’s going to work. When you feel a drastic temperature drop, you can look at your surroundings. You are officially inside the Mirror World’s lobby… though, I suppose it’s more like a bridge. It’s what connects the two places, but my family calls it the lobby.

This is where you must proceed with extreme caution. The Mirror World is a backwards replica of ours. Not only does that mean left is right; it also means beautiful, thriving cities are dead and crumbling. If you are unable to enter, do not leave the game unattended. Remove the mirrors immediately. The things that live there can’t be described as “alive”, but they are desperate.

My mother was supposedly the only person to successfully return after seeing the Mirror Master. Growing up, I was told no one has ever met him; but when Mom (Ellen) died two months ago, I found her diary. My amazement grew with each passage as she described her own experience with the Infinity Game. Her first entry is from six months after having her first-born, John. He was sickly and doctors said he wouldn’t live to see his first birthday. She was aware of the game’s dangers, but she didn’t care, not if it could save her son.

I will copy the relevant entry here. Let it serve as warning to any who wish to play – even the winners lose.


From the Diary of Elle Pierce:

I hoped to never open this diary again. I purchased a new book for the start of our new lives, but instead of writing on crisp, clean pages, I continue here. The tear-stained memorial to the darkest six months of my life was to be buried under decades of beautiful memories, yet here I am.

I won the stupid game; we should be far away from this place, beginning anew, not… here. There is only hate and pain left in my heart. Everyone told me not to go, but I didn’t have a choice. Each time someone said, “you can always have more children” my heart ached with fury.

I was prepared to risk my own life, but not for this. Not to feel the joy of knowing my son would survive, only to have it ripped away again. I thought I would be different, but now I write this only to warn others. I hope that vile creature never wins another soul.

I entered easily, feeling the temperature drop as if exiting a heated room into an Arctic tundra. I always imagined a chill in the air, but this was cold enough to see my breath. Behind me was a mirror, and in it I saw Thomas. He appeared to be in shock; his mouth hung open, as he waved. It would have been funny under different circumstances.

I think the strange hallway is an in-between place. Both sides are lined with identical, white doors, and I didn’t know which to choose. I couldn’t see the end of the hall, it still appeared infinite. I tried the closest doors, but they were locked. There were no keyholes, just solid knobs.

I walked down the corridor, feeling more nervous each time I looked back to see Thomas farther away. There was no way to track the passage of time; electronics won’t work there. I don’t know how long I walked before I heard the soft click of a door opening, but I no longer saw home when I turned around; instead, I saw my reflection. She was wearing her armband on the left, just as the legend said.

I know I should have been afraid, but I found it comforting. It meant the stories were true, that John had a real chance at surviving. I would have gladly traded my own life for his, but that’s not how the game works.

My reflection called to me, “Are you lost? You need to go this way.” She indicated the open door where she emerged. I knew not to respond. I remained silent as she tried again. “Hello? What’s wrong, are you deaf or just rude? … Fine, I don’t care if you want to spend eternity trying to open locked doors.” She shrugged and began walking in Thomas’ direction.

I could not follow, I had to trust my husband to tell the difference. She would return when she failed to deceive him. I couldn’t go the way she recommended but wanted to look inside. I walked back to the open door, keeping a healthy distance. Standing in the center of the hall I tried to peer inside, but it was too dark to see anything.

I wasn’t even outside yet, and I was already cracking under the pressure. Were the other doors all really locked? How long before something worse found me? It was then I realized, why do they call this a game? “Game” implies there’s a way to move forward, clues to follow…

That’s when I understood how literal the stories were. If everything is backwards, shouldn’t I go to the door opposite the one indicated by my reflection? I reached for the other doorknob, holding my breath as I felt it turn beneath my hand. It opened effortlessly though I know it was locked before.

It opened to reveal our kitchen, where Thomas and I chose to set the mirrors. The light was dim, everything was reversed, but it was also filthy. Worse – instead of finding my husband, I found a horrifying, twisted, old man. His back was hunched, his teeth and nails were yellow, and his red face contorted in hatred.

I was frozen with fear as his icy gaze bore into my soul. “What the hell do you think you’re doing here?!” He screamed, spit flying from his mouth.

In my terror, I couldn’t remember if it was against the rules to talk to anyone besides your reflection, but I didn’t want to risk it. I took a few steps to my left, hoping to get to the door before he could block my exit.

“Don’t you dare ignore me, tramp!” The old man croaked in a raspy, hoarse voice. He reached under the table, retrieving a long, metal cane. Thankfully he was slow as he looked.

I ran around him, through the swinging door to the den. He was still cursing me as I continued out the front door. At the end of the driveway, I noticed my surroundings. The neighborhood was in ruins; the yards were dead, and the houses were all abandoned.

It was my neighborhood, but it looked like a ghost town. None of the cars worked; each one had busted windows, popped hoods, or slashed tires. It was midnight back home; it should have been noon there, but it looked like dusk. I understand why our reflections are so desperate to trade places.

For some reason I felt confident the old man wouldn’t follow me outside. Something gave me the idea his part of the game was to guard that kitchen door for when I needed to get home. I didn’t stay to test the theory, but now I’m pretty sure I was correct.

I was never told where to go once I made it this far; the stories were all vague in that regard. The only thing I knew for certain was that it would get worse before it was over. That’s when I realized how desperately I needed a working vehicle, for speed and protection.

I resigned myself to look for a bicycle when I remembered the mechanic who lives three houses down. Every weekend, his garage door is open, and he can be seen working on an old car. It was hardly more than a body and wheels last time I saw it. If everything is opposite… wouldn’t that car be in working condition here? Yes! It was. The damn thing made me truly believe I could do it.

Hope is dangerous. If something is too good to be true, it probably is. I was so excited by the sight of the pristine, red car, I forgot to be wary of danger. A strange creature I almost mistook for a dog stood between me and victory. It was of similar size and color to a German Shepard, but its mouth opened sideways to reveal extra rows of teeth. I don’t know if its eyes were located elsewhere or it just didn’t have any, but the ears looked hard, almost like rounded horns. I couldn’t discern a nose either, but I’m sure it had one; I could hear it sniffing my scent.

It gave me a headache to look too closely, like my brain was rejecting the very sight of it. My eyes frantically searched for anything to use as a weapon, but there was nothing nearby. My heart sank as I realized it would come down to a race I held no chance of winning. Stealing a quick glance at my surroundings, I saw the only chance was to run for the door and hope it’s unlocked. Otherwise, I would be eaten by a dog monster.

I tried to mentally prepare myself when a long, high-pitched whistle turned the creature’s growls to whimpers. It wasn’t pleasant to my ears either, but I enjoyed seeing its effect. The noise continued until the dog-thing ran out of sight. I didn’t see the source of the sound at first, but I didn’t have to wait long.

My reflection walked into view, smiling proudly. She stopped several feet away but remained silent. I was confused until I almost asked why! My mouth opened wide, froze, then slowly closed. She hoped I would talk without thinking. Plus, if I die this quick, she can’t escape. In her own way, she’s more terrifying than the monsters.

“Uh-oh, almost had you that time, haha! You might want to find yourself a weapon before you run into anything else. Hey, do you even know which way to go?” She spoke like we were best friends.

I was too afraid to shake my head or shrug; it seemed like the kind of place that thrived on loopholes. Instead, I stared at her feet, willing her to say a direction so I could go the opposite way.

“You look lost, do you need a map? I could draw one for you… come on, just nod or something; I’m trying to help!” She stomped her foot in frustration.

To me, that was confirmation about the loopholes… or maybe she could read my mind. Either way, I wasn’t trying it.

“Be that way! I don’t care if you want to live or not, but it’s a shame the kid has to die just because you won’t ask for help.” She shrugged and began walking away.

Those words hit me like a freight train at the time, but now that the words carry the added weight of truth, I feel as if they will crush me. Controlling my temper as she left was one of the most difficult parts of that nightmare. So many times, I wondered if punching her counted as communication, but John’s life was not worth the risk. That is when I vowed to break every mirror I saw for the rest of my life. A vow I have thus far made good on.

When she was well out of sight, I discovered my next obstacle would be to find keys. The car was locked, but the house was not. Knowing something would be inside, I took a large crowbar from the garage. I crept in the back door, staying low. I was in an empty kitchen, hoping for a nice key-hook by the door, but couldn’t be so fortunate.

The room smelled of the rotten food on every counter and flies were swarming something that looked like raw meat. I choked down the vomit threatening to erupt and focused on John. This experience was nothing compared to the idea of losing him.

I made my way into a den with a broken tv and rough-looking leather furniture. From where I stood, a recliner was directly in front of me with a couch on either side, all angled toward the television in the center. Small, dirty tables sat on each end of the couches, and my heart skipped a beat when I saw car keys atop one by the recliner.

Forgetting my fear, I reached down quickly, only to scream myself hoarse when a cold, skeletal hand shot out from the chair, grasping my wrist. It had a grip of steel; for a moment I thought it would break my arm. I lashed out desperately with the crowbar, making contact with whatever was on the other side of that recliner. The instant its grip released, my hand closed around the keys, and I ran for the car.

It was pure luck the dog-monster hadn’t returned, because I didn’t stop to check before flying outside. As soon as the car door closed, I hit the lock button three times and performed a thorough inspection of the back seat. Satisfied there were no unexpected passengers, I was ready to go. There was a horrific moment of fear the car still wouldn’t start as I inserted the key, but it roared to life like it was brand new. Hell, it probably was.

It really is just like King’s Quest. Find a clue, find an item, solve a puzzle, escape danger, advance, repeat to the boss fight. Careful Elle, your nerd is showing. Look at me, I made a joke. Never thought that would happen again.

I went to the end of the driveway and hit the brakes, realizing I didn’t know which way to go. In a game, when there’s multiple paths, they usually all come out to the same place… or one is a deadly trap with no escape. Of course, you usually know your destination…

That’s when it hit me! If I’m playing a game where the goal is to cure a sick boy, where would the boss fight take place? A hospital! You would want the best doctor with the best equipment! I turned left, toward the best hospital in the state. When John was born, we moved three hours away from our hometown to be near it. Fifteen minutes away was the closest residence we could find, and it seemed good at the time, but now it felt like hours.

I didn’t know what the roads would be like, but I knew it wouldn’t be good. I could have never imagined the level of destruction as I saw that day. Our normally smooth, paved streets were filled with large potholes, some big enough to get stuck in if I wasn’t careful. The buildings were in various stages of demolition; none looked to be inhabited, but I’m sure they were. The beautiful plants and trees that once lined the medians were brown and dead.

I kept careful watch on my surroundings, worried something would come charging from a dark alley as I slowly steered around potholes. Luckily, it only happened once, close to the halfway point. I was preparing for another tight squeeze when I heard a scraping sound from behind. In the rear-view mirror, I saw another deformed-looking man. This one was younger with long, greasy hair and burned skin. The sound was from the steel bat he was dragging, and one of those weird dog-monsters tagged along like his pet.

If the roads were decent, I could outrun them easily, but I knew they would catch me if I drove into the middle of that bad patch. I slowed down even more, letting them get a little closer to the decent section of the road. I don’t think they are capable of intelligent thought; they did not hesitate when I began reversing, nor did they make any attempt to move when I ran them down. I aimed for the man, considering him the main threat, but the beast was only stunned.

There was a moment I thought it was over when the car stalled on top of the corpse, but the wheels found traction when the beast collided with the rear-end. I’m not sure how he avoided going under the wheels as I flew backwards, but it wasn’t touched. I shifted into drive and punched the gas, trying once more for the dog-monster but still missing.

Going fast as I dared, I ran over the man once more… just to be sure… before coming to a cautious stop. I hated not knowing what the dog-thing was doing but felt fairly certain it ran away to lick its wounded pride. I didn’t doubt I would see it again, but that was a problem for later.

I made it to the hospital without further attacks, parking in front of the main entrance. The sight of it did not inspire confidence. It was in worse condition than anything I had seen yet. That’s when I realized I made a terrible mistake. Everything is opposite… the best hospital would be the worst. I needed our world’s worst hospital.

I jumped back into the car, making my way to the free clinic on 3rd. If my theory was right, it would probably hold the cure for cancer. A flock of zombie birds attacked the car at one point, but they didn’t cause much damage.

I knew I’d made the right decision the moment I entered the bad side of town… well our world’s bad side. In this world, it was full of lavish manors; the clinic was immaculate and double its normal size. I parked on the curb and ran for the entrance. It was starting to get darker, but I didn’t understand how. There should have been hours of daylight left. Then, once again, as if reading my mind, the Bitch was back.

“Gosh, are you just now getting here? You better hurry; time is running out fast.” She teased.

I had never heard of a time limit. I ached to taunt her with the obvious failures to deceive Thomas. If she was still there, it meant she couldn’t fool him; the thought filled me with strength. I turned my back on her and walked inside, but she followed.

“You know that right? That when it gets dark – the hourglass stands empty? Well, not literally, but I like the expression. Anyway, I just wanted to check, because it seems like most people from your world are ignorant to that detail.” She said nonchalantly.

The more I considered it, the more it made sense. Most games do have time limits… and being in this place after dark does have a sort of “game over” vibe. Unfortunately, I couldn’t ask questions and I had to keep moving. I thought she would leave again, but she continued to follow at a careful distance.

“Don’t mind me, I just want to see the big climax. Your sweetie was too smart, there’s no point chatting with him anymore.”

I didn’t give her the satisfaction of looking back. Seeing a map of the hospital, I stopped to study the layout. Of course, I needed the top floor. It couldn’t be right here on the ground floor, no, heaven forbid. I walked to the elevator, but noticed my reflection was gone. The doors chimed and slid open, I put one foot inside, but pulled it out quickly.

Did I really want to walk into a metal box in a bizarro world where there’s no one to help if I get trapped inside? I looked around and saw a nice, open stairway. The empty elevator closed behind me as I made my way to the stairs. I held onto the rail all the way up – losing because of a fall so late in the game would be too insulting to live with. I’m glad I did too, because my reflection jumped out screaming, “boo” the moment I reached the top.

I wonder if anyone has tried to murder their reflection… I’ll have to look into that one day. I held my crowbar at the ready as I passed her, it felt glued to my hand after so much time. My reflection was tailing me a little closer, getting desperate, I’m sure. When I reached the reception desk for the children’s ward, she took a seat in the waiting area.

She grinned when she saw me watching, giving me two thumbs up and a wink. “You go girl! I’m rooting for you!”

More confused than ever, I went through the double-doors in search of the doctor… or Mirror Master I guess… terrible name. They had no imagination back in the day. I would have named him the Greedy Gremlin… okay maybe that’s not much better, but it is better.

He wasn’t hard to find. I stood in a dark hallway and bright lights shone under the swinging doors ahead. I’d come too far to stop then. I could feel my heart thumping in my ears with every step. When I walked into the light, it was so bright I had to shield my eyes. Then, with the snap of someone’s fingers, they faded to normal indoor lighting.

The only person in the room was the doctor I see on tv… the one on the ridiculous commercial with that annoyingly catchy tune. I can’t remember his name… you know, the really fat, bald guy with glasses? It’s not important, it wasn’t how he… she… it looked anyway. It threw me off though, and the surprise must have shown on my face.

“Ahh not what you were expecting? Me either. Who is this anyway?” The doctor asked, examining his own appearance.

“You… you don’t know who you are?” I stammered.

“Ugh, of course I know who I am, girl! I appear however one’s mind is comfortable seeing me… but it’s usually not… this.” He cringed.

“What, wait… how could…” I tried to ask.

“No, you aren’t here for magic lessons, and I don’t give them anyway. You came here because you want something desperately enough to risk your life for it. I find that utterly delicious, so tell me, what do you want.”

“You mean… I just tell you… and you, do it? I don’t have to… I don’t know, solve a riddle or kill a monster?” I couldn’t believe it could be so simple.

“Oh! I’m sorry! Was finding me too easy for you? Were my pets not vicious enough, my dear? Well, worry not! For next is the best part yet. The longer you are here, the darker it gets. The darker it becomes, the more pets you’re likely to see. Most of them are nocturnal, but they’ll be awake and ready for breakfast any moment now.” He was a lively talker; his voice was booming with pride and his hand gestures were all over the place.

I could only stand there, horrified and speechless.

“Come now, what’s your wish? Weren’t you listening? You should probably pick up the pace.” He grinned, and his teeth were no longer the normal teeth of the tv doctor, but sharp, brown fangs.

“My son is dying. I want you to cure him.” I tried to keep my voice steady.

“My, that’s a tricky one. Money, love, fame, – those things are easy; murder is the easiest, but life? That is very tricky indeed. It disrupts the natural order.” He was enjoying himself.

“Please, I’ll do anything.” I begged.

“Well… there is this one way it could work… if, you’re sure; there is no turning back.” He paused, stretching the suspense until I vigorously shook my head in agreement.

“Very good then.” With a snap of his fingers, a scroll appeared in one hand and a pen in the other. It was the kind of pen you dip into ink, but I never saw one before that moment. “Sign here, please.” One flick of the wrist and the long scroll opened, falling to the floor between us.

I picked up the bottom end, eyes scrolling over the millions of tiny, printed words jammed together on the paper. At the very end was a “sign here” line.

“If I sign this, it’ll cure my baby? He will be in – and stay in – perfect health?” I would not see my son cured of one sickness only to fall ill the following week.

“Absolutely! In fact, with this contract, your boy will be immune to all disease.” He assured.

My heart sang at the words, and if the cost of saving John happened to be my own life – as I suspected – it was a price I’d happily pay. I reached for the pen, and with a stab too fast for my eyes to see, the doctor pricked my finger. A large drop of blood fell onto the paper, and with another snap, the contract vanished.

“It’s been a pleasure doing business! By the way, to cure your son, I had to borrow half his father’s remaining lifespan. Tootles.” The doctor disappeared with a final wink. I hope I never see his wretched face again.

His words made my blood run cold, but I couldn’t stop to do math right then. Terrified of what would be chasing me, I ran back to the waiting room area. My reflection was waiting for me at the doors, smiling. I shoved on the doors with all my strength, but she had me locked in. I used my adrenaline to smash the glass door to the reception counter with my crowbar.

My arms and legs were cut getting through, but I didn’t have time to worry about blood loss. I flew over the counter, ignoring the shocked look of my reflection. As I made my way down the stairs, I saw several more zombie-looking people coming out of various rooms. I almost didn’t make it back to the ground floor when a kid with no legs managed to grab my ankle. The only thing that saved me was the crowbar catching the rail I tumbled.

When I finally made it to the entrance, I saw the car was turned onto its side and several more zombie and dog-things were waiting close by. Remembering the hospital map, I decided to take a chance on the ambulance bay. I was betting they owned at least one junked out ambulance that would run in this world. If they didn’t, I would likely have died there. Not even someone with machine guns could survive on the streets now.

I cried when I saw it. There was one ambulance that appeared in working condition and I was lucky enough for the keys to be inside. I still checked in the back to make sure it was empty, but that almost got me killed too. I slammed the back doors just in time to avoid one of the dogs jumping in. The ambulance rocked side to side from things trying to get in as I strapped myself into the driver’s seat.

It was my first time driving anything bigger than a car; I think it would have been a bumpy ride under normal conditions. There were several times I thought the ambulance would tip over. The worst was close to the end. I was almost back in my neighborhood when I heard the roar of another engine before it crashed into my bumper. I went off road, missing a huge crater by inches, before regaining control.

The truck driven by my reflection reversed to follow. I did something desperate. I waited for her to get right behind me, almost touching, and accelerated. As I hoped, she too sped up, trying to position herself to force me into a fishtail. At the last possible second, I closed my eyes and swerved away, once again coming dangerously close to flipping over.

Behind me, the Bitch couldn’t react in time. The truck she found was pointed nose down in a deep crater, its back end hanging out at a steep angle.

My house was surrounded by hideous creatures. Most didn’t appear human or animal. I couldn’t tell what the warped things were supposed to be. Some of them had several limbs… or appendages… some had none. One looked like a huge floating eyeball, and another looked like a snake with two heads. I didn’t see a way inside; I couldn’t believe I came all this way just to lose here. At the very least, I wanted to kill as many as possible before I died. That’s when a plan occurred to me.

I reversed to position myself for a straight shot through our den. The house was now termite infested anyway; even if we didn’t have the huge windows, I’m sure the walls would have been weak enough to drive through. I felt like I was operating a tank as two of the creatures fell beneath the wheels. It was a strange sight as the walls crumbled around me, and the sound was terrible, but I didn’t stop to enjoy the view.

When the ambulance couldn’t go farther, I climbed out the passenger window and dove through the kitchen door without looking to see what followed. The moment I saw the kitchen, my eyes searched for the old man, but he saw me first. Pain blossomed behind my eyes as something struck me over the head. I fell to the ground, dazed, but managed to keep a grip on the crowbar. I feigned unconsciousness until the old man grabbed one of my ankles. I sat up, swinging wildly, and enjoyed the wet smack of contact. His black blood sprayed, and I wasted no time getting to my feet.

As I made it to the exit, more creatures burst into the room. I rushed through the door, hoping it locked behind me. I held my breath as the door shook furiously, but nothing was able to follow. I breathed a sigh of relief and began feeling my injuries in earnest. I had several deep gashes on my arms and legs, my head was bleeding freely, and my wrist was swelling.

Grateful to still have the armband, I began making my way to the mirror entrance. I only made it a few steps when I heard the soft click of another door behind me.

“I hope you didn’t expect to be rid of me that easily.” Her voice no longer sounded like mine. It was deeper, distorted.

I turned to see she now had the same ghoulish-zombie appearance as those other things. Did she always look that way? Did I only see me because that’s what I expected? Like the doctor? I hope someone solves the mysteries of that place one day. There are still so many unanswered questions.

I ran for my life, focused on Thomas and John. I heard her footsteps gaining as she screamed at me. “Have you figured it out yet? Wait up, I’ll explain it to you! If you divide the lifespan in half, it means they have the same amount of time to live! Do you get it? Wait up!” She cackled an evil, dark, laugh. It sounded unnatural in her garbled voice. Humans should not be able to make the sounds her laughter made.

I was so focused on the light at the end of the corridor, I didn’t understand what she was telling me. I heard her footsteps closer with every step but couldn’t look back. Her howling laughter followed me all the way home. When Thomas saw me, his eyes lit up with relief, then fear and anger as he saw my appearance and that of the thing chasing me. I saw him step away from the mirror, allowing me to exit.

I went through the mirror like an Olympic diver. The second I was out, I turned to see Monster-Me collide into the glass, bouncing off like rubber. Now that I was back, the doorway was closed for her. Before she could rise, Thomas shattered the glass. He also shattered the second one to be safe, but for the record, we could have simply blown out the candles and erased the pentagram.

It wasn’t until several hours later, after I explained everything to my husband, that we understood what she was trying to tell us. If they had the same amount of time to live; they would die at the same time. I was devastated. I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle losing both at once. We are so young… I thought we would still have many years… I never dreamed… I couldn’t believe…

Thomas and John passed away two weeks later. John was crying in the night; Thomas felt badly for my lack of sleep… so he took the baby for a drive. It calmed John… and it was only a few times around the block… but this time a drunk driver ran a stop sign.

See? It was all for nothing.


My mother met my father four years later. It took a while for her to have a normal life again, but I always felt like we were a happy family. She was a terrific mom; I had no idea such terrible things were in her past. Dad didn’t know the full story either; only that she had a husband and baby killed in a wreck before he met her. I can’t blame her for not wanting to tell me, she knows how much I love a challenge.

While no, I don’t think I’ll visit the Mirror World anytime soon, it would be nice to learn more about it. Like she says, there’s still so much we don’t know, and personally, I have a long list of questions. Besides, it sounds fine if you don’t make a wish, right? I’ll just leave this here for now in case anyone else knows anything.


Part 2

Horror Fiction

The Current Settlers (Pt. 8)

Part 8 of the Settlement Series!

The CreepyPasta

[upset] I knew it! I knew you’d come today of all days. Damnit, we gotta get you out of this forest!

… … One day a year – one! And it’s the day you show up! I knew it, I tell ya! Ugh, it’s too late… we’d never make it to the bridge; hurry up – come inside. [door slams/locks]

… … … What do you mean you have no clue how you got here?! You have your pack and everything!

… … … I’m not sure I understand how you could be compelled to pick it up, but we don’t have time to chat. There’s a horde of evil outside, and more are on the way. We don’t even know what half of those things are anymore. Based on what we do know – ignorance is probably a blessing, but we can speculate later.

[Trish] We need to open the floor, it’s our only chance.

… You’re right; there’ll be nowhere left to hide once it begins. We could make a hole under the bed… Once our friend is behind the barrier, it’ll be like every other year.

… … [walking to bedroom] We’ll have to explain later, but I’m sure you remember my telling you about converting the basement, yes?

… Good. Long story short – there’s also a few magical protections around it. We couldn’t have survived without them.

… … [defensive] I’ve been brutally honest about how dangerous this place is, I’m not sure why you look surprised.

… … It’s amazing yet frightening how many questions you have in the face of certain death. Stand back, please. Come on, Ethan, help me move this thing.

… … [bed slides across floor] You’re gonna be just fine, friend, we’ll get through this together. I’m surprised they haven’t smelled you, but maybe they’re too preoccupied… or lulling us into a false sense of security…

… … [wood creaking] I’m only planning for every possibility, but those guys aren’t exactly known for their patience. If they knew you were here – we wouldn’t be considered much of a threat. It’s more likely they’re too busy to notice. These rituals have been happening for centuries; they probably can’t remember the last time one was interrupted—

[wood cracking] Whoa, hold on, boy! Just because the bed will be covering it doesn’t mean we can rip the boards in half! It would be nice to lay them back in place afterwards. Once our pal is safely hidden, we’ll make it look like this room hasn’t been touched since those kids with the tie-dye van.

[Ethan] The ones who thought we were all acid hallucinations?

… Yep, but this time – we stay quiet and lay low; there shouldn’t be any problems. I bet we can even manage a few stories to help pass the time; how’s that sound?

… … Hah, I thought that part would be well received. [board set aside] Alright, it’s time.

… … Don’t worry, friend, Ethan will lower you nice and slow; he’s stronger than he looks. You’ll be on the ground and taking the grand tour before you know it.

… … … … [shout/echo] See? No problem at all. You two go ahead; we’ll get this mess cleaned up and be with you in a few.

… … [distant/fading voice] See, Trish? I told you it was best to keep the height a surprise.


Great news, family! We’re officially bunkered down, and the ritual has begun. Only something fairly extreme could stop them now, and we aren’t giving them anything but distance; tonight, we don’t exist!

… … Thank you, friend, I’m glad you like it! This is my real library; the original journals, every book, and all our downloaded entertainment are right here. I often worry they aren’t safe enough, but I fear no amount of precautions would make me feel differently.

… … … Oh my! I was so worried about the ritual I’ve been a terrible host! I’m ashamed of myself, truly I am. You haven’t had a chance to say more than two words since you got here; hell, I didn’t even ask how you’ve been since your last visit!

… … …Well, “gracious host” is probably a stretch, but it’s kind of you to say so – I do try – but no more about me; what’s the big news? You’re grinning ear-to-ear, and the curiosity is killing me.

… … You… I mean… I know you said you were going to email Mr. Somnium, but… Are you trying to tell me he actually responded? As in he read it?

… … … He wants to narrate it? For his actual channel? When?!

… … It’s already done?! Are you screwing with me, friend? Because this is a cruel joke to play on an old man no matter how long ago his heart stopped—

… … … [whisper] Sweet cricket… okay… don’t sugarcoat it; what did people think?

… … … Shut up! I’m not crying! You’re crying! Holy, sweet mother of all crickets… You even took pictures of the comments? You, my friend, hold the special power of restoring one’s faith in humanity.

… … … Shush, everyone; of course I want to hear it, but we need to be quiet – no unnecessary risks, remember?… But don’t worry, friend – you’ll be across that bridge before you know it!

… … Hell yea, I’m positive! And – once you’re home – would you have time to pass along a message to our Dark Family? It should be heart-felt, yet stoic – humble but not desperate; maybe I should draft a few key points. First impressions are every—

[Trish] You’re doing it again, dear.

… Oops… umm, enough of all that; we’re in for a long night. What would you like to hear about next? The Mountain Settlement, maybe? How about the Civil War or the Revolution?

… … … [disappointed] Really? Firsthand accounts of America’s entire history are at your disposal, but you want to know how Trish and I got here? You’re one strange cookie, my friend, but that’s the main reason we like you so much. Alrighty then, I aim to please! Hang tight while I find the right journal; we’ll need to go back to a couple weeks before we died.

… … … [shuffling books] Oh, yea, those are the Weapons; Those have been down here since the ordeal with the outlaws. It’s kinda nice not having anyone else to meddle in what we do with our own family heirlooms.

Ah, here we are, [wipes off dust] I only hope you aren’t too disappointed. When you get bored we’ll switch to a different journal; until then – sit back, relax, and try to ignore any strange noises. Now that the Ritual has begun, they can’t leave the circle… Well, they could, but they’d be forced to start over which would be extremely inconvenient.


April 5, 1696

It has been a hard day – the kind that makes me long for the years I could work without pain in my back. If not for the grandchildren, my fields would be empty this season. It seems like only yesterday I was teaching their fathers how to plant and plow, yet now, I ramble incessantly like the old men we mocked in our youth. Even when there is actual news to speak of, I somehow default to writing the same, dull drivel as always.

Bill Sanderson returned from a business trip two days ago, and today, his entire family is ill. The doctors were only notified when his children failed to attend class for a second morning; Ms. Harvard sent one of the students to the Sanderson home, and the lad went for help upon finding the family confined to their beds.

No one dares speak the words we all know to be true, but— [woman’s scream]


… … [exasperated] Damn, that one was loud.

… … [hesitant] Well, um… it sounds like they’ve brought out a sacrifice…

… … … I can understand why you might be upset, but we didn’t see a reason to worry you when there’s nothing we can do to help that poor soul.

… … I know it’s hard to hear; in the beginning, we wanted to help, too, but you gotta trust us. Our first time hearing it, we rushed into the middle of them like fools; they had some poor girl – must have been between 17-20 – and she—

[Trish] Maybe skip that part, dear.

… Right. The point is – they almost ate us, and if you go running out there, I’m not sure we could save you at all, but we’d try. The one thing I am certain of is that we would be consumed either way. [whining] Please don’t get us eaten before I can hear Mr. Somnium read Pappy Grant’s journal! Please!

… … Yes, exactly! The demon himself is smack in the middle of it all and growing more powerful as we speak! He’s surrounded by every evil thing this place has to offer; We can’t help them in the same way you can’t walk on the ceiling.

… … … [whining] Aw, why aren’t you understanding this, friend? Yes – killing the demon would mean an end to the sacrifices, and this place would finally stop attracting new monsters, but—

… … … [sigh] Yes; it would make it possible to deal with other creepies and crawlies as well, but—

… … … Because we can’t! Even if the demon wasn’t surrounded by his minions – we wouldn’t stand a chance!

… … … Tell me you did not just point to the Weapons. [louder] No, better yet – tell me what we did to make you hate us? Why are you trying to re-kill us?

[Trish] Volume, dear.

… … [softer] It’s a moot point, anyway. The girl is dead by now, let’s not dwell on what we can’t change. I’m sorry, but if y’all don’t mind, I’d like to continue read— [man screams]

… … [annoyed] Oh, Jiminy-friggin-Cricket! Yes, I heard it! [throws down journal]

… … [exasperated] Yes, I know it was a man that time.

… … I don’t know how many more.

… … I swear, I don’t know; they don’t hunt for a specific type or number of sacrifices, but if an opportunity presents itself in the months leading up to the ritual…

… … Yea, I’m afraid so; they’ll use as many as they find. There’s no maximum limit, and the more lives they take – the more powerful the ritual becomes.

… No, please! Don’t touch the Weapons!

[Ethan] Actually, I have an idea.

… An idea on how to calm our friend down?

[Ethan] Sort of!

… Nope; sit down and zip it.

[Ethan] but—

… Sit! [clap] Zip! [clap] We are survivors! Do you understand what that means? It means we survive! We keep going; we record the story! Just now – finally – that story is making it to the outside world. We can’t let it end here. If we can get the rest of it out there, real help will come! People who know what they’re doing – hell, maybe someone with a YouTube channel—

[Trish] Dear…

… Right. The point is – someone who isn’t us! We have two choices. We can go out there – become dinner – and let the world forget about that one random story, or we can be strategic; we can forfeit the battle to win the war and enjoy victory together – as a family. Then, when it’s time to deal with the other unfriendly inhabitants, maybe some of those Paranormal Investigators will visit! I don’t think I’d be comfortable with Ghost Hunters; I know you said it’s not the same kind of hunter but—

[Trish] Dear…

… Right, sorry. Can we please just go back to reading? If they had another— [man screams]

Well, that was obviously the same one as before— Wait a second, friend! You do realize those Weapons are useless in our hands, right? They wouldn’t work even if we could land a hit; that means you would have one shot with only a dagger to fall back on!

[Ethan] Seriously, I have a plan.

… Please, boy, I’m serious, too.

[Trish] It’s a good plan, dear.

… [heartbroken] Aw… you too? But… how do you already know what it is? Why are none of you concerned with—

[Trish] Dear…

Fine, fine, fine; go ahead, Ethan. Take your time and explain in as much detail as possible.

[Ethan] Since the entire horde of bad guys are confined to the ritual circle – no one is guarding the Demon’s Path. Those egg sacs have been incubating for ages; tonight will probably be enough to put a few more monsters into the world. Unless something happens to them…

… Ok, since we’re completely ignoring my strategic plan for victory – let’s hear it. How do you propose we bypass the fact they’ll smell our flesh-and-blood pal the moment we stick our heads out of the hole? You know – the one we hid under the bed that happens to be the only exit for someone incapable of passing through solid objects?

[Ethan] Um, actually only two of us need to go. Technically, they could burst the sacs with a regular crossbow. The only reason I never have before is because the demon would know it was one of us, and we never had a way to fight back until now. Don’t you see? This is why our friend was brought here! It’s fate! We could make a real difference! The demon will feel what happened and rush over in a blind rage; he’ll pass straight by the lake! Someone on the roof could probably get a clear shot…

… … Oh, and our friend is suddenly an archer now, eh? Hell, let’s pretend that part is true – you realize the demon won’t simply be strolling by, don’t you? Even our eyes can barely keep track! That’s a vital detail since a miss would mean we all suffer fates worse than second deaths! Dying the first time was bad enough, thank you very much!

[Ethan] I could do the aiming, and I remember the demon’s name well. You know I can make that shot; let me have revenge… Imagine if Jamestown could really expand; how long do you think it would be before they brought in some electric poles? Surely WiFi wouldn’t be far behind…

… Damn you, boy. Taunt me with sweet dreams all you want, but none of those things would matter if we weren’t around to enjoy them.

[Trish] We can destroy the eggs much faster than the demon can break their circle; we could be back before they need to shoot. If the worst happens – one of us will get our friend to bridge while the others stay behind… We can pack the journals now as well – then, our story will live on, and your plan will still work. What do you think?

… I think it’s horrible! It doesn’t change a thing about how it will end. Besides, have you noticed how long it’s been since— [woman screams] Oh, come on!

[Ethan] Please, we don’t have much time; you know full well they’ve barely gotten started. This has gone too far! Once the demon is dead, we’ll be the last thing on anyone’s mind. Most of them will run scared back to their dens, and some will move on to darker pastures entirely. While that’s happening, Trish can get our friend back to safety, and we’ll go after the hostages!

… I don’t like it.

[Trish] That’s a shame dear… Based on what mother saw, I could have used your help. Oh well, sit tight – we’ll return as quickly as possible; try not to worry.

… [grumble] You can be a cruel woman sometimes… Ethan, listen to me very carefully; don’t extend a single hair beyond the protection barrier until we’re finished, you got that? Then it’s straight into position; do not overestimate the amount of time it will take him to break the ritual’s circle! We’ll clear the path for you on the way out.

[Ethan] You got it, uncle!

… Alright, let’s get it over with. If it’s the last thing I do – I’ll fit in some “told you so’s” before going loudly into that dark, eternal night.


[Trish] We’ll stay underground as long as we can and come up by the path’s entrance.

… Are you going to explain what happened with Gale? I didn’t want to worry our friend anymore than you two already have, but she clearly saw something that shook you up.

[Trish] Last week, she was having a good day and said this year wasn’t like the others. The demon was angrier after the French settlement than we realized. In our grief over lost friends and enchanted arrows, we failed to realize that several of the sacs were destroyed as well. Rather than replacing them – he poured everything into what was left—

… We should be close, let’s go up… And they’re supposed to hatch tonight? Is that what you were saying?

[Trish] You’re right; we’re here… But no – those eggs hatched ages ago. However, the results were so promising – he tried something new. This time he divided everything equally between two sacs. They’re already massive, and when the 24 sacrifices are dead – there will be two more extremely dangerous monsters loose in our forest.

Twenty-four? How? It’s never been more than a dozen!.. And wow, this place really has gotten dismal. I remember when it was impossible to see more than a few yards into the tree-line, but now there’s hardly any green left in the forest!

[Trish] The bulk of the sacrifices are boy scouts; they weren’t camping here – their bus broke down. The repairs were going to take a few hours, so their troop leader suggested bringing the restless kids for a hike. The worst part is – they never told anyone what happened; no one knows they came here. When the repairs were complete, those who stayed with the bus drove down to retrieve the others; they had no clue what they were driving into… Of course, there are probably a few other sacrifices mixed in; surely they aren’t all with the scouts.

… [pouty] I just wanna go home and listen to my story… Geez, the ground is so hard and black it feels like concrete…

[Trish] If we can end the reign of terror, you’ll have eternity to enjoy all the stories you want, dear. Now, move your ass; my baby is practically alone back there. Is your crossbow ready? I think I see the first one ahead – look up and to the right. Mother said these were bright yellow instead of orange – that has to be one of them.

… Yea, that’s it; the other is on the ground to the left, do you see it? We should stand back; that gunk inside could still hurt us… Or we could turn around and go home now – no harm done.

[Trish] Wow, they really are massive!.. Wait – did you mean ‘no harm doneaside from tonight’s 24 sacrifices?

… [sigh] Are you ready? We shoot on three… One… I love you… Two… Three! [both shoot, sacs burst with liquid explosion]

… [ground shakes and rumbles with guttural roar] Go!


… [panicked] Can you feel that? The air is heavier; it’s like walking through deep water.

[Trish] Yes, and we need to go faster.

… No, darling; just me.

[Trish] What’s in that vial? Did you try brewing potions again?

… It’s just something I’ve been saving for an emergency. Don’t worry, if the worst happens, the enchantment will weaken overnight; you’ll be able to free yourself by morning. [cork pops]

[Trish] Alex, no; we don’t have time to argue; you don’t— [Trish sucked in/Alex corks bottle]

… It’s ok to be mad; I can handle that, but not losing you. I’m sure you’re frustrated that I can’t hear what you’re saying, but if it’s any consolation – I can feel your displeasure loud and clear. Hopefully, I’ll be back for you— [frightened] Oh no; the air is getting even heavier… [sweeps leaves aside] Ok, ok… Ok, hun, you’ll be safe here, and I’ll be right back… [covers bottle with the leaves]

[speeds away, muttering to self] Alright, ole boy, – she’s safe – totally, completely safe, yessir. Now, you’re gonna bottle up that loud-mouthed nephew and hope to hell the demon is satisfied with only one savory morsel… And that our friend skews towards flight rather than fight…

[gasp] There they are – thank Jiminy! They’re on the roof; all I need to do is drag— [earth shakes and rumbles with a roar like thunder] No, please no, not when I’m this close!


[Ethan] This is it! Remember – just like we practiced; don’t panic… keep your eyes closed… body relaxed… mind clear… and—

[confused] Hey, why is uncle— Shit! [shoots arrow] No!

[everyone screams, demon screeches, arrow thuds into tree]


… … [panicked] I’m not gonna make it… Oh, no! No, no, no! It only scratched the bastard!… Holy mother, he’s looking right at them! The arrow! It’s so close; I have get to it… [pulls arrow from trunk]

… [screaming] Oi! Hey, look at me, asshole! Yoo-hoo! [whistles]

Crap, he’s really coming! Even uglier than I remember… Looks like a tall Quasimodo caught leprosy and went into the final stages of liver failure… Oof! My throat… Jiminy, he’s a big mother… lucky I don’t need to… breathe… just need… arm… free… legs are already gone…

[strained] Boy! Catch! [arrow whizzes through air, thuds into roof]

[mutters to self] Thank goodness, it got through… Wow, everything is going all wonky… sorry, fam


[Ethan] Bastard! He’s absorbing Alex! We have to shoot before there’s nothing left! [pulls arrow free, Alex groans in the distance] Hold on, we’re coming! [bow-string tightens]

[Ethan whispers] Are you ready?… Now! [fires arrow] Say it!

[demon screeches in agony, drowning out all other voices]

[Ethan, yelling over the demon’s wails] Alex! Uncle!… Why isn’t he reforming?! Stay here, I need to get down there!


… … [voice confused, disembodied] Is it over?… Is this where the dead go when they die?… Or is this a black void unique to the demon’s victims? Maybe I’m being stored away until needed… At least Trish is safe, and I thinkyes! Before everything went dark, that bastard took an arrow in the neck! I remember hearing the start of his name before the sound was cut off by screaming. It’s too late for me, but surely my boy got our friend away from this place. The demon is still dangerous even in this condition. [Ethan calling in the distance]

… … … [voice slightly more focused] Was that Ethan calling for me? No, it was too close; maybe I’m hallucinating after all… [woosh]


[Ethan yelling over demon’s continued screams] Uncle, if you can hear me – I found your dirty bottle trick lying next to what was left of you. Hopefully, I got all of you, but… umm… it looks like I’m stuck… Alex, I can’t move my legs… [whimper] He’s… g-ot me… I g-guess this guy r-really doesn’t want to die… I’m gonna throw you while I can still move my arms— [shocked gasp, dagger stabs into demon’s foot]

[demon roars in guttural agony as the ground rumbles with the force of an earthquake]

[Ethan] Holy shit! You stabbed him! No; don’t pull it out! We need to go; get on my back! [leaves rustle in the wind as the group flees] Alex, where’s Trish— Oh, right, he can’t answer…

… … … [angry and frustrated] I can answer; you just can’t hear me! What the hell is happening out there?! I can’t see or sense anything! We better be headed away from the demon with our friend in tow, or I swear before the sweet cricket I will find a way to tan your hide! [bangs loudly on the bottle walls] Ugh, you best find a way to hear me, boy! Hello?!

[Ethan continues speaking] —Yes, I’m positive Alex is in this bottle; here, you can hang onto it. Oh, wait! [hears light tapping on glass] Do you hear that? This is fantastic; I must have gotten all of him! Hey, Uncle – tap once for yes and twice for no; do you understand? [single tap] Is Trish safe? [single tap] Whew, thank goodness. Uncle! You won’t believe it! Our friend came out of nowhere and stabbed that bastard in the foot, haha! I think this is really it! He was falling apart as we fled! I’m trying to get us to the bridge – then we can find a way to get you out of that bottle.

… … … What do you mean ‘find a way’? Open it!— Wait, what are you two saying out there? No, no, no! [frantically bangs on glass] No way, friend! You are not staying one second longer! We can check on the sacrifice hostages after you’re safe! Ethan, don’t you dare listen to that nonsense! Get your ass to the bridge! And open the damn bottle! [continues banging on glass]

[Ethan] Sorry, friend, but I can’t take you to the ritual circle; Alex would kill me. Just listen to him in there – he’s going nuts!… Whoa, what are you doing?! Sit still or we’re gonna— [everyone falls to the ground, glass bottle breaks]

… … … Holy Cricket, that’s better! Now – we were all human once – let’s talk about this like reasonable folk.

[ground shakes with loudest roar yet]

… …. [disbelief] It really happened… He’s gone… Even after everything… I just didn’t believe it… But, damn, can you feel it, too? The air is normal again! The looming sense of dread is— actually… it’s stronger than ever… Let’s get Trish before we do anything else…


… … [hysteric] How?! How is it empty?! It shouldn’t have weakened that fast! How is she gone?! [sobs/smashes bottle]

[Ethan] Wait… Calm down and focus for a second… Do you feel that? There’s another fight happening, and she’s definitely part of it… [demanding] I’m going now! Are you coming, friend? Or do you want to stay here and argue with Alex?… Great, let’s go!

… No, umm… [defeated] ugh, wait up. Damnit, Trish! Why’d she have to go over there alone!

… … I know, friend, you don’t need to remind me. I’m clearly surrounded with ‘kind souls’ but, you see, we are a family of survivors, and avoiding danger is the key to being a survivor. This expedition is in direct conflict with our mission statement; she’s breaking the prime directive – that’s not ok!

[Ethan, patronizing] There, there, uncle; we can have a court martial after we help her. For now, we need to hurry! We should find a vantage point before showing ourselves. If it looks too dangerous, one of us will rush our friend to the bridge while the other helps Trish. Fair enough?

… … It’s not like I have any choice in the matter! You three have been forcing my hand all night anyway, so come on! Let’s go before it’s too late!


… … [shock] Are… are you two seeing this? It’s absolute chaos down there… [children shouting war cries] and it looks like… is Trish leading a platoon of boy scouts?

[Ethan] Hell yea, she is! Look! Everyone must have fled; only the Walker is left! Geez, where did they get all those weapons? It’s been ages since I’ve seen a mob like that – some of them are actually carrying pitchforks!

… … Don’t stand there gawking, boy! That Walker isn’t going to wait by idly while they fill it with holes! Why would she do this?!

… … Friend, if we survive this ordeal – remind me to explain the definition of a rhetorical question.

[Ethan] It won’t fight outnumbered either; I think it’s waiting for— [hostages screaming in the distance]

… … … Yep, you saw it right, friend. It waited for one to come within reach and fled with him. It’s safe for you to come down with us now; [leaves crunch beneath feet] we need to get everyone back to the cabin and calmed down so we can discuss what story you’ll tell the police.

… … Well, of course I mean you; who else is gonna take them? Their last chaperone was just carried off by the Walker and none of us can cross the bridge. We can’t send a group of traumatized kids off on their own.

… … I have no clue what you’re supposed to tell them – we haven’t discussed it yet!

[Ethan, yells over chaos of frightened boy scouts] Trish! Over here!

[Trish] You’re all here! I’m so relieved! When I was able to free myself, you three were fleeing towards the bridge – so I came straight here.

… … [muttering] How considerate of you…

[Trish] What was that, husband? Did you say something?

… … [perky] I love you, and I’m delighted you’re safe…

[Trish] You’re such a dear. [whispers] Don’t let the children know we’re ghosts; I don’t think their fragile minds could handle it.

… … Fair enough; I suppose we’ll take the long way home, then.

[Trish] Actually, I’ve had a rather long night, and so has our friend. I think it’s best if we go ahead while you and Ethan bring the boys along behind us. We’ll make sure your path is clear, of course.

… … [monotone] Of course… Come on, Ethan, you heard the lady. Round ‘em up…


[Trish] —I can’t believe the demon was finally defeated! So, you went right up to the monster and stabbed him in the foot?!… You really are amazing, my friend, and I know you’ll understand why we had to make this little detour… We need to get any demon goop left behind into this jar. [unscrews lid] We’ll burn it in the fireplace, and then you can take the ashes with you… [closes lid] There, that’s all of it; we better get moving.

[Trish, nonchalant] Oh, you don’t remember what my brother-in-law learned from the Mountain Settlement? The ashes must be spread over salt water – never fresh. Do you see any salt water in our territory? Alex doesn’t want to think about it yet, but you and I know better than to wait, don’t we?… I knew I could count on you! I can never repay you for saving my boys, [cabin door creaks open] but you’ll always have a home with us. Although, I’m sure you’ll be hearing those words in abundance over the coming months. Those children are probably assumed dead; the news crews will be rolling in before lunch – I guarantee it! [distant chatter] Oh, shh, they’re almost here! I’ll put this in the fire and get the ashes into your bag discreetly. Once you’re safely across the bridge – I’ll let the boys know we have everything under control.

… … … [several pairs of footsteps file across the wood floor] That’s right, this way fella’s; y’all are safe now. You’ll be home with your families in no time. We’re just gonna have a little chat to make sure everyone is on the same page while we wait for the sun to rise; then, our friend is going to take you all to see some nice policemen! How does that sound?

… … [exasperated] Come on, guys. We’ve been at this for over an hour; I don’t think you understand what’s waiting for you on the other side of that bridge. Do you know what it means to be national news?

… … I didn’t think so; it means you can say goodbye to your privacy for a long time, my little friends. You boys have had multiple agencies searching for you across multiple states; you’re already national news, but with our story – people will leave you alone when the next tragedy strikes. With the truth – your names will be synonymous with this event for the rest of your lives. The story for this place is older and darker than you can fathom, and I promise – you boys don’t want this shadow looming over you forever… So, what’s it gonna be, kids? Were you lost and found? Or kidnapped and rescued?

… … That’s a great choice, guys! I knew you looked like a reasonable bunch; I got a sixth sense about these things. Now – how many people found you?

… … That’s right! Only our friend! You boys are gonna be just fine – chins up, now! Remember – you’re all traumatized children; don’t be afraid to cry if they ask uncomfortable questions. As for your chaperones – you got separated; how should you know what happened? They’ll come down here to poke around and look for the bodies, but it won’t trouble us any. There’s nothing left to find, and we’ll be settled in with our new stories!

… … [sarcastic] Haha; yuck it up. Yes, I only want to listen to my story; is that so much to ask?! I’m sure they’re desperate to go home, too!

[Ethan] He’s right guys, and look – there’s a hint of sunlight out there! How about it? Are you ready to finally get out of here?

… … See! I told you they were reasonable chaps. My friend, I eagerly await your next visit when we’ll have time to thank you properly. Until then, we wish you the safest travels, and don’t forget – you deserve every reward they give you!

[Ethan opens creaking door] Hey, everyone, come take a look at this… What the hell is that?!

… … [door softly clicks shut] Umm… ok, on second thought – let’s go ahead and wait for the sun to fully rise… Anyone up for a quick game of charades?

Horror Fiction

I Work for the National Park Service; It’s Hiding a Disturbing Secret (Pt. 2)

Part 1

🚨ATTENTION🚨
This is a Swamp Dweller exclusive; he owns all rights to this story and it cannot be used in any way/shape/form. Be sure to enjoy the full experience with his wonderful narration. If you haven’t heard his work, I highly recommend checking him out! He uploads so often that new viewers will be hard pressed to run out of content!

Hey Swamp,

I hope this letter finds you well! It’s your friend from Washington again; I can’t thank you enough for reading my last letter. Seeing so many kind words of support and the requests for an update mean more than you can imagine. It gave me the courage to finally tell my wife everything, and while it was a difficult conversation, the relief that came with it made me feel twenty years younger. I’m sorry I can’t use real names, but where the internet is concerned – there’s really no such thing as too careful. Hopefully, I can make it up to the Swamp with some new information.


The first thing you should know is that Amy resigned; I miss her, but I’m glad she’s not in danger anymore. Do you remember how worried I was at the end of my last letter? For those who don’t – she had recurring nightmares where she was reliving her encounter with the creature; at first it was the same, but when the monster should have disappeared – it turned to face her. It even began walking towards her, getting a little closer each night until it was only a few feet away.

The nightmare she had next was so bad – her wife told Rick to trash anything left in her locker because no one was coming for it. There wasn’t much there – just some pictures and a few basics – but it felt wrong to throw them away.

I drove to Amy’s house after work – expecting to leave her box by the door – but when I got out of the car, her wife was waving to me. “Thanks for going to the trouble, can you stay for coffee?” She asked, already leading me inside.

The nightmare that finally made Amy quit gives me chills to write; this time, she was face-to-face with the creature – its mouth inches from her own – and it began whistling a sad, eerie tune she couldn’t identify. The sound made her feel safe and calm, but after waking – she realized it was more like hypnosis.

Is it an extension of the monster’s abilities, or the result of psychological trauma? Yes, she said the eyes looked the same as what we saw on camera, but I had also previously described the eye I saw; it’s easy for our minds to warp images into what we expect to see. I’ve spent an unhealthy amount of time fixated on this, and I’m fairly comfortable with my personal conclusion; though, please keep in mind this is purely my theory.

The night she saw the creature standing over that little girl – her brain realized an important detail, and the nightmares were its way of relaying that information; now that it has – it’s finished. Those whistles seem to have a literal hypnotic effect, but if that’s true, who knows if it can hold sway over our dreams… I admit my judgment is biased. I hate thinking the creature could suddenly appear in my dreams – or that it could potentially regain control over my friend’s.


We didn’t have anyone to cover for Amy that first night, so Ranger Rick himself partnered with me for the shift. I don’t think he’s a bad guy; I was admittedly spiteful about the withheld information, but now that I understand more about what he does – it’s hard to blame him. He’s following orders, just like me; he needs a paycheck, just like me. The problems we have at night are also happening during the day; it’s not like they’re walking around in sunshine and daisies while we’re fighting monsters in the dark. The guests are also more active during their shift which makes it much harder to keep track of the people in your territory.

Apparently this kind of stuff has been happening for as long as anyone remembers, but never so blatantly as what we’ve been experiencing recently. The last few months specifically are making Rick’s mysterious bosses quite nervous, and frankly, the way he refers to them as “Management” makes me quite nervous… Ok, maybe it doesn’t sound as sinister when you read it, but it’s said with very Men in Black conspiratorial inflection.

Normally, there are entire decades where little to no activity happens – then, they’ll have a cluster of disappearances and accidents for a few months; the cycle was always the same… until now. This time, it’s not stopping, and no one knows what to do.

Even Rick isn’t sure if Management knows what the creature actually is, but the Rangers call it the Whistler; fair enough, I suppose. Most of the stories he shared were the same, but one was particularly chilling. This took place his rookie year, in the 90’s, when responding to reports of a black bear near the lodges. Back then, there were only a few cabins on each side of the lake; when this incident took place, one was occupied by a family of five, and a young couple was staying on the opposite bank.

The order came at the end of a dark, drizzly day, and the real storm was due to start any minute. There hadn’t been a Whistler sighting in eight years, and nothing about this report raised any flags when the senior Rangers passed it off to Rick. He drove a golf-cart to the lake and was greeted by the family waving from a window; they were afraid to come out. Rick joined them and listened with growing apprehension as the storm began in earnest.

It started with a large, black animal trying to open the metal trash cans; Mr. Gordon used his air-horn to scare the beast away, but instead of fleeing, it turned to face him – rising to its full height and glaring angrily. That’s when he saw it was no bear and yelled for his shotgun.

In the process of explaining how the creature fled before he could shoot, Mr. Gordon’s story was interrupted by frantic screaming outside. The young couple was racing towards them, waving their arms and begging for help; once safely indoors, they walked through each room, checking every window. When satisfied nothing had followed them – they were able to explain.

They had been eating dinner when the patio doors slid open, and they turned to see a hulking, black beast with bright, red eyes. The couple escaped through the front door and ran straight for the Park Ranger’s golf-cart. Both the family and the couple wanted to leave – Rick too, for that matter – but the weather made it easier said than done. The storm knocked out the phone line, and there was no response on the radio; even if everyone could somehow fit into the small cart it would be too dangerous to drive. The weather reports had only warned against heavy rain, but in a span of minutes it developed tree-bending gusts of wind; lightning streaked across the sky, cracks of thunder shook the walls, and there was a frightening threat of tornado activity as the temperature dropped drastically. Rick was out of his depth and terrified, but he couldn’t show it; he had to be In Charge.

In the 90’s, it wasn’t a big deal if a Ranger licensed to carry wanted to bring their handgun to work; Rick’s .38 and Gordon’s shotgun were the only real weapons the group had as they waited in the cabin’s living-room. They were trapped and had no clue where – or what – the creature was, but things weren’t exactly hopeless. The doors and shutters were locked, and soon, help would be sent to investigate why Rick didn’t check-in after the bear sighting.

At least, that’s what he told the others – leaving out the part where they might assume he was simply unable due to weather conditions. Regardless of rescue chances, they should be able to wait out the storm as long as nobody panicked; the larger a group is, the harder they are to control – especially for a single person. Rick asked the children to check the phone lines every few minutes as a distraction – quiet children make happy parents – but he knew it would be weeks until they were functional again.

The five adults were whispering amongst themselves for only a few minutes before the girls called out, “the phone is working!” Rick – assuming they were either mistaken or joking – simply said to make sure no one else used it.

The eight-year-old lifted the receiver once again – firmly stating, “you can’t be on this line”, and everyone fell into a stunned silence as a deep, menacing voice replied. No one is sure what it said, and the girl wouldn’t repeat it, but she dropped the phone, screaming while it was still talking. Rick rushed to hang it up – hoping he could use it after all – but the line was dead; after that, the girls were given coloring books, and the phone was unplugged.

An hour passed with no relief in sight; help wasn’t coming, but something else was. From the patio doors – beyond the nearly solid wall of rain – Mrs. Gordon was just able to make out a hulking, black figure. That’s when the whistling began; it was the warped Ring Around the Rosie tune, and it didn’t stop when the creature darted away. It was gone as quickly as it appeared – zipping between trees as it circled the cabin; they would catch glimpses of it – even closer – from a different window only to watch it vanish before their eyes yet again. All the while, they were moving as well, but they weren’t consciously aware of being herded. Finally – as they stood grouped near the sliding doors – the beast returned, face pressed to the glass.

For a brief but horrifying moment, no one moved; they were frozen in the face of an evil they didn’t know existed yesterday. Their paralysis was broken suddenly by the sound of shattering glass as the Whistler came inside and chaos erupted. Rick and Mr. Gordon tried taking aim, but the creature moved too fast in the crowded room; in seconds, the young woman was being carried through the shattered doors – out into the raging storm.

The poor girl’s boyfriend ran after her and leapt onto the Whistler‘s back with a proud – but ultimately useless – roar of angry defiance. With the couple in the way, no shots could be fired as the mortifying silhouette disappeared into the wall of rain. The parents could do nothing to shield their children from the screams that came next, but they ended quickly. The creature didn’t return, and when the storm finally passed three hours later – Rangers were sent to the occupied campgrounds to perform wellness checks.

When they found Rick, he and the family told them everything – all the way down to the Whistler’s red eyes, round, contracting mouth, and horrible smell – but the main point they stressed was the whistling. You’d think that would warrant an investigation right? Two people were dead, the creature they saw up-close clearly wasn’t human, but animals can’t whistle – especially not a song!

A big fuss was raised for the Gordons’ sake; they would be attending family therapy sessions for the next ten years because of that night. Management was terrified of the implications that might arise from the fact it all happened while a Park Ranger stood five feet away, but once those people left, that was the end of it. I don’t find that surprising – I would never want to think about that experience ever again!

Rick wasn’t willing to answer any of my questions. I’m not sure if he told me this story to warn me about the Whistler, Management, or secrecy, but I think it was intended as a friendly warning. Who knows what I could have learned if it would have taken longer to replace Amy. From that one night alone, I also heard a dozen examples of hikers being stalked on the trails and campers being tormented in the night. One story even sounded like the couple’s from Mississippi – the ones who basically played red light/green light with something invisible – but none of the other stories came close to that one on the lake.


Thankfully, I’ve only had one personal incident since my last letter; it happened to me and my new partner in that damn fog yesterday. Chris had to drop out of college to help care for his sick mother; he and his sister are doing their best, but he needs to get the hell away from the park before the choice is taken from him. It’s one thing for the older roughneck types like myself, but I hate seeing the young ones out there. I know that sounds hypocritical, but at least if I died, my family would mourn with a comfortable insurance payout; his family would have nothing but more debt on top of broken hearts.

I tried to warn Chris delicately at first, but nightmares and whistling didn’t phase him – nor did Tyler’s memorialized Facebook page. Nothing got through to this kid, so I decided to let nature take its course; most of us learned the hard way, but I didn’t expect him to get thrown straight into the deep end.

Five of our bigger lodges are rented out for a family reunion; they arrived over the weekend and planned to stay for ten days, but who knows what they’ll do now. After breakfast, a husband and wife left for a day of hiking, though they didn’t have a specific route or destination in mind; Jarred, the husband, simply told his brothers they would be back from exploring by dinner time. Both were experienced hikers who love to go camping and mountain climbing in their spare time; there was no doubt they were already dead.

When the sun had fully set and the couple’s food was hours cold, the family began to worry in earnest. As Chris and I passed by on patrol – all five cabins were lit up; in the windows, we saw multiple people pacing on their phones while teenagers hauled flashlights and various supplies out to a dozen men who were hunched over park maps.

Our radio crackled to life at the same time the family noticed us; we were told to wait with them at the lodges. Search & Rescue was on the way, and they didn’t want to lose anyone else – which is understandable, but difficult to manage. We stood in front of nearly forty people and said, “You can’t go looking for your family members because your scents will confuse the dogs.”

You know – because we couldn’t say, “They’re already dead, but we’d rather perform fake searches than admit the truth.”

Of course, that was far too easy for a night at the park; the whole bunch reluctantly agreed to stay near the cabins except for the ones who were already gone. Jarred’s two brothers set off fifteen minutes before we arrived, and now, three more wanted to bring those guys back. That didn’t leave much wiggle room for our options; we had to find those brothers or the other three would be sneaking off under our noses.

There are five trails in that area; four are very easy and used to navigate the park, and the other one is for people who specifically want the full hiking experience. Since the missing couple were avid hikers, the brothers chose to start there – which, yes, it was obviously the logical conclusion – but I couldn’t help feeling a strong resentment toward them as our flashlights illuminated the rocky, uneven terrain.

We set a fast pace – probably too fast – but I hoped the men were stopping periodically to search for tracks and call out the couple’s names; if they had, we would have found them relatively fast. Thirty minutes later, that theory was dead, and we were at a split path. Chris wanted to split up – rookies, am-I-right – but I shut that shit down fast. We took a closer look at the trail, and there were tracks on the left side that looked fresh – well, when compared to the other side; I’m not very good at that sort of thing, but I happened to be right on this occasion.

We walked for another five minutes before beginning to hear faint voices in the distance. Soon, we could understand their words – they were calling for Jarred and Emily; it was the brothers! We had been ready to collapse after the ridiculous pace we kept, but finding them gave us a second wind. I shouted their names as we ran, and I almost didn’t notice the wisps of fog at our feet. My heart dropped into my stomach like a lead weight, and I came to a dead stop – grabbing Chris as I did so. We fell to the ground in a tangle, but it didn’t matter – I ignored him and continued calling for the brothers while struggling back to my feet.

The rookie didn’t understand what was happening, but he followed me in silence as I crept around the next curve and saw huge clouds of pure white fog enveloping the trees. Roughly twenty feet ahead, the brothers were standing half-shrouded in it already. In my desperation to get them away, I said something horribly misleading. “We have very important news about your brother; please come with us!” I screamed so loud my voice cracked.

The shadowy figures turned their heads, and my eyes filled with tears of relief when they began walking towards us – away from that god-damn fog. Before they reached us, I began walking back. I had to keep us moving; we couldn’t stop to discuss anything while that stuff was spreading. I didn’t plan to stop at all until we were indoors, but not long after passing where the road split – the brothers didn’t leave me much of a choice; they refused to go any farther without an explanation.

No matter how desperate I was to get them away from there – I just couldn’t bring myself to get their hopes any higher. When “your mother needs you” didn’t work, I tried, “they were spotted near one of the mountain trails a few hours ago.” That one did the trick; they resumed walking, and I happily did the same.

Then Chris opened his mouth, and I’ve never wanted to punch someone so badly in my entire life. “You fellas go ahead, I’m gonna make sure Mrs. Robinson didn’t get lost in this fog.” He ran off, ignoring every word I said as he went.

Who the hell is Mrs. Robinson’, you ask? Oh, she’s the imaginary lady we need to check on when a particularly chatty guest doesn’t want to let us go. We don’t do it often, but you gotta remember we’re working night shifts; if someone is holding us for a random thirty minute conversation at 3am – you can bet it’s a freaking weird one. Hell some of them would probably fit in on this channel, but I’m not trying to drag you guys along on a tangent. The point is, I couldn’t let the fool run off alone, so I had to send the brothers ahead and chase after him.

One of the first things I ever said to you guys was ‘we’re just regular people” and that certainly hasn’t changed. I followed my partner because he was in danger, and I couldn’t leave him behind; that being said, I couldn’t walk into that fog, either. I stopped before reaching the low, wispy edges that fanned out from the wall, and I begged him to turn back; the last speck of his silhouette was fading, and I knew he was gone forever the moment it did. Then, there was a low, monstrous growl that felt like the sound itself was wind – blowing beneath my skin and through the bones.

Tears were already falling down my cheeks as I thought of his sick mother and how his sister would be all alone; the tiny speck left of Chris was magnified through my blurry vision, and even as it continued growing, I thought nothing of it until the screaming began. It wasn’t a death wail; it was the terrified scream of a man who saw something absolutely horrible, and it made me smile.

Soon, Chris was beyond the wall – still screaming – and the utter look of relief that crossed his face upon seeing me made him look six-years-old… however briefly. It was gone in the same instant, replaced by guilt and shame. He almost fell while trying to look back, and only then did I realize the big question – the one you guys probably asked immediately – ‘is something chasing him?!’

No, it wasn’t – not this time – but he might not be so lucky the next – or me either for that matter. We radioed the others that we were heading back, and Chris stared at his feet while trying to explain he would never have forgiven himself if they turned those brothers away, and it cost the hikers their lives. I already knew that – that’s why we all pull stupid stunts in the beginning – but I wanted to know what happened in the fog!

He only intended to walk straight for a few minutes, but it was less than sixty seconds when the ground suddenly disappeared along with everything below his knees. The fog was too thick to even see his outstretched hand, and that was enough to make him turn back, except – as he did – something heavy suddenly ran several steps towards him. Chris jumped, spinning around as he searched for the source, but there was only fog everywhere he looked; even worse – he lost his sense of direction; he had no clue which way he was originally facing.

Scared of going the wrong way, he stood in place and called to me, but I never heard him. While listening for a response, he took a few steps forward and noticed it was slightly easier to see; wanting to be out of the fog more than anything, he went a little further until the ground was visible again. That’s when he heard a crunching sound – like a dog with a bone – and the occasional meaty rip. Then he saw it – the Whistler sucked up an intestine like spaghetti, but the visible body parts weren’t gender specific; he doesn’t know if it was Jarred or Emily… and if this story ruins spaghetti for you, too – I sincerely apologize.

Chris backed away slowly at first, but then a whimper escaped his throat, and the creature stopped eating; my incredibly lucky-to-be-alive partner screamed and ran away without looking back. It was nothing short of a miracle that he happened to run in the right direction. I don’t understand why we couldn’t hear each other’s screams in the beginning but we could at the end… Of course, I don’t understand most of this stuff, but some things make even less sense than usual.

Eventually we passed the Search & Rescue teams on their way to secure the fog with their fancy automatic rifles – rifles I bet the family didn’t see. The wall didn’t begin to disperse until dawn, and by then there wasn’t even blood left in the grass. The family extended their stay indefinitely while the search continues, but Chris and I are being moved as far away as possible so we won’t be tempted to answer any of the guests’ persistent questions. I’m not complaining – even if I tried to warn them, they wouldn’t believe me. People like that would go straight to my boss claiming I tried to scare them away or something equally ridiculous; it’s safer and easier to avoid the spotlight.


Well, that’s all I have for now, I’m sorry there isn’t more, but I didn’t want to wait any longer to send this. As much as I love writing to you, I won’t be heartbroken if things are slow for a while. It might be cool to research other past incidents – maybe I could map the events out on a timeline to see if any unusual patterns or connections emerge!

Anyway, thanks again, everyone; you guys have really made this whole situation bearable. Sometimes, I wonder how many other people had their sanity saved by this channel; one of the other stories described it as coming home to a big house full of your friends, and that’s exactly what it feels like for me, too!

Classics Translated

The Pit and the Pendulum

Edgar Allan Poe, first published in 1842; translated into Modern English, otherwise exactly the same.

(Narration coming soon)

I was sick to death of the agony; when they untied me, and I was allowed to sit, I felt like I was losing my mind. The dreaded death sentence was the last thing I heard. After that, the sound of the interrogating voices merged into one dreamy, unrecognizable hum. It infused my soul with the idea of revolution – perhaps due to the way it sounded like a mill-wheel – but I only heard it for a brief period. For a while, I saw terrible things! I saw the thin lips of the black-robed judges. They were whiter than the paper I write on and grotesquely thin; they all wore the firm expression of one who is absolutely certain of their beliefs, and they showed a stern contempt for torture. Their lips squirmed with deadly commands as they passed judgment over my Fate. I saw them form the syllables of my name and shuddered when no sound followed. For a moment, I also saw the soft and nearly invisible movement of the black curtains that wrapped the walls. Then, I saw the seven tall candles on the table. At first, they seemed like white, slender angels who would save me, but suddenly, I became very nauseous; every inch of my body felt like I had been electrocuted. The angels became meaningless ghosts with flaming heads, and I realized they would be no help. Next, I heard a rich, musical note and thought of how peacefully the dead must rest. The thought crept up gently and took a long time to complete, but just as I began to really consider it – the judges magically vanished. The tall candles sank into nothing, and the black darkness prevailed; all sensations were swallowed up in the mad, rushing fall into hell. Then, silence, stillness, and night were the only things left in the universe.

I felt faint but did not completely lose consciousness. I will not attempt to define or describe what little remained, but all was not lost. In the deepest slumber— no, in delirium— no, in death— no, even in the grave, all is not lost; otherwise, man cannot be immortal. When waking from a deep sleep, we break through the silky web of some dream, yet a second later – we forget what it was about. There are two stages to waking. First, is in the mental or spiritual sense; second, is in the physical sense. Once awake, we can usually recall impressions of the dream; these impressions are clear memories of the gulf beyond, and that gulf is— what? How can we tell its shadows apart from the ones we see in death? If the impressions from the first stage are not remembered immediately, they come to us spontaneously, and we wonder where they came from. A man who has never felt that madness will not see strange places and familiar faces in the embers of a fire or imagine sad visions floating in the air; he will not wonder about the smell of a random flower or grow confused over the meaning of a song.

Among frequent attempts at trying to remember any part of mine, there were moments I remembered dreaming of success; there were very brief periods where I imagined myself in the future, and that is how I knew it could not be real. These shadowy memories are of tall figures that dragged me down in silence— down, down, still further down, until I became horribly dizzy at the mere idea of continuing. My unnaturally still heart also warned of a vague horror. Then, everything suddenly stopped – as if my tormentors had reached their limit and needed a break. After this, I remember a flat, damp area, and the rest is a chaotic memory trying to hide forbidden things.

I woke to my heart beating loudly in my ears followed by a silent pause, and a tingling sensation spread through my body. For a long while, there were no thoughts – merely an awareness of my existence. Then, very suddenly, my thoughts returned, and I was consumed by terror as I tried to understand my situation. It resulted in a strong desire to fall back into oblivion, but was soon followed by a surge of motivation and a successful attempt at moving. Now, I remembered the trial, the judges, the black robes, the punishment, the sickness, and the delirium; with great, concentrated effort, I was able to vaguely recall what happened later that day.

So far, my eyes remained closed. I was untied and laying on my back; I reached out my hand, and it fell heavily onto something hard and damp. I struggled to keep it there for several minutes while trying to imagine what it could be. I dared not to look even though I wanted to; I dreaded seeing the objects around me. It was not that I feared looking at horrible things, but I feared there would be nothing to see. With a wild desperation, I opened my eyes quickly, and my worst fears were confirmed. The blackness of night surrounded me, and I struggled to breathe. The intensity of the darkness was crushing, and the air was unbearably dense. I continued to lay quietly and tried to think logically. I thought about the trial and attempted to discern my location. It seemed like a very long time had passed since my sentence was given, but I did not think myself dead for even a moment. Such an uncertain belief only happens in works of fiction, but where – and in what – condition was I? Those sentenced to death usually died at the inquisition burnings, and one of these had been held on the same night as my trial. Had I been returned to my dungeon to wait for the one that is several months away? I immediately knew that could not be. Victims were in immediate demand. Plus, my dungeon and all the condemned cells in Toledo had stone floors, and they were not pitch black.

A scary thought suddenly made my heart race, and for a brief time, I once more fell into a state of delirium. Upon recovering, I immediately rose to my feet – my entire body shaking. I reached my arms out blindly in all directions and felt nothing, yet I feared taking a step in case I found the walls of a tomb. Sweat ran from every pore and stood in big, cold drops on my forehead. The suspense was agonizing and grew to be unbearable; cautiously, I moved forward with my arms extended – straining my eyes in hopes of finding any faint ray of light. I continued for many paces, but everything was black and empty. I breathed easier; it was obvious that I had at least escaped the worst fates.

As I continued to step forward cautiously, I suddenly remembered a thousand vague rumors about the horrors of Toledo. Strange things have been said of its dungeons; I had always considered them to be myths – too ghastly to repeat above a whisper. Was I left to starve in this underground world of darkness? What even worse fate might await me? It would be a harsher death than the usual bitter executions they perform; I knew my judge’s character too well to doubt it. The how and when were the only thoughts that distracted me.

My outstretched hands finally found a smooth, stone wall. It was slimy and cold, but I followed it along, stepping carefully and wondering what brilliant idea made me try in the first place. This process did nothing to help determine the size of my dungeon; I made a complete lap back to where I started without being aware of it. Since there were no unique features, I looked for the knife that had been in my pocket, but it was gone, and my clothes had been exchanged for a coarse, woolen robe; I had wanted to use the blade to mark my starting point. There was an easy solution, but my initial panic made it seem impossible to do any other way. I tore part of the robe’s hem and placed the strip of fabric by the wall; I thought it would be impossible to miss while feeling my way around the cell, but I either underestimated the dungeon’s size or my own weakness. The ground was wet and slippery; I staggered forward for some time until I tripped and fell. I was too tired to get up and soon fell asleep.

When I woke and reached out my arm, there was a loaf of bread and a pitcher of water. I ate and drank greedily – too exhausted to care how it got there. Then, I resumed my lap around the prison, and finally returned the strip of cloth. I had counted 52 paces before falling, and I counted 48 more after. In total, that is 100 paces, and – assuming two paces equal one yard – I figured the dungeon to be 50 yards in circumference. However, I found many angles in the wall and could not guess the shape of the vault; I could not help thinking of it as a vault.

I had few clues and no hope of learning anything, but a vague curiosity prompted me to keep trying. Giving up on the wall, I decided to cross the dungeon’s floor. At first I went with extreme caution; although the floor seemed solid, it was covered with slime. Ultimately, I did not hesitate to step firmly as I struggled to cross in as straight a line as possible. I went 10-12 paces this way when the scrap of cloth became tangled between my legs; I tripped and fell hard on my face.

During the confusion after my fall, I laid on my back, not understanding what I saw. My chin rested on the prison’s floor, but not my lips or anything above them; my forehead was soaked in a clammy sweat, and I could smell the peculiar stench of rotten fungus. I reached forward and shuddered to find myself at the edge of a round pit; I had no way to determine its size. Feeling around the bricks at the edge, I was able to remove a small piece and drop it into the hole. For many seconds I listened to it bounce off the stone walls as it fell; finally, there was a sullen splash of water followed by loud echoes. At the same time, I heard the quick opening and closing of a door from above, and a faint beam of light suddenly flashed through the gloom and faded away.

It became clear what they had planned for me, and I congratulated myself for the timely accident that allowed me to avoid it. One step further, and it would have been the end. There was a choice between a physically horrible death or a mentally horrible death, and I had been marked for the latter. My nerves were a wreck from all the suffering I had endured; I trembled at the sound of my own voice and was now a perfect subject for the awaiting torture.

Shaking all over, I felt my way back to the wall; I decided to die there rather than risk the terror of the pit. My imagination created many horrors in the dungeon. If my mind were in a better state, I might have had the courage to end my misery immediately by jumping into the hole, but in that moment, I was the king of cowards. The fact that it was a slow death was the only thing I remembered reading about the pit.

My anger kept me awake for many hours, but eventually, I slept again. Upon waking, I found another loaf of bread and a pitcher of water nearby. I was consumed by a burning thirst and emptied the pitcher in a single drink. It must have been drugged; I hardly drank any before becoming unbearably tired and falling into a deep, death-like sleep. I do not know for how long, but when I woke, my surroundings were visible. Due to an unknown soft, yellow glow, I was able to see the full prison.

I had been greatly mistaken about its size; it was no more than eight feet wide. For several minutes this fact troubled me greatly. What could be less important than the size of my dungeon? My mind tends to focus on insignificant details, and I tried to discern how I misjudged the dimensions by so much. Then, I realized the truth; during my first attempt, I counted 52 paces before falling and must have been only a couple of steps away from the torn fabric. I had almost completed the lap when I fell asleep; considering my calculations were almost double the actual size, I must have walked back the way I came after waking. In my confusion, I failed to realize the wall was to my left when I started and to my right when I finished.

I was also fooled about its shape. I found many angles when feeling my way around and assumed something very unlikely; waking from a deep sleep in total darkness has a strong effect on one’s senses. The angles were only a few small, sporadic indentations; its actual shape was square. What I mistook for stone were huge plates of iron or a similar metal, and the indentations were where the plates connected. The metallic dungeon was filled with hideous and repulsive devices inspired by the superstitious monk’s burial chambers. The walls were covered with menacing skeletons and other frightening images. The shapes of these monstrosities were clear, but the colors were faded and blurry from the damp atmosphere. In the center of the stone floor was the round pit I had almost fallen into.

It was difficult to see these things due to my poor condition. I was now lying on my back, and a long strap held me in place atop a low, wooden platform. The bond wrapped around my limbs and body several times, and only my head and left arm were able to move; with great effort, I was able to feed myself when given food. To my horror, the water was gone, and I was consumed by an unbearable thirst. The food reeked of spices that would make me even more thirsty; removing the water was yet another method of torture.

Looking up, I inspected my prison’s ceiling. It was 30-40 feet high and built like the walls. My attention then focused on a single, painted panel; it showed the Grim Reaper, except – instead of a scythe – he held a picture of a huge pendulum like we see on antique clocks. There was something about the machine’s appearance that made me inspect it carefully. When I looked straight up at it – I realized it was moving. It moved in short, slow swings, and I watched it for several minutes – partly from fear, but mostly from curiosity. Finally, I grew tired of observing its dull movement and looked at the rest of my cell.

I heard a slight noise and looked down to see several enormous rats crossing the floor. They came out of the pit which I could see to my right. While I watched, dozens hurried out with ravenous eyes – attracted by the smell of meat. It required great effort to scare them away.

There was no way to track the time, but nearly an hour later, I looked up again. What I saw confused and amazed me. The pendulum was swinging nearly a yard wider at a greatly increased speed, but the fact that it had lowered was the most disturbing part. The end of the crescent-shaped glittering steel was roughly a foot long from point to point, and the bottom edge looked sharp as a razor. It seemed bulky and heavy, but higher up, it thinned and connected to a hefty brass rod that hissed as it swung through the air.

There were no more doubts that I faced the monk’s ingenious tortures. The inquisitors knew I discovered the pit – whose horrors are reserved for bold rebels such as myself; it is comparable to hell and regarded as the worst of all their punishments. Being trapped and ignorant of what is to come is an important part of the torture. I avoided falling into the hole by accident, and throwing me into the abyss would be no fun for the demons. Now, a different, milder death awaited me. Milder! I half-smiled at the word choice despite my agony.

For many long, long hours of indescribable horror, I counted the steel pendulum’s rushing swings. Inch by inch it slowly lowered – down and down it came! Days passed; it might have been many days – it swung so close, I could feel its pungent wind. The sharp steel’s smell forced itself into my nostrils, and I begged heaven for a quicker descent. I grew frantic with anger and struggled to force myself up – into the frightening blade’s path. Then, I suddenly calmed and lay smiling at the glittering blade – like a child smiles at a shiny object.

There was another brief period of delirium; upon waking, there was no noticeable descent in the pendulum, but it might have been longer. I knew the demons noticed my lapse of consciousness, and they could have easily stopped the blade. I felt indescribably sick and weak, as if I were starving. Even during the agony of that time, my body needed food. I painfully reached out as far as my bonds allowed and grabbed the small bit of food left by the rats. As I put it in my mouth, I realized something that made me happy – even hopeful. Yet what business did I have to hope? I felt joy and hope, but I also felt the happy thought vanish before it fully formed. I struggled in vain to remember it. My long suffering had nearly eliminated my ability to think clearly; I was an idiot.

The pendulum swung horizontally across my body – aimed to strike near my heart. First, it would slice into my robe, then, it would retreat and come back again… and again. Its swing now ranged thirty feet or more and would be strong enough to shred the iron walls, but the cutting of my robe would take several minutes. I paused at this thought – not daring to think of what would come next, but I considered it persistently as if that would stop the pendulum’s descent. I forced myself to think about the strange sensation and sound the blade would make as it passed across the robe; I thought about all these pointless things until my teeth were on edge.

It crept down steadily, and I took an erratic pleasure in comparing its descent with its velocity. To the right – to the left – far and wide – screaming at me like a cursed spirit with the stealthy pace of a tiger! I alternated between laughter and howling – depending which thought became my focus.

Down – unavoidably, relentlessly down! It swung within three inches of my chest! I struggled violently, furiously, to free my left arm; it was only loose from the elbow down. With great effort, I could reach the nearby plate and my mouth, but no farther. If I could have broken the bonds above my elbow, I would have attempted to stop the pendulum by catching it; I might as well have attempted to stop an avalanche!

Down still – consistently and inevitably down! I gasped, struggling and convulsing at every swing as my eyes followed it with a desperate eagerness; they reflexively closed at the descent, but death would have been a relief! Still, my whole body shook at the thought of how slight the descent would be that came before that first, glistening strike across my chest. Hope is what made my nerves quiver; the desperate kind that whispers to the condemned – even in the dungeons of the Inquisition.

In 10-12 more swings, the steel would connect with my robe. My soul was consumed with despair, but then, I realized the strap was the only thing holding me in place. The blade’s first strike would cut the bond – making it possible to free myself – though, the blade would be horrifically close. Any wrong movement would be deadly! Also, it seemed likely that the torturer’s minions had not considered or planned for the possibility! Was there a chance the strap was in the pendulum’s path? In my last, frustrated hope, I struggled to lift my head enough to see my chest. The strap wound tightly around my limbs and body in all directions except for where the blade would strike.

I dropped my head back, and an escape plan suddenly flashed through my mind. Earlier, I hinted that parts of one were beginning to form while I ate. Now, the plan was complete; it was weak, insane, and dangerous – but still complete. Though nervous and filled with doubt, I began immediately.

For many hours, the area around me had been swarming with rats. They were wild, brave, and starving; their red eyes glared at me as if they were only waiting for me to go still before attacking. “What food are they used to eating down here?” I thought.

Despite my greatest efforts to stop them, they ate almost all of my food. I was constantly waving my hand over the dish, but once they grew accustomed to the movement it stopped working; in their hunger, the vermin frequently bit my fingers. With the spices that remained, I thoroughly rubbed the strap wherever I could reach it; then, raising my hand away from the floor – I laid entirely still.

At first, the starving animals were startled and terrified at my sudden stillness. They retreated in alarm – many into the well – but only for a moment; I was right to depend on their hunger. Seeing that I remained motionless, a couple of the bravest jumped onto my platform and smelled the strap. This seemed to be the signal for the others to come forward. They rushed over in hordes – clinging to the wooden frame, and leaping onto me by the hundreds. The movement of the pendulum did not bother them at all; they avoided its swing as they focused on my tasty bonds. More and more swarmed over me in heaps, writhing on my throat, and their cold lips found my own. I was suffocating under their weight; the world has no word for the level of disgust that swelled within me, and my heart felt deeply chilled, almost clammy. Yet, I felt that the struggle would be over in a minute; the strap was noticeably loosened. It must have already been severed in multiple places. With inhuman determination, I continued laying still.

My calculations proved correct, and my efforts were not in vain. Finally, I was free; the shredded strap hung loosely from my body, but the pendulum’s swing had already cut into my chest. It had split the robe’s fabric and made two more passes – sending sharp shots of pain through every nerve – but it was time to escape. A wave of my hand scared the rats away; then, my movements were steady, cautious, and slow as I slid out of the straps and away from the blade. For the moment, I was free.

I was free from the blade but not from the Inquisition! I had barely stepped onto the prison’s stone floor when the hellish machine stopped moving, and some invisible force pulled it up into the ceiling. It was a lesson I took to heart; my every move was surely being watched. Free! I had only escaped one agonizing death to endure another – perhaps one even worse. At that thought, I nervously inspected the iron bars holding me prisoner and noticed something unusual – something I did not notice at first. For several minutes, I busied myself in vain with random assumptions, and – for the first time – realized where the yellow light was coming from. It came from a half-inch wide crack that extended around the entire cell at the bottom of the walls – which were completely separate from the floor. I struggled to look through the opening, but could not see anything.

As I rose from trying, I immediately understood the purpose of the chamber’s alterations. I saw the distinct outlines of figures, but their color was blurred and hard to describe. These colors were now intensely bright and gave them a menacing, ghoulish appearance that might have frightened someone with even stronger nerves than my own. Wild, ghastly, demonic eyes glared at me from a thousand directions, all gleaming with a fire I could not believe to be imaginary.

I could smell the vapors of heated iron, and the suffocating odor spread through the prison! A deeper glow settled into the eyes glaring at me, and I panted, gasping for breath; there was no doubt what my persistent, demonic tormentors planned now! I retreated to the center of the cell, away from the glowing metal. As I thought of the fiery end to come, I was relieved to remember the pit’s coldness. I rushed to its deadly edges and strained to see down below. The glare from the burning roof lit its darkest depths, but – for a wild moment – my eyes refused to understand what I saw. Finally, it wrestled its way into my soul until I could not deny logic any longer. Oh, what I would have given for a voice to speak! What horror! With a scream, I rushed away from the edge and buried my face in my hands, weeping bitterly.

The heat rose rapidly, and I looked up once again, shaking with fear. There had been a second change in the cell. Like before, I failed to understand what was happening at first, but I was not left wondering for long. The Inquisitor’s revenge had been rushed by my escape, and the King of Terrors would have no more delay. The room had been square; I saw that two of its iron angles were now small and the other two were large. The frightening difference quickly increased with a low, rumbling moan, and the room suddenly shifted into the shape of a diamond as the walls closed in. They did not stop there, and I did not want them to stop; I would have pulled those red walls to my chest like a blanket of eternal peace. “Death,” I said, “any death but the pit!” Fool! I should have known the burning walls’ purpose was to push me into the pit! Could I stand against its heat or pressure? The diamond grew flatter and flatter so fast that I had no time to think. The center fell just over the pit; I shrank back, but the closing walls pushed me forward. Finally, there was no foothold left on the prison floor for my burned and writhing body to stand. I stopped struggling, but the agony in my soul found comfort in one loud, long, and final scream of despair. I balanced on the edge and looked away—

There was a conflicting hum of human voices, a loud blast of trumpets, and a harsh grating like a thousand thunders! The fiery walls rushed back! An outstretched arm caught my own as I fell, fainting, into the abyss; it was General Lasalle. The French army had entered Toledo; the Inquisition was in the hands of its enemies.

Classics Translated

The Signal-Man

Charles Dickens, first published 1866; translated into Modern English, otherwise exactly the same. 

“Hello! Down below!”

When he heard me calling to him, he was standing at his box’s door with a short flag rolled in his hand. Considering what was said, my location should have been obvious, but instead of looking up to where I stood atop the steep ledge – he looked down the tracks. There was something remarkable about the way he did it, though – for the life of me – I cannot say what. It was enough to attract my attention even though he was hard to see down in the deep trench. I was high above him, blinded by the glow of an angry sunset; I had to shade my eyes before I could see him at all.

“Hello! Below!”

From looking down the tracks, he turned again and – looking up – saw me standing high above him. “Is there a path I can use to come speak with you?”

He looked up at me without replying, and I looked down at him without repeating my question. Then, the earth began to shake slightly, but it quickly grew violent, and a sudden blast of air caused me to jump back as though I were being pulled down. Steam rose from the speeding train and rolled away over the landscape; I looked down again, and the man was re-rolling his flag after waving it at the passing train.

I repeated my question. He paused, staring at me before pointing his flag towards a spot roughly two or three hundred yards away on my level. I called down, “alright” and made my way over. Looking closely, I found an uneven, zigzagging path and followed it.

The trail was extremely deep and unusually steep. It cut through a clammy type of stone that oozed and became wetter as I went down. The walk took long enough for me to recall a reluctant expression when he pointed out the path.

When I was low enough to see him again, he was standing between the rails, looking as if he were waiting for me to appear. His arms were crossed, and his chin rested in his hands. He seemed surprised that I paused and was wondering why.

I resumed my descent and stepped out onto the railroad; as I got closer to him, I saw that he was a pale man with a dark beard and thick eyebrows. His post was in the loneliest, most dismal place I ever saw. On either side was a dripping-wet wall of jagged stone, blocking out all but a strip of sky. In one direction, only a long, crooked view of this great dungeon could be seen, and the other ended in a gloomy, red light. It was the entrance to a black tunnel, and inside the massive structure was a depressing, forbidding air. So little sunlight ever found this spot, that it had an earthy, deadly smell, and so much cold wind blew through it, that I felt a chill as cold as death.

I was close enough to touch him before he moved. Without taking his eyes from mine, he took one step back and lifted his hand.

This was a lonesome post to occupy, and I said so; when I looked down from above, it instantly drew my attention. I suppose a visitor was rare, but hopefully not unwelcome. He merely saw me as another random person with a new interest in the great wonder of railroads. I spoke to him for that reason, but I am not sure of the words I used; I do not enjoy beginning any conversation, but there was something in this man that intimidated me.

He looked towards the red light near the tunnel’s opening in a very curious way – as if something were missing – and then looked back at me. I asked if that light was part of his job.

He answered in a low voice. “Don’t you know that it is?”

A monstrous thought came to me as I studied his fixed eyes and gloomy face; that he was a ghost, not a man. I stepped back, but in doing so, I saw he appeared frightened. This put an end to my monstrous thought.

“You look as if you are afraid of me.” I said, forcing a smile.

“I think I have seen you before,” he replied.

“Where?”

He pointed to the red light he had looked at.

“There?” I said.

Watching me intently, he replied a silent, “yes.”

“My good man, what would I do there? However, I will swear that I was never there.”

“I think I was mistaken,” he said. “Yes; I am sure I was.”

Our demeanors softened, and his answers to my questions were knowledgeable and interesting. He had many responsibilities, but most importantly, his job required him to be attentive and precise. There was practically no manual labor; he only changed the train signal, trimmed the lights, and sometimes turned an iron handle. When I asked about those long, lonely hours that would bother me so much – he simply said it was routine, and that he had grown used to it. He taught himself a language down there – even if he did form his own crude pronunciations of the words he read. He also practiced fractions and tried a little algebra, but he had no skill for mathematics. I wondered if he was required to stay in that damp tunnel the whole time, or if he could take a break to enjoy the sun. It depended on how busy he was; some days were slower than others. In sunny weather, he often did venture out of the shadows, but he never strayed too far from his electric bell, and he always listened for it nervously; it sounded like it was not worth the anxiety it caused him.

We went into his box where there was a fire, a desk for his logbook, a telegraph machine, and the little bell he previously mentioned. Hoping he would excuse the remark about his education without offense – I could not help notice he seemed educated for his position; he observed that men like himself are much more common than I would think. Men like him often end up in workhouses, the police-force, and even the army in desperate cases; he knew of others in the railroad industry as well. When he was a young student of natural philosophy, he attended lectures, but he also ran wild and wasted opportunities. He had no complaints about it – he made his bed, and he was lying in it; he was far too old to make another.

I condensed everything he said quietly in his dark, serious way; the whole time his attention was split between me and the fire. Occasionally, he threw in the word, “sir,” when referring to his younger days. He was interrupted by the bell several times along with needing to send and receive messages. Once, he had to stand outside waving a flag and shouting something to the driver as a train passed. He was remarkably dedicated to his duties – always stopping his answers mid-sentence until each new task was done.

Basically, I would have sworn he was one of the safest men ever employed in that position… except for the two times he fell silent and pale when the bell did not ring; then, he opened the door and looked towards the red light near the mouth of the tunnel. On both occasions, he came back with the same baffled expression I mentioned before and could not explain why.

When I stood to leave, I said, “You almost make me believe that you are a content man.” Though, I am afraid I must admit this statement was not completely true.

“I believe I used to be, but I am troubled, sir; I am troubled.” He replied in the same, low voice as when he had first spoken.

He would have taken the words back if he could, but I responded quickly. “With what? What trouble?”

“It is very difficult to explain, sir, and very difficult to speak of. If you ever visit again, I will try to tell you.”

“But I specifically intend to visit again. Just say when!”

“I get off early in the morning, and I will return tomorrow night at ten, sir.”

“I will come at eleven.”

He thanked me and walked me out. “I’ll use my white light until you have found the way up, sir. Make sure not to call out when you find it or when you reach the top!” He said in his peculiar low voice.

“Very well.” His manner seemed to make the place colder, but I said no more.

“And when you come tomorrow night, don’t call out! Let me ask you one last question. What made you shout, ‘hello! Down below,’ tonight?”

“Heaven knows… I said something like that—”

“Not ‘like that’, sir. Those were your exact words. I know them well.”

“Yes, those were the very words, but I only said them because I saw you below.”

“There’s no other reason?”

“What other reason could I possibly have?”

“You didn’t feel like they were conveyed to you in a supernatural way?”

“No.”

He wished me goodnight and held up his lamp. I walked alongside the tracks with an unpleasant feeling that a train was coming. When I found the path, it was easier to climb than descend, and I returned to my inn without any trouble.


As promised, I arrived the next night when the clocks were striking eleven. He was waiting for me at the bottom with his white light. “I have not called out; may I speak now?” I said when we were closer.

“By all means, sir.”

“Hello, then.” I extended my hand.

“Hello, sir.” He replied as we shook; then, we closed ourselves in his box and sat by the fire.

“I’ve made up my mind, sir.” He leaned forward and spoke in a whisper. “I’m going to tell you what troubles me. Yesterday, I mistook you for someone else. That troubles me.”

“That mistake?”

“No. The other person.”

“Who is it?”

“I don’t know.”

“Do they look like me?”

“I don’t know; their left arm was covering their face, and their right arm was waving violently – like this.” He imitated someone frantically waving their arm around and shouted, “For God’s sake, clear the way!”

“One night,” he continued, “I was sitting here when I heard a voice cry, ‘hello, down there!’ I jumped up, looked outside, and saw this Someone standing by the red light near the tunnel – waving as I just showed you. The voice was hoarse from shouting. ‘Look out! Look out!’ It cried, and then repeated itself. ‘Hello, down there! Look out!’ I picked up my lamp, turned it on red, and ran towards the figure. ‘What’s wrong? What happened? Where?’ I called as it stood just outside the dark tunnel. I got closer and wondered why it was covering its eyes. I ran right up to it, and when my hand stretched out to pull the sleeve away, it vanished.”

“Into the tunnel?” I asked.

“No. I ran 500 yards into the tunnel and lifted my lamp; I saw the distance markers and the wet stains dripping down the walls, trickling through the arch. Then, I ran out even faster than I had entered and looked around the light with my own; I climbed the iron ladder to the gallery, came down again, and ran back here to send telegraphs both ways. I acknowledged an alarm was given and asked if anything was wrong, but the answers stated that all was well.”

I tried to shake the chill that ran down my spine as I told him he must have been mistaken. There were known cases where a sickness in the brain could cause people to see things that were not there; some patients were even aware of the hallucinations. They would prove what was real with various tests. I said, “for an imaginary cry, you only need to listen to the wind blowing through this unnatural valley. Do you hear the wild sound it makes with the telegraph wires?”

We sat listening to the wind for a while, and he thought that was all very well, but he was already familiar with the sound; he had spent many long, lonely winter nights there. Instead, he begged that I allow him to finish his tale.

I asked his forgiveness, and he touched my arm before slowly continuing his story.

“Six hours after I saw it, a horrible accident happened on the tracks, and within ten hours, the dead and wounded were brought through the tunnel – over the spot where the figure had stood.”

I shuddered unpleasantly despite actively trying no to. I admitted this was a remarkable coincidence – it is no wonder it made such an impression on his mind – but the fact is, that remarkable coincidences happen all the time; they must be considered when dealing with such subjects. Though, when I feared my words had offended him, I was sure to add, “men with common sense rarely believe in coincidences when it comes to their daily routines.”

He again begged me to allow him to finish.

I again asked his forgiveness for my interruption.

Again, he laid his hand on my arm and glanced over his shoulder with hollow eyes. “It happened only a year ago; I had recovered from the shock after six or seven months, but one morning – while standing at the door – I saw the ghost near the red light again.” He stopped with his eyes fixed on me.

“Did it cry out?”

“No. It was silent.”

“Did it wave its arm?”

“No. It leaned against the light pole with both hands covering its face. Like this.”

I watched as he imitated the scene; it was a gesture of despair. I have seen the same one in graveyards.

“Did you approach it?”

“I came in and sat down – partly to collect my thoughts, partly because it made me feel faint. When I looked again, the sun had risen, and the ghost was gone.”

“But that was it? Nothing else happened?”

He touched my arm with his finger a few times – nodding in a ghastly way with each poke.

“That same day, when a train came out of the tunnel, I saw into the carriage windows; there was a tangle of waving hands and heads. I saw it just in time to stop the driver. He hit the brakes, but the train continued drifting for another 150 yards. I chased after it, and heard terrible screams and cries along the way. A beautiful young lady had died instantly in one of the compartments, and she was brought here – laid on this floor between us.”

I instinctively pushed my chair back as I looked to where he pointed at the floor.

“It is true, sir. It happened precisely as I said.”

I could not think of anything to say, and my mouth was very dry. The wind and wires sounded like a long, sorrowful wail.

“Now – listen to this and see what you think of my troubled mind. The ghost returned a week ago; ever since, it has been coming and going often.” He continued.

“At the light?”

“At the Danger-light.”

“What does it do?”

He repeated himself with even more passion and intensity – making the same frantic gestures that seemed to say, “for God’s sake, clear the way!” Then he continued. “I get no peace or rest; it calls to me in an agonizing way for several minutes at a time. ‘Look out, down there!” It stands there – waving to me and ringing my little bell—”

“Did it ring your bell yesterday evening when I was here, and you went to the door?” I asked.

“Twice.”

“Do you see how your imagination misleads you? I was looking at the bell; I would have heard it, and it did not ring then or at any other time. It only rang when the station was communicating with you.” I said.

He shook his head. “I have never made that mistake, sir. I have never confused the actions of a man for a spirit’s. When the ghost rings the bell, it has a strange vibration unlike anything else, and I never said the bell physically moved. I’m not surprised that you didn’t hear it, but I heard it.”

“Was the ghost there when you looked outside?”

“It was there.”

“Both times?”

“Both times.” He repeated firmly.

“Will you come to the door with me and look for it now?”

He bit his lip – somewhat unwilling – but rose anyway. I opened the door and waited on the step while he stood in the doorway. There was the Danger-light, the dismal mouth of the tunnel, the high, wet stone walls of the valley, and the stars above them.

“Do you see it?” I asked, carefully studying his face. His eyes were wide and strained but not much more than my own were when I looked at the same spot.

“No,” he answered. “It is not there.”

“Agreed,” I said.

We went inside, shut the door, and took our seats. I was thinking of how I could keep this progress going when he resumed the conversation in a very matter-of-fact way. It seemed as if he would not even consider the facts, and it made my argument sound like the one that was incorrect.

“By now, you should understand what troubles me so much; I must know what the ghost means?” He said.

I was not sure, but I told him that I did understand.

“What is its warning against?” he said, staring into the fire as he contemplated. “What is the danger? Where is it? There is danger hanging over us somewhere on the tracks; some horrible catastrophe will happen. It cannot be doubted after what happened before – this is the third time! This surely is a cruel haunting. What can I do?”He pulled out his handkerchief and wiped the sweat from his heated forehead.

“If I send a danger signal, I won’t be able to give a reason,” he continued, wiping the palms of his hands. “I would get into trouble for nothing. They would think I was crazy. I would say, ‘danger! Take care’ and they would ask what and where the danger was. What should I say then? ‘Don’t know, but for God’s sake, take care!’ They would ignore me – what else could they do?

His pain was very sad to see; he was a good man enduring mental torture. The pressure was more than he could handle.

Pushing his dark hair back and rubbing his temples feverishly, he continued. “When it first stood under the Danger-light, why didn’t it tell me where the accident was going to happen? Why not say how to stop it? The second time – when it hid its face – why didn’t it tell me, ‘she is going to die. Let her stay home’? If it only came to show me that its warnings are true, then why not simply warn me the same way now? And I – Lord help me – am merely a poor Signal-man on this lonely station! Why not go to somebody with credibility and the power to do something?”

Seeing him in this state, I realized I needed to help him regain his composure – for his sake as well as the public’s. Therefore, setting aside the question of real or imaginary, I told him that no matter what – he had done his duty well, and that should be comforting even if he did not understand a confusing ghost’s appearances. That attempt was far more successful than anything else used to reason with him. He calmed, and his workload increased as it grew late. I left at two in the morning; I offered to stay, but he would not hear of it.

I looked back at the red light more than once as I climbed the pathway; I freely admit that I did not like it, and I would have slept poorly beneath it. I did not like the two accidents or the dead girl, either.

What ran through my thoughts most was the consideration of what to do now that I was aware of the situation. The man proved to be intelligent, vigilant, and painstakingly exact, but how long will that last in his state of mind? Though it is a low-ranking position, he still holds an important trust. Would I bet my own life on his chances of continuing with precision?

Ultimately, I felt it would be treacherous to tell his superiors what he told me without first proposing an alternative to him; I resolved I would offer to accompany him to the best doctor we could find. He said that the next night, he would be off an hour or two after sunrise and back after sunset. I decided to return accordingly.


Next evening was lovely, and I left early to enjoy it. The sun was not quite set when I crossed the field near the top of the deep valley. I decided to keep going for an additional half hour to give myself a half hour walk back so it would be time to meet the Signal-man.

Before beginning my stroll, I stepped to the edge and looked down from where I had first seen him. I cannot describe the thrill I felt when – close to the mouth of the tunnel – I saw the figure of a man with his left sleeve across his eyes, frantically waving his right arm.

The nameless horror that struck me passed in a moment when I saw that this man was indeed only a man; there was a small group of men standing nearby, to whom he seemed to be making the gesture. The Danger-light was not yet lit. An entirely new, low structure sat against the light-post; it was made of wooden supports and a tarp, and was no bigger than a bed.

With a strong sense that something was wrong, and – cursing myself for leaving the man alone with no one to supervise or correct him – I descended the path as quickly as possible.

“What is the matter?” I asked the men.

“The Signal-man was killed this morning, sir.”

“Not the man who works in that box?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Not the man I know?”

“You will recognise him if you knew him, sir – his face is in good condition.” The man said, solemnly, removing his hat and raising one end of the tarp.

“Oh, how did this happen – how?” I asked, turning from one to another as the tarp fell back into place.

“He was cut down by a train, sir. No man in England was better at his job, but for some reason, he was not clear of the outer rail. It happened in broad daylight; he turned on the light and had the lamp in his hand. As the train came out of the tunnel, his back was towards her, and she cut him down. That man drove her, and he was demonstrating how it happened; show the gentleman, Tom.”

The man wore a rough, dark suit and returned to his former position at the mouth of the tunnel.

“Coming round the curve in the tunnel, sir, I saw him at the end – as if I were seeing him through a telescope. There was no time to check speed, and I knew him to be very careful. He didn’t seem to take notice of the whistle; I shut it off when we were getting close and called to him as loud as I could.”

“What did you say?”

“I said, ‘down there! Look out! For God’s sake, clear the way!’”

I gasped.

“Ah! it was dreadful, sir. I never stopped calling to him. I put one arm over my eyes so I wouldn’t have to see, and I waved this arm until the last moment, but it was no use.”

Without prolonging the story to dwell on any one curious situation more than another – I may point out the coincidence of the train driver’s warning. It included not only the same words the Signal-man repeated to me, but also the words that only I had attached to the gesture he imitated.

Horror Fiction

Born on 13

This story is dedicated to Patricia, the one boss who truly did treat her employees as family; I owe her more than I can express, and I deserved none of it. She saved even more cats than people; if ever a soul truly deserved paradise, it was hers. 


The CreepyPasta

The following was recorded in New York City during a group session on Friday, August 13, 2021.

EIT 0-3-7


JAMIE:

Hello everyone, I’m Jamie—

GROUP:

Hi Jamie! [light applause]

JAMIE:

[clears throat] Um, well… this is my first time… so, I’m sorry if I sound nervous. It feels a bit strange to just stand up and start telling my story to a room full of strangers…

FATHER PAUL:

Take your time; try to remember – everyone in this room has been exactly where you are. You’re among friends, now. No one is here to judge or label – only listen. No one you see here will ever repeat a word.

JAMIE:

Yessir, thank you. Um, I suppose a little background would be helpful. To understand why I’m here, now – on Friday the 13th – you need to know it’s my birthday. I was born in ‘82, just after midnight during the worst storm of the year. My extremely superstitious mother didn’t even want kids, but between her Catholic upbringing and Dad’s actual desire for children – abortion wasn’t an option. My family isn’t from New York; we lived in a tiny town I guarantee you’ve never heard of.

Don’t worry, I’m not gonna bore you with a whiny rant about my childhood – I just want to convey that I was fully aware of the stigma surrounding my birthday from a young age. When I grew into an angry, rebellious teen, I decided to own that stigma. If it was unlucky for everyone else – it was good luck for me, and I made sure everyone knew it. If someone doubted me, I’d step on every crack, walk under any ladder, and pick up all the pennies on tails they wanted to drop.

In reality, nothing actually happened, but when people are looking for signs, they tend to find them – even if they have to create them. Of course, the more attention I got, the more I wanted to pull my own stunts. I’d try anything; I’d steal from a teacher’s desk, cheat on tests, or jump from the top of the monkey bars. Kids would watch me all day. If the final tally indicated bad luck – I made it into a big joke; if it was good – I thoroughly enjoyed a big round of pompous “told you so’s”.

[group laughs softly]

Haha, yea… I was a snarky little thing… Each year, I grew a bit bigger and braver, but not necessarily wiser. My stunts grew out of hand when I was old enough to drive. I won’t bother telling you about the countless times I almost went through the windshield, but I must have used a lifetime’s worth of luck on that alone. Instead, I’ll just skip to the scare that had a real impact on me.

There are only two cemeteries in my hometown – one for the rich, one for the poor. The city council didn’t want another graveyard in their fancy streets – if poor people wanted a cheap place to bury their dead, they would have to find space on their side of town. The only problem was, they were already packed in like sardines; rows of shotgun houses lined every street for miles until there was barely a foot between the last one and the forest. Eventually, volunteers cleared the land to make room for a new cemetery, but free, unorganized labor is rarely impressive.

I wish there was time to tell you the full story behind it, but essentially, they did the bare minimum every step of the way; you can’t blame them, they just wanted a place to bury their dead, but the end result was one extremely creepy cemetery. Since the first volunteers began the work near their own homes – they were very conscientious of how close the bodies would be. Wanting as much distance as possible, they cleared just enough space for a single-lane road before starting the real work. Today, that road is called Cemetery Drive; it’s almost a mile long and has no street lamps.

The whole situation made for a popular local legend. Back in the day, kids were dared to walk down Cemetery Drive with only a flashlight, but it was a little different by my teen years. Then, the challenge was to drive 10mph with the windows down and no headlights. So, on Friday, July 13th, 2001 – that’s exactly what I did. When six of us drove two cars out there, it felt like we were a big group, but I left my passenger behind with the others to do the dare alone.

That was before smartphones or livestreams; I could have cheated, but it gave me a rush to do this simple thing that terrified everyone else. The first half of the drive was exhilarating; the temperature was perfect, and the dim moonlight cast just enough glow to keep my car on the road. The trees were giant, looming shadows – swaying in the wind as if waving me on. As a skeptic, I felt safe in the knowledge there were no actual ghosts, and now, I can equate it to a VR experience. It was the thrill of being in a horror movie without the risks. Unfortunately, in my cliche, child-like naivety – I failed to understand how dangerous the real people around us were.

I should have seen the cemetery gates any second, but I stopped at the sound of footsteps. I couldn’t tell what kind, but I automatically assumed it was an animal. While listening, I realized it was walking at an unusually slow pace – even for something that was frightened… But if it’s afraid – why is it coming towards me? That was my thought process as I sat there, squinting into the darkness. Finally, when gravel crunched not three feet away from my driver’s window – I threw the car into reverse and switched on the headlights simultaneously.

My heart stopped mid-beat; there was a filthy, hairy man right next to me! He was dressed like a bum except for the night-vision goggles, and he lunged for me as I mashed down the gas pedal; the car flew backwards, and I watched in horror as the guy’s fingertips grazed the edge of my lowered window before falling away. When I couldn’t see him anymore, I did the scariest 3-point turn of my life and never looked back.

That night watered all the planted seeds of resentment I’d collected over the years until they bloomed into thriving sprouts of hatred, but I didn’t know how to ask for help. I thought the only way to make it stop was to move away and start fresh. Earning money was my only chance, and I didn’t have four years to waste at some college just for the possibility of a higher earning potential. Besides, I’m not particularly gifted in the intellectual department, haha…

[group laughs]

Whew, I’m sorry this is taking so long, but that was basically it—

FATHER PAUL:

[kind, patient] No, no – it’s your turn to speak, that’s why we’re here. You listened to Ray and Martha tell their stories; surely yours can’t be any worse, can it? Trust us, this is the first step to healing.

JAMIE:

[awkward chuckle] Yessir, of course… Um, [clears throat] right, so, I drove to New York with my graduation money and took any job I could find. I started flipping burgers during the day and bartending at night while sleeping in my car whenever I wasn’t on the clock. Forty days later, I moved in with a guy from the diner when he was looking for a roommate, and life was pretty good for the first time in… well, ever. I didn’t mention my birthday and no one asked; over the years, when it became necessary to show my driver’s license – it was rare for someone to notice the date; on those occasions, I shrugged it off, saying I was born on a Saturday, and no more was made of it.

I had a few relationships over the years, but nothing serious; I’ve always been happier alone, and it let me focus on work and saving money. At 25, I was able to afford my own studio apartment. It wasn’t fancy, but it was a nice, normal building in a safe area. [voice rising] You know how rare that is!

[group commiserates]

[deep breath] I’m so sorry… Would it be alright if I stopped for a minute? I could really use a bathroom break…

FATHER PAUL:

Umm… [clicks tongue] yea… I think we could all do with a little break. Tell ya what – this big, old building can be tricky to navigate for newcomers; let’s see if we can’t get Mr. Sumpter to show you the way. [chairs slide, footsteps echo across the room, and a heavy door creaks open]

[distant] Bill, can you escort our friend to the bathroom, please? Wouldn’t want anyone getting lost! [unintelligible reply] Good, take your time; we’re gonna stretch our legs a bit and freshen up the coffee. [door shuts and footsteps return]

Alright, everyone, take five. [recording stopped]


FATHER PAUL:

Feeling better now, Jamie? You seem to have regained a bit of color. Please – feel free to finish your coffee before continuing; we have all night. [booming thunder] Oh goodness, it sounds like the storm is getting worse, too… Well, all the better that we’re settled-in here, I suppose.

JAMIE:

Yessir… much better now, thank you. [sips coffee and chair slides]

[clears throat] So, umm, I was really proud of that apartment, ya know? I lived there for five years and was never once late with a payment… In fact, I was paying my rent the day the old manager had his heart attack. One second we were having our usual small-talk – the next, Roger was grabbing his chest. I didn’t know what to do – I called 911, but when they were loading him into the ambulance, it seemed wrong to let him go alone.

He didn’t have any family, so I told them he was my father; when the doctors left me in a waiting room, I went through his phone hoping to find anyone who could tell me what to do. That’s when I came across Patricia Birman’s name. I knew she was the building owner; we had met a few times over the years, and she seemed like a kind lady. No matter what, she would need to know what happened. Our phone call was brief; once I told her Roger was in surgery, she was there within the hour. That’s how she was; she’d drop everything if someone was in trouble.

We waited for three hours, talking about anything and everything to pass the time. As it turns out, she also lived in her car for the first few months after moving to the city. One thing led to another, and I emailed her a copy of my resume right there. She made arrangements to stay in town until Roger recovered, and she wanted to hire me at one of her restaurants… That’s when the doctors came to deliver the bad news. The old man had held on for so long, we just assumed he was going to pull through.

In the end, Mrs. Birman stayed on as manager for six months, but she needed help. What started out as answering a few questions turned into me becoming the assistant manager; I quit my other jobs and poured my soul into learning everything I could from Patricia. There was no reason for her to give me that opportunity, but she said it was more important to find someone trustworthy. She believed if someone was really willing to put in the work – they could learn anything; the trick was finding a person still willing to work nowadays, hah. Gosh, I admired her so much… [deep, shaky breath]

FATHER PAUL:

That’s alright, you’re doing great; just take it nice and easy. [thunder] we’re all here for you.

JAMIE:

Right… anyway, after those six months, she started letting me handle the office alone while she traveled – don’t forget, she still had several other businesses to run. I’ve never owed someone so much in my life; aside from a very generous salary – with benefits – she let me move into a single for half its price! I’m sure you’ve all had bosses feed you the same bullshit line I’d heard a thousand times before – “we’re a family here”, am-I-right? That lady – Patricia Birman – you remember her name, because she meant it! [sniffle]

Life was too good; disaster was around the corner – I just didn’t know when or where it would strike. That fear never went away, but the years passed, and I eventually became the manager; I even got upgraded into a two-bedroom! Hell, I even upgraded my car – but I couldn’t let down my guard. Sure, most people wouldn’t think much of my used Nissan and low-income complex, but they were my greatest achievements! If I never accomplished anything else – if I had grown old and died alone in that little apartment – I would have died happy!

For the longest time, I would lie awake at night – wondering when fate would realize I didn’t deserve happiness and bring it all crashing down. Then, three months ago, Patricia decided to renovate one of her other complexes; they were still considered “cheap” by city standards, but they were the most expensive of the cheap places… if that makes sense. They were much nicer than mine – let’s put it that way; the location wasn’t better, but it wasn’t worse either, and that’s good enough. Most people in the city can spend their entire lives waiting for that kind of luck! I really did know better… [sniffle]

Well, the point is that during the renovations, she discovered Margie’s drug stash hidden in the office air vent. When Patricia said she needed an experienced manager, I tried to decline – that’s how sure I was – but then she included more money and a budget for an assistant! She didn’t want to trust a property that large to a new hire; she preferred having me run that one while she trained someone new for my place. She even offered to throw in psych coverage to learn why I’m reluctant to accept good things for myself, hah… [slow exhale]

Who could say no to that? Not someone like me, that’s for sure. I decided just once, I was going to enjoy my good fortune – just once. The first six weeks were boringly standard. Patricia hired Lacy, a single mom, as my assistant; she’s lived at the apartments for over seven years and already knew most of the other tenants. We got along well enough, but sometimes she needed to leave work unexpectedly or bring her son to the office… It made things difficult if we were busy, that’s all. Peter is autistic, so I couldn’t really complain without seeming like a heartless piece of trash, ya know?

[group commiserates]

Honestly, if that was the price for my abundance of good fortune – great – bring it on. My apartment came with appliances, a digital thermostat, and WiFi; I treated Peter like absolute royalty – I wasn’t giving Karma anything she could even flinch at, but I knew it couldn’t be that easy.

Pete was a laid back kid, and his school was due to start back soon; he did alright around strangers as long as there weren’t more than two or three. Overall, things were better than ever until ten days ago when that elusive other shoe finally dropped. I didn’t even see it coming – it just randomly fell from the sky and flattened my sorry ass. The babysitter canceled for some reason or another, and I didn’t even get to sit down before the kid was at my heels. “Do you wanna see a magic trick?”

It took me by surprise; mornings were usually for his headphones and tablet while the office was actually busy, but he and Lacy were both flashing these proud, wide smiles as they waited for my “yes” – as if I had a choice.

“When’s your birthday?” It was almost a whisper.

I just wanted to get some coffee, so I told him… “8/13/82” and didn’t think twice about it… I couldn’t even remember the last time someone asked.

Apparently, the kid is able to tell what day of the week any date is – even a future one. Well – his little eyes went wide, and sure enough, “that’s the bad day!”

[loud] Ho! I knew it, and I said so! “Yep, it sure is, little man! Can’t get much worse, can it?— Oh, wait, yes it can! I’ll bet you didn’t know it was at midnight or during a terrible storm, did ya? Huh?!”

FATHER PAUL:

Whoa, easy there; that’s all in the past, now. Do you need a moment? [thunder] It’s ok if you do.

JAMIE:

No-sir, I’m just ready to finish this; then I want to chain smoke a whole carton of cigarettes, haha…

FATHER PAUL:

It’s just us old night-crew dogs here, I think we could get away with letting ya have a smoke; We’ll call it a reward for how well you’re doing!

JAMIE:

Really? That actually would be a huge help… as long as I wouldn’t be getting anyone into trouble.

FATHER PAUL:

No trouble at all; you guys sit tight, and let me see what I can rustle up. [recording stops]


JAMIE:

[lights cigarette] Wow, thank you, Father; [exhales smoke] I hadn’t realized how badly I needed this.

FATHER PAUL:

I told you, Jamie, that’s what I’m here for; my only job is to help you process what’s happened with as little trauma as possible. Now – when you’re ready, feel free to continue at your own pace.

JAMIE:

[hits cigarette] You’re a good man, Father – better than a place like this deserves – but I’m ready now.

Basically, I made a fine ass of myself snapping at the boy like that; I felt even worse when Lacy agreed with how ridiculous the superstition is, and Pete had already lost interest. I was beginning to think the city people wouldn’t care about a silly date the way the country bumpkins do. I was so ashamed of yelling in front of the kid – I found myself sharing the whole story with his clearly annoyed mother.

I told her about my superstitious upbringing, the kids at school, and what ultimately happened on Cemetery Drive. She seemed unsurprised about the children’s reactions but repulsed by the adult’s behavior. Friday the 13th is something she’d always thought of as a game; I don’t think she was capable of understanding how serious some folks take it. [hits cigarette] That’s why she didn’t see anything wrong with telling her friends about my little breakdown… Still, there’s a reason hotels and planes don’t use the number; it’s not because they’re afraid of bad luck – it’s because they don’t want to hear the customers’ incessant bitching!

By the next morning, everyone in the complex knew, and Lacy had a front-row view of the carnage. To be fair, she tried to intervene at first; each time someone came in to gawk – she sent them away in a less-than-gentle manner. Sure, it wasn’t every single person, but it was at least seventy percent that would quicken their pace or suddenly become very busy with their phones – anything to protect themselves in case I had the audacity to attempt conversation. If someone did speak to me – it was a child, and a horde of their friends were always nearby – pointing and giggling; [hits cigarette] talking to the jinx apparently meant seven years of bad luck which made for a wildly popular dare.

If I had less to lose, I would have given those kids a real reason to be afraid, but my options were rather limited; I had to settle for completely ignoring them which only made the little shits braver. They started throwing rocks and covering my car in toilet paper! I even got a ticket because they covered my tag, and I left without noticing! I came home furious; this was Monday evening, and the whole, miserable week was ahead; I was dreading my birthday to the point I decided to call Patricia and tell her everything. When the groceries were put away, I sat on the couch – finger hovering above the call button when I heard a noise coming from my bedroom. [hits cigarette]

I had started keeping a golf club handy and crept down the hall with it. Pausing at the entrance, I heard my closet door click softly shut; my first instinct was to pretend I hadn’t heard and text 911, but then I began to analyze the situation. [hits cigarette] I believed the intruder was one of the kids who vandalized my car and wanted to deal with them personally. With the assistance of a shotgun app, I stepped into the room – trying to sound intimidating when I made the pumping noise and yelled, “if you come out with your hands up, I won’t shoot through that door!”

I crept closer, golf club raised and ready; I didn’t intend to hit the kid, but I wanted to swing it over his head – just to give him a proper scare. Then Darren walked out, hands raised and shaking with a piss trail running down his pants! That dirtbag was almost twenty and still in high school because it took him three tries to pass each grade! Don’t misunderstand, I’m not mocking him for being stupid; that’s not what made him a dirtbag – his personality did that. Darren was the epitome of bully cliches; he treated everyone like shit – even his parents. I can’t tell you how many times he was brought home by police, or I saw him torturing some other kid around the complex. His behavior grew worse every year; it was only a matter of time before he really hurt someone. [hits cigarette]

When he saw I didn’t really have a shotgun, his pale, frightened face turned to one of rage and embarrassment; he glared at me with a scowl of pure hatred – I know the look well since I’m usually the one giving it. [put out cigarette] I was so angry; my chest went tight, and it was suddenly hard to breathe. I wanted to scream, but he opened his mouth and pushed me past my limit.

“I shoulda known; if a jinx like you had a gun you’d have blown your own head off by now!” The urine soaked intruder screamed indignantly.

I just… couldn’t take it anymore… I screamed something to the effect of, “what the fuck are you doing in here?!” I don’t understand how he had the balls to do anything short of begging me not to call the police…

Instead of answering my question, he tried to walk past me! He was going to leave and just get away with it! Then, I knew what would happen if I called; he would already be at home, and his parents would simply say he’d been there all night. It wouldn’t matter what the cops believed or how much they hated Darren; without physical evidence – he won.

All the rage I’d been holding back exploded… [deep breath] It felt like I was watching everything in a movie; suddenly, the club was swinging through the air, and it connected with the back of Darren’s head. Bright, red blood decorated the wall, ceiling, and my face. I was surprised by how wide the spray actually was; it didn’t seem like so much could come from one impact. On TV, the kid would have been dead already, but he started groaning almost immediately; the bastard didn’t even get to his feet before he started threatening me again! He was cursing me like a dog – saying I’d be in jail when he finished telling everyone how I drugged and kidnapped him! Next thing I knew, the club was swinging again.

When I finally came to my senses… [loud sob] it… it was too late. He was gone, and the whole room was wrecked; I think he tried to get away at one point. I have flashes of him trying to pull himself up with my dresser, and I swung high – breaking the mirror instead… but eventually… I didn’t miss… All that was left was a pile of disfigured meat and bone on a wet, red floor… and my vomit…

Twenty scenarios played through my head as I thought of how to explain myself. There was no way to involve the police without going to prison; trying to get away with it was my only choice. That no one heard the screaming was a miracle unto itself; I took it as a sign and started the clean up. First, I filled two trash bags and took them to my usual dumpster; I didn’t want to be seen making multiple trips back-to-back, and when I took three more several hours later, it was in the opposite direction.

If the kid ran his mouth about what he planned to do, I didn’t know how long it would be before someone came looking, but I couldn’t panic. Every two hours, I flushed small slices of organ and blood down the toilet. There was just so much; you wouldn’t think there could be any blood left in the body, but I was washing it down drains most of the night! I packed the bones in a tote for a weekend camping trip; anything left by then would go to the wildlife. If everyone could have simply left me alone, the last traces of Darren would have been gone when I came back from holiday!

[whimpers] the world is a far better place without him, anyway! I’m not some psycho serial killer; I’m not some wild animal who got a taste for blood! I just want my life back! [hyperventilating]

FATHER PAUL:

Hey there, take it easy; remember – slow, easy breaths. This is why you’re here; if you don’t tell us what happened, we won’t know how to help. [thunder] Believe me, Jamie, all we want to do is help. You’ve done so well and come so far, please don’t quit on us now!

JAMIE:

[snotty sniffle] Yessir; I just… I don’t understand what happened next. I didn’t have time for work, but my birthday was coming up, and I had all these vacation days saved… I knew everything would be ok if I could only make it through the weekend. I might have guilt-tripped Lacy a bit to make her more agreeable, but it was an emergency!

Everything was going according to plan on Wednesday and Thursday, but today— shit, of course it would be my birthday, wouldn’t it? I was making another dumpster run before the public restroom rounds when Patricia called. She wanted me to stop by for a special birthday lunch, hah! I couldn’t say no, either. She knew damn well I didn’t have any other plans, so – I cleaned myself up and went there instead.

I poured my entire being into holding myself together for the visit; I didn’t want to disappoint her after all she’d done for me! [choking sobs] When I got there, she had my favorite cake waiting, and I almost broke, but I didn’t; I held it together for her!

It happened when she was standing over the cake, knife in hand; she got a funny look on her face… It was like one side stopped working and suddenly, she was falling forward. I didn’t even have time to get out of my chair! [whimper] The blade… it went into her… there was so much blood… again! [sobbing]

I didn’t know what to do; who would believe me? Me! I pulled the knife out… I wanted to save her, but I saw it in her eyes, she was gone, man – gone! I don’t remember what happened next, I really don’t. Suddenly, police were there, and they said someone called them because of all the screaming, but that’s a lie; Patricia never screamed, and I said so! Then, they tried changing their story to say I was the one screaming! Can you believe that?

I tried to tell them what happened, but they wouldn’t listen; they wouldn’t even let me speak! Next thing I know, they’re throwing me in here, and I just wanted to go home!

FATHER PAUL:

Yes, Jamie; I can certainly understand your frustration. Also, I’m terribly sorry, but it seems like we’re out of time. [doors open] You remember Mr. Sumpter, yes? He’ll escort you from here. We all wish you the very best! [fast footsteps approaching]

JAMIE:

Wait, what? Hold on, it’s Bill, right? Please, don’t put your hand on me, I can… Wait! [chair falls, scuffle] Wait, what’s going on? I’m not finished! [voice becomes distant] Father? Father Paul?! [door slams]

FATHER PAUL:

Alright, great work everyone; I’ll see you back here on Monday morning!

[group chatters quietly as they leave]


SPECIAL AGENT PAUL CLARK:

This is Special Agent Paul Clark, and that concludes Experimental Interrogation Technique 0-3-7 on subject Jamie Reynolds.

Test Results: Success

Detailed Summary: Though the Subject was hesitant to participate at first – witnessing two undercover officers confess to similar crimes without repercussions seemed to put the Subject at ease. The vital component is believability; the Subject must be introduced to the controlled environment as early as possible after detainment. Furthermore, the addition of thunder ambience did seem to have a positive effect on the Subject’s willingness to remain.

While the Subject did not confess to the murder of Patricia Birman, the Subject did confess to the murder of a young man who was thought to be a runaway. When the autopsy revealed Mrs. Birman died of natural causes, a murderer might have been released back into society had it not been for this special technique. Records indicate the deceased was ill for a long time, but had apparently not shared the news with those close to her. Though, after reviewing her messages, we believe this to be the reason the Subject was invited to her home this morning.

It’s a shame how many killers will walk free when this method is eventually ruled unconstitutional to utilize on citizens… Regardless, it will still see plenty of use, but further studies are required before false confessions can be guaranteed.

[Recording Stopped]

Classics Translated

Bluebeard

Charles Perrault, originally published 1697; translated to Modern English, otherwise exactly the same. 


This story was adapted specially for Classics in the Rain with the wonderful Danie Dreadful. Enjoy Bluebeard in its full glory with this fantastic narration!

There was once a man who had fine houses, a great treasure, embroidered furniture, and gold-plated coaches, but this man was unlucky enough to have a blue beard; it made him so frightfully ugly that all the women ran away from him.

One of his neighbors – a highborn lady – had two daughters who were perfect beauties. He wanted to marry one of them and let her choose which it would be. Neither of the women would have him; they sent him back and forth from one to the other, unable to bear the thought of marrying a man with a blue beard. Adding to their aversion was the fact that he had already been married to several wives, and nobody knew what happened to them.

To win their affection, Bluebeard took them, their mother, and a few friends from the neighborhood to one of his country houses where they stayed for a whole week.

The time was filled with parties, hunting, fishing, dancing, and feasting. Nobody went to bed; they all spent the night celebrating and joking with each other. Everything went according to plan, and the youngest daughter began to think the man’s beard was not so blue after all, and that he was a very nice gentleman.

They were married as soon as they returned home. About a month later, Bluebeard needed to travel to the country for at least six weeks due to very important business matters. Not wanting his wife to be lonely, he suggested she take some friends to the country house and enjoy herself.

Original art I found

“Here are the keys to the two big rooms where my best furniture is stored. These keys are to the good silver, which are not for everyday use, and this one opens the safe containing my gold; these are for the jewelry cases, and this is the master key to all the apartments… Now – as for this little one here – it is the key to the ground floor closet at the end of the great hall. Open them all; go into each and every one of them – except for that closet. I forbid it. If you do open it – I will be greatly angered and resentful.” He said.

She promised to obey his exact wishes. Then, he hugged her, got into his coach, and left on his journey.

Her friends and neighbors did not wait to be invited; they were impatient to see the rich furniture, but they were too frightened of her husband’s blue beard to visit while he was there. They ran through all the rooms, and each was finer than the last.

Finally, they visited the two great rooms with the most expensive furniture. They could not sufficiently admire all the beautiful paintings, beds, couches, cabinets, tables, and full-length mirrors; some were framed with glass, others with silver, and they were the most magnificent they had ever seen.

In the meantime, the wife did not waste her time looking at all these fine things because she was impatient to open the closet on the ground floor. Her curiosity was so strong, she descended the black staircase with no thought to how rude it was to leave her guests, and – in her hurry – she nearly fell and broke her neck.

She paused at the closet door, thinking about her husband’s command and considering what the consequences might be if she disobeyed, but the temptation was too strong to resist. Trembling, she opened it with the little key, but it was too dark to see anything clearly. After a few minutes, her eyes began to adjust; the bodies of several dead women were laid against the walls, and the floor was covered with dried blood. These were all the previous wives of Bluebeard; he married and murdered them one after another. She thought she would die of fright, and the key fell from her hand.

She retrieved the key, locked the door, and went upstairs to recover in her room, but she was simply too frightened. Noticing the key was stained with blood, she tried to wipe it off, but it would not come out; she even tried to wash it with soap and sand, but that did not work either. The blood remained because it was a magical key, and she could never get it clean; when the blood was gone from one side, it reappeared on the other.

Bluebeard returned from his journey that same evening; he received letters on the road stating the business matters had ended well. His wife did all she could to convince him she was happy about his speedy return.

The next morning, he asked for the keys; her hand trembled so badly that he easily guessed what happened.

“Why is the key to my closet missing?” He asked.

“I must have left it on the table upstairs.” She said.

“Bring it to me at once.” Bluebeard demanded.

After several back and forths between them, she was forced to bring him the key. Bluebeard carefully examined it before asking, “Why is there blood on it?”

“I do not know!” The poor woman cried, paler than death.

“You do not know!” Exclaimed Bluebeard. “I know exactly what happened! You went into the closet, did you not? Very well, madam; you will go back and take your place among the ladies you saw there.”

At this, she threw herself at her husband’s feet and sincerely begged his forgiveness – vowing to never disobey again. She was so beautiful she could have melted a rock, but Bluebeard’s heart was harder than any rock!

“You must die at once, madam,” he said.

“If I must die, give me time to say my prayers.” She answered, her eyes bathed in tears.

“I will give you seven minutes, but not one second more.” Bluebeard replied.

When she was alone, she called to her sister, “Sister Anne, I beg you, go to the top of the tower, and see if my brothers are coming. They promised they would be here today; if you see them, give them a sign to hurry.”

Anne went to the top of the tower, and the poor wife cried out from time to time, “Anne, do you see anyone coming?”

“I see nothing but a cloud of dust, the sun, and the green grass.” Her sister replied.

Meanwhile Bluebeard held a great sword in his hand and called to his wife as loudly as he could, “Come down now, or I will come get you.”

“One moment longer, please,” his wife said; then, very softly, she cried out, “Sister Anne, do you see anybody coming?”

“I see nothing but a cloud of dust, the sun, and the green grass.” Anne answered.

“Come down quickly, or I will come get you.” Bluebeard cried.

“I am coming,” his wife answered; then she cried, “Sister Anne, you do not see anyone coming?”

“I see a great cloud of dust approaching.” Anne replied.

“Are they my brothers?”

“No, my dear sister, it is a flock of sheep.”

“Are you coming down?” Shouted Bluebeard.

“One moment longer,” his wife said; then she cried, “Sister Anne, do you see anyone coming?”

“I see two horsemen, but they are still far away.” She said.

“Thank God,” the poor wife replied joyfully. “It is my brothers; I will give them a sign to hurry.”

Then, Bluebeard yelled so loud, it shook the whole house. The frightened wife came down in tears, her hair in disarray, and threw herself at his feet.

“This means nothing; you must die!” Bluebeard said. Taking hold of her hair with one hand and lifting the sword in the other, he prepared to remove her head. The poor lady turned to him, and – with pleading eyes – asked for one final minute to compose herself.

“No, explain yourself to God,” he said, ready to strike.

At that moment, there was such a loud knocking at the gate that Bluebeard stopped suddenly. The gate was opened, and two horsemen entered. Drawing their swords, they ran directly to Bluebeard, and he knew they were his wife’s brothers; one was a soldier, and the other was a musketeer. He immediately ran to save himself, but the brothers captured him before he was off the porch. They ran their swords through his body and left him on the ground. The poor wife was almost as dead as her husband; she didn’t even have enough strength to stand and welcome her saviors.

Bluebeard had no heirs so his wife inherited everything. She used part of it to marry Anne to a young gentleman who loved her, and another part was used to buy captaincy commissions for her brothers. The rest she used to marry a very worthy gentleman who made her forget the bad time she had with Bluebeard.

Classics Translated

The Night the Ghost Got in

James Thurber, originally published 1933; translated to Modern English, otherwise exactly the same. 

This story was adapted specially for a live read by the amazing Danie Dreadful!

The ghost that got into our house on the night of November 17, 1915 caused a horrible mess; I should have just kept walking and went to bed. Its presence caused my mother to throw a shoe through the neighbor’s window and ended with my grandfather shooting a policeman. I regret ever stopping to pay attention to the footsteps.

They began around 1:15am – walking around the dining-room table at a quick but steady pace. My mother and my brother, Herman were asleep upstairs; grandfather was in the attic – in the old walnut bed that once fell on my father. I was drying off after a bath when I heard the steps. It sounded like a man was running around the dining-room table downstairs. The light from the bathroom was shining down the back steps – directly into the dining-room; I could see the faint shine of plates on the shelf and table. The steps continued to circle, and a board creaked at regular intervals when stepped on. At first, I thought it was my father or my brother, Roy; they had gone to Indianapolis but were expected home any time. Next, I suspected it was a burglar. It was not until later that I realized it was a ghost.

After the walking had continued for roughly three minutes, I tiptoed to Herman’s room. “Psst!” I hissed in the dark, shaking him.

“Awp,” he said in the low, hopeless tone of a beagle; he was always paranoid that something would “get him” in the night.

I told him who I was and said, “there’s something downstairs!” He got up and followed me to the back staircase. We listened together, but there was no sound; the steps had stopped. Herman looked at me with surprise – I was only wearing a bath towel around my waist. He wanted to return to bed, but I grabbed his arm.

“There’s something down there!” I said. Instantly, the steps began again; it sounded like a man was running around the dining-room table, but then they rushed towards us – taking the stairs two at a time.

The pale light was still shining down the stairs, but we saw nothing – we only heard the steps. Herman rushed to his room and slammed the door. I slammed the door at the top of the stairs and held my knee against it. After a long moment, I slowly opened it again. Nothing was there; all was quiet. None of us ever heard the ghost again.

The slamming doors woke mother, and she peeked out of her room. “What on earth are you boys doing?” she demanded.

Herman came out of his room. “Nothing,” he said gruffly.

“What was all that running around downstairs?” Mother asked. She had heard the steps, too! We only looked at her. “Burglars!” she shouted.

I tried to calm her by starting downstairs. “Come on, Herman,” I said.

“I’ll stay with mother; she’s all excited.” He said.

I stepped back onto the landing. “Both of you are staying right here,” mother said. “We’ll call the police.”

Since the phone was downstairs, I didn’t see how we were going to make a call – nor did I want the police – but mother made one of her quick, uncompromising decisions. She flung open her bedroom window and threw a shoe through the neighbor’s window. Glass fell into the bedroom of a retired engraver named Bodwell and his wife. Bodwell had been rather ill for some years, and was prone to mild “attacks.” Most everybody we knew or lived near had some kind of attack.

It was now about 2:00 on a moonless night, and black clouds hung low in the sky. Bodwell was at the window in an instant – shouting and shaking his fist. “We’ll sell the house and go back to Peoria,” we could hear Mrs. Bodwell say.

It was some time before mother got through to Bodwell. “Burglars!” she shouted. “Burglars in the house!”

Herman and I hadn’t dared tell her differently – she was even more afraid of ghosts than burglars. At first, Bodwell thought she meant there were burglars in his house, but finally, he calmed down and called the police for us. After he disappeared from the window, mother suddenly tried to throw another shoe, but I stopped her. It was not because of a necessity, but because she greatly enjoyed the thrill of breaking glass.

The police arrived in an impressively short time; there was a Ford sedan full of them, two on motorcycles, and a patrol wagon with eight more plus a few reporters. They banged on our front door, and flashlights searched over the walls, across our yard, and between the houses.

“Open up!” cried a hoarse voice. “We’re from Headquarters!”

I wanted to go down and let them in, but mother wouldn’t hear of it. “You’re naked,” she pointed out. “You’d catch your death.”

I wound the towel around me again. Finally the cops put their shoulders to our big, heavy door with its thick windows and broke in. I could hear wood breaking and a splash of glass on the floor. Their lights danced all over the living-room and dining-room, stabbed into hallways, and shot up both flights of stairs. They caught me standing in my towel at the top.

A heavy policeman ran up the steps. “Who are you?” he demanded.

“I live here,” I said.

“Well, what’s the matter, are ya hot?” He asked.

As a matter of fact, it was cold; I went to my room and put on some pants. On my way out, a cop stuck a gun into my ribs. “What are you doin’ here?” he demanded.

“I live here,” I said again.

The officer in charge reported to mother. “No sign of nobody, lady. He must have got away. What’d he look like?”

“There were two or three of them, whooping and hollering and slamming doors.” Mother said.

“Funny; all your windows and doors were locked tight.” The cop said.

Downstairs, we could hear the other officers stomping around. They were all over the place; doors and drawers were yanked open, windows were thrown up, and furniture fell with dull thuds. A half-dozen policemen emerged from the darkness of the front, upstairs hallway. They began to ransack everything; beds were pulled away from walls, clothes were torn off hooks, and boxes were pulled from shelves. One of them found an old harp that Roy won in a pool tournament.

“Looky here, Joe,” he said, strumming it with a big paw.

The cop named Joe took it and turned it over. “What is it?” he asked me.

“It’s an old harp that our guinea pig used to sleep on,” I said. It was true – that guinea pig never slept anywhere else, but I should never have said so. Joe and the other cop looked at me a long time before putting the harp back.

“No sign of nothing,” the cop who first spoke with mother explained to the others. “This guy,” he pointed at me, “was naked, and the lady seems hysterical.”

They all nodded but said nothing; they just stared at me. In the silence, we all heard a creaking from the attic. Grandfather was rolling over in bed.

“What’s that?” Joe snapped. Five or six cops sprang for the attic door before I could intervene or explain.

I realized it would be bad if they burst in on grandfather. He was going through a phase where he believed General Meade’s men were under fire by Stonewall Jackson, and they were beginning to desert. When I got to the attic, things were pretty chaotic. Evidently, grandfather assumed the police were deserters from Meade’s army – trying to hide away in his attic. He leapt out of bed wearing a long, flannel nightgown over woolen underwear, a nightcap, and a leather jacket around his chest. The cops must have immediately realized the angry, white-haired, old man belonged in the house, but they had no chance to say so.

“Back, you cowardly dogs!” Grandfather roared. “Back to the lines, you goddamn, lily-livered cattle!” With that, he gave the officer who found the harp a flat-handed slap upside his head that sent him sprawling. The others retreated, but not fast enough; grandfather grabbed the first cop’s gun and fired. The bang seemed to crack the rafters, and smoke filled the attic. A cop cursed and slapped his hand to his shoulder. Somehow, we all finally got downstairs again and locked the door against the old man. He fired once or twice more and then returned to bed.

“That was grandfather,” I explained to Joe, out of breath. “He thinks you’re deserters.”

“I’ll say he does,” Joe said.

The cops were reluctant to leave without getting their hands on somebody besides grandfather; their night had been a distinct defeat. Furthermore, they obviously didn’t like how the situation ended; I can see their point when they said something seemed fishy. They resumed their search, and a thin-faced reporter approached me.

When I could not find a shirt to wear, I put on one of mother’s blouses. The reporter looked at me with a mixture of suspicion and interest. “Just what the hell is really going on here, Bud?”

I decided to be frank with him. “We had a ghost.”

He gazed at me for a long time – as if I were a slot machine he lost a nickel to – then he walked away. The cops followed him; the one grandfather shot was holding his bandaged arm, cursing. “I’m gonna get my gun back from that old bird.”

“Yea,” Joe said. “You and who else?”

I told them I would bring it to the station house the next day. “What was the matter with that one policeman?” Mother asked after they were gone.

“Grandfather shot him,” I said.

“What for?” She demanded. I told her he was a deserter. “Of all things! He was such a nice-looking young man.” Mother said.

The next morning, grandfather was fresh as a daisy and full of jokes at breakfast. At first, we thought he had forgotten, but he hadn’t. Over his third cup of coffee, he glared at Herman and I. “What was with all them cops stomping around the house last night?” He demanded. He had us there.

Classics Translated

The Empty House

Algernon Blackwood, first published 1906; translated to Modern English, otherwise left exactly the same. 

This story has been added to our Classics in the Rain collection! Hear Danie Dreadful’s magnificent narration here for the full experience!

Certain houses – like certain people – somehow manage to instantly announce themselves as evil. No single feature is to blame; someone might be charming and attractive, but after getting to know each other, you see something is drastically wrong with them. They reveal secret and wicked thoughts that make others avoid them like a plague.

Perhaps it is the same with houses, and the evil deeds committed under a single roof are what give us chills and raise our hair. Maybe some of the evil person’s hatred and their victim’s horror are left behind; it could affect the new occupant – making them feel nervous or frightened for no apparent reason.

Nothing about this particular house hinted at the horror that happened inside. It was neither lonely nor dirty. It stood on a crowded corner of the square and looked identical to the houses on either side. They all had the same number of windows, a balcony over the garden, and white steps leading up to a heavy, black front door. Even the number of chimneys, the angle of the eaves, and the height of the railings were the same. In the back was a narrow strip of green with brick borders running up the wall to separate it from the adjoining houses.

Yet, despite seeming so similar to its fifty ugly neighbors, this house was horribly different.

It is impossible to say exactly where this invisible difference is. It cannot be entirely the imagination because too many people have stayed there without knowing its history; even they claimed that certain rooms were so awful, they would rather die than return. The house’s very atmosphere created a feeling of genuine terror, and the innocent people who tried to live there were forced to leave with hardly any notice. The town practically considered it a scandal.

When Shorty arrived to pay a visit to his Aunt Julia at her little house by the sea, he found her bursting with excitement. He received a telegram from her that morning and expected the visit to be boring, but the moment he kissed her wrinkled cheek – he felt her energy like an electrical wave. The sensation grew when he learned there would be no other visitors; he was summoned for a very special reason.

Something was in the wind, and it would certainly prove useful. This spinster aunt had a passion for psychic research, brains, and willpower; she was known to accomplish her goal by any means necessary. The secret was revealed after tea, and Julia stood close to him as they slowly paced along the beach at dusk.

“I’ve got the keys,” she announced in a delighted, yet disbelieving way. “Got them till Monday!”

“The keys to the changing room, or—?” he asked innocently, looking from the sea to town. Nothing brought her to the point quicker than feigning stupidity.

“Neither,” she whispered. “I’ve got the keys to the haunted house in the square, and I’m going there tonight.”

Shorty felt a slight chill down his back and stopped joking. Something in her voice and behavior stunned him; she was serious. “But you can’t go alone—” he began.

“That’s why I sent for you,” she said confidently.

He turned and saw that her old, ugly, mysterious face was filled with happiness. There was a glow of genuine enthusiasm around it like a halo, and her eyes were shining brightly. He felt another wave of her excitement, and a second, stronger chill came with it.

“Thanks, Aunt Julia,” he said politely; “thanks so much…”

“I wouldn’t dare to go alone,” she raised her voice; “but I’ll enjoy it very much with you – you’re not afraid of anything.”

“Thanks so much,” he repeated. “Er – is it likely that anything will happen?”

“A great deal has already happened, though it’s been covered up very well. Three occupants have come and gone in the last few months, and it’s said the house will stay empty from now on.” She whispered.

In spite of himself, Shorty became interested. His aunt was deathly serious.

“The house is very old indeed,” she continued, “and the unpleasant story dates a long way back. It involves a murder committed by a jealous stableman who had an affair with a house servant. One night, he managed to sneak into the cellar; when everyone was asleep, he crept upstairs to the servants’ quarters, chased the girl down to the next landing, and – before anyone could help – threw her over the rail, into the hall below.”

“And the stableman—?”

“He was caught and hanged for murder, but it happened a century ago; I haven’t been able to get any more details.”

Shorty’s interest was now thoroughly peaked; while he was not particularly worried for himself, he was a little concerned for his aunt. “On one condition,” he said.

“Nothing will stop me from going,” she said firmly; “but I might as well hear your condition.”

“You must guarantee that you’ll be able to control yourself if anything really happens – that you’re sure you won’t get too frightened.”

“Jim, I’m not young and neither are my nerves, but with you – there’s nothing in the world for me to fear!” She said.

This, of course, settled it. Shorty had no hope of ever being more than an ordinary young man; any praise implying otherwise was irresistible. He agreed to go.

By sub-consciously preparing himself, he remained in control of his fear for the whole evening; he imagined packing up his emotions and locking them away. The process is difficult to describe, but wonderfully effective; all men who have lived through severe hardship will understand. Later, it served his reputation well.

It was 10:30 when they left the comfortably lit hallway of his aunt’s home, and Shorty had to hold back his fear for the first time. When the door was closed, he saw the silent, empty street bathed in white moonlight and realized that the real test would be dealing with two fears. He would need to carry his aunt’s as well as his own. Glancing down at her expression – which was difficult to interpret – he realized it would not become any easier in a rush of real terror; he could only be confident of one thing – his ability to stand firm against any shock that might come.

Slowly, they walked along the town’s empty streets; a bright, autumn moon painted the roofs silver and cast deep shadows all around. There was no wind, and the trees lining the beach watched in silence as they passed. Shorty did not reply to his aunt’s occasional remarks; he understood that she was mentally preparing – distracting herself from thinking unnatural thoughts. Few windows were lit, and smoke rose from even fewer chimneys. Shorty was already noticing these small details when they stopped at the corner to read the name on the house; without speaking, they turned into the square and walked to the side that lay in shadow.

“The house number is thirteen,” a voice whispered. Neither of them said more about the obvious reference; instead, they continued walking in silence.

Halfway across the square, Shorty felt an arm slip quietly but purposefully into his own, and he knew their adventure had truly begun. His aunt was already succumbing to the house’s influence; she needed support.

A few minutes later, they stopped in front of a narrow, ugly-shaped house that rose tall into the night and was painted a dingy white. The windows – which were missing their shutters and blinds – stared down on them, shining in the moonlight. There were weather streaks in the walls, cracks in the paint, and the balcony bulged out from the first floor unnaturally, but the pitiful appearance did nothing to warn of such an evil character.

Checking over their shoulders to ensure they were not followed, they ascended the steps with confidence and stood against the huge, foreboding black door. They were hit with a wave of nervousness, and Shorty fumbled with the key for a long time before getting it into the lock. For a moment, they both hoped it would not open; they felt various unpleasant emotions as they stood on the threshold of their ghostly adventure. Shorty – struggling with the key and hindered by the weight on his arm – felt the importance of the moment. It was as if the whole world were watching through his eyes and listening to that grating noise. A stray puff of wind wandered down the empty street and rustled the trees behind them – otherwise the rattling key was the only sound. Finally, it turned in the lock, and the heavy door swung open to reveal a large gulf of darkness.


With a last glance at the moonlit square, they quickly went inside, and the door slammed with a roar that echoed through the empty halls. Another sound was heard, and Aunt Julia suddenly leaned on her nephew hard enough to knock him off balance; he had to take a step back to avoid falling down.

A man had coughed right next to them in the darkness. Thinking it could be a prank, Shorty quickly swung his heavy stick toward the sound, but nothing was there. His aunt gave a little gasp. “There’s someone here, I heard him.” She whispered.

“Be quiet! It was only the front door.” He said sternly.

“Oh! Quick, get a light!” she added as he fumbled with a box of matches and opened it upside-down; they all fell to the stone floor with a rattle.

The sound was not repeated, and there was no evidence of retreating footsteps. Soon, they had a lit candle and the end of a cigar case as a holder; he held up the makeshift lamp and studied their surroundings. Everything about it was dreary; there is nothing more desolate than a dark, forsaken, empty house, yet it was also filled with memories of violence and evil.

They were standing in a wide hallway; on their left was the open door of a spacious dining-room and straight ahead, the hall narrowed into a long, dark passage that led to the top of the kitchen stairs. The staircase rose before them, draped in shadows – except for a spot halfway up where the moon shone through the window. Its light was surrounded by a faint glow, giving the objects it touched a misty outline that created a haunted atmosphere better than total darkness. As Shorty continued staring, he thought of the countless empty rooms upstairs, and he longed for the safety of the moonlit square or his aunt’s cozy home. Then, realizing those thoughts were dangerous, he locked them away again and focused all his concentration on the present.

“Aunt Julia, we must search the whole house thoroughly.” He said forcefully.

The echoes of his voice slowly died away, and in the intense silence that followed, he turned to look at her. In the candlelight, he saw that her face was ghastly pale, but she dropped his arm, stepped in close, and whispered. “I agree. First, we must be sure there’s no one hiding in here.” It took her some effort to speak, and he looked at her with admiration.

“Are you sure? It’s not too late—”

“I think so,” she whispered, her eyes shifting nervously to the shadows behind them. “Quite sure; there’s only one thing—”

“What’s that?”

“You must never leave me alone, not for an instant.”

“As long as you understand that anything we see or hear must be investigated immediately; hesitating would be the same as admitting we’re frightened, and that could be deadly.”

“Agreed,” she said shakily. “I’ll try.”

Arm in arm, Shorty held the dripping candle while Julia carried his cloak over her shoulders; they would have made a funny sight to anyone else as they began their search.

They entered the big dining-room first – walking on tip-toes and shielding the candle to avoid being seen through the windows. There was no furniture – only bare walls, ugly mantel-pieces and empty fireplaces. They felt like everything resented their intrusion and was watching them with hidden eyes. Whispers followed them; shadows darted around silently, and it always seemed as if something were standing right behind them – waiting for an opportunity to hurt them. There was a sense that whatever normally occurred in the empty room had been paused until they were out of the way again. The entire building’s dark interior seemed to become a malignant Presence; it rose up, warning them to mind their own business, and the strain on their nerves increased every moment.

From the gloomy dining-room, they passed through large, folding doors into a sort of library or smoking-room; it was equally as silent, dark, and dusty. From there they returned to the hall near the top of the back stairs.

Here, a pitch black tunnel opened into the lower regions, and they only hesitated for a minute. With the worst of the night still to come, it was essential to search every area. Aunt Julia stumbled on the top step; their descent was poorly lit by the flickering candle, and even Shorty almost tripped.

“Come on!” He demanded, voice echoing off into the dark, empty spaces below.

“I’m coming,” she faltered, grabbing his arm rougher than necessary.

They descended the stone steps unsteadily; the air was cold, damp, and smelly. The stairs led along a narrow passage and into a large kitchen with high ceilings. It had several doors – some belonged to closets with empty jars on the shelves, and others led to horrible, creepy offices – each colder and less inviting than the last. Black beetles scurried around, and when Shorty bumped against a table in the corner, something the size of a cat jumped down – scampering across the stone floor and into the darkness. There was a gloomy sadness everywhere, and a sense that someone had just been there.

Leaving the kitchen, they went towards the scullery (where the dishes and cleaning were once done). The door was slightly open, and as they pushed it wider, Aunt Julia screamed; she instantly tried to stifle it with a hand over her mouth. For a second, Shorty stood completely still, catching his breath. His spine felt as if it were hollowed out and filled with ice.

Standing directly across from the doorway – facing them – stood the figure of a woman. She had messy hair, wild, staring eyes, and her terrified face was white as death.

She stood motionless for a single second. Then the candle flickered, and she was gone; in the door was nothing but empty darkness.

“It was only the beastly candlelight jumping,” he said quickly, in a half-controlled voice that sounded like someone else’s. “Come on; there’s nothing there.”

He dragged her forward, and they tried to seem brave as they continued, but Shorty’s skin crawled as if covered in ants. He knew by the weight on his arm that he was supplying the strength for both of them. The scullery room was cold, bare, and empty; more like a large prison cell than anything else. They walked around it – trying the windows and the door to the yard – but they were all locked. His aunt moved like someone in a dream. Her eyes were squeezed shut, and she seemed to merely follow his arm; her courage amazed him. At the same time, he noticed an odd change had come over her face – a change which he could not quite define.

“There’s nothing here, aunty,” he quickly repeated. “Let’s go upstairs and see the rest of the house. Then we’ll choose a room to wait in.”

She followed him obediently – staying close as they locked the kitchen door behind them. It was a relief to go up again. The moon had traveled further downstairs, making the hall brighter than before. Carefully, they entered the dark vault of the upper floors with the boards creaking under their weight.

They found two large living-rooms, but a search of them revealed nothing. Again, there was no furniture or signs of recent occupation – nothing but dust, neglect, and shadows. They opened the big folding doors between the two rooms and came out onto the landing before continuing upstairs.

They had not gone more than a dozen steps when they both stopped to listen, looking anxiously at each other across the flickering candle. From the room they had just left came the sound of quietly closing doors. There was absolutely no question; they heard the booming noise the heavy doors made when shutting and the sharp sound of the latch catching.

“We must go back and see,” Shorty said in a low tone, turning to go. Somehow, she managed to drag after him, her feet catching in her dress and her face livid.

When they entered the front living-room, it was obvious the folding doors had been closed. Without hesitation, Shorty re-opened them. He almost expected to see someone facing him in the back room, but he was only met with darkness and cold air. They went through both rooms and found nothing unusual. They tried everything they could think of to make the doors close by themselves, but there was not even enough wind to disturb the candle flame. The doors would not move without a strong force, and it was undeniable that the rooms were empty, and the house was completely still.

“It’s beginning,” Shorty hardly recognized his aunt’s voice as she whispered at his elbow.

He nodded in agreement, checking his watch to note the time. It was fifteen minutes before midnight; he wrote exactly what happened in his notebook, setting the candle on the floor in order to do so; it only took a moment to balance it against the wall.

Aunt Julia always said she was not actually watching him at that moment; she had turned towards the inner room where she heard something moving, but both agreed they heard running footsteps – very fast and heavy. Then, the candle went out!

Only Shorty saw more than this, and he has always been grateful for that. As he rose from his stooping position of balancing the candle – but before it was actually extinguished – a face rushed forward so close to his own that he could have kissed it. The man’s face was filled with passion, had thick, dark features, and angry, savage eyes. It belonged to a common man, but it was bursting with intense, aggressive emotions; it wore a malignant and terrible expression.

The air was completely still – there was no movement aside from the muffled sound of running feet, the apparition’s face, and the extinguishing of the candle.

Shorty let out a cry, nearly losing his balance as his aunt clung to him with her full weight in a moment of terror. Fortunately, she had not seen the face and was able to regain control almost immediately; after he was able to get free, he struck a match.

The glare chased away the shadows on all sides as his aunt knelt to retrieve the cigar case with the precious candle. Then, they discovered that the candle had not been blown out at all – it had been crushed out. The wick was pressed down into the wax – which was flattened by something smooth and heavy.

How his companion overcame her terror so quickly, Shorty never properly understood, but his admiration for her increased tenfold and inspired his own courage; for that, he was undeniably grateful. The evidence of physical force they had just witnessed was equally unexplainable. He immediately suppressed memories of hearing about “physical mediums” and their dangerous phenomena; if those were true, and either himself or his aunt was unknowingly a medium – it meant they were helping to focus the forces of a haunted house already at full-charge. It was like carrying an open flame among uncovered supplies of gun-powder.

So, with almost no thought, he simply relit the candle and proceeded to the next floor. The arm in his trembled, and his own steps were uncertain, but they continued being thorough; after the search revealed nothing, they climbed the last flight of stairs to the top floor.

Here, they found a cluster of small servants’ rooms with broken furniture, dirty chairs, cracked mirrors, and decrepit bedsteads. The rooms had low, sloped ceilings, cobwebs, small windows, and badly painted walls; it was a depressing and dismal area they were glad to leave behind.

They entered a small room on the third floor at the stroke of midnight and prepared to make themselves comfortable for the night. It was totally empty and once used as a closet. It was said to be where the infuriated groom had caught his victim. Outside, across the narrow landing, began the stairs leading to the servants’ quarters where they had just searched.

Despite the cold outside, there was something in the air that cried for an open window, but there was more. Shorty could only describe it by saying that he felt less in control of himself here than in any other part of the house. There was something that preyed directly on the nerves, wearing down one’s resolve and weakening his will. It took less than five minutes in the room to realize this, and it was during that time he lost all of his energy, which – for him – was the worst scare of the whole experience.

They put the candle on the floor, leaving the door open a few inches so there was no glare to confuse their eyes and no shadows to dart around. Then, they spread a cloak on the floor and sat down to wait with their backs against the wall.

Shorty was within two feet of the door; he had a good view of the main staircase leading down into darkness and the start of the servants’ stairs going to the floor above. His heavy stick laid nearby within easy reach.

The moon was high above the house. Through the window, they could see the comforting stars like friendly eyes watching from the sky. One by one, the clocks in town struck midnight, and when the sounds died away, the deep silence of a windless night fell over everything. Only the far away boom of the sea was heard as hollow murmurs.

Inside, the silence was awful; any minute, it could be broken by terrifying sounds; the strain of waiting was harder on the nerves. They whispered when they talked – their voices sounding odd and unnatural. The chill in the room was not completely due to the night air, and it made them cold. Whatever was influencing them slowly stole their confidence and ability to make decisions; their self-control was declining, and the possibility of real fear took on a new and terrible meaning. Shorty trembled with worry for the elderly woman by his side; her stubbornness could only protect her against so much.

He heard the blood pumping in his veins. Sometimes, it was so loud, he thought it was preventing him from hearing other sounds coming from deeper within the house. Every time he focused his attention on these noises, they stopped instantly and never came any closer. He could not shake the idea that something was moving in the lower parts of the house. The living-room floor – where the doors were strangely closed – was too close; the sounds were further away than that. He thought of the kitchen, with its scurrying black beetles – and of the dismal scullery, – but they did not seem to come from there either. Surely they were not outside of the house!

Suddenly, he understood the truth, and – for an entire minute – he felt as if his blood had turned to ice. The sounds were not downstairs at all; they were upstairs – somewhere among those horrid, gloomy servants’ rooms with their broken furniture, low ceilings, and cramped windows – where the victim was first awakened and chased to her death!

The moment he realized where the sounds were coming from, he began to hear them more clearly. It was the sound of stealthy feet, walking along the passage overhead, through the rooms and around the furniture.

He turned quickly to peek at the motionless figure beside him to see if she had realized the same thing. The faint candlelight shining through the crack in the closet door illuminated her expressive face against the white wall, but it was something else that stole his breath and caused him to stare. She wore an extraordinary expression – it spread over her features like a mask and smoothed out the wrinkles; with the exception of her old eyes, she appeared quite young again.

He stared, speechless and amazed – an amazement that was dangerously close to horror. It was indeed his aunt’s face but from forty years ago; it was the blank, innocent face of a girl. He knew stories about the strange effect terror could have on someone – it consumes them, dominating all other emotions; Shorty never realized that it could be literal, or that it could mean anything as horrible as what he saw now. The dreadful signs of total fear were written all over her face, and when she felt his intense gaze – she turned to him, but he instinctively closed his eyes to avoid the sight.

When he regained control of his emotions and turned a minute later, he was relieved to see a different expression; his aunt was smiling, and though her face was deathly white – the awful veil was gone, and her normal look was returning.

“Anything wrong?” It was the only thing he could think to say, and the answer was persuasive.

“I feel cold and a little frightened,” she whispered.

He offered to close the window, but she grabbed him and begged him not to leave her side even for an instant.

“It’s upstairs, I know,” she whispered, with an odd laugh; “but I can’t possibly go up.”

Shorty thought otherwise; he knew taking action was their best hope of maintaining self-control. He poured a glass of brandy from his flask – it was strong enough to help anybody through anything, and she swallowed it with a shiver. Now, his only plan was to get out of the house before her inevitable collapse, but they could not safely run away. Doing nothing was no longer an option; he was losing more composure every minute, and it became necessary to use desperate, aggressive measures without further delay. It was unavoidable, and they would need to show great confidence when facing the enemy. He could do it now, but in ten minutes he might not have the strength left!

Upstairs, the sounds were growing louder and closer, accompanied by the occasional creaking floorboards. Someone was sneaking around and bumping into the furniture.

Waiting for the numerous spirits to finish their work, Shorty stood quietly and said in a determined voice, “Now, Aunt Julia, we’ll go upstairs and find out what’s making all this noise. You must come too; it’s what we agreed.”

He picked up his stick and fetched the candle. A limp figure rose shakily beside him – breathing hard and very faint, she said, “ready.” The woman’s courage amazed him; it was much greater than his own. They moved forward with the dripping candle, and this trembling, white-faced, old woman was the true source of his courage. It held something that both shamed him and supported him; without it – he would have failed long before.

They crossed the dark landing, averting their eyes from the deep, black space over the handrails. Then, they ascended the narrow staircase to locate the sounds which were still growing louder and nearer. Halfway up the stairs, Aunt Julia stumbled, and Shorty caught her by the arm. At that moment, there was a loud crash in the servants’ corridor above. It was immediately followed by a shrill, agonized scream that sounded like a cry of terror and a plea for help mixed together.

Before they could move aside or go down a single step, someone came rushing towards them from above, taking the stairs three at a time. The steps were light and uncertain, but close behind them was the sound of a heavier person walking, and it shook the whole staircase.

Shorty and his companion had just enough time to flatten themselves against the wall when the jumble of flying feet reached their location, and two people dashed through the tiny gap between them at full speed. It was a midnight whirlwind of sounds crashing through the empty building.

The two runners kept going and were already racing across the creaking boards below, but Shorty and his aunt saw absolutely nothing – not a hand, arm, face, or even a shred of clothing.

There was a pause before the one being chased ran into the room which Shorty and his aunt had just left. The heavier one followed, and there was a scuffling sound with smothered screaming; then came the step of a single, heavy person on the landing.

A dead silence followed for half of a minute before they heard the sound of rushing air. It was followed by a dull, crashing thud on the lower floors of the house.

It was total silence after; nothing moved. The candle’s flame was steady, and the air was undisturbed. Filled with terror, Aunt Julia began fumbling her way downstairs without waiting for her nephew; she was crying softly to herself, and when Shorty put his arm around her – he could feel her shaking like a leaf. He retrieved the cloak from the little room’s floor, and they marched down the three flights of steps very slowly, without speaking or turning.

They saw nothing in the hall, but the whole way down, they were aware that someone was following them; when they went faster, it was left behind, and when they went slower, it caught up. Never once did they look back; at each turn on the staircase, they lowered their eyes to avoid the horror they might see above.

With trembling hands, Shorty opened the front door; they walked out into the moonlight and breathed in the cool, night air blowing in from the sea.

Horror Fiction

Voodoo Karen

Hey guys, this is just a short, fun CreepyPasta I was playing with on the side. Current Settlers and a few more commissions are underway but I’m not sure which will be next. Thanks for stopping by! 

The CreepyPasta

Hello there, my name is Katie; I found this community because I have a story to tell, and I think it’s one you will appreciate. I’m forty, and I have lived in a small town near New Orleans for my entire life. I’m very well known and respected in the community. Obviously, I can’t tell you exactly who my husband is, but we can call him James here; trust me when I say he is a very important man. I’m no mere housewife, either; I organize all of our church’s fundraisers and volunteer at the homeless shelters. Since we never had children, I’m also very generous to the orphanage every Christmas, and we have two rescue dogs.

I don’t mean to brag, but my background is relevant; without it, you can’t fully appreciate how far I have been pushed in order to reach this point! I am a good person, but I will not be a victim! This is 2022, we live in the age of “see something, say something” after far too many hard lessons were learned. If we see something, it is our responsibility, our duty, to say it loud and clear! If no one will listen, then you have to scream it! If they still won’t listen… Well, that’s why we’re here.

Yesterday began like any other day; after breakfast, James left for the office, and I got ready to run a few errands. The weather was perfect for Sonny and Cher – my pups and the singers! We were listening to I Got You Babe with the windows down when we pulled into the grocery store. We never shop at Walmart or Sam’s Club; sure, I could have the groceries delivered to my vehicle, but we believe it’s important to support our local businesses. That’s just one more reason this entire thing is so upsetting.

Oh, and don’t worry about Sonny and Cher; I would never leave my babies in the car. They rode in the top of the buggy and got plenty of attention; everyone stopped to look at their adorable sweaters when we passed.

We were in the store less than ten minutes when I stopped in produce; the buggy was never more than two feet away at most, but I turned to get one of those plastic bags from the dispenser; the apples were right there – it took less than thirty seconds – yet when I turn back, a small boy was jerking his hand away from my purse! I couldn’t believe it! I was speechless! Then, he had the nerve to ask if he could pet my dogs! He was giggling – grinning ear-to-ear, thinking he was so clever!

Well, those tricks don’t fool me, I saw what he tried to do, and I said so! “I know exactly what you were doing; where are your parents!” That scared him, alright!

He wasn’t giggling anymore; I could see the gears turning in his little brain. I was almost ready to find his mother myself when she emerged from frozen foods. I’m not an unreasonable person; I understand even the best parents can’t keep an eye on their child every second, but especially not one so young. Since no real harm was done, I only wanted a simple apology in order to teach the boy a lesson; his next target might not be so forgiving!

Do you know what the mother – the adult – did? She tried to convince me he was telling the truth! Instead of swallowing her pride for five seconds and admitting her son made a mistake – she behaved more childish than the seven-year-old; she had the audacity to call me a Karen! I see the Karen jokes online, I don’t live under a rock. She was trying to turn the whole thing around on me; in fact, it was becoming fairly obvious she put her son up to the whole thing. She’s running a scam by teaching her child to steal from strangers, and if he gets caught, they have a little routine worked out.

I called her out for it right there in front of everyone, and that’s when I noticed the way she was holding her phone. She was recording everything, and I wanted to slap the smug smile off her face when she saw that I noticed. “I don’t know what you’re so happy about; do you think you can edit the footage to make me look like the bad guy? I have every camera in the store at my disposal! Do you have any clue who my husband is?!” I was screaming by the end.

“I don’t have to change a thing.” She muttered and continued to record in hopes I would do something foolish.

That’s when I saw Ricky (the day manager) headed our way; I’ve known the man for over eight years, and never had a single bad experience. I was beyond shocked when he offered to give me store credit for the inconvenience – like he didn’t even care the boy tried to steal. It wasn’t about the money, those people should be banned from the store! Over my dead body was that woman going to get away with it! She was probably planning to pull the same stunt all over town! Someone had to do something!

I gave her one more chance to apologize, and asked her (nicely) to delete the recording before I called the police. You know what she said?! “Go ahead, racist!” Can you believe that? Did she think more lies would help? Was she trying to scare me? I still don’t know.

When the police came, they separated us to hear our stories; I could see her little phone held up for every second. Obviously, they weren’t going to arrest her, but they needed to keep an eye on that one; who knows what she’ll have the boy doing in another ten years, but that was a worry for later. The immediate priority was making her delete the video. People can do a lot with recordings now, and I did not give that bitch permission to film me; you won’t be surprised to hear the officers couldn’t even do that much!

The video went on to be edited exactly as I feared, and by time that bitch was done – the only parts left were when she goaded me into screaming; it was seen by hundreds of thousands of people – including James – before the day ended. I have never been so embarrassed in my life. I demanded the security footage from the grocery store; it’s the least they can do after allowing this to happen. They didn’t want to give it to me at first, but when I reminded them who my husband was – they changed their tune real quick; now, my copies will be ready for pickup by the time I return from New Orleans; I have some special shopping to do in the city, and since I can’t talk about it at home, I came here where others can appreciate the poetic justice! I’m going to purchase a voodoo doll! I’ll give an update this evening.


I’m back! It might sound crazy to some of you, but if you lived near New Orleans, you’d believe in it, too. I’ve seen what these dolls can do. This is the first time I’ve had enough reason to use one myself, but I still need to be careful. I’ve decided not to post the store’s security tapes; it’s better to let everyone think I don’t care… just in case. Considering how easy it is to buy and use a doll, it would be wiser to let Karma have the credit.

It didn’t come with instructions, but the nice lady who sold it to me was happy to demonstrate how it works once I told her the full story. I’m glad, too, because I always thought you needed to attach something that belongs to the person you want to curse; I didn’t realize I needed to use my own hair, but it makes sense that only the owner should be able to use it. After all, accidents happen, and we’re not trying to kill or maim anyone; I only need to picture the woman’s face when I use it!

Maybe I’ll start with her mouth; she needs a hard lesson in common courtesy! Next will be those thieving hands, and Child Protective Services will be contacting her shortly. Who knows what conditions they live in to behave that way. If they get the boy away from her quickly enough, maybe he can still be saved. If not he’ll be moving on to armed robbery before his 18th birthday, you mark my words! Even the woman who sold me the doll said to be ruthless with it. I’m going to get this thing ready, be back soon!


There’s something very wrong with the doll… I followed Madam Voya’s instructions to the letter! Either she sold me bad merchandise or she’s an idiot who doesn’t know how her own products work! Either way you better believe I’m going right back first thing tomorrow morning! If she thought she could rip me off because I live outside the city, then she was sorely mistaken!

I filled my mind with that trashy, thieving woman from the grocery store and put a piece of duct tape over its mouth. Yet, suddenly my mouth was stuck closed; I couldn’t even scream! I pulled the tape off in a panic and pieces of fuzz were ripped from the doll just as skin was ripped from my lips! They’re bleeding and sore; it hurts to eat or drink!

I’m going to bed; I want to be well rested for tomorrow. I plan to be waiting outside that damn shop when it opens, and I’m not leaving until I have a full refund, new doll, and an apology! I’ll be back tomorrow evening to let you know how it went, then my vengeance will finally begin!


What began as an act of community service has turned into my worst nightmare. Rest assured, my life won’t be the only one ruined; if they think they’re going to get away with it, they’re sorely mistaken!

Last night, I put the doll on my dresser before going to bed. Falling asleep was easy, but I woke to a horrible pain around midnight – like someone smashed my head against the wall. I sat up, screaming in the dark, and James turned on a lamp; he was standing near the dresser, confused and frightened by my outburst. He can never know what I’ve done.

The doll was lying on the floor, knocked down as my husband stumbled by in the dark; he hadn’t even noticed it, so I told him it was only a nightmare. After he came to bed, and the lights were off once again, I collected the damn thing on my way to the bathroom. It was safe under the sink until James left for work this morning.

In the shower, I found a nice lump on the back of my skull. I decided to put the doll in a bag stuffed with padding and left it on the bed while digging through the closet. There were only a few small things in the way, but in the seconds it took to move them, Sonny and Cher thought they found a new toy. I knew what was happening the moment I felt their hot breath against my face; they didn’t come when called, and I was moving as fast as I could when it happened.

Teeth closed around my ankle and pulled hard; I fell as I was clearing the closest. My body was jerked side-to-side as Cher enjoyed herself, and it only stopped when Sonny’s jaw clamped onto my wrist. Then, they played tug-of-war; I thought my hand would be torn away, but they finally heard their names through my frantic screams and dropped the doll.

I’m not entirely certain what happened next; I understand Sonny and Cher aren’t to blame… everything just went black… but the dogs are fine, absolutely fine! In fact, they’re napping in their kennels now…

Anyway, I was shaking like a leaf while wrapping my wrist and ankle – not from pain or fear, just good ole rage. I still had to get back to New Orleans so I gritted my teeth and pushed through it. You northerners might not understand what G.R.I.T.S actually stands for, but it’s “Girls Raised in the South” and we mean mother-fucking-business!

I didn’t dare leave the doll behind; I packed it up as planned, and buckled the bag into my backseat. Less than an hour later, I was standing in front of Madam Voya; Her face was expressionless as I showed her each injury, “Do you remember telling me to ‘be ruthless’? Well?! I hope you have excellent insurance; you’re going to pay every doctor and therapist bill that comes from this along with compensation for all the pain and suffering you’ve caused!” I could feel the red heat in my face as I yelled.

“Had the doll worked properly, would you also be held responsible for the injuries it caused?”

The first hint of emotion to touch her face was a smirk, and I barely contained my anger. “Save your mind games for the idiots who usually traipse through here. This is a business! You sell merchandise, and I have paid you; nothing else matters! Now, are you going to fix this or do I need to call the police and Better Business Bureau?”

Her eyes grew wide and fell to the floor; in a much softer voice, she said, “I will need to see the doll in order to identify the defect and unbind you.”

I placed it on the counter between us and she seemed to study it carefully, even going as far to check it under a magnifying lamp. After several minutes she said, “this is very strange; have you seen the intended target since you began? Is it possible these things are happening to her as well?”

That took me by surprise; once it harmed me, I didn’t see a reason to check social media, but it only took a few seconds to confirm. As I clicked Ms Jackson’s Facebook profile, Madam Voya leaned over to see as well. In that moment I had completely forgotten my circumstance; my entire focus centered on the loading page until the smell of burning hair reached my nostrils, and my whole scalp burned.

The doll was left under the lamp’s heat and catching fire; I reached for it, but the Madam was faster. She feigned shock and apologized in an almost groveling way, but I didn’t believe a word of it. The only thing that mattered was undoing whatever trick she was playing. I gave her a very simple choice; she could either release me from her dark magic or I could call the police.

“I will fix the issue right away; it is a very easy process,” or so she claimed.

She retrieved a crystal from beneath the counter, closed her eyes, and chanted while tracing it over the doll’s surface. I could feel its tickle every place it touched, but I didn’t trust anything the woman did. For all I knew she was strengthening my tie to the doll, and I finally understood exactly how foolish it was to go there alone. I had no way to know what her actions were truly capable of.

When she finished the crystal routine, I planned to snatch the doll at the first opportunity and run, but she must have sensed my intention. With one hand still on the doll, she put the crystal away and retrieved a knife instead. “That should do it! Let’s try a test before you drive all the way home again, shall we, Karen?” The grin she wore was pure evil, and her eyes sparkled with sadistic delight.

With the knife raised above her head, I reached across the counter and shoved her backwards. She only stumbled a few steps, but it was all I needed. I grabbed the doll, ran to my car, and had just enough time between cranking and reversing to see Madam Voya in the window, laughing maniacally. As my wheels spun in reverse, I flipped her off screaming, “my name is Katie!”

I flew down the interstate without glancing at my speed and continued the pace after my exit. I didn’t realize what I was doing until sirens filled my rearview mirror. Of course, my streak of horrible luck continued; I understand I was speeding, but the officer was clearly a rookie on a power trip. I can’t begin to fathom why they would let someone that inexperienced work alone.

He was unnecessarily rude from the moment of contact and forced me to step out of the car before I could say a word! I was only trying to explain my situation; he needed to understand this was an emergency, but he wouldn’t listen! The more I tried to explain, the more he interrupted; then he tried to perform a sobriety field test! Never in my life have I been so insulted! “Do you have any idea who my husband is?! Do you understand you’re already fired?! I advise you to get out of my face or call your superiors!” I’ve never been so furious in all my life; I spit the words out like venom.

He did neither; he arrested me! Can you believe that! He said I threatened him! He took my phone without letting me make a call and had the car towed without letting me retrieve my doll or purse! I was in a holding cell for four goddamn hours before I spoke to anyone with a semblance of intelligence. My phone call to James was orgasmic. Within the hour I was free and the officer – who suspiciously had the same last name as Madam Voya – was on unpaid leave; even the reckless driving charge was dropped. See, I wasn’t bluffing about my husband.

The next problem is the towing company; they were already closed when we located my car so we have to wait for morning to get it back. The doll should be safe locked inside, but I’ll feel better when I have it in hand. I’m going to do what I should have done in the first place – Google how to reverse the curse. Madam Voya will rue the day she saw my face when I’m rid of that thing once and for all; I’ll be back tomorrow with another update – then you’ll see!


Ohh, that Voya is a crafty, crafty bitch alright; I probably don’t have much time left, but I plan to use what I do have very wisely. Once I publish this account of her transgressions, I will dedicate the remainder of my life to ending hers. I’ll die happy as long as she goes first; and if there’s any time left over, maybe I’ll pay Ms Jackson a visit, too.

As you can probably guess, the doll was gone; my car was actually vandalized during the night, and the doll was the only thing missing! Can you believe that? I can.

I can’t be certain what they did with it, though judging by the putrid smell trapped in my nostrils, the bugs crawling over my sticky skin, and the painful, itchy bites they leave behind, I would guess they covered the doll in something similar to honey and left it in a dump or sewer. It feels like the bugs are burrowing deeper and deeper into me; it’s only a matter of time before they begin breeding inside my body and I would like to be dead before any eggs hatch.

If I’m able to complete my goals before dying, I’ll try to post one more update. If not, thank you for being here. Remember me, friends; remember the injustices done to me and report this to anyone who will listen. If Voya and Ms Jackson are still out there, they are a danger to society and must be stopped at any cost. Please, don’t let them get away with my murder! I am Katie, not Karen!

Horror Fiction

Infinity Game Confessions (Pt. 4)

 As always, Danie Dreadful has done a phenomenal narration of this story. If you want the full experience please hop over and check it out. Don’t forget to subscribe, she also narrates our Classics in the Rain and many other amazing tales!

I owe a huge thank you to Cat Lionheart (link to his steam and twitch). He has helped me with the actual Wiccan details I lacked, and is also a fantastic writer himself. I highly recommend checking him out; you can find his books on Amazon with this link. If you notice a few discrepancies with the finer details of the supernatural, they were changed for story purposes. Cat’s information is always incredibly fascinating and reliable. That’s why the Librarian is named after him and based on his personality.

The CreepyPasta

Romulus is voiced by the beautiful and talented Emmy, Princess of Dread.

Hey Everyone,

I’m sorry for disappearing on you again, but this is my first day off from the new Library job; the place I was working fired me when I stopped going. The list of stuff I need to tell you is getting out of hand, and it feels like I’ll never catch up. I’m not complaining; I appreciate the hell out of you guys for reading these – but the real world is becoming as dangerous as Mirward so my time is stretched thinner than ever. Can we just dive in?

Let’s start with why I mentioned a stalker in the other post. The first time I noticed people staring at me was one week after playing my Infinity Game. Even then, it took a few more weeks to recognize the same handful of people; one person won’t appear two days in a row, and the same person never visits too many different places. That being said, none of them had approached me at that point, so I never did more than passively acknowledge their existence. For now, just be aware this is stewing in the background; it’s going to come up again in a big way.

I’m not allowed to talk about where the Library is located, what it looks like on the outside, or how to enter, but after catching up with Romulus and giving him all those treats, it was time for work. Cat (the Librarian, not Rom-Tom) showed me to a table where she was nice enough to have gathered the books I needed… though she claimed it was only so I wouldn’t make a mess doing it myself. She always says fun, snarky things like that, but it’s just her way of showing affection; if she genuinely hated me, I would already be dead… or in the dungeon like that guy who spilled his coffee.

Romulus joined me with a loud “Mrowr”, and we worked undisturbed until noon when my alarm reminded me to eat. Hoping Cat would entertain a few questions during lunch, I returned to the ground floor and hovered nearby as she typed at her computer. With a quick glance over the rim of her glasses, the Librarian said, “no” before returning her attention to the monitor.

“Yes ma’am, thank you.” I was walking away when the clacking of the keyboard suddenly stopped, and I turned back hopefully.

“Are you going to the observatory? Don’t. The floors were just waxed.” Cat resumed typing before she finished speaking.

“Yes ma’am…” Hopes crushed, I turned back in the direction of my table. The observatory is located at the top of a tower, and it has a wide, spiral walkway instead of stairs aren. I love lying on a table to look at the sky through its domed, glass ceiling while I eat, but disobeying the Librarian isn’t something to joke about.

Most of my lunch was shared with Romulus, but afterwards, we worked another three hours before a loud thud and sharp cry echoed through the enormous building. Worried for Cat, I followed the sound back to her desk and towards the observatory. When closer, I could hear her deep, gasping breaths and feared the worst. Sprinting the last stretch, I turned a corner to find a crumpled Librarian lying at the base of the observatory ramp, hands covering her face – laughing hysterically.

“And I warned you not to go up there!” Her leg was broken; I don’t know how the hell she wasn’t screaming, but if she used magic I need to learn that spell ASAP.

Her only options all involved accepting my help; I’m sure that was torture. Apparently, there are doctors who specifically care for not-always-fully-human clients, and I got to call one! While we waited, I found a rolling-cart and wheeled Cat to the closest lounge area.

The doctor arrived within twenty minutes, though I’m not sure if it was a man or woman… They were in their 60’s, had a neutral voice, and rounded torso. Cat made me leave for the exam, and the legitimately concerning medical questions regarding my parentage were once again placed on hold. It would be nice to know if I should avoid hospitals; if I get rushed to the ER, will I be at risk of dissection? I need to know these things!

When the doc finally came out an hour later, they said Cat was asking for me. I rushed in without asking my question – which I learned was the intention when a very stoned Librarian exploded with laughter. “That’s one way to avoid your questions! Hey, Romulus was looking for you! Drop some food and scoop his litter while you’re there, would you?” She pushed herself to a sitting position and tried to catch her breath.

“I did that hours ago; do you need anything else? Food or something?” I couldn’t very well ask any questions after that.

“Did you really?” She seemed surprised.

“Well he sure can’t do it himself!” An accidental stomp of irritation slid past my wall of composure.

Whether her decision was drug induced or some combination of guilt and pity – I’m not sure, but Cat thanked me; more importantly, she offered to answer one question. I was speechless; there were too many choices to pick just one, but if I didn’t hurry she could change her mind… or pass out. That is exactly the kind of pressure I crack under.

“Do I have any special powers?” Damnit; the word vomit left an embarrassing taste in my mouth as I waited for her to laugh and shoo me away.

“Probably. Couldn’t know for sure without a few tests… Or you could just try a bunch of stuff and see if anything works.” She shrugged – brow furrowed in concentration, her slur barely noticeable.

She seemed to be giving the answer serious thought, and I was afraid to break the magical moment by speaking; especially if there was a chance I actually did have powers! “Whatever you do, don’t try to fly; that’s the last one you wanna figure out by trial and error!” She added, bursting into another round of laughter.

When I asked what would be ok, all I got was, “Romulus likes a fresh blanket before bed; they’re in the bottom drawer. If you want to come back tomorrow, I suppose that would be fine. Goodnight.”

It was best to quit while ahead. As you know, I’ll eventually lose my job and working at the Library will become official, but that pales in comparison to the other things I need to tell you so we probably won’t go into that too much more today.


All my spare time in the Library was dedicated to Infinity Game research – including the Game Genie. Guys, I was right – there’s a way to cheat time and a few other things, but I’m still in the process of translating how! There’s also a Co-op Mode, but I’m struggling with how to utilize the information. I’m sure you remember the horrible examples that clearly warn against having multiple players in one game. Well, there’s actually two ways around this. One is a sanctioned two-player option the Boss added, and the other is a loophole he can’t really do anything about.

If you want to play a single game with two people, you will only need one additional person to guard your mirrors in the real world. The pentagram will need to be a little larger to accommodate the extra participant, otherwise the setup remains the same. When ready to begin, the two main players should stand back-to-back in the center – each facing their own reflection; it’s best if their steps are synchronized to enter simultaneously.

Once inside, the watcher must immediately step between the mirrors; one person is enough to block the way for both. From the Lobby, the players will see two mirrors side-by-side, and it’s vital they only exit through the one they entered. Aside from these points, everything else is the same. If both teammates make it to the Boss, they each get a wish.

Now for the multiplayer oversight. Technically this will let you play with an unlimited number of people – well, as many as you can convince to try, at least. It might be easier to give you an example with this one, but I want to start by saying this should never ever be combined with the official two-player method… ever

Let’s say you have twenty people in a huge, empty warehouse. They would draw ten pentagrams and split into teams of two for ten individual games. Each player who enters the Lobby will be alone with the usual setup, but once they exit into Mirward, they’ll all be in the same place; the rest of the game will proceed as normal and survivors are welcome to make their wish.

My problem with this being a possibility is the fact I don’t trust anyone else enough to play with them. Sure – there’s Jess – but I refuse to get her killed. I don’t think she would want to go, but that’s not a risk I’m willing to take. There’s no point in mentioning it to her unless we meet someone else worth considering.

While we’re on Mirward updates, I’ll add what I’ve learned from new conversations with Casey. I haven’t been able to talk to her as much as I’d like, but it’s better than nothing. Now that I’m aware of the strict time limit, I try to focus on the most important questions. The thing you guys have pointed out most is the fact Casey seemed perfectly eager to sell me out in the beginning; she still tried to manipulate Jess and only helped me when all her efforts failed. That’s obviously a very good point and probably my largest source of distrust. Below was her response, and it sounded honest to me, but please, formulate your own opinions.

Casey’s Reply:

Of course I had evil intentions! I wanted the whole life for myself just like everyone else; I’ve never pretended to be a saint. Although, when that wasn’t possible, I decided on a long con – like you suspected; if I couldn’t get you in the first game, I probably could have by the third… Then I realized how much better our real plan would work if we actually did it. What we’ve put together is genius – much better than anything one of us could do alone! Let’s not be like those idiots who double-cross each other at the very end and lose it all – let’s just fucking win!

See what I mean? She has a fair point. Did it make me trust her? No. But I think there’s a legitimate chance she could be telling the truth, and – at the very least – she’d need to behave until the end.

Oh, and I know this isn’t a big deal in the grand scheme, but for the record – it’s confirmed; the armband doesn’t need to be red. Though I recommend bright, flamboyant colors.

You’ll remember the next question from last time; when we were discussing the unfortunate living conditions in Mirward, it seemed like the reflections of poor people would live in luxury, but that turned out to be wrong. Their homes are physically nicer, and that’s about it. There’s no such thing as a safe neighborhood or happy family; they don’t have laws or governments. Their world is policed by power, and demons – or Infitialis, as they’re called over there – often have the most.

Learning these things was enough to make me stop playing; the Library can teach me all I want to know without ever being in danger. I was even trying to think of a way to tell all of you, but then I found out what happens to the souls taken by the Boss – as in what happened to my mother’s. Quitting isn’t an option, guys.

Did you know reincarnation is real? There’s no time to go over the hundred scenarios that could develop under different circumstances between life and rebirth, but that’s how the process usually ends. There’s very few exceptions to the rule, but since the one requirement for being reborn is a soul – you can see how selling one might cause a hiccup in the system.

It’s not like she ceased to exist – that dipshit owns her, like a dog taken from the streets! I’m not sure exactly what I thought happened to her, but it revolved around being eaten; it seemed like souls were a food source for demons. Well, technically, I suppose they are, but it’s different than how our own bodies take in nourishment – there’s no waste to expel. Imagine if it were possible to swallow a chicken whole, and it stayed alive inside of you… Okay, that’s admittedly not the best metaphor, but that is the actual concept. The animal would basically act as a battery for your energy or – in the demon’s case – powers.

My mother is his unwilling puppet; the list of possibilities went on for an entire chapter and were too depressing to finish in one sitting. By owning a soul that belongs to our world, he can do all sorts of things – even lead unsuspecting victims to their doom. You’ve probably heard stories where cries for help lure people into an abandoned home or a forest; though Skin Walkers are blamed for the bulk of forest incidents in America – the Demon’s Lure is much more common.

Most of you probably know the true story behind Anabelle – the possessed doll; two roommates thought they were allowing a child to enter the vessel – but surprise! That’s actually a pretty common trick. The Boss can’t just visit our world on a whim; he’s bound by the same rules we are. I wonder if he has a reflection… I’ll have to add that to my list of questions.

After my third day at the Library, Cat offered to answer one more question. This time, I was prepared. “How do I save Mom’s soul?”

She didn’t laugh at that one. “You can’t, I’m sorry.” She really was, too.

“Why? Demons can take souls, and I’m half of that, aren’t I?”

With a sad sigh she adjusted her glasses and sat up. “Yes… but what do you think a soul is? You can’t touch one; it won’t be laying around for the taking. They must be bound to an object – like a crystal – and that takes a vast amount of energy. Even full-fledged demons barely have enough power to negate death and bind the soul… Look, I know that’s not what you wanted to hear, but if there was a way to do it, I would tell you.”

“Let’s pretend I have that energy and a bag of crystals; what would be my next step?” I had tunnel vision, nothing could sway my focus.

“Any powers you might have don’t apply to this situation; they’re like muscles, and you’ve never used yours. On the extremely rare chance you possess the potential for those abilities… I don’t know where to begin… the years it would take to condition your mind and body alone are incalculable. Not to mention the fact you would be killed immediately upon trying to steal a soul from a demon. How about you ask a different question?” She was trying to be gentle, but I didn’t want to push my luck.

“What exercises can I do to help that particular muscle grow?” Of everything Cat said, it seemed like step one would be figuring out if I have any special abilities to begin with. It doesn’t matter how long it takes; if I need to spend the next twenty years meditating four hours every day, that’s what I’ll do, and – believe me – I’ve been meditating.

This time her sigh was much longer before she began. “Come here, and give me your hand.”

“Neat! Are you going to read my palm?” Her eye-roll said no, but I’m not sure what else to call it.

“I need silence,” and that’s exactly what she got; she only looked at my open palm for a few seconds before placing her own directly above it and closing her eyes.

I had to bite my tongue when a look of shock, confusion, or fear (I’m not sure which) crossed her face; it was gone almost immediately, and she pretended it didn’t happen when I asked about it. What she did say wasn’t much and created a list of new questions. “Did your mother cast any spells on you as a child? Did you ever take part in or witness any kind of ritual she may have performed? Think very carefully.”

The sudden seriousness to her tone was concerning, but the number or actual rituals I was involved with before the Infinity Game could be counted on one hand. I only went with Mom if it was something basic, and she couldn’t find a babysitter. Cat waved the idea off – she was fishing for something specific, I just don’t know what yet.

“Come back tomorrow, I want to run a few tests before saying anything for certain.” Well, my curiosity was successfully peaked. I wanted nothing more than to race home and return with the sunrise, but as always – fate had other things in mind.


It’s time to talk about the stalkers again; there are five routes I use to get between work and home. Since I can’t drive straight to the Library – each day involves parking my car at a different location and utilizing public transportation for the rest of the way. I assigned each route a number, and – to keep it random – I let the die (geez, that’s the singular for dice?!) decide which way to go. Sixes are rolled again, but five-sided dice aren’t really a thing. On this particular day, I rolled a three and turned south.

Route 3 isn’t too bad; it’s no Route 5, that’s for damn sure. From the Library to the subway is four blocks, and there aren’t many people on those particular streets at night. I usually feel safer once I lay eyes on the current stalker; it makes me feel better to keep track of them, but I didn’t see anyone on the first two blocks. By this point they were basically a permanent fixture; if I didn’t see them, it wasn’t because they weren’t there. The idea they could be getting smarter was terrifying.

When a greyhound bus passed by, I broke into a run and crossed the street behind it. If the stalker was close, they would need to hurry. I went in the opposite direction hoping their concern with my deviation would outweigh caution, and it worked a little too well. Once around the corner, I came to an abrupt halt and turned back to watch the street. It appeared within seconds, but I couldn’t see a face, and what I did see didn’t look human. It was a short, sickly thin figure shrouded in a black veil; only the shape of skeletal legs could be discerned beneath, and one bony finger was lifted, pointing in my direction. When it noticed me looking that way, it suddenly became blurry – like I was seeing a VHS recording – and when it was clear again, there was a suddenly woman standing in its place. That’s new.

A car I hadn’t noticed passed between us and I took the opportunity to run. I went down three more blocks, taking random turns through back alleyways before stopping to check my location. My train left in five minutes, but there was no way to get there in time. It was already dark, and my car was at least an hour away; I felt exposed standing in the open and resumed walking to contemplate my options. I couldn’t call Dad, or Jess; they weren’t exactly in the area, and I also didn’t want them near me if my stalkers weren’t even human.

I’ve always considered myself a cautious person because it sounds better than paranoid, but there’s no sugarcoating how it felt out there; every person could have been another one of those ghoul things, and that’s exactly how I treated them. I must have looked insane, but that’s something I’ve grown used to over the years. The alleyways all had looming shadows at their entrance, but the dark spaces between the cars parked along the curb were just as sinister; I stayed in the center of the sidewalk with my eyes darting each way and my arms tucked in like someone was waiting to drag me away.

It wasn’t too long before I ducked inside a Chinese restaurant and sat myself in the back corner. No one else came in during the time it took to eat an order of honey chicken, and I could finally think straight again. Luckily, there was still time to catch the next train – why that notion never occurred to me originally I can only blame on pure panic.

My anxiety tried to spike when I was back outside, but it was nothing like before. When the subway station was in sight, I could have cried with relief, but the feeling was short-lived. Leaning over the rail, pretending to look at his watch, was the first stalker I had ever noticed. I froze in place, not knowing if I should keep going or turn back – both options sounded horrible, but there would be more people on the subway. The moment I resumed walking, the man casually descended before me. I almost ran away then, but I felt a horrible certainty he would be right behind me either way; at least on the subway, I was guaranteed a few witnesses.

The platform was crowded; the stalker was standing against the wall with his face in a newspaper, but it was him. The train before mine came, and people poured out in a wave as the next bunch climbed in. Had I noticed how empty the platform would be, I would have hopped on and taken my chances with its destination; instead, I was stuck there with a stalker and one very old lady with shopping bags looped around her walker. It would be fifteen minutes until my ride came, and I decided waiting on the street would be safer than a nearly empty subway station.

The moment I tried to leave, a heavy thud made me jump, and I looked back to see one of the old lady’s bags had fallen. Cans were rolling across the platform, and she had a look of utter anguish on her face as she worked to position herself around the walker. When I looked towards the man, he surprised me by maintaining eye contact instead of looking away; he gave one firm shake of his head before nodding towards the stairway – as if saying “don’t help; go up to the street.”

The problem with this entire incident is that I didn’t have time to think; it was happening too fast. The old lady was bracing herself to retrieve the first can, and it was sad as hell; the only explanation I could think of for the stalker’s behavior was that he might want to eat her – how should I know what ghouls do for their jollies? She certainly seemed like an easy target… so yea, I helped her, and I chose fucking poorly.

“I’ll get it ma’am!” I jogged over, keeping one eye on the man as the lady thanked me and launched into a dialogue about her grandson not having time to do her shopping that week. I smiled and nodded politely while gathering her cans, but she herself held none of my attention. I never reacted until the man lunged forward, and by then it was almost too late. I didn’t wait to see his intentions – I dove forward on sheer instinct as if my body was being controlled by someone else.

The instant I turned to look for the stalker, a gray blur was flying at me, and I was back on the ground, struggling for breath as my vision blurred from the impact. I could see well enough to know the old lady was the one strangling me, but she was much stronger than she looked. Her fingers were ice-cold bars of steel as I tried to pry them from my neck, and her weight was crushing my chest. We couldn’t have been that way more than a few seconds, but it felt like an eternity.

When she was suddenly removed, I began choking for air, and my throat was on fire; frantically wiping the tears from my eyes, I crawled backwards – away from the two blurry figures who were still fighting. I was more confused than ever; the old lady was in full ghoul-form, and the man wasn’t completely human either. He definitely didn’t resemble the others; I couldn’t see clearly enough to give an accurate description, but he was much larger. They were moving so fast my eyes couldn’t keep track, but it ended with the man grabbing the ghoul’s throat in one hand, and with the other, he hooked his fingers beneath her jaw-bone – ripping off her head. The creature disintegrated into a black smoke cloud and evaporated as a new crowd of people came downstairs.

They were flooding the platform, but not one person seemed to suspect anything unusual had occurred. Suddenly, the man was standing over me with his hand outstretched; he was tall with short, black hair and resembled Robert Downey Jr a little. For some reason, I took his hand; the moment we made contact, time froze and the world faded away. We were no longer on the subway but in a small, white room with a table and two chairs.

“Don’t worry, we didn’t really go anywhere; this is so we can talk privately; when we’re finished, no time will have passed out there.” He took a seat and the second chair slid away from the table for me to do the same.

“Are you telling me we’re communicating telepathically? While frozen in the instant you were helping me to my feet?” I can’t begin to describe the thoughts racing through my mind; there was too much to process.

“Yes, very good. I’m sorry about your mother, by the way. She was a wonderful woman.” His smile seemed sincere, but I still didn’t know who or what he was.

“Right… and how did you know Sandra?” I tried to sound casual and probably didn’t.

“If you’re going to test someone, try to do so with information that isn’t available to the public. Had I done the research to know your mother is dead, I would certainly know her name was Elle; would you like to try something else?” He didn’t say it in a demeaning way – it sounded like a genuine offer.

“I’d still like to know how you knew her.”

“This may be hard for you to hear, but technically, I’m your father.”

“Shut the fuck up!” I accidentally spit the words out in a disbelieving laugh. “I mean… that’s a little hard to believe.”

He wasn’t phased by my outburst, but he looked at me the exact same way I look at puzzles, and that was slightly unnerving. “There’s a lot of her in you. Yes, I suspected it would be difficult for you if we met before you were ready, but I had little choice. I even waited to see if you could handle it alone, but I think you would have died without help.

My hand went to my face and the burning sensation was rekindled as I felt bloody, inflamed scratch-marks trailing from my cheek down to my neck. “I guess so, but why? Why are they after me? Why do you suddenly care?”

“You’re asking questions that don’t have simple answers, but simple is all we have time for. I can only hold this state for so long in your world so listen carefully. The entity you call ‘the Boss’ has known exactly what you are since your visit to… ugh, what do you call it? Mirward?” I nodded and he continued, “once he has a Halfling’s scent it’s a simple matter to identify their Sire; unfortunately for you, he and I have a rather sordid past.”

“I’m sorry, what?” I was torn on whether or not to believe a word of it.

“To be fair, you made it much worse by playing his game. I’m impressed you’ve done as well as you have, but by our standards you’re still in diapers. Those things were only keeping an eye on you at first, but now that you’ve been spending time at the Library and having those little chats with your reflection – they’re kicking things up a notch.” He was talking faster; it was everything I could do to keep up with his words.

“They know about the Library and Casey?” I’m not sure why those were the items to stick out, but they were.

“Yes, Page, the extremely powerful demons are aware of the extremely powerful witches.” He was beginning to doubt my intelligence. “We need to get moving, but don’t trust strangers for any reason; they can only assume the appearance they had in life, and demons can only appear as the souls they own. Pack some bags to take with you tomorrow, and use the shortest route; I’ll be watching. Don’t leave the Library again until I give you a signal; it’s the only place you’ll be safe while I handle things with that little troll directly.”

“Does the Library have a magical protection like Hogwarts?” I asked louder than intended.

“Uh, well… yes, but more importantly the Librarian is the only one around with enough power to keep you alive in my absence.” He stood, reaching his hand to me.

“A witch can be that powerful?! With a broken leg?!”

A look of shock crossed over his face. “She’s not just a witch… and I seriously doubt she… you know what, never mind. Yes, she’s that powerful – even with a broken leg. Let’s go.”

I didn’t have a choice; he reached across and grabbed my hand before I understood what he was doing. We were suddenly back in the subway, and I was being pulled to my feet. Everything was how we left it, and we boarded the train a few minutes later. He wouldn’t answer anymore questions – not even when I asked his name. He only said one more thing before leaving me at my car; “You’re lucky; if you were human those scratches would have already dissolved your face. Tomorrow, ask the Librarian for a tonic.” Then he vanished before my eyes.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how I met my biological father.


Holy crap it’s getting late… ok, I know you guys require a certain level of flow and elegance with your stories, and you’re a top tier audience of fine people who deserve nothing less, but I really can’t stress how desperate I am to convey this last part before I have to post and run. One day – if I live through all of this – I swear I’ll make it up to you with one full length saga of all the little details I missed. Until then, I’m going for ‘get the information out before I’m murdered.’

After a very paranoid, sleepless night, I packed a few bags and had a wonderfully boring trip to the Library. It took an insanely long time to explain everything to Cat, but her only reaction was, “might as well work you full-time then.”

She wouldn’t answer any questions about her own abilities, but her leg was snapped in half, yet she was good as new in less than two weeks; there’s definitely a story in there. As for me, I spent the majority of that day being used like a lab rat while she poked and poisoned me. I drank foul liquids, had my blood drawn, and performed dozens of odd tasks. That Librarian has a brutal poker face; I could never tell if the results were good or bad, and she never gave any indication before moving on to the next.

I’m not sure what I expected… maybe a list of powers I would develop and how to use them, but that was naive even for me. What I actually learned was surprising nevertheless. Growing up, I was taught demons are entities born from vast quantities of pain, rage, and hatred; that’s it – end of story, but apparently there are higher level Daemons that have always existed. My father happens to be one of those.

They aren’t well known in our world; they normally operate on a much larger scale than possessions or “hauntings” for lack of a better word. If these guys are involved, it’s because something huge is in the works – like the Holocaust. They don’t waste their time planning or creating tragedies, (humans can manage that part just fine) but they’re drawn to it and can influence those involved – sometimes worsening and prolonging the situation.

It’s extremely rare for them to reproduce, and when they do, it’s always with a human. There are less than ten of us known throughout history, but most are killed before maturing because our blood is… let’s just say it’s valuable; not by itself, though… so don’t get any ideas. The point is – that’s the reason we’re hidden here. The parent doesn’t traditionally reveal their identity until they’re forced; my situation was particularly unique, but normally it happens because humans eventually notice when someone stops aging.

When the Age of Maturity is reached, we’re expected to “come home”. At that time, there is a complex ritual to “shed our human half”. I’m not going to lie – I was excited about everything until that point. I don’t care if Demons have a bad reputation; I’m not evil – I don’t want anyone to suffer – I just want superpowers! I’m so afraid of Karma, I was thinking about doing a weekend vigilante type thing, but there’s no way I’m going to that place. Unfortunately, there are no records of anyone finding a way around it… except for the ones that died, obviously.

The bright side is that I should have years to figure it out; I shouldn’t stop aging until my thirties. In the meantime, there are more immediate problems at hand. I still need to save Mom’s soul above all else, and I’ve put off Mirward for too long. The next trip won’t be about visiting the Boss; it’s more like a scavenger hunt. The plan is to visit their Library; Cat and I are interested to see if there are differences in the actual books. There’s a locked section I’m not allowed into where the most powerful Light Magic books are located. There’s a chance Mirward’s section might contain new information regarding the Darkest Magic… or it could be a rat’s nest of shredded paper in a condemned building – there’s no way to know without looking.

Alright guys, I’m out of time. Hopefully, I’ll be making the trip Mirward this weekend; I’ll do my best to get an update to you faster, but no promises. Since I still can’t leave the Library, Cat is going to be my guard. There’s a special room in the basement for dangerous rituals, so theoretically, I shouldn’t have to go outside after the Lobby. The hope is to go directly from the basement to the restricted area and back – before anything “wakes up”.

That should do it for this one; at least we got through the basics. Oh, and in case you weren’t aware – that Danie Dreadful chick narrated my second and third updates as well. They sound really cool; if you wanna check them out, the links have been added to their respective posts, and I suppose that means she’ll read this one, too. Huh… so… that kinda means I have the power to make her say anything, doesn’t it? Damn… I wish I would’ve realized sooner. I’ll try to remember for next time, until then, be safe out there; sometimes they really are out to get you!