horror

The Infinity Game

To my regular readers: I know you must be wondering where my normal posts are, and I am sorry for that. The scary stories make money and I’m dirt poor so I will be doing this for a hot minute. I will eventually do more normal posts as soon as I have time, but the holidays are a very busy time for us. Thank you for your understanding. 

Has anyone ever played the Infinity Game? The one with the 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 the 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 to 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 of my 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 to the waiting room, 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 would have 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 right before it crashed into my bumper. I went off the 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 becoming 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 any 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 badly, 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 shattered the second one just to be safe, but for the record, 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.

horror, scary

The First Settlement

Now a CreepyPasta. 

Narrated by The Dark Somnium: YouTube, Podcast, & Spotify

For full effect, please wear something comfortable, and imagine yourself lost in a dark forest. I think you’ll find a cabin just ahead.

Welcome, friend. Come on in, it’s storming out there. We’ve lost power, but it’s dry and warm inside. Grab a blanket and join us by the fire before you freeze, we got plenty of room. It’s not safe to be wandering around in the dark. Not out here where the closest town is five miles away by foot. You won’t see any cell towers, I can promise you that. No WiFi out in these woods either. Folks in town like to call it a lake, but make no mistake, this here is all swampland. If you get lost, you’re likely to end up as gator bait… or worse.

Never you mind though, you’ll be safe here. Long as we have this fire, we can ride the storm out til morning. I’m Alex, and that pretty thing in the green sweater is my wife, Trish. Our nephew, Ethan, is the shy fella staring at his feet like he wasn’t raised with manners. Personally, I think he was dropped on his head before he had that wiry mop of curls to cushion his fall. Now, what did you say your name was?

Great, nice to meet ya. I won’t ask how you came to be out here all alone on a night like this. It’s none of my business, but I hope you won’t take offense to an old soul’s ramblings. I was just about to educate the young one on some local history when we heard your knock. I’m not embarrassed to say I nearly jumped out of my skin, but you’re not one of them. I could tell soon as I saw you.

Tell me, do you believe in ghosts? You know, spirits? Ah, that’s ok, what better time to learn? Nobody knows how it started. Before Columbus sailed across the ocean, the Indians already knew to stay away. Not even Braves ventured into these woods, afraid of Bad Medicine as they called it. The first white settlement – no, not Roanoke – the first settlement. Few people heard of it, no historians ever came, that’s for sure. Unlike Roanoke, there was no one to come looking for these folks. You know what? Let me start from the beginning, we have plenty of time.

The year was 1565, decades before Roanoke. Peasants weren’t allowed to hunt, all game was property of the Nobles. When times grew hard, desperate men – mostly outlaws and laborers – decided to take their chances on the ocean. They heard sailor’s tales of paradise where the land is open and fertile. A single, stolen ship carrying men, women, and children fled Europe in the dead of night, never to return.

The treacherous journey lasted 8 months, and many perished along the way. The dead were thrown overboard with little ceremony until food rations ran low. In the end, fifty-eight survivors made it to the New World. Desperate to be away from the smell of death, they went ashore as a group. The sandy beach was empty, and the surrounding woods were vast. Their leader was a large man named James Smith. He and First Mate Grant Cooke lead their people into the forest. They cleared land and built a settlement near the lake; it really was a lake back then. The water was clean and clear; not green and smelly like it is now.

Nothing strange happened in the first year, almost like something waited until they were trapped. Letting them get nice and cozy while they scrapped the boat for parts; while they built their homes and planted their crops. They had no need for law or politics, but James held the final word on all decisions. Until the 13th month, those usually amounted to where to plant this or build that. Then a little girl, Ester Jones, vanished. Her disappearance was the first of many terrors to befall the community. I can tell you their whole story, you see, Pappy Grant kept a journal.

June 13, 1566

As we sat to supper, loud, desperate knocking sounded at the door. I instructed Martha and the children to continue eating as I rose to greet our late visitor. Knowing only ill tidings come at such a time, I relinquished my meal to the hounds. Indeed, I was met with the despairing sobs of Widow Jones. Her girl, Ester, failed to return from picking berries. The young ones never ventured far, but even so, they always stayed together.

I made quick work of speaking with the children as James gathered men. We ventured into the forest with one hour of light remaining to us. Unable to burden the women with our true findings, we blamed wolves as the culprits. I will record our true findings here in case – God help us all – a true account is useful to future generations.

The children confirmed their location in the west woods, past old man Herbert’s farm. They departed together, but Ester returned alone to retrieve a lost ribbon. The dogs delivered us directly to the berry patches at which time they turned circles, whimpering. Ignoring all calls to heel, they tucked tails and ran home. Our best hunting dogs, known to challenge bears, behaved as if whipped!

It was then we felt the weight of the silence. No birds sang, no insects stirred, and no winds blew. From the safety of my home it seems foolish to say, but it felt as if we were being watched. James summoned our best tracker, William Reed, to determine Ester’s trail.

In minutes he discovered the lost ribbon, but as he retraced the child’s steps he became visibly distraught. After confirming his findings with the Owens brothers, he reported the following:

“The children came down the path, scattering in front of the bushes. Ester is the oldest among them, making hers easily discernible from the others. You can see where she turns back, and this is where she kneels to search. Here are markings left by her hands and knees, but that is where her trail ends. It is as if she is standing before us, invisible.” William waved his arm through the space as if to prove she truly was not there.

Joshua Owens confirmed the analysis adding, “There are those capable of disguising a trail, but it is impossible to erase one. Maybe a giant bird came and scooped her up.” He said the last in jest, but looked up as he spoke. “What… is… that?”

Following his line of sight, I became aware of a white and red object caught in a tangle of limbs above us. William set to work climbing, and in minutes was directly below it. He crossed himself, nearly falling when he released his grip to do so. We watched, breath held, as Reed untangled the item.

Once brought for further inspection we could not deny it was cloth torn from the child’s dress. More disturbing than its location was the dark crimson stain which covered the white material. If she climbed, footprints would lead to the tree, and its bark would show signs.

Suddenly William ran to the next tree, studying its branches. Understanding his logic, we searched high in surrounding treetops until Horace Wright discovered the child’s location. As he spoke, he stumbled forward, losing his supper in a violent reaction to the grotesque sight awaiting us.

There, tangled in the branches were the remains of little Ester. Out of respect to the deceased’s mother, I shall not describe the horrible manner in which she surely perished. I suspected large cats, for they often hide their prey in this manner, but Reed was quick to rule it out. Again, easily visible tracks would remain. I developed a terrible coldness in my bones that still has not left me. I fear it never will.

We debated how to proceed as the last light faded. Anything short of bringing the child home for proper burial would be a disgrace, yet for her poor mother to see this fate… how little remained… she has already lost so much. I found myself imploring the men to spare Mrs. Jones this additional pain, suggesting we bury the child beneath the very tree in which she was found. I truly believed it it kinder to carry home a tale of instant, painless death.

It took little convincing and was a relief to us all. Widow Jones is a kind, caring woman and our hearts ache for her loss. I am forever shamed to have failed her daughter in both life and death. With torches freshly lit, William climbed the tree easily as the first. Upon reaching the remains, a deep, guttural roar emanated from the darkness. It sounded like no beast I have heard before, causing every hair on my body to stand erect. James ordered William out of the tree at once.

Descending quickly, clutching Ester’s small, shredded shoe, Reed jumped the last four feet. Another roar followed, this time from above, closer and angrier. It was accompanied by the sound of branches cracking under the weight of something heavy. It required all my resilience to stand fast as we braced for the unknown terror to attack.

We held our torches high, but the light would not reach more than a foot away. Dancing flames should have illuminated the clearing, but the darkness was almost tangible. Even more strange was the temperature. The warm, summer night bit into us with a harsh, winter wind.

No man spoke, we merely huddled together, staring into the impenetrable darkness, waiting. How to describe the sound of that beast as it stole Ester from us a second time… alas, I cannot. I can only tell you of the shame we felt as we stood in place, for the monster went without haste, mocking our cowardice. It is my greatest shame, mortally wounding to my heart and pride.

When all fell silent once again, James commanded we return to the village at once. We eagerly agreed, ready to leave that horrid place. As we approached the path home, William surged to the front, insisting we were entering the wrong trail. I spoke harshly, anxious to be on our way, walking with my torch aloft to show no other path existed.

Reed led us to the place he believed our true path to be, but nothing was there. He walked between the two locations, listing the ways he could tell the difference. If he was correct, the path we walked daily was overgrown with weeds as if unused for years. It was a twisted root which several men recalled stumbling over that convinced us.

It was a slow journey as we struggled through the thickets, but we made it home safely thanks to Reed’s keen eyes and knowledge. I cannot stop wondering where the other trail would have taken us had he been less observant. Unfortunately, we were only able to return Ester’s shoe to Mrs. Jones. May she find comfort knowing the child is with her father in a better place.

Until tonight, our greatest fear was being discovered by outsiders. Should King Henry ever learn of our Paradise, he will surely want it for his own. We are prepared to defend ourselves to the last man should the occasion call for it. Alas, I believe we can rest easy in that regard. After what I have witnessed this night, I am certain whatever plagues us is no mortal man. We are resolved to explore the strange path in full tomorrow. I shall record my findings here upon our return.

What’s that, friend? Of course, the bathroom is down the hall, second door to the right. You go on ahead, we need to add a few logs to the fire anyhow. Oh, and if you hear a tapping at the window, just ignore it. Best not to pay them any attention, but whatever you do, don’t open the curtains.

…There, perfect timing! The fire is… oh my! Are you alright? I say, you are pale as all get out! Here, sit down, I think we’re in for a long night. I guess you peeked… I tried to warn you, but they say seeing is believing. There, there. I know it can be upsetting, but you really are safe in here. We don’t have a vehicle, but if you like, I can walk you to town come sunrise. Until then, maybe it’s best I continue the story.

June 15, 1566,

I write in the early morning hours, before the sun has yet risen. May God have mercy on my soul. By my hand James is dead. What have I done? It should have been me! I will never be half the man he was. Martha, if you or the children should one day read these words, I shudder to know what you will think of me, but I must keep going to ensure a record of what has happened here survives. Whatever evil is in these woods has made me murder my closest friend, I must do all I can to prevent others from the suffering similar fates.

At dawn we armed ourselves with every available weapon, intent to traverse the strange, new path. To our astonishment, the trail had vanished. The foliage was so dense, it would have taken several men most of the day to recreate what we saw the previous night. We explored where possible, venturing farther than ever before, but found nothing. Wishing to be well away before nightfall, we returned home to find the women gathered and waiting for us.

They were terribly panicked, all speaking at once. After learning what transpired, I cannot say I blame them. We have taken the safety of our homes for granted, we have forgotten these are strange lands of which we know nothing.

As instructed, the women remained in the village, keeping the children close at hand. Martha invited Mrs. Jones to join her in our home, not wishing her to be alone at such a time. It required much persuasion. Mrs. Jones preferred to grieve in solitude, but in the end, agreed for Martha’s sake.

Shortly after morning chores were complete, Nathaniel, our youngest, cried out. Martha discovered him by the staircase, pointing at Mrs. Jones. The woman was attempting to unlatch the door but panicked and clumsily. Martha tried to intervene, blocking her way, but was roughly pushed aside.

Mrs. Jones began screaming, “She’s out there! They lied to us, look, see for yourself! My girl is alive, move! We must go get her! She cannot swim!”

Martha regained her feet and ran to the window, unsure what to expect. At the same moment she laid eyes on the ghost of Ester Jones floating above the lake, Mrs. Jones freed the last lock. My wife was left to watch helplessly as Mrs. Jones ran to her daughter.

Martha called after her in vain, continuing to give chase even after Mrs. Jones disappeared beneath the water, never to emerge. I shall thank God each day she did not enter those murky depths herself. I have no doubt she would be lost as well.

Several others report strange tappings at the windows and voices calling from the forest, but no sightings upon investigation. Thankfully no one else was lost, for we now fear each incident as deadly. It was then James recalled the Gypsy ancestry of old man Herbert. None of us know his true name, but his knowledge has been invaluable since fleeing our homeland. What ever shame exists in his past are of no consequence here. Now, it seems, his knowledge may save us once again. We absorbed his every word, which in summation:

“If the legends are based in fact, I fear we may have something far worse than mere ghosts among us. You see, spirits are souls of the departed. They are what remain of those who perish but cannot pass to the other side. They can be a nuisance, but they cannot physically harm us. Malevolent ghosts may attempt trickery, such as what befell Mrs. Jones; but had she not run into the lake, she would still be among us now. As for the forest, I am certain we are dealing with something far more insidious than a spirit. It may even hold dominion over the ghouls, I do not know for certain. I do know what ever stalks those woods is something much worse… possibly a demon. Either way we do not possess the tools or skills to defeat it.”

The remaining light of day was spent fortifying our homes. We burned sage as the Gypsies do to combat evil spirits, but I have seen no evident results. Nothing else of note happened until nightfall, after we locked ourselves indoors. It was agreed no one would leave the safety of their home until morning, but that is the precaution which became our undoing.

Hours passed without incident until the shutters rattled violently as if someone were trying to gain entry. We first checked the children, finding them huddled together under the blankets. Without opening the curtains, I barred the window with the wardrobe. With the heavy oak furniture in place, the noises stopped at once, leaving a pause of silence before a devastating crash sounded from downstairs. I bade Martha to bar the door behind me as I ran toward the sound.

I descended the stairs with pistol drawn, foolish man that I am. Mr. Herbert warned our mortal weapons could do no harm to spirits and little if any to a demon of substance, but I was a weak coward. I thought only of protecting my family upstairs, disregarding all warnings of the spirit’s trickery.

My first sight upon reaching the bottom step was a ghastly image. A corpse reached through the glassless window, shutters torn asunder, attempting to unbar the door. He was pale white, but not transparent. His face and arm bore deep, wide gashes, the worst being across his throat. It caused his head to tilt at an odd angle as if it would fall off any moment. When the thing saw me, he abandoned his effort with the door in favor of clambering through the small opening. I did not think. I did not hesitate. I fired my one shot straight into his center.

I was surprised when the ghoul fell backwards, into the dirt. Fearing the injury as deception, I approached slowly, cautiously, wasting precious seconds as the best man I ever knew lay dying. The full weight of my folly crushed me as rushed to his side, but he would hear no words of apology. With his dying breath, he tried to absolve me of my crime, blaming his death upon the devil’s trickery. Let his last words serve as further warning, so others may avoid repeating our deadly mistake.

“I never looked outside until I heard the crash. I saw a dead man. His head nearly severed, standing before your open window. When he attempted entry, I shouted a warning, but feared you would not hear. I should have known better. Should have listened to the old man. It fooled us, my friend. I followed, thinking it the demon of substance due its actions, but I fear that was its intent all along. I lost sight of it only a moment, yet when I peered inside, I saw you lying on the stairs, unconscious. The monster no longer in sight, I feared the worst for Martha and the children. I am sorry my friend. I’m afraid I have failed you. No! You will not let the evil win by sewing doubt into your heart. Come sunrise, you must assume leadership. Tell them I died at the hands of malevolent forces beyond our control, nothing more. You must swear it.”

The fool was as stubborn in death as ever in life. I will honor his wishes as I must, but once our people are free of this curse, I shall insist another man be chosen to lead. I do not deserve the honor or respect, but I shall not break my word. Martha and the children were able to find sleep when nothing more occurred after my return. I feel as if I have seen too many horrors to ever enjoy sleep again. Sunrise is only an hour away, at which time the village will wake and I will be forced to feign shock and ignorance upon “discovering” our true leader’s corpse.

So, you see, friend, as long as you ignore them, you’re perfectly safe! I know it can be a lot to process, especially if you’ve spent your life believing this kind of stuff only happens in movies, but you’re handling it better than most. Why, I’ve seen people run right out the front door into death’s arms after hearing less! I knew I had a good feeling about you.

How many, you ask? Oh, don’t worry yourself with the minor details, I sure don’t. Who knows where my visitors come from or why? You shouldn’t be surprised if you find your own memories a little… fuzzy… while you’re here. I find it’s best not to force it, there’s still so much we don’t know about these strange woods. You just keep ignoring those sounds outside, nothing is really coming down the chimney, not with that fire roaring. They tend to get more desperate as dawn approaches, but they’re harmless long as you don’t pay them no mind.

Time can work a little differently here, especially on a stormy night like this, but I think we have enough time to finish our story. You can tell this is where Pappy Grant starts losing his marbles a little bit, but you really can’t blame the man.

June 17, 1566

It has been days since I last wrote of the events which plague us. When we fled our homeland, never did we dream it possible to find ourselves in worse positions than we started. I rue the day I set sight upon these cursed shores. This is our last night sleeping on these hellish grounds, and I will never step foot upon its soil thereafter.

I made the burial of our dead the highest priority, refusing to discuss matters of business until all were at rest. James was not the only casualty of that horrid night – three women, two men, and one child met similarly violent ends. All were blamed on the demon of the forest, but I fear I am not the only man who succumbed to ghoulish trickery. I am mortified to find myself grateful James’ wife and child died before our voyage, for I know my facade would crumble before them. Oh how the people begged me to take his place! It sickens me how they mistook my reluctance for modesty! I am no man, I am as much monster as the things that stalk our nights.

For only after nightfall do we suffer their torments. Had Martha not seen the ghost of Ester Jones with her own eyes, I would discount the incident as a grieving woman’s delusion. Aside from the feeling of being watched, which I freely admit is possibly paranoia, there have been no occurrences in the daytime. Perhaps the sage held some effectiveness after all, but that is merely guesswork.

I took no chances in learning this. No, the moment burials were complete, I set about moving all the women and children into the church-house under guard of a dozen men. I told them if anyone tried to leave they were to be held by force if necessary. I was determined not another soul would be lost. It comes as no surprise I should fail that endeavor as well!

Old Herbert says these otherworldly beings are most often confined to the land on which they reside. He believes we have invaded something’s territory. Whether we woke something which slept or it lured us here we do not know; but if we leave, it should not follow. Many legends make note of natural boundaries, such as rivers or mountains. I conceived a plan! I would not battle the devil, that is a fool’s game, and I was done playing the fool! Let it have this piece of land, we hope to never see it again!

I commissioned William Reed and Joshua Owens to travel into the south forest with provisions for three nights. Their mission was to find new land, beyond the forest, past the river we have never crossed. They would be well past the river before nightfall, a position many envied. They should return tomorrow to lead us to our new encampment. We have salvaged all we can and are prepared to travel in the morning. How terrible it will be to tell Joshua his brother has died.

I was so sure of my ability to protect them, so cautious! All slept in the church-house that night, crammed together over every square inch. We slept in shifts, always keeping eight men on guard. I slept soundly as eight of our best men, Martin Owens among them, vanished silently into the night. We followed their tracks far as we dared, but knew them lost to the forest. I cannot fathom what false visions could lead eight men placidly to their demise, but find myself preferring ignorance.

Another day passed without incident as we continued dismantling our homes. We built wagons to increase our supply capacity, knowing there will be no chance to return later, but we only have enough men to pull two. With Reed and Owens away, forty souls remained under my care. None openly blamed me for our losses, for none wished to wear the burden of leadership, but I could feel their disappointment as another day slowly faded to night.

We decreased the number on guard to four, having each man tied to a man who slept. The hope was, if a man on guard became entranced by deceit, he would rouse the sleeping man in his attempt to leave. I was to take watch before sunrise, believing it to be the most dangerous. Instead, we all woke to smoke and flame engulfing the church-house.

The doors were barred from the outside. Panic ensued as men tried to break through to no avail. The dry wood burned like kindling as smoke filled our lungs. Mothers threw children through the small windows, but few were able to follow. Thankfully, Betty Davenport kept her wits about her. As others lay gasping and crying, she ran to the wagons, retrieving two axes and a mallet. Enlisting the help of Susan Collins and her son, Timothy, they were able to open one of the doors. It was too late for many, Herbert is dead and his knowledge with him, but twenty-two of us survived thanks to their bravery.

James’ ability to put our people wholly first in his heart was a defining trait of his leadership, but I found myself unable to meet the same standard. Amidst the chaos, I was consumed by worry for only my family, useless to the others. How much shame can one man carry?

We discovered a single, small set of footprints leading to the forest though we are unable to determine their owner. Many of the dead were burned beyond recognition, but knowing which hand the devil used to do his deed is irrelevant. Had we not needed to bury our dead we would have fled across the river this day. As it is, we are a broken people, but we keep moving for sake of the surviving children.

Mine is the only intact family, and I can feel the unspoken resentment brewing in my grief-stricken fellows. I do not blame them, but I fear it is not by luck we are spared. I fear I have become a special project for the evil in this place. Nothing I do will stop it. We will lose more tonight. They understand we mean to leave, and they want to keep us. If Reed and Owens do not return, I will take those who remain beyond the river anyway.

We have decided not to sleep this night. We have filled every available container with water and barricaded ourselves indoors, spread among the remaining houses. Hopefully we will be less dangerous to one another. At the very least we should not be taken by surprise.

June 19, 1566

This will be my final entry, damn these records. I write only to report William and Joshua returned. We were not alone in this New World. All this time a primitive tribe of dark-colored men lived just beyond our borders. The ten of us who survived the night were met with fear and reverence as if we were some otherworldly beings descending upon them. Imagine! Perhaps it for the best they fear us, for they speak not a word English. With great difficulty we attempt to understand each other by acting out charades. Whatever they think of us, they have fed us and provided shelter so I am grateful beyond words.

I have burned down every timber in that wretched village, but the flames died before reaching the demon’s forest. Martha and Elizabeth are dead. I was miserably accurate in my premonitions. Of course, the blame is solely and completely of mine alone for I fell asleep against all efforts. I woke to Martha strangling Nathaniel, Elizabeth already lost. She insisted the undead were risen, attacking the children. I tried to tear Nate from her grasp, but she had a grip of steel. I tried reason, but her eyes were rolled backward and I could see the life slipping from my son.

I killed her. I had to kill my wife. I revived Nathaniel just barely, though he will wear the marks on his neck for some weeks to come. Of course, that is nothing of the mental anguish he will suffer as a result of his father killing his mother as she tried to strangle him after murdering his sister. Perhaps his recovery would be best served by my absence.

I will destroy that evil place if it the last thing I do upon this earth. I believe answers lie beyond that missing trail, so that is where I shall go.

August 30, 1574

My name is Sly-Fox but it use to be Nathaniel Cooke, and today my tribe recognizes me as a man. I have received my father’s journal, which he left in the care of Chief Hawk-Eyes. My father returned to the Cursed Woods daily despite our tribe’s insistent warnings, and it proved to be his end.

That forest is full of Bad Medicines. All know death awaits those who seek its power. Father was determined to see them destroyed, but the place drove him mad. He left every dawn and returned every dusk for two weeks before he disappeared forever.

Chief Hawk-Eyes adopted me as a son, and I am happy traveling with the Cherokee. Maybe I will write of my life one day as father did, but now is the time to count coup and earn my place among the hunters.

Yep, those last dozen settled with the Cherokee and life went on. Sly-Fox grew to be a respected man of their tribe and had a family of his own. Over the decades as more white men came, he grew worrisome in his old age. He tasked his sons to return him and their people to that first place they fled beyond the river.

As the country grew, many tried to settle this area by the lake, but none stayed. With each new sacrifice, the land was poisoned, turning the soil infertile and the lake putrid. When survivors fled to Jamestown, they were welcomed without question. As wars for territory savaged the countryside around them, they remained just out of its reach, always in the grips of their own, private war.

So that’s how our little town was founded! I can even point to where they built the first house if you like. Though, let me tell you, it was over a century before they allowed a bridge across the river. They worried something terrible might decide to use it, but nothing has so far. Anyway, I think the storm is finally over if you’re ready to hit the trail…

You know, I was starting to think you weren’t going to ask why we live here instead of in town. Most people start wondering pretty early in the night, before they get a chance to know us. Not everyone is kind as you are, they don’t understand not all spirits are bad. Why, if it weren’t for the likes of us, there wouldn’t be so many to make it to Jamestown in the first place. Now come on, let’s get you out of here before the next rains come. I can’t cross the river with you, but I can see you to the bridge. I’ll show you some… huh? Are you sure? It be no trouble t’all. Well, alright then, if you insist.

It’s been a pleasure, y’all come back now, ya here!