/r/DarkTales

Photograph via snooOG

Because sometimes it's just best to let the demented children inside run free.

Why hello there, children. Do you want some candy? You can find some on our official OOC, but be sure to visit our wiki and read the rules, first!


CHOOSE YOUR POISON

Serif or Sans-Serif


Welcome to a place

Where darkness decrees,

Where angels have fallen,

Where psychopaths flee.

Welcome to a place

Where wild men char,

Where daggers are playtoys,

And intestines, scarves.

Welcome to a place

Where heaven is hell,

This is Dark Tales,

We wish you all well.


Check out our YouTube Narration Channel here!


GUIDELINES


  • This is a sub for stories of the sinful and dark. Humour, romance, anything is allowed so long as you can consider it dark, but your stories MUST be original works created by YOU. X-posts are acceptable as long as the work is still yours. We will not accept copypastas from other sites, if we see this, the story will be removed and the submitter will be notified.

  • No erotic pedophilia please. This is a sub for dark fiction, but even the insane have standards. We don't want this becoming a haven for the 'fun' of a psycho, so please, keep away from those subjects.

  • All posts must already be considered NSFW/L. It is up to the authors if they would like to tag them or not, but please do not complain if you stumble upon one that isn't.

  • All stories must be tagged with the appropriate flair. This means the following:

  1. Slap Fiction - 1 - 25 words

  2. Micro Fiction - 26 - 250 words

  3. Flash Fiction - 251 - 500 words

  4. Short Fiction - 501 - 1500 words

  5. Extended Fiction - 1500+ words

  6. Poetry - Self-explanatory

  7. Series - Multi-part Stories (please read our rules for submitting a series).

Feel free to use this online word counter to make sure you flair your submissions correctly. Simply copy and paste!

  • Play nice. This is a sub which is all for friendly constructive criticism, and it is encouraged greatly so long as it is helpful and just. Saying something 'sucks', is 'not scary' or using obscene language in a disrespectful manner does not help improve the author in anyway, and such behavior will not be allowed.

FORMATTING


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FILTER STORIES BY TYPE


OTHER LINKS

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Check out the full list on our Wiki Page!

/r/DarkTales

17,329 Subscribers

1

Good Fortune

Suspended in fleeting consciousness
Each limp tied to the saddle of a horse
But the horses are long dead
Thus I remain deprived of their good fortune

From morn till dusk
I lick my mental wounds

From twilight till dawn
I am forced to question my own sanity

For the future is a mirror
A glimpse into a forgotten past

And mine shines black
Barren and bleak

A casket carved from claustrophobic fear

0 Comments
2024/06/25
00:11 UTC

3

Mental Malignancy

I remember a time long ago
Before the taste of hopelessness
Clung like pieces of broken glass
To the back of my throat

A forsaken child
Terrified and irrevocably lost

I found my place
In the open arms of despair

Destined to die
I remain chained to life

Countless nights spent
At the mercy of devils infesting my blood

Countless days spent
Languishing as I float in a sea of irrational wants

Countless years spent
Suffering

Constantly shadowed by
My own malignant thoughts   

0 Comments
2024/06/24
00:02 UTC

2

Dutchman's Confession

Compelled by a demonic spell
to destroy everything I held dear
Yet even after countless years of self-destruction
Somehow there is always something to lose

Must reopen every old wound
Condemned to eternal damnation
Drowning in unrelenting negativity
I vanish into my pain

0 Comments
2024/06/23
00:07 UTC

3

Nothing but A Memory

I rise only to fall once more
Clinging to the vile pains gnawing at my broken form
To break away from the sweet embrace of mortality
And drag my carcass away from the grave

Driven by an all-consuming hate
I must will myself onward through the fires of hell
Until the disease is eradicated without leaving as much as a trace
And every single human atrocity is nothing but a thing of the past

With nothing left to lose I fall to my knees in a prayer
Wishing the ever-lasting darkness to drag every last one
Into its bottomless void until there's nothing left

Nothing but a fleeting memory carried away with the dust

2 Comments
2024/06/21
00:13 UTC

12

I’m staying the night at my best friend's house. They have a strange list of rules.

My best friend Flynn and I have been two peas in a pod for about 13 years, we do everything together. We go on adventures, have movie nights at my house, we do the same after school activities, they stay the night almost every weekend and are pretty much part of the family. There are even days that we just sit in the same room quietly on our phones because we’re drained and bored but we’d rather be drained and bored together. There’s just one thing I don’t know about them, I don’t know anything about their family and where they live because they’ve never been able to have friends over for unknown reasons. I’ve asked a couple times if I could stay the night but they’ve always had an excuse as to why I couldn’t. 

But I decided to ask again today, they looked at me for about a minute while deciding what they’ll say. It was weird, they had a look of concern on their face, finally said yes and that Friday would be the best day. I wanted to jump up and down because I was excited but I kept it cool and said “Awesome! I’ll see you on Friday!”. I asked if we wanted to plan anything for that day but I was told “No, usually mother doesn’t like the house being too rowdy, but I have some things we can do”. I was a bit confused but didn’t say anything because I was looking forward to finally staying the night at my best friend’s house. 

The week felt like it couldn’t have gone slower from the anxious anticipation. We planned this day on Saturday and each day felt like it was going by in years. Monday came and went and Flynn told me that they’re going to give me a list of rules on Thursday. Look over them and try to memorize them to the best of my ability. She will then send in the same list of rules to review again, just more added just in case I changed my mind before stepping out of the car. 

Tuesday dragged on and Flynn told me something that sent shivers up my spine. They said “You won’t see mother very often, but when you do always greet her, she doesn’t take kindly to people being rude after she’s opened up her home. Her consequences are…uh…not of this world” I thought that was a weird thing to say but seems fair enough I suppose. Wednesday went by as normal, not too fast but not agonizingly slow, nothing today, she didn’t say anything about the house, Thursday quickly followed and she handed me a list of rules and they seemed pretty normal like 

1. Don’t wear shoes in the house, we keep the floors clean so the dog doesn’t have dirt on their paws

2. Ask before getting into the fridge, remember this rule for later. 

I thought to myself “that kind of weird but alright” and continued reading

3. Make sure you have any medications you need, but if you need anything like Tylenol, ibuprofen, etc. they will be in the bathroom cabinet. Feel free to take as you need

4. There is no specific lights out time, but I want everyone winded down by 10:30pm and at least laying in bed by 11pm. Also remember this for later

“This seems easy enough” I thought to myself while folding the slip of paper and sliding it back into my backpack. Everything I needed was all packed and ready to go. I don’t like doing things at the last minute so I made sure that everything was ready to go. 

Friday was here. I had my bag packed, got in the car, and sat for a minute with this weird feeling in the pit of my stomach. I brushed it off as just being nervous but it felt different than just nerves. Driving to their house continued to give me a worsening feeling of anxiety but I tried to ignore it. Their driveway is a dirt road and goes for about half a mile. I finally got to the house and when I said it looked like a mansion I really meant that. Before I left the car I got a text from Flynn saying

“PLEASE READ BEFORE LEAVING YOUR CAR, YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON IT”. 

I laughed to myself thinking that it was just a funny way for them to get my attention. Maybe they just had to quickly clean a mess or had to help their parents with something before anyone came in. I continue on to read the message and immediately it’s like 2 paragraphs long. 

Most of it was asking me things like what my dietary restrictions are, emergency contact information, normal stuff like that. Then it asked things like Do you have a power of attorney or someone who will make decisions in the instance that you are incapacitated? And What is your blood type should you need a blood transfusion? I got a huge shiver up and down my spine as I read that. “What do they mean? Do I have a power of attorney and why do they need to know my blood type? She must be pulling my leg, I said to myself with worry in my brow. I answer the questions anyway because the text reads that these are required questions. Continuing to read I finally get to the meat and potatoes of this text message.

“Welcome to our humble home, we are pleased to have you over and we want you to have the best time. Before you leave your vehicle, please read our house rules. These will keep you safe and alive. 

I’m taken aback by the “safe and alive” bit. What did they mean by that? I wasn’t getting a good feeling about this but I continued on.

  1. When you ring the doorbell it should make 2 rings. If 3 or more rings occur, close your eyes and cover your ears. If you don’t the ringing will become louder and cause ear bleeding and possible permanent hearing loss. 
  2. When the door opens Flynn will answer, if this is the case you may simply walk in. If an older man in a suit answers he will ask you “What brings you to this home” and you must say “I am purely a visitor, I mean no harm” and look at him until he closes the door. DO NOT break your gaze until he closes the door
  3. When you come in, please take your shoes off, mother hates dirt on the floor and you don’t want to know what happens when she gets mad. 
  4. On our way to my room we will pass the living room, my grandfather will be watching static, say to him “This is my favorite show” and continue on. He wants to know that he isn’t going insane, he lost his sanity 30 years ago but this is how he stays calm. Our last guest made the mistake of not saying anything to him.
  5. We eat dinner in the dining room, if you don’t agree with cannibalism then don’t eat the meat. But the vegetables are fine. The dog will beg, you may feed him your scrap food. Just be careful of your fingers
    1. In regards to food: The food in the fridge is okay and remember, only drink the bottled water. Tap water is deadly. 
    2. Don’t go into the freezer. You don’t want to see what’s in there.
  6. When we get to my room, hang your backpack and coat on the hook. If anything falls on the floor and/or rolls under my bed, I hope it wasn’t important. 
  7. We don’t have a “bedtime” but it is recommended that we’re asleep by 11pm. Things start to get interesting after 11
  8. If you wake up between the hours of 1am and 3am, try your best to go back to sleep. They don’t like to feel bothered
    1. At 2:15am knocking from the closet door will happen, if you’re awake they’ll know and try to lure you into the closet. The last person that fell for the trap ended up disemboweled. So just ignore it. 
    2. At 3:00 you may see someone in the corner of my room, don’t let them know you see them. Just don’t.
  9. If at any point you need to use the bathroom, I recommend holding it until after 3am (refer to rule 8) but if you absolutely have to go, then go to the bathroom with the blue door. It’ll be the door across from my bedroom
    1. If the door is brown: Close the door, wait 5 minutes and check again. It should be blue at that point
    2. If the door is red: Shut and lock the door. It’s not safe to be in the hallway
    3. If the door is green: Be as quick as possible. It will turn blue within 5 minutes
  10. When the sun comes up, it is deemed safe to get up and roam the house. But, tread with caution because they hang around until 8am 
  11. The rest of the day will be relatively normal, we will go down for breakfast 
  12. Mother will make pancakes and sausage links. Again if you don’t agree with human meat, then don’t eat the sausage. Also, there may or may not be blood on the food because mother is clumsy and sometimes cuts parts of her fingers off while cutting things
  13. The basement door is in the kitchen, if it opens stop eating and throw your food down the stairs. It’s hungry. If you don’t, then you’ll be it’s meal
  14. At 11:30 it will be time for you to go, don’t dottle, if you stay past 12pm then you have agreed to stay another night
  15. If you get out on time, immediately get in your car and drive off. DON’T LOOK BACK. He’s following you out and he hates being seen

We hope you enjoy your night here, and we welcome you with open arms”

My blood runs cold and I get this sinking feeling in my stomach but then think confidently “They’ve got to be joking, nobody has this much shit going on in their house. So I continue on. I make my way to the door and ring the doorbell. There were two rings and Flynn happily answered the door and I figured the “List of rules” were bullshit. We went about our days playing board games in their room and eventually it was time for dinner. I was allowed in and passed the living room. Her grandfather was watching nothing but dead air and I decided to play along with this foolish prank and say “This is my favorite show!” And keep going.

Their mother says with bandages covering her hands and fingers “Tonight is meatloaf, so wash up and sit down.”. We went to the kitchen to wash our hands and my stomach dropped when on the counter I saw a puddle of blood and drops of blood trailing from the kitchen to the dining room. I ignore it and just wash my hands and think “They’re definitely fucking with me now, this is a great prank but a little much”. Dinner was interesting and the meatloaf tasted a little off but it wasn’t bad. Dinner ends and the rest of the night goes smoothly, before we knew it, it was 10:30 was flashing on the clock and Flynn said “Fuck, it’s almost 11, we should get ready to bed. 

I’m assuming you saw my text. Right?”. I got a little confused but told them yes and just went along with it. We fell asleep by 10:50 and I wasn’t asleep till 2:15am when I woke up to use the bathroom. I forgot about the warning about waiting if I could so I just immediately got up expecting to see the blue door. It wasn’t blue, it was a deep blood red and immediately rule 9.b popped in my head. I shut and locked the door and immediately went back to bed. Morning came and I dashed to the bathroom cause I had to wait. After that I went back and got dressed for the day. We went down to the kitchen to have breakfast and luckily there was no blood and her mothers hands were all of a sudden fine. After breakfast as I was about to throw my breakfast away I heard the squeaking of the basement door. Flynn wasn’t finished yet but she got up and threw her breakfast down the stairs and demanded I do the same. 

I thought this had gone too far and I angrily called them out on this. Their face went ghostly white and they said “Lower your voice, you’ll upset them” I said in anger “No! Why the fuck did you send me something so ridiculous!”. They lowered their head and said “It’s time for you to go. They run upstairs, grab my bag and damn near throw me out the door. They yelled “RUN NOW! YOU’VE UPSET THEM!” I don’t know what just happened but I ran to my car, put it in drive and sped off. But every now and again I see the same shadow figure on the outline of the forest. I now understand that the rules weren’t fake and my life is in danger. I don’t have very long but I type this saying to NOT ever ask Flynn to spend the night. I fucked up and it’s going to cost my life. Stay safe out there, and remember if you do agree to stay the night, follow every single rule TO THE LETTER…no less.

0 Comments
2024/06/19
04:57 UTC

2

Olivia

Before I start, this is a fictional horror! I may come out with more in the future

Olivia was a girl around the age of eighteen. She was kind, polite and athletic. Recently Jason( my brother's best friend) asked her out. She said yes, but she always pointed out really weird crap.

