It was a cool, tree-rustling night. The last hopeful rays of the sun’s descent faded slowly into darkness. A whistling breeze rushed through the windows of my room and outside, the numerous chimes that surrounded our house began to twinkle like alarms disregarded. My room was built into the roof of our house, my ceiling consisting of two walls meeting at a point – creating a disabling prism that prevented anyone standing to their full height. My bed lay in the farthest corner in the room, the entrance of which was an opening in the floor. From this opening, a long wooden ladder stretched to the ground, standing abruptly in the center of the main hall. Though walking in my room required either bent legs or a hunched back, the room was spacious and long and possessed a certain comforting aura, which was accentuated with the gentle pattering of rain that had just begun.
The rain drops, merciful compared to the heat of summer, tapped against the slightly open window panes like tiny fairies asking to come inside. Down stairs, muffled voices escaped the television, which my father was meant to be watching, and trailed up to my room. He had almost definitely fallen asleep in front of it. A lack of unfiltered tennis commentary provided evidence for this. Knowing I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep with the device still on, I got out of bed to put an end to it’s rambling. I knelt over to make my way to the ladder when a sudden noise startled me. A scuttling on the roof. A possum, no doubt. They always caught me by surprise. As I lowered myself down from the highest steps of the ladder, the floor of my room came into my eye-line. Beneath my bed, I watched a hairy, sleeping mass of cat stir at the same noise that startled me. Thy shall not disturb.
The ladder creaked like it always did as I descended into the dimly lit hallway. Walking quietly around the corner towards the flashing of the television, I was surprised to find the lounge room completely empty. The door at the back of the room, leading to the front yard, had been left open. A strong wind was gushing in, creating a vicious symphony of chimes in the garden. No one had yet locked up the house for the night. I walked over to the door first, the black night staring back at me, like the entrance to another realm. The chimes just outside, rattled in the wind. I closed the door and bolted the lock. Then I turned to the television remote, lying on the ground like an abandoned toy, and switched off the power. Silence filled the room.
Concerned by the negligence of my parents, I walked over to the door of their bedroom.
“Mum?” I called out.
Slow, heavy snoring was given in response.
I rolled my eyes and headed to the back door near the kitchen, where the chimes hanging beneath the patio crashed into each other like toddlers attempting percussion. The wind howled goodbye as I pulled the door shut.
Upon returning to my room, I greeted my cat who had finally awoken. “Poor thing,” I thought. She would love to go exploring on a night like this. But Minim had been brought up a house cat and would remain one for the entirety of her insect hunts and self-induced comas. As I got back into bed, the rain continued to patter gently on the roof, not more than a meter above me. I picked up a book and began reading, as Minim peered up at the window closest to my bed, fascinated by the sudden drops of water.
A while later, the rain suddenly increased in pressure, followed by a crack of lightning and then subsided back to it’s pattering shower. Soon after, three consecutive bangs sounded from above, like huge drops of hail. Minim reacted instantly. Her eyes widened and her tail flared as she ran over to the edge of my bed. I lowered my book and peered over to the far end of my room where the noise had come from. Except for the rain, there was a moment of silence before a scuttling noise interrupted the break. It was similar to the noises that the possums make, only each step was separated. It was as though something much larger was walking along the roof. Minim started pacing back and forth with her ears erect, trying to figure out where the thing on the roof was headed. But then it stopped. I went over to the window nearest my bed and looked out from the opening. The moon was still quite bright, allowing me to distinguish the shape of the chimney top, the television antenna and most of the right side of the roof, where the noise had come from. But I saw nothing else. No possums, no birds and certainly nothing larger. As the rain had become more adamant, I decided to close the window completely and did the same with the other. I assumed a possum had fallen onto the roof and misjudged its steps. They often did this, and Minim was naturally over dramatic. Once again, I returned to my bed and continued reading. Outside, the wind slowly settled, along with the metallic notes of the garden chimes. Minim however, much like the persistent rain, remained in a seated position looking up to the roof – her tail lazily sweeping the floor.
I had barely read a page of my book when I heard another three bangs on the roof. They were softer this time, travelling down the right side of my ceiling – like something trying not to make a sound. Minim’s ears perked up as she rose and ran back towards my bed. I knew it was probably nothing, but there is something unsettling in seeing a cat on alert – the descendant of apex predators, cowering at a mysterious noise. What could be more terrifying than a capable feline?
I crouched over and crept beneath my restricting ceiling, back towards the window. The pane of glass only offered my reflection, so I lifted it open to view the roof, the sound of rain rising to a crescendo as I did so. The moon had been overpowered by clouds, presenting both the television antenna and chimney top as undefined silhouettes. But there was something more. An additional silhouette, further along the roof. It was right on the very edge, like a huge gargoyle perched on the gutter, guarding the house. I squinted through the small gap of the window like a bird watcher. It was a humanoid shape – a large shape. Hunched over with it’s elbows brought into its chest, it’s fingers strained in claws. I moved away to retrieve a small flashlight I had in my drawer. When I returned and directed the light onto the roof, the figure was no longer there. I carefully searched the surface, moving the light over the television antenna, against the chimney top, and over the water glazing the tiles. Nothing.
I was unnerved by this, no matter how bland my imagination was. I quickly shut the window and drew the curtains. It was getting late and the rain made it even harder to peer into the night, so I knew I couldn’t trust what my eyes had just presented to me. I would continue reading until my worries were forgotten and I had fallen asleep. But then, of course, the most unfortunate thing happened. Quite possibly the worst thing that could happen to a paranoid teenager who had been left to lock-up the house on his own accord and just witnessed an unsettling, hunched figure on the gutter of his roof. The most inconvenient thing. I had become desperately thirsty.
I could not go down stairs. Not tonight. Images came to my head as I imagined the treacherous journey to the kitchen. The shadows would torment me like Snow White lost in the dark forest. The lights wouldn’t work and I’d be caught in a sea of black. And that hunched figure on the roof. That vague, distant figure – what if it somehow got inside? I was brought back to reality when my cat obliviously strode across my stomach and hopped onto the floor. Beneath the covers, my lower back was sweating into the sheets, not at all helping my burdening thirst.
Taking a deep breath, I threw the covers aside and crept over to the ladder. The accompanying creak with each step was exaggerated in the still of the night. I could hear the garden chimes in the front yard getting louder again as the wind increased. The hall light flickered. I stopped in my tracks. It flickered again. And then, without a sound, it gave up, leaving me unprotected in a void of black. The chimes menacingly clashed outside. I walked with haste to the kitchen, stubbing my toe on a chair. My hands fumbled for the light switch on the wall. The kitchen light cast down a glowing safety net. An oasis of light.
The gentle tick of the dining room clock echoed calmly through the house as my heart settled from the predicted torments. I grabbed a glass from the cabinet and positioned it under the tap. It wheezed and coughed before the water ran. Everything sounds so much louder at night, as though the house can finally speak and be heard. Feeling my stomach squelch at the sight of the pantry and dreading another kitchen trip, I decided prevention was better than cure, so I brought out the bread and peanut butter. As I made my sandwich, I listened to the gentle ticking of the clock. Until something interrupted it’s flow. A tapping noise. It was coming from the window beside the back door. It sounded like the end of a branch hitting the glass, only there were no trees anywhere near this window. I walked nearer, but all I could see in the window was the reflection of the room. The window was tall and long, making up most of the back wall. The noise was moving against it. Closer towards the door it came, then it scattered along to the other side. It lifted slightly and then rushed back to the door. I could see it moving. Sometimes it pressed against the glass. A large hand maybe. Or a head. Whatever it was, I knew it could see me clearly in the light of the room, as I stared back helplessly at my own reflection.
The light switch to the patio rested temptingly beside the back door. I’d have to get closer to the window if I wanted to turn it on. The tapping persisted, travelling back and forth faster and faster along the window. With adrenaline sweating from my pores, I made my decision and raced to the light switch. It flicked on. The patio was lit up like a stage and the performer revealed.
It was Minim.
I sighed in relief. But it quickly turned to dread as I wondered how she got outside. And then I felt it. Like a subtle reminder, the unwanted epiphany. Simple, but chilling.
A breeze. Cold and icy on the back of my neck.
Why was I feeling a breeze?
I slowly turned and peered down the hallway, into the lounge room where the door leading to the garden stood wide open.
In complete terror, alarms rung inside my head. I listened to the wind crashing like waves, the chimes wildly screaming outside, the rain pelting down like flaming arrows of war, all while the door remained seamlessly and innocently open.
I began to walk. Cautiously and insecurely. One shivering step after the other. Through the shadowed dining room, all the way to the lounge room. My hand reached up the wall and flicked the light switch. The lounge room was showered in light. With my eyes wide and my skin tingling, I walked silently over to the open door, facing it. I stared into the pitch black frame of night, trying to make sense of it. The wind pushed against me as if telling me to move away from this blank and sinister void. I could hear the chimes that hung just outside the door clashing like a warning, completely hidden in the dark, and the relentless rain muffling all of my thoughts. I wasn’t familiar with this door, I hardly used it. My eyes trailed to the switch beside me on the wall. I wondered if it were for an outdoor light. I reached up slowly, the chimes bashing wildly in the storm. The switch turned. The outdoor area lit up, and there, right before me, I saw it. The figure I saw on the roof. It was standing right there. Facing me. Not more than a meter in front of me. It’s grey skin clung to its malnourished skeleton. Its back hunched over it’s tall spine. A strained grin was pulled across its face bearing its human teeth and eyes pulled wide like they were pinned open. But possibly the most sinister thing about it wasn’t how it looked, but what it was doing. It was holding a long branch. And with it, it was hitting the chimes.
Clash. Clash. Clash. Grinning straight at me, striking the chimes methodically. My heart dropped. It had been less than a meter in front of me this entire time, watching me stand in the doorway, with nothing separating us.
Then, this thing standing in front of me calmly stopped hitting the chimes. It’s deadly, lunatic smile remained. I was petrified. It dropped the stick to the ground and ever so slowly bent it’s knees, lowering all the way down to a squatting position while keeping it’s daring eyes attached to me. It pulled its elbows into it’s torso, it’s fingers shaping into claws, looking straight up to me, unblinking. In this gargoyle position it remained, motionless. I wanted to close the door but I couldn’t move. I needed to call for my parents but I was afraid to make a noise. I just stared back with my eyes wide. My heart thumped in my chest, begging me to run. The creature remained there, unbelievably still. The rain trickled down its bare skull and washed over it’s open eyes. Not a single cell on its body twitched. The muscles in my face ached in shock. We stood there staring at each other. The seconds turning into minutes, the open doorway standing as the only thing between us.
And then, the garden light. It flickered. It flickered again. And then, darkness. Complete darkness. I took a step back. My eyes darted around the rectangle of black in front of me. I knew it could see me lit up in the lounge room, but I couldn’t see anything. What was it doing? Was it about to jump into the room? The rain continued. I stood, staring into the night. I was about to yell. Something, anything in defense. When slowly, something in the the center began to grow. First a spot, a grey spot. Then, a nose. White teeth appeared and wide eyes. The creature’s face was passing through the line of night and entering the living room. Just it’s face. Nothing more. The rest of it’s body was covered in the darkness behind it. The face hovered there. Smiling with it’s human teeth, water dripping from it’s chin. It’s eyes still wide and locked on me. It’s pupils were dilated, the whites lined in red. I lost all sensation. I couldn’t feel my limbs. It’s teeth were so human-like and perfect against it’s blotched and wrinkled skin, it was as though it had stolen them from someone else – ripped them out, never to be returned. I had been staring back for so long, the haunting face remaining so still, that the situation began to feel like some kind of dream. All until, movement returned. Very slowly, the haunting face began to retreat. All the way, submerging itself back into the darkness, until the tip of it’s nose disappeared into the night. The rain continued like a soundtrack against the un-telling door frame. My senses returned and I pounced for the door, slamming it shut, so fiercely that the walls of the room shook. I bolted the lock and jumped away panting, finally breathing.
“What are you doing?”
I jolted and turned to the voice.
It was my mother, standing in the hallway.
“Do you realize how late it is? Stop opening the doors, and go to bed.”
* * * * * *
Ever since that night, I always remind my parents to lock up the house before I retreat upstairs for the night. Sometimes when it’s raining, always when it’s raining, I will hear those creeping footsteps on the roof and that certain clashing of the garden chimes. But only ever when it rains. You see, this creature is smart. It blends in. It creeps and explores and plays, all under the disguise of a storm. Whatever it is and wherever it came from, I can only assure you that it doesn’t want to be noticed.
There’s no interesting backstory here; I didn’t buy this thing from some, like, creepy garage sale. I didn’t get it as a gift from some estranged relative that doubled as a cultist or anything. The TV was bought at the mall, for fuck’s sake. It was sitting on a shelf, ordinary as anything. It’s a cheap one, too. Nothing about the way it looks would suggest that this thing would be as screwed-up as it is.
My new television plays shows and programs that shouldn’t exist. At least, it plays things that I’ve never seen on regular television before. No sane person would ever air some of the shit I’ve seen this thing put on for me.
When I brought it home this afternoon, I spent some time screwing around with it, as one does when they buy new electronics: hooking up the cable cord, making sure my Fire Stick was working alright, etc., etc. But there was one thing that caught my eye.
You know how every television has a “Source” menu that brings up a series of options? Aux, USB, HDMI 1, HDMI 2, all that stuff? This new TV of mine has all that, but there’s one other extra “source” that I have never seen or heard of before. It’s not mentioned in the manual at all, and I cannot find anything online that can tell me what it is. There’s no given name for this source, as the menu on the TV simply refers to it as “|||||”.
When I first selected the “|||||”-source, it took me to something that seemed like cable television, but it was nothing of the sort. There were channels, yes, but I’m not talking TNT or AMC or any of that – I don’t think anything broadcasted on the “|||||”-channels would be allowed on cable TV.
Allow me to explain…
As soon as I hit “|||||”, I was brought to Channel 32, which was airing some kind of family sitcom. I let it play as I started Googling an explanation for this extra source, trying to figure out if this was perhaps a manufacturer error or something similar. I was mostly focused on reading, so I wasn’t exactly paying attention to the show that I had left on, but a line was suddenly read that made me snap my attention back to the TV:
“Just where the fuck have you been?”
On the sitcom that was airing, a father was scolding a teenage boy who had just snuck into the kitchen in the middle of the night. The kid was dressed up but looked a mess, likely having been out partying. As soon as the father swore at her, the studio audience for the show laughed.
“I—” the kid began.
The father cut him off. “I’ve been waiting here for you all fucking night. Where the fuck have you been?”
The studio audience laughed again.
What the fuck? I thought, putting down my phone. What kind of show is this?
“I…I was at a party,” the son admitted.
The father, a large bearded man, took a dangerous step closer to him. His eyes were wide and manic. The son took an instinctive step back. The reaction seemed far too genuine for a sitcom.
“A party,” the father repeated. “You were at a party?”
“Yes, Dad, I—”
The large man’s hand slapped his son across his face, making a meaty *thud-*sound. The kid gave out a yelp in pain and shock, and fell onto the floor of the kitchen. The father stood above him, practically frothing at the mouth with anger.
And, for a third time, the studio audience laughed.
“I’m sorry!” the kid wailed from the floor. “Please stop! I’m sorry!”
But the father was now kicking him relentlessly. His back was to the camera. The scene faded to another one with a light-hearted jingle, reminiscent of so many other sitcoms like Full House or Family Matters; we were now in a living room. The kid from the previous scene was sitting on a couch, bloodied and bruised. A young girl, perhaps the character’s sister, was sitting next to him.
“You know you can’t just sneak off like that,” the younger girl was saying to the beaten boy. “Daddy gets mad when you do that.”
“It hurts so bad.” The beaten son said, starting to choke up. Tears trickled down his cheeks from his bruised eyes. The studio audience laughed and clapped.
What the fuck was I watching? It was shot and timed like it was supposed to be some sort of comedic family show, but everything that was happening was just horrible. At the time, I wondered how such a thing could possibly be given air time.
Although I was disturbed, I was also extremely curious. I sat down on my couch and watched the episode of this horrific show right to its end. There was maybe five minutes left in the episode, and all it consisted of the two siblings crying and admitting that they wished they could escape their father.
With every sob and admission of sadness from the two characters, the studio audience kept laughing and clapping. Like as if these poor kids’ misery was the most hilarious thing they’d ever fucking seen.
When the credits rolled, the show’s theme song played – it was upbeat and merry, as if its premise had been about a goofy family getting into hijinks rather than a miserable one abusing itself.
I sat there for a moment or two trying to process what I had just watched. The entire thing made me feel unclean. When another episode started to air, I changed the channel to…
…what looked like a home-shopping network. There was an older woman with white hair, smiling brilliantly at the camera. Graphics displaying phone numbers and prices framed her, making a perfect little portrait of capitalism on my screen. My wife watched networks just like this one all the time, usually to admire jewelry we can’t afford…but this was something different entirely and, much like the sitcom, it was different in all the worst ways possible.
On some networks like these, they’ll sell clothing or accessories and have mannequins set up to help display the products. This channel did the same, but instead of wearing a dress or a necklace, this mannequin was wearing a leather leash, strapped incredibly tight. The old spokeswoman held the end of the leash in her hand.
“…as you can see here,” she was saying. “The grip is significantly strong around the neck, ensuring your property’s immediate obedience. Nothing’s quite as persuasive as a crushed throat.” She gave a little giggle at that.
“I see we have a buyer named Emily from Wisconsin,” she carried on. “Very quick to the phone, ma’am. We hope you enjoy your new LethalLeash.”
A woman’s voice spoke out on speaker phone: “Thank you, Amy! I absolutely love it and cannot wait to try it out.”
“Glad to hear, sweetheart. Let’s move on to our special deal for this evening.”
The spokeswoman, Amy, walked to the right and the camera panned to follow her to the next product.
Standing in the room, chained to the floor and gagged with a metal block strapped to her face was a young woman. She couldn’t have been a day over twenty. Her eyes were wide capital O’s of terror, and although she tried to scream, the gag reduced her noises to low muffled groans.
She looked like she was a pretty girl, but her face had been so badly brutalized that it was almost impossible to tell.
“For our next offer, we’re giving you a once-in-a-lifetime deal. Not only will you be receiving this lovely Product…” Amy stroked the chained girl’s hair. “…but you’ll also get your own set of LethaLeashes for free! The variety pack includes leashed in a variety of colors and designs, so you’ll have the perfect one to match your Product! Call in now and take advantage of this incredible deal.”
What should have been a phone number came up on the screen, but instead of numbers it was just a bunch of symbols that I have never seen before.
The shot faded to briefly show off the “variety pack” of brightly-colored, yet painful-looking, leather straps before fading back to the young woman’s terrified face.
Amy suddenly exclaimed, “Wow! That was fast. The caller is Ted from Brooklyn. Congratulations, Ted, we hope you enjoy using your new Product.”
A low, raspy voice said on the speaker phone: “She looks just like my ex-girlfriend, so oh do I intend to enjoy using her.”
Two men in black uniforms and masks came into the frame, unchained the young woman from the floor, and carried her away. Despite the gag, she was screaming so loudly it was audible now. She tried, to no avail, to kick at her captors.
Now completely disturbed, I raised the remote and turned the channel. As I did so, I realized my hand was trembling.
An infomercial for a fitness program came up this time. I tuned in right as they were showing off “Before” and “After” pictures of a woman who purchased a workout package called “Pure-Motive”. The woman had been very large, and had lost something like eighty pounds in just a couple of months.
The woman in the pictures spoke to an interviewer: “It’s the only method I’ve tried that actually works. If you’re trying to lose weight fast, this is for you.”
The shot changed to the same woman running on a treadmill, her face beet red. Behind her, a thuggish-looking man stood with a large shotgun pointed directly at her back. A cigarette dangled loosely out of the corner of his mouth. He was staring intently at the woman, as if ready to pull the trigger at any moment.
It then cut to another “Before” and “After” pair of pictures, this time of an obese man. There was a brief bit of footage where he was doing squats with a couple of dumbbells. Another creepy-looking thug was standing right behind him, holding a revolver close to the poor guy’s head.
“It’s the only thing that works!” this satisfied customer said happily. His voice sounded weak.
A montage of horrible shots came next: a woman running on a track with a man holding snarling dogs close behind her; a group of people doing jumping jacks while thugs with assault rifles walked around them, watching closely; and, finally, an incredibly large person trying to do pushups. He was crying hysterically.
A voiceover said condescendingly, “There is no room for laziness when it comes to Pure-Motive!”
The large man was no match against gravity and fell flat upon his face. As soon as he did, he screamed: “No! No, please!”
Four men came into frame and started to kick the shit out of him. They went on for what felt like forever, until the guy was spewing blood and teeth out of his mouth. One of the four thugs went off-frame, and then came back with a sharp-looking machete.
“No!” the large man managed to cry out. “No, don’t!”
The thug raised the machete up with both hands like a Medieval executioner, then brought it down to the large man’s head.
I changed the channel as soon as the blade hit its mark.
This channel aired a commercial promoting a new burger from some restaurant-chain I had never heard of. It soon became apparent that the burger was made from people – most specifically, their limbs. For a dessert, the restaurant was serving large bowls of human ear wax. Two actors looked hungrily at their bowls and then started to dig in. I retched and changed the channel.
Channels 9, 88, and 202
Despite being so horribly disturbed by all of this, I kept flicking through channels. Some morbid curiosity had rose up inside of me. Part of me believed that there was no possibly way I was actually seeing the things that the TV aired, that I had somehow gone mad…but most of me felt that it was all true, and if that was the case, then I was in the midst of something impossible. And I had to see whatever came next, as repulsed by it as I may be.
Channel 9 was airing some rock concert. The singer went to the mic, screamed “ARE YOU READY?!”, and then pulled a small switchblade from his pocket. With a click, the blade sprung out of its handle and the singer brought it right into his face, over and over again. A shot of the crowd showed they were all doing the same, some with knives of their own, others with shards of glass. They all seemed to be enjoying it.
Channel 88 had a game show that launched terrified people at a brick wall using catapults. I got the gist quickly and again changed the channel.
I flipped past Channel 202 as quickly as I could, because it freaked me out quite badly; it was footage of a bare-walled room with a young woman sitting in the middle of it. She was staring at the camera (at me, I thought immediately) with eyes that were small but had humongous sockets. It looked like some sort of horrific insect-human hybrid was staring through me.
This channel had a wildlife show, but it was displaying all sorts of horrific animals that do not exist on this planet. Tall, canine-looking creatures with stilt-like legs preyed upon a car-sized slug. The slug had two hands, each with about ten digits, that slapped uselessly at its assailants.
There was a “narrator” for this show, but just as he started – “As you can see, there is no hope here for the useless goddamn creature” – he was suddenly interrupted by a chorus of death rattles.
The sound unnerved me greatly. I changed the channel.
Another infomercial. This one was for a product that was literally just chocolate-coated human feces. When I watched one actress gleefully take a bite and happily sigh as if she were savoring the flavor, I had to quickly change the channel and then rush to my bathroom to vomit.
As I crouched above my toilet, hurling and heaving, a sound suddenly came from the TV:
I looked up from the toilet bowl.
“Hey!” it continued. The voice was eerily familiar. “Hey! Hey! Hey!”
Trembling badly, I mustered up the courage to leave the bathroom and see what was happening on the TV next.
The infomercial was gone. The channel had changed to 345, despite the fact that I hadn’t touched the remote. This particular program featured only one star performer – me. Or, at least, some horrible copy of me.
“I” was in the same room as the monstrous woman from Channel 202. She was gone, and “I” was sitting where she had been. This copy was looking at the screen, same as the woman before had done, and was crying. In its lap there was a long black cord with multi-colored wires sticking out of the end.
“Help me,” the thing was saying. “Please help me.”
It brought the cord up to its face, holding it in both hands.
“Help me please,” it said again.
It opened its mouth and in went the cord. The sharp wires cut around the copy’s lips, and the expression on the thing’s face made it more than apparent that they were cutting inside his mouth as well. Blood poured down its chin.
From behind its back, the copy pulled out two other large cords. Both of these were quickly shoved into its eyes. The copy raised its head up to the ceiling of the room and screamed, the cords dangling from its face.
Although the camera had remained locked on the copy for the entirety of this, it was now starting to pan to the right; the direction from which the cords were coming. The shot moved from my deformed other-self and walked towards a white door, the bottom of which the cords were feeding through. Light shone on the other side of the door, and the entire TV screen seemed as bright as the sun as that door opened on its own.
The channel changed on its own once more…
What I was suddenly looking at was a wondrous display of swirling colors on the screen. Reds, blues, greens, all fading in and out of one another, an impossibly-beautiful sight to behold. When I briefly took my eyes away from it, all other colors around me seemed to be muted, dull. I fixed my eyes back on the screen and felt a rush of pleasure. The three hues were soon joined by more: purples, yellows, oranges.
I couldn’t look away. Everything went numb. My body felt like it was melting, melting and becoming one of those swirling clouds of color.
This is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen, I thought. And the most beautiful thing I will ever see.
Another thought came, an alien one: Was it worth watching everything else? Was it worth it just to see this?
Although my eyes were still glued to the screen, I felt myself frown. Had that been something I thought, or something that had come from the TV itself?
It was almost like a little of both.
The alien voice kept on: Was it worth watching everything else? Just to see this?
“Yes,” I said immediately. “Yes, absolutely.”
Reds, purples, greens, oranges.
Would you keep watching? Would you keep watching to see this again?
Colors, oh God, so many colors…was this the Source? Was this channel, these swirling colors, the Source of everything I had just watched?
It most certainly felt like it.
Would you keep watching? the Source asked again. Would you explore all those channels, just to get back here?
I didn’t answer. My attention was still almost completely focused on the waving colors.
Here, looksee, said the Source.
One by one, the colors faded away. I was now back looking at the room from Channels 202 and 303. “I” was still sitting there, cords dangling out of my face like grotesque growths, but I was not alone: the tiny-woman was there, as were dozens of men, women, and children that had been similarly disfigured.
Join the others who kept watching. Watch with us, the Source said.
“Watch with us.” The people on the screen talked in unison, as if they were part of a sermon.
Watch with us.
“Watch with us.”
Whatever ecstasy I had felt from looking at the colors quickly sobered up and was replaced with fear. I hurried over to the television and pulled its power cord out of the socket behind it.
Shaking, I sat down on my couch. When I glanced at the clock in my living room, I was shocked to find that around five hours had passed since I first put the TV on. Had I really been staring at those colors for so long?
I’ve been sitting here for another hour, just looking at the blank TV and thinking. I plugged it back in, but have not yet turned it on. I keep fiddling with the remote.
Would you keep watching?
The programs this thing presented to me had been the most horrific things I’d ever seen on a screen. However, those colors had been the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen on a screen.
Would you keep watching?
I mean, the remote’s in my hand. The colors are just a couple awful channels away.
Tinnitus: a nightmare of a disease affecting millions of people, myself included. How could I best describe this condition? An incessant, nail on a chalkboard screeching that goes on for every minute of every day.
Just imagine never experiencing the true bliss of utter silence.
Maybe it’s not too uncommon to hear a vague ringing, especially for people like me, who had grown up to become an obnoxious teenager with no regard for volume control. Understandably, my parents were not happy about my blasting loud music at all hours, but what kind of teenage rebel would I have been if I listened to my parents?
Ultimately, my punishment would be given years later when I started hearing a faint ringing. At first it was a rare occurrence, but at present day I can’t even fall asleep without the aid of a loud white noise-producing machine. Even then, my quality of rest is debatable at best.
During the early days I was willing to try anything to stop the God-forsaken noise: rainstorms while sleeping, earwax removal, even a small dose of anti-depressants.
You’d be amazed how many help groups you can find online, forums for anything; Veterans with PTSD, how to cope with losing a pet, or in my case, how to deal with tinnitus.
I’d looked over the top suggestions on several occasions. Most I had already tried while visiting my doctor, while the rest were mostly scams, better suited for multi level marketing campaigns.
I used to call myself an optimist, so naturally I would return to the forum every other week in hopes of finding a miracle cure. On one particular day I decided to scroll a bit further down and see the less popular suggestions. Among the obvious troll posts and scam cures I found a more click-baitey post that read:
“A weird trick to cure tinnitus.” Nothing more, nothing less.
I sighed and started reading, preparing myself to be disappointed yet again. Still, the instructions were simple enough.
Place your palms over your ears and direct your fingers to the back of your head.
Put your index fingers on top of your middle fingers and try to snap them, like a drum.
Repeat 50 – 100 times.
There were no comments below, as the post was relatively new. Worst case, I would look stupid sitting there by myself and drumming the back of my head.
So I tried it out, snapping my fingers and causing a little drumming sensation.
45… 46… 47… 48… 49… 50… That ought to do it.
I removed my palms from my ears and listened intently.
For the first time in years there was just the pure bliss of silence.
For minutes I just sat back in awe, not believing what I was hearing, or more accurately, not hearing. Had the trick actually worked?
I decided that, rather than enjoying my newfound silence, I would give my brain a well-deserved silent rest. And that’s exactly what I did. I slept like a baby that night, until around two in the morning. I tend to wake up randomly during the night, so it caused little concern.
To my disappointment, but not surprise, the screeching had returned. At best, I had half-expected the solution to be a temporary one. I simply performed the witchcraft-like trick again, and once more the ringing was gone without a trace.
With a sigh of relief I settled back into bed. The sound that had haunted me for so long had been easily defeated by a helpful anonymous person online, and I was content.
Only then did I realize that I wasn’t enveloped in complete silence. Rather, there was something else cowering in the dark, only making its presence known by a soft thump. Could it be my own heartbeat? After all these years, would I now be haunted by a new sound?
I held three fingers on my neck and felt a pulse. It didn’t match the sound in the darkness.
Although I tried, placing the sound proved to be a challenge. With each passing thump I tried to pinpoint its origin a bit more precisely. I went so far as to open every cupboard in my apartment, checked in the hallways, and lastly, placed my ear against the wall.
No sooner did my ear touch the wall before the sound stopped. My heart raced alongside my logical mind. There had to be a simple explanation. Maybe it was been a busted pipe, or one of my neighbors being a prick late at night. No matter the cause, it was time for bed.
In the morning the ringing returned. I figured I could put the noise at bay by performing the trick every six hours. It quickly became a routine of mine to stupidly tap my head when no one was looking, and it worked.
Everything was great, apart from my nightly routine of waking up around two and hearing the same thumping, softly keeping me company in the darkness. Most nights I simply ignored it, but other nights curiosity got the better of me, and I pursued the sound.
Each night I once again failed to locate the sound. I simply couldn’t place it, and I couldn’t be bothered to stay up long enough to figure out when it started and when it ended. I tried to talk my neighbors into investigation, but they scoffed at the idea of waking at such late hours.
Rats were another possibility, but after a quick visit by pest control they assured me there were no rodents living within the walls. In fact, after looking at the building plans, they insisted that it would be impossible for rats to live inside these walls.
As a last resort I decided I would record myself sleeping. I’d heard there were a bunch of apps that only record you if there’s a noise, so I figured it would be ideal for the situation.
I downloaded a free app and went to bed. Just like every night before, I woke up around 2 AM, but decided I would ignore the sound and let my phone do it’s work. I had some ear plugs that came in handy, and without further troubles I fell asleep.
After waking up the following morning, I brewed myself a much-needed cup of coffee and sat down, figuring I could run the recording through audio-editing software to look at the amplitude of the sound waves rather than listening through it all.
The thumps started around midnight, and kept going for several hours. Aside from that, I mostly found sounds of myself shifting around in bed.
However, at 3:30 AM there was a short pause consisting of complete silence, as if every sound had been erased from existence. It was not more than a minute before the sound returned, but it was no longer a soft thumping. It sounded more like whispering, just incomprehensible voices talking to no one in particular, raspy and tired.
I couldn’t make out what was said on the recording; my phone wasn’t exactly a technological wonder. In fact, I had no interest in finding out. If anything, I would have preferred to leave the apartment and forget about the whole thing, but being a poor student without any nearby family I had no other option than to stay put. Besides, I still thought there might be a logical explanation.
After some hesitation I came to the ridiculous conclusion that if I could hear the actual whispering, I could probably locate the culprits. So when night came, I went to bed, fully expecting to be awoken at the usual time, and from then I would search for the source of the noise.
2 AM rolled around and I was awoken by the familiar, eerie thumping. Where it had once been a welcome, intriguing part of my nightly routine, it had now become a dreaded enemy. It was relentless, not stopping for a single second, and as before, I had trouble identifying the exact location it was emanating from. Like an auditory illusion, it seemed to echo throughout the room, coming from everywhere and nowhere all at once.
At precisely 3:31, the sound abruptly came to a halt. I held my breath in anticipation, waiting for the mysterious voice to start talking.
As expected, the whispers began. Unlike the thumps, however, I could immediately discern their origin. They came from the wall directly behind my bed. I knew there couldn’t possibly exist anything behind the wall. No apartment nor crawlspace, just a concrete barrier separating my room from the outdoors. I crawled onto my bed with caution, as if approaching a wild animal, and carefully pressed my ear to the wall.
The whispers started to become more focused, morphing into a single understandable phrase.
“We know you can finally hear us.” It sounded like several broken voices merged into a singular entity.
I jolted back on my bed, where I remained frozen in fear.
“Thank you for letting us in,” the voices continued before falling silent.
I began to feel faint, and it took me a while to realize I hadn’t been breathing for quite some time. I forced a gasp, bringing air into my lungs, and tried desperately to calm down.
While trying to come up with a plan the thumping returned, only this time I heard exactly where it came from. The soft steps turned into loud tearing along the inside of the wall.
It moved with each step, working its way towards the hallway outside my bedroom. I could vaguely make out a shadow beneath the door as it moved past it.
I always keep my bedroom door locked, a habit formed during my time spent living with intruding family members, but I knew that wouldn’t stop whatever abomination I had let lose simply by acknowledging its presence.
The creature started knocking on the door, a playful thump with each knock, one I had become accustomed to over the past few weeks. It spoke to me with its now familiar, broken voice.
“It’s too late to lock us out now,” they said.
“W-what do you want?” I stuttered back. “W-w-what are you?”
“We are the Acolytes. We just wanted to be heard. We’ve waited so long.”
It struck the door, and small cracks appeared around the hinges.
“We have always been here,” the voices cried in unison. “Why are you afraid?”
Another violent punch, and the upper hinge broke off the doorframe.
I would have called the police, or anyone for that matter, but had inconveniently left my phone in my jacket pocket. So I threw on whatever clothes I had lying on the floor and clambered out the window, and down the fire escape. I wasn’t taking any chances with whatever was on the opposite side of my door.
As I made my descent, I heard my bedroom door splinter.
“Where are you?” the things yelled. “We have come for you!”
I never looked back.
After my escape, I made my way to a nearby gas station and used their phone to dial the police. I told them, without going into specifics, that there had been an intruder in my apartment, and explained how I had fled down the fire escape. When they checked the apartment, however, there was no one to be found. The door to my bedroom was shattered, but there were no other signs of forced entry, and no indication that anything else had been damaged or stolen. To make matters worse, my apartment’s overall state of disrepair made it difficult for the police to accept my story at face-value.
They had to break down the front door to get in, and I knew my landlord would be pissed, but I didn’t care about that. After a very brief investigation, which involved checking the security camera footage to confirm that no one could possibly have entered my apartment, I was let off with a warning not to prank call the police again. Another cop offered me the number for a local psychiatric facility.
While the police were there I grabbed a bag and filled it with the bare essentials. I left that night to return home to my parents, intending to spend the rest of the night at the train station.
I’m never returning to that place. I’ve called my landlord and explained that they can keep my deposit, along with whatever stuff I left behind.
A few days passed after I left the apartment behind. Before long, my tinnitus returned, louder than ever… and at first, I couldn’t have been happier about it. By allowing myself to hear the entities, I had inadvertently let them in. I accepted my condition as a bittersweet blessing, as it hid the things that go thump in the night. And if I couldn’t hear them, they couldn’t find me either.
Unfortunately, my relief proved to be short-lived.
As it turned out, the ringing was no longer enough to silence the voices.
Last night, I woke up to a strange sound at 3:31 AM.
You know that feeling you get when you walk down a dark hallway? The feeling you get when the lights are out in the room behind you, the feeling that someone, or something is right there behind you, inching its way closer to you? Well, whatever you do, don’t ever look back.
My name is Michael, and I just turned 20. I worked as security guard for a small office in a rough neighborhood. They sell paper, or something along those lines, I didn’t really pay attention to the other people there. I usually sat near the door during the afternoon checking everyone that comes in and out. It was a pretty laid back job, and it helped me pay for my night school.
I usually only worked during the day, and I had never been at the office past 6, but one day my boss asked me if I could take the late shift, as the night guard had quit due to “unforeseen circumstances,” whatever that means. Anyway, I said I’d do it, but just for that night. All I really had to do was lock up and sit down in the main office and relax. Right?
Well, not really. I was given a paper with a list of a few instructions. Four in total.
Lock doors in main room once everyone has gone home, no later than 12 AM.
Go through west hallway and lock all doors, except for door # 6, which must be unlocked. Then turn around, and do NOT move for 10 seconds, no matter what. After 10 seconds turn and face the hallway, then start walking, taking one step every second. Don’t look back. Don’t ever look back.
Go to main office and hide under desk, facing the front and wait for door # 6 to close and lock.
Leave at 6:30 AM. Do not lock the front door, but lock the gate.
It started normal enough. I didn’t know if they decided to play some kind of joke on me, since it was my first time, but if it had been meant as a prank, they did a good job. I was scared out of my mind.
The instructions were so specific and just all-together creepy. What would happen if I took a second more or a second less? What if I missed the deadline at 6:30? What would happen to me? I tried to get the thoughts out of my head, and I focused on the instructions. I wanted to study them before the night shift so that I wouldn’t make a mistake.
Before I knew it, it was 11 PM, and most people started to leave. Janitors and workers that stayed late all started to file out, each wishing me luck. I waited a while, until every single person was gone. Why would they wish me luck? I had to focus, it was only for a night. It was probably nothing, but I just wanted to make sure. At a quarter to midnight, I decided to lock up the main room and head through the hallway. Lock all the doors, unlock door 6. Got it. Turn around and wait 10 seconds.
I started counting in my head: One, two… then I felt the temperature change. Three, four… it got a little colder and that’s when I heard the door. Five… it started to open. 6… then I felt it, like someone breathing down my neck.
Seven, eight… I was about to run, but then I remembered the instructions. I have to stay still.
Nine, ten… I turned and started down the hallway. Take a step every second.
My heart was beating out of my chest, my whole body was cold. I couldn’t feel my hands. I kept going, even though I was about to pass out from fear. I navigated through the seemingly endless hallway, leaving behind whatever the thing behind me was, but I felt it watch me as I walked.
There was nothing between me and “it.” If it had wanted to, it could have killed me right then and there, I was sure of it. I didn’t know what it was, but I didn’t feel safe near it.
At the halfway point, I felt it standing there. As I passed by a fire extinguisher, I caught a glimpse of the beast’s reflection in the glass. I couldn’t really make it out, but whatever it was, it was slowly approaching. It knew I had seen it. I quickened my pace ever-so-slightly. My whole body went numb, so much so that couldn’t even feel the ground under me anymore. Cold and sweating, I continued down the hallway. Almost there, I thought. I just need to get into the office and hide under the desk.
I prayed to God that I’d make it, prayed to anyone that would listen at that point. By that time, I wasn’t scared anymore; it was much more than that. I moved robotically, just trying to make it to the end of the nightmare. I finally got to the door… and realized it was right behind me. I turned the corner and opened the door, closed it behind me and hid under the desk, as instructed. I faced the wall and waited. I remained there for a while, and during that time nothing happened. Still, I knew it was there. I was petrified, horrified, so scared that I felt like my very soul might just give up and leave.
A few more seconds passed, and all of a sudden the door to the office opened.
Is it coming in?
I didn’t read about this in the instructions.
What do I do?
That’s when I realized didn’t have them anymore.
Where had they gone? Did I drop them?
It came in then, the room’s temperature dropping as it made its presence known.
What is this thing? A demon? A monster?
Whatever it was, it was not following the rules. It was looking for me.
At that point I was in tears. I tried to hold it in at first, but my fear took over, and I didn’t have to anymore. I couldn’t move, my eyes blurred, and I felt myself begin to black out.
That’s when I heard it leave… and close the door.
I wanted to let out a huge breath of relief, but decided against it.
I kept listening for the other door. After a second, it too closed, then locked. I let everything out then, tears streaming down my face, breathing harder than I ever have.
I checked my watch: it was 6:23. Just 7 minutes until 6:30, and then I could leave. I chose to remain huddled under the desk until then.
6:30 rolled around and I was ready to bolt. I opened the office door and rushed to the main entrance, practically sprinting for the gate. I got out and locked it behind me. I rushed to my car and started it. As I pulled out, I felt much safer, and so I disregarded the second instruction I’d been given, and took one last look back at the building… and froze, paralyzed with fear.
The creature was standing in the doorway, looking right at me. I hit the gas and sped home.
The next day I handed in my letter of resignation.
It’s been a few weeks since then, and I’ve found another job, but I still can’t get that thing out of my head. Sometimes I feel like it’s still behind me as I walk through my home.
I never should have looked back, and I’ll never made that mistake again.
I grew up in a small town in the Midwest. Now when I say that it’s a small town, I mean other people from my state have never even heard of it. That being said, for such a small town it actually has a pretty dark history.
In 1927, my home town was a small village with a population of just over 300 people. The largest employer in the area, the MacMillan Textile Factory, had been built in 1922. The location was ideal because of all the available land and the town’s close proximity to the state Capital. By 1927 the factory employed 314 people from the surrounding area. May 25th 1927 started early just like every other day and the workers looked forward to the start of a productive summer, but at 8:45 am the North wing of the building exploded.
Shortly after the explosion, a man named Arthur Rentschler, a disgruntled former employee, arrived on scene. He had loaded down his pickup with dynamite and scrap pieces of metal from his farm. Eyewitnesses said he stepped out of the truck holding a rifle. When the floor manager approached him, he fired into the bed of the truck which caused the dynamite to detonate. The explosion of the truck killed Rentschler, the manager and a few other bystanders.
The fire department found another 500 pounds of un-exploded dynamite rigged up in the basement of the building and discovered that Rentschler had killed his wife and burned down his home. Investigators also discovered a sign on the property that read “Criminals are made, not born.” In the following weeks of investigation, witnesses came forward making claims that Rentschler had been complaining about a recent tax spike in order to pay for the new area school, and it was further discovered that his farm was in foreclosure. Investigators speculate that the combination of him losing his job and the tax increase may have been the catalyst for the bombing.
When all was said and done 44 people lost their lives. The news covered the bombing heavily and, in the weekend following the attack some 50,000 people drove through the town just trying to catch a peak of the carnage. Unfortunately, the story rapidly fell to the wayside due to Charles Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight that took place 2 days later. As quickly as it happened, the tragedy, and its victims were forgotten.
But they don’t want to be forgotten, they want us all to remember, and on a balmy summer night in 2008 I learned not to forget.
It was the summer before my Senior year and I had been staying at my friend Mike’s house for the better part of a week. One night after what felt like our 1000th match of Halo 3, I was video-gamed out. I took off my headset, set the controller down, and looked at Mike. He was furiously rubbing his eyes, which, if they felt anything like mine, were on fire. “Do… do you wanna go outside for a little bit?” I asked.
“Dude, I thought you’d never ask,” Mike replied with a grin. “It’s like 2 AM, though. Where are we gonna go?”
“I really don’t care, I just can’t look at the TV anymore right now.”
We decided to take a walk through town, neither of us planned on doing anything nefarious but we both agreed that we needed some fresh air. As we walked down the dirt road Mike lived on we laughed and talked about girls, cars, the rapidly approaching football season, and all the types of things you’d expect from 2 high school seniors.
We walked past the high school, the town’s only gas station, and then down main street. As we walked in front of our small town’s only bar a few girls that had graduated our freshman year stumbled out into the street. Mike and I tried our hardest to talk a big game and impress these girls, but just as you’d imagine, neither of them could have cared any less.
Sure that we’d just ruined our only chance of any entertainment for the night, we decided to head back to his house. Our return route had us walking past the site of the old MacMillan factory and then eventually would put us in front of the town’s small cemetery. As we walked in front of the old factory grounds that had since been converted to a small park, Mike spoke.
“Why do you think he did it?” Mike asked, suddenly breaking the silence.
I turned to look at him. “Why who did what?”
“Rentschler. Why do you think he blew up the factory?”
“You know the story just as well as I do. He was pissed about losing his job and his farm, pretty straightforward, dude.”
“No way. There had to be more to it than that, people lose their jobs every day. If I had to guess, it was demonic possession, or maybe he was just insane,” Mike said matter-of-factly.
I didn’t really believe that demons had a hand in the disaster, but I felt a chill run down my back anyway. I looked ahead, saw that we were quickly approaching the town’s small cemetery, and felt that chill intensify. Most of the victims had been buried in that cemetery before their families packed up and left town and with the way our conversation had turned, I wanted to be as far away from it as possible.
“Let’s cut through the cemetery,” Mike said. “It’ll cut our walk in half if we go through it.”
I turned quickly to look at Mike. “Are you insane? I’m not walking through a grave yard at 3 in the morning.”
That’s when Mike said it, the one sentence that will convince a 17-year-old boy to do just about anything. “Don’t be such a pussy, dude!”
I groaned and said “Dammit, okay, let’s do this.”
Mike grinned at me before taking a large exaggerated step off the main road and into the cemetery. I quickly followed suit and soon we found ourselves deep in the cemetery. The cemetery itself is laid out like a giant sideways H and as such is near impossible to get lost in. Or, so I thought.
As we walked, I began to notice that the area was completely devoid of sound, save for our feet scraping on concrete. Our ears should have been being assaulted by the sound of crickets and spring peepers but instead we were completely engulfed in silence. I turned back to look at the main road we had entered from. It looked impossibly far away, much further than it should have. I turned back to Mike. “Hey, shouldn’t we have hit the turn yet?”
“I thought so. Maybe the dark is just throwing us off. Let’s keep going. We’ll either find the turn or hit the wood line.
We walked for another few minutes when I thought I saw a light moving ahead of us. I strained my eyes in the dark trying to figure out what I was seeing. “Do you see that light up there?” I asked in a hushed whisper.
Mike stopped and looked ahead. “I think so. It kinda looks like a flashlight?”
“Yea, that’s it. Is someone really out there in the woods?”
“It’s probably a ghost light,” Mike said with a shrug. “Just stay on the path and we’ll be fine.”
“What the shit? A ghost light? What are you talking about?” I asked. I stopped and waited for Mike to face me. “What the hell is a ghost light?”
Mike stopped and turned to face me, he now stood between me and the tree line and I could only make out the light if I leaned left or right.
“There’s a few different versions of the story, but the one I’ve heard the most is that the lights show up as a way to lead you off the trail or pathway in a cemetery. Once you’ve stepped off the trail, you’re in their domain,” he said as he gestured to the tombstones on either side of us. “Sometimes the lights lead you to bodies, sometimes to some kind of treasure, and other times the lights will lead you to your death.”
I shivered and swallowed hard. I leaned a little to the right and saw that the light looked closer, or at least bigger. I looked back at Mike. “Let’s get the hell out of here. It looks like that light is getting closer.”
Mike turned to look at the light. We both gasped when we realized that not only was the light closer than when we originally saw it, but it was moving straight towards us and picking up speed. I tried to run but I felt like I was cemented to the ground. The light moved in a straight line. It didn’t bounce or move like someone carrying a flashlight; it just shot straight at us. Mike grabbed my arm and snapped me out of my trance as he ran by. “Fucking run!”
I turned and started to run and soon realized that I had stepped off the path and was now sprinting parallel to the road between the tombstones. I looked to my left and saw that Mike was running in the same direction a few rows of tombstones from me.
“Mike! Run to the road!” I screamed out. Mike acknowledged me by changing direction mid-stride but suddenly he dropped. “Mike!” I yelled as I changed direction and charged towards my friend. As I approached where he had gone down, I saw him holding the right side of his face and frantically scrambling to his feet.
“Leave me dude, just go!” he panted.
“No way, come on!” I yelled as a bright light was beginning to fall all around us. I threw his arm over my shoulder and half-ran, half-carried him a few more yards before my foot caught the corner of a low headstone. Mike grunted loudly as we crashed into the damp grass. I frantically rolled over and covered my face. The light had become so blindingly bright I could no longer keep my eyes open. I felt my body tense up as the light washed over us and then… nothing. I felt nothing.
I had yet to open my eyes, but I could feel my feet planted firmly on the ground. I slowly opened my eyes and looked around. To my right Mike was doing the same. “Umm, what the fuck was that?” Mike asked.
I scanned around and realized that we were back at the front of the cemetery. I looked over at Mike who was no longer bleeding from his face, before looking down at my watch. It read 5:30 AM. Somehow two and a half hours had passed from when we had originally entered the cemetery.
“I… I don’t know, man, I think we just got chased by a ghost. I mean, I didn’t make that up… right?”
Mike shook his head. “No, that definitely just hap–”
I followed Mike’s gaze and gasped when I noticed a man in denim coveralls standing next to the closest tombstone. The man had an almost disgusted look on his face. What felt like an eternity passed as we stared at one another. Finally, the man spoke. “Why have you forgotten us? Why has everyone forgotten us?” Behind the man I saw silhouettes materializing and moving closer to us. “Please, tell our story, don’t let them forget,” the man said as he began to fade from view. One by one the silhouettes behind him faded as well, and before long Mike and I were left standing there, mouths agape.
Mike, clearly the braver of the two of us, walked back into the cemetery and looked down at the tombstone the man had been standing next too. “Robert Ames, Born September 9th, 1897. Died May 25th 19… 27,” Mike read slowly, before looking up at me. Even in the dark I could see that the color had drained from his face, and he quickly rejoined me on the road.
Neither of us spoke of the incident for months. Both of us avoided the cemetery like the plague. That is, until community day. The week before homecoming the football team “adopted” the cemetery for community day and we were expected to go as a team to clean up head stones and pick up trash. There was no real way to get out of it, so Mike and I begrudgingly went. The day went surprisingly smoothly, and I had nearly forgotten about the ghost lights and apparitions until I moved near where Mr. Ames was buried. I didn’t see anything or anyone, but I swear I heard a voice whisper, “Remember us.”
It’s been almost a decade since we saw the ghost lights, but everywhere I go I make sure to tell the story of the MacMillan Textile Factory. A tragedy like that should never be forgotten, and neither should the innocent people that lost their lives.
All my friends are dead. Don’t take that the wrong way though. I can’t say I knew any of them when they were still alive. Well, at least most of them anyway.
I guess I’m what you could call a psychic. I’ve never liked that word though. I can’t read anyone’s mind, see in to the future, or make things levitate. All I can do is see ghosts.
I have had the ability for as long as I can remember. I didn’t know exactly what it was when I was younger. I just knew that I could see people that others couldn’t.
I don’t think my parents ever really believed me. I was pulled out of public schools in kindergarten because of “focusing” issues. The truth is I was a bit distracted, but it was because of the kids that no one else could see. They wanted someone to play with too. They had been there a while, and I was the first person that could see them.
After that incident, my parents decided to homeschool me. My parents were somewhat wealthy, so they were able to hire a teacher to come to our home since they were busy at work during the day.
Mrs. Thornwell was the worst. She was wrinkled and had patchy white hair. Of course she carried that typical old person smell with her. To be fair she was a good teacher, but she was incredibly strict. There was no fun to be had with Mrs. Thornwell. She wasn’t dead either, at least not yet.
I lived quite a sheltered life growing up. My parents almost never let me leave the house. I was given almost every toy or item I could ever want, but it meant nothing since I had no friends. They thought that something was wrong with me. Probably due to the fact that everywhere I went I was like the kid from the 6th sense, because “I see dead people.”
That came to a halt when I was 17. My parents were in a brutal car crash with no survivors on either side. They didn’t stay behind either. It was a bittersweet realization knowing my parents had passed on to whatever afterlife instead of staying as ghosts. Maybe they didn’t believe me, and they had over-protected me my whole life, but I never doubted that they loved me.
Since I was 17 I was caught in a bit of an odd situation. I wasn’t quite an adult yet, but I wasn’t really a kid anymore either. Luckily my parents had some connections when they were alive, and I was given emancipation almost immediately.
I was given my parent’s savings. I won’t say how much it was, but it was quite a decent sum. After some calculations, I realized that if I managed my money right I could easily live off the money for the rest of my life.
Just to be safe I decided to sell of my family’s estate. It was a much bigger home than I would ever need. If anything the upkeep would be more than it was worth to me. It would also boost my emergency funds to sell it, so I did.
I bought an older home on the edge of my city. It was incredibly cheap, so I knew there were probably issues with the home, but I didn’t really care.
It was a 2 story home, and it had a basement. Still more room than I needed, but the price had been cheaper than essentially everything else I looked at. From the outside it looked like the house had lived through a war or two. The inside wasn’t terrible though. Nothing seemed to be breaking down. Water and electricity worked with no issues everywhere. Well, everywhere except the basement. I chose not to go down there. I got an ominous feel from it.
It took less than a day of living in my new home to realize I wasn’t alone.
I was reading a book on my couch in the living room. I thought I saw something out of the corner of my eye, so I looked up. Directly next to me was seated a man. He looked to be about 20 years old, and he was dressed in an older style of clothing.
“Hello?” I said questioningly.
This seemed to catch him off-guard. He even jumped back a bit in surprise.
“Oh, you can see me!?” He said.
“Why wouldn’t I be able to see you? You were practically hanging over my shoulder while I was trying to read.”
“Uh…Sorry about that. You’re alive though, and I’m kinda not. Living people can never see me.”
“Yeah I guess I’m a little special. Looks like we’re going to be housemates from now on, so get used to it. I’m Devin, and you?” I said this as I extended my hand.
After a moment of staring at my hand he seemed to finally remember what he was supposed to do. He grabbed my hand with a giant smile and began to shake it.
“Name’s Sam, pleasure to meet you!” He replied.
Sam was the first, but not the only guest I would discover in my home. Sam was the most curious though, and probably still the most human. He had died of a brain aneurysm. He wasn’t quite ready to move on yet though, so he stayed behind. There had been so much life that he had been robbed of, and he couldn’t accept moving on.
Sam and I became quick friends. We had both been somewhat sheltered growing up, and neither of us had really had a chance to explore the world. We talked about our dreams, and things we wanted to do. I suppose there is still a chance for me to do the things I want, but Sam isn’t quite as lucky.
After the first couple days of being in the house I almost assumed that Sam was the only ghost living with me, but you know what they say about people who assume.
I was lying in bed late one night, and just as I was about to fall asleep I heard something. It sounded like running water. I hopped out of bed and made my way towards the source of the noise. It was coming from the kitchen.
“Sam?” I called out.
As I got closer I noticed that there was someone washing dishes in the sink, but it wasn’t Sam. It was a somewhat stocky woman. She was short, and looked to be in her 40’s. She turned to me as I drew nearer.
“If you’re going to live here you need to clean up after yourself. This is unacceptable!” She said pointing towards the pile of dishes in the sink.
“Sorry, I didn’t think it would be an issue.”
“Didn’t think it would be an issue? You aren’t the only person in this household. Please try to be considerate of the mess you are leaving behind for others!” She scolded me. She turned back around and continued to wash my dirty dishes.
I was about to apologize more sincerely when I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was Sam.
“Don’t worry about her, that’s Emilia. She only shows up when someone makes a mess. As long as you pick up after yourself it won’t be a problem. You do not want to see her bad side though.” He said this with a bit of a chuckle at the end.
Now that I thought about it, the house had been incredibly clean when I moved in. There had been no dust or cobwebs anywhere for a house that was this old. I guess I had just thought that the realtor was doing the upkeep.
I made a mental note to not make any messes, and went back to bed.
I woke up the next morning to find my dishes were all clean, and Emilia was nowhere to be found. Sam was waiting for me on my couch. I sat next to him and we began to have one of our daily casual conversations.
Midway through our conversation I began to hear noises coming from below. It was obviously coming from the basement. Sam noticed my discomfort.
“There’s something I should tell you about the basement. I’m sure you could sense it, but there’s something down there. It’s not like me or Emilia though.” He said.
“What is it then?” I asked.
“I’m not entirely sure. It was here before I was, and I’ve been here a while. As long as you keep it fed it will stay down there.”
“Keep it fed? What is that supposed to mean?”
“Well you aren’t going to like this, but it feeds on animals. They have to be alive, or freshly dead. It’s best if you can find roadkill shortly after it happens, then you don’t have to feel bad about it.”
“You’re joking right?”
“I wish I was. It’s actually kind of a good thing you moved in. It’s been a while since it has fed, and if it doesn’t get fed it will begin to look for something on its own.”
“So it’s my job to keep whatever is done there fed?”
“Yeah…Sorry for not telling you about it sooner. It had been so long since I had been around a living person I almost forgot. If you can’t find any roadkill around here I’d suggest you go buy some mice at a pet store. They don’t scream as loud.”
I was in disbelief. I had sensed there was something terrible in my basement, but I had hoped I could just ignore it. I guess that wasn’t an option.
I could have packed my bags and left then, but that would have meant leaving whatever was in the basement to potentially roam free. Not to mention I enjoyed being around my new friend Sam, even if he wasn’t alive.
I frantically began to scour the neighborhood for any signs of roadkill. I found an unfortunate cat that hat met its end, but it looked to be a few days old. According to Sam that wouldn’t be fresh enough. I would need something alive, or something that had been dead less than 4 hours.
I gave up and took Sam’s advice. I bought some live field mice from a pet store. They eyed me with their beady black eyes the whole way home. If only they knew their fate.
When I returned home the sounds emanating from the basement were even louder, and more frequent. There was what sounded like a deep grunting, and things being thrown around.
Sam was waiting for me at the front door. He eyed the mice I was holding and nodded.
“Good, you should probably hurry. I recommend keeping your eyes down when you go down there. The less you see the better.”
His words didn’t exactly reassure me. Nonetheless, I began to make my way towards the basement. The sounds only grew louder as I approached the door leading downwards.
When I opened the door, the noises seemed to stop. The path down was pitch black. I could just barely make out each step with the aid of help from the hallway light, and I couldn’t see any switch or string to turn on light. Perhaps it was better this way.
I slowly began to descend one step at a time. Every step creaked, making me want throw the container of mice and run back upwards. Somehow I made it to the end though. I almost wondered if the thing in the basement had just left, because there had been no noise whatsoever other than the creaking and the mice occasionally squealing.
I set the container of mice on the floor of the basement and took a step back up. In an instant an enormous black hand extended out of the darkness and ripped the container out of sight. I heard a large crack, and then I heard the mice begin to squeal even louder.
I sprinted back up the stairs, but before I reached the top I heard a loud crunch as the squealing ceased. I slammed the door shut and looked up to see Sam once again waiting for me.
“What the fuck is that thing?” I demanded.
“I told you, I’m not entirely sure. That should keep it satisfied for at least a week or two though.”
“Are there any other things I should know about this house?” I asked hoping for him to say no.
Sam frowned at this question.
“You should stay clear of the attic.”
“What’s in the attic?” I asked Sam. To be completely honest I didn’t even know there had been an attic. I hadn’t been upstairs at all other than to have a quick look.
“I can’t tell you, for personal reasons. As long as you don’t go up there you won’t have to worry about it though. You don’t have to feed it like our basement dweller.” He replied.
“Why can’t you tell me? Are you hiding something?”
“We all have our secrets, and this is one you do not want to know about. Just trust me on this one.”
Before I had a chance to respond Sam had disappeared in to thin air. Must be nice to be able to escape from an argument like that. Vanish in to thin air when things start to get heated. To be fair he did have to die to obtain that power.
Sam hadn’t really led me astray so far, but he did take his time mentioning what was in the basement. He seemed much more cautious about the attic. After only seeing part of what was in the basement, it made me wonder what kind of monster could be in the attic. It was my house now though; don’t I have the right to know?
I spent all day pondering whether or not I should heed Sam’s advice. He hadn’t shown back up, so I assume he was giving me time to cool down after my basement experience. I still wasn’t even sure where the entrance to the attic was. A little exploration couldn’t hurt, could it?
I ventured upstairs. The entrance to the attic wasn’t in the hallway, so it must have been in one of the two bedrooms.
Sure enough, I found the ladder leading upwards in one of the closets of the bedrooms. I gazed up at the entrance. My heart began to beat much faster than normal. Maybe I really shouldn’t go up there. The curiosity was killing me though. I gripped the ladder while continuing to weigh out my options. Before I could decide I heard a voice from behind me.
“You’re not supposed to go up there.”
I turned around to see a small girl in front of me. She had long black hair and bright blue eyes. She looked to be about 8 or so. I felt a quick wave of sorrow, because I knew this young girl in front of me was dead.
I knelt down in front of her.
“And who are you?” I asked.
“I’m Elizabeth, but you can call me Lizzy!” She said with a giggle.
“Well Lizzy, why am I not supposed to go in the attic?”
“Because Sam would be mad if you did. No one is allowed in the attic.”
“Do you know what’s in the attic?”
“No. Sam told me no one is allowed up there because it’s scary. I don’t like scary things.” As she said this she began to look down and cover her eyes as if she was remembering something scary. If I wasn’t so caught up in what was in the attic I would have thought it was cute.
I patted Lizzy on the head in an attempt to calm her down.
“Well this is my house now Lizzy. I need to find out what’s so scary about the attic. You wait here. I’m going to get to the bottom of this.”
Lizzy didn’t seem entirely certain about my idea, but she couldn’t exactly stop me either. I had made up my mind. Sam was hiding something in the attic, and I needed to find out what it was.
I turned back around and headed back towards the ladder. I was surprised that Sam hadn’t shown up himself to try and stop me. He had told me not to go up to the attic, so it made me wonder why he wasn’t here now.
I shrugged off the thought and began to climb the ladder. Once I was almost to the top of the ladder I was able to peek my head in to the attic.
There was a light attached to a string in the center of the room. This would have struck me as normal, except that the light was already on. I had never been to the attic before, and there’s no telling how long it had been since anyone had been up here. So how the hell was there a light still burning?
Other than the light, the attic seemed empty. Not only was it empty, but unlike the rest of the house it was dirty. There were cobwebs in the corners, and dust almost everywhere. It seems even Emilia wasn’t allowed up here.
I was really confused when I finally made it completely in to the attic, because it really was empty. I had expected some sort of ferocious beast to jump out and maul me, but that hadn’t happened. I decided to take a quick walk around the attic before heading back down.
As I was crossing the floor it hit me. I was struck with the most intense headache of my entire life. It was so strong that I feel to my knees in pain. My head felt like it was going to explode. I was so caught up in my pain that it took me a few seconds to realize there was someone in front of me now.
It was a middle-aged woman. I didn’t pay close attention to her face, because I was busy staring at the giant gash on her neck. It looked as if it was still bleeding. Blood slowly dripping down her body.
She began to reach out towards me, and I flung myself backwards. As I did this two more figures seemed to have emerged from nowhere and began to approach me. They were drenched in blood. The pounding in my head only seemed to intensify, but I needed to get out.
I began to put all my effort in to crawling back to the attic ladder. The bloody ghosts continued to follow me across the room, but despite the massive headache, they didn’t seem exactly hostile.
I didn’t care whether they were hostile or not. I wanted nothing to do with them. Once I reached the ladder I flung myself down head first. I was able to grab on to one of the rungs to absorb some of the momentum from my fall, but I wasn’t able to hang on for long. I fell down the rest of the ladder and landed on my back. It was extremely painful, but it was nothing compared to the headache I had had up there. Speaking of the headache, that had stopped.
I took one last glance at the hole in the attic. I saw the woman I had first seen, who had her throat slit. She mouthed one word to me before disappearing. I’m not entirely sure what it was, but I think she said “Help.”
I rolled over on to my stomach. The pain in my back from the fall was starting to sting now. It didn’t seem too bad, but it stung like hell. After a few minutes of recovering I was able to get back up on my feet.
When I exited the closet I found that someone was waiting for me, but it wasn’t Lizzy. No, it was Sam. He didn’t look happy either. He was stood there with his arms crossed like a parent about to give a lecture.
“I told you not to go up there.” He said.
“Yeah well I guess I forgot. Kinda like how you forgot to tell me what was in the basement. Did you have something to do with what was up there?”
He took a deep sigh.
“No, I was already dead when that happened. I watched it happen though.”
“And what exactly happened?”
“He…Well, he killed them. If that wasn’t obvious. He was a middle-aged man, quite attractive too. He would lure them back to the house, then he would drug them. Even he sensed the basement was off limits, so he operated in the attic. He wasn’t in the home long, but he sure was busy. It was gruesome.”
It took a moment for this all to sink in. So, apparently there had been a serial killer in my home. Not to mention the monster in the basement. Not only had people died in this home, some were murdered.
“Well, is he dead now? He’s not one of the ghosts here is he?” I questioned.
“No, I imagine he’s still alive. Unless he was in some kind of accident somewhere else. He did his business here, and he left.”
That didn’t exactly reassure me. A psychopath that had lived in my home was still on the loose out there. I suppose he could have been arrested, but the ghosts in my attic seemed to think otherwise.
“I’ll ask you one more time Sam, is there anything else I should know about this house?”
“Well as far as the threatening guests of this house I think that’s it. There are a few others of us that you haven’t met yet, but none of them are violent.”
As he finished saying this we both turned as we heard a noise.
It was a knock coming from my front door.
I went to answer my front door, because that’s what normal people do when someone knocks. It had startled me a bit at first, but it was most likely just a neighbor or something. My closest neighbor was about half a block away. Perhaps they decided to finally make the journey to come meet the person who moved in to the creepy old home on the block.
However, when I opened the door I was a bit surprised. I was surprised because I recognized the person on the other side. It was Mrs. Thornwell, my homeschool teacher. Before I had a chance to say anything she pushed her way past me in to my home.
“So this is where you’ve been living. I was a bit surprised when I heard you sold your parent’s home and moved in to this dump. I suppose the inside isn’t so bad. Much cleaner than I expected from you.” She said.
“Uhhh, what are you doing here Mrs. Thornwell? I’m already finished with school.”
“I came to check on you of course. I heard the terrible news about your parents, and I came to see how my old pupil was doing.”
“Well as you can see I’m doing fine. I was kind of in the middle of something if…” I didn’t get the chance to finish my sentence because Mrs. Thornwell had already taken off in to exploring my home. What’s the deal with old people always criticizing younger generations for manners, but yet feeling like they are entitled to everything?
She explored the rooms on the first floor despite my opposition. Then she attempted to open the door leading to the basement, but I pushed it back and held it. Preventing her from opening the door.
“You can’t go down there.” I said.
“Why not, are you hiding something down there? Is it drugs? I always knew you would grow in to an addict. Let me see so I can help you.”
Her words caught me a bit off guard. She thought I would become an addict? Perhaps I had been a bit weird growing up because of my ability, but I was not a druggie. I was actually a bit offended. So, I removed my hand from the door. I had just recently fed the thing in the basement, so perhaps it wouldn’t take her anyway.
“Fine, take a look for yourself.” I said.
She made a satisfied grunt, and began her descent in to the basement.
She turned on her phone flashlight to guide her. Once she made it to the bottom she began to look around.
“Now where is the light switch down here. Oh my, what is th-” She didn’t even have time to finish what she was about to say before it grabbed her. Her screams only lasted a second as it quickly put her out of her misery. Even after I shut the door I could still hear the sound of bones crunching. For selfish reason I hoped she wouldn’t come back as a ghost, at least not in my house.
“Well on the bright side you won’t have to feed it for a while. That should probably keep it satisfied at least a couple months, maybe more.” Sam commented from behind me.
It was fucked up given the situation, but I couldn’t help but let out a short chuckle. I’m sure there are thousands if not millions of kids who would like to feed their teacher to a monster, but I had actually done it. Curiosity killed the cat after all. I wonder if she still thinks I’ll be an addict in the afterlife.
“So…What now?” I asked Sam.
“What do you mean? I think everything is pretty well sorted out now. You know to keep the thing in the basement fed, and stay out of the attic. Things can go back to normal now.” He replied.
“Back to normal? There is a monster in my basement, and there are dead girls trapped in my attic because their murderer is still on the loose. Not to mention the only people I interact with are all dead. How is any of this normal?”
Sam raised his finger as if he was about to respond, but instead he just disappeared again. Of course he did. Gotta love when your best friend is a ghost.
I decided to peek out my front window to see if anyone had been alarmed by the short scream from my basement. There was no one out there, but Mrs. Thornwell’s car was parked out front. Great, how does one dispose of a car?
I put on some old clothes and gloves. I took the car a decent distance away from my home, and parked it somewhere that didn’t appear to have any cameras. I walked for a while to put some distance between myself and the car, and then I called for an Uber. Once I got back home I immediately burned the clothing I had on. I knew I had seen on crime shows that people always were getting caught by carpet fibers, so I wasn’t taking any risks. I just had to hope she hadn’t told anyone that she was coming to see me.
When I got home I decided to start some research. I felt almost obligated to help the girls in my attic. No one else could see them. It was possible that I might be the only person who could help them. That meant trying to track down a serial killer on my own though.
After spending several hours looking through online articles, I was finally able to find what I was looking for. Three girls who had all gone missing within 3 months. All were single middle-aged women. I recognized the one in the first picture as the one who had her throat slit. I’m sure the other two girls were the other ones in my attic, but I hadn’t really had a good look at their faces since I had been desperately trying to escape.
I put my head in my hands. Well, I had confirmed who was in my attic, but how was I supposed to track their killer? There was no telling where he could be.
“I can tell you who he is you know. You just can’t go to the police. He didn’t leave behind any evidence, so they would just think you were crazy.” Sam said this, magically appearing next to me on my couch.
“You know who the killer is?”
“Of course, he would leave his wallet out while he operated. I couldn’t exactly tell anyone about him either though. I can tell you his name if you really want to know, but I’m not sure you know what you are getting yourself in to.”
“You’re probably right, but I’m too invested to back out now. Even if this ends poorly, I have to at least try. Tell me his name.”
Sam then proceeded to tell me the serial killer’s name, and he was right. I really had no clue what I was getting myself in to.
Sam told me the name of the serial killer. I had expected to hear the name of someone I had never known, but I was wrong. No, the name I heard was quite familiar. That’s because the name he said was that of my fathers.
That couldn’t be right though. My father couldn’t be a serial killer. On top of that, he was already dead. I had attended his funeral. I had seen him in his casket. He was very much dead. So then why was Sam trying to tell me the man who had killed the girls in my attic was my father.
“Is this some sort of sick joke?” I asked a bit angrily.
“What do you mean? You wanted to know his name. That was the name on the license in his wallet.” Same replied a bit puzzled at my sudden temper.
“That’s impossible. The name you said is my dad’s name, and he’s already dead.”
Sam didn’t seem too surprised my response at all. He simply began to scratch his cheek while he responded.
“I guess he did kind of look like you now that I think about it. I told you he was living when he left here. I wasn’t absolutely certain he was still alive.”
“If my dad was the killer, then why would the ghosts in the attic still be so pissed off?”
“Why do you expect me to understand them? I’m not the same as them. Perhaps they don’t know. They can’t exactly watch the news.”
“So what am I supposed to do? Go up there and tell them that I’m sorry my father murdered them, but he’s dead now?”
“I’m not sure, that’s for you to figure out.” Sam said this while shrugging.
As much as I hated it, Sam was right. This was my problem. I still wasn’t convinced that my father was the killer though. I needed some direct evidence. I thought it would be worth a shot to visit my father’s grave.
I’m not sure how many people can relate, but for those of us who can see the dead, a graveyard is the last place you want to go. I still remember during my parent’s funeral that there were far too many uninvited guests looking on. I still hadn’t been back to my parent’s graves since that day.
This was a necessary trip though. Even if I gained nothing. I still needed to try. I decided to make the trip at night. I do think there is some merit to the theory that ghosts are more active in the dark. Plus, if my father was a serial killer, I didn’t want anyone to overhear the conversation I would be having with him should he appear.
I pulled in to the parking lot just after midnight. There didn’t seem to be any other cars there. I exited my car and made my way to the entrance. Just standing at the front gate I could tell there were dozens of eyes fixed on me. I did my best to ignore them and pushed forward.
I kept my eyes down on my journey to my parent’s graves. I didn’t hear anyone attempt to follow me, but I could feel the eyes staring holes through me. It’s true I had been living in a home with who knows how many ghosts, but being in a graveyard was a different feeling entirely. It was almost overwhelming, but I had to keep pushing forward.
After a grueling walk that seemed to last forever, I finally reached the two graves side by side that contained my parents. I stood in front of the one containing my father, and I knelt down.
“Hey Dad, it’s been a little while. Maybe you know why I’m here. Did you do it? Did you kill those girls?” I said this to the grave. I didn’t really expect anything, but I guess I was hoping for some response of some kind. I didn’t get one though, at least not from him anyway.
“He’s not going to respond kid. He didn’t stay behind. Guess he didn’t feel like answering anyone’s questions.” A voice said.
I shot my eyes up immediately to look at where the voice had come from. A couple rows back sitting on top of a grave was a man. He looked somewhat familiar, but I couldn’t place him. He seemed to be grinning from ear to ear.
“Who are you, did you know my father?” I asked.
“Well I guess you could say I’m family, in a way. So of course I knew your father. It seems you didn’t really know him that well though huh.” He responded.
“What are you trying to say?”
“Isn’t it obvious? You came here for answers. I’m just trying to help you understand.”
“So my father did kill those girls?”
“Yes, and not just them. There were others too. Your father was quite the diligent worker. He really had to be. It was part of the deal after all.”
“What are you talking about? What deal?”
“Where do you think your wealth came from? Your father was a dead-end wage worker before he met me. When your mother became pregnant he was desperate for a change. I offered him that change, for a price of course. All he had to do was kill someone for me every so often. He decided he wanted out though, so I gave him an early retirement.” The man said all this so nonchalantly that it was chilling. I wasn’t sure what to think. I felt numb. Was he telling the truth? Was this man the Devil?
“Why are you telling me all this?” I finally managed to stutter out.
“Well you see, as much as I appreciated your father’s hard work, our contract is still unfulfilled. You inherited his wealth, and as a result, you also inherited the rest of his contract.” The man said with an even bigger grin than before.
“I don’t know what kind of deal you made with my father, and I don’t care. Kill me if you want, but I won’t accept your contract.” I said this as I turned and began walking out of the graveyard.
I expected the man to pursue me, or at least say something, but he didn’t. I made it out of the graveyard without seeing him again. I couldn’t imagine he was done with me though.
That assumption was correct. When I made it home and walked in my front door it wasn’t Sam who was waiting for me on my couch. It was the man.
“Nice place you have here. Quite a few freeloaders. Maybe you should make them start paying rent.” He said as he laughed at his own joke.
“How do I make you go away?” I said bluntly.
“Well if you don’t want to continue your father’s contract, there is another way out.”
“And that is?”
“You die. If you die there is no one left to take on the contract since you have no children. Other than that you are stuck with me.”
I considered this for a second.
“Can you give me a day to consider my options?” I said.
“Certainly. I will give you 24 hours. Once I return I’ll expect to see your corpse, or the promise that you will deliver me someone else’s corpse.” He once again smiled after his statement, and then he disappeared before me.
I had already made up my mind, but I wanted him to leave. I had no intentions of being the puppet of some demon. Despite letting my teacher get devoured, I wouldn’t consider myself a killer. My life has never held much value anyway. No one will miss me.
I plan on visiting the girls in my attic, and telling them the truth. If they want my life they can have it in place of my father. If they don’t, then I think I will finally make a trip to see what’s in the basement.
Have you ever heard of the seven gates of hell? Its a hugely popular paranormal site in rural Pennsylvania, surrounded by urban legend and horror stories. I always took it for granted how popular that site was, growing up only 15 miles down the road, but apparently its a nation wide phenomenon that some people travel hundreds of miles to visit. Now I’ve never been one to believe in the paranormal, and not just ghosts and the like, anything that didn’t have concrete evidence that I could see or feel was hard for me. I was just a logically based person, I’m sure you know the type.
My friends however, were all in that phase of young adulthood that involved needing to find proof of some kind of ghost, demon, or otherworldly entity. We were all sophomores in high school, and our evenings consisted of all sorts of ghost hunting adventures such as going out into the woods behind Madi’s house and using a pendulum to try to speak with a spirit, using a Ouija board, and even trying to create a makeshift summoning portal out of kitchen supplies. None of it ever really worked, sure the pendulum swung but it was windy, and everyone knows that Ouija boards are just controlled by whoever is touching it wanting to make a spooky scene. I was always there, playing along and having fun, but never truly believing anything.
That is why when Kenny brought up going to the seven gates of hell I was all for it. Aside from the fact that the thing was dripping in paranormal lore, there was an actual story behind it as well. In the early 1800s there was an Asylum in Hellam, Pennsylvania, this was back in the days where those that were admitted were not… treated great. I don’t need to tell you the things that happened to those admitted into asylums before 1900. One evening, that asylum caught fire and started a blaze for the centuries. Due to its location in the middle of the woods, it took fire response teams well over 20 minutes to get to the scene, and by that point, well, there was no point. Most of the occupants of Hellam Asylum were burnt alive, and while a few escaped into the forest, many were found dead later in the surrounding area due to smoke inhalation, starvation, or ripped apart by animals. All quite gruesome deaths. I wanted to see the remnants of the asylum that were allegedly still there past the sixth gate.
It was a Friday night when we went, leaving our home at 10 PM, so that we could try to be at the asylum by 3 AM, the witching hour. There were five of us, Kenny, Madi, Andrew, Lauren, and myself. All piled in to Kenny’s single-row pickup truck.
“So what are you guys hoping to find out there” I ask, I know there were supposedly the ghosts of the asylum inmates, but other then that I didn’t know too much about the lore.
“You know, the usual. Ghosts, demons, whatever wants to show itself to us” Kenny state matter-of-factly. At first, Madi and Lauren actually seemed a little tense, which was strange. This was the kind of thing we did all the time. It was Lauren that spoke next,
“Well, it depends on how deep into the woods we get. I heard Anders and Lawrence went by themselves last week and couldn’t even get past the third gate. Said that they started hearing voices and seeing eyes in the woods. Spooked ’em real good.”
I suppressed a laugh, Anders and Lawrence were basically the class clowns of our high school, and taking anything they said seriously was almost as much of a joke as whatever it was they had said.
“Yeah, and I’ve heard that if you can make it past the seventh gate then you get sent directly to hell, never to return.” Madi said, her eyes scanning the woods to our right.
“Assuming that hell is real, that is.” I chime in, achieving a punch to the arm from Andrew. After about a 45 minute drive we arrive at the broken down street sign that says Toad Road, the alleged beacon of where the gates are to start.
“Okay everyone shut up, you all have your flashlights, and knives?” Kenny asked. We had been instructed to bring flashlights for obvious reasons, and knives I guess to feel more safe from the ghosts? I know I brought one in case of a coyote which were more popular in the area then I would like to remember. An actual threat. We all nodded in his direction signaling our two items.
“Great. So about an eighth of a mile in the forest here, should be a rusted gate. That is the first gate, and once we cross it we will be in the devils territory.” Kenny said with a smirk on his face. “I hope he’s ready.”
I rolled my eyes and shot a smile at Madi who was looking a little bit nervous still. I put my arm around her and whispered to her that everything was going to be alright, and maybe they would finally find something of substance so we can put this dumb paranormal stuff behind us and move on to the next fad.
Kenny would soon turn around and lead us into the woods. It took us about 5 minutes to reach the gate that he had spoken of. I honestly didn’t see what the big deal was, it was a little bit strange for the rusted iron gate to be sitting in the middle of the woods, not attached to anything and being overgrown with vines and weeds, but scrap metal is found everywhere, there wasn’t a huge significance. The others seemed a mixture of elated and nervous at the same time.
“So what is supposed to happen after we cross?” I ask, preparing myself for the made-up shenanigans I will be experiencing soon.
“The first gate isn’t much. According to legend since we are the furthest away from the asylum, there are the least amount of spirits here. They will likely try to push you around so you may feel a bit of pressure but that’s about it. Oh also, our phones will probably go out here. Electronics don’t work in the gates. So please stay close, and if you get separated from the group just go back to the car so you don’t get hopelessly lost. I left it unlocked since we are in the middle of nowhere.” Kenny banged his flashlight twice on the metal bars of the gate, causing bits of rust to spark into the air around it, then with a theatrical performance he stepped to the other side of the gate.
I was next to follow, and then the rest of the group, and unsurprisingly, I felt no different. We walked for a few more minutes and I went to check my phone. It had shut off, which was strange because the battery life had been at almost 80% when we left the car. I guess cell service just doesn’t work this far out in the country.
“So all of your phones are actually off, then?” I ask, making sure I’m not the only one. One by one they check, and one by one they agree with me. I’m more concerned about us getting pulled apart from each other then the fact that maybe this could be a paranormal interaction. Madi is particularly freaked out by this.
“Guys I don’t know, this feels a little bit too real for me.” Madi said nervously, looking back towards the way we came, probably judging whether the social repercussions of going and waiting in the car and being called a baby inevitably by the rest of the group was worth it.
“Oh, stop, it’s fine. Worst comes to worst we all die in a poltergeist extravaganza!” Kenny said, not helping.
We continued walking. The next gate was about a mile deeper, and we weren’t moving super quickly.
“So Kenny, what is supposed to happ- OUCH!” Andrew stopped himself mid-sentence and glanced down at his leg. He pulled up his jeans to mid calf and revealed a large cut spanning about four inches of the back side of his lower leg.
“What happened?” I asked, looking around with the flashlight, attempting to find any thorn bushes or other culprit. I felt a light tapping on my shoulder, and turned around to see who it was, only to find no one was there. Madi, Lauren and Kenny were all standing next to Andrew, and I was alone where I stood. Okay. Weird. I’ll admit.
“I don’t know, I was just walking and it.. hurt.. then this,” Andrew said, motioning towards his leg. “I mean it’s not that bad, just unexpected is all.. lets keep going.”
We made it to the next gate a few minutes later. Only Madi complaining of feeling like she was getting shoved to the side, she compared it to when you’re walking next to someone who is leaning in to you. She was scared though, and placebo is a strong thing, especially in the paranormal, so I chose to ignore that.
“Alright, gate two is right here. On the other side of this gate, according to legend, you start feeling as if you are being followed, the pushing continues, only stronger, oh and there is a cult that guards the third gate at the end. So ya know, watch out for them.” Kenny, who had apparently not felt any presences during the first gate and was obviously feeling a little more lighthearted then the rest of the group pressed on without question.
It was about halfway through the second gate that we encountered out first problem. Madi’s flashlight died. She swore up and down that she had fresh batteries in it, but none the less, we were short one. Madi huddled close to me and used the light from mine as we continued down the imaginary path that Kenny was leading for us.
About a quarter of a mile past the second gate we heard a scream. I whipped around and saw Lauren on the ground, a wild look in her eyes as she looked back and forth so quickly I was afraid she might break her neck. We all looked at her inquisitively.
“I… I don’t know what happened, it felt like someone just speared me!” Lauren shouted, panic growing in her voice. I walked over to her and offered her a hand to get up. “I’m serious guys! It felt like I got tackled! I didn’t just dive onto the ground and scream for no reason!” Lauren shook off my hand and pushed herself up rejoining us, shock in her face, and Andrews. Kenny clearly didn’t believe her, and Madi looked like she was on the verge of tears.
As we walked, I got the increasing sensation that I was being stalked. I began looking around for the signs of a coyote, attributing the sensation to that, but I couldn’t see anything that would alert me to the presence of wildlife. In fact, now that I was thinking about it, there was a surprising lack of wildlife all together.
“Guys, hold up for a second, be quiet.” I asked everyone, and they all were happy to oblige, not that anyone was really talking that much anyway. As everyone stopped, I felt a pit in my stomach start to grow. There wasn’t a single noise being made. No crickets, no wind, no leafs cracking in the distance. Complete silence. “That’s strange, isn’t it? The lack of sound?” I stated my concerns aloud.
“I really think we should turn back. That feeling of being shoved down? That was enough for me. I.. I don’t want to mess with this stuff anymore, I’m serious.” Lauren shivered as she spoke, despite the relatively warm night.
“Honestly, I’m down to turn around too, it’s getting pretty late.” Andrew spoke next. His eyes, not necessarily frightened, but definitely on edge.
“Are you all being serious right now? Come on, we drove all the way here we are not turning back now,” Kenny said, his voice dejected. He threw his hands in the air in a fit.
“No I think we should keep going, I just thought it was weird is all,” I threw back. I felt it again, after I said that. The tapping on my shoulder, as if someone was trying to get my attention but didn’t want to speak. I turned my head, knowing there would be nothing there, and not being surprised when there wasn’t. “How much further to the third gate?”
“It should be right around here, lets go.” Kenny swung his flashlight around and started walking again, not giving anyone else the chance to disagree.
After another two or three minutes we landed back on a road that appeared seemingly out of nowhere. There was no sound of traffic, obviously, and there was no paint on the road, it just seemed like concrete in the wilderness. The feeling of being watched was almost overwhelming now, and I have to admit, it has started freaking my out a little bit at this point.
I could see in the distance another gate sitting at the end of the road. This one felt different though, maybe it was because it was decidedly less rusted and antique looking or maybe it was because it was in a place that actually made sense for a gate to go instead of being in the middle of the forest. Somehow it just felt.. strange.
When we were about 10 yards away from the gate, I heard Madi start to sob. I turned to ask her what was wrong and I saw utter terror in her eyes. I will never forget that look. I asked what was wrong, and she couldn’t even speak. She just pointed to the sides of the roads.
In the darkness where the road dropped off into more grass and trees, sitting just along the edge of our vision were bright green eyes. Hundreds of them.
It took all of five seconds for the rest of our small group to see what Madi did. Those green eyes, unnaturally bright in the darkness of the forest surrounding them. Lauren let out a shriek, and Andrew just about jumped out of his skin despite not actually making a scream. I swear Kenny actually smiled, as if he was happy to finally have something to talk about. His smile doesn’t last, I know he wants to see something metaphysical more then any of the rest of us, but even for him, this felt like more then we bargained for.
One by one, what felt like thousands of men stepped out of the shrubbery on either side of the road, each holding some sort of weapon. My heart dropped. Madi is clinging on to me, her face shoved into my chest, sobbing. Andrew looks distant, like his brain wouldn’t allow him to process the situation. Lauren was also crying silent tears, and Kenny had an awful grimace that came from trying to look like he wasn’t scared to preserve his social status, and actually shitting his pants.
The figures were silent as they approach, they were humanoid in shape, but something about them was distinctly wrong. Maybe it was the way they appeared darker then they should have, even as they got closer and our flashlights could reach them. Maybe it was the way they seemed to float instead of walk as they moved, or maybe it was the noise that emitted from them. It was subtle, a small static like white noise, but its amazing how loud things sound when you haven’t heard noise at all in the last 45 minutes.
Three of the figures maneuvered themselves between us and the third gate, their gaze never breaking from our own. One stepped forward, his hands wrapped around what appeared to be a shotgun, the other two clutching giant clubs made of wood and scrap metal.
“You will turn around. Now.” The voice didn’t come from the man with the shotgun, but rather boomed through the air, as if the world itself were speaking to us.
Of course, my initial reaction was to turn around and get right the fuck out of there, as was everyone that was sane in our group. Kenny, however, stared forward with more purpose and drive then I’ve ever seen. He had finally done it, he had contacted and seen with his own two eyes something from another world. We all had. However unlike the rest of us, it hadn’t frightened Kenny, it had made him want to know more.
“No, no we are going to keep going. This is public land, you can’t stop us. I don’t believe that you will pull that trigger.” Kenny spoke back to the creatures with a calm precision. He really meant what he was saying, and I couldn’t understand how. I fought every urge in my body to turn around and bolt, and I walked forward to put my hand on Kennys shoulder.
“We need to go, man. I don’t think these guys are fucking around. We need to go.” I put emphasis at the end of the sentence, hoping that my good friend was just in some kind of shock induced state of overconfidence. I turned him around to look at the rest of us, instead of them. “Look at Madi, and Lauren,” I pointed at the two girls, the former’s head in her hands trying to avoid her surroundings, and the latter sitting down next to Madi, trying to put on a tough face and hardly succeeding.
“What, do you want to chicken out, just like Anders? This is all just meant to scare us okay, Daniel? Nothing is going to happ-“
A crack once again pierced the night, and I knew instantly that the shotgun had been fired. I didn’t even have time to scream before Kenny was gone. I don’t mean gone, as in dead, I mean gone. Ceased to be around. There was no trace of him, one moment he was talking to me, and the next my hand was no longer on the shoulder of my childhood best friend, but rather floating through the air back to my side. The figures were gone too.
“Kenny? Kenny!” I shouted into the nothingness. The sound was gone again, along with the creatures, so my voice felt like it would travel miles, but nothing came back. I turned back to everyone else, and they looked as petrified as I was.
“Where is he, Daniel? He was just right there! You had your damn hand on his shoulder, Daniel! Where is he!” Andrew was now in front of me, jabbing his finger into my chest as if somehow I was the one that caused this.
“I don’t..” I started
“That is bullshit!” Andrew shoved me hard enough that I stumbled backwards and almost fell over. “People don’t just disappear!” His rage quickly dissipated into worry as he walked over to where Kenny was just a few moments before and dropped to his knees. “We have to leave now, tell the police what happened, I don’t know.”
“We can’t just abandon him out here Andrew, we have to keep going.” It was Lauren that spoke this. The steely look on her face much different then the one she was wearing only a minute ago.
She was right. If we left right now, Kenny might as well be dead. He still might be dead, but if we keep going, maybe we can find those creatures again and try to strike a deal. There was nothing I wanted more then to leave this forest and never come back, but at this point, we didn’t have a choice.
Madi looked up for the first time since the dark men arrived, her entire face red, and tears staining her cheeks. When she spoke, her voice cracked and she sniffed to try to stop her nose from running to no avail.
“I don’t want to, I just want to go home.” She was defeated, and I didn’t blame her, however unless she wanted to walk back through the woods alone, she was going to have to get through it. Kenny needed us.
“I’m sorry, Madi, I know you’re scared. We all are. But we have to do this right now, we have to. We have to.” I repeated it twice, once for Madi, and once for myself. She looked back at me like a little kid being told she was going to be spanked, but she nodded her head, and let out another burst of tears before eventually standing on her own.
Without giving myself anymore time to think about it, I walked up to the third gate, put my hand on it, and walked around to the other side. The others followed me, if hesitantly.
The road that we had been walking on disappeared directly on the other side of the third gate, strangely enough, so we were back to walking through wooded terrain and keeping out eyes out to whatever may lurk in the trees. I had taken point in Kenny’s absence, Madi staying constantly at my side, followed by Andrew and Lauren. We walked in a tight square forward.
It was odd, but for some reason I just knew where to go. It was as if I was being guided, but by a force that was unseen or unfelt. I found myself making turns around certain trees, and crossing over a small stream at one point that would have been much easier to just walk along side. The tapping that I had been feeling on my shoulder previously was also getting stronger, and harder to ignore. It was persistent now, and the taps were becoming harder and more painful.
I could tell that the others were feeling something similar. Even though nothing was being said between them, all three of my companions would occasionally grimace, and hold a section of their body, or spin their head to look in a direction that had no calling to it. To their credit, especially poor Madi, no one said a word.
We ventured in silence for about 15 more minutes before we heard a scream. It was off in the distance, maybe fifty yards away I would guess. But with the lack of other sound, it was really hard to tell. Andrew and Lauren started running towards the sound call for help, and I was soon to follow. They were slightly ahead of us, and when we passed into a clearing the two in front of us stopped on a dime, nearly causing Madi and I to run straight into their backs. Andrews hand clapped over his mouth and Lauren turned away to vomit. I looked passed them, and saw my own mother being stabbed repeatedly by what I can only describe as a monster. It was pitch black like a shadow, with curled blades for hands and lanky canine looking legs, bent in directions that didn’t make any sense.
“Mom!” I screamed, mine almost as bloodcurdling as hers. I rushed forward and tried to tackle the creature attacking my mother, but right as I was about to lay into it, it too disappeared right in front of my eyes. I turned to find my mother, but she had been replaced with the face of another. An old man, with blood running down his lips, looking at me with a devilish smile. He licked his lips as he stared at me, and then vanished himself.
It took me a minute before I could move again. I had no idea what was real. Was this all a hallucination? It couldn’t be, because clearly everyone else saw the same thing as I did. I had no answers, nor any semblance of a clue what to make of the events that had happened. I fought back the urge to scream and vomit and walked back to our group.
“What are we even going to do, ya know, if we find him.” Andrew said, his eyes still trained on the ground where we had just seen two more beings disappear.
“We are going to fucking kill whoever took him.” Lauren spoke up, everything about her turned to ice. It almost made me more uncomfortable seeing the sweet, pretty girl who enjoyed watching makeup tutorials on YouTube and flirting with boys on Twitter look as hardened and shut off emotionally then it did seeing the spirits. Almost.
With a new sense of pace, we started back on the trail. My flashlight flicking back and forth between the trail in front of me and the trees beside me even more often now, and it wasn’t long before we reached the fourth gate. Or at least I think it was the fourth gate. There actually wasn’t a gate at all, but only a prominent mark in the ground, like someone had run their finger through wet concrete and molded it that way. I just knew that it was, however. I knew we were getting deeper into the game, closer to hell, I suppose.
I didn’t even bother to stop, I just kept walking. The moment I stepped past the ‘gate’ I knew I was correct. It felt like it dropped twenty degrees instantly. I also heard sound again, but it wasn’t the average forest sounds, it was distant wails, that could have been mistaken for a gust of wind in a different situation, but not this one. When Madi stepped over the line, her face froze and she looked at me. I did my best to smile for reassurance, but I’m sure it wasn’t worth much. She put her head back down and pulled her jacket closer around her.
“Are we going to talk about how we made it here? To the fourth gate? With no fucking directions?” Andrew was looking at me, and then pointed back down at the line in the dirt. “I mean, of all the turns we could have taken, all the different routes we could have gone down. This ‘gate’ is hardly six feet long in a forest that’s how big? And! And! How in the did we even know this was supposed to be a gate? I can’t be the only one that just knew?” Andrew was ranting, something he did to cope with things. Normally it was when a guy pissed him off at school by talking to a girl he was interested in, or how his favorite football team lost and it was all on the referees, this time it was about ghosts that kidnapped and possibly killed our best friend.
“I don’t.. I don’t have an answer.. lets just keep moving okay, I don’t want to stand in one place for too long.” I replied.
“Fuck this.” Andrew crossed his arms and let out a shiver from the newfound cold, but continued to walk ahead of me. Lauren simply walked by his side and looked straight ahead, focused on an unknown point and mind set only on completing her objective.
The further we got into the land of the fourth gate, the harder it was to ignore the background sound to our trek. It was clearly screaming, and it was clearly in the direction we were heading. Then again, I guess we had given up rational thought the moment we decided to continue further into this damned hell forest instead of turning around and cutting our losses at one of us. I know that may sound fucked up to say, but I’m afraid that even if we make it out of here, our lives will never be the same again. I know mine won’t be.
I don’t really remember when, but at some point images started flashing through my head. Ones that were not my own. I saw ash and monsters, endless miles of snow, spiders by the millions crawling along the ground. They were terrifying, and would flash in front of my conscience every couple of minutes for a brief moment. It was distracting, I wanted them to stop and after awhile started cringing every time I knew I was due for another. As we grew deeper, the visions grew longer.
Eventually it became all I could do to focus on walking straight. My gut instinct was to sit down, and close my eyes to try to make it stop. I knew that wouldn’t help, but I had the strongest urge to do it anyway. I persisted. I kept moving. I trained my eyes on the back of Andrews head, and grounded myself there.
It was in the middle of one of these visions, one where I was flying but my wings were on fire, and I knew that soon I would fall to my death, that I heard Madi scream again. I snapped back to reality and looked to my right, where she had been stationed all evening. She was gone, but not in the way that Kenny had been gone, this time there was a trail of blood. I don’t think that makes it better.
“P…please… help..” I followed the voice up a tree and saw Madi pinned to the trunk, a thick branch penetrating through her stomach. I crossed the distance between us in moments and looked up. She was out of my reach, and her eyes were closing quickly.
“Madi! Please, stay with us. We can help!” I yelled up to her, desperately wracking my brain for any solution. I whipped around to find Lauren climbing a dogwood next to the one Madi was impaled on. Andrew and I looked on helplessly.
“I got you Madi, I got you.” Lauren’s voice was reassuring as she worked her way a good fifteen feet off the ground to a crossing point between the two trees. I had forgotten how much of a climber Lauren had been in elementary school. It felt like ages ago, but it sure as hell was useful now.
Lauren reached over and made the jump. Madi followed her lazily, a drunken haze settling over her whole body. Lauren began to slowly climb down the the level our friend was at, and cradled her head. She then looked back down at us and shook her head. There was nothing we could do.
“You have to try, Lauren. Please get her down.” I begged, I couldn’t handle another loss. Lauren grimaced, and did the only thing that could possible save her. She broke the branch as close to Madi’s body as she could and she pulled her off. I’m not sure actually, if she managed to pull her the whole way off the tree branch. It wasn’t long after Lauren touched her,
Madi disappeared into thin air.
I sat down on my knees and cried. With Kenny, we could force ourselves into thinking he was still alive somewhere, just kidnapped by some mysterious force, waiting for us to save him. Madi was dead. I don’t know where her body went, but I could see the life drain from her eyes when she was up on that tree. I don’t think I will ever get the image out of my head. Can you imagine? Seeing your best friend, one who begged you to leave and that you forced to keep going, impaled on a tree limb, screaming for her life? Knowing you couldn’t save her?
There wasn’t much time for grieving, however. Whatever resided in this forest didn’t care about feelings. I only had about a minute of freedom before the visions started again. Piles of bones, my home being swallowed by an earthquake, creatures of indescribable horror chasing after me. The pressure that I felt pushing me forward didn’t stop either. I could feel it pick me up from below my armpits, literally, mind you, and shove me forward.
Lauren made her way down from the spot she had been trying to rescue Madi, no expression on her face, and walked right past me in the direction that I had been shoved. Clearly she was getting directions too. Andrew put his head down, and walked behind her, leaving me as the last to follow. I took one last glance back, and continued on. There was nothing else I could do.
The fifth gate didn’t exist, at least physically. No one had spoken a word for the mile walk after Madi’s death until eventually Lauren spoke.
“We just passed the fifth gate.”
Of course, I felt it too. Instead of feeling hands tapping or shoving, it now felt like a constant pressure. Like when you were five years old and your 6’8 uncle gave you a bear hug. Only then you knew it would eventually end. The visions have gotten increasingly worse, but I’m starting to become numb to them. They are just a part of me now, I’ve accepted that.
I hadn’t noticed it, but the terrain around us was changing as well. Things around us were just.. dead.. now. The trees were growing more and more brown, leaves becoming more scarce as we continued on. Plants with blooming flowers were replaced with thickets of thorn brush. Animal carcasses littered the distance. It seemed unlikely that we were even still in an earthly plane anymore, the more I thought about it. Something like this would have garnered the attention of the local government in an attempt to stop whatever was causing the death, and as far as I could remember when we were looking at Google Maps of the area, there was no such large lifeless area.
It wasn’t long until we saw the eyes again. It felt less eerie this time around, and more sinister. As if the surrounding forest wasn’t enough, as soon as I saw the bright green glow around us I felt the death of the place. It weighed on me like a thousand pounds. I glanced at my friends. Andrew was darting his head back and forth in all directions, while Lauren kept her focus straight ahead, ignoring her surroundings completely as she had been for what seemed like years.
“You have one last chance.” The same voice as before at the third gate boomed through the air like a tornado. None of us listened.
Moments later, the dark figures appeared again, weapons in hand. They were more grizzly this time, however. No longer shrouded in dark capes, but rather flaunting their unnatural bodies to us. Their limbs were too long, bodies too thick, and worst of all, their skin was pulled so taut against their bones that it looked like a demon summoned from a sacrificial ritual. I guess, in a way, they were.
They had only appeared for a moment before they rushed at us. Unlike the previous encounter, where they had stood still and simply waited, this time they came at us from all sides, sprinting. I immediately sprung into a sprint forward of my own, Lauren and Andrew doing the same.
“We need to find a way through!” I shouted, even though I was only a foot or two behind, the white noise emitting from the creatures was deafening.
“Split… that… can’t reach.. all” I could only heard bits and pieces of what Lauren was saying, but her message was clear. She wanted us to split up, each running in a different direction, so that hopefully they would chase one, and leave the others. I couldn’t have disagreed more.
“Someone will die, Lauren! We have to stay together!” I screamed back. Like hell was I going to lose another person to this damn forest.
“One.. us.. all” I overheard. She thought it was going to either be one of us or all of us. She was probably right, but that didn’t make it okay. I just ran as hard as I could behind her. The creatures were closing in, and I had just managed to sneak by one of the incoming demons in front of us as he swung his club at me by dodging to the left. It wasn’t going to last though, I was running out of steam, and fast. That, along with the fact that I had no idea how long we would have to outrun these things, or if we even could, made me want to give up. Maybe it would be easier to just give in. Let this nightmare be over.
The thought of Madi and Kenny was enough to pull me through. I pictured Madi’s face as she breathed her last breath, and the look of determination in Kenny’s eyes as he stared down these dark men the first time. I had to keep going.
Suddenly, Andrew stopped. It nearly knocked me over as I tried to pull him with me, but he didn’t budge.
“Andrew, what are you doing. Come on! We have to move!” I shook him, and he just shook his head at me.
“I can’t do it, Daniel. I give up.” A single tear fell from his right eye, and he sat on the ground. The demons were nearly on us from the back now. I grabbed my friends arm and pulled harder, trying to force his hand, but he was dead weight.
“Go on. Lauren needs to. Save them. I’m sorry.” Andrew turned around and ran towards the creatures that were coming from the back, and threw his body into them. I hadn’t even noticed that the ones in front of us had reached me as well, but they just ran straight past, all converging on Andrew, tearing his body apart limb from limb until there was nothing left. I couldn’t watch, so I spun around, and sprinted forward again. I took one last glance behind me as I caught up to Lauren, only to see what was left of Andrew disappear, just as the others had, along with the dark men.
“How do we do this, Lauren?” I asked, stopping momentarily to catch my breath.
“We are dead already, Daniel. Don’t you get that.” It wasn’t a question. I saw no sympathy for our mutual friend in her face, no remorse. Then, without another word, she walked again. Onward towards the next gate. One step closer to hell. If you didn’t count what we were in as hell already, that is.
The sixth gate came and passed. I didn’t say a word, neither did she. I don’t think either of us really know what we are going on for at this point. I’ve given up on saving them. I guess I only move forward because it seems a waste to go back. The visions have completely taken over my sight. I only see horrors now, and my legs walk on their own. The silence of the forest has been completely replaced by screams of agony and anguish. I look down at my arms, during a brief moment of clarity, to find them covered in bone deep gashes, and bruises that are dark, and large. I chuckle to myself, despite everything. I didn’t even feel these injuries. At least if I die, it will be painless.
We traveled for hours, and eventually that little presence that had been guiding us the whole time went away too. We wandered aimlessly, with no way of knowing where the seventh gate would be. The final gate. I tried for a moment to think about it logically, but it was hard to do anything besides concentrate on not going insane.
Finally, it came to me. Each gate had some sort of trial, an attempt by the forest to get us to leave. Gate one was our phones going off. Enough to dissuade some, but not us. Gate two was the first presence of the supernatural, when we all knew this wasn’t normal. Gate three, the first appearance of the dark men, and the loss of Kenny. Four, Madi. Five, Andrew. The thought popped into my mind at the same time as it did to Lauren. Undoubtedly from whatever devil source has been guiding us this whole time.
Only one can go on.
I tried to ignore it. Lauren didn’t. She spun around only a moment after the voice rattled through our heads and clocked me straight in the jaw. She was a small girl, but it was enough force to send me to my knees.
“What are you doing! We can-” Another punch to the temple. This time my vision blacked out, and I curled up into a ball on the ground.
“No. The forest has rules. You play by them, or you die. How haven’t you learned.” She shouted, before sending a kick to my exposed back. I began to cry. Another kick, then another. Finally, she turned me over and knelt over top of me, resting her thumbs against my eyes.
“You were always weak, Daniel.” Lauren spoke, and then began jamming her thumbs into my eye sockets. I can’t begin to describe the pain. It’s unimaginable, even with the torment I have experienced in the last eight hours. My body responded, rolling to the side and throwing Lauren off balanced enough for me to push her away. I grabbed my head and tried to think. I didn’t have long before she was on top of me again, her arms around my neck this time, trying to choke me.
I threw her off again, begging her to stop and think, figure out a logical solution. She was having none of it. She came back again, and again. Each time I threw her away, using my size and strength to my own advantage. I could tell she was tiring. Her attempts were getting weaker and weaker.
She came at me again, and I threw her again. This time, she didn’t get up. I walked over to her, my hands still massaging my eyes, trying to get feeling back to them. When she turned around, the ice in her eyes had melted back to the warm ocean blue that I remembered so fondly.
“Daniel.. what’s.. whats going on.. I can’t… I can’t feel my legs.” She whimpered. I looked down, and immediately realized the problem. The last time I had thrown her away, she had landed on a large rock. That rock had cut open the back of her neck, and bone was sticking through the skin. I had broken her neck.
“It’s going to be okay, Lauren. I’m right here. We’re gonna make it.” I tried to soothe her, but the fear in her eyes broke my heart. I knew it was all a lie. I cradled her in my arms, and did my best to keep her company. After a minute, she was gone. Disappeared, just like the others. Suddenly, I was alone.
When I looked back up, the seventh gate was directly in front of me, a grand sight. It reminded me of Wayne Manor in the Batman comic books, Victorian in style, elegant, and flawless.. Behind it, was the fabled asylum. It didn’t appear to have any fire damage, as was suggested, but rather looked pristine, like it had been build yesterday. Initially, I questioned it, but it was fleeting. I knew I just had to get there.
As I walked up to it, the gate opened in front of me. I stepped through, and suddenly all the noise, voices, pressure, everything was all gone. It felt normal, like I was just walking through the forest again. All of my cuts and bruises were mended, and my mind was my own. I walked to the front door of the asylum, and rested my hand upon the handle. With a deep breath, I swung it open.
Standing in front of me were Kenny, Madi, Lauren, and Andrew. I wanted to be relieved, but the sight of them made it hard. All four were battered, bloody, and crying. I tried to run to them, but an invisible force kept me from entering the asylum that held them captive. One of the dark men came from out of the shadows of the room to the right, and slashed through Kenny. He let out a guttural scream, followed by a cry for help. I pounded on the invisible wall, and screamed, but they could not hear me.
“Save them all, or save yourself.” The familiar boom of the dark men echo’d through the air, and I spun around to see the creature directly behind me. Hot breath scorching my face. For once, the presence no longer seemed menacing, but inquisitive. I tried to hit it, but my hand went right through it.
“What do you mean!” I shouted,
“Save them all, or save yourself.” It just repeated itself. Its bright green eyes staring into my soul.
I guess I should be thankful. I had given up any hope of saving my friends, and now I had the opportunity to. I wish I could come back with them, but the dark men have made it clear that, that isn’t a possibility. They did let me write a note though. I know you won’t remember this, but I hope that you can take me seriously when I say: Don’t attempt the seven gates of hell. It isn’t worth it.
Signed, Daniel Huntington
* * * * * *
My name is Lauren Lopez, and this letter was delivered to my house earlier today. I don’t know, it probably isn’t real, but just in case I wanted to share it with you all. I don’t know anyone by the name of Daniel Huntington, but the whole thing does feel kind of familiar. I have a feeling it’s one of Kenny’s tricks to try to get us to do something he doesn’t think we will all want to do. If that was his plan though, it worked.
I had never heard of the seven gates of hell, but the four of us are going tonight.
I’m writing this as somewhat of a warning, but also a slight cry for help. I do not know who else to turn to that may take me seriously, and I know this community is often eager to help in situations like this.
A few months ago in late July, I attended a music festival with my girlfriend, Debbie. This particular festival was in a small Wisconsin town called Twin Lakes. It went on from Thursday until past midnight on Sunday, so by the time we left the last show, trudged through the mud, packed up the last of our belongings from the campsite and drove past the stampede of fellow festival goers, it was pretty late.
Her and I have attended this festival for the past four years. It’s pretty much common knowledge amongst the community that cell phone service is completely gone after the first day. I think it’s a combination of being in a small town, and randomly filling a small area with thousands of people, that causes the service to dissipate so quick. Because we were aware of this, we fully expected to not have use of our phone’s GPS system to help us navigate the town. This didn’t worry us though, because like I said, this was our fourth year and had pretty much learned the route back home by now.
Unfortunately, the usual route we were prepared to take was completely blocked off. We saw flashing red and blue lights in the distance, and later learned one of the festival goers had been struck by a vehicle. After waiting for 20 minutes and not moving an inch, Debbie and I agreed we should try and find another way back. We pulled a U-turn and began to drive in the opposite direction. After a few minutes we saw a side street and decided we’d try it out.
This road… well, it was dark. Really dark. The kind of dark where you drive slow and blare your high beams – which is what I did. Being into horror films, I took the opportunity to make a comment on our creepy surroundings to Debbie. She kind of laughed, but I noticed the fear in her voice and eyes. Being the loving guy I am, I decided I would take advantage of her fear and scare her even more. Boyfriend of the Year, am I right?
I switched from the AUX settings in the car to the radio and immediately switched to AM. I scanned one by one until I found one that was just blaring white noise, I left it on and began making comments to Debbie in different horror-inspired voices… things like “They’re watching us” and “Tonight seems like a nice night to die, don’t you think?” The crazy thing was, Debbie didn’t find my hilarious jokes very entertaining and kept trying to shut the radio off. Buzzkill.
I agreed to cut the act and told her it can all end if she played along a little bit, by choosing one random AM station for us to listen to. With an annoyed sigh, Debbie reached over and spun the dial with little thought. The station she landed on was AM 630.
She hit the spooky jackpot with that one. What we heard could only be described as a little girl singing with a high-pitched, distorted voice. I immediately began laughing at her selection, since it was exactly what I was hoping we’d find and so much more. I whipped out my phone and recorded a Snapchat video of our reactions, which I’ll link below:
I continued to laugh while Debbie nervously chuckled. I actually found it strange and a bit unnerving myself, but did not want to let it show in front of her… macho-guy-routine, and all that. I went ahead and switched back to the AUX and continued our drive home. A few minutes after switching back, the music got cut off once again, and my high-pitched ringtone flooded the car with an ear-piercing jingle. The number was strange and told me it was from Russia, so I ignored it. I had recently purchased a URL from GoDaddy and made the foolish decision to not make it private, so my mobile number was made public for all the spammers to find. That meant receiving calls from randomly generated numbers became a common occurrence, which is why this one did not phase me too much. It did a little, though. Most of the spam numbers I received were domestic, and were received during weekday afternoons. I had never received one at almost 1 AM on a Sunday night– let alone one from Russia.
Not too long after rejecting that call, I received another. Again, it was an international number, this time, from Morocco. I figured it was the same person as before, using the same random number generator, and once again ignored the number. A few minutes passed when– you guessed it… another call. This one, though, was in fact domestic. The call was coming from Phoenix, Arizona. Since this was from inside the US and I was finally angry enough to answer and chew out the solicitor on the other end, I picked up.
I wish I didn’t.
I angrily asked “Hello?!” several times and did not receive an answer. Usually, that would be my cue to hang up, but I was annoyed and felt persistent (not to mention Debbie was watching, and ya know… macho-guy-routine). I knew someone was there, because I was able to hear some background static, and the faint sound of someone breathing.
“Hey, asshole, I know you’re there. What the hell do you want? What can you possibly be trying to sell at this hour?”
The silence lingered for a few more seconds, before it was broken. I began to hear music. But not just any music… it was the same style of music we heard on the creepy radio station we had turned off just before receiving the calls. I felt my face get flush and sort of just frozen up, phone still on my ear. I don’t know how long I sat there like that, before I was snapped out of it. I hadn’t realized what snapped me out of it until Debbie broke the silence in the car.
“Ugh, what does he want?”
I looked into the rear view mirror and saw what Debbie was referring to. There was a pickup truck tailgating behind us that had flashed it lights. The driver did it again– just one quick burst of their high beams in our direction. I had no idea what they could have wanted. I was going 5-10 miles over, so it wasn’t because I was impeding traffic. It was a two-lane road with no oncoming traffic, so even if they were in a hurry, they could easily have gone around us and sped up.
At this point, I was still on the phone, and still had not heard anything but the music coming from the other end. For whatever reason, I did not hang up, and was too distracted by the tailgater to try and pry more info from the caller. After about 30 seconds of being dangerously close to our car, the truck finally began to switch lanes in attempt to pass us.
It was dark, so I could not see into the drivers car through the windshield, and when they were beside us, we realized their windows were tinted very dark (definitely past the legal limit). In that moment, it did not mean much to me, since I figured they would speed pass us and be out of our hair soon. That… didn’t happen. The truck got in front of us and slowly began to apply their brakes. Red flags, everywhere. I had read enough stories of criminal encounters to know this easily could be a trap to rob us, or worse.
I knew I had to be tactical to avoid any problems. Debbie, on the other hand, wasn’t thinking so clearly. Feeling tired, anxious to be home and now annoyed to her breaking point by this driver, she swiftly reached out her arm and pressed down firmly on my car horn. It wasn’t the first time she had pulled this move and it’s something she does that I absolutely hate. I always tell her she’s going to get us into some serious confrontation one day– a serious confrontation that will have to be handled by me– so I’m usually quick to grab her hand and remove it from the horn. This time though, I was frozen.
I was still on the phone with the mystery caller at this point, subconsciously transfixed on the chilling audio that was radiating into my ear. From the phone, I heard it… my car horn. It was delayed by a nano-second and sounded far away, but I knew it was the same. I heard my car horn coming from the other end of the call. Whoever was in that truck, was the person I was speaking to. The person who called us with the suspicious numbers. The person who was playing the same radio station we had randomly discovered. And now, the same person who almost got us to come to a complete stop in the middle of a Wisconsin back-road at 1 in the morning.
Fight-or-flight is a funny thing… it’s very impressive how fast your mind can actually process information when it’s fueled by fear. In what felt like a blink of an eye, my mind ran with the possibility of reaching for the baseball bat I kept in the back seat and coming at this driver with all my might. That fantasy quickly went South, as I pictured a group of grown men with guns spilling out of the truck, killing me and doing God-knows-what to Debbie. I thank God to this day that the stupid macho-guy-routine came to an end right then and there.
I quickly and haphazardly, slammed down on the gas and swerved around the truck, picking up as much speed as I could. I might not have the fastest car in the world, but it’s in pretty good condition. It was more than enough to escape the old, worn-out pickup truck that was following us.
After about 10 minutes of speeding well past the legal limit, blowing stop signs and living out all my Vin Diesel fantasies, we were back in the more sprawling, busy areas of our route. There was no sign of the truck. Debbie, who was screaming at me for the first few minutes of this escape, was reduced to quiet crying as she clutched a pillow tight to her chest. My adrenaline had worn off, and now I was feeling shaky.
We had been riding in dead silence this whole time, so I reached down to the floor of the car for my phone. I figured we can both benefit in some cheery music to help lighten the mood, since we both clearly were not eager to discuss what had just happened. I grabbed the phone and tapped the home button. The screen illuminated… and I saw that I was still in the middle of a call. I never hung up the phone before speeding away… and apparently, neither did the mysterious caller on the other end. We approached a red light and I slowed down to a stop. That’s when I put the phone up to my ear. My breathing was undoubtedly audible at this point.
At first I was met with silence, other than the same muted white noise as before. The silence was broken by the caller. In a deep voice, I heard one sentence that filled by body with nauseating chills.
“Almost had you.”
After that, the call was ended.
I must have looked shaken, because Debbie nervously asked me what was wrong. I simply shook my head without a word and continued driving. About 30 minutes later, we arrived home. At that point we were so exhausted that we walked inside, decided to leave unpacking the car for the next day, and dropped into the bed without even bothering with showers.
* * * * * *
The next morning, I grabbed the keys and went to go bring the car closer to our apartment entrance in order to speed up the process of emptying all our camping gear. I got to the car and when I hit the “unlock” button on the keys, I did not hear the sound of the doors unlocking. Instead, I heard the dull thud of the locks remaining the same. In our tired daze the night prior, we had neglected to lock the doors. I peeked inside the car and saw that everything seemed to still be there, including some cash that was visibly strewn across the passenger seat. I figured we had gotten lucky and proceeded to get inside.
Right away, I knew something was wrong. It was the smell. Whether you know it or not, every single person has a scent. You can smell it when walked into certain homes, or smelling someone’s worn clothing. In that moment, I was picking up a scent that did not belong to me or Debbie. It wasn’t bad, per se, but it was undeniable– slightly musty, with a hint of menthol. I got out of the car and inspected it once more. Again, nothing seemed out of place. I took a breath and told myself I was imagining things. Once again, I climbed into the driver’s seat, this time ignoring the unusual smell. I stuck my key in the ignition and fired up the car.
I almost jumped out of my skin when the radio began to blare. I could have sworn we had turned it off but hell, I thought we had locked the doors too. It wasn’t the radio being on that scared me. It was the fact that the radio was on it’s loudest setting… and was programmed to AM 630.
I could almost hear my heart beating rapidly as I stared wide-eyed at the console. I knew, for a fact, we had switched to the AUX setting. I just knew it. The radio station was no longer playing the haunting sounds as the night prior, and was now projecting the sounds of some obscure talk radio or news channel. At that point, I did not have enough energy to deal with this any longer. I turned off the radio and drove the car up to our building entrance. Debbie was waiting there for me. We both looked exhausted. Without speaking very much, her and I worked together to empty the car. I parked it back in our spot, and that was that. There were no more weird calls (other than the usual spam), no strange discoveries with the car, that radio station, etc. I tuned into it a few times and found that it was still the same boring news channel. Since Debbie and I live in Chicago, I figured it made sense that it would change. Things went back to normal.
That is, until last week.
It started when I checked my phone in the middle of my lunch break at work. I had four missed calls, all from random numbers. The last one… was the same Phoenix number I picked up on the way back from Wisconsin. That number, had left a voicemail.
In the voicemail, as you may have guessed, was more of the creepy music we hear that night. There were no other sounds or voices. Just that damn music. Since then, I had noticed a lot of cars with Wisconsin license plates. It’s probably all in my head, I know. Cars from neighboring states is nothing crazy. But it just seems like there are way more than usual, parked around our apartment, driving past me on the street, etc. I would probably be able to brush all this off, if it wasn’t for what happened yesterday.
I was getting out of a meeting at work and checked my phone. I had three missed calls. Two from random numbers (again, nothing super unusual), and one from Debbie. She had left a voicemail. Upon playing it, I almost threw up my lunch.
It was the eerie music.
I called her right away, and she picked up after the first ring. She answered normally and I began to ask her what the voicemail was all about. At this point, I figured she was playing a prank on me this whole time, and just forgot to mask her number before making that particular call. I demanded she confess it was her, and when she finally started to cry while denying it all, I relented. I apologized for screaming at her. I explained everything that was happening for the past week and ended it all with her missed call and voicemail. It was quiet on her end. When she finally spoke, the adamant fear in her voice began to make sense.
She explained to me that she couldn’t have made that call. She was running errands, and had been grocery shopping at our local mega-chain supermarket. In a rush to stay on schedule, she had forgotten her phone in the car.
* * * * * *
I don’t know what to do. A small part of me still suspects she may be playing a very long practical joke on me, but she has never been the prank type. And even if she was, how could she have orchestrated the radio station or the pickup truck? It doesn’t add up. All I know is, I haven’t let down my guard for a while. I’m carrying a knife on me and am looking into getting my conceal-and-carry license ASAP. I’m going to insist Debbie does the same. She is not a fan of guns, so if she is behind this, maybe that will be what makes her confess.
Has anyone in the southern Wisconsin area, by ANY chance, had experience with this radio station? If not, PLEASE, do not access it. I can’t be sure the station itself has any connection to what’s been happening, but why risk it?
Reading Time: 16minutesThe sun was shining brightly overhead that particular afternoon, and the sound of birds chirping greeted the girl, as she made her way out of her school. It had been a long day, that particular day, and the girl was looking forward to going home, and relaxing for the weekend.
Sarah was a cute girl, who had short black hair that fell to her small rounded shoulders. She had dark brown eyes, and was garbed in a long sleeved black shirt, that was tucked neatly into a pair of jeans, with black shoes tied tightly to her feet.
“No homework all weekend, things can’t get any better!” Thought Sarah, as she made her way down the concrete steps, that led to the school’s main entrance. Just as the girl’s feet touched the final landing, her eyes fell on a familiar looking car. “Dad?” Sarah said, jogging over to the vehicle.
Sure enough, the girl’s father was sitting outside the school waiting for her. Sitting in the backseat, was the girl’s little sister, Cindy.
Cindy too was a cute girl, who had long black hair that fell to the small of her back, and dark brown eyes. Cindy wore a white t-shirt, that had pink sleeves, blue jeans skirt, white socks, and black shoes on her feet.
“Hey, kiddo,” the girls’ father said, smiling warmly at his sixteen year old daughter. “I came to pick you up!”
“You did?” Sarah asked, starting to grow nervous. The last time the girl’s father picked her up at school, it was back when her grandfather had passed away. “Did something happen?” She asked, nervously.
“No, no,” the man said, shaking his head. “I just have to work late tonight, so I thought I would drive you, and your sister home.”
“Oh, okay,” Sarah said, nodding.
“Hurry up!” Cindy said, from the backseat of the car. “I don’t want to miss Nana-Chan!”
Sarah made her way around the car. As the girl walked, she rolled her eyes. Her sister was eight years old, and she was obsessed with a children’s show called Nana-Chan! Sarah climbed into the car, and soon they were driving down a long street. As they drove, no one said a word, except for Cindy who was humming the main tune for the Nana-Chan show.
“You’re obsessed with that show,” Sarah said, rolling her eyes again.
“Come on Sarah,” the girl’s father said, chuckling. “I remember you used to be obsessed with that show with the talking ponies in it, remember?”
“I do not,” Sarah lied, looking away from her father. After a few seconds, the girl continued. “I’m just teasing you Cindy, you know that, right?”
“Yeah,” Cindy said, giggling.
Sarah didn’t do it often, but sometimes she felt the need to tease her sister. She did love her after all.
A few minutes later, the car came to a stop. “Here we are,” their father said, stopping the car.
“Are you coming in?” Sarah asked, opening the car door.
“I can’t. I have to get going. I’ll see you tomorrow though.” Their father said.
“Okay,” Sarah said.
“Bye, daddy!” Cindy said, as she climbed out of the car. Her father leaned his head out of the window, and after Cindy kissed his cheek, the girl ran up to the door of the house, and eagerly waited for Sarah to unlock the door.
“Bye, dad!” Sarah said, once more, before making her way to the house. After unlocking the door, the two girls went inside. Sarah made her way into the kitchen to start making a snack for Cindy, while Cindy ran into the living room. Moments later, the sound of Nana-Chan’s theme song was floating throughout the house.
Sarah giggled, and shook her head. After finishing up in the kitchen, the girl made her way into the living room, with a small plate of apple slices. “Here you go, eat them all,” she said, setting the plate down in her sisters lap.
“I will,” Cindy said, not taking her eyes off the television.
Sarah glanced up at the screen. A small, thin girl could be seen on the television. The girl wore a white, buttoned up t-shirt. A red skirt, with matching suspenders. She also wore white socks on her feet, and black shoes. What stood out the most about Nana-Chan wasn’t her clothes, but the mask she wore on her head. The costume head she wore. The head looked like a normal girl. It had blond hair that was tied into twin pigtails, large blue eyes, and a gentle smile.
The strange thing about Nana-Chan, was the fact that she never spoke. Instead, she danced around the screen, struck silly poses, and words would flash up on the screen. Not only that, but the set itself looked cheaply made. A small house that clearly looked like it was painted on a large piece of wood was located in the background, and two painted trees were located on both sides of the house. A fake sun dangled from the ceiling as well.
“Seriously? How could anyone enjoy this show?” Sarah wondered to herself.
Just as the girl was about to join her sister, the sound of someone knocking on the front door caught her attention. Making her way to the door, Sarah peered through the peephole in the door. On the other side of the door, Sarah spotted her two friends.
“Hey, girls,” Sarah said, opening the door.
“Hey,” said a girl named Teri. Teri was a short girl, who had long blond hair that fell to the small of her back. Bright blue eyes, and small rounded shoulders.
“Hello,” said Ashley. Ashley was slightly taller than both Sarah, and Teri. She had long red hair, bright emerald green eyes, and small rounded shoulders.
“What’s that sound?” Teri asked, before any of the girls could say anything else.
“Oh, Cindy’s watching the Nana-Chan show,” Sarah said.
“Nana-Chan!” Teri said, angrily. “That hussy stole my little sister!”
“She’s my little sister,” Sarah said.
Teri ignored what Sarah said, and continued. “I remember when I used to come over, the second Cindy heard my voice, she would come running! What happened to her? Where’s my little sister?” Teri said, pretending to sob.
“Clearly she’s Nana-Chan’s little sister now,” Sarah said.
A loud scream suddenly came from the living room. “Sarah! Sarah!” Cindy cried.
Sarah turned on her heels, and ran as fast as she could into the living room. “What’s wrong!?” Sarah asked, looking around the living room. To the girl’s relief, Cindy didn’t look hurt. She was now standing, and pointing at the television. “What is…” she began, making her way over to where her sister was standing.
On the television, Sarah could see Nana-Chan was gesturing with her hands, as though trying to tell someone off screen to come over to her, at the bottom of the screen were several words.
“Let’s see…” Sarah began. “Come meet Nana-Chan in person, tomorrow at the Lincoln Mall?” Sarah read.
“Can we go? Please!?” Cindy begged.
“After the heart attack you gave me?” Sarah asked.
“What’s going on?” Ashley asked. She, and Teri had followed Sarah into the living room. Each wore worried looks on their faces.
“Oh, it looks like Nana-Chan is going to be at the Lincoln Mall tomorrow, and Cindy wants me to take her,” Sarah said, rolling her eyes.
“I want to go too!” Teri said, holding up her right hand.
“Why?” Ashley asked, confused. “I thought you hated her.”
Teri snickered, as she crossed her arms in front of her chest. “I do, but I would never pass up the opportunity to look my rival in the eye, and tell her to stay away from my little…”
“I’m not taking you,” Sarah said, cutting her friend off. Sarah looked away from her friend, but her eyes fell on Cindy. Cindy’s eyes were large, and pleading.
“Puppy dog eyes…” Sarah breathed. “My one weakness… Fine!” Sarah said. “I’ll take you, but we have to ask mom, and dad first, okay?”
“Okay!” Cindy said, nodding several times.
* * * * * *
Later that night, after Teri, and Ashley went home, Sarah was in her room, finishing the rest of her homework. “I think that’s about it…” The girl said, in a low voice. Rubbing her sore eyes, Sarah got to her feet, and stretched her hands high over her head. Turning on her heels, the girl made her way out of her bedroom, and now stood in front of her little sisters room.
Gently taking the doorknob in her hands, she opened the door, and peered inside. The girl could see the sleeping form of her sister, curled up in a tight ball, under her warm blankets.
After closing the door, the girl was about to go to her bedroom, when she heard the front door open, and then close.
Sarah slowly made her way downstairs. Even though she was certain who it was, the girl was always cautious. Peering into the living room, Sarah spotted her mother. “Hey mom,” the girl said.
The girl’s mother turned quickly. “Sarah,” she breathed deeply, touching her chest. “You scared me.”
“Sorry about that,” Sarah said, smiling. “How was work?”
“Work was work,” the woman said, smiling back at her daughter. “How was school?” she asked.
Sarah took a deep breath. “School was school,” she said, dully.
“Yeah,” Sarah said, nodding. “Speaking of Cindy. There’s something she wanted me to ask you.”
“Uh-oh,” the woman said, making her way towards the kitchen.
“It’s nothing bad, really. It’s about Nana-Chan,” Sarah began. “It turns out that Nana-Chan is going to be at the mall tomorrow, and she was wondering if she could go. The event is free, and I’m willing to take her.”
“Nana-Chan?” Sarah’s mother said, furrowing her eyebrows. “Oh, that weird girl she’s obsessed with, right?”
“Yeah,” Sarah said, nodding.
“I have to work tomorrow,” the woman said.
“I don’t mind taking her,” Sarah said.
“What about your weekend? Do you really want to spend it like that?” The woman asked.
Sarah didn’t answer right away. In reality, she didn’t want to go to the mall just so her sister could see a strange girl, with a giant head, dance around for a few hours. “Not really, but I love Cindy, so I don’t mind going. It’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.”
Sarah’s mom smiled warmly at her daughter. “You’re a good big sister, that’s for sure. I would have just said no myself,” the woman admitted. “Alright, if you want to take her, you can. Here…” She began, reaching into her pocket, and pulling out a little money.
“No, it’s free,” Sarah said, holding up her hands.
“I want you to take it. Buy yourself something, okay?” The woman said.
Sarah nodded, and took the money. “Thanks, mom.”
* * * * * *
Cindy could barely contain her excitement, as she and her big sister, made their way down several long streets, and were soon standing in front of Lincoln mall. The mall wasn’t very big, and only had about twenty stores inside. “Where is the event being held?” Sarah wondered, looking up, and down the mall.
The parking lot was nearly empty, and it didn’t look like anything special was actually happening there.
Cindy bounced up, and down on her feet, as she held her sisters hand. The girl was smiling brightly as well. “I wonder if I’ll be on TV!” the girl said, excitedly.
“I don’t know, kiddo,” Sarah said, giving her sisters hand a gentle squeeze. “Are you sure this event is taking place at this mall? I mean…” Sarah began, but stopped talking when she spotted a strange figure out of the corner of her eyes. For a split second, Sarah thought she saw Nana-Chan standing on the left side of the mall. For a moment she stood there, before turning, and making her way through a metal door.
“There,” Sarah said, pointing at the door.
“I think I saw her!” the girl said.
Sarah and Cindy ran as fast as they could until they reached the metal door. When the girls were close enough, they spotted a paper sign hanging on the door. “Come meet Nana-Chan!” was written, in crayon, on the sign.
“This is it,” Sarah said, looking down at her sister. “Are you nervous?”
Cindy nodded her head. “A little,” she said. “I hope she likes me.”
“I’m sure she’ll love you!” Sarah said, and with those words, she opened the door, and the two stepped inside.
At first, the girls saw nothing. The room was dark, and it was nearly impossible to make anything out. Sarah swallowed hard as she, and her sister started to walk forwards. As they walked, light started to come on, and soon the girls could see.
The room they stood in was large. Located on one side of the room, was the set for Nana-Chan’s show. The fake, painted house could be seen. The two trees located on both sides of the house, and the fake sun, that dangled from the ceiling. Seeing it in person, felt surreal, but it didn’t change Sarah’s feelings about the show.
“There!” Cindy said, pointing forwards.
Sarah looked down at her sister, and then back up at where she was pointing. Now standing in front of the fake house, was Nana-Chan. The girl had her back to them. “That’s weird,” she thought. “I didn’t see her before.”
Cindy was overwhelmed with excitement. Letting her sister’s hand go, Cindy ran as fast as she could towards the girl. When she was close enough, she threw her arms around Nana-Chan. “Nana-Chan! I’m a huge fan of yours! I love you!” she cried.
Nana-Chan didn’t say, or do, anything. She simply stood there, her back still turned to Cindy. After a few awkward seconds, Cindy let the girl go. It was then that Nana-Chan started to move.
Nana-Chan turned so she was now facing Cindy. Raising one hand, the girl did her peace pose, before patting Cindy on the head. Cindy giggled. “Is anyone else coming? Can I be on the show?” the girl asked excitedly.
Nana-Chan didn’t answer using words. Instead, she tapped her chin thoughtfully, before she nodded her head several times.
“Thank you, Nana-Chan!” Cindy said happily.
Cindy turned to her sister and smiled brightly. “She said I can be on the show!”
“Awesome!” Sarah said, smiling back at her sister.
“This is kind of creepy,” Sarah thought. She felt chills running up her spine. “I get Nana-Chan doesn’t speak on her show, but why isn’t she saying anything now?”
Sarah turned her eyes away from her sister, and examined the rest of the large room. On the other side of the room was another doorway, but besides that, and the actual set itself, the girl could see nothing else.
The lights that illuminated the room were located on the ceiling. “Where are the cameras?” the girl wondered aloud.
After talking to her sister, Cindy turned to face Nana-Chan. The girl opened her mouth to say something else, but before she could say a word, Nana-Chan lunged at the girl and wrapped her fingers tightly around her neck. Cindy gasped as her oxygen was cut off.
“St…” Cindy began, grabbing Nana-Chan’s hands, and trying to pry them off her throat. To the girl’s surprise, Nana-Chan was incredibly powerful.
Cindy opened her mouth to cry for her sister, but she couldn’t utter a sound. Tears formed in the corners of her eyes, and her head felt light.
“Hey!” Sarah screamed. The girl suddenly appeared, and slammed her body into Nana-Chan’s. The sudden blow did manage to knock Nana-Chan away from her sister. Cindy sank to her knees and started coughing violently. “Are you okay?” Sarah asked, dropping to her knees in front of her sister.
“She… tried…” Cindy began, tears streaming down her cheeks.
“What the hell is wrong with you!?” Sarah screamed, narrowing her eyes at Nana-Chan. It was at that moment that a sharp pain ripped through Sarah’s shoulder. “Oh, man,” the girl rasped, grabbing her shoulder. Adrenaline had been pumping through the girl’s veins when she slammed her body into Nana-Chan’s. Now that it had stopped, she could feel the pain.
Nana-Chan didn’t say a word. Instead, she turned on her heels and faced the two girls. “Say something!” Sarah demanded. “Why were you choking my sister? What’s wrong with you!?”
Nana-Chan didn’t speak. Instead, she took a step towards the two girls.
Sarah opened her mouth to say something else, but a thought stopped her. “She’s not here for a show, she’s trying to kill Cindy!” Sarah picked her sister off the ground. “We have to go, now!” Sarah said, grabbing Cindy’s hand. The two girls ran as fast as they could towards the door. Once they were there, Sarah grabbed the handle and pulled, but to her horror, the door refused to budge.
“Help!” Sarah screamed, slamming her fists into the door. “Someone, help us!”
“Help! Please!” Cindy cried, as more and more tears trickled down her cheeks.
The two girls pounded against the door with all their might. It was at that second that Sarah remembered Nana-Chan. Turning Quickly, the girl saw their attacker was now standing directly behind them. Not only that, but she was holding a large axe over her head.
“Shit!” Sarah screamed, grabbing her sister, and leaping out of the way, just as Nana-Chan brought the axe down hard. The axe slammed into the metal door, and even though it was made of metal, it still left a small hole in it.
Sarah rolled onto her back. The girl could hear her heart pounding in her ears. “Cindy, you have to get up!” the girl began, crawling backwards. Nana-Chan was slowly turning her attention towards the two girls. “You have to run, okay? Run!”
Cindy scrambled to her feet, and started running as fast as she could. Nana-Chan followed the girl with her eyes, before she took off after her. Sarah was surprised that even though Nana-Chan was still walking, she was incredibly fast.
“Stay away from her!” Sarah roared as she got to her feet as well, and ran after the two.
Cindy balled her hands into tight fists, closed her eyes, and ran as fast as she could. Before the girl reached the middle of the room however, something grabbed her right hand and spun her around. Cindy gasped as she fell backwards, and landed hard on her butt.
Nana-Chan towered over the girl. Raising the axe high over her head. Just as the girl was about to bring the axe down, Sarah kicked her hard in the back. The kick didn’t seem to faze Nana-Chan; the only thing it managed to do was get her attention.
Nana-Chan turned towards Sarah. “Fuck you!” Sarah screamed, angrily. “Going after a baby like that! Why don’t you come after me!?”
Nana-Chan didn’t respond. Instead, she just stood there, teetering back and forth as though she were drunk. Suddenly she moved forwards. The sudden movement surprised Sarah and nearly caught her off guard.
Turning quickly on her heels, Sarah began running as fast as she could. Sarah ran around the fake house, and pressed her back against it. “What the hell is going on here?” she thought. “Where am I going…” Before Sarah could finish her thought, the axe smashed through the wall beside her. Without thinking, Sarah pushed against it. To the girl’s surprise, and relief, the fake house toppled forwards and fell on top of Nana-Chan.
Sarah quickly found Cindy. Grabbing the girl’s hand, she guided the girl towards the other door. Grabbing the knob, she was relieved to see it open. The two girls now found themselves in a long hallway. “Here!” Sarah called out, guiding her sister down the hall and into an adjacent room.
The room didn’t have a door, but it did have three large black barrels, a few lockers, and a metal pipe, which was leaning against the wall, near the lockers. Sarah flung both lockers open, they were empty. “Damn,” Sarah sighed.
“Sissy…” Cindy sobbed. The girl had her arms wrapped around her sister’s waist, and she was crying uncontrollably.
“It’s okay,” Sarah said, patting her sister on the head. “I won’t let anything happen to you.”
* * * * * *
Nana-Chan opened the doorway the two girls had just run through, and slowly made her way down the long hallway. When she finally reached the room with no door, she peered inside. The room looked completely empty, except for the lockers located on the other side of the room. They were both ajar.
Nana-Chan quickly cleared the room. Without hesitating, she flung the first door open, but it was empty. Grabbing the next locker, she opened it as well, but it too was empty.
Nana-Chan turned just as Sarah appeared, swinging the metal pipe as hard as she could. The pipe struck the side of Nana-Chan’s head, causing the girl to fall backwards. “Run!” Sarah screamed, as she slammed one end of the pipe into Nana-Chan’s stomach.
Cindy ran out from her hiding spot behind the barrels, and out of the room as fast as she could. Sarah wanted to go with her, but had to make sure that Nana-Chan didn’t follow her.
Sarah took a step backwards and swung the pipe once more. This time, it struck Nana-Chan in the arm. The impact was hard, and painful, but Nana-Chan didn’t even seem to notice.
“What the hell are you?” Sarah demanded.
Sarah swung the pipe once more, but this time Nana-Chan caught it.
“Let go!” Sarah screamed, pulling and jerking against the pipe as hard as she could. Nana-Chan tugged on the pipe once, causing Sarah to stumble forwards.
Nana-Chan caught the girl by the neck with one hand and began to squeeze. Sarah gasped. The girl lashed out with her hands, kicking hard with her feet, but no matter what she did, the girl just couldn’t escape.
“No!” Sarah thought. Her mind felt like it was on fire. “I won’t die here! I won’t!”
Sarah’s focus quickly turned to Nana-Chan’s head. Grabbing it with all her might, the girl pulled. Nana-Chan let go of Sarah’s neck, grabbed her head as well, and tried to pull it back, but it was too late.
Sarah tugged the mask off Nana-Chan’s head, and tossed it aside. “Let’s see what you really look like!” Sarah said. At first she smiled a triumphant smile, but it quickly faded.
Nana-Chan stood before the girl, but underneath the large head, she had no face. Nana-Chan had no hair either, nor any eyes, nose, or mouth. All she had was a blank head, with a black bruise that moved around on its own. Sarah’s eyes went wide with terror, and she started to get dizzy.
“What… are… you?” the girl cried out in exasperation.
“Sarah!” Cindy screamed.
Sarah shook her head as she turned away from Nana-Chan, and ran from the room. The girl soon found herself standing in the large room once more. Sarah could see Cindy near the door, but now it was open.
“Cindy, go!” Sarah screamed, making her way towards the doorway. Just as the girl reached the door, she turned, and saw Nana-Chan. The girl stood in the middle of the room, and she was waving to Sarah, almost as though trying to convince the sisters to come back.
* * * * * *
After Sarah and Cindy escaped the room, they called the police. Moments later, the police arrived and stormed the room. Sarah held Cindy, who had fallen asleep.
“Are you two okay? Is anyone hurt?” asked one of the officers.
“That Nana-Chan choked both of us,” Sarah said, lifting her head.
“That’s one hell of a bruise,” the officer said, looking it over. “We’re going to have the paramedics take you both to the hospital. Where are your parents?”
“Working,” Sarah said. The girl felt tears forming in the corners of her eyes. “I was supposed to be… taking care of my sister, but…”
“And you did that,” the man said. “She’s going to be having some bad dreams, I’m sure, but she’s alive, thanks to you.”
Sarah nodded, but she still felt like a failure. “We shouldn’t have come here. Why did we?” the girl wondered to herself. As she sat there, she overheard the officers’ conversation.
“What did you find?” one of the men asked.
“Nothing,” said another man. “Room’s clean.”
“Wait,” Sarah said, looking up. “That can’t be right. We didn’t take our eyes off that door. There’s no way she could have escaped!”
“I’m sorry,” the officer said, shaking his head and shrugging his shoulders. “The room’s completely empty.”
Sarah slowly shook her head. “Can I see?” she asked.
Sarah reluctantly left her sister and followed the officers. Soon they stood in the large room.
“It’s gone. Everything’s gone,” she said. The fake television show set was gone, and Nana-Chan was nowhere to be seen. “I can’t believe it.”
“I’m sorry,” the officer Sarah talked to before said, patting her on the back, “I believe you. I believe something happened, but there’s nothing here now.”
* * * * * *
The following day, Sarah and Cindy were back home. Cindy didn’t do a lot of talking following their returned from the hospital. The girls’ parents also took the day off, and were now upstairs.
Sarah had found it difficult to fall asleep. When she did manage to doze off, she had nightmares about Nana-Chan; Cindy was no different.
The sound of someone knocking on the front door could be heard. Making her way towards the door, Sarah looked through the peephole and saw Teri standing on the other side.
“Hi, Teri,” Sarah said, opening the door.
Teri didn’t say anything. Instead, she threw her arms around Sarah and held the girl close. “Are you okay?” she asked, after a brief pause.
Sarah fought the urge to cry. “Y-yeah,” she replied.
“Where are your parents?” Teri asked.
“Upstairs. They’re talking about getting a gun, or something,” Sarah said.
“Listen, there’s something I need to tell you,” Teri began, closing the door behind them. “Ashley, and I, after hearing about the attack, started doing some research about Nana-Chan. We couldn’t find anything.”
“No?” Sarah said, surprised.
“No, what channel does she come on?” Teri asked, pulling out her cell phone.
The two girls made their way into the living room and turned on the television. Almost immediately, the Nana-Chan theme song rang out throughout the house. Strangely, the channel sounded louder than before.
“Channel fourteen,” Sarah answered.
“No, turn it off!” Cindy cried, running out of the room.
“Cindy, it’s okay!” Sarah called after the girl, but she knew it wasn’t. Sarah pressed the mute button on the remote, but it didn’t work.
Teri had dialed Ashley’s number. The second her friend picked up, the girl said, “Channel fourteen.”
“Okay,” Ashley said, on the other line. “It’s not there. Are you sure it’s the right channel?”
“Yeah,” Teri said. “I’m looking at that psycho right now.”
Nana-Chan wasn’t dancing that day. Instead, she stood in the middle of her studio set, and looked directly into the camera. Her artificial blue eyes seemed even more menacing than before.
“It’s not on,” Ashley said.
“Okay, Sarah,” Teri began, making her way out of the room. “I’m going to borrow your TV, all right?”
Teri didn’t wait for a response, as she ran up stairs, and into Sarah’s bedroom.
Sarah’s eyes were locked on the TV screen. Nana-Chan still hadn’t moved. “What are you?” Sarah asked in a low voice. “Why do you wear that stupid head?”
Sarah didn’t notice, but Teri was now back in the living room. “Sarah?” she began.
Sarah looked up and saw that Teri’s face had gone completely white. It looked as if she had just seen a ghost. “I just turned to channel fourteen in your room,” Teri said, “and she’s not on it either. She’s only appearing on that television.”
Sarah’s eyes went wide, as she turned her attention back to Nana-Chan. “I saw her without her mask,” Sarah began. “She was… she was…”
Teri made her way over to Sarah.
“What is she?” Teri asked, and just as she did, Nana-Chan’s show vanished.
The sun began to set over the horizon. The sky had been consumed by a bright orange tint with a touch of pink. That was the countryside for you.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been absolutely fascinated by nature. It was beautiful. From the amazing views of mountain tops, to the wonders of wildlife. I loved it all.
It was for this reason, that every year or so, four of my closest mates and I would drive to the base of a mountain and set up camp at the local campsite. While camping, we’d do all sorts of activities, but our time in the mountains mostly consisted of hiking.
This year was no different. My mates (Jason, Thomas, Samuel, Peter) and I were on our way to the same campsite we visit each year. It’s roughly a four hour drive, so we would all take shifts at the steering wheel.
We had already been driving for an hour and a half. By now, we were already in the countryside, far from any urban areas. In fact, there wasn’t another town for miles to come. We had already cycled through two people, being me and Samuel, and it was Jason’s turn at the wheel.
The sun was beginning to set by now. The way we had it planned, we were going to arrive at the campsite just after dark, at around 7:30 PM. However, due to delays and detours, we were significantly behind our schedule.
“Pft, we’ll be lucky if we make it by 10,” Exclaimed Samuel.
“Yeah, maybe if Jason wasn’t so shit at driving, we’d be at least half way there by now,” Peter moaned.
“Augh, shut the hell up, Peter. It’s not my fault that the highway was closed off.”
“Alright, calm down. Just pulling your leg, mate.”
As our long haul continued, we began to drive deeper into unknown terrain. Considering that our normal route was closed off, we were forced to take a massive detour. The turnout left us in the middle of nowhere.
“Are you sure you know where you’re going?” Thomas asked. “Almost looks like we’re lost.”
“I’m following the GPS. This is where its telling me to go!” Jason barked.
We continued to drive for another ten minutes or so, still in unknown terrain, when our worst nightmare suddenly became reality.
“What the hell?” Jason exclaimed as the car’s engine began to sputter, as the car began to lose speed. Jason pulled the car over to the side of the road, just as the engine gave out. Our car had broken down in the middle of nowhere.
“God dammit,” I sighed. “As if our situation wasn’t crap enough already.”
“See, this is what happens when we let Jason drive,” Peter said jokingly.
“Fuck off, Peter!” Jason snapped, violently slamming his hand on the steering-wheel.
“Alright, calm down, guys. We’ll sort this shit out,” I assured everyone.
“Nah, stuff you, guys,” Jason exclaimed as he opened his car door.
“Where are you going?”
“To check on the engine, you dipshit!” Jason shouted as he slammed the door behind him. He then walked to the front of the car and lifted up the bonnet.
“Jesus, what’s his problem?” Peter exasperated.
“Give him a break, Peter,” I replied.
“I’m just joshin’ with him. He doesn’t need to take it so seriously.”
“Na, mate, you got too carried away,” Thomas chipped in.
“Fuck off, Thomas, don’t act like you weren’t in on this.”
“Don’t tell me to fuck off, asshole.”
Tensions continued to rise as the guys bickered amongst each other. Jason was still behind the bonnet, checking on the engine.
As everyone was arguing with one another, I took a minute to get a proper glance at our surroundings. To our left was a massive, empty field. It was fenced off. There was a sign on the fence that read “DO NOT ENTER” in all caps. In the far distance, I could barely make out some sort of structure on the horizon of the field. Presumably a barn, or something like that.
To our right was a forest. Just like the fields, the forest was fenced off, this time with a sign simply reading “DANGER.” I couldn’t see anything beyond the trees. It was almost nightfall, so the wasn’t much light shining down on the forest.
One other thing that caught my attention was a semi-truck that was parked roughly 200 meters on the other side of the road. I couldn’t tell if there was anyone inside of it though.
We were truly in the middle of nowhere.
* * * * * *
Ten minutes had passed since our car had broken down. Jason was still behind the bonnet, checking the engine. Everyone else’s patience was wearing thin.
“What the hell’s taking him so long?” Peter complained.
“Yeah, it’ll be dark out any minute. I don’t wanna be stuck out here after the sun sets,” Samuel added.
They were right. We didn’t have a lot of time before night would fall. I decided it was finally time to check on Jason. I rolled down my window and stuck my head out.
“Oi, Jason!” I shouted. “You fix the engine yet?”
I got no response.
“Jason! Are you done yet?”
Still no response.
I opened my side door and stepped out of the car. I walked up to the bonnet. Jason wasn’t there. I walked back inside the car.
“Is he almost done?” Peter asked as I closed the door behind me.
“He’s gone,” I replied.
“What? What do you mean he’s gone?”
“I mean he’s not there anymore.”
“Well, did you see where he went?”
“No. Hold on, let me try calling him.”
I dialed Jason’s number and held the phone against my ear. I instantly got his voicemail.
“He’s not picking up.”
“Shit!” Thomas exclaimed. “Where the hell could he have gone?”
“I don’t know,” I replied.
We all just sat in silence for a second.
“Maybe he went over to that truck for help,” Samuel said while pointing to the semi-truck across the road.
“Alright, I’ll go check,” Thomas said as he stepped out of the car.
We all watched as Thomas walked up to the semi-truck.
“Is the engine fixed at least?” Peter questioned.
I leaned over to the driver’s seat and tried starting the engine. The car sputtered momentarily, and then gave up.
“Nope. Engine’s still busted.”
“Well, let me go check on it then,” Peter said as he opened his door.
“No!” I abruptly exclaimed. “J-just stay here. Wait for Thomas to get back.”
“What? Why?” Peter questioned.
“I just- I don’t know. Something doesn’t feel right,” I replied.
Peter stared at me questionably for a second. “Alright.” He finally said as he closed his door. “If you say so.”
“Guys!” Samuel abruptly shouted. “I can’t see Thomas anymore.”
“What?” I said as I glanced over at the semi-truck. “Did you see where he went?”
“He disappeared behind the truck.”
“Shit,” Peter said as he opened his door again. “I gotta check on him.”
“No!” I shouted once again. “Stop! Let me try calling him first.”
“He might be in danger, you idiot!” Peter shouted.
“Just get back in the fucking car!” I shouted as I held my phone against my ear.
Peter stared at me with a frustrated look in his eyes. He held his position as the phone rang. It kept ringing for a few seconds. Then, finally:
“Hello?” I heard Thomas’ voice answer.
“Thomas!” I shouted. “Are you alright, man? Where are you?”
“Calm down!” he assured me. “I’m just behind the truck. Look.”
I glanced back at the truck to see Thomas waving at me. Reassured, Peter sat back down in the car.
“Jesus, man, we thought something happened to you,” I replied. “What are you doing back there? Did you find Jason?”
“Nah, but I found some supplies in the truck. Figured we could use them to fix the car,” he replied as he disappeared behind the truck once again.
“Alright, well just stay on the line while you’re getting them,” I said.
“Okay, if you say so. But I’ll have to put the phone down to carry this stuff.”
“Alright, just stay on the call,” I requested once again.
“Sure thing.” Thomas proceeded to put his phone down and continued gathering supplies. I could hear the clanking of metal in the background of the call.
The sun had just about set by now. The sky was slowly being consumed by the darkness of the night.
“Jesus, someone’s a little paranoid,” Peter exclaimed as we waited for Thomas.
“You can talk. You were about to sprint out of the car and run after Thomas,” I replied. “And besides, we still don’t know where Jason is. I’m seriously worried about him.”
“Here, I’ll try calling him this time,” Peter said. He dialed Jason’s number and held the phone to his ear. Suddenly, Peter’s face filled with horror.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
Peter didn’t say a anything. He just glanced at his phone, and then slowly handed it to me, still with a horrified look on his face. I held Peter’s phone against my ear.
* * * * * *
Horrified, I hung up on the call and dropped Peter’s phone. “What the hell was that?” I asked Peter.
“I have no fucking clue,” Peter replied, still mortified.
It’s hard to describe, but on the other end of the call were these strange noises. It sounded like a mix of demonic screaming, crying and other horrific, indistinguishable noises. And I can’t be sure, but I think I heard Jason’s voice faintly in the background of the call.
I was frozen in fear for a minute, still trying to process what I had just heard. I don’t know what those noises were, and I don’t know what had happened to Jason. All I knew, was that we needed to get out of there as quickly as possible.
In a flash, I grabbed my own phone, still in a call with Thomas. “Thomas, you need to get back to the car right now!” I shouted.
I didn’t get a response.
“Thomas! Answer me!”
Then, suddenly, I heard the sound of a loud bang in the distance. It was the sound of metal clashing, as if someone had dropped a bunch of supplies on the ground.
“Oh, shit, it got Thomas!” I shouted.
“What do you mean it got Thomas? What the hell is ‘it’?” Samuel asked in panic.
I didn’t answer Samuel. Instead, I locked all of the car doors and turned off all the lights.
“What the hell are you doing?” Peter shouted.
“Shut the fuck up for a second. Everyone just… shut up.”
We all sat in silence. It was dark now, almost pitch black outside.
“What are we doing?” Samuel whispered. “Why’d you turn off all the lights?”
“Just keep quiet and stay low. I think there’s something out there,” I replied.
“Like, what? A bear or something?”
“No- I don’t know. I don’t know what’s out there, but whatever it is, I think it got Jason and Thomas. We just need to stay in the car and keep quiet. Hopefully it won’t know we’re here.”
“N-nah man. T-this is crazy,” Peter said, shaking uncontrollably in his chair. “W-we gotta get out of here!” Peter wasn’t in a sane state anymore.
“No!” I shouted. “Stay in the car!”
Peter didn’t try to argue with me this time. He was too scared to do anything.
There was silence again. Peter was shivering in fear. I sat still, staring into the dark abyss outside our car. It was too dark to see anything. I couldn’t tell if something was out there or not.
Suddenly, a faint screech was let off in the distance. It didn’t sound human.
“W-what the hell was that?” Peter asked, horrified.
My heart was racing at this point. Something was definitely out there, something inhumane. I tried thinking of what to do next. “Samuel, try calling for help.”
“I can’t. I’ve lost reception,” He replied.
“Crap, we’re stranded.” I contemplated again, thinking of another plan. “Alright, we’ll just have to stay calm and stay in the car no matter what. If we wait till sunrise, then we can-”
“Are you fucking insane?!” Peter shouted aggressively. “No way! I’m not staying in here till morning! That thing is gonna kill us if we wait here!” Peter then proceeded to open his side door and sprint out of the car, right into the dark abyss.
“Peter, no!” Samuel shouted as he opened his own door.
“Samuel, don’t go out there!” I shouted.
“I gotta go after Peter!” Samuel shouted as he ran off, leaving his door open behind him.
“Samuel, please! Stay here!” But it was too late. Samuel had already ran off into the darkness.
Freezing and mortified, I tried contemplating what to do next. Should I go after them? Should I try making a run for it, too?
Before I could decide what to do next, I heard the sounds of screaming in the distance. It was Peter.
I could also hear Samuel shouting in the distance. I couldn’t make out everything that he was saying. I could only make out one of his words. My name. He was calling out to me. He was calling out for help.
I just sat in the car, chilled to the bones, my eyes wide open with fear. I’m alone now. Everyone else is dead.
I don’t know what’s out there. I don’t know what to do next. Peter and Samuel left their door open as they ran out. I’m too scared to close it. I’m too scared to move.
It’s been fifteen minutes since Samuel and Peter left the car. Every few minutes or so, I hear a screeching in the distance. It sounds closer with each screech.
I’m writing this story because I don’t know what else to do. I’m scared. It’s dark. I’m alone.
And there’s something outside, slowly coming toward me.