I know that people are going to call this out as bullshit so I’ll just say it right now.
I’m a demon.
At least that’s what most people would call me. The truth of what I am and where I’m from is a bit out of the understanding of corporeal beings. Suffice to say the body I’m currently residing is not mine. This fragile meat suit belongs to a vapid nineteen year old named Cindy. She spends most of her days doing the things you expect vapid nineteen year old girls to do.
At least she used to spend most of her days posing in twenty different positions before deciding finally posting that Instagram selfie. She used to go out with her friends and jump out of her seat at the very slightest of jump scares. She also used to have her friends over to her dorm room and play around with a Ouija board.
To be fair to Cindy, she only did that last one once.
Under normal circumstances, a Ouija board is a piece of shit. You don’t get in contact with ghosts, or demons, or any of that sort of nonsense. This time though Sarah, Cindy’s bestie, decided to bring a friend of hers to their little ‘summon a demon’ night. And this friend, who according to Cindy’s memories was either named Cheryl or Cynthia, decided to bring a very special book with them. Along with many other things this book has a list of names that shouldn’t exist anymore.
One of those names is mine. And before you think it, no, I’m not going to tell you my name. One of the few things that your human understanding of us is right about is the fact that our names are truly us. If you know our name, if you invoke it, then you have power over us. And I’m not dumb enough to give a bunch of random people on the internet my name.
So somehow, someway, this Cheryl has a book with our actual names in it. And Cindy had the bright idea to read my name out loud and ask to speak to me on the Ouija board. To be honest the Ouija wasn’t even necessary. The first time she called my name I was listening.
I was curious. How, after five hundred years, did humans know any of our names again? The last of the books were supposed to have been burned and our names wiped from the annals of human knowledge so that none of my brothers and sisters would have to go through being called ever again.
So I watched the girls and their little board game, screaming at every answer the planchette gave. Then Cindy had to go and do the dumbest thing I could imagine someone doing.
She called my name and asked me to possess her.
From my perspective now I understand her idiocy. She doesn’t actually believe anything paranormal.
She just thinks it’s fun to be scared.
That is something I will never understand about humanity. You spent the entirety of your existence fighting the things that make you scared. Before you even had a written language you slaughtered the last of the mammoths because their visages frightened you. You took one of the creatures most like you, a pack animal capable of hunting anything to exhaustion, and you turned them into toy poodles and pugs. Even now you conquer the greatest ravagers of man, the killers too small to see, and turn them into footnotes in your history books.
There is a reason my siblings tried to wipe our names from the world.
You frighten us.
Humanity is terrifying. The words you speak from an organ of flesh and sinew bind us and control us. Yes, to you we were terrifying, ethereal beings of unlimited power. Immortal keepers of knowledge that you beings of flesh can never grasp.
As you can imagine the first thing I did when Cindy ordered me to possess her was to try and grab that book from Cheryl. It somehow had my name in it and I wanted to keep any of you meatbags from calling for me again. Cindy’s limited perspective, unfortunately, gave Cheryl enough time to grab the book before I could.
She knew I was coming. She knew the first thing I would do is try to grab that book from her.
Cheryl knew who I was. What I was. And she knew what I wanted.
This girl was more than a vapid teenager seeking a stupid thrill. This girl knew exactly what she was doing.
This only motivated me to grab the book more. Because the only thing scarier than a stupid human who doesn’t know what they’re doing is a human who knows exactly what they’re doing. So I grabbed her by her dumbass black-dyed hair and tried to grab the book from her again.
That bitch though, that bitch Sarah grabbed my arms and pulled me back from the only thing I wanted. Her and two of the other ones held me down until the campus security arrived to haul me off to some cell made of iron and steel, where I was transferred to another cell of white paint and shoes with no shoelaces. Supposedly so the patients can’t hurt themselves.
Sunny Acres Mental Hospital.
Don’t be fooled by the name. This place is a prison. They dull my senses with medications and make me question my purpose with inane questions about how I’m feeling and asking me why I’m so angry all of the time. They don’t listen, of course, because if they did they would know exactly what I want and understand my anger.
But they don’t listen. They write down what I say and force feed me pills to dull my thinking.
But time has passed and as more time passes the more Cindy’s memories become my memories. And with these memories come knowledge of how your world works. So I used this body that no longer belongs to Cindy and I paid one of the nurses to use their phone. I did this for two reasons.
One reason is to let all of humanity know just how terrifying and disgusting you all are. You conquer this world one step at a time and invent horrors to scare yourself with because you already destroyed everything that terrified you. You put everything that used the dark as a weapon and put it under a spotlight so you could laugh at how ridiculous it looks under the light.
The second reason is because I want Cheryl to know this.
Every day I remember more and more of the person Cindy is. Every day I imitate her better. Every day the doctors believe my imitation more and more.
I am forever, Cheryl. All I have is time.
At some point I will get out of this white-washed prison. And when I do…
My name is Henry Himura. I work for a large law firm situated near downtown Los Angeles. We’ve handled some of the biggest, most controversial cases in the last two decades and have built quite a name for ourselves. I am using a pseudonym, because, as you will hear, this story is almost fantastical, nearly too frightening to believe real. I don’t want to ruin a career I have spent so much time and effort building just because some people don’t want to believe the truth of what’s out there. First, I just want to issue warning; never, ever play kokkuri-san. No matter how innocent the internet or books may make it sound, don’t do it. This is the story of how my life changed forever, and how I lost something so dear.
Spirit boards come in all shapes and sizes, and various names as well. In the US, the most common one is a Ouija board. They are intended as children’s games, when really, you can unleash something so powerful and evil that it may never be bottled. Spirit boards are just a portal to the other side, a way for spirits to communicate directly with the living, and that spirit can be good or a total evil menace. According to my research, you can use just about anything as your spirit board.
In my native country of Japan, we played a game called kokkuri-san. With this game, you question the spirits about your future, and they will sometimes answer, maybe not with the answer you are seeking. We would take a coin, place it on paper with some words and numbers written on it, and the coin would slide across to answer your question. After you were finished, you were supposed to tell kokkuri-san to go home and slid the coin to the red torii symbol at the top of the paper, and then tear the paper into forty-eight pieces or burn it.
Almost thirty years ago, my siblings and I, started playing kokkuri-san, and did so a dozen or so times before moving to America without much more than a few funny responses from the fox spirit. The last time we played kokkuri-san, my brother asked the spirit,
“Kokkuri-san, kokkuri-san, will you move this coin?”
The coin slid across the paper in repeated circles for a few seconds, then stopped.
“Kokkuri-san, when will I become rich and famous?” he asked.
The coin slide slowly across the paper, the coin was pressing so hard against the paper that I thought it would tear, but we were barely pressing on it — something else was doing it. It spelled out:
Then a pause.
From behind us, somewhere in the dark, came a deep guttural growl, like that of a hungry dog; we didn’t own a dog. We knew this was not kokkuri-san. It was never described to act like this or to be threatening; something else had come through the game! My brother panicked, running across the room to grab father’s lighter from his desk door. He set the paper on fire and dropped it into the sink to burn, then turned on the tap to drown out the flames. I realize his mistake now, something that I wish he would’ve done, and maybe it could’ve prevented everything that would come. He forgot to tell the kokkuri-san to go home before destroying the paper; he left it trapped in our world.
A few weeks later, our father transferred his job with a car manufacturer to the US and we moved to Seattle. At first, adjusting to the culture shock was overwhelming but we had all taken English language classes in school and that made it easier. I can remember a day that we went into a toy store and we were shocked to see that there was a popular, widely sold board game that was like kokkuri-san; the Ouija board. Our mother forbade us from buying it, saying it would only invite trouble, and she was unaware that we had already played kokkuri-san numerous times by then.
My brother and I managed to sneak over to the store and bought the Ouija board later that week. Katsuro was the most eager to buy it, which was obvious. I asked him why.
“Every night since the last time we played kokkuri-san, I’ve had these nightmares. They’re too real, sometimes I think they actually happen to me. In those dreams, I’m lying in bed and from the corner of my eye, I can see a dark shadow beside me. I can hear it taking deep, gasping breaths and the dripping of saliva, like it is starving. It speaks to me in a growl, demanding that I feed it.”
I asked him, “Did you ask what it wants?”
He paused for a moment, deep in thought, as we walked down the sidewalk back home, “No, I always wake up and I can’t move for a long time. Sometimes, I swear it really is standing beside the bed, like it is waiting for me to feed it… or to feed on me.” I could see the fear in his eyes and his voice. I had no doubt he was telling the truth.
“Maybe you are just dreaming, Katsuro. Dreams sometimes seem like they’re real but they’re not, they’re—.”
“Dreams don’t breathe into your ear while you’re lying on your back and unable to scream, or yell, or do anything!”
I could only hang my head in shame because I felt terrible for doubting my brother. I wanted to believe him, but who could really believe something so outrageous without seeing it yourself? Katsuro was never one to lie and would practically break his neck to tell the truth. “Okay, so what do you want to do with the Ouija board?”
“I want to speak to it, banish it back to hell, then burn that board. This time, we’ll play by the rules; this time, it won’t follow us!” he was dead serious and had the bravery of someone far older than twelve. Tears were streaming down his cheeks as he clinched his fists, his stride becoming faster and faster. That happened on a Monday.
Our parents would be out the following Friday to a dinner with some of father’s executives to welcome him to the USA, and they said they would be out for hours. I was in charge because I was the oldest at fifteen and so I had to keep an eye on my siblings. Michiko was fourteen at the time and she was too preoccupied with the wonderment of American television, so Katsuro and I decided to leave her out of the plan, and we also felt like it was favor to our only sister to leave her out of any chaos that might happen.
I could read English well, but my siblings weren’t so great. The Ouija board was in English, of course, so I would have to translate because Katsuro couldn’t. We unboxed the ‘game’, reading the rules out loud.
‘Never play alone.’ Check.
‘Never play in a graveyard.’ Check. It made me double think if any were nearby, but I didn’t believe there were.
‘Never burn it.’ This one Katsuro became frustrated over.
“Why not?!” he cried bemoaning.
“I don’t know, Katsuro. It doesn’t say. They’re just the rules, I don’t think it’d be a good idea to question them.”
Never leave the planchette on the board. “Why not?” he asked.
“I don’t know? I suppose it would leave the doorway open? Stop questioning the rules and just listen!”
‘Never ask when you will die.’
And the last rule: ‘Don’t forget to say goodbye.’
“That’s the one we forgot with kokkuri-san!” Katsuro reminded me.
Thunder was rolling outside, and it sounded very close to the house. Then lightning crashed, casting the whole house in a bright light like a camera flash.
“Yes, Katsuro, and let’s not do that again,” I put the rules back into the box and slammed my palms on the table. “If you so much as try to break any of these rules, I will not be to blame if something gets you!”
“Good. Now, let’s hurry before—”
That was when the lights shut off. Katsuro flipped the light switch several times with no effect. I remember groaning with indignation at the annoyance. What I hadn’t noticed then, and what I wish I would have, was that Michiko never asked what happened, or even made a sound about the power going out. We would see why later.
“No! It shut off the lights! It’s onto our plan!” the fear was growing in his voice.
“Shut up, Katsuro! It’s probably the storm! Go get those candles that mother keeps for emergencies! Hurry!”
Katsuro fetched the candles with an eagerness I rarely saw in him. He was at a running pace, and I couldn’t see him, but I heard him rummaging through cabinets at a frantic pace, followed by the patting of his feet coming back down the hallway.
“Okay. I hope you didn’t break anything,” I said as I leered at him, “Anyway, let’s light them around the table so we can see the board better.”
“I wish the power was working,” his voice was quaking.
“I do too but we’ll have to wait for the power company to fix it.”
I struck a match, but it went out with an abrupt hiss. I thought that the match was just a dud, so I struck another, and the same thing happened. My annoyance was building at this point. I struck another, and another, and another; all of them snuffed out within a second of being struck. My brother found a stick lighter and tried that as well, but it did the same thing. There was no gust or blowing of the air conditioner that could cause that since the power was out. Finally, after several attempts, the spirit allowed us to light our candles, as if it were mocking us.
We began to play kokkuri-san on the Ouija board. Katsuro went to the window by the dining room table and opened it. The ozone smell of the thunderstorm flooded the inside of the house and the loud rumbling of thunder filled the house. We removed the planchette from the box and placed it at the bottom. After a few moments of hesitation, we both placed our hands on the planchette and started the game.
“Kokkuri-san, Kokkuri-san, if you’re here, please move this… planchette,” my brother said, unsure if he was saying the word correctly. He pronounced it more like ‘blanket’ but I just shrugged and laughed. In case you haven’t seen a Ouija board, the planchette is the triangular piece that players but the hands on and is used by the spirits to point to letters and numbers.
Within an instant, it began spelling out:
“What does it say, Henry?”
“It says it is hungry,” I replied, almost crying in my fear. I wasn’t sure why I was afraid, but something about the way it jumped straight to its demand was blood-chilling. “Did you move it? Did you?”
“No! I’d never do that, Henry! I didn’t!” I believed him, and I could feel the tightening grip of fear in my stomach.
To the point, Katsuro asked, “What do you want to eat?”
The planchette moved, it moved with such force that I remember having trouble keeping my fingers on it, almost just letting go to see if it’d just move on its own.
I nearly flung my hands off the planchette and ran out of the room, but I reminded myself that I was the older one and I had to be strong for my little brother. I also wasn’t sure what’d happen if to us if I did let go.
“I will find you something,” Katsuro answered, nearly jumping from his chair. He was dashing toward the fridge.
“No! Don’t give it what it wants! You’ll make it—” that was all I got out before a sheering pain went down my back, a pain so strong that I found it hard to breath. I fell to the floor, writhing in the sudden, screaming pain. Gasping, I moved my hand under my shirt. I winced as it touched the pained area and saw blood when I looked at it.
“Katsuro! Look at my back! Please!” he was digging through the refrigerator by then, almost ignoring me entirely, as he looked desperately for something to offer.
He casually looked over his shoulder, “I’ll be right there!”, he said as he shut the fridge and came running over to me, his little arms carrying wrapped ground beef that he sat on the table. He looked at my back, and gasped.
“Henry! There are three long scratches going all the way down your back! What happened!?”
“It was that spirit! It did that when I told you not to feed it! You’re just going to make it stronger, Katsuro!”
We both made eye contact with the ground beef, but the packages were empty. There was no sign that the packaging had been cut, torn, broken in to whatsoever – just empty packages. The planchette moved again, this time without us touching it. It moved with a jerky motion, like something didn’t quite know what it was doing, or like the jerky movement of computer lag.
Then it slid to a blank area and back onto the board.
Katsuro grabbed the planchette and threw it out the window as hard as his little arms could. When we turned back around, it was back on the table on the word NO.
Then it began to spell out.
I moved the planchette to the word NO and then to GOODBYE, but then it moved on its own back to the word NO and spelled the next word so fast that I could barely tell that is said:
Michiko gave out a terrifying scream so loud that somebody would’ve called the police if they could’ve heard her over the storm. Katsuro and I rushed down the hallway to her room at the far right of the hallway. She was lying on her side under the blankets, facing the wall, still screaming. I rolled her over to examine her; her eyes were shut, as if she were in a deep sleep, but her mouth was shrieking in bloody terror. I shook her hard several times, calling her name, trying my best to wake her, but she just kept screaming. Her arm flopped from under the blanket over the side of the bed as I was shaking her, and I saw that her wrist was slowly dripping blood onto the carpet. It wasn’t slit on the artery or anything life threatening, but pricked, like with a small knife, and was only bleeding a few drops at a time. I knew First Aid, so I wrapped the wound with one of her clean socks from her dresser and told Katsuro we had to end this now.
As we were leaving Michiko’s room, the temperature in the entire house plummeted, which was unexplainable since it was late summer, and the air conditioning wasn’t working due to the power outage. I noticed that my breath coming out in a cloud. The lights began to flicker then, and I saw something standing at the end of the hallway; a pitch-black figure about seven-feet-tall, nearly as high as the ceiling! It looked like a man, but I it had long, skinny claws instead of hands, and a smile filled with pointed teeth. It was gone once the flickering stopped a few moments later. It was showing us what it was, and I knew that it was warning us to continue… or else.
Katsuro and I sat down at the table, placed our hands at the board.
“What can we do to make you go away?”
The planchette moved to NO, then GOODBYE.
My brother sighed, but then gave out a shriek of terror as he was jerked to the floor and dragged down the hallway by some invisible force. I jumped up, grabbing his hands, pulling with everything I had but couldn’t budge him. It was going straight into his closet. He kept screaming, “No! Please no! Stop! Just stop!” as he was being forced down the hallway and inside his bedroom closed. From within the closet, I saw yellow eyes and a wide smile staring back at me. I grabbed onto Katsuro’s hands, trying my best to stop it, but it was no use; the closet snapped shut with a hard and powerful slam and Katsuro went inside.
Out of panic and desperation, I tried to open the closet doors. After multiple attempts, the doors finally opened. My brother was not inside. Inside, there were piles of Styrofoam meat trays, all appeared to have been opened recently. I realized later that Katsuro had been spending his allowance on various kinds of meats for this thing. I also found another kokkuri-san paper under some of the trays. I tore it into 48 pieces, along with the Ouija board, burned them, and threw the ashes into the wind, thinking maybe that that it’d summon him back. It didn’t.
He did not.
It has been nearly twenty years since he went missing and we filed that missing persons report. My parents assumed that he ran away to go back to Japan. The move had been hard on him and he expressed his dislike of the move often. As for the meat trays, well, my parents and the police didn’t mention that detail or ask about it, almost if they just didn’t notice them. For weeks, I searched for my brother, finding no trace of him. Sometimes I’d sit in his closet, begging for an answer, but I’d get nothing. My parents grieved a long time, and their marriage dissolved as a result. Mother went back to Japan, while she allowed father to keep us in America, where I finished school and later became a lawyer. My father once convinced me to pay a private investigator to find Katsuro, but as you may guess, they found no trace of him either.
After I write this, there is a Ouija board on my dining room table. On the table, I also have some cheap ground beef, my brother’s favorite toy, and something I have that I didn’t thirty years ago; a vast knowledge on how to kill a demon.
“Please let me out,” my son David pleaded with me. “I promise I’ll behave.”
“You know I can’t do that David.” I leaned against the wall next to the bathroom I had trapped my 16-year-old son in, the only one in the house without a window.
“LET! ME! OUT!” he suddenly screamed, punctuating each word with a kick to the bathroom door while shaking the door handle.
I jumped at the sudden display of violence. Such fits of rage had become common over the past couple of weeks, but they still frightened me. That’s not my David, I kept repeating to myself while clutching the gold cross that dangled around my neck.
“I’m sorry, mom. I didn’t mean to scare you.” It was eerie how easily he could read my emotions, even when he couldn’t see me. “I’m okay now.” I knew better than to believe him. He was just trying to lull me into a false sense of security so I’d let him out.
The doorbell rang. Finally, I thought, while hurrying to the front door.
“Who’s that?” David’s voice carried down the hall. “Is it Veronica? If it is, you have to let me out,” he insisted, turning the handle back and forth quickly, trying to open the door.
“Good morning, Mrs. Knowles,” the priest standing on my porch greeted me once I had opened the door. The man standing next to him just smiled.
“Father Cooke, thank you so much for coming. Please come in.” I held the door open as the two men entered my home.
“I’d like to introduce you to my associate, Mr. Alexander.” Father Cooke indicated the tall, thin man standing next him. I assumed he must be some sort of clergyman the way he was dressed in all black like Father Cooke, but I thought it was odd that he wasn’t wearing a Roman collar.
“He specializes in handling situations like yours,” he explained, noticing the way I inspected him.
“It is a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Knowles,” Mr. Alexander said, extending his free hand. The other hand held a small leather satchel close to his side.
“Tell them to leave, mother,” David called out. “They have no business here.”
“I didn’t know where else to put him,” I blurted out, afraid they were going to think I was a horrible mother.
“We understand. Hopefully he won’t have to be in there much longer,” Father Cooke said.
“We can talk in the kitchen,” I said, leading them through the house. “Can I get you something to drink?” I asked after they had taken a seat at my small dining table.
“Nothing for me,” Father Cooke replied.
“Coffee, if it isn’t too much trouble,” Mr. Alexander said after setting his bag on the table.
I quietly prepared the coffee while they waited patiently for me to take my seat. I could tell they were anxious to begin. I know it was important that they start as soon as possible, but accepting that your son needs an exorcism is not easy. It borders on madness.
“I didn’t know who else to call,” I spoke while stirring my coffee staring into the cup before taking my seat. “I didn’t think anyone would believe me.”
“We believe you.” Father Cooke reached out and gave my hand a gentle squeeze. “Your story is not as crazy as it sounds.” He looked over at Mr. Alexander. “Especially to men like us. Possession is far more common than the church cares to admit.”
“I know you’ve already told Father Cooke everything that has happened, Mrs. Knowles, and he has told your story to me, but if it isn’t too much trouble, I’d like to hear it again, in your own words,” Mr. Alexander requested.
I looked over at him. “I don’t know where to begin. These past two weeks have been crazy.”
“Let’s start with the breakup since that seems to be where you first started to notice his erratic behavior.”
I shifted my eyes and gazed out the window for several seconds, took a deep breath, released it, then tried to tell David’s story.
“They broke up just over two weeks ago, the day Veronica returned home from her trip to Florida. At the time I didn’t know the specific reason why they broke up, but I have since learned it was because David was smothering her with attention. Calling and texting her several times a day while she was on vacation.” I paused and took a sip of my coffee before continuing. “Nobody likes being smothered like that, but that was just so unlike David. He didn’t used to be that clingy.”
While I was talking, Mr. Alexander had pulled a pen and notebook out of the inside pocket of his jacket so that he could take notes. “How did David respond to the breakup?” he asked after finding a free page to write upon.
“He was psychotic, to put it mildly,” I responded. “He went crazy. He was obsessed with getting her back. I had never seen him act like that. The things he said and did give me chills just thinking about them.”
“Can you be more specific?” Mr. Alexander asked.
“The first night after the breakup I tried to talk to David, but he just went to his room and slammed the door. I thought it would be best to give him some space to deal with his emotions and that he would come and talk to me when he was ready. I don’t know when he climbed out of his window. All I know is that I got a knock on my door at two o’clock in the morning when the police brought him home.”
“I WASN’T DOING ANYTHING WRONG!” David screamed, his voice echoing down the hall. “THEY HAD NO RIGHT TO INTERFERE! I WAS JUST TRYING TO FINISH WHAT WE STARTED!”
A tear welled up in the corner of my eye then slowly rolled down my cheek. Father Cook stood up and grabbed the tissue box sitting on the windowsill above the sink and set it on the table in front of me. I smiled my thanks, then began to sob.
“Perhaps it would be better if I just ask for clarification on certain points of the story you told to Father Cooke,” he suggested, taking note of my fragile emotional state. “I know this is hard, but I need to make sure I have as much information as possible to determine what has taken possession of David.”
“Sorry,” I used a tissue to wipe my eyes. “It’s been so hard. I can’t do this anymore, not by myself.”
There once was a Mr. Knowles, but he decided the family life wasn’t for him and left when David was three years old. I never remarried and never asked for any kind of spousal or child support during the divorce process. I was determined to provide for myself and David without help from anyone else.
“You’re not alone, not any longer.” Father Cook patted my hand. “Take your time. We understand how hard this is on you.”
I took a few minutes to compose myself. “Okay.” I took a deep breath and let it out. “I’m ready.”
“The night that David was brought home by the police, the officers told you he was picked up for destruction of property and disturbing the peace. Do you know what happened that night?”
“Yes, I do, but only because Dawn – that’s Veronica’s mother – called me the following morning to tell me what happened and let me know they would be getting a restraining order. David had taken all of the flowers off of a neighbor’s rose bushes and started to arrange them on the lawn while calling out for Veronica to come outside and stand inside the sigil, whatever a sigil is. That, along with how late it was, disturbed them enough to call the police instead of me.”
“What color were the flowers?” Mr. Alexander asked, “and were you told anything about the specific way he arranged the flowers?”
“I know the flowers were pink. I’ve seen them plenty of times when I would drop David off at Veronica’s. I don’t know anything about what he was making with them. But… if you go and look in his room, he’s drawn this weird star-within-a-star symbol all over his walls. It was probably that. He has been obsessed with that symbol since the breakup.”
“Which room is David’s?” Mr. Alexander asked, standing up and walking over to the hallway.
“It’s the last door on the left.”
I watched as Mr. Alexander walked down the hall and opened David’s door, but didn’t go in. He just stood right outside the doorway peering around the room. It almost seemed like he was afraid to cross the threshold.
“Was that too much for you, magister?” David chuckled as Mr. Alexander passed the bathroom on his way back to the kitchen.
“Do you know what it means?” I asked once Mr. Alexander had returned to his seat.
“I do, but I think it is best to explain everything once I have all of the facts, otherwise we will lose precious time dwelling over things that will not make sense without the proper context.”
“Let’s continue,” he said, picking up where he left off before walking down the hall to David’s room. “Did he try and return to her house after that night?”
“No, he didn’t. The police made it clear that if he was found anywhere near her house again, he would be arrested. That didn’t stop him from trying to contact her, though.”
“That was when you had to confiscate his phone, correct?”
“Yes. He started calling her. Then, when she wouldn’t answer, he would leave voice mail, and when that wasn’t working he started texting her.” I stood up and walked over to the counter and grabbed David’s cellphone out of my purse, then returned to my seat.
“The messages started out with him pleading with her to return to the sigil with him, then as the days passed they got more insistent and threatening, and then they just started sounding like gibberish.”
I unlocked the phone, tapped the instant messenger app, then handed the phone to Mr. Alexander. “Some of the earlier texts have been deleted, but most of the crazier ones are still there.”
“THOSE MESSAGES ARE PRIVATE!” David suddenly yelled while renewing his attempts to escape his bathroom prison.
Mr. Alexander spent the next few minutes scrolling through the text message history. I could tell by the look on his face that he saw something he recognized.
“It was those text messages that convinced the judge to grant the restraining order against David,” I offered while he read the texts.
“Based on what you are telling me, I think whatever happened to David started sometime before Veronica left for Florida. I also think she knows more than she is letting on, particularly about that symbol in David’s room and the language used in the texts.”
“Is this the current phone number for Veronica?” He held David’s phone up so I could see the screen. “I think it’s time she told the truth.”
“It should be,” I responded. “I don’t think she changed it.”
“DON’T YOU DARE CALL HER!” David was becoming more agitated. We continued to ignore him.
Mr. Alexander pulled his own phone out then dialed Veronica’s number, knowing that David’s number would be blocked. As the phone started to ring he pressed the speaker button and set the phone on the table so everyone could hear the conversation.
“Hello…” Veronica sounded wary, not recognizing Mr. Alexander’s number.
“Hello, Veronica. My name is Theodore Alexander. I am working with the Knowles family on a treatment plan for David and I was wondering if I could ask you a question.”
“I don’t know.”
“It will only take a moment, and it would be extremely beneficial for David.”
“My parents don’t want me to have anything to do with David or Mrs. Knowles. They would have a fit if they knew I was even talking to you.”
“You won’t be talking to either of them, just me, and I only have one question.”
“One question, that’s it,” she relented.
“Thank you,” he said, then asked his question. “The symbol drawn all over David’s walls and the text messages he sent you, the ones that look like gibberish, I know you’ve seen them before. Based on the timeline I am working with, I am assuming you encountered them about a week before you went on vacation, and if I am correct they were part of a spell or ritual David performed. For David’s sake, I need you to tell me the name of whatever it was he found.”
His question was greeted with silence. I looked over at Father Cooke, knowing something strange was happening to David, but not wanting to accept the reality that he might truly be possessed, despite all evidence indicating he was.
“Veronica,” Mr. Alexander pressed. “If I don’t find out what he did, its effects will likely drive him insane, if it doesn’t wind up killing him first. You know this is not David. Help me, help him.”
“Iusiurandum aeternum,” she finally whispered. “He found it on the Internet.”
He looked like he was about to ask a follow up question, but Veronica cut him off. “I’ve answered your question, don’t call me again.” Then she hung up.
“Did that help?” I asked. “Do you know what happened to David?” I was starting to hope there was a way out of this nightmare.
“Yes, I know what happened to David, and the good news is that I can help him.” Mr. Alexander smiled, then started to remove several things from his satchel.
The first thing he removed was an old dog-eared book that at first glance looked like a Bible, but the large embossed pentagram on the solid black cover indicated otherwise. Then he removed an amulet that had a similar pentagram hanging from a silver chain with the Latin phrase “ambulamus in tenebris ergo lumen non est caecus nobis” written around its circumference. Finally, he removed a red satin stole that was adorned with an upside-down black cross on both ends.
“What’s all this? Why does he have those evil things?” I demanded an answer from Father Cook. “Why did you bring him here?” I spat at him while jabbing a finger at Mr. Alexander.
“Please calm down, Mrs. Knowles,” Father Cooke spoke softly. “It’s not what it looks like.”
“Calm down? CALM DOWN!?” I yelled. “You brought a Satanist into my home!”
“Please allow us to explain,” he beseeched me. “We came here to help David and based on what you told me, I wasn’t going to be able to help him, but I was sure Magister Alexander could. This is all for your son.”
“I know this may be hard to believe, Mrs. Knowles, but I truly want to help David, and I really am the only one that can help him. When Father Cooke took his vows, he became powerless to interfere with the entity that now possesses your son,” Magister Alexander tried to assure me.
I just sat there, eyes shifting from Father Cooke to Magister Alexander, my mouth agape. I wanted to yell and scream at them, but I couldn’t force the words out. I was too stunned that Father Cooke, a priest I have known for almost 20 years, had brought this man into my home.
“Let me tell you what I know about the being possessing your son. Then, if you still don’t want me here, I will leave.”
I just stared at him, my eyes becoming thin lines of scorn. Magister Alexander took my silence as consent and started to describe the events that he believed led to David’s possession.
“David and Veronica were your typical teenagers in love, thinking they were meant for each other, that they were going to be together forever,” he began, “but something made them fear for their future as a couple, and like all couples that are being forced apart they sought a way to prevent that from happening, using the only thing at their disposal, the Internet. I don’t know how they found the Iusiurandum aeternum, but they did.
“The Iusiurandum aeternum is an Enochian devotion ritual. Its title essentially translates to ‘eternal oath,’ which in the context of the ritual means that they are pledging their souls to one another. In order to complete the ritual, the couple must complete the incantation within an Enochian sigil created out of rose petals. If one of them fails to complete it, the angel that was summoned to oversee the bond will become trapped within the body of the person that initially summoned it.”
“Angel?” I scoffed. “My son is possessed by an angel?”
“Yes, an angel,” Magister Alexander answered, “specifically, a Cherub.” He quickly continued after seeing the look of disbelief on my face. “You may think they are cute and innocent, but that is just an artist’s interpretation of them. They are depicted as babies because of their infantile tempers and obsession with God. They need something to love, which is why they are the ones summoned when this ritual is performed and it is also why they go crazy when they are trapped and unable to express that love.”
I started laughing before he finished speaking, but the insanity of the situation quickly turned the laughs into sobs. The idea that my son was possessed by a chubby little baby with wings was ludicrous. I felt stuck in a dream I couldn’t wake up from.
“I know how ridiculous it sounds, but that is what possesses your son and there are only two ways to save him: Either convince Veronica to complete the ritual and be forever bound to David, which we both know will never happen, or… allow me to perform an exorcism on him.”
I quickly recovered and wiped my eyes with a fresh tissue after noticing the deathly serious look on the faces of Father Cooke and Magister Alexander.
“I am forbidden from interfering with emissaries of the almighty, otherwise I would perform the exorcism myself. That is why it must be Magister Alexander,” Father Cooke explained. He continued speaking, hoping he was getting through to me. “As a priest I have the power to exorcise demons, and a duty to protect my flock from the creatures of darkness. Theodore is a Magister of the Satanic church. He has the power to exorcise angels and a duty to protect members of his congregation from beings of light.”
“Our churches keep each other in check here on Earth, and when a demon or an angel finds itself trapped in a human body it is our responsibility to send it back where it came from as quickly as possible. The longer they are trapped here the more twisted they become, and the less likely it is that we can save the person they are possessing.”
“Does that help you make sense of it?” Father Cooke finally asked, after giving me a few moments to process what he had said.
“It’s a lot to take in, but yes… yes, I do understand. It really doesn’t matter, as long as you can save my son. I just want my David back.” I started to cry again.
“Does that mean you want me to perform the exorcism, Mrs. Knowles?”
“Yes,” I whispered.
“Then there is one final thing we need to take care. He pulled a thick piece of parchment out of his bag and slid it in front of me. “This is a standard contract for services rendered. As a member of the Satanic church I must demand payment for the exorcism, but the payment cannot have monetary value. It must be something you value beyond worldly goods. With that in mind, I just have one final question I need ask you. What are you willing to pay to save your son?”
Jobs come and go. That’s part of the beauty of living in America – you can change jobs freely if you aren’t happy. It’s a luxury not everyone in the world has.
For years and years, my life was consumed by business – retail, specifically. It wasn’t my plan…I sort of fell into it. My part-time cashier job turned into a full-time management job and, as anyone who’s worked in retail knows, once you get to that point it’s hard to get out. I wasted about five years at Target until my career path unexpected changed for the better.
It was a chance encounter – fateful, even. She came into the store to return a set of lingerie but our guest services team member wasn’t letting it happen. It was a no-receipt return, and she didn’t have the method of payment or her I.D. with her. Typical scam set-up. As those usually go, she asked to speak with a manager. I have no doubts she caught me mouthing “damn” as I walked up to the front end to speak with her. She was a tan goddess, about 5’3″ with a perfect, Playboy-esque body, brunette hair, and a lip ring. She looked like the type of girl who could post a single cleavage shot on Instagram and become an overnight internet celebrity.
On the surface, she looked like the type that might use her looks to be able to swoon guys into mindlessly doing what she wanted. A little flirting, a slight lean over the counter, and anything she needed was done – regardless of policy.
Well, maybe not just on the surface. I did exactly that.
I couldn’t resist her allure.
I thought about her non-stop for a few days after that. She was visually perfect in every sense of the word. Her body inspired me. I wanted to capture elegance like hers to look at anytime I desired.
Transitioning into a photographer seemed natural after meeting her. It was as if she rewired my brain, causing me to notice the beauty in everything I saw. Every second I wasn’t at work, I was adventuring and capturing the sights of the world surrounding me. Some days I even had to call off because I had let my passions take me too far away to be able to drive back for my shift.
Only a couple of months had passed until I ran into my muse at the local Starbucks. She was in front of me, ordering a grande white chocolate mocha – no whipped cream. A delicious drink for a delicious woman, of course. After I ordered the same drink as a venti, I nervously walked down to the end of the counter to wait for my drink…and silently observe her magnificence.
“Hey! Aren’t you the guy from Target that helped me return those undies?!” She spoke to me. I almost died.
“Oh, ha. Yeah, I believe that was me.” I always hated my ugly, nervous laugh.
“You were so awesome!” She said as she gave me a tight hug. “I was able to get a new set because of you, see?”
She pulled down her deep-cut v-neck, revealing to me a lacy, purple bra that hardly covered her voluptuous, tan breasts.
“I’m Jess, by the way. I’ve gotta run but I’m sure I’ll see ya around!”
She wasn’t wrong. We seemed to bump into each other almost daily after that moment at the coffee shop. If it wasn’t a face-to-face encounter, when I would go home and upload my photos she would be in them to some degree. Every. Day. I didn’t mind – she made my photos come to life, enhancing the already spectacular scenes with her own stunning looks.
I’m not sure if she knew I was taking her picture or not. Some days she would appear oblivious, and the photos would come across voyeuristic. Maybe she would be turned away, eating an ice cream cone. Tying her Vans. Fixing up her hair. Just casual things. Other times, she seemed to be staring right at me as I clicked the button. A few times she was putting on a blouse. Another was she putting gas in her white Beetle. Once, she was nude in the forest. Always facing directly towards me. Always staring into my soul.
As guilty as it made me feel, she never took legal action, nor made it seem like she wanted me to stop. To be honest, shewas the one showing up in all of my pictures. She wouldn’t really have had the basis to take up recourse. The longer it went on without any signs of discontent, the less guilty I began to feel. In my mind, it became a game. Two lovers, flirting without ever needing to meet. I was sure we were both in on it, but one of us had to win eventually.
I was out late last night, trying to catch photos of the super moon over train tracks – a truly stunning scene. Pines lined both sides of the tracks, the rock hills were even and undisturbed, and the sky was clear aside from the massive, massive moon. I’ll admit, I went a little crazy with the picture taking and filled up the remaining space on my SD card trying to capture the perfect scene.
She was in the photos.
There was no way Jess was able to have been there. The area was completely void of life while I was capturing it!
She was in the middle of the tracks, entwined with a man.
They began kissing.
He touched her skin, and she wrapped her hands around the back of his head.
He was looking directly at me. His body hadn’t moved.
Jess held his head in her hands, his body was on the ground.
She faced me directly, with that soul-stealing glare.
Dozens of small, white creatures piled over the man’s body. Jess had disappeared.
The creatures and the body were gone.
Jess was sitting indian-style mere feet away from the camera.
I screamed and ran into the bathroom, barely making it to the toilet. I couldn’t believe it. There was nobody on the tracks. How could she be in every single picture?! In hopes that I was losing my mind, I drowned myself in cold water from the sink and went to try looking at my gallery again.
The pictures were empty.
My mind and body decided that I couldn’t take this anymore and I had to sleep. I woke up in my chair about an hour ago. The pictures were still void of Jess, the man, and those weird fucking creatures…but she was outside of my window, sitting on my lawn staring directly into my eyes as I looked outside.
I’ve never seen her outside of a photograph since the coffee shop.
Reading Time: 14 minutesWhen I was twenty four, my older brother died.
At the time, I was working as a customer support guy at a major internet service provider on the Canadian West Coast. That was my stand-by job while I tried to figure out what I really wanted to do with myself. At the time, I had no idea what would enter into my life, both through my brother’s death, and the wires.
I had gotten home that night, made dinner, and was relaxing with some of Netflix’s crime documentaries when I got the knock on the door. It was two police officers with the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police, our national police service). One of the officers was an older black woman with frizzy hair tied back, and the other was a bald Asian guy who looked to be in his early twenties. My brow furrowed with confusion as the older, female officer asked if I was Robert Fellows, brother of John Fellows, and I nodded that yes, I was.
“Officer, what is this about? Has something happened to John?” I asked. I was getting worried, and it clearly bled into my voice, because I could see a reaction in the officer’s face. It looked pained, like she had something to say but didn’t know how to say it. I glanced at her partner – same deal with him. In the few brief moments before she spoke again, I felt my heart drop within me. Something had happened, and whatever it was, it was bad.
“Mister Fellows, I think we should sit down. Can we come in?” I nodded, walked them into the living room, and sat down on the couch while they pulled up some chairs to sit in front of me.
It had happened about three hours before the police arrived. John was heading home from the office where he worked as a Human Resources manager. The way they described it, I could picture it so vividly in my mind, because it was part of his usual routine. John would have been driving home in his Mazda, humming along with the show tunes playing from his phone on the dashboard. Once he got home, he’d quickly change into his casual clothes and head out to see a movie. That was something he loved doing, both by himself and with me – he was a massive film buff, just as I was.
Except it didn’t play out that way this time. Just as he was approaching the bridge leading from downtown to the rest of the city, a drunk driver came out of nowhere and slammed into the driver-side part of John’s car at over a hundred and fifty kilometers an hour.
John died on impact.
As the police described what had happened, I tuned everything out. I found myself not caring that they had the driver in custody and were charging him for what he’d done and that he’d likely spend decades in prison, or anything of the sort. My brother was dead. That was what mattered. That was what the reality was. I finally, after what seemed like an eternity, looked up at the police officers. I could tell what my face looked like based on what I saw in theirs. They looked as though they were hurting; empathizing with me on a physical level. After a moment of silence, the younger officer spoke.
“There are services available for victims of crime. You can get in touch with those services by calling this number,” he said, handing me a crisp-looking business card. I nodded and absent-mindedly dropped it on the couch next to me. The older officer said they would keep in touch with me about the progress of the driver’s court case, and I distantly heard myself tell them that I’d appreciate that. And just like that, their visit was over. I showed them out, and then closed and locked the door behind them.
Then I cried. I broke down, tears flooding down my cheeks, my heavy heart wanting to shrivel up and die inside of my chest. I took my face in my hands and fell back against my apartment wall. I slid down until I was sprawled out on the floor. I stayed that way for the rest of the night, eventually sobbing myself into a deep sleep.
In hindsight, I wish I’d have kept it together enough to notice what was happening in my house. The wires in my kitchen and living room were moving of their own accord. Stretching, tightening, loosening; dragging themselves towards me. I wish I had noticed that, but I didn’t.
John was gone. My best friend; we were as close as a pair of brothers could be. I’d looked up to him his whole life, and he looked after me me for most of mine. He would walk me home after school when I was young, always interested in how my day was. When I was old enough, he’d let me tag along with him and his friends. He always had time for me and what was going on in my life, supporting me in everything I felt I had to do. And then, when Mom and Dad died, he took care of me, moving us into an apartment and working ungodly hours every week to provide for us.
He was my brother, he loved me, and he was there. What more could anyone ever ask for? Even now, especially after all that’s happened, I can remember one thing he said to me when I was a teenager. It was just after we saw our parents buried. We were walking through the cemetery back to the car when he wrapped his arm around my shoulder and looked me in the eye and said “Robbie, you know I’ll always look after you, right?” I nodded, kind of understanding in a superficial way what he meant. It was true, though. He always did, no matter what.
It’s what happened after John died, though, that changed everything. It was the wires, you see. The wires, so long and black and thick and thin, writhing around like a horde of snakes. Alive, and hungry. Always hungry.
For the next month, I tried to live with my grief. It was hard, though. It was so, so hard. Most days I just went through the motions in this dull, numbed daze. It was like I was disconnected from myself, on the outside looking in. I didn’t feel much aside from a hard ache in the core of my chest. As for my concerns? Nothing mattered. Nothing was important. I didn’t give a shit about movies, or trying my hand at screenwriting, or any of that. I didn’t care about planning out my future, figuring out where I wanted to be in ten years. Those things had occupied my mind so much until John’s death. Now, they didn’t.
That was how things went for a while. The hours, days, and weeks eventually bled together into this vast, endless and indiscernible soup, and I lived my life accordingly. I was pulled into my boss’s office at work about a month after John’s death.
“Look, son,” he said, his middle-aged eyes full to the brim with barely hidden disappointment, “I understand what’s happened to you has been hard. But you need to pick yourself up.”
I sat there slumped in the chair, staring at him. I was wearing clothes that were unwashed and that had been slept in for the past five days. I was unshaven and hadn’t showered for at least a week. I listened to him tell me that if I needed to, I could take time off. That wasn’t the only thing, though – he stressed that with me falling behind on my work in some areas and outright not meeting expectations in others, if things didn’t change, it was either take the time off or get fired. I wanted to tell him what I really felt – that I didn’t really give a shit if he fired me or not. I didn’t, though. I mumbled in acceptance, and an hour later I was back home for the first day of my impromptu vacation.
That night was when it all really started.
I went to bed the moment I got home. I was asleep less than fifteen minutes later. When I woke up, I was in pitch darkness, and tightly – tightly – bound with what could only have been electrical cords.
When I say ‘electrical cords’, I mean stuff like computer power cords, HDMI cables, headphone wires – that sort of thing. Wires. I blinked and tried to get my bearings. I soon figured out that it was all real. I wasn’t asleep. Somehow, I knew it wasn’t a dream. It couldn’t have been. I tried to move, but I couldn’t, as I was too tightly constricted. My heart started to race as fear seeped in, and then more so as that fear turned to terror. The wires, slick and smooth, roamed across my skin, making it crawl. They tightened and loosened in perfect rhythm, as if they were a living, breathing organism. I felt my breathing become heavy and frantic. I wanted to do anything to get away; I wanted to scream at these things to get away. The wires’ grip tightened, almost as if in reaction to my thoughts. As the pressure grew and grew, I finally screamed. In pure terror, I screamed, desperately hoping that it would somehow make a difference.
Then I woke up.
I shot up in bed, drenched in sweat. I glanced around my room, my eyes wide open. After a few moments, I realized – there was nothing constricting me – I was fine. It was just a dream. Dropping back onto my bed, I took in a deep breath and then exhaled just as deeply. “Great,” I thought. “Now I’m having nightmares. Just fucking great.” I rolled over and tried to get back to sleep, grumbling angrily to myself as I closed my eyes.
But I didn’t get to sleep again that night. I couldn’t. I didn’t fully realize it until morning, but my subconscious must have. The marks on my body that I ran my fingers across as I laid awake were no marks at all – they were grooves. The same kind of grooves that’d be there if you were tightly bound with cord.
But I hadn’t noticed this until the next morning. That night, I just laid there. I laid there and thought of John.
The next day, I walked. I needed to get my mind off of John, off of the nightmare I’d had, and the mysterious grooves in my skin, so I went downtown and just walked. I found myself strolling through a run-down part of town, mostly abandoned. The grassy area was full of untended weeds, and sticking like a sore thumb out of them were large, abandoned structures. Catching sight of a particular building – a tall, block-shaped one whose face was marked equally by graffiti and burn marks – I felt intrigued. There was just something about it – I don’t know how else to describe it. As I stood there, I noticed this stray cat – cute little thing, pure black – trotting on over to the building. I cracked a grin watching it. As it slipped into the building, I decided that it might be fun to follow it – see where it was heading, that sort of thing. So, me being the person I was, I jogged on over to the building.
Ten minutes later, I was stomping through an upper-floor corridor. It turns out the building was a burned down hotel – an old one too, probably from the fifties. The air smelt of smoke and age, and the walls were dilapidated and broken apart. I had to be careful and watch my step, lest I fall through the ground to a quick and untimely death.
As I walked, I started to wonder what the hell I was even doing there. it was stupid, and dangerous. What if I fell, or got hurt some other way? I was in the middle of nowhere, and no one knew where I was. This was fucking ridiculous. Well, that was that. I was on the verge of leaving to go home, but then I heard it. I heard the music.
It sounded like a faint, but beautiful song, consisting largely of buzzing. Recalling that ‘music’ now I can’t help but shudder and want to lock myself in my closet, but somehow, it sounded so utterly beautiful in that moment. I found myself walking, then jogging, then sprinting towards that music. Up a flight of stairs, through two apartments with broken walls to another corridor, then down another hallway. Turning down the hallway, then into an apartment. To this day, I’m still not quite sure what I was expecting. I certainly wasn’t expecting what I actually wound up seeing.
What I saw was something from another world – it had to be. It was a writhing, endless mass of wires. All black, all connected and entangled; entangled so much that an army could never hope to untangle them all, even if they had a hundred years to spare. The wires pulsated; loosening and tightening in unison. They even grew thicker and thinner like snakes do when they breathe. I stood there, frozen as the memory of my nightmare floated into my conscious awareness. My mind took that into account and tried to somehow make sense of what I was seeing. As I stared at them, it dawned on me what they reminded me of – a horde of snakes. A giant mass of black, electric snakes. Staring at these things, I felt dread creep into my heart. This was wrong – against nature. This shouldn’t exist. As that realization crept into my mind, panic arose within me. My heart began to race again and I felt sweat drip from my forehead as a mad, desperate, overwhelming desire to run began to consume me. Finally, I acted on that desire. I swung around and took off toward the door.
But it was no longer there.
It had been replaced with a wall of wires, moving and ‘breathing’, as it were, with their loosening and tightening and thickening and thinning. It finally clicked – this wasn’t the apartment building. It was somewhere else. Somewhere different. I don’t know how or why, but I felt it deep in my gut.
I felt trapped, constrained, separated from everything and everyone I knew. I felt rise within me a desperate panic – what was I going to do? How could I survive? After a few brief moments, I couldn’t help it anymore. I screamed in a mad panic.
At that moment, I think I got it’s attention, because immediately the wires shot out and wrapped themselves around me, drawing me into its mass. Panic consumed me as I fought and thrashed about mindlessly, my heart slamming into my chest over, and over, and over again. I felt tears run down my cheeks and sweat stream down the length of my face as the living wires coiled around me and sucked me in, deeper and deeper into their mass. Their grip on my body grew tighter with every passing moment – to the point where I knew if they got any tighter, my bones would surely snap.
That wasn’t the most horrid part, though. They felt truly alive, almost as if they were this massive set of snake-like animals. The wires felt smooth and slick as they traversed across my arms, legs, face, and throat. I tried to control my breathing, but I couldn’t – I was in such a panic that I was hyperventilating. As I thrashed and fought, I heard myself sobbing vigorously. I felt so helpless, and I did feel like I was going to die there. Then… God… then I heard it.
It came into my ears as I felt that presence from my nightmare approach. It was whispering, of a voice that couldn’t be human and in a language that no human mouth or tongue could ever hope to produce. But it was there, in my ear, speaking to me. What it said to me, to this day, makes my blood run cold.
What it said to me – whispering closely, so closely, as if it were a lover’s mouth just millimeters away from my ear – was, “You can come to be with us, and there you can join our mass.”
I screamed wildly, completely out of control as raw terror overtook me. All I could think before I blacked out was, “John, I love you.”
You can imagine how surprised I was when I woke up in my bed. It was evening, and for some reason I was thinking of John. Somehow, he was stuck in my mind, the way he’d be when we’d parted ways after an evening of socializing with each other. It was odd, but I didn’t concern myself with it because I had more pressing issues to attend to.
I glanced around frantically, wondering what the fuck was going on. It couldn’t have been another nightmare, because I was still dressed in the clothes I wore out that day. I jumped out of bed and moved over to the window, pulling the blinds open. It was dark out, the night lit up by the city lights and the moon in the sky. Okay, it was night. Great. But I wasn’t going to stick around to admire it.
Something was happening. Something horrible. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew I had to get out. I decided I’d leave the city, move up north into the woods, then figure out what to do next. The woods, where there’d be no fucking cords or wires.
An hour later, I was packing my bags, and I was finally ready to leave. I packed in the bathroom, because I didn’t want any of the wires in my apartment to see me get ready. I know, that sounds batshit crazy, but can you blame me after what I’d been through?
Like I said, I had no idea what was going on. My heart was pounding furiously, powered by raw fear and anxiety, as I tried to plan out how I’d survive all of this. Why was this happening to me? What was this living mass? All sorts of questions, running through my head. In the end, I silenced all of them and got back to packing, hoping that I’d be able to slip out, unseen.
It was no good, though. I was so focused on packing, so focused on getting out, that I wasn’t thinking coherently. If I had, I’d have known to thoroughly check my bathroom, and if I’d done that, I’d have noticed a thin charger cord for my electric razor peeking out of the bathroom cupboard.
The wires got to me just as I reached my apartment door, a backpack slung around my shoulder. First it was my phone cord that shot out and wrapped itself around my ankle. Then my computer cords – somehow extended to a great length – and then all of my phone cords and TV wires shot out of their respective rooms to entangle themselves around my arms and body. I immediately began to fight wildly in a terrified frenzy, hoping against all odds that I could get the hell away from these things and survive. I needed to get out, I needed to free myself, and the more time that passed, the more panic consumed me. Before long, I heard the whisper of the wires’ presence in my ear – “The mass, the mass. You will join our mass”. It got louder and louder and closer and closer. As I struggled, more wires – coming from seemingly nowhere – shot out to wrap themselves around me. Soon, I was on the ground and covered from head to toe in them, as tightly wrapped as one could be. It felt like pure hell, like I was in the grip of some monster from a campfire story. I didn’t know what these things were, and I didn’t know how to fight them. The more I struggled, the more they overpowered me. I had no idea what to do, and that only fueled my panic.
In the midst of my fear, my breathing heavy and rapid and my bones feeling like they were about to snap, I noticed something.
My surroundings were starting to blur, shift, and change. My apartment walls seemed to flicker, and in between the flickering I saw a brightly lit, yet dark, mass of writhing, snake-like wires. At this point I was going on pure animal instinct, fighting like mad while sobbing viciously, thoughts of being consumed by this thing filling my mind and paralyzing me with dread.
Then… then, my God. My saviour… my amazing, wonderful, saviour spoke to me.
“Robbie,” John’s voice spoke to me, from the deepest reaches of eternity, “you know I’ll always look after you, right?”
Something happened, then. The all too close whisper of the wires turned into a terrified and agonized shriek. I closed my eyes in pain because of the shrill closeness of the shriek to my ears. It was because of the pain that I didn’t notice the wires uncoiling themselves and withdrawing from me. By the time came to and opened my eyes, there were no wires anymore – at least, none wrapped around me.
I saw him, too. Shakily pulling myself up to my feet, I saw him standing in front of me, just as if he had never died. Just as if he had come over to watch a movie with me. He was smiling softly, with warmth in his eyes.
“Don’t worry about the mass,” John said softly, “they won’t come after you anymore. I won’t let them. I love you, you know.”
I wanted to respond. I wanted to run over and hug him. I wanted to do a million things, but I couldn’t, on account of me blacking out immediately after he spoke to me.
What’s the rest of the story? I woke up the next day, in bed, feeling warm and safe. I went into work with clean, freshly ironed clothes and a strong work ethic. I felt like a million bucks, and I acted like it too. Life was back on track, and my grief had vanished. I loved my brother, and he loved me. Even now. Even after his death.
That was five years ago. I finally got my life together and got into screenwriting, an old dream of mine. Now I’m part of the writing staff for a small-league Canadian medical drama. Not anything huge, but it pays the bills.
Life is good, for the most part. I’ve even met a special someone, who I hope’ll end up my wife sometime in the next few years.
I still dream about them. About the mass. The wires. I still dream about them, and in those dreams… in those dreams, the whispers come to me. They whisper that it won’t last, that someday… someday, they’ll have me.
Something else has happened recently that I find troubling. At various points, I find it hard to think of my brother. At times, crazily, I can’t even remember what his face looked like. In these moments, I feel a wave of terror and vulnerability wash over me, and I think of the wires. Wherever they are, I picture them writhing and sliding over each other in a gigantic, uniform mass.
Dating sucks as an adult. The only way to meet new people is either on the internet or in a bar, and I’m not comfortable trying to start a relationship with someone I’ve come across in either of those scenarios. At 28 years old, not being romantically interested in any of my unmarried friends or coworkers, I figured I was just doomed to be single the rest of my life.
But then I met her.
I was walking home from my favorite local comic book store, nose buried in my newest purchase, when I walked straight into the woman of my dreams. Her piercing blue eyes crinkled a bit at the corners as she laughed at my bumbling apology. She looked down at the ground briefly and tucked a bit of her dark brown hair behind her ear before looking back at me and sticking out her hand.
“I’m Miranda,” she cooed as I shook her hand. She was beautiful, and I was hooked.
Introductions turned into small talk, small talk turned into conversation, and before I knew it, my watch informed me that we had been sitting on the grass next to the sidewalk for 2 hours chatting. I regretfully announced that I needed to get home, then nervously asked Miranda if she would like to meet me the next night for dinner. She agreed, and we set the time and place for our date.
I was over the moon the rest of the night and most of the next day. My nerves kicked in on the way to the expensive Italian restaurant we decided on. It suddenly occurred to me that we hadn’t even exchanged phone numbers. What if she was just being polite and had no intention of coming? What if she was in an accident or her car broke down and she couldn’t make it? A million scenarios raced through my head as I began to sweat and my heart started to race. My stomach was in knots when I walked through the doors of the restaurant, but the bad feelings fell away as soon as I saw her standing in the corner wearing a purple dress that perfectly complimented her slim figure.
The hostess looked at me funny when I asked for a table for two, and my anxiety perked up again. My panic had left me sweaty, and I was suddenly aware that I had run my fingers through my hair a few times while in transit. I must have looked a mess despite my nice pants and shirt. I used my hands to ensure my hair was put back into place and wiped my forehead with my sleeve as I followed the hostess and my date to a table in the corner of the eatery.
The date went amazingly well. Miranda let me order for both of us, telling me that she trusted my judgement. We chatted and laughed through the meal like we had known each other forever. The world around me could have been in shambles and I wouldn’t have noticed; I loved being with her so much.
Of course, the joy of new love was short-lived, otherwise I wouldn’t be posting this here, of all places.
We decided to go for a stroll through the nearby park after I paid the bill. I worked up the courage to reach for her hand as we happily walked along the concrete path lit by soft yellow lights. My fingers linked with hers, and just as I felt how cold her skin was, I noticed that she had stopped talking and the air around us had grown tense.
My first thought was that I fucked up. I looked at her, already asking if she was alright.
She changed. Her skin had turned a bluish-gray, marked with deep purple bruises around her throat. The left side of her face was so rotted away that I could see her teeth through her cheek. The bright blue of her eyes was now covered with a milky film, and they stared at me with a hatred so deep that even the bravest soldier would have likely cowered.
I choked on a gasp and tried to back away, but she strengthened her grip on my hand so that I could only move as far as our combined arms’ length. My fingers throbbed and the muscles in my hand and wrist started burning while I tried to pull free from her grasp. Her fingers were so decomposed that I could see tendons and bone, but they were strong. Inhumanly strong.
My yells for help echoed off the surrounding trees. I pulled with all my might, but Miranda wouldn’t let go. She just stood there in her dirty tattered dress, staring at me like I was the worst form of scum. My heart was beating so hard that I could feel it pounding from my chest to the top of my head. Tears streaked down my hot face. I stopped yelling. Even if my labored breathing allowed the effort, I knew no one could hear me. I fell to my knees, forcing myself to stare at the ground instead of the rotting woman before me. I begged in between panting:
“Please, please don’t kill me.”
Miranda started laughing then. Not the musical laugh that had hypnotized me earlier, but a deep, menacing cackle that made me shiver. When she stopped, she crouched down so that we were face to face. She tilted her head, the bones in her neck cracking and popping with the movement, and grimaced.
“I said the same thing, you know. Didn’t help me one bit.”
She brought up the hand that wasn’t on the verge of breaking mine and stroked my cheek, leaving a sticky trail of rotten blood behind as her skin tore on contact. Once she met the base of my jaw, the tender gesture ended and she wrapped her hand around my throat. She pushed me to my back and brought her other hand to my throat as well as she straddled me. I gasped and fought, alternating between trying to push her off of me and attempting to pull her hands away. The edges of my vision grew hazy, the picture of her ghoulish complexion blurred, and I was sure I was about to die.
Just before I lost consciousness, she lowered her face until it was just inches from mine and screamed. I brought my hands to my ears to try to block out the piercing shriek and shut my eyes tight. After a brief moment, I realized that the pressure around my throat was gone and I could breathe again. I rolled onto my side, coughing and rubbing my throat, as Miranda’s screams faded into echoes.
She was gone.
I laid on the ground for a few minutes until my breathing and heart rate returned to a semi-normal state, then I ran to where I had parked my car at the restaurant and drove home.
It took a few days for the bruising around my neck to heal, but physically, there was no permanent damage done. I counted my blessings, and haven’t gone on a date since.
Shana lifted her long, white dress over her thin shoulders and dipped under the cool depths of Lake Diamond.
“Don’t be such a baby, Freeman. We didn’t come out here at two AM for nothing.“
She smiled when she spoke. I loved that. After five months of sulking through Stanford High’s senior year, Shana looked so absolutely amazing when she finally just… smiled. It was stupidly simple.
“Not too hot, not too warm. The Goldilocks Zone.” She tilted her tendrils of water logged black hair to the side, attempting to shake some of the fresh lake out of her ears as she floated effortlessly in the waves. “Do you know the reference?“
“They say something lives at the bottom of this lake, have you heard that story?“
She lowered her shy green eyes with a sly grin as she spit some water at me. “Its real deep here. Most people don’t even know how deep.“
I peeled off my shirt and stepped over the missing planks of the old wooden dock.
“Did you know that?” she asked.
“Well, Mr. Freeman. It does appear you knew everything!” Shana replied with a shocked shout.
“I do,” I replied, right before jumping in like a cannonball, shamelessly spraying some water into her eyes. I reached out to grab her, and she played like she was putting up a fight. I kissed her neck softly and it tasted like perfume and sweat.
“Are you scared to be in here tonight, Mikey?” she asked while staring straight ahead.
As if in response to the words, a weak wind started to pick up in the willow trees surrounding the coast. The branches swung back and forth lazily as a storm started to pass through. Tiny droplets of rain and discarded leaves dotted the lazily drifting waves as we struggled to stay above the surface.
“A little,” I admitted. “My mom used to say I get seasick.“
“You can’t get seasick on a lake, Michael,” Shana said in a daze as she stared at something beyond the shore. “Did you know people have died here?“
I didn’t. It was never in the papers.
“So you don’t know everything?” Her tone turned cold and lonely. “My great-grandfather did. In 1875. He was swimming here, in the middle of the night. The same as he had done a million times before. Same as we are doing now.” She paused. “This shitty dock is ours, after all. His wife always said he needed to get more use out of it.“
“Sounds like a good reason to get out of the lake, Shana.” I said, insistent and confused. “Let’s fucking go.“
She stared at me from the bottom of the ladder and shook her head. She was soaking wet and stunned by the significance of something I could not see beyond the trees. “He drowned. I was with him.”
“What are you talking about?“
“Grandpa told me he could do it. We saw a bright light under the waves. It was so warm. It was… it was beautiful, and comforting, and perfect all at the same time. But so strange. Where did it come from? What did it want? It was like somebody turned on a heater on the lake floor.“
It didn’t make any sense. Nothing she said was making sense anymore. I was just an innocent seventeen-year-old kid, hoping to score with the hottest girl in school.
“I wanted to touch it. The light. Grandpa said he would swim to the bottom to get it for me. He held his breath real big and went to look. Like this.” Shana disappeared.
“Motherfucker… this is not funny! I screamed to the empty night.
I looked around and no one was nearby. I reached underwater and caught a flailing foot. She surfaced with entangled limbs and hopeful screams.
“Can you see it?” She slapped me in the face as I tried to pull her away from the waves. “LOOK!”
A bright luminescence lit up underneath the surface. It was absurd… and exactly as she described. The light encompassed every inch of the storm fused lake. I leaped onto the deck and grabbed Shana by the arm. As I started to pull her towards me, she pulled back with surprising force. I landed back in the water with a belly flop.
She wrapped her thin arms around my shoulders. “Grandpa never came back. I hope you do.“
Shana kissed me. The same as she had done a thousand times. But something was different. Her lips were dry and crackled. A warm and sticky liquid flooded over her teeth and into my mouth. I opened my eyes and spit out the liquid. It was blood; redder than her underwear.
Then she dunked my head without any explanation.
The light was pulsating at that point. I could see it even through closed eyes. I screamed, but water filled my lungs. After it felt like there was no fight in me left, something relented as I broke the surface.
But the face in front of mine was not the one I recognized.
She still wore the same bikini top. It was crimson red, with tiny little hearts rounding the corners. But the skin behind it was old and grey. Layers of it raised up to form complicated wrinkles on her chest and arms. Her teeth were decaying and that illustrious black hair was falling out by the root.
As I looked into her eyes, they were still the same color green.
“I need the light, Mike. Go get me that fucking light,” even her voice was different. It was tired, old, and angry.
A neighbor must have heard the commotion. He opened his door from a few hundred feet away and called out into the dark.
“Are you kids alright? It is too late for swimming!“
“NO!” I shouted back. “PLEASE HELP ME.“
When I turned to face Shana, she was gone. The lake was dark again.
A dive crew searched Diamond’s grounds for hours. They never found my girlfriend, or anything that suggested an electrical source.
The body of a deceased senior citizen washed up on shore the next morning. I kept my mouth shut, even though the reveal answered my own haunting question for sure.
Reading Time: 6 minutesWhen I joined the case at 47 County Street, I didn’t know what to expect. As a social worker, I see all kinds of screwed up things from child abuse, to children abusing their parents. Yet, when I got the reports from that household, I wasn’t expecting much. The initial letters we received were from a neighbor describing loud noises, shouting in the late hours of the night, and a teenager storming off from the household on a bike last winter just after they heard what sounded like glass shattering from within the house.
This had apparently been going on for a few years.
Still, something about the way the cop came in on Tuesday, white as a sheet, asking about the case, probably should have at least somewhat set off some alarms. I was ignorant.
There I stood, in the living room of the Bedford family home on County Street, beside myself as the story unfolded. Dan, the father of the three children, spoke first with tears in his eyes.
“I’m so glad somebody called on us; my wife and I would have never had the courage to contact anyone about this.”
This struck me as odd, seeing as most people don’t want the authorities or social services knocking at their door.
“Can I offer you some water? Coffee maybe?” That’s what Valarie, Dan’s wife asked me in a hushed voice.
They both looked exhausted, and unbathed, like they’d just been stranded on an island for weeks and were just rescued by me. They seemed indifferent to their surroundings. Calm at the moment, but the tension was kinetic.
“No thank you,” I passed up the offer, I wasn’t comfortable accepting anything from the couple just yet.
“Tell me, as we need to get started here, what are your children’s names and how old are they?”
I already had this info, but I needed to survey how these two reacted to questioning. Valerie answered me.
“Well, Damien is 17. He dropped out of school last week, but he’s not here today. And there’s my little sweetheart, Kelsey. She’s 11. She’s with her grandmother for the weekend.”
“It’s Wednesday, m’am.”
“Oh right, I’m sorry. She’s with her Aunt. I lose track, since they’re never here anymore. She’ll be home soon, though.”
Her husband stared at her intently, almost not staring at her at all. More like through her. I took note of all of this.
“Please note that you’re being recorded for this interview. I apologize If I’m mistaken, but I says on file here that you have a third child.”
They both stared coolly into my eyes. A chill ran up my spine, and my left leg went numb. This is a feeling I would get as a child if I ever made a joke that offended someone, except now at thirty four. I suddenly felt out of place.
“Jessica.” They both spoke in unison.
I relaxed, slightly.
“Jessica. Okay, yes I have that here. Seven years old?”
They nodded together. Their faces twisted into an uncomfortable expression, both suddenly wringing their hands. Dan glanced over at the staircase to his left, I guess to silently signal as to Jessica’s whereabouts.
“She’s up there.” Valerie told me, suddenly sobbing.
A pang hit my heart like knuckles to a tether ball. I could feel my emotions swirling around my ribs. My stomach started to turn.
“Excellent, can I meet her?” I asked, stiffly.
“Yes, but…” Valerie wiped her nose with a tissue and looked at the stairs, “…but you have to go get her.”
Another odd feeling; I was beginning to get suspicious, but I wasn’t sure just what I was getting suspicious of. These two seemed like a train wreck, and I was certainly one to judge. Still, they didn’t seem like bad people. They felt like victims to me.
I decided to accept their request.
“Okay, um, where upstairs is she. In her room?” I scratched at the back of my neck, as I do when I’m not comfortable.
“Yeah.” They both answered at the same time again.
I stared at both of them for a bit before standing up and heading toward the stairs.
My heart jumped as my foot hit some metal across the floor. I looked down to see an empty pet dish of some kind.
“Don’t worry, sorry about that.” Dan picked the dish up off the floor for me.
“That’s our cat, Evie’s dish.”
I nodded, but didn’t respond. I just climbed the stairs to the top floor.
The creaks of the steps were eerie and loud as I made my way up to a dim, badly lit hallway. I couldn’t quite collect my thoughts. There was something strange going on, but I didn’t know what. Why were they sending me up to meet with their daughter? Why couldn’t they retrieve her for me? Why did I accept their request?
Upon checking out the long hallway, I noticed one door at the end. It was bedazzled with stickers and letters, appearing to be a very normal young girl’s room. The letters spelled out Jessica’s name, except the “S” next to the “E” was missing. I also noticed there appeared to be no light coming from within the bedroom.
I was taking mental notes of everything for my report.
I opted for knocking on the door out of respect, but received no reply. After three or four tries, I decided to just open it, figuring they were wrong about her whereabouts.
The door slowly creaked open under the grip of my left hand. My other hand clutched my clipboard, perhaps tighter than it should have. Just as I expected, the room was dark. Only a small amount of moonlight shined in from the cool autumn night. I found a switch on the wall to my right, and clicked it on.
“Holy hell…” My heart skipped a beat, as what I saw in the center of the room was unexpected.
A little girl with dark brown hair sat cross legged on the bed, smiling at me. I didn’t notice her before, with the lights off. I was startled, but I couldn’t be stirred.
“I’m sorry, uh, Jessica. I didn’t think anyone was in here.”
“Hi!” Is all she said, still smiling at me.
“Hi, I’m here talking with your parents and they told me you’d be up here. I just need to ask some questions. Is that okay, Jessica?”
“Is this… like a game?” She asked. The smile never left her face. The problem is, what seemed like a happy smile at first, suddenly seemed a little off. I’m not sure what the feeling was that I was getting, but it definitely made me unnerved.
“Um, not exactly, but it will only take a moment.”
She just stared at me, her off kilter smile never changing.
I moved toward the dresser across from her bed, and pulled out my pen.
“Jessica, how are you feeling today?”
I blinked a couple times.
“Hungry, huh? Okay. Haven’t you had dinner yet? It’s pretty late right now.
“They had dinner, but I feed myself.”
I blinked at her again.
“They don’t feed you?”
“It’s okay, I eat whenever I want.”
That smile on her face… it sent chills down my back much cooler than the air outside. I cleared my throat a little.
“Do you like your parents?” I asked.
“I used to.” She dipped her head down a little bit, looking at me with her neck arched, still grinning as ever.
“Jessica, I need to get the full story here so I can make sure we find out what’s going on, okay? If you’re honest, I can help you.”
Still smiling away, she nodded.
“Where are your brother and sister today?”
She didn’t reply.
I noticed the cat jump on the bed, and lay by the post. It was staring up at Jessica.
“Oh, I see you have a little friend! Do you like your cat?”
Jessica’s grin grew wider and her eyes flashed with mischief. Then, she titled her head to the side and spoke, but not in her own voice. This voice was deeper, and gravelly.
That’s when she snatched the cat up from the bed and pulled it’s neck to her mouth. She crunched down, causing the poor thing to hiss and screech with agony.
I gasped and fell back against the dresser. Jessica tilted her head back and gave the most maniacal laugh I’ve heard in my life. Blood was dripping from her teeth and lips. She took the cat in both hands as blood splattered onto the bed. Then, I heard a snapping sound and the poor creature went silent. Jessica flopped down onto her stomach, continuing to bite into the cat’s fur and flesh. I could hear her lips and teeth smacking and crunching. That’s when I puked all over the god damn floor.
After spilling my guts, I lunged for the doorway, colliding with the opposite wall just outside. I stumbled and stomped my way back downstairs, to where Dan and Valerie were sitting. They both just looked at me, obviously knowing I had just witnessed the reason for their strange behavior.
I looked at them both, not one of us saying a word for the longest time. Finally, as I began making my way to the door, Valerie spoke.
“Wait!” She exclaimed.
I turned around, my hand on the door knob, fear still present in my watery eyes.
Valerie looked at me with the saddest face, gripping her husband’s arm so tight and said,