One day we were all hanging out and having drinks when I looked over at Olivia. She was just watching me, her eyes red like she hadn’t blinked in a while. After a little I think she noticed that I saw her staring and just said that I have really nice ears.

 I didn’t know whether to be flattered or scared. She played it off and we went back to drinking.

 I noticed that every once and a while she would say some weird shit like that and then act like she said nothing wrong. This one time we were camping and she was just sitting there. Not breathing or blinking, just sitting there. Like she was an empty vessel, that didn’t need air.

After about five minutes of this Jason came and sat next to her and she started to breathe and blink.

 I don’t think she noticed me staring at her. And when she did only for a couple seconds. 

This is one of the moments I realized “Olivia” was not a kind hearted girl. “Olivia” was a thing. And that thing was getting a little too good at acting like a girl.

About a week ago, “Olivia” disappeared. She left without a trace, and Jason did too. 

The police say that they took off to live their lives together. But I’m not buying it. Jason was so focused on school and my brother that he wouldn’t have left without saying goodbye. 

His parents said that they found a letter in his bedroom saying “I am running away to start a life with Olivia. She is the only one who understands me and I hope you understand. Please, do not come looking for us.”

I’ve seen the note, and I know, Jason didn’t write it. It was “Olivia”, she probably convinced him to go in the woods with her and she left behind a note on his behalf.

Three days ago they found his body, torn to bits. It was tragic knowing that he had been killed so brutally. They said that the killer was probably a bear, or a mountain lion. 

But I know the truth. I know what that thing did to Jason. I was looking through some old news articles and found that a girl went missing three years ago. They found her organs but her skin was gone. I saw the photo of her and my face went pale. It was Olivia. 

That thing took her skin and left the rest of her body to rot. I told my brother and he said I was crazy. I showed him the photo and he said it was a coincidence. He told my parents and they enrolled me in the mental hospital. When I came out clear and they released me I tried to hunt it down myself.

Now, I am living with Jason’s family, as they were the only ones who believed me. 

0 Comments
2024/06/19
00:47 UTC

4

Waste

Stellar light slowly fades away
Snuffed by the monolithic shadow
Cast by malignant monuments
Blooming into a forest of sickly grey
While Mother Nature lays wounded
Bleeding concrete to death

0 Comments
2024/06/19
00:10 UTC

4

The Box Turtle

When I was twelve years old I had a box turtle my parents had gotten for me as an early birthday present. They had ordered it from some science catalog, and I came to name it Rex. I choose Rex because all he would eat was whatever bugs I would find in the backyard or sometimes my dad would take me to the local bait shop where we'd stock up on crickets to keep in a separate aquarium. Noisy as hell but it did the trick.

It seemed like every moment I had I'd spend with Rex. Whether just watching him in his aquarium, reading about box turtles in whatever book I could find, or taking him outside and watching him tear around in our backyard.

It was the beginning of summer, and he seemed to love being in the sun. We had a large fenced in yard that bordered a small forest so I wasn’t too worried about him escaping or predators snatching him up. But I kept a close eye on him none the less.

I think back now to the day it happened. It still sends chills through me even as an adult. I should've paid better attention that day. The day he was taken from me.

It started out pretty much like any other day. The sun was bright and the temperature perfect. I had decided to let Rex run loose in the backyard for a while before dinner time. I sat him down on the grass and watched as he slowly emerged from his shell and made his way towards the part of the fence that bordered the forest.

I had started to walk towards him when my mom called me from the back door. She had to cancel our original dinner plans as my dad would be getting home from work later, and she wanted to know if I felt like picking up some sub sandwiches for the two of us from the local deli. This conservation continued a few minutes longer and then I turned my attention back to Rex.

Now from where I was standing at the time, I could usually spot Rex by the fence if he was moving or sticking his head out. I had done this several times before but now after about fifteen seconds of scanning, I still couldn’t see him. I started to get a little anxious but it wasn’t full blown panic since we did have a fence.

With a quickened pace I made my way to the spot where I'd seen him last. There was no sign of him.

That sense of anxiety began to grow into panic as I wildly scanned the fence back and forth. After several looks both ways my eyes finally landed on what looked like a pair of tiny legs sticking up out of a shell in the far corner of the yard.

Now fully freaked out, I sprinted over and confirmed what my eyes had seen. Rex seemed to have crawled into a small hole in the ground and was stuck about halfway in. His body was almost completely vertical with his legs thrashing about wildly. This hole had never been here before.

I reached down and grabbed him as best as I could with both hands. It was difficult to get a solid grip on his shell but once I felt like I could I tried to pull him out of the hole. But almost immediately as I started to pull up I felt resistance. He didn’t budge so I tried again but it felt like he was stuck. It didn’t make sense.

Still holding onto Rex it was then I felt something new. He began to slip from my grasp. I could feel tugging and my arms began to move slowly downward.

I quickly widened my stance and initially struggled to maintain my hold on him. But after a few seconds, I managed to and resisted the opposing force with everything my twelve year old body could muster.

But whatever had Rex forced me down to one knee just above the hole and I was forced to let go with one hand as he slid in even further. I remember that was the moment I truly became scared and I began to scream as loud as I could for help. I called out to my mother, to any of my neighbors hoping someone would hear me.

But in the end, no one came and I was alone.

Still not wanting to give in I held on as my other hand was pulled down with Rex into the hole. I started to feel a sudden warmth overcome my hand along with something wet. I felt pressure and needle like pain. After a few more desperate seconds of struggling, I felt Rex finally slip from my fingertips and I reflexively pulled my hand out of the hole.

I fell backward landing hard on the ground. I lifted my hand up to my face, revealing it covered in what looked like dozens of tiny pinpricks that started to bleed. Much of my hand and wrist were also covered in a thick mucus that slowly dripped off.

I laid there on the ground for what seemed like more than a few minutes. My whole right hand hurt, and I began to cry. Rex was gone and there wasn’t a thing I could do. I didn’t even hear my mother calling for me to come in for dinner. Eventually, she had to come outside to find me when she started to worry when I didn’t show.

She saw my hand and my tear stained face and asked me repeatedly what the hell happened. All I could do was look up at her and say nothing as I continued to cry. She told me later that all I said was that "a monster had taken Rex."

The next day I didn’t even bother getting up until noon. I was still an emotional mess. My mom and dad both tried asking me again what happened, and I think I said something about a wild animal getting him. I mean that was somewhat a truth. Something did get him.

Something that had lots of teeth.

Something that had left a hollowed out turtle shell in my backyard.

Just a few feet from a freshly filled in hole.

0 Comments
2024/06/18
17:46 UTC

2

Slow Motion Cognitive Collapse

From whence we came, we must return
Oh luminous god
Wake up
And flay the horizon turning bloody shit into gold

Consumed by the malignant light
Setting high heavens on fire
Reducing ancient civilizations to fever
Dreams hovering given life
To shadow the smoldering ash

The senses slowly dissolve distorting perception
Reversing the paralyzed dimension of time
In a slow-motion cognitive collapse  
An internalized mirror reflecting the decline of reality
Remodeled into the likeness of deformed flash

An image reflected in the cold
Gaze of a slumbering deity opening its fourth eye
A thing of unmatched beauty
Bestowing the sought-after wisdom
Constantly chasing the illusive species called mankind

Sol Invictus

The one sailing across the endless seas of the sky
Return to save us from the filth of this mortal world
Cleanse your servants from all traces of sin
Tear open the fragile fabric of firmament to rain
Your all-devouring holy flames

Lowered

Raise a legion from our mummified remains
To serve as your host to enslave the universe

0 Comments
2024/06/14
23:51 UTC

3

A Clairvoyants Guide to the Otherworld

The first time I visited the Otherworld was when I was eleven. One moment I’d been having some peaceful dream I hardly remember, and the next, I was shooting up in bed with a gasp. I pulled my blanket tighter around myself as I looked around uneasily.

Something was wrong. The sensation of wrongness was the first thing I remember feeling. The reasons why I felt so became clearer as I took time to look around. My room was far too dark and gloomy. My lava lamp was gone. The posters on my walls were missing. My pair of crammed bookshelves were filled with unfamiliar and disarranged books. Half the stuff on my bedside table was gone; brushes, toys, the pieces of artwork I’d been in the middle of working on. The only things left were my small mirror and cassette player. 

My heart clenched tighter as I leaned forward to peer through the bedroom window. 

The details outside were all wrong too, I thought, although as I searched with my eyes it was difficult to pinpoint exactly how. It was just so empty and still, I concluded. I felt as if I were staring into a photograph rather than through a window. There was no wind, no movement, and everything was completely, perfectly silent. 

Typically, you would hear the occasional car driving by, and the chirps of crickets and the creaks and cracks of the house. Soft, subtle sounds you were hardly conscious of. Not now. 

I waited a minute, and then two. I heard literally nothing except for the faint moan of what might have been a faraway wind.  

The rest of my house seemed equally foreign to me. The door to my aunt and uncle’s rooms were hanging half open. Their beds were both empty, their rooms appearing unfamiliar and alien as mine was. I felt like I was an intruder in someone else’s house. 

I could hardly stop shivering as I ran down the stairs, calling out their names. The only answer was that extremely faint, almost inaudible, oscillating howl of wind. It possessed an unsettlingly humanlike quality. 

I’d started crying as I ran outside, though I hardly realized it. A thin sheet of fog covered the streets, drifting languidly around me, never extending through the doorway of my house. 

Lamp posts spilled blurry, dull yellow light onto the street. The sky was a yawning, abyssal darkness entirely absent of stars. The street seemed too large and too small at the same time. All the cars I would usually see parked around the neighbourhood were gone. 

It was colder outside. Too cold. I didn’t remember it ever being this cold, not ever, even during the winter months of the year. 

I shuffled forward across the pave walk. I wasn’t sure where I was planning to go. I had some vague thought of finding someone who would help me escape this horrible place. 

Nothing around me felt real. I made my way across the length of the street and then back again, stopping once or twice to look around in disbelief as I tried to make sense of my surroundings and process the uncanny, subtle differences between the real world and whatever this was.

 Houses which appeared familiar and benign in the daylight now looked foreboding, as if the dark windows concealed something sinister and twisted within. With increasing frequency I found myself imagining humanoid beings as disturbed and malformed as my surroundings lurking inside as they silently observed me. 

Soon, the panic took over. I called out. I screamed and yelled until my throat itched. There was never an answer.

Once my throat was hoarse and my voice weak and ragged, I sprinted back to my house and returned to my room. I remember telling myself over and over again it had to be a dream. So I tried to wake myself up all the ways you usually do when you think you’re stuck in a bad dream. 

Pinching and slapping myself, sprinting around in circles and then splashing water on my face repeatedly. I would have tried jumping down the stairs but I couldn’t gather the courage to do that. This world felt far too realistic for such a daring and reckless feat. 

Once all else had failed, I curled up under my blankets; the only solace I could find, and lay there for what felt like forever. Each minute melded together seamlessly into what had become an extended waking nightmare. 

I don’t know how long it lasted. Hours most likely, and they were some of the worst hours of my life. But the experience didn’t last forever as I began to suspect it would. An unknown amount of time later, I woke up. Seven years have passed since my first visit. They were years of me living a normal life in the daytime and spending time every other night alone in a lonely, eerie world I would later come to learn was named the Otherworld by the scattered inhabitants who shared my abilities to psychically project themselves there. 

During this time, I learned how to survive the Otherworld. Eventually, I even came to call it a second home. Most of the time, the Otherworld appears as one giant, endless liminal space. A dark and creepy reflection of the real world, though an oddly peaceful one too. Sometimes, it can even be strangely beautiful. 

It seems, most of the time, completely devoid of any kind of life. It isn’t, though, and it is important not to forget that. 

Six years after the first manifestation of my powers I had no more control over my visits to the Otherworld during my sleep, but by that time it was no longer the frightening and unknown nightmarescape I’d first made it out to be. I found ways to work through the fear and loneliness, reassured with the knowledge my visits would never last more than a couple hours. 

I said that the Otherworld is an empty, liminal reflection of the surface world, but that isn’t the whole truth. Here and there are hidden places you can’t find in the real world. That’s what I came here to talk about. Not just the Otherworld, but the many dark secrets concealed within it. Over the subsequent weeks and months, I would become less scared of the Otherworld and more bored with it. It was never less than a few hours I would need to spend there before I could wake up and return to my normal life. It was one of the unspoken rules of this place. 

To deal with the boredom, I read each one of the new books in my room (at least, the ones which were legible), and restlessly paced the walls of my home. After a while, I began to cautiously venture deeper into the mysterious, alien world outside. With every exploration, my curiosity grew stronger. 

I’ve come to learn that the Otherworld can be both beautiful and horrible. The first story I want to share with you will introduce you to both sides of it; the good and the bad. 

I came across something intriguing during one of my routine explorations of the Otherworld three years ago. I’d been walking the streets for over an hour - I could actually measure time because I’d learned that watches (unlike phones) work in the Otherworld, though sometimes they’re stuck within a different time zone. 

In the midst of my wandering, I stumbled across a part of the dark and silent city which was coated in what (first) looked to me like very thin and tattered white cloth.

I began following innumerable strands of feather soft silk seemingly stretching on forever throughout the streets of the city. They cascaded across the walls and tops of buildings, and hung in velvety strings over the roads. 

The patterns of the gossamer seemed to become more complex the closer I examined them, making me feel disoriented and a little dizzy if I looked at them for too long. The whole thing was like a piece of abstract artwork. It looked kind of like an optical illusion art piece, but as if you were looking at it while tripping out. I imagined some troubled and obsessed artist spent their entire lifetime working to perfect and expand it. 

The net of silk grew thicker around me, blanketing parts of houses and gardens and forming circular spires and archways which rose several meters high into the air above me. 

The further I went, the more intricate and detailed the patterns of the web became. At the same time, the surface was becoming increasingly sticky to the point where it stretched outward a foot or two when I tried to pull my hand away. I felt as if my hand were glued to the material. 

What was weirder was that only some of the silk was sticky this way. Other parts hardly stuck to my skin at all. The non-sticky parts were almost imperceptibly different in colour and texture from the stickier ones. 

A couple minutes into my journey through the sea of frozen, suspended white, I caught glimpses of  sporadic movement from part of the web. I traced them to a hammock shaped net hanging a little distance to the right of me. I understood what it was when I came closer. 

The Otherworld isn’t completely empty, like I said earlier. I shared the world with various things both human and otherwise. You’ll inevitably encounter some of them if you spend long enough over here. 

Caught up in the pale patchwork of silk was one such creature I’d become familiar with over the past couple of years. 

It was kind of what I considered to be part of the native (ecosystem?) of the Otherworld. This insectoid creature would move about with unnatural speed, almost always staying in the periphery of my vision, so I was never sure if they were really there. They looked like giant, translucent bugs. They’d always creeped me out, but I got the feeling they were more afraid of me than I was of them. We never bothered each other much, and I was okay with them if they stayed out of my way. 

I definitely didn’t like seeing one trapped so helplessly, though it did help me understand the reality of the situation I’d gotten myself into. 

I was walking through one massive spider web. A spiderweb which must have spanned miles of the city, yet one which I’d somehow never seen before in all my years of exploring the Otherworld. 

Then something more important occurred to me. What type of spider lives in a web so large? I shivered and pulled my woollen coat tighter against myself. 

I came toward the creature hesitantly, and as I did, it jerked violently as it attempted to lift its legs from the surface of the web. The movements it made as I closed the distance doubled in intensity, and they sent a small ripple across the web - a silent, surging wave like a gust of wind. The creature looked terrified but weak, its struggles dying down as quickly and abruptly as they’d escalated. 

Then, out of the periphery of my vision, I saw something else move. The white shape almost completely blended into the surface of the web. It was yet more difficult to pick out through the gloom combined with the distance between it and where I was standing. The shape was multi jointed, large and lithe, nearly impossible to make sense of. 

A normal spider has eight legs. This one had many, many more. Some of them were short, while others stretched on further into the web surrounding it. Some appendages waved slowly in the air like pincers, drifting lazily from side to side. 

I froze as I stared up at it. The spider was stone still, so still I almost thought the shape of it - the only thing I could clearly make out - had been conjured up by my imagination from the complexity of the web. 

I waited for another sign of movement for a minute. I didn’t catch anything.  

I was gathering the courage to turn my back on the sight as I inched my way toward the bug-thing to get a closer look at it. 

That was when I heard the first meow. It was coming from somewhere further away, where the web was at its thickest. The sound was panicked and high pitched.

I took another glance at the bug thing, which had fallen limp again, a grey blur against the more pale shades of the web. I felt guilty for leaving it like that. But the sound of another meow drew my attention away quickly. I would come back later, I told myself, after I went to investigate the source of the meowing. 

I was moving before I’d registered what I was doing, walking alongside the large, soft spheres of white light cast by the streetlights. The houses gave way on one side to a flat, grassy park, where I could see several more mounds completely wrapped in silk which were hanging the greater part of the web. They swayed slightly underneath along with the innumerable rope like strands supporting them. Looking closer, I saw the silk ascending into the trees, draping over their many limbs like Christmas lights. 

I moved within touching distance of one or two of these cocoons as I continued searching for the origins of the noise. The pair were both loosely tucked inside a faded, red tube which formed a part of some play equipment at the centre of a glassy field. They were stuffed and bulging like overfilled rubbish bags. One was moving slightly, the surface shifting as something wriggled within. The other two were completely still. 

As I peered closer, I glimpsed what was inside the moving one, and I immediately regretted looking. 

It looked like some kind of young deer. That is the closest thing I could compare it to. Its skin was albino white and hairless. It was paralyzed, starving and emaciated. Its eyes stared out at me pitifully, full of pain and suffering. 

I turned away quickly and kept moving. 

It wasn’t long after that before I closed in on the source of the sound I’d heard. What I guessed to be a year old, short haired cat was tangled up in the spiderweb. I’m not so good with breeds, though I can say it was white, with large paws and still larger, mismatched eyes and a very fluffy tail. 

The cat looked like it had jumped up onto the web in an attempt to climb or possibly leap over it. Now it was stuck suspended at an awkward sideways angle as it wriggled helplessly. It turned its head to mew at me as I came closer. 

The task of helping it was a daunting one. Of course, I had to try. 

Fortunately, the creature wasn’t too far off the ground, and I thought I could probably reach it if I climbed up to a branch of one of the nearby trees hanging directly over it. It wasn’t easy freeing the cat. It took me several attempts just to tear apart the thinnest of the rope like threads binding it. 

I started with one of its front paws, and the cat immediately began to panic, causing multiple small but definitive tremors through the surface of the web. 

‘I’m trying to help you’, I whispered quickly. I rubbed the back of its head with one finger. ‘Please, just be still, alright?’ 

I stared into the cat's eyes, and I’m pretty sure I must have come to some understanding with it, because the cat calmed down a bit and let me work its second front paw out of the tangles of stringy web. 

I took note that the cat really did have large paws, eyes, and tail. Like they were cartoonishly large. It was something more than your everyday housecat, I guessed. 

I couldn’t have known then how right I would turn out to be. 

Every time I glanced up at where I was fairly sure the spider was, I thought I saw it in a slightly different position on the web, but I was never positive if it was really moving around or if I was getting paranoid. 

As I took turns alternately focusing on the cat and the rest of the web, I had to slow my movements down so I didn’t get my feline companion more tangled up and undo all the progress I’d made. 

With every passing minute I became more convinced the spider was about to come after me. It didn’t help having to accept I had no idea where it really was anymore. 

My hands shook increasingly, and my gaze flickered restlessly over the length of the web, searching for any sign of movement. I found myself becoming more focused on envisioning the arachnid catching me and not nearly enough on freeing the cat. 

In the end, I allowed myself to become too careless, and I did exactly what I’d been trying not to do. In a moment of frustrated impatience targeting a particularly stubborn knot sticking to the cat my movements caused a large ripple to disperse off into the fog in multiple directions. 

Moments later, I glimpsed something moving through the fog; silently, lazily shifting and swaying as it did. I heard a squeaking meow coming from beside me. 

The spider was approaching slowly and deliberately. As it turned its large body to move toward me, I caught a glimpse of what was in its mouth, suggesting what the spider had been in the middle of doing when I caught its attention. Its mouth was dripping with black blood and viscera, grinding back and forth rhythmically as it moved. I thought I could hear the crunching and crackling sounds it was making as it worked down its latest meal. 

The spider was in the middle of consuming something wrapped in a large lump of silk, using countless limbs to tear at the silk and whatever was inside it, and lift various pieces toward the dark mass of its mouth, the silk still wrapped about them. 

I leapt down lightly from the tree and plucked up a stick lying beside it. I tossed it as hard as I could into the murky depths of the mist in front of me. 

The spider reacted the way I hoped it would, changing its course abruptly and skittering soundlessly in the opposite direction, vanishing into the fog. I quickly ascended back up the tree to return to work on helping the cat. 

I had come very close to getting the cat free when the spider came back, a scuttling mass of white returning to the centre of the web. It had a huge, silken wrapped bundle hanging from its jaws. 

Within another minute I had finished freeing the cat. But as I tried to climb down the tree I got a little bit too impatient, unsettled and distracted by the sight of the spider’s return. I lost my balance momentarily, barely stopping myself from falling forwards straight into a section of web caked ground. I shrieked in surprise, the noise uncomfortably loud in the otherwise silent night. One of my legs had gotten completely stuck in an isolated section of the web, I realized as I glanced down. 

I pulled my leg free with a painful, adrenalin filled yank, leaving my shoe half hanging in the web. I nearly fell out of the tree, landing in a tangled, sprawling heap on top of its roots. I could hear my new companion yowling as I scrambled to get up. Luckily it appeared the cat was alright; I could see it looking back at me from a small distance away up ahead on the road.

I turned toward the spider. It took me no time at all to understand how much trouble I was in. The creature was in the middle of crawling sideways along the roofs of houses and the sides of shop fronts. It was large enough it could use its long legs to close the gaps between one building and the next. Despite still being some distance away, the thing was closing in on me frightening quickly. 

I broke out into a hard sprint through the street back the way I had come. The cat stopped every now and again to look behind with wide, gleaming eyes as if urging me to catch up. Running wasn’t going to be enough to save me. The one time I glanced back suggested how long I would be able to stay ahead of my pursuer. 

The cat jumped up and nipped at my fingers, drawing my attention. Then it bounded up to the front of a nearby house with a small, sloping backyard. When I figured out what it wanted from me, I felt like an idiot for not thinking of it myself earlier. 

I caught up with the feline, sprinting over to the door in a couple of steps, nearly tripping over myself in the process. 

Luckily for me, most houses aren’t locked in the Otherworld. Theoretically, I could wander into any house I wanted. I preferred not to, because that felt like a pretty big invasion of privacy - but I had tried it a couple times out of curiosity. 

I ran inside and slammed the door, panting wildly. I was standing in a dim hallway decorated with patterned, slightly old fashioned wallpaper. A pair of nearby doors stood opposite one another, each hanging open to reveal colourful, curtained rooms adorned with toys, drawers and beds covered by spaceship and planet adorned blankets. 

I paused to lock the front door, then ran over to the nearest window to peer out into the darkness. When I didn’t see the spider, I checked another window, and then another. 

Was it searching for a way inside the house? I wondered. With its size, I couldn’t imagine it could fit itself in, even if it managed to somehow break the door down. 

I couldn’t see the spider. However, the horrors weren’t over yet. 

The ability to astrally project isn't the only power I possess while I’m inside Otherworld. I developed some even more disturbing abilities during my time here. 

For instance, I know how to move into the minds of creatures and sometimes even more human inhabitants of the Otherworld. It’s as if I can psychically invade their thoughts, though sometimes they are the ones invading mine. Like astral projection, the power was (is) far from easy to control. 

I began to feel like the spider was right beside me, a squirming, insectile mass probing at the edges of my mind. Here and there a half comprehensible thought or feeling briefly manifested at the fringes of my consciousness. 

This quickly turned maddening. My awareness was split between two people. One was me, and the other was an unspeakable being, consumed by a deep, primordial hunger and a sense of predatory desire. With the invasive consciousness came recollections of eating and chewing ferociously on tough flesh and brittle bone, tasting things so foul they left me retching uncontrollably, alongside memories of hours being spent stalking and collecting prey. 

I discovered a spot to curl up in the corner of one of the bedrooms, near a window that looked out on the web coated neighbourhood. Periodically, I heard the shifts and groans on the roof or skittering and pattering across the walls that told me the spider was still trying to seek me out. In my mind, the sense of hunger became aggravated by a growing feeling of impatience and frustration. 

At least I was managing to keep my own presence hidden from it. It knew I was in its head, though not where, and its mind was perhaps the largest mind I’d ever sensed. Though that fact could change in seconds with a single short lapse in my focus.  

The one thing which got me through the mental anguish of those minutes was the cat. A soft and warm bundle of fur climbed up onto my knees and pawed at my face for attention until I opened my eyes and began stroking him and alternately scratching him behind the ears. 

We would survive the night together, one way or another. I just prayed we could both get out of there in one piece. 

Extracting myself out of the spider’s mind was like getting Bubbles out of the web. Slow and painstakingly difficult yet manageable. The spider’s mind was immense but lacking in the speed and grace of its body, and Bubbles helped keep me calm enough to focus. 

I created an imaginary room for myself the way my mom taught me and locked myself inside of it, away from the spider’s probing mind. The longer we spent separated, the further off its presence felt, and soon enough, it was difficult for me to sense its mind at all. 

I didn’t hear or feel any sign of the spider after that. But every now and again I saw the cat’s ears pick up and he gave a low hiss, which was enough to let me know it wasn’t safe to go outside. I may have managed to protect my mind from its invasive psychic presence, but that didn’t mean it had physically gone anywhere.

There was only one way I was going to escape the situation alive. Dying in the Otherworld wouldn’t kill me in real life. Rather, I’d learned by then it could lead to something worse than death. 

Once I felt like I’d relaxed enough I crawled under the queen sized bed inside of the room I’d snuck into, shuffled as far toward the back as I could, and closed my eyes. I didn’t feel like sleeping, but I knew I had to try. It was the only way out there. Sleeping (or sinking into a meditative trance) is how you enter the otherworld, and it's also how you leave it. 

I figured I would eventually fall asleep if I lay there for long enough. At least, I had to hope so. Every little noise jolted my eyes wide open and broke my heart out into a panicked, fluttering rhythm. I felt too vulnerable and exposed to relax. I was too restless, and found myself on my feet again after a couple more minutes of hiding. 

I discovered the basement by accident whilst pacing the house to try to walk off my excess energy. It seemed like a better place to stay since it put a little more distance between me and the spider, so I migrated there, curling up against a dresser with my feet pulled up to my knees, cushioned by an old, scratchy blanket I discovered nearby. 

The cat came over to me and cuddled up beside me. I felt his fur against my face, brushing my cheek and nose, and I heard his purring against my ear. 

I pulled him close to myself, so that I could feel the vibrations of his breathing against my chest. 

I can’t say how long it took me to get to sleep, but I did. From there I drifted back into normal dreams which quickly faded from my memory, and finally, I woke up (for real, this time). Back in the safety of my house and my normal bedroom, my session of astral projecting was over. The next time three nights later when I woke up again in the Otherworld, I looked around half hoping to see the cat curled up beside me where he’d been when I went to sleep inside the basement. When I realized I was alone, I wanted to cry. I very nearly did. 

My short lived feline friend had been great, but it also served to remind me exactly how alone I was in this cold, dead world. 

I sat on my bed for a while, despondent. Eventually, I wandered downstairs to face the quiet, gentle glow of a non-existent sun. It was daytime in the otherworld - though daytime looked like a perpetual sunset, so it was still gloomy. The cat practically scared me to death when he pounced on me ten minutes later as I was meandering listlessly along the footpath outside my house. I gave a shriek as something leapt into my arms, nearly knocking me off my feet. I struggled to get a hold of it but it was too fast and nimble, and it kept slipping free from my grip. Then I started laughing as it smothered my face in warm, rough licks. I felt soft fur against my hands and a fluffy tail tickling my hair and shoulders. 

I carefully pulled the cat away from my face and stared into its mismatched eyes. 

‘You found me,’ I said, wonderingly. 

The cat blinked and licked its lips, then gave a long and lingering mew. 

From that day on, the cat was my loyal friend; a friend who followed me - or had me follow him, during my night time trips through the Otherworld. Not all the trips admittedly; sometimes Bubbles would disappear on other adventures without me, but enough of them. 

For the first time ever, in this lonely liminal world, I had a friend. He was a reminder that things weren’t all so awful around here. 

Having someone there beside you, even if it is a mysterious spirit cat, is a lot better than wandering the alien landscapes alone. Even when you’ve gotten used to being alone for so long like I had, the quiet companionship of Bubbles made the Otherworld seem almost like a different place entirely. 

‘What should I call you?’ I asked as I looked down at the cat contemplatively. In the days following my last visit to the Otherworld, a little googling had allowed me to identify the breed of the cat as a Khao Manee. It was a pretty good match except for the unusually large paws, ears, and eyes - and as I would later come to find, my cat's tendency to float in the air sometimes. The creature stared up at me unblinkingly, offering absolutely no suggestions.   

I tried out a couple of names. Charlie. Ash. Nugget. Sage. Larry. Caspian. Windsor. Solomon. None of them seemed right for him. 

More names popped up in my mind. I dismissed each one of them as quickly as the first. One of my friends once had a cat named Snowflake, and that had me thinking up more random and unusual ideas.

‘Bubbles?’ I asked. I remembered always wanting to have a fish named Bubbles when I was younger, but my aunt and uncle were never fond of pets. 

The cat winked. 

‘Bubbles?’ I repeated the word a couple of times. It wasn’t any sensible name for any cat really, but I liked it anyway. Though I honestly couldn’t tell if the cat did. 

‘Well, why not?’ I asked. I felt like it kinda suited him. 

Bubbles responded by bounding a couple steps ahead of me and glancing behind him with wide eyes. The implication was clear. 

That night, we set off on the first of countless journeys out into the depths of the Otherworld.

The next few hours I spent following my newly named cat through different parts of the Otherworld to whatever places Bubbles deemed worthy of my attention. Whenever I got tired, he meowed and pawed at me to keep following him. 

That was one of Bubble’s favourite things to do with me; to show me things or places and observe my reaction to them. One time some weeks after our first meeting, he had me following him for more than an hour so he could retrieve a small bowl of yarn. Once we’d reached it, he awkwardly picked it up in his mouth and walked it over to me. Then he stared up at me until I took it from him with a sigh. 

Bubbles wanted me to play with him. He’d actually made me walk for over an hour through nowhere just for this freaking ball of yarn. 

I never knew if he was going to take me to see something insignificant and stupid or something strange and beautiful. A different time he took me to a garden filled with just about every kind of rose and flower I could imagine arranged chaotically alongside a long pathway reaching up to a cluttered, overgrown hoarder's house. 

He proceeded to run through the flowers, tearing up pieces of the garden and getting himself totally covered in dirt, flower petals and grass. 

Another time the cat took me on a journey with him to a mossy, old looking house with hundreds of wind chimes and various charms hanging off of strings from every possible surface. They were playing a soft, slightly sad melody alongside the gentle breeze brushing against my face. 

Standing on the porch and all over the garden were about as many miniature faerie statues and garden gnomes. An overgrown looking water fountain sat in the middle of it all, covered in moss and lilies. 

I could swear I saw the gnomes moving out of the periphery of my vision. It was one of those uncanny places I was sure didn’t exist in the real world, rather randomly turning up in the Otherworld the same way the spiderweb had. 

I’d tried to open the large, oaken door and was disappointed to find it was locked. It was unusual, because like I said earlier, doors to houses in the Otherworld tended to be unlocked most of the time. 

Instead I tried using the large, decorated knocker to bang on the door a couple of times and apprehensively awaited a response. I thought I heard some feminine whispers and possibly a giggle coming from the other side, but no one ever answered the door and the quiet quickly returned. 

Occasionally, I shared with Bubbles things I’d found, too, though they were usually not noteworthy, and to be honest, Bubbles rarely seemed interested unless I’d found him something to play with or chase around. 

After a long night of exploring, we would sit together for a while staring out at the desolate city. We both had our favourite positions up on a large oak tree in my backyard. Bubbles perched himself delicately on a thin, horizontal branch and I sat with my knees drawn up to my chest on one of the tree's larger limbs, leaning against the trunk, right above the swing I’d once built off of it when I was younger. 

In many ways Bubbles acted like any regular cat would. He brought me ‘presents’ in the form of the carcasses of some small creatures, including fish, mice, and insects. Some species were familiar to me, others I’d never seen before. At least a couple of them looked quite terrifying. 

He would also play small pranks on me. Not infrequently he would sneak up on me and pounce on top of me, biting me or turbo-slapping me with his paws before jumping off of me. He'd scared me half to death more than once this way. 

There were also some un cat-like behaviours I noticed from Bubbles. He yowled and caterwauled at the moon for hours, mimicking the noises of what sounded like wolves in the distance. Sometimes they would join in alongside him instead. It left me to wonder if there were more creatures like Bubbles out there.

There were times where Bubbles acted far more intelligently than any cat should. For instance, he possessed an uncanny ability to find me whenever I was feeling miserable or sad, and I could swear he understood a lot of what I said to him during our one sided conversations. Bubbles was a very special cat, there was no denying it. 

Whoever he was, I loved him. He was the perfect companion for my lonely night-time journeys. 

Things in the dreamscape were very different with the cat around - though I had no way of knowing how much Bubbles would go on to change my life over the course of the following years.

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2024/06/14
10:03 UTC

3

Ghost in The Memory

“Hey, Dad! It’s funny you called just now. I was going to call you.”

“I’m good, I’m good. How are you?”

“That’s good to hear.”

“Anna and the kids are great. We’ll probably drop by on the weekend. I’ve got to talk to you about something, anyway.”

“I’ll tell you everything when we come over.”

“Nah, everything’s fine. Don’t worry.”

“It’s uh, how do I properly put it? I guess important family stuff I’d like to talk to you about. Anyway, you wouldn’t believe where I’ve been today…”

It is kind of funny that my dad called me at that moment when I was lying in a pile of rubble and dust. Everything hurt as I lay, exhausted in the last place I expected myself to end up. In the basement of my childhood home. My parents never allowed me to go there as a child. That was the excuse they had. Years later, I found out that my grandfather lost the keys decades ago and since they had nothing of importance down there, they never bothered breaking the door down. My mum would come up with many ghost stories about the basement to keep my brother and me at bay.

Then one day, she and Liam vanished. That’s all I can remember. The two years between their disappearance and my dad’s second marriage, I can’t remember them. I’m clueless about what happened during these two years. To this day, the old man gets upset if I bring the topic up. We moved pretty soon after my dad started dating again.

Something terrible had to have happened to them because every time I tried to work my way around my memory, a great sadness washed over me. A painful sadness that prevents me from digging any further. I’ve seen therapists in my earlier years, and my brain seems to repress some kind of traumatic memory. Whatever happened was probably awful.

Life didn’t stop there, however, not for my father or me, thankfully. He remarried and thus I had a new mother and a sister, Emma. I was a bit of an asshole to both at the start of my dad’s relationship with my stepmother. It’s weird to refer to my mom as a stepmother today. But yeah, I was a troublesome fourteen-year-old when they wed. I hated everything and everyone. Over time, I, too, moved on and I’m glad I did.

I love both Mom and Emma to death, even if my sister is a little hard to deal with sometimes because she has schizophrenia. It’s a fun thing finding out your little sister is being chased by imaginary vampiric voices just when you outgrow teenage angst and start your adult life. I find the positive symptoms far easier to deal with than the negative ones. Because she gets depressed, withdrawn, and incapable of holding a coherent conversation, and even all those years later and with her treatments, she’s still dealing with a lifelong incurable condition that leaves her miserable and it just hurts to see.

I mean, yeah, we’re adults and we’ve our own families now, but still. We grew up close, and we remained close. Family’s all there is to this life, I think. I was never religious, so if it isn’t for the people I care about and love, there’s not much to be around for.

Now, all of those things are important to explain just what happened to me.

One night, actually, on Emma’s twenty-eighth birthday, we were all hammered out of our minds, including my sister who shouldn’t drink but… The night went without issue. She came up to me, barely able to keep herself upright, and asked me if I believed in the supernatural.

I didn’t.

She started giggling and my first thought she was hallucinating again.

Drunk out of my ass, without thinking, I asked if she was hearing Space Chupacabra or something and she just shoved me and slurred out how she had a great idea.

I asked her what it was, and she said it was the funniest thing.

She said I should make an online post about being a paranormal investigator just to see if anyone might bite on the idea. Like in that movie, 1408. At the moment, I thought it was the most hilarious thing. So I did just as she suggested. The next morning, I made a post on Facebook about being a paranormal investigator. Yes, back then people still used Facebook. At first, it yielded no results, but over time came out asking for advice and even inviting me to investigate.

I thought it was silly, I still think so, but I decided after enough requests to look into these things. The absolute majority of cases would end with me being invited to some place where absolutely nothing of the ordinary ever happens, and I’d just make up something as I went to convince the person how I had dealt with the horror.

It became a semi-regular thing, on top of my regular job. Anna came along a few times. We always found it funny how people were so serious about nothing. Ghosts, demons, monsters, you name it, I’ve had people approaching me with everything possible and impossible. Most of it ended with me coming up with some story because there was nothing. There was nothing there, and I just made up a good story. On one occasion, some good came off it. I ended up helping solve a murder case. A woman claimed she was being visited by a specter. After some shuffling around and nosing about, we ended up finding her son’s remains. His hastily buried half-decomposed body.

I’ll concede that maybe some of this stuff is real. That time, the female intuition led us to look in the right places during this one case. The woman wanted an exorcism and ended up finding out something else entirely. She found her son was the victim of a murder. It was hard seeing her break down like that upon finding her kid was gone. Being a father, myself, I could understand her. No one wants to lose their children, ever.

This was the first time something of a note happened during my hunts for paranormal activity.

I love both Mom and Emma to death, even if my sister is a little hard to deal with sometimes because she has schizophrenia. It’s a fun thing finding out your little sister is being chased by imaginary vampiric voices just when you outgrow teenage angst and start your adult life. I find the positive symptoms far easier to deal with than the negative ones. Because she gets depressed, withdrawn, and incapable of holding a coherent conversation, and even all those years later and with her treatments, she’s still dealing with a lifelong incurable condition that leaves her miserable and it just hurts to see.

I mean, yeah, we’re adults and we’ve our own families now, but still. We grew up close, and we remained close. Family’s all there is to this life, I think. I was never religious, so if it isn’t for the people I care about and love, there’s not much to be around for.

Now, all of those things are important to explain just what happened to me.

One night, actually, on Emma’s twenty-eighth birthday, we were all hammered out of our minds, including my sister who shouldn’t drink but… The night went without issue. She came up to me, barely able to keep herself upright, and asked me if I believed in the supernatural.

I didn’t.

She started giggling and my first thought she was hallucinating again.

Drunk out of my ass, without thinking, I asked if she was hearing Space Chupacabra or something and she just shoved me and slurred out how she had a great idea.

I asked her what it was, and she said it was the funniest thing.

She said I should make an online post about being a paranormal investigator just to see if anyone might bite take the bait. I could be like that paranormal investigator guy in that one movie, 1408. At the moment, I thought it was the most hilarious thing. So I did just as she suggested. The next morning, I made a post on Facebook about being a paranormal investigator. Yes, back then people still used Facebook. At first, it yielded no results, but over time, people came out asking for advice and even inviting me to investigate.

I thought it was silly, I still think so, but I decided after enough requests to look into these things. The absolute majority of cases would end with me being invited to some place where absolutely nothing of the ordinary ever happens, and I’d just make up something as I went to convince the person how I had dealt with the horror.

It became a semi-regular thing, on top of my regular job. Anna came along a few times. We always found it funny how people were so serious about nothing. Ghosts, demons, monsters, you name it, I’ve had people approaching me with everything possible and impossible. Most of it ended with me coming up with some story because there was nothing. There was nothing there, and I just made up a good story. On one occasion, some good came off it. I ended up helping solve a murder case. A woman claimed she was being visited by a specter. After some shuffling around and nosing about, we ended up finding her son’s remains. His hastily buried half-decomposed body.

I’ll concede that maybe some of this stuff is real. That time, the female intuition led us to look in the right places during this one case. The woman wanted an exorcism and ended up finding out something else entirely. She found her son was the victim of a murder. It was hard seeing her break down like that upon finding her kid was gone. Being a father, myself, I could understand her. No one wants to lose their children, ever.

This was the first time something of a note happened during my hunts for paranormal activity.

Until this point, I didn’t know that fear could weigh as much as a black hole. I knew somewhere deep inside that it was just sleep paralysis, but it all felt so real. The hairless, deformed, dog-like thing sitting on my legs with its jaw threatening to tear me apart seemed too real. The stench of its breath, the glint in its red eyes everything seemed real.

Finally, my brain awoke my body, and I jolted upwards with a scream.

The silence soon took over once more, and there was only silence and the sound of my heart attempting to escape my ribcage. I got out of bed and went outside for a smoke. I had to calm down before trying to fall asleep again, lest the stress lead me to another paralyzing nightmare scenario. Once I put out my cigarette, I was about to head back inside when I felt an icy hand touch my shoulder. I turned my head and there was nothing there. Dread washed over me once more. With my head turned, I heard a whisper.

A soft, barely audible whisper at first.

The basement…

The sudden vocalization jolted me. I snapped my neck in the other direction only to face nothing.

The whispering persisted.

The basement…

Follow me into the basement…

For a moment, I thought I was losing my mind.

Follow me…

The voice sounded so familiar, even so hushed. It felt like a voice I had heard before.

The basement…

Follow…

I glimpsed a shadowy mass moving around the house…

To the basement…

It was my mum’s voice.

As if entranced by the fear and the familiarity of the ghastly vocalizations. My body moved, following the black ether crawling towards the basement door. Silent screams of protest echoed inside my skull, but they fell on deaf ears. I was already there. The gates into the abyss were open, ajar.

I was staring into the void, and it was staring back at me.

A scream bellowed out of the chthonic nothingness. A heart-wrenching scream. My brothers…

Without a moment’s thought, I raced into the basement, nearly killing myself on the steppes that led into the belly of perdition.

Only once the dead, empty silence wrapped its ethereal arms around my throat, threatening to crush it, had I realized how stupid I was rushing in like that. I was shaking, cold sweat traveled down my forehead. I felt trapped, lost, at the mercy of some kind of great and terrible cosmic power that threatened to swallow me then and there.

There was a lighter in my pocket, but I had a hard time grabbing it. Something was wrong with me; something was wrong with the entire situation. The stench of spoiled milk and eggs penetrated my nostrils, disorientating me.

I was so terrified by the darkness that I could barely pull out the lighter. I heard the distinct sound of heavy breathing at the exact moment I produced a flame.

Two conjoined screams erupted in my face; one low and animalistic and the other high-pitched with utter despair. Both voices escaped from the same toothy maw attached to the vaguely human face, staring at me with starving malice.

The one singular moment I could see the goddamn thing with clarity felt as if I had been staring death itself in the eye. A massive head, completely black. Deathly black, hairless, and completely blind.

I didn’t even have the time to react to the monster. It just grabbed me and tossed me to the floor with an inhuman display of strength. I probably landed on my neck because for a moment everything went numb, my shoulders were on fire, and the jaws of the beast were painfully close to my face. I could feel its saliva dripping onto my skin.

Everything happened so fast. I closed my eyes, hoping for a quick death, but that wouldn’t come. The beast began shrieking and wailing. Opening my eyes, I saw a human-sized flame withering as the beast inside cried in agony. Everything it touched caught fire. Soon enough, a blazing inferno engulfed me. The feeling returned to my extremities once I resigned to my fate. A ray of light penetrated from above. A beautiful, otherworldly glow. From within the light, echoed the voice of my mother, my actual mother, my beloved mother. It beckoned me to get up and save myself.

Pushing myself off the floor felt like I was being tortured, but I had to move forward. The flame was closing in on me. It was threatening to block the staircase. Pushing through the sensation of rods embedded in my extremities, I dragged my feet out of the basement, brushing my face on some kind of rope hanging from the basement ceiling. Thankfully, I made it outside of the house. I heard the beast shrieking and roaring behind me one last time before my body finally gave in and I collapsed.

When I regained consciousness, I was in the hospital. My entire family was sitting around me. For the first time in a long time, I was truly happy to be alive. I don’t know if I could live with myself if I had left my family like that. I broke my neck and my arm is burnt, but I’m going to get surgery and I’ll be as good as new in about a year. Anna and the kids were crying with joy. Emma was crying, too. I wish I could hug them all tighter, but my arms are still killing me. It was a beautiful moment. It’s a shame these are so far and few in between.

The strangest thing happened once Anna and Emma left the room; I overheard their conversation.

“Jon hasn’t been the same since Amelia passed away. On top of being overwhelmed with his grief, he’s withdrawn and sounds completely unhinged sometimes. “

“Yeah, I’ve noticed too. I’m pretty sure he’s convinced I’m his step-sister…”

“Oh… He was talking about all these ghost stories to me a while ago, out of the blue. “

“Shit… I think he’s like Uncle Bill. He’s got the family curse…”

“He mentioned your side of the family has had a history of mental illness years ago.”

“Oh yeah, we thought it was behind us, because neither of us had it, nor any of our cousins. Mum was fine, too. She was fine until the cancer. Say, Annie, what are the odds he might’ve tried to…”

I couldn’t hear the rest of it, but those silly birds had to be wrong. I wasn’t the one attended by the dearly departed royal servants of Ozymandias. That was Emma… right, mummy?

0 Comments
2024/06/13
15:42 UTC

3

Skeletons of the Gods

(Here is the audio version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nk5RprPrkiU&t=1074s )

Thousands of years ago, in a certain kingdom in the far south, there lived a man who always wanted more than he had... wanted to be more than he was. His name has been erased from the records, but the wise people who know this story call this man "The Insatiable One."

He was born into a family of servants of a nobleman. His parents trained him from an early age to take their place one day. They always told him, “Look how lucky you are! You could have been a slave on some plantation, but you are a servant in a rich man's house! Moreover, such a good man. He lets us eat the leftovers from his table and only beats us when he gets really angry. You will have a real paradise with him!”
But this young man was not satisfied with the scraps from the master's table. He wanted to have everything his master had... And more. But he had no idea how to get it.

Years passed, the Insatiable One's parents grew old, and he passed out of adolescence. He took his father's place and became the most trusted servant in the house. This gave him access to every nook and cranny of the large household. One day, while cleaning his master's bedroom, he came across a scroll hidden under his pillow. He immediately took it in his hands, unfolded it and began to look through it. He mastered the art of reading enough to understand the general meaning of the written words. And these were extremely significant words. The lord of the house conspired with another nobleman, an aristocrat from an ancient family, against the prince ruling the province!

Insatiable One was shocked, but after a while the feeling turned into excitement. This was the opportunity he had been waiting for for so many years! He could finally rise above his miserable existence... Over the corpse of that wretched, fat pig he had to serve!

The man rushed to the stable and, without asking, took the best horse and forced it to gallop towards the prince's residence. When he reached the fortress, his horse was barely breathing, and the animals's flanks were covered with thick sweat. But the rider had no intention of pitying the creature. He immediately jumped off his horse and ran towards the gates of the fortress.

And there he was stopped by armed guards. The warriors had no intention of letting a stranger into the castle. They declared that if he had any important news for the prince, he should pass it on to them and they would see to it that it reached the ruler's ears. Then the Insatiable One fell into panic. He couldn't give the letter to the guards. After all, they could have taken part in the conspiracy themselves. But even if they were loyal to the prince, it didn't change much. When they warn the aristocrat about the threat, they will receive all the glory - and all the rewards - and the poor informer will be forgotten. He had been so close to exaltation... and now the opportunity might have slipped from his grasp.

Therefore, the Insatiable One began to protest loudly and demand to see the prince. The guards had enough of this and were already starting to force the intruder away when the head of the castle's ruler leaned out of the window of one of the chambers. "If this man wants to talk to me so badly, let him," said the prince.

Hearing such words, the guards had to bring the newcomer into the castle. And he, assisted by them, marched through the corridors of the fortress. Despite his excitement, he continued to observe his surroundings. He saw riches - works of art on the walls and expensive carpets on the floors. He passed the prince's servants, many of whom were more lavishly clothed than his own master. Of course, he immediately felt the desire to own it all… to rule it all.

But that was the distant future. First, the Insatiable One had to secure a more modest ascension. He stood before the prince. He prostrated himself before the magnate and then handed him a letter informing him of the conspiracy. The aristocrat unfolded the scroll and began to read. At first he frowned. Then he started grinding his teeth. Finally, he rolled the scroll into a ball and threw it aside, while he angrily punched the wall. The Insatiable One feared that the prince's anger would turn on him, but the magnate did not intend to punish the messenger, but the real culprits. He immediately ordered the arrest of all the conspirators. The armed riders moved at every horse's speed to various corners of the principality and the machinations of the traitors were nipped in the bud. And the square in front of the castle was soon decorated with poles on which the participants of the conspiracy - including the former master of the Insatiable One - twisted in agony.

The prince also showed his justice in another way. He gave the household where the Insatiable One was once a servant and the surrounding lands to the man who warned him of the danger. The informer now had a great fortune and a host of servants at his command.
But that wasn't enough for him. He remembered the splendor of the prince's castle. He swore to himself that he would possess it. A plan began to form in his head. Well, the prince was slowly getting older, and he still had no male heir, only a daughter. The Insatiable one knew that whoever took her as his wife would become the heir to the princely title and the splendors associated with it.

But the prince had no intention of marrying his only daughter to a former servant. When the Insatiable One gently suggested this possibility during the conversation, the magnate's face took on an expression almost as stern as when he read the fateful letter. “It is only out of gratitude that I forgive you this insult,” the aristocrat said through his teeth. The Insatiable One bowed and apologized for his impertinence, but he did not abandon the plan. He knew that there was a key that opened even the most closely guarded doors - including the one to the prince's daughter's alcove. And that key was gold.

The Insatiable One devoted the next years to accumulating a fortune. He was looking for every possible business opportunity. He lent money at interest. He raised the tributes imposed on the villagers. He mercilessly exacted high fines for every, even the smallest, offense. But it must be admitted that he did not spare himself either. He tried to eat and dress as modestly as possible and not waste money on luxuries, which helped him increase his wealth faster. The knowledge of the growing mountain in the treasury gave the Insatiable One a certain pleasure. There were times when he would come just to look at its glow. But he still believed that it was just a means to an end.

At the same time, he took some actions to make the prince need money. The Insatiable One devoted a small part of his fortune to arming bands of bandits who began to prowl the prince's domain, burning villages and attacking merchant caravans and tax collectors. The magnate was helpless. He could not trace the bandits' employer, because the cunning vassal contacted the thieves very rarely and only through intermediaries. The Insatiable One did not demand that the robbers give him part of the loot - it was enough for him that they ruined the prince.

And the magnate's financial situation was getting worse and worse. Cut off from his sources of income, the prince began to look for help in loans. Of course, the Insatiable One came to his aid. He granted loans generously, at high interest, but with a long repayment period. The prince used the funds obtained to deploy more troops to patrol the province - and this drained his treasury even further and forced him to incur further debts.

Finally, it was time to pay off the debts. The Insatiable One presented his patron, and debtor, with numerous promissory notes. Once again he saw the prince angry - but the rage quickly gave way to embarrassment. The magnate was a strict, but also very honorable man. Refusal to fulfill the obligations was not an option. But he simply didn't have the funds to pay off his debts. Fortunately, the Insatiable One had a solution for that.

“Your Highness, give me your daughter as my wife and make me your heir. In this way, debts will be written off. After all, as an heir, I will not collect debts from my own future inheritance.”

The prince thought for a moment and then gave his answer.

“I won't pretend that I like this solution. But I will not pretend that you are not once again a benefactor of my family. Perhaps the fact that you save it from falling again is a sign from the gods that they want you to become its continuator."

Soon the wedding and reception took place. The Insatiable One paid little attention to his young wife's charms. For him, she was just another trophy - and a means to achieve greater honors.

As a princely heir, the Insatiable One vigorously set about fighting the plague of brigandage. And he had an easier task. Without the support of their secret patron, the bandits began to lose strength. And this patron - the Insatiable One himself - knew a lot about his former charges. Thanks to this, he began to destroy their bands - one by one. Sometimes he even led armed men into battle. People in the kingdom began to admire him "He may have been born a servant, but he has the heart of a leader!" – they said. "The old prince couldn't deal with bandits, and this man cleansed the province in no time! This is proof that sometimes it is worth introducing some new blood into old families.”

The Insatiable One couldn't wait to inherit the title and lands. That's why he bought herbs from a suspicious old woman with bright blue eyes as cold as ice, which were supposed to help his father-in-law move to the other world. And so it happened. A bit of powder added to the wine turned the Insatiable One into a new prince... Almost. There was still one formality left - paying official tribute to the king.

The Insatiable One went with his retinue to the capital. He had never seen such a bustling city before. Even the largest stronghold in the princedom could be merely its suburbs. And the royal palace... Every doorknob was made of gold, and the contents of one chamber could buy half of the prince's residence. During the feast, the tables were full of dishes that the Insatiable One had never even heard of before. Like the king, who was bent under the weight of a golden crown and ornaments made of the same metal during the ceremony. Falling on his face before the monarch and then repeating the words of the oath on his knees, the Insatiable One swore to himself that one day he would take his place.
The Insatiable One returned to his castle, and one thought occupied his mind - what to do to become king. He took an oath of allegiance... He didn't feel the need to keep it, and his conscience could easily cope with betrayal. But the remaining vassals would probably prove more loyal to the monarch. Instead of supporting the Insatiable One in the fight for the throne, they would side with the old king.

Then the Insatiable One remembered the glances the king had cast towards his young, beautiful wife. The monarch himself was old, but his wife was even older. No wonder the ruler looked at younger women... For now, he held back his lust. This had to be changed.

From then on, the Insatiable Prince tried to visit the royal court as often as he could. He always took his wife with him. The young princess was pleased with these visits. Her husband treated her harshly and provided no entertainment, so each visit to the palace was a pleasant change for her. Insatiable, he also tried his best to ensure that his wife and the king stayed just the two of them as often as possible. For example, when the royal couple were being shown around the palace garden, the Insatiable One asked the queen, known for her herbal passion, to step aside for a moment and give him advice on an embarrassing issue.

The Insatiable One saw that his actions were bringing results. When too much time passed between one visit and the next, his wife began to ask when they would visit the capital. And when the visit took place, the prince noticed some furtive glances and sometimes even accidental touches between the princess and the king. As for the queen, age had dulled her senses a bit, so she didn't seem to notice anything.
Until the romance finally matured. The king could no longer contain his desires, which his elderly wife could not satisfy. And the princess, neglected by her husband, fell under the monarch's charm. A pair of lovers were found in bed.

The Insatiable One did everything to spread the news of this scandal throughout the kingdom. He had a good reason for this. According to ancient law, adultery between a ruler and a vassal's wife gave the vassal the right to terminate his allegiance to the monarch. The Insatiable One loudly expressed his indignation and portrayed the monarch's meanness in such terrible colors that soon the king began to be perceived in the kingdom as a disgusting lecher and a tyrant who could not respect the family ties of his subjects.

The prince managed to gather several other nobles under his banner and together they started a rebellion. The king was completely surprised by this turn of events. He tried to negotiate to the last. The Insatiable One enticed him with messages and letters giving hope for peace, while he himself marched towards the capital at the head of the army. The rebel troops descended on the city like a hawk on its prey. The royal guard was unable to resist the advancing horde.

The Insatiable One personally beheaded the king in the square in front of the palace, and then placed on his own temples the crown that the cut head once wore. Later, the man sat on the throne. The kingdom was his. But it still wasn't enough. As he looked at the map, he saw that his domain only occupied a small part of the known world. It bothered him. Over the next months, he gathered troops and recruited mercenaries. Blacksmiths across the country worked day and night forging weapons and armor. And finally the day of departure came. The Insatiable one declared war on the surrounding countries. For the next few years he led a major campaign. He clashed with enemy armies in the field, plundered villages and conquered cities. If the blood he spilled had not soaked into the ground, it would have probably flooded the world. His body became covered with scars acquired in various skirmishes. He collected a large collection of crowns and other insignia of power taken from defeated monarchs.

When all the countries on the continent had been conquered, the Insatiable One returned to his capital and declared himself emperor. Celebrations in his honor and in honor of his victories continued throughout the week. It was seven days filled with feasts, balls, tournaments, performances by artists and magicians, and thanksgiving ceremonies. Wine, almost as red as blood, flowed in streams. At night, the light of torches was reflected from the piles of looted treasures, as large as mountains. The world has never seen such a lavish celebration before.

For several weeks the Insatiable One rejoiced in his triumph. He was so happy that he even moved his unfaithful wife from the prison to a proper room as a mercy and honored her with his visits several times.
But soon the familiar anxiety returned. The Insatiable One still wanted to have more than he had, he wanted to be more than he was. The servant became a rich man, the rich man became a prince, the prince became a king, and the king became emperor. What is left for the emperor? Just one thing. Become a god.

The Emperor ordered all the most important priests from the various cults scattered throughout his new empire to be summoned before him and ordered them to proclaim him a god. Many clergy were outraged by this blasphemy. They shouted loudly, invoked the vengeance of the gods and cursed the proud ruler. The emperor ordered them to be taken away and beheaded. Others begged the Insatiable One to abandon his sinful desires and not bring condemnation upon himself. He only ordered these to be flogged. But one of the priests, a follower of a little-known deity from the northern reaches of the empire, an old man dressed in a green robe, really surprised the ruler when he uttered these words: "You want to have more than you have and be more than you are. These are noble desires. They distinguish humans from animals. But you believe that you are entitled to everything, by virtue of your very existence - and therefore in the end you will have nothing."
The emperor took so long to consider these words that the priest managed to leave the throne room before the ruler could have him arrested.

Some of the flogged clergy came to their senses, others were ready to comply with the request immediately. And the Insatiable One replaced those who were beheaded with others, more obedient. Throughout the country, in all temples, prayers began to be offered - not for the emperor, but to the emperor. In every holy place, even the smallest chapel, there were monuments or at least statues of the ruler.
The Insatiable One was pleased. He finally reached his peak. Even the fact that his son was born in the meantime did not give him as much pleasure as this apotheosis.

But this joy did not last. Several months after the announcement of imperial divinity, the Insatiable One happened to fall asleep on his throne. A figure appeared to him in his dream - its outlines were hazy, but one thing stood out clearly - bright blue eyes with a look as cold as ice. The ruler heard a mocking voice: "Do you think you are a god? That's what they call you. But a name does not make an entity. Just like the decree. If you told people to call you a giant, would it make you grow taller? Or if you were called a bird, would you learn to fly? To become a god, you must live like a god.”

The Insatiable One woke up and sprang from his throne, looking for the figure that spoke to him, but in his waking state he found none. But her words stuck in his mind. He wasn't a god at all. He had to accept that even his subjects, his alleged followers, bowing and praying, realized deep inside that their emperor was human. Very powerful, maybe even the most powerful in the world, but still human. Not a god.
The emperor again called a meeting with the priests. He asked them a simple, specific question - how can a man become a god. This time, none of the clergy tried to criticize the imperial aspirations, but their replies were in no way helpful. Some talked about gods who had always existed and took part in the creation of the world. Others about gods who were born that way, as descendants of divine parents. Still others about people who became gods thanks to heroic deeds... but only after death, when they reached the afterlife.

As you can easily guess, neither of these options was avalaible. So the emperor turned to less orthodox advisors. He asked village witches, secret sorcerers, heretical occultists and wandering charlatans. They were more willing to present practical ways to achieve divinity. One of the mystics taught the emperor a meditation technique that required the right way of breathing and maintaining the same body position for several hours. After some time, the Insatiable One was visited by beautiful visions of divine powers... unfortunately, they disappeared immediately after finishing the meditation. However, the back pain persisted for the next few days. In turn, a certain herbalist prepared potion for the ruler. After drinking it, the Insatiable One almost tested for himself the truth of the theory about people becoming gods after death.

The emperor quickly came to the conclusion that this tactic did not make much sense, for a simple reason. If any of these sorcerers knew the true way to achieve godhood, they would have claimed it for themselves long ago. Knowledge about the true apotheosis had to be, by definition, secret and difficult to access.

So the Insatiable One sent his servants around the empire, ordering them to obtain all kinds of books on theology, mysticism, occultism and magic. Messengers searched libraries, temples, and the ruins of fallen civilizations. They bought books, stole them, took them by force. They sent all of them to the capital. And the emperor sat over them and looked through them. But he didn't find a solution.

The Insatiable One spent many years searching for divinity. But he also had to deal with other matters. One day he visited his son while he was being taught by one of the court sages. The emperor ordered that the student and teacher conduct their lesson as usual and pay no attention to him. He himself sat down to the side and, as was his custom, absorbed himself in meditation on the pursuit of divinity.

However, he could still hear fragments of the lecture. Today the sage taught the prince about nature. At one point the boy asked, "Why do we kill and eat animals?" The sage replied, “Beings who are higher in the hierarchy of beings have the right to feed on those who are lower. Animals eat plants and humans eat animals."

The Insatiable One unconsciously repeated the words in his mind, and then suddenly jumped to his feet, shouting "Finally!", much to the surprise of his son and his teacher. Higher beings ate lower ones. Animals ate plants, people ate animals... Therefore, one who ate  people was someone higher than man. God. Not just in name, but in nature.

The emperor immediately issued new orders. From then on, criminals sentenced to death were to be sent to the palace kitchen instead of the scaffold. These orders caused outrage among the subjects. Some even rebelled against the cannibal ruler, whom they viewed as a monster. Funny thing - you kill a person and others are willing to accept it. But if you eat it, it is an unforgivable crime for them, although eating it will not harm the deceased. Some of the subjects even dared to take up arms. With force, he suppressed these riots, and the rebels joined the convicts who were sent to the spit or to the cauldron.

Insatiable one ate portions of human flesh and drank blood every day. For several days he was unsure whether this would truly make him a god, but one morning he woke up filled with certainty that he was on the right track. He didn't know what exactly he dreamed, all he remembered was two blue eyes, cold as ice, shining in the darkness. However, the emperor was sure - he had become a god. By absorbing the bodies of ordinary people, he unquestionably proved that he was a higher being than them.

Soon, disturbing news reached the emperor's ears. Other inhabitants of the Empire followed in his footsteps. Hypocrites, and first of all they themselves were outraged at his new menu! Rich people bought the bodies of dead poor people from their families. The poor people attacked their neighbors to devour them. Everyone hoped for divinity. The Insatiable One flew into a rage. If everyone starts eating the divine diet, it will no longer be special. He will no longer be special. He will cease to be a god. If everyone is god, no one is god!

The Insatiable One introduced harsh penalties for cannibals. But this did not stop the new fashion. Of course, it also reached the royal palace. When the emperor heard that one of his stewards was secretly eating human flesh, he decided to punish him as an example. He summoned all the courtiers to the throne room and ordered the guards to bring the chained steward before him. “You dared to take what belongs only to me as a god!” – thundered the Insatiable One. The steward began to beg for mercy, and when the pleas did not calm the emperor's anger, he decided to hand over the other cannibals, pointing to the secretary and the equerry. These two immediately began informing on other courtiers to save their skin. And they released others. And so, with each passing moment, the circle of the accused was expanding. At one point, to his horror, the emperor realized that all his courtiers were man-eaters. Officials and priests, ladies-in-waiting and soldiers. Everyone, from the lowest slave to the highest-ranking ministers. The insatiable one didn't know what to do. He couldn't punish them all, and who would obey this order anyway? The men-at-arms were themselves the culprits.

What's worse, at some point the courtiers themselves realized the situation. Each of them realized that the rest secretly shared his new culinary preferences. There was silence, and all eyes went towards the emperor sitting on the throne. Despite the shackles, the steward raised his hand and pointed at the ruler, saying: "If animals eat plants, people eat animals, and god eats people... What will we become when we eat god?"

A month has passed. The provincial governors began to worry that there had been no news from the capital for many days. They sent their soldiers to check what was happening in the imperial city. When the armed men entered the metropolis, a terrible sight met their eyes. Piles of gnawed human bones. Skeletons of gods.

1 Comment
2024/06/13
13:08 UTC

2

A serial killer broke into my house. That isn't even the scary part.

0 Comments
2024/06/12
19:16 UTC

1

The Hopeless Legion

AUTHOR'S NOTE: There is a passage in this story marked with a * that is written in German. The translation is in my comment.

Alfred

After a fourth year of poor harvests, our village had begun to starve. Our chief sent envoys to plead the neighboring tribes for food, but the only thing that came back was their heads. The elders demanded that we go to war over these brazen insults, but the famine had left our army too weak to even consider that. Months of squabbling followed, with more and more dying of hunger every day.

The “council meetings”- shouting matches if I’m being honest- dragged on and on until my cousin Harold spoke up.

“About two weeks south of here, there is a village of some strange folk. They speak another language and do not seem to follow Odin. Whichever god they worship, their harvests seem to have been good. Let us conquer it so that our village does not perish.”

The other elders began to murmur among themselves as our beleaguered chief looked down and rubbed his forehead.

With an exhausted sigh, he spoke.

“It seems we have no other choice. Gather those of our men who still have strength and send a party to raid the village. Take our last calves and sacrifice them. Perhaps the gods will finally hear us and grant us favor.”

Desperate as we were, nobody objected. As expected, he appointed his brother Albert to lead the party.

We knew it would come to that, but we also knew our fates had been sealed. The slovenly excuse for a man that our chief called a brother was not even fit to be called a warrior. Even as the chief made his announcement, Albert was lazily reclined by the fire, loudly scarfing the last of the dried meat we had and washing it down with what was left of our wine. We all despised him, but we knew we could not object.

The morning came and we left on our grim journey. Ever the fool he was, Albert was in high spirits.

“Why the sorrowful faces? The gods will surely will surely favor us! Not only did we sacrifice our finest calves, but we are on our way to offer them our certain victory!”

Most of us had barely received enough food to survive more than two days of travel, so we simply marched in hungry silence.

The long march through the mountains was a disaster. Two days into our journey, a man collapsed while walking, dead of starvation. A day after that, we lost two more when a bear attacked our camp. Led by the ever- foolhardy Albert, we pressed on.

Our numbers dwindled day by day, with one man succumbing to sickness and another falling from a cliff. Some simply went into the woods to fetch food and never returned.

By the time we reached the edge of the village, only five of us remained. Our “leader,” having seen the prize ahead, pushed his way through us so he could stand proudly at the front and make his determination. Seeing nothing directly in front of him, he faced us and shouted, “See what lies before us, men! The gods have seen our efforts and laid this treasure out so we may claim it! Do not hesitate and go-”

His words were stopped short as an arrow penetrated his head.

As he fell, men who appeared to be clad in silver came running toward us, shouting “Barbararon! Barbararon!”

Those of us still alive panicked. Gods be damned, village be damned! It was every man for himself!

All of us turned and ran for the forest, each going his own way. One of my comrades screamed in the distance, but that was of no importance. I ran deeper and deeper in the woods, not even looking to see if I was being pursued.

I stopped when I reached a small clearing. Safe. I thought to myself. I’m finally safe.

I scarcely had time to take a breath when I heard the pounding of footsteps behind me. Without a thought, I spun around and raised my axe in both hands, hoping to save myself from an untimely death.

There was just enough time to see one of the silver- clad men swinging his sword down at me. The blade connected and the old, rotten handle split right where it hit. Hoping fortune would favor me, I swung the half that was still in my left hand at my attacker.

Predictably, this did not happen. The axe missed its target completely and I lost my balance, spinning into the ground. Before I even had the chance to lift my head, I felt a sharp pain as my attacker drove his blade into the back of my neck. My body went limp and I found myself staring into the ground.

The world began to grow dark. As I struggled to keep my eyes open, it felt as though my tired and famished body finally had the chance to rest. In my last moments, I thought to myself, “At last, this fool’s errand of a journey has come to an end.”

Except it hadn’t.

I woke with a start, as if some force had thrown me from my bed.

It was dark, as if the heavens had been stripped bare. The ground was soaking wet, no doubt from the driving rain that was coming down around me. A small torch that had been tied to a pike was flickering, fruitlessly fighting to stay lit. All the while, I heard the sound of metal clashing against metal, interrupted only by the occasional scream.

My eyes began to adjust to the darkness when I noticed something. Next to the torch, a makeshift war banner was fluttering in the wind. As torn and faded as it was, I could make out the image of a woman with a sword driven through her chest.

Out of nowhere, someone grabbed my arm. Without a thought, I drew a fist back, ready to take on this unknown assailant. When I locked eyes with him, however, I froze. A flash of lightning illuminated his face to reveal a set of crazed eyes.

“MOVE, YOU FOOL!” he yelled. “THE INVADERS HAVE STORMED THE KEEP!” At that moment, I felt as though a fire had been lit in me. Not of bravery, but of fear.

Somehow, I still held a half- broken axe in my hand. Almost as if I knew how grave our situation was, my grip on it tightened.

I had no idea who these invaders were or why we had to fight them, but something inside me told me I must.

Richard

Like many before him, the newly- appointed pope stepped out to his balcony to address the sea of Crusaders standing before him.

“Now hear this! The Holy Land has once again fallen into the hands of the heathens! Even now, her streets run red with the blood of the innocent! As the defenders of Christendom, we cannot tolerate such injustice!”

After pausing for effect, he continued.

“Go forth and drive those savages from the land! Do not allow a single one to escape! God wills it!”

Roars erupted from the knights below as banners were raised and they prepared to make the gruelling march to Jerusalem.

Far to the rear of the multitude, a company of mercenaries wearing ill- fitting armor grudgingly raised their tattered banner. Hailing from a backwater region of one of the old Teutonic kingdoms, they had been sent to join this crusade so their lord could garner favor with the Vatican.

The pope's rallying cry rang hollow with them. Knowing their master, this was nothing more than a stunt to feed his ambitions of nobility.

Among their disjointed ranks was a young man by the name of Richard. Seemingly born under a cursed star, he had the misfortune of being the bastard son of a peasant who was executed for treason. To purge his father’s disgrace, he was driven out of his tiny village at an early age.

Regardless of where he wandered to, he never had a place to rest for long. Be it calamity or conflict, he found himself tossed from one place to the next, earning the unfortunate moniker of “Richard the Hopeless.” After being expelled from his latest “home,” he found himself driven to this misbegotten band of thieves, murderers, and drunks, seemingly the only ones who would accept a hopeless wanderer.

With broken weapons and almost no provisions to speak of, their group meandered behind the mighty armies of the Franks and the English, often stopping to rob whatever village they happened upon along the way.

Much like Richard, the company found itself bouncing from one misfortune to the next, their numbers thinning as they trudged eastward.

Whether through dumb luck or their desire to be as far from their lord’s keep as possible, those remaining eventually reached their destination.

Richard, expectedly, limped behind the group. Thanks to his characteristically bad luck, an arrow struck his foot during a spat with another group of mercenaries. Ever the worrier, he spent the remainder of the journey fretting over all the ways he might die in the foreign land. His comrades, however, were unconcerned; they were far too distracted by the treasures that they were going to “free” from the locals after the fighting died down.

Confident that the armies before them had cleared the way, they made their way into a valley, choosing to walk through it to escape the blazing sun.

By that time, the pain in Richard's foot had become so great that he could barely keep his compatriots in sight. Cursing his fate, he hobbled along, oblivious to his surroundings.

For what must have been the first time in his life, fortune seemed to smile on the wounded mercenary. Occupied with his raucous companions, the Arab archers perched on the cliff above took no notice of him and nocked their arrows. Intent on avenging their fallen comrades, they unleashed a flurry of arrows on their unsuspecting prey.

The arrows easily found their targets. Within seconds, most of the group fell without a word. Upon realizing that they had walked into an ambush, the few survivors fell into disarray. The thieves and murders among them, unaccustomed to facing opponents who knew how to fight, began to turn their swords on each other, attempting to secure a safe hiding spot for themselves. The few experienced soldiers present attempted to mount a counteroffensive, but found themselves cut down by attackers who had been lying in wait for the chaos to start.

Richard, completely unaware of what was transpiring before him, continued his miserable, lonely march. As he grew closer to the site of the skirmish, a lone man wielding a scimitar charged at him, bellowing at the top of his lungs. Like lightning, fear coursed through his body in an instant. No longer aware of the throbbing pain in his foot, he turned and ran.

As quickly as it came, fortune abandoned him. In his haste, he tripped on a small rock protruding from the sand. Before he could utter a word, he stumbled head over heels, landing hard on his back. As he attempted to regain his composure, he heard his pursuer running toward him. Drawing ever closer, he could make out others. While he groped blindly for his sword, the tip of another pierced his wrist. With a pained scream, he curled into a ball. His pursuer- and his friends- had surrounded him. The men shouted to each other in their strange language, seemingly laughing as they did so.

He heard the scraping of metal on metal as they drew their blades from their scabbards. In unison, they began driving them down into him, each stab piercing him clean through. He cried into the sky, his blood pouring into the sand below him. In a fitting end to his life of suffering, Richard the Hopeless died screaming and alone.

Or so he thought.

Richard woke in the middle of a dark forest. Between the pouring rain and the massive trees surrounding him, it almost reminded him of the home he had once been ostracized from. But his nostalgia was interrupted by an all too familiar sound. Blades crashed against blades and men cried out as arrows pierced their hearts.

The gravity of the situation began to set in as he fumbled to find something, anything, to defend himself with.

At once, he felt something cold run through him as a spear thrown from the darkness skewered his side. Still in a daze, he felt the spot where the spear hit, wondering what had happened. It felt warm.

Apparently snapped to reality by the sensation, his body quickly weakened as blood flowed freely from the wound. He quickly slumped to the ground, unable to even support the weight of his limbs. As he lay there, he noticed a tattered banner lying next to him. It bore the image of one of the pagan goddesses, a sword driven through her chest. Laughing to himself at the irony of the image, the dying Richard reached out with his bloody hand, hoping to leave some trace of his unfortunate existence. With the last of his strength, he wrote out a single word from his native language.

It was the name that so many had hurled at him during his travels: HOFFNUNGSLOS.

In a rare occurrance for that place, the battlefield went still. A lone man in a trenchcoat made his way to the spot where Richard lay, making sure not to soil his shoes on the numerous bodies lying near him. Using a torch to illuminate the ground, he looked amusedly at the banner Richard left his message on. "Hoffnungslos," he mused. "It has a nice ring to it... we'll have to make sure to put that on the next group's patches."

Klaus

Mud. Cold, sticky, stinking mud tainted with the blood and viscera of the dead men who lay in it.

For months, our battalion had been locked in a bitter stalemate with the British in some forgotten corner of a Belgian forest.

Everything that could have gone wrong went wrong and then some. Our laughable trips over the wire were bogged down by sudden storms, resulting in hundreds of our men being cut down by Herr Maxim's frightful new weapon; the meager rations we received from the rear were obliterated by a single mortar shell that must have been lobbed by the Devil himself; and the "Wunderwaffe" known only as "Weisskreuz" failed miserably when a shift in the wind blew its noxious vapors back to our position. Those who were spared from drowning in their own fluids were left burned or blind, bearing a closer resemblance to the corpses lying in No Man's Land than our comrades.

None of this mattered to the corpulent buffoons in Berlin. "Continue the offensive!" The telegrams read. "We must uphold our pledge to the Hapsburgs and emerge victorious!"

Another stormy night arrived. The sky was black as pitch, save for the occasional flash of lightning. Our Spandaus chattered away and the cannons roared in the distance, providing our nightly "concert" as our commander prepared to brief us. His "talks," as he often called them, marked the low point of the week- even more so than the bloody forays over the wire.

The spoiled son of a noble family, Captain Reichert represented everything we hated in our leadership. In every sense of the word, he was an officer in name only. On any given day, he spent more time yelling at his aides for forgetting to add sugar to his coffee or inquiring with headquarters about his promotion than he did on his responsibilities. His appointment to our company was nothing more than a political decision and it showed. Instead of carefully calculated tactical decisions, he favored foolhardy charges. He was convinced beyond all doubt that these "valiant" assaults would lead to a resounding, easy victory- of course leading to his promotion.

They did not.

Unable to comprehend that his "noble blood" did not translate into brilliant leadership, he naturally blamed us for the inevitable failure of these attacks. Those who survived could look forward to a merciless tirade about their "laziness" and "incompetence" and, if he was in a particularly foul mood, watch helplessly as he beat some poor young soldier with his riding crop.

Our sergeant waved us in and we gritted our teeth as we wondered whose turn it was to die tonight.

"Gentlemen,' he said, "we are going over again. The Kaiser is absolutely furious that there has been no progress in the last month. If we fail to break this stalemate, I will lose my last chance to be promoted and escape this hellhole! Someone of my station does not deserve to be trapped here with useless idiots like you and I will NOT allow any man here to stand in my way! Take your weapons and prepare to charge!"

A young man- or more accurately, a boy- spoke up in a timid voice. "But, sir," he protested, "The storm is worsening as we speak! Even if we go now, we'll never make it across!"

His face twisting into a snarl, our commander responded with a single shot from his pistol. Everyone turned to see a red hole between the boy's eyes.

"Does anyone ELSE have a complaint to lodge?" he hissed as he pointed his weapon at another man.

Silence.

"Then MOVE!!!" He shouted.

We grabbed our rifles without a word. Perhaps, we thought, this horrible place would finally do something good and guide a sniper's bullet to his head.

We lined up behind the ladders leading to No Man's land. When I found my spot, my heart sank.

I had "crossed over' plenty of times before, but something told me this would be the last time.

Our sergeants made their final inspection and signaled that we were ready. As we waited for shrill cry of Captain Reichert's whistle, time seemed to slow down. After what felt like hours, that unmistakeable screech signalled the start.

We climbed up and charged past the wire, yelling to steel ourselves for the hail of bullets that surely awaited us. They never came.

The charge continued, but we all became increasingly unnerved as the area remained still.

The first man reached the middle of that scarred stretch of land when it happened. The previously black sky turned a sickly green as flares descended, fired off by the enemy's cannons. As soon as we saw them, we knew we were doomed. Within seconds, we could hear the shells raining down. The first one slammed into the ground, disintegrating the man in front. Before we could even react, the ground erupted as countless more arrived on its heels.

The formation panicked. Men ran headlong into each other, only to disappear in an explosion. Some attempted to dig foxholes in the mud, only to be blown apart in the process. Those unfortunate enough not to die in the first impacts screamed, missing legs, arms, or even sections of their bodies. A few vainly attempted to drag themselves to safety with the limbs they still had, but they found themselves stuck in the mud, flailing and crying out for help.

Watching the chaos unfold around me only confirmed what my gut had told me earlier. With every passing second, the explosions came closer and closer to my position. At that point, I knew it was pointless to run. As if on cue, I saw the outline of a shell streaking towards me, lit by a falling flare. Unceremonious as it was, I was glad to know I would at least be spared from having to see our commander again. The world went black in an instant.

Instead of the quiet stillness I had expected, I found myself flying through the air, tossed by an explosion. My head was swimming and my ears were ringing as I hit the ground. A hand grabbed the back of my collar and I could feel someone dragging me. Possibly because of the ringing, the muffled voice that was shouting at me sounded completely unfamiliar. "-Get inside!" Was all I could make out.

Instead of the muddy trenches I had become so familiar with, I saw stone walls all around me. It reminded me of the old castles that were in my homeland. The room I was dragged into was lit by flickering torches and was full of men in old, tattered uniforms. A heavy wooden door in a dark corner creaked open and a man in what looked like an officer's uniform stepped in, followed by another in a trenchcoat. The man in the officer uniform stomped forward and slammed a large piece of paper- presumably a map- on to the table in front of him.

"Useless! You idiots are absolutely fucking useless!" He shouted. "How hard can it be to hold a single piece of ground?! Thanks to your incompetence, THEY have us by the belt buckle!"

Silence. The feeling of defeat in the room was palpable.

"What is your excuse this time?! That we don't have enough men?! That we're 'too low on supplies'?! That 'the men are too wounded to fight'?!"

One of the older soldiers spoke up in a weary voice. "Colonel," he said, "We don't even have bullets. The last supply shipment was destroyed when the transport was hit by an artillery round."

In an instant, the man in the officer's uniform picked up a loose stone from the floor and grabbed the soldier by the lapels on his coat. He dragged him forward and slammed his head on to the table. Without so much as a word, he brought the stone down on his head with a sickening "thwack". Grunting audibly, he struck the now- struggling soldier on the head again and again until his head split open with a sickening "splat". Apparently satisfied with the results, he let go of him, with the motionless body slumping to the floor.

"If you don't have bullets," he said while catching his breath, "then pick up a stone. Get back out there and prove that your miserable lives are worth something!"

The weary men in the room slowly turned to leave. As they did, the man in the trenchcoat whispered something to the "colonel."

While the first in the group made their way to the exit, the "colonel" gave them some parting words.

"I needn't remind you: any man who returns before sunup will be executed for desertion immediately."

I felt someone push my back. Not wanting to find out what would happen if I stayed, I joined the group. Just after we left the room, someone shoved me to the side, hard. I couldn't see who it was in the darkness, but I heard a low voice speaking to me. "Don't. The sun is never going to come up here and you'll be lucky if you come back at all." The exhaustion in his voice told me all I needed to know. I found a dark corner and tried to get some sleep. Just as I felt my eyes growing heavy, I heard a group of men yelling nearby. Seconds after, the night erupted with a cacaphony of machine gun fire as my unkown comrades were mercilessly cut down.

Just like I had been told, the sun never rose. I woke suddenly when the sound of thunder echoed in the sky. Rain was pouring down and another group of tired, wounded men made their way into the castle. At the same time, I saw two men struggling with each other. I couldn't see what it was, but I saw one of the men take out a bayonet and drive it through the other man's chest. He pulled it out and stabbed him again and again until he went limp. The victor, taking his prize, moved to a fire burning in a barrel to inspect it. From the size and the faint glimmer, it looked like one of our ration tins. With the tin's former owner lying a meter away, he tore it open and rapidly devoured the contents.

More yelling came from the room, followed this time by a single gunshot. A few minutes later, the tired men- now with one less in their number- trudged out. Some were holding rifles with broken stocks, others rusted knives, and some what looked like axes. Fearing there would be a repeat of the last night's events, I grabbed the last man in the group by the arm.

"What are you doing?! The British slaughtered the last group that went out there!" I shouted.

The man turned to look at me. His eyes were sunken and it looked as if he hadn't eaten for days. "Who?" he asked confusedly.

I couldn't believe what I was hearing. "The British! The enemy! Who else could I be talking about?!"

He shook his head. "Call them whatever you like. But we can't let them win."

My heart started racing. How could he not know something as simple as who the enemy is?!

"Then why?! What purpose could this possibly serve?!"

The tired man turned away and went to join his group. As he walked away, he shrugged and replied, "Don't ask me. I just know that we have to."

Minutes later, the night before repeated itself: Yelling followed by gunfire.

I felt sick; I had seen this plenty of times in the trenches, but never before had I seen such a hopeless group of men march off to their deaths. Instead of trying to sleep again, I waited to see who would come back.

I couldn't be certain, but it seemed that the figure limping in from the dark woods was the man I had spoken with before. As he hobbled closer to the clearing near the castle's entrance, a sharp "crack" rang out from somewhere in the castle. He staggered, then fell, no doubt executed for his "desertion."

In what seemed like a perverse divine revelation, a bright green flare lit up the clearing, revealing a tattered banner. On it was the image of a beautful woman with a sword driven through her chest. Her face reminded me of something I had seen in the trenches.

When we first arrived at that forest in Belgium, we were hit by a series of bitter winter storms. The weather was so bad that neither side could bring itself to cross over the wire and attempt an attack, so we spent months shivering in the snow and ice with nothing to do. While we were waiting, a young private- who had apparently been an art student before the war started- painted a mural in one of the bunkers. It was a beatiful woman, just like the one on the banner. Naturally, we thought it was his woman from back home and we cornered him one night, hoping to pry some salacious details from him. To our surprise, it wasn't that at all. "When I was a child," he said, "we had a book of Roman fables. In one of those fables, a group of soldiers who were preparing for battle made an offering to Spes, the goddess of hope, so that they might have a chance to win the battle they were about to fight. She was pleased by their offering and, in the battle's most desperate moment, she reached down to give them the strength to win. God doesn't seem to care about us, so I thought I'd try asking her instead."

I laughed at the irony of that memory as I looked at my current situation. My laughter turned to tears when I saw the motto stitched into the fabric: HOFFNUNGSLOS.

Drowning in my misery, my body grew tired and I fell into a fitful sleep.

I was woken by the sound of shells slamming into the ground. Still reeling from the previous night, my eyes opened just in time to see yet another group marching into the castle. More shouting and more shooting ensued. The group- this time significantly smaller than when it entered- lumbered out. One man in the group stopped for a moment, seemingly trying to find something on the ground. Another "crack" emenated from the castle and he dropped, dead where he kneeled. Someone else turned to see what had happened and he, too, was felled by another shot. One by one, this already- small group was wiped out, seemingly punished deemed "deserters" by the sharpshooter hiding in the castle.

As the last man fell, I could feel what little remained of my resolve break. What kind of madman could be in charge here?! We were apparently in a losing battle, yet whoever was in charge seemed to have no qualms about killing almost as many of his own men as the enemy did!

At once, I felt some strange energy in my hands. Despite the madness unfolding around me, I felt compelled to leave some kind of memorial to my fallen "comrades." I looked around for some kind of instrument to work with. Then I saw it: The man who had been killed for a tin of rations was holding a broken knife in his hand. The tip had broken off, so it more closely resembled a chisel than an etching tool. That was when I knew what I had to do. I ran to a wall that was lit by a torch and picked up a rock that was lying near it. With a hammer and chisel in my hands, I set to work.

Even as the barrage resumed, nothing could distract me from the task I had undertaken. Almost as if something was guiding my hand, the letters took shape in the granite one by one.

Before I knew it, I was finished. I stepped back to inspect my work when I heard that familiar "crack" ring out. What felt like a hammer blow struck me square in the chest. My "friend" in the castle must have finally spotted me.

My legs buckled as I coughed and a metallic taste filled my mouth. The landscape in front of me spun as I fell to the side, granting me a prime view of the wall I had been working on. My vision began to narrow as the energy drained from my limbs. In the last few moments, I had the chance to read my own epitaph, etched in stone for all who came after me to see*:

HIER KÄMPFT DIE HOFFNUNGSLOSE LEGION IHRE EWIGE SCHLACHT

WIR WISSEN NICHT, WER

WIR WISSEN NICHT, WARUM

WIR WISSEN NUR, DASS WIR MÜSSEN

DIE HOFFNUNG STARB ZULETZT

UND SIE STARB HIER

The Aftermath

The night's fighting reached a fever pitch.

A cloud of shells rained down on the castle, completely obliterating it along with its occupants. In a muddy cluster of trees to the north, a barbarian warrior brought his axe down on a Roman soldier, splitting his head open while he was run through by a sword. To the south, a mercenary Crusader and a Moorish warrior impaled each other with their blades, falling next to each other.

With those final deaths, the battlefield became eerily still.

Two men in coats walked in from the darkness, one carrying a torch and the other a journal. As they casually strolled along, they would occasionally stop to kick a random body or take a small trinket from one, finally stopping when they reached a tattered banner.

The man holding the torch turned to the other. "See? I told you the patches looked better with the motto."

The man with the journal grunted in agreement. "Fair enough," he said. "We had a good run tonight. There was a stubborn one by the castle, but it looks like we got him this time."

The two of them continued to the ruins of the castle. Miraculously, a single wall had survived the final shelling. As they neared it, they noticed that someone had chipped a message into the stone. Smiling as he turned to the man with the journal, the man with the torch commented, "I like that. We should keep this up for the next group."

In a rare display of emotion, the man with the journal smirked as he responded. "Excellent idea! Can't hurt to remind them where they are."

The man with the torch piped up again, wheezing with laughter. "They'll be in for a REAL surprise when they find out they're fighting for the other side tomorrow!"

1 Comment
2024/06/10
19:06 UTC

1

Twisted Metal Creepypasta- The Lost Files

I used to love playing Twisted Metal. Its vehicular combat style gameplay made it a huge contrast from other videogames on the market and the characters had a lot of charm to them. My favorite character out of all of them was definitely Sweet Tooth. His unrepentant brutality and wise-cracking mouth made him an instant icon of the series. He's more or less the mascot of the franchise and it's hard to imagine a twisted metal game without him. Playing the game as a kid, he scared the hell out of me, but now, I can't help admiring him as a villain.

One day I found myself growing nostalgic for the killer clown so I decided to boot up my old PS2 to play my favorite game in the series, TM Black. I inserted the disc into the console but nothing happened. I repeated this process several times only to reach the same result. The unfortunate reality that my game disc was damaged then dawned on me. This naturally pissed me off since I invested countless hours into this near masterpiece.

All was not lost however. I knew of a comic book shop that specialized in selling old and obscure media. Their videogame selection was paltry, but I figured it was the fastest way to get the game at a reasonable price. It took a long but well worth it train ride to downtown Toronto to reach my destination. I clenched firmly to the hood of my coat as the harsh winter winds collided with my face. Snowfall was sure to come soon so hunkering down in my apartment with my favorite game was looking ideal.

Greg, the owner of the shop, stared daggers into me as soon as I arrived. He's kinda weird like that. He had this shaggy black hair and heavy sunken eyes that made him look like the type of guy you'd bump into a dark alleyway. Greg's never really bothered me before so I tried not to pay him any mind. Still, it's hard not to wonder what goes on in his creepy little mind. The way he looks at female customers always gives the chills. I'd be surprised if he didn't have some kind of rap sheet.

I walked past aisles of comics and headed straight to their modest videogame section. My eyes scanned on each title in my hunt for Black. To my dismay, it wasn't there. Did I come all this way for nothing?

Not wanting to admit defeat just yet, I asked Greg if he had the game in stock. He just stared at me for a few seconds before giving a creepy smile and led me to the back of the shop. There was a whole row of games and dvds with pitch black covers. He handed me a case with " Twisted metal black" which was crudely drawn featuring a picture of Sweet Tooth.

" What the heck is this?" I asked.

" It's the game you wanted. It's a used copy so it didn't come with its original cover. Decided to give it a makeover," Greg replied in his gravely voice.

I remained skeptical of the game's quality but bought it regardless. I joked to myself that this would be like owning a rare collector's item. My excitement lasted the entire train ride back home.

I quickly inserted the disc inside my PlayStation and watched the screen come to life. Maybe it's because its been a while since I've played the game, but the intro was different from what I remembered. There was a much heavier focus on Sweet Tooth who was often seen slashing at unseen victims with his large knife. A blood splatter briefly appeared on the screen before the scene shifted to a blurry image of him sitting in an apartment room. This was incredibly strange because none of the games ever featured the characters in a home environment.

Once the game finished booting up, I had the time of my life playing through sweet tooth's route. His story of being a serial killer clown who killed Calpyso in his own ending remained as iconic as ever. It felt so satisfying to finally turn the tables on that sadistic mastermind. My entertainment soon turned into confusion upon seeing the credits finish rolling and display the title " Twisted Metal Lost" on screen.

What the hell was going on?

TM Lost is a bonus feature that was only featured in special editions of TM Head-on so it should've been impossible for my copy of Black to have it. Greg definitely modded the disc but I wasn't complaining. Little surprises like this will always get a warm welcome from me. At least that's what I thought before finding out what the game truly had in store for me.

Immediately after selecting the Lost mode, Sweet Tooth's guttural laugh blared from my speakers. The scene then showed Sweet Tooth running around in an asylum with his iconic cleaver in hand. Asylum workers would spawn sporadically throughout the stage and I controlled sweet tooth to cut them all up. I was loving this mod more and more with every second. It was like I was experiencing the true Sweet Tooth; a seasoned serial killer unrestricted by the confines of a car. He was free to slaughter indiscriminately and I was in full control of his mayhem. By the time I was done, the asylum was left painted in blood.

Once the level was complete, the screen faded to black before an image of Sweet Tooth sitting in a wooden chair appeared.

" Hello John. Having fun yet?" I felt my body jolt in surprise. Sweet Tooth had just said my name. Even if Greg modded this game, how could he know that I would be the one to buy it? Just how many more surprises did he have up his sleeve?

" Looks to me like you've been having a helluva time cutting those pigs up. Can't say I blame ya. Just don't forget that this is still MY game and you have to play by my rules. This next level should be something very familiar. Let's play a game of hide and seek. You be the scared little lamb and I'll be the butcher that serves you on a platter. See you soon." A wicked cackle roared from my speakers before a loading screen of a smiling Sweet Tooth popped up.

My blood ran cold when I saw what stage was next. It was my city. More specifically, it was a supermarket near my neighborhood. I find it hard to believe that Greg had only coincidently modded my neighborhood into one of my favorite games. Had he been stalking me? The attention to detail was immaculate. Greg had perfectly replicated the streets and stores surrounding the market down to the chips of paint on their signs. It was all so uncanny. I watched Sweet Tooth walk through the crowded streets while brandishing his cleaver without anyone noticing him. He was completely invisible to everyone but me. Sweet Tooth dashed down several blocks, gradually getting closer to my neighborhood. Fear swelled in my heart as Sweet Tooth approached my home with his bloody cleaver shining radiantly.

I immediately unplugged my PS2 and locked my bedroom door. Bullets of sweat raced down my head as I ruminated about what just happened. Greg was one sick fuck for making something like this. Was this his idea of a joke? He must've been some sort of messed up stalker. Just as I was about to curse him out over the phone, a loud bang at more door froze me solid. It was a kind of unhinged, violent bang that made it clear whoever was on the other side had vile intentions. I weakly walked over to the peephole to see who it could be and I felt my blood turn to ice.

Those baggy white pants and macabre mask were unmistakable. Sweet Tooth was at my door with his face mere inches away from the hole. What the hell was going on? I had no explanation for what I saw but there Sweet Tooth was looking like he wanted to make my head roll. I at first thought it was Greg continuing his prank on me but Sweet Tooth's physique is far too different. Greg was more on the lean side while Sweet Tooth is incredibly stocky. To make matters worse, this man's head was aflame and yet he didn't seem to be in the slightest bit of pain.

I immediately barricaded my door with whatever furniture I had and locked myself in my upstairs bedroom. I grabbed my phone to call the cops but for some reason, it wasn't working. All I got was static on the speaker. I barely had time it wonder what was going on when I heard a loud crash come from downstairs. Loud stomps echoed throughout the apartment and quickly drew closer to me. My heart felt just about ready to burst from my chest. I couldn't believe that Sweet Tooth was about to kill me. The pounding at my door grew louder by the second and it felt like the walls were closing in on me. In my panic, I almost forgot about my fire escape.

I dashed out of the window and to the metallic balcony just in time to hear my door burst open. Not taking a second to look back, I bolted down each ladder with frantic energy. My mind was focused solely on getting the hell out of there. Once my feet touched the concrete, I was prepared to run to the nearest police station, but to my horror, Sweet Tooth had just landed right in front of me. He cackled a hideous laugh before the tip of his cleaver was embedded in my stomach. Mind numbing pain consumed every part of my mind and the only thing I could do was cry and puke up blood. The last thing I saw before blacking out was Sweet Tooth standing over me, laughing menacingly.


When I woke up, I could hardly believe I was still alive. I sat in a hospital room with a whole bunch of tubes connected to me. After the nurses let the police know I was awake, they came over to interrogate me. All I could tell them was that someone dressed as a clown broke into my apartment and tried to kill me. No way were they going to believe that some videogame character had come to life to annihilate me. It was obvious that the police search would lead nowhere. I never went back to the comic shop after that day. Whoever Greg is, he's a creepy bastard that everyone should stay the hell away from. I can't even enjoy playing Twisted Metal anymore without thinking of that horrific incident. To anyone reading this, keep yourself safe and never go to the Magnifique Noir Comic shop.

0 Comments
2024/06/10
01:20 UTC

2

I'm Always Chasing Rainbows

When you were a kid, and you saw a rainbow, did you ever want to try to get to the end of it? I bet you did. I did, anyway. It wasn’t the mythical pot of gold that tempted me. Wealth was too abstract of a concept at that age to dream about, and leprechauns were creepy little bastards. I just wanted to see what the rainbow looked like up close, and maybe even try to climb it.

Of course, you can’t get to the end of a rainbow because not only is there no end, but there isn’t even really a rainbow. It’s an illusion caused by the sunlight passing through raindrops at the right angle. If you did try to chase a rainbow down, it would move with you until it faded away. That’s why chasing rainbