Horror Fiction

The Backroads

The Dark Somnium has done another amazing job on this narration - please check it out for a phenomenal experience! 

The CreepyPasta

Thursday

Today is Thursday, June 16, 2022, and I don’t know where I am. I’m parked on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, and I’m not even sure this is still Louisiana. I haven’t had a bar of service all day, I’ve been driving for nine hours, and the only thing I want to do is sleep, but I’m afraid to close my eyes. Staring at this screen is only making it worse, but I need the distraction; none of this makes sense.

My house is a thirty minute drive to town if you take the highway, but in any other direction – you can ride the backroads for hours; most aren’t even on the map. When I was younger, Mom would take me riding on summer evenings, and we always found new routes to explore. That’s also how I learned to drive, and after getting my license, I started going more often. Sometimes, I would bring friends, but for the most part it’s something I enjoy doing alone – especially after Mom died; she was killed by a drunk driver six years ago.

I’ve never seen a house or more than a handful of other vehicles out here; it’s perfect for camping. I’ve stayed overnight more times than I can count and always felt perfectly safe; it’s almost like being the only person in the world. The only difference with this trip was that damn tunnel.

Life has been hard lately, and only having one job on the books doesn’t help. There was nothing on this wedding’s menu that could be cooked the day before, so, instead of doing anything productive – I convinced myself to go for a drive… which was clearly a mistake.

There’s a beautiful, crystal-clear pond that became my go-to place for quick trips or days I brought someone along. It’s not very far, and I know every road in between… or thought I did…

Leaving the pond, there should only be two ways to go – back home or further into nowhere – but then I saw a third option! While turning the truck around, I found myself staring at a paved road hidden behind the tree-line. While it’s understandable to miss when driving past – I’ve been to that pond a thousand times and always turn around in the same place; this shouldn’t have been my first time seeing it, but I was too excited to think more of it.

A closer look revealed only shrubs and weeds blocking the way, so I decided to drive straight through. A new path so close to home was too big of a deal to pass up; of course, that feels incredibly ignorant to say now

I got through the brush easily, and after a mile it cleared up again, but six miles after that – I knew it was time to turn back. That’s when I finally saw the end of the road. Ahead was an overpass with what looked like old train tracks, and what I thought was a dead-end was actually a tunnel running beneath it.

At first, it looked too small to drive through. I only wanted to get my headlights close enough to see inside, but then the road did keep going; I could see daylight at the other end. The tunnel itself was damp, and the air smelled musty, but it was completely empty. When I came out of the other side, the road stretched ahead for miles with occasional turns-off’s on both sides.

It should have been impossible to get lost by going straight; I should have been able to turn around at any point and drive directly back to the pond. I still don’t understand why that isn’t the case…

I had hoped to find a landmark to use on the next visit, but after an hour of nothing but random cut-offs – I realized how late it was and finally turned back. Everything looked exactly the same as far as I could tell; I have no clue where I went wrong, but an hour and a half later I was still cruising with no sign of that tunnel. If anything, I was driving even faster than before; it doesn’t make any damn sense! I drove for another thirty minutes before stopping completely. I had to pee and needed time to think without wondering if I was headed even further away from home.

If I had made even a single turn – I could believe being lost, but the idea of turning back after driving in a straight line felt… unnatural. It would mean hours of retracing my steps only to turn around again when that didn’t work. How many hours would be wasted covering the same ground? But then, there’s no choice because something is obviously wrong! It’s maddening!

I’m still stuck in that hellish thought-loop, but I couldn’t just stay on the side of the road. In the end, I turned around once again – this time going much, much slower. The only way I could imagine getting lost was if the road had split somewhere when I wasn’t paying attention.

I came to a rolling stop at every turn-off and even got out a few times, but there was absolutely no chance I merged off any of them. By the time I made it back to my original stopping point – the sun was starting to set, and my brain fed me whatever I needed to hear to avoid turning back a third time. I figured Mom and I had only been able to spend so much time on the backroads because we took the small, curvy trails that never really led anywhere; now, I was traveling in a straight line – it had to lead somewhere.

All I needed to do was make it to the next town – or maybe not even that far if I could find a spot with cell service – but now it’s almost midnight, and I stopped because the road suddenly ended… or, at least the pavement did. There’s nothing but a long, dusty trail left, and there’s no chance of finding a signal that way; I need to wait for morning and check out some of the cut-offs. Nothing about this—


Friday

I wonder if I’ve been reported as missing… I’m sure I have; how could I not be? Surely, the backroads are the first place they’ll look, right? I’m sure it is… Sweet fire-shits, I thought I was going to die last night.

I was lying across the backseat, writing, when I heard something moving around in the forest. I assumed it was an animal until it broke through the tree-line, and the unmistakable sound of a shoes scraping against concrete made me drop the phone.

There was a half-second of euphoric relief as I imagined myself being rescued by a kindly, old farmer before my body went numb with dread. People volunteering with search parties didn’t wander through the woods alone at night – without flashlights! This person hadn’t driven there, either; I would have heard an engine.

I didn’t know what the hell to do; my first instinct was to jump in the driver’s seat and run for it, but then I imagined bullets flying through the windows… It seemed reasonable to think a person skulking through a dark forest would be armed. I wanted my pistol from the glove compartment more than anything, but my arms refused to obey. The footsteps were moving slowly like someone was checking out my truck, and when they turned to walk along the passenger side – my body finally moved.

Without the phone’s light it was too dark to see anything, but as I slowly inched forward – the footsteps paused next to the front, passenger door, and my heart stopped along with them. I hesitated with my hand on the glove compartment’s handle wondering if the light would come on when I realized something that shot chills down my spine. I hadn’t locked the doors after using the bathroom…

Instead of fumbling for the controls, I felt for the knob and gently pushed it down. At the same instant, the dull thud of a locked handle being pulled broke the night’s silence like a gunshot, and there was no further caution in my movements. I ripped open the glove compartment, grabbed my gun and racked one into the chamber as the sound of several footsteps fled back into the forest.

There had been nothing to indicate multiple people were outside, but there was no mistaking it, now; feet were skidding across the pavement as others were already tearing through the thick brush, and I threw myself into the driver’s seat. The headlights came on just in time to reveal the last two figures vanished into the darkness.

I was in tears with relief over the fact I had turned around before parking, and it wasn’t because of forethought but fear; just looking at that long, dirt road made my stomach clench. As for the group of crazies… I don’t know, it might be time to entertain the possibility that I’m the one who’s crazy…

I only caught a quick glimpse as I sped away, but those people resembled terminal cancer patients with animalistic movements. They were sickly thin and hunched over like gorillas but moved with deceptive speed. Thanks to the adrenaline, I was wide-awake and traveling faster than I should have been, but I wanted as much distance between myself and those… people… as possible.

After driving a few miles, my brain slowly began formulating coherent thoughts again. I think it’s safe to say my new friends don’t have motorized transportation, but I drove for almost an hour before stopping. If I didn’t close my eyes, I was going to fall asleep at the wheel, and – if I wreck – I’m dead. There were three hours before dawn, so I set an alarm, passed out, and was somehow still alive when it sounded.

I woke to a foggy morning, and the long road ahead served as a bleak reminder of my situation. Mother Nature called, and I was starving, but luckily there were a few basic supplies in the truck. After eating two power bars, I somehow managed to stick with water instead of downing the bottle of whiskey – and thank goodness, or I wouldn’t have it now!

The shit I’ve seen today is enough to make that gun look mighty appetizing. All goddamn day I kept on driving straight down that same road – the way I should have been going in the first place. I didn’t care if it took twelve hours to find the next town – I wasn’t going to start turning down a bunch of random roads that could take me in circles.

By 9:00, I had seen nothing but trees and grassy clearings. My stomach was growling louder than my music, and I was barely containing my anger when a familiar beeping sent me soaring over the edge. When I finally regained a modicum of control – my throat was raw and my face looked as red as it felt; the gaslight was on, and the possibility of dying out here became very real, very fast.

When I came around the next curve, I thought I was hallucinating. A small gas station suddenly appeared in the distance, but there was no way I had driven farther than yesterday, and I definitely hadn’t passed it without noticing. As I came closer, my heart sank when I realized it was abandoned. There were no other cars, lights, or signs – just old pumps and a dark store.

I parked anyway – just to think for a minute – and continued to be surprised. The building looked like it hadn’t been touched in twenty years, yet the pumps looked as if they were installed last week. I got out to stretch my legs, and the one next to me turned on – including its tv!

It shouldn’t have been possible, but that hardly matters in this place. Whether I was hallucinating or not, I wasn’t going to waste the opportunity. Even more astonishing than the fact it worked was the woman on tv. She was giving a local news and weather report like what you would see at a normal gas station.

“It’s a beautiful, sunny day on the Paved Backroads! The last of the morning’s fog will be clearing up shortly, and we’ll have a high of 98 this afternoon. Those transitioning to Dirt Roads should show due caution as we’ve had significant rise in Stranded sightings. Thank you for choosing Last Stop Station; until next time – safe travels!”

I didn’t understand half of what she said, and there was plenty more I can’t remember. If I find another one, I’m going to have my phone ready to record; thank goodness I have a car charger or I wouldn’t even have that by now.

After refueling I decided to take a look at the store; I was completely out of food and on my last bottle of water. I would have taken anything that wasn’t poisonous, but I was shocked to find water, soups, and canned fruit – simply there for the taking. While those were fully stocked – there were no snack foods, soft drinks, or random accessories. If the can’s sell-by dates weren’t so recent, I would think that stuff had sat there for years.

There was nowhere to cook the soup, no phone and no cash register, either. Everything about that store was just… off, but as strange as it was – I didn’t want to leave; it was nice to finally stretch my legs and to be out of the truck longer than a bathroom break. Unfortunately, I couldn’t afford to waste time hanging out in an abandoned gas station. In the end, I compromised by staying long enough to eat. I tried not to pin my hopes on someone else stopping by, but I found myself watching the road more than I care to admit.

My original idea was to find a makeshift pot and build a fire, but then I remembered some of my camping gear was still in the truck! With my hot-plate – the only hard part was opening the cans with a dull pocket knife.

As expected, no one came, but I couldn’t waste any more time there. At that point, I expected to spend the rest of the day on the road and convinced myself to take some supplies; before I knew it, I’d robbed the place blind, and I hope the police come looking! They won’t, but I can dream.

I felt better with a full meal on my stomach and a truck full of free supplies, but it’s hard to keep a cool head when you’re coming up on your second night of being lost in the middle of nowhere. I eventually drove straight into the sunset until once again being forced into a sudden stop when the pavement ended. The way forward was yet another long, dusty trail, and this one inspired the same cold dread as the last.

Logic told me the weird, pale people couldn’t be way out there, too, but I wasn’t taking any chances. I turned back and drove for another hour before stopping for the night. After eating a can of peaches, I started writing, and now, I can’t stop thinking about that lady on that little tv. She was talking about these roads like they were their own town or something, and I want to hear that part about being stranded again; maybe I’m not the only one who’s had this happen.

Either way, I’ve had enough for one day; I need more than a few hours of sleep. Staying on this road isn’t an option anymore; tomorrow, I’ll need to choose one of the cut-offs.


Saturday

There’s no question – I’m not in Louisiana anymore; I’m not even in the real world. I met someone this afternoon. I don’t think he’s real; he’s either a hallucination or a demon – I’m just not sure which. I had essentially chosen a cut-off at random when I couldn’t find the gas station again, and twenty miles later there was a man walking along the shoulder.

I was almost too afraid to stop, but he got on his knees in the middle of the road – begging. In the end, I needed someone to talk to more than I cared about the possibility of being murdered. He claims to know a little about what’s going on here, and though his story is completely unbelievable – I can’t come up with an alternative.

He doesn’t know how or why things are the way they are, but he got here by driving through a tunnel just like I did, except he was in Pennsylvania. If he hadn’t told his story first, I wouldn’t have believed him; it sounds too much like my own. The only difference is what happened after he ran out of gas. Since he started a quarter tank – he had no idea anything was wrong yet.

A service station appeared around the next curve – exactly as it had for me – and based on his description it sounds like the same one. The pump’s tv came on, and after a brief weather report, there was another confusing public service announcement.

“…And don’t forget to stock up for tomorrow. As usual, our Stations will be closed for Sunday – no exceptions. Please ensure all persons are cleared from the premises by no later than 11:59PM, and thank you for choosing Last Stop Station; until next time – safe travels!”

After filling his tank, he went inside to find a nearly empty store and only then realized there were no other cars or people in sight. Since the pump worked, he reasoned the store must be open, and worried something may have happened to the clerk. Rob went outside to search for a signal, and when he was unsuccessful – he noticed the store was at the bottom of a steep rise.

There was no trail, but he was able to make it up fairly easily; unfortunately, he still couldn’t get reception. Determined to drive back to town, he made his way down the slope only to find the store and his car gone! He swears he walked in a straight line and found the road easily, but it was empty. If it weren’t for my own experiences these last few days – I couldn’t have believed it, but now I definitely do… Assuming Rob is actually real, of course.

He had no choice but to start walking, and he headed in the direction he believed would take him to town. Several hours later, he still hadn’t seen another car or store, and the sun was beginning to set. That’s when he ran into Bonnie and Clyde… at least, that’s what they called themselves. They were stopped at their own gas station, and Rob ran straight inside to tell his story, but the couple didn’t want to hear it.

Clyde held Rob at gunpoint while Bonnie loaded their van; the couple wouldn’t give him a ride, but the man was willing to answer a few questions while he waited. Based on what this guy told Rob, there are three stages to the Backroads – each more dangerous than the last. The Paved Streets are the outskirts and make up Stage 1. The Dirt Roads are Stage 2 and lead deeper into the maze – while Stage 3 is tire tracks in the grass, and the heart of the maze. The entrance can be found almost anywhere in the world if you venture deep enough into nowhere, but the exit can only be found in Stage 3.

Gas Stations only appear when a vehicle is low on fuel, and they disappear the moment you leave. Had Rob climbed the hill before filling his tank – he would still have a car. Thank goodness I have the camping gear, or I would have made the same mistake when trying to heat my soup.

The only exception to this rule is Sunday; if you run out of fuel while the store is closed – you’ll have to sit there until it reopens. Anything that was inside when it disappeared will still be there except for people. We don’t know what happens to them, but Clyde said there used to be four people in their group. The other two decided to see where the place went when it disappeared, but when it came back – only their bags and clothes were left behind.

The stores supposedly have beer and junk food in Stage 2, and that alone has me interested. I finished my whisky last night, and I don’t think I can handle this place sober. I would already be on my way now if it wasn’t past midnight.

Compared to the last two stages, the Paved Streets are fairly safe until the transition to dirt; that’s where the Stranded like to lurk and what Rob was on his way to becoming before I found him. The ones who lose their vehicles can’t make gas stations appear and eventually turn to the forest for shelter; they hide deep in the dark woods during the day, and only come out at night. The lucky are able to join an existing group or form their own. They need enough members to ambush travelers, but not too many to feed. Those who are rejected get eaten, and those who try to survive alone – starve. Eventually, they begin to look like the ones I saw, and had I been asleep with my doors unlocked – I would have become their dinner.

As for Stage 2 itself, Rob only knows that something hunts the roads at night, and when he asked Clyde about the final Stage, the man went white as a sheet and refused to answer any more questions. As the couple got back into their vehicle, they apologized for their drastic behavior stating they simply couldn’t risk taking on a stranger. Rob is bitter about it, but I don’t blame them. If I hadn’t been alone and desperate, I would never have stopped.

From what it sounds like, people try to find the exit in Stage 3 and the ones who survive the failure resolve to a life on the Paved Streets. I’ve been thinking about it all evening, and I would rather die than live the rest of my life out here. The fact I don’t want to spend six days a week inside a gas station upset Rob pretty bad. We argued for three solid hours until I pretended to agree with him. He repeated his same argument with slightly different wording like I was simply too stupid to understand; I was sick of it, but more importantly, I was starting to suspect Rob would crack me over the head and steal the truck if he didn’t get his way.

Since the Stations will be closed tomorrow, I made sure to run out of gas this evening. I told Rob three times to let me get my phone ready before he got out, but the bastard didn’t listen. Before I could put the truck into park, he jumped out and rushed into the store. I heard the tv start the second his door was open, but he was completely oblivious. I panicked and missed whatever it was saying while fumbling with my phone. The only part I got recorded was the, “…until next time, safe travels” bullshit.

I’m grateful for the information Rob has shared, but I’ve decided to go ahead alone. I wish I would have thought to leave him at the Station this evening, but I can’t waste another day waiting for them to reopen; I don’t feel safe sleeping while he’s around. Tomorrow morning, when he uses the bathroom, I’ll just… drive away… I don’t know what else to do.

For now, he’s either asleep in the backseat or really good at fake snoring. My instincts are screaming for me to stay awake, but I feel like someone poured salt into my eyes, and staring at this screen is only making them worse. I need to find another way to keep myself up.


Sunday

Rob is dead; I was right about that bastard. Have you ever noticed how crazy ideas sound less crazy in the dark? I kept imagining Rob in the backseat – awake and waiting for me to fall asleep; then, he would sit up, put his belt around my neck, and pull. It bothered me so much, I decided to retrieve my gun. I kept it beneath my leg until dawn and tucked it into my waistband when it was finally time for breakfast.

Rob snored the entire night; as I entered the forest to relieve myself, I was feeling fairly foolish. ‘No shit the man is afraid of going deeper into this hellhole! If I’m this terrified – how must he feel after what he’s been through? I’m the monster – walking around with a gun and planning to leave a man for dead just because he disagreed with me!’

I was fully convinced to abandon my cruel plan until I returned to see Rob in the driver’s seat. The passenger window was down so I had a perfect view of him from the tree-line; he was frantically searching for the keys which were tucked securely into my pocket. I didn’t know what he might do if confronted, so I made plenty of noise coming through the last of the brush.

When I made it to the truck, he was opening a can of fruit like he hadn’t just been trying to leave me behind. I made soup, but avoided taking anything vital out of the truck. I planned to leave him some food and water, but I was ready to take off as soon as he stepped away… Only, he didn’t go; we were both waiting for the other to let down their guard, but Rob lost patience.

He revealed the crowbar he’d stashed nearby and calmly explained I would be staying behind since, “I’m determined to kill myself anyway.” My mind went blank; it’s one thing to imagine it, but it’s nothing like reality. I was calm and steady as I told him to take the truck; I even threw the keys to him. There was no thought behind it – only instinct. When he turned to walk away, I drew my weapon and fired without warning. The first shot went into the center of his back, and he made a horrible sound as he fell.

I hurried closer but hesitated before making the final shot. Part of me wanted him to fully understand what happened. When he began coughing out blood, I ended his suffering with one more to the head. At least he won’t become one of the Stranded now…

I thought it would feel different – like it would change me – but this place had already done that. I don’t care that Rob is dead; I only did what was necessary to survive. The funny thing is – he was right. We should have stayed on the nice, Paved Streets where it was safe; there’s much worse things out here than death.

After leaving Rob’s corpse behind, it took five hours to find the next Dirt Road. It was a long, miserable day, but – just to be safe – I turned back to waste some gas. My heart was set on getting into a Station with beer at midnight.

I didn’t know what kind of trouble I was going into, and honestly, I didn’t care. At 12:03, I drove onto the Dirt Road, and my high beams revealed a horde of Stranded behind the tree-line; I didn’t slow down, and they didn’t come out. They only want easy targets. Unfortunately, I miscalculated how quickly the gas light would turn on.

Less than twenty minutes later, I was still going when a loud roar rattled my windows followed by the shrill cry of captured prey. Reality began to set in as I realized how foolish my plan had been. Moments later, a low rumble of thunder sounded, and only when it was joined by the violent cracks of breaking limbs did I understand it wasn’t thunder after all. Whatever hunts these roads at night found me.

I heard it break through the tree-line but couldn’t force myself to look in the mirror; I knew it would be game over if I did. The roads are much smaller in Stage 2, meaning I had to drive slower. My full focus was on navigating the curvy roads as quickly as possible without losing control; I didn’t even hear the low fuel light, but when that bright, beautiful gas station appeared around the next bend – I almost crashed into the pump.

Parking as close to the door as possible, I threw myself from the truck without even turning off the engine. I was inside and under the counter for a solid ten minutes before realizing everything had gone quiet. Very carefully, I crawled to a window and peered outside. It looked like several Stranded had been fused together to form this thing. Only its head was visible in the Station lights; the rest was thankfully concealed in a sea of darkness. Its shape was far smaller than expected after hearing the sounds it made, but its face was the most grotesque thing I’ve ever seen; its mouth was lost beneath masses of pasty, white skin that looked like pure scar tissue, and I can’t get the look of its single, glassy eye out of my mind. There was only a gaping, black hole left where the other used to be. Apparently the Stations work as safe zones; I knew it saw me, but it didn’t come any closer.

After vomiting, I worked up the courage to test my theory and stepped outside to turn off the truck; the figure still didn’t move. That made me feel safe enough to finally look around the store. I helped myself to a six-pack of Coors and Cheetos and tore through the junk food like a death-row inmate; I’m not ashamed to admit I’m fairly drunk.

I wonder if it’s possible to fill up with just enough gas to be on empty before nightfall… That may be my only chance to make it to Stage 3; there’s no way I could have outran that thing all night. Hell, that’s a brilliant idea! If it works – I could use that strategy the whole way home; it would give me an entire week to search before the store is closed again! Holy shit! I finally see a light at the end of this miserable tunnel; I’m going to get a very good night’s sleep and hit the road at first light!


Next Saturday

I guess I dropped the ball on keeping a record of my time in the Backroads, but… too bad. No one will ever see this anyway, and this has been the worst week of my life. The things I’ve had to do to survive are unspeakable; I only opened this to say I’m quitting. If someone finds this one day, great; if not, I don’t really care.

My plan to only fill half the tank worked great, but it took three days to find a grass trail; once I did – I never dreamed I would survive long enough to find another store, but now that I have – I’m not leaving; the creatures in this stage don’t give a damn if it’s night or day – they’re hungry. I would rather face the devil himself than walk out that door again; there are things out here that make the one-eyed monster look like a kitten – I’m done!

Today is Saturday, and it’s almost midnight; I’m going to hit upload even though I know it won’t work, but – just in case – my name is was Jesse Palmer. Fuck the Backroads.


Part 2

Horror Fiction

Easter Memoria

This story is dedicated to Coach Freeman; she was one of those special teachers who touched the life of every student she taught, and the best damn coach anyone could ask for. Rest In Peace, we love you always. 


The CreepyPasta


My amazingly talented friend, Danie Dreadful, did another phenomenal job narrating this one. If you haven’t subscribed to her yet, make sure you do; there’s going to be a lot more where this came from! Here’s the YouTube link.
Mr. Easter

Easter is always the first Sunday following the full moon after the spring equinox. Sounds a little weird, doesn’t it? This holiday’s origin varies depending on your chosen religion, but that’s not important for what I’m here to talk about. Instead, I’m going to tell you something that used to be common knowledge, but was scrubbed from history due to global mass murders and suicide.

Long ago, Easter was celebrated on the full moon; it’s the only day Easter Memoria can be performed. Yes, memoria – as in Latin for memory; it allows you to remember everything – including past lives – until sunrise. When the night ends, so does the spell; you might remember flashes or a name, but most is forgotten. The concept sounds great at first, but it’s extremely dangerous. It’s not like watching a movie; these memories are as real as what you did yesterday.

When we die, our souls either hang around as a ghost or pass on. Explaining every aspect of both possibilities would fill a book, so we’re going to ignore the complexities of ghost life completely. Passing on also has quite a list of subcategories, but our focus is on when a soul enters a new vessel.

There’s a lot of fear and misconception about being reincarnated as something terrible, but don’t worry; people are people, just like dogs are dogs, and no, that doesn’t mean Hitler is back. The truly evil souls never make it past the Bad Place, but drunk drivers and rage killers… Eventually, they’ll return; it’s an important distinction.

Deep inside – at the core of our souls – lies the essence of who we are, but when our slates are wiped clean through the process of death and rebirth, we’re forced to start fresh with a new family, body, and brain – sometimes gender or race. Every aspect influences who you ultimately become; it’s entirely possible for a serial killer to have been a surgeon in the past or vice-versa.

Another common belief is that our souls stay around the people or places we share a connection with; that one is absolutely true and played a big part in why the ritual was banned. When it comes to our loved ones, we can see beyond their physical appearances and recognize them for who they were in our past. It made for many heartwarming reunions, but it ruined even more lives. Eighty percent of married participants were having affairs; parents who lost a child would kidnap them when they were reborn, and good people were murdered for past mistakes. That’s only a few of the problems, but they were enough to start our Easter Sunday tradition. Of course, that was only the beginning; it took centuries and countless of executions to get where we are today.

Now, let’s switch gears and think about what it’s actually like to remember all those past lives. Aside from inducing a terrible headache, most people agreed the good memories weren’t worth the trauma endured afterwards. The mind still suffered extreme emotional damage, and nothing can change that. For example, if someone were shot in a previous life, they might suffer crippling panic attacks around guns even if they aren’t consciously aware of the reason.

With the points made so far, you might wonder why people would still do it or how they made use of the knowledge. That part is simple; if you have a private place and way to take notes – you’re all set. Thousands of years ago, there was a decent chance one might remember burying a fortune or any number of useful secrets. With today’s ability to record and travel – the possibilities are limitless. You can probably see where this is going… I did it last year. Thanks to the cameras, I learned more than I bargained for, but I’d like to take you through a summary of what I learned; it will help me organize my thoughts while deciding my next steps.


The Ritual Room

Some people might be curious about how it was done so I’ll start with that, but it’s nothing complicated. First on the list was finding a quiet, indoor location without mirrors. I used our family’s cabin in the woods and drove out three days in advance.

The room can only be illuminated with yellow candles; no other light source is allowed. The number doesn’t matter, but I didn’t relish the thought of sitting in the dark. There was enough to worry about without adding a possible house-fire, so while I did fill the basement with tiny flames – it was done in the safest possible way. Anything with a screen – such as phones or laptops – will effectively taint the ritual, so I used security cameras and put tape over the red lights.

Next, I placed several bowls of rosemary around the room and scattered the rest of my supply onto the floor; traditionally it’s used for multiple reasons, but here it’s to open the mind to lost memories.

Then it was time to fill the room with sentimental possessions. Our basic tastes don’t change much regardless of lifestyle; this can include anything from the foods we eat to the entertainment we prefer. Have you ever seen an old movie or book and felt a connection; almost like you were meant to know it? That’s the sheer bliss of rediscovering a previous love. This step relies mostly on instinct, but it’s easier after the first year since you’ll know what to bring for future rituals. A few examples of my items include a copy of Homer’s Odyssey, pictures of loved ones, and a poster of Van Gough’s Starry Night.

The final step is a doozy; Peyote (pay-oh-tee) is a cactus with a fascinating history, but due to possible mind-altering side-effects, I’m not comfortable detailing step-by-step instructions for this part. If you want to know more, it’s very easy to Google.

Once a comfortable nest was built in the center of my most treasured possessions, there was nothing more to do except have a good night’s rest. The following morning, I ate well, took it easy, and began lighting candles around 4:30; an hour later the full moon was already showing itself. After consuming the recommended Peyote dosage for my size, the meditations began, and it was off to the races.


Prime Memoria

It’s extremely important for the mind to be relaxed; any stress or anxiety will delay the process from starting, but once it does start there’s no stopping it. It’s difficult to describe what it was like, so bear with me. It’s not like opening a floodgate; it happens gradually – starting with the most recent life, then the one before and so on until sun-up. No one has ever been known to reach the end – er… beginning – but that’s probably for the best. The headaches are barely tolerable after a single night; any longer could be deadly. Plus, where exactly would it end? Were we all dinosaurs at one point? I honestly don’t want to know.

Anyway, in the beginning there was only a slight pressure in my skull and it was easy to call out what I saw as memories of being a little girl in the 50’s surfaced. A sense of dread formed while realizing there was hardly thirty years between that date and my birthday, but then I was distracted by moving into a new home at age six. The concern for dying young was nothing compared to the absolute horror that washed over me at remembering that house. The following is everything I know about my tragically short life as a girl named Bethany.

From the moment I saw my pink and white nightmare of a bedroom, something about it made me queasy. It and my parents’ rooms were on the opposite sides of the home, and they never heard me cry. For the first few weeks, I had terrible dreams but couldn’t remember them after waking. My bed was placed in a corner, and the only way I could fall asleep was by pressing my back against the wall. That way, I could make sure the closet stayed shut, no spindly fingers crept from beneath my bed, and no shadows stood outside the window. It wasn’t ideal, but it worked until the nightmares suddenly evolved.

One night – as I was finally drifting off – fingers began lightly caressing my back in the same way Mom sometimes would. In my half-dreamy state, it took a moment to register how wrong the situation was. There was no room for anyone to be between the bed and wall; plus, the fingernails were too pointy. They would break skin at the slightest encouragement, and I knew that’s exactly what they would do if I moved or spoke.

I could only lay there frozen in horror as the nails slowly dragged across my skin, and I shivered beneath them. Hours passed, and my tiny bladder emptied, but I still couldn’t move; it was like being a helpless spectator in my own body. Finally, when the first rays of sunlight beamed through the curtains – a single finger ran through my hair and whispered, “we meet again” before departing.

My initial instinct was to run away, but I imagined a hand reaching from beneath the bed just as my feet touched the floor; it would grab my ankle and pull me under – that was a fact. Dad found me in urine soaked sheets a few hours later and got me cleaned up, but he didn’t believe my story. Later that night, I begged to sleep somewhere else, but the best I got was Mom’s offer to sit with me as I fell asleep. Nothing happened while she was there, and I quickly passed out from pure exhaustion.

It was several hours later when I woke to sharp fingernails trailing down my back, and once again I was completely paralyzed. Hot tears spilled over my cheeks and onto the pillow, but I couldn’t wipe them away. We stayed like that all night until those slim rays of sunshine finally banished the monster. I felt its cold breath in my ear when it teased, “see you tonight,” and – as if a switch were flipped – the tears began in earnest. My body convulsed under the forceful sobs, and I struggled for every breath.

I was still crying when Mom came in hours later; once again, I told my story, and although they didn’t believe it – they were convinced I did. That night, I slept on the couch, and nothing happened; it became my routine for several weeks until Dad decided enough was enough. The back scratching resumed that very night, and this time it was accompanied by the stench of spoiled meat. When the glorious dawn finally came, the fingernails dug into my skin like hooks, and a gruff, menacing voice spat, “you can’t avoid me” before disappearing.

I cried harder than ever before, and later found five red punctures in my skin. The experience bred a healthy resentment towards my parents; I understood only that someone was hurting me, and they didn’t make it stop.

Here, I quit talking to the cameras and simply lived in the moment – forgetting my present life and purpose. I had prepared for assaults and murders – not ghost and demons; I wanted to get off the ride but it was stuck upside down, and there was no surviving the fall. In real life, I was hugging my knees, rocking and whimpering; there was no talking until I – Bethany – was eighteen and getting the fuck out of that house.

For a time, I managed to escape my nightly tormentor by moving. It took three months for the bitch to find me, and I got five deep cuts trailing between my shoulder blades as a greeting; they were next to the five triangular scars from my first transgression. There was a strip of unmarked skin on the right that would look even worse next time…

It was obvious she wasn’t attached to the house – only to me – and life was hard in general. After years of slowly losing my mind, college wasn’t really an option. A woman’s best-case-scenario was to marry a good husband and hope for sons. As if things weren’t bad enough, I had zero interest in men; being a lesbian in the (now) 70’s wasn’t a viable option – especially not in the south. For the first few years, I lived in an apartment, but each time a roommate moved out, the witch grew bolder during our alone-time.

A few months before turning 25, I hopped on one of those hippy buses traveling across the country; it didn’t matter where I was as long as people were nearby, and I wasn’t sober. Most of the time, we didn’t even know what state we were in, and we only paid for three things – drugs, gas, and sometimes food. When we were sick of being on the road we camped in the woods until supplies ran low. People were always coming and going, but there were a few like myself who stuck around. It wasn’t a bad way to live except for the fear of being found… and the overwhelming need to know “why me?”

After two years on the road, I hardly thought of the witch anymore – drugs worked miracles in that regard. Staying in one location longer than two weeks made me nervous, but those times were exceedingly rare. The day she found me, my guard was completely down. I never gave a second thought to the states we would cross on the way to Florida, but somewhere in the middle of Georgia – probably near my hometown – I fell asleep.

It started as a dream; I was very young, and lying next to Mom as she gently rubbed my back. Soon, my eyes began to droop, and she hummed a soft melody while her fingernails grazed my skin under her firm caress. I was drifting away completely when the hand stopped, and my world exploded. Time slowed as claws tore through my back and into my ribcage. Somehow, the witch’s voice found a path through the fog of agony and into my ear; “found you!” She cooed as her claws ripped downward, and blood filled my throat; her cold, putrid breath was the same as before.

Suddenly, my eyes opened wide with shock, and my senses were flooded with chaos; my head throbbed from the screams of those around me and approaching sirens. The brief instant my vision cleared, I saw the twisted remains of our bus and had just enough time to wonder… Did the witch cause the crash or merely take advantage of it? Knowing what I do now, I’m sure it was the former, but we’ll get to that.

In the real world, every camera stopped recording simultaneously when I tried to describe the witch; I think I saw her true form in that final moment, but I can’t be sure now. That’s when I carved “never again” into my arm; when the cameras come back on, there’s a bandage tied around the wound, and I’m still shaking from the memory of dying as Bethany. I would have sold my soul to quit before the next one started, but I barely had time to catch my breath.

Fun fact: When people actually do sell their souls, it’s not to Satan like in the movies – hell it’s not even to the same entity. It’s usually a demon, but as far as the owner is concerned… Well, let’s just say reincarnation is off the table. Trust me folks, never sell your soul.


The Carter House

Now, it was the early 20’s, and all I could do was brace for impact. The only consolation was how little my brain can hold at once; the slight pressure evolved into a full blown headache as new information poured in, and the old was pushed out. Unfortunately, the bad memories stick hardest, and even when they’re gone, they leave behind a nasty residue. What little I said over the following hour was mostly gibberish; when I finally calmed enough to speak coherently, I was being drafted into World War II, and soon, the screams began anew.

Something haunted me in that life, too; something worse than the war. I survived two years in battle before going home with a Purple Heart, yet the worst of my reactions happened long after being discharged. Based on the few understandable things said, my death wasn’t natural or any longer than Bethany’s. Thankfully, whatever happened was enough to scare me straight; I suddenly became very serious and managed to compose myself before the next round.

The time between death and rebirth varies from years to decades pending each person’s situation; it’s impossible to know when someone will be reincarnated. That being said, a definite pattern was beginning to emerge as I was plunged into the late 1880’s – the same timeframe as the two before. It’s even more concerning when you take my current age of 28 into consideration.

My childhood as Charles began well enough; my parents were farmers, we lived in a grand antebellum home, and I was the youngest of five. My siblings weren’t cruel, but they were several years older and held no interest in me. Much of my time was spent at the creek behind our house; it was only a ten minute walk through the forest, and I enjoyed skipping rocks across its surface.

At age 8, I was trying to build a dam when another boy leapt from the woods on the opposite bank. I was so excited to meet someone my own age, I answered all of his questions and asked a slew of my own. His name was Daniel, and he lived on the other side of the forest. We played together until dusk and agreed to meet again the next day. For the next two weeks, I woke early, hurried through my chores, and rushed to the creek.

Then came the Fourth of July; every year, the town threw a huge celebration. Such events were taken very seriously in the days when there was literally nothing else to do. The idea someone might wish to stay home was practically unthinkable, yet that’s what Danny claimed – stating his family didn’t like the loud noises or crowds. I was disappointed, but my parents were suspicious; being antisocial wasn’t just frowned upon, it was downright sinister. They already thought it was odd someone moved into the old Carter house – the only home on that side of the creek, apparently – without their knowing, but shrugged it off as a consequence of a secluded farm life.

When the celebration began, I joined the other kids, and we played while the adults gossiped. It was surprising to learn not one other child knew Danny, but I still wasn’t concerned until the next day, back at the creek. We were only there for a few minutes when my two brothers appeared; judging by their facial expressions, they were there for something I would find extremely unpleasant. Sure enough, Eric (the oldest) said they were tasked with inviting Daniel and his parents to supper.

My brothers were almost triple our size, and not easy to handle when provoked. I countered each smartass remark Danny threw with groveling apologies and promises to invite his parents myself; when they ignored Daniel’s remarks – a temporary relief washed through me. If nothing else, I wouldn’t be forced to watch them kill my only friend, but they still continued across the creek. Danny ran ahead, disappearing into the dense forest, leaving me to awkwardly follow my siblings.

We walked for almost 45 minutes before finally coming to the old Carter House. It needed a fresh paint job, but structurally, it wasn’t that bad. There was no sign of my friend, and I stood far back as Eric knocked on the front door. When no one answered, he walked around back; a few minutes later the door opened, and John – who was still on the stoop – walked inside. My heart raced as I imagined the various ways they were sabotaging my only friendship. It’s hard to say how much time actually passed before Eric called for me from a second story window, but it felt like hours.

The moment I crossed the threshold, two things happened. First, I realized the house was empty; no one had lived there for years. Second, John grabbed my wrist and pulled me to the ground. Once pinned, Eric began the interrogation. “Why wouldn’t you admit he was imaginary before we came all the way up here?” They demanded.

I was naive enough to think we had the wrong house, but there were no others in the area. The only logical conclusion was that Daniel lied to me, but why? That’s when I realized my brothers didn’t ignore him at the creek; they genuinely hadn’t seen him. It was too much for me to comprehend, but I had plenty of time to think about it after Eric and John locked me in the basement. They said if I tried hard enough I would find a way out… I couldn’t believe they really abandoned me. When their laughter faded into the distance, the silence was absolute.

Every spooky tale my siblings ever told filled my mind, and then I heard it; the front door opened… Someone came inside, (thud) but it didn’t sound like my brothers. There were no taunts or jeering, and as the footsteps continued into the house, (thud) I could tell it was only one person; (thud) one person who was moving extremely slow, (thud) and had loud, heavy footsteps (thud). When they were directly above me, dust showered onto my face, (thud) and I struggled not to cough. Wiping the grit from my eyes, I moved beneath the staircase and positioned myself behind the few boxes there (thud). I sat, desperate to control my breathing as each thudding step reverberated through my body, (thud) and finally, they came to a stop at the basement door (thud).

As the doorknob turned, I clasped my hands over my mouth to stifle a scream, but my whimper was surely heard. The door creaked open on rusty hinges, and it lasted for so long I wanted to leap from my hiding place and finish it myself. Had I the presence of mind to remember what an orgasm was – I would have recognized the euphoric sensation I felt when the beautiful sound of brass meeting wall announced the end of that damned creaking!

Then the steps resumed, (thud) and slowly made their way down the stairs (thud). Shielding my eyes from the fresh shower of dirt, (thud) I waited anxiously for my tormentor to come into view (thud), but they stopped before reaching the bottom (thud). In the small gap between treads, a tall shadow could be seen looming on the wall, and for a moment, I thought it had eyes, but on the next glimpse, they were gone. Finally, when I thought the tension would suffocate me – a young, familiar voice spoke. “You never learn do you?” It was Danny.

Relief was my immediate reaction, though it was quickly pushed aside for embarrassment – which was actually just a precursor for fury. I decided whatever was said should be done face to face, but upon trying to stand, I noticed my pants were soaked in urine; the blood-boiling rage threatening to consume me suddenly vanished and – in the end – shame was the prevailing emotion.

When I didn’t respond, Daniel took a few more steps and stopped at the bottom of the staircase. Between the treads, all I could see now was the black outline of his body; it was too dark to make out any features, but from my position on the floor, he appeared much taller than he should. After a long, tense moment of silence, he spoke again, “Over and over, we play this game, but you’re just as clueless as ever.” It was almost a sigh.

Had I understood what he was trying to say, I might have answered, but nothing made sense – not his words, not the house, not why my brothers couldn’t see him – nothing! Whew, it’s getting harder to talk about this… what he said next… I thought I was going to die right there in that basement.

“How many times will you fall for the same trick? How often have I told you? I can look however I want!” As he spoke, his voice was changing – becoming the high, shrill voice of an old woman… or more specifically, an old witch. I didn’t recognize it at that moment, but yea, it was the same one who tormented Bethany. Of course, for now, it was enough that I watched my only friend’s shape grow taller and thinner before my eyes.

Despite my best efforts a loud groan escaped my throat, and the thing I once called Danny cackled the most sinister, maniacal laugh I’ve ever heard. Even now, a year later, echoes of that laugh haunt me; it only stopped when the loud bang of the front door surprised us both. At the sound of my brother’s taunts, I wept openly with relief, but the witch had one more thing to say before vanishing. “I’ll see you soon, Charlie boy!” It used Daniel’s voice, and left behind a horrid stench of rotten meat.

Seconds later, Eric burst through the door; apparently, it had never been locked. I could have left right behind them had I bothered to check. Mom sent him to fetch me when they returned alone; in exchange for not telling her they left me behind, he agreed to help me hide the shame of my wet trousers.

My entire world changed that day; there was no more Danny at the creek, only the witch in my dreams… except sometimes they weren’t dreams. For seven years, I periodically woke to light scratches on my back, but those were the least damaging encounters. Sometimes, I woke to pebbles being thrown at my window; if I looked outside, Daniel would be there, pale and black-eyed. Sometimes, he morphed into a monster that I can only describe as an evil Chewbacca.

At eighteen, I joined the military; it was a hard, miserable life, but it was preferable to being tortured in my own home. As an adult, it was easy to convince myself the witch’s cryptic remarks were meaningless – just another psychological warfare tactic – but sometimes, late at night, a voice in the back of my mind made me wonder if there wasn’t more to it; I should have listened.

I did well in my chosen career, and life improved slightly when I was no longer at the bottom of the pecking order. The first time I returned home was over a decade later, after my thirtieth birthday; my success in the military made me mistake foolishness for bravery. One of the first things I did upon returning was mock the witch; sitting on my old bed, I said all the things I was too afraid to say as a child. Nothing happened; it was almost disappointing until I realized how silly it sounded to have expected anything else.

I thought no more of her as I enjoyed reuniting with family; Eric and John kept me awake with talk and liquor late into the night. When I finally stumbled upstairs, my head was swimming with their finest homemade reserves, and I was unconscious before my boots were off. The next thing I knew, there was a burning, itching sensation spreading down my spine; it felt like ants were in the bed.

Still half delirious, I reached back to scratch, but something grabbed my wrist in a cold grip of steel. It didn’t feel like flesh and bone at all; my mind struggled to shake the sleep away, and upon remembering my location, I understood what was happening. Thinking that monster would show itself when challenged was simply moronic; of course it would wait until I was most vulnerable.

“Did you miss me?” It used Daniel’s voice – pulling my arm down painfully as it leaned forward to whisper in my ear. If its cold, putrid breath weren’t bad enough, an oddly dry, pasty tongue licked around my earlobe before plunging all the way inside. Just when I thought my arm would break from the pressure, I was flipped over onto my back and face to face with the ugliest creature I’ve ever seen. It was humanoid but with dark green skin that was covered in sores and boils; though it appeared frail in size, it had me pinned as effectively as if I were strapped to the mattress.

“Do you remember me yet?” It smiled wide, and its black tongue slowly ran across two rows of sharp, yellow teeth as drool dripped onto my chest. Every drop burned into my skin like acid; I opened my mouth to scream, but no sound came out.

“You better hurry; we’re almost out of time and then you’ll have to start all over again in the next life!” It threw its head back and laughed that insane, maniacal laugh. I didn’t have to wonder about the last remark for too long; I saw thick clouds of smoke floating by the window in the same instant I smelled it. Our house was on fire, and my whole family was asleep on the upper floors. I poured my entire being into trying to scream; I didn’t care about myself – I only needed to wake the others, but it was no use.

Thankfully I can’t physically remember the details of burning alive in that moment, but I’ll never enjoy a bonfire again. Last time I went near one, I collapsed the moment I smelled the smoke. There’s actually a lot of things I can’t enjoy anymore, but for now let’s get this last part over with. Recounting these experiences has been less therapeutic than hoped, but they’re helping me organize my thoughts so I’m trying to see this through.


Easter Egg

The splitting-pain in my head was now a full-blown migraine; trying to sit-up was impossible, my skull was filled with cement, and I genuinely wondered if I would die. I know at least two more lives played out while I was half comatose, but the details are lost. They were no doubt strikingly similar to the others; the important thing is that I was able to save what is likely the most vital piece of information from my entire existence.

When I finally had enough control to talk to the camera again, I wasn’t sure of the date, but it was still the 19th century. This time I was a woman named Penelope, and yet again my romantic preference skewed towards women; it was dangerous in the 70’s, but downright deadly in that era. Though I was never brave enough to pursue my true interest, I couldn’t force myself to be with a man, either. Unfortunately, being single wasn’t much safer – it was practically scandalous by age twenty.

I made it to 25 before my father arranged a marriage, and I ran away three weeks before the ceremony. There was no chance of escape in my hometown; it was small, and everyone knew me. My chance came when we journeyed to the city. On the first day, I feigned weariness from travel and stayed at the inn while my family enjoyed the shops. When they had enough time to be well away, I walked out with nothing but a bag of meager supplies; no one even noticed. My only regret was never learning my family’s reaction. Did they think I was taken? Did they suspect the truth? I have no idea.

Getting through the streets was easier than my best expectation once I pinned my hair and put on a hooded cloak. When the city sounds were nothing but fading noise, I felt happiness for the first time in decades. Kicking off my shoes, I ran and jumped like an elated child; it was pure ecstasy. I intended to go as far as my legs would take me; there was enough food in my bag to last a week if I was careful. Beyond that I didn’t have a clue.

When the sun began to set, I searched for a place to spend the night. Wandering along a high cliff-face, I stumbled onto a small recess, barely big enough to crawl through. I thought it was a crevice, but was shocked to find it opened into a large cavern! The sparse light remaining was dedicated to starting a cozy fire in my new home; it was easy once I’d gathered the wood and lit a few torches. With the cave illuminated, I could see another opening in the back wall; it was a tunnel – almost four feet wide, and high enough to stand.

I walked for roughly a mile and was almost ready to turn back when the passage suddenly veered left. I was only planning to look around the curve, but it was impossible to stop once I saw what lay ahead; the tunnel continued for another 30-40 yards before opening into a second cavern. It was too dark to see well, but something in there was emitting a soft, purple glow; I had to know what.

This, my friends, is a tragically perfect example of ‘curiosity killed the cat’; deeper and deeper I traipsed into the lion’s den – because why not? I was very familiar with monsters; they’re people – humans, like you and me. They live in my home and in yours; they live next door and in the streets, but there were no people in my heavenly cave!… Now, let me tell you what was

With the torchlight I could see the walls were covered in some kind of fleshy, pink membrane, and the strange light was coming from dozens of colored eggs. They stood on intricately designed pedestals and cast their strange glow on the boulders surrounding their nest. I thought it was the most marvelous sight in the world; how they came to be never crossed my mind. I leaned in closely with the torch – only wanting to see them better – but the very second the light fell on them… They erupted into flames.

Once the first ones were burning, the rest soon followed, and the entire cavern became bright as day. In the same instant, the things I mistook for boulders formed grotesque faces with bulbous black eyes and curved needle-teeth. Now that I could see clearly, I noticed thousands of thin tendrils all over the cave-floor, connecting the creatures and eggs. Their deep, guttural moans made my bones shake; the only thing I wanted to do was crawl out of that cave and get married in three weeks. Covering my ears, I hastily backed away from the hungry flames, but I collided with something.

Cold, hard arms lifted me high into the air, and no amount of kicking or pleading was going to save me. During the walk, my captor showed me things; it wanted me to understand what was done, and what price I would pay. I was helpless as visions of our planet’s darkest secrets raced through my mind.

Long before the first white man came to America, the entity was worshiped as a god. When other nations tried to settle their land, his followers rapidly dwindled until none remained. Though the creature killed many of these invaders – they refused to submit; instead they chose to flee or return with an angry mob. Over the centuries, circumstances only worsened until those caves – and eggs – were are all that remained.

The eggs weren’t conceived in the traditional sense, but born of tormented souls. When enough malice and hatred are collected into one being – it’s morphed into a horrible abomination. Those eggs were like little incubators; they grew until the transformation was complete, then a new nightmare was unleashed into our unsuspecting world. Monsters that, today, people call Cryptids – but it takes centuries for those eggs to hatch, and I had just destroyed 42 in seconds.

I’m being primed for one of those eggs; my soul is marked. Each time it finds me, it thinks of new, creative games, and – each time it kills me – it takes a piece of my soul for the incubator. I don’t know why it hasn’t come for me yet, but I’ve never known about Easter Memoria before meeting him like I have this time… or… wait… maybe that’s what it wants me to think; maybe it’s already in my life! What if my being raised around people with this knowledge was part of its master plan?

I need to get the fuck out Georgia, now. If I can find a safe place to do the ritual just one more time… I think there’s a reason those cameras cut out when Bethany died; it has to mean something. This revelation might just give me a fighting chance; if I’m able to update this one day – I will.

Thank you all so much for listening… Wish me luck.

Horror Fiction

The National Park Service is Hiding Something

🚨ATTENTION🚨

This is a Swamp Dweller exclusive; he owns all rights to this story and it cannot be used in any way/shape/form. Here are the links to his narrations on YouTube, Podcast, and Spotify. If you haven’t heard his work, I highly recommend checking him out! I’m binging the podcasts, and he uploads so often that new viewers will be hard pressed to run out of content!

Hey Swamp,

I’ve been a fan for a long time and knew you had to hear this! Last week, my cousin from Alabama disappeared. We weren’t close, but his brother went missing last year, and his parents couldn’t handle going through his things. Mom and I flew out to help and found some crazy stuff on his computer. He posted two audio recordings to the Park’s website – both of which were immediately removed – but the files were still on his laptop. Honestly… I don’t know which is more disturbing, but I can tell you one thing, Nate was no actor. I’ve transcribed everything in hopes you might read it. Thanks for the amazing work you do, keep it up!


[feedback] Whoa, hold on. [tap, tap] Okay, it’s working now. [clears throat]

[hesitant] Hello, my name is Nate; I’m twenty-six and I’ve been a Park Ranger in Alabama for almost a year. If you’re hearing this, I’m either dead or missing… [light cigarette] hopefully, dead. I recorded this message three days ago, but didn’t make it back in time to cancel the upload. This is a confession, a warning, and a farewell. Please, don’t look for me.

I was the black sheep in my family. There’s no excuse or trauma to blame; my parents were great, my older brother, Eric, wasn’t a bully. I’m just… a lazy klutz, if I’m being honest – and why not – there’s no reason to lie. Most people won’t believe a word of it anyway – hell, I barely do.

It’s important you understand I’m not a paranoid loon locked in a basement; my world revolves around logic and facts. I never believed in Santa or thought a monster was under the bed – not once. This is so you understand I’m not exaggerating; I don’t scream “ghost” when a door slams, and I don’t see things from the corner of my eye.

Each denial you’re about to have – I had; each question you’re about to ask – I asked. I’m going to start at the beginning, but even then, it may not be enough. That’s okay; you can believe me later. If you ever find yourself lost in the woods, something you learn here just might save your life.

It began in April of ‘21; my drinking was out of control, and I was on thin ice with my boss and girlfriend. It felt like I was past the point of no return, idly waiting for the end. Looking back, it sounds pathetic – I should have stopped drinking; I could have apologized to Jen when it mattered, we would have— [sigh] well… shoulda, coulda, woulda, am-I-right?

Let’s put aside the lies I told in order to continue drinking and focus on the key details. As you can see, I’m a straight shooter; I’m not here to bullshit, so I’ll admit – I deserved to get fired. Bartending is a horrible career for a budding alcoholic, and I’m shocked it didn’t happen sooner. Unfortunately, Drunk Nate couldn’t understand that, and he made a scene…

Normally, if someone breaks a window and steals a $600 bottle of scotch – police are contacted; when you live in Nowhere, AL – parents are called, and money is exchanged. Unfortunately, it was the last straw for Jen; my stuff was packed and waiting when I finally stumbled home. Not that I remember – that’s just what I learned upon waking in my childhood room.

These events were what led to my exceedingly fragile sobriety. If I didn’t want to spend life asking “Do you want fries with that?” I had to work with my brother; no one else would take me. Park Ranger life suited Eric; he was made for the outdoors. Me – not so much, but it meant a place to live for the summer. They like having staff on site for the busy season, though people with families are generally displeased with the idea.

A few white lies and blatant acts of nepotism later – I was starting my first day on the job. I was exactly fourteen days sober when Eric gave me the grand tour – and I do mean grand; we barely covered our territory before quitting time. The whole first week was dedicated to learning my way around; he didn’t start easing me into the weird stuff until the second week, and that, friends, is where this story really begins.


Happy Trails

Remember, at this point – I’m still a barely-functioning alcoholic desperately resisting temptation every second, and I didn’t play it off well. Eric saw me struggling and did his best to help; he tried to distract me with shoptalk – I was expected to know a few basics – but even he was bored. It didn’t seem unreasonable to think he would stretch a few details to get my attention.

Until then, my lessons consisted of which hikes and berries were dangerous; now, it was what to do when someone goes missing. Not “if” mind you – “when”. How often do you think people disappear in a state park? Not lost – missing – as in never seen again? Because I thought two per year was an extreme guess, but it was insanely naïve.

Last year – in our park alone – 138 people vanished. It was hard to wrap my head around that number; how could so many disappear in one place without being all over the news? Well, a couple things contribute to this, but the answers are far from satisfying.

Our statistics are nothing compared to the bigger parks – which would make sense if those places were getting the expected attention, but they’re not. Some of their numbers are triple ours, yet there’s hardly a word to be found! There’s a surprising amount of reasons people won’t report a disappearance, but those with active warrants or lacking citizenship are the most common. Personally, I’d prefer jail or deportation, but [light cigarette] to each their own. The point is – even if we ignore those – there’s more than enough to justify an investigation. You’ll learn the rest as we go; I have much to say and precious little time.

Eric saw my skepticism and showed me the Lost & Found cabin. Some of the stuff in there dates back to the ‘70’s; that’s fifty years of missing people’s crap! Inside, he went to the more recent finds and opened a bin labeled “D. Hill 7/19”. It contained reports from the Dylan Hill disappearance. That July, a family of four drove up from Montgomery for a week of camping; their son was nine and the girl, six. They checked in on a Sunday morning and chose the campsite closest to the welcome center; families always do because it feels safer.

On the third day, Mike Hill rushed into the office – frantic – saying his son disappeared. He and his wife were adamant Dylan vanished; he wasn’t abducted, he didn’t wander off – he vanished. Sherri was preparing lunch while Mike watched the kids. They were never out of sight until Dylan ducked behind the tree-line of a particularly dense area. Even before his sister caught up – Mike was on his feet. When interviewed, he said it was the darkness of the thicket that initially bothered him. There were dense patches everywhere, but none so dark as where his son entered.

Over the next weeks, Park Rangers assisted with Search & Rescue operations while doing their best to comfort the grieving family, but they knew it was too late; the ones who seem to vanish into thin air are never found.

You probably think what I thought – that the parents were responsible and coached their daughter to lie, right? It’s technically possible, but the kid was six; I read the transcript from her interviews, and kids aren’t that good at lying. Even if one could keep a straight face – they couldn’t handle a convoluted story, especially not for several weeks under intense pressure.

When asked if she or her brother had met anyone else at the park, she claimed someone with “backwards arms” and “long feet” stood outside their tent the night before. Eventually, it was determined she saw a man, but her imagination invented a monster after losing Dylan.

It seemed like a reasonable explanation until I heard similar reports from other guests. It’s not always a kid, and there aren’t always creature sightings, but when there are, it’s always with the same description. People from all over have described an emaciated animal with long, canine-like feet, no hair, and strangely bent arms – or possibly wings, but I’m jumping ahead a little.

I didn’t believe a word about monsters; I thought it was a gag for newbs. My first personal experience was two weeks later when a woman went missing. It was June 5th, and I had just moved into a staff cabin the week before. Being sober was still a bitch, but there were whole hours I didn’t think about drinking. Having my own place helped immensely, but Bethany Anderson almost pushed me clear off the wagon.

This is what made me understand lives were resting in my hands; if I missed a sign or clue… [shudder] I wasn’t built for that kind of pressure. My focus should have been on her, but it was on a rabid monkey relentlessly clawing my back. That’s also the day I found an AA group; if nothing else, it worked for fear of returning.

Beth and her boyfriend were camping for a long weekend, but they got separated on a hike. Grady claimed they were only apart for a few minutes, but when he walked back to join her – she was gone. The trail didn’t diverge at any point, and everyone she knew agreed that she wasn’t the type to wander off. Her partner believed a tall, deformed man took her. There were several times on the first night when they heard rustling nearby; they assumed it was an animal, but each time they tried to discern the source, it stopped – like someone didn’t want to be found.

That night, Grady crept out of their tent to relieve his bladder and saw a dark shape standing several feet away. It was so thin, he thought it was a tree – especially with the awkward angles of the protruding limbs. Then, it bent drastically near the base and leapt into the trees. The man possessed enough sense not to investigate. When he later relayed the events to Beth, she disregarded it as a dream.

After enjoying a normal morning, she convinced Grady to go on that fateful hike. He hasn’t meant to walk ahead. She was next to him moments before, and thinking she stopped for a photo – he turned back right away; unfortunately, it was already too late.

Obviously, the police thought his entire story was fabricated. If there was any way he could have known about those other cases, I’d think the same – but these people were from Florida! They weren’t locals who happened to know a few stories, and they damn sure didn’t hear in on the news!

It was a miserable two weeks before Search & Rescue left, and four more before the Anderson family flew home. I’ll never forget the sound of the mother’s wails; I heard it in my sleep – and not in a metaphorical way – her cabin was close enough to literally hear it. That’s when I got serious about my training. Maybe there was nothing I could’ve done, but if there was a chance to help the next one, then yea, I was ready to get off my ass.

Cue the training montage; I worked harder than I’d ever worked in my miserable life! The funny part is that’s what got me past the worst drinking urges. I don’t think the cravings will ever fully stop, but I experience entire days without temptation.

By August, I felt like a real Ranger; I was trusted to work without supervision, and my co-workers no longer saw me as Eric’s screw-up little brother – I was part of the team! Life was too good, I should’ve known disaster was coming.


[light cigarette] On Friday, August 13th, everything went to shit; I think the date was coincidental considering how often it happens, but you never know. It was my last two weeks living at the park, and if I didn’t find an apartment soon – I’d be back with my parents which is obviously not ideal.

There’s a kitchen in the welcome center where we have lunch, and that day, I ate with Eric and Teri; she’s a been a lifer and could fill a book with all the strange shit she’s seen. The main reason I didn’t have an apartment yet was laziness; the research alone is a long, tedious process. I avoided it by asking if anyone knew of a good place to rent, and surprisingly, Teri did.

It was a small house only ten minutes away, but the landlord was leaving town the next morning and wouldn’t return for three weeks. Instead of living with my parents for a week like a reasonable person, I was an impatient asshole. The world would end if I didn’t immediately get those keys, and – as usual – Eric went out of his way to help. He was scheduled in the welcome center with Teri, but she agreed to cover for him.

When we finished the last task, I was an hour ahead of schedule, but before I could feel too relieved, our radios crackled to life; there were multiple reports of a bear near Campsite C. They wanted us to investigate, and if that was my worst delay – everything would have been fine.

We drove to the location figuring the animal was long gone but couldn’t risk tourists crowding one for a selfie. After scanning the area, we left the trail and advanced slowly; we only needed to ensure it wasn’t loafing nearby. It made sense to spread out, but there was no more than 15-20 feet between us; plus, I glanced over often to match his pace, and it was never difficult to see him.

Not until he vanished, that is… I still don’t understand how it happened. How can he be there one second, and gone the next?! I called his name, but there was no answer. Bear forgotten, I walked to the last place I saw my brother. I had always felt safe at work – like Rangers were off limits to the misfortunes that fall upon our guests. We’re only here to restore order afterwards – a maintenance crew, if you will – but when my eyes fell upon the void left by Eric’s absence, that illusion crumbled.

It was foolish not to radio for backup. I ran blindly into the forest without caution nor care. It’s a wonder I didn’t disappear as well, but I felt like my only hope was to find him immediately – before a report solidified the event as real. Deeper and deeper I barreled through the woods, ripping my clothes and scraping my arms in the process. I mistook my shock for reason and continued screaming for my brother.

I’m not sure how long it took to reach the clearing with the strange snowman rock, but seeing it was like waking from a trance. I had no clue where I was; the full weight of my situation sank in, and my stomach lurched painfully. Eric was likely dead, our ATV was abandoned at Camp C, and I would return alone, beaten, and without an explanation for… anything. Even if other Rangers believed me – I’ve seen firsthand how badly the police need closed cases.

That’s when I learned the radio was dead, and my phone was in the ATV. When something genuinely terrifying happens – the resulting fear is so intense that the possibility it could grow worse is unimaginable. It can always be worse; that much, I guarantee.

Wandering aimlessly is the worst thing you can do when lost. Unfortunately, it’s hard to stay put while your world is ending. I tried retracing my steps, but nothing looked familiar. Eventually, I rounded a curve to see my path blocked by what I thought to be another strange rock formation. It was big, and trees grew around it to form an almost hidden alcove; had I approached from a different angle, it would’ve been invisible.

Unhappy Trails

There was an almost… hypnotic quality; it reminded me of something, but I couldn’t place what. I was so consumed with identifying this foreign, yet familiar shape, I didn’t realize my feet were taking me closer. My knees went weak as I saw only part of the formation was rock; the rest was… flesh. The realization only came as its top half suddenly stood to its full, breathtaking height. Before, it was merely crouching behind the boulder; now, it was staring into the depths of my very soul… I could feel it inside of me.

My limited reserve of composure evaporated as I fled into the forest once again. The urge to look back was intense, but I resisted. With a loud, guttural roar came the clear sound of flapping wings; the image of that thing soaring above was enough to keep me going well beyond my normal limit. I didn’t notice the familiar surroundings until I emerged onto a trail near E Camp.

I was quickly spotted by a fellow Ranger who informed me it was almost 7:00! That’s when I noticed how low the sun had sunk, and how close I was to being lost out there in the dark. Eric was still missing obviously, and search efforts were already underway. I was forced to recount my story to the police before speaking with friends. Despite what they suspected, the evidence was only circumstantial, and I was asked not to leave town. Mr. Davis, my boss, believed me and was kind enough to let me keep the cabin while I wait for the other place.

My parents were an absolute wreck and also allowed a cabin while the search continued; everyone put in an extra show of effort just for them. Watching Mom suffer is the hardest part of this madness; if she loses me too… I can’t think about that. None of this concerns them anyway. The parts you – whoever ‘you’ are – need to know happened after I finally made it home that night; well, Saturday morning, technically.

The unexpected knock at my door was timid but frightening. It froze me in place while I imagined that creature waiting on the other side; had Teri not called out, I wouldn’t have moved. It had started to rain, and flashes of lightning lit the sky; I invited her in and fetched a clean towel. She dried off while the coffee brewed, and we talked for hours as the storm raged outside. Not only did I recount my story, but she told me much more about the disappearances than Eric had. I’m not sure if he knew or not; it’s possible he didn’t want to scare me more than necessary.

Maybe it’s a testament to my selfishness that I only cared about research when it concerned my own brother, but it never occurred to me before that moment. Teri showed me more subreddits, YouTube channels, and podcasts than I could count as she explained something people refer to as the “Missing 411”. I’m going to do my best to pass that knowledge on to you, though there’s not enough time to read every piece of evidence I’ve uncovered over the last several months. The best I can do is point you in the right direction, but hopefully anyone who hears this will decide to stay the hell away.

If one types “Missing 411” into Google, a plethora of films and documentaries appear; a cursory glance leads one to believe these are fictional horror stories. If you skim a few articles, it starts sounding like some grand-scale human trafficking ring, but if you’re willing to take a deep dive something much more sinister rises to the surface.

To put it simply, monsters – or some prefer “Cryptids” – are real; if you can’t accept that basic fact by now, there’s no point in listening to the rest. You can’t look at the Missing 411 as a whole; that’s a rookie mistake full of false leads and deadly misconceptions. Yes, as records of the missing are gathered from across the globe, there are many commonalities, but this is not a singular mystery with a singular answer; it is a collection of thousands, probably millions!

Every case must be considered individually to determine what’s at fault; it’s common for large forests and mountain ranges to house multiple creatures. Whether this be Skinwalkers, Wendigo, Dogmen, or – as in our case – Vetti, it’s vital to prepare for the right creature. Please understand those are just a few examples; it would be impossible to list all the known Cryptids. That’s why the best course of action is to avoid them completely.

[alarm clock] Damn, I’m almost out of time; I must tell you about the Vetti before it’s too late. Teri and the other lifers were only able to identify it two years ago when she found one of the missing. She was alone in a remote area of the park when it happened. Some kids left their trash behind, and a chip bag was tangled in the bushes just off-trail. When she retrieved it, she noticed a candy wrapper a little further in – so she got that, too. Then she saw a water bottle, and it wasn’t until the following soda can that she realized how far away the litter had taken her.

Realizing her mistake, she turned back to see Jason Fuller – a Ranger who disappeared six years prior – blocking her path; he was injured and filthy, yet not a day older. Teri struggled to avoid the word “zombie”, but that’s exactly what it sounded like until she relayed their brief conversation. He claimed to have escaped captivity and asked her to return with him so they might help the “other hostages”. Teri said pure malice exuded from him in waves. Too frightened to refuse, she asked him to lead the way.

The thing wearing Jason’s skin gave a sick, evil grin and walked past her. She held her breath as his rotting stench wafted in her face, and the moment his back was turned, she fled. The sound she describes coming from him was eerily reminiscent of what I’d heard only hours before. She was barely able to make it to her ATV before he was on her heels.

She reported the incident at base-camp, and the old-timers filled her in just like she did for me – except she had provided a missing link in their information. Knowing what hunts you can be the difference in life and death. That night, twenty-seven men went into the forest; only sixteen returned, but Teri was told she wouldn’t see Jason again.

There are hundreds of Cryptids with information available, but we got stuck with a rare one. Most monsters are born as what they are, but Vetti are created. They begin as humans; when someone suffers unimaginable anguish – the type bred from years of brutal torture or a life of enslavement – they become consumed with fury and hatred. When they are finally granted the sweet release of death, their souls are doomed to wander the Earth as vengeful spirits. They know nothing but the desire to share their endless pain with others, and that pain is like catnip to Harpies. Yes, Harpies are real, but I don’t have time to make this a double creature-feature; you can research those for yourself.

Information on what the Harpies do after locating the spirit is vague, but whether it merges with or transforms the spirit – the end result is a Vetti. These things exist purely to cause misery; they should be avoided at all costs. Destroying one is extremely difficult, but barring a few exceptions they normally hunt alone. Their bloodlust isn’t the most dangerous aspect of these creatures; they can do much worse than kill. No one is sure of the commonality between victims, but on rare occasions – such as with Jason Fuller – the corpses are possessed.

I know my brother is dead; that’s not why I keep studying and searching. I need to confirm Eric’s body isn’t being used, and to put whatever I do find out of its misery. If I die in the process, so be it, but I’m taking that thing with me. If I can take it down with hollow points, I’ll let fire take care of the rest. I have a shovel, two cans of gasoline, plenty of ammunition, and a few blades for good measure. If I don’t make it back, I’m sorry; I wish I had been a better son and brother.


Posted one hour later:

Sorry to worry anyone who heard that… unusual message before; I was rehearsing for a play! Everything is fantastic here. Please come for a visit, and let me show you around our beautiful park. Remember, ask for Nate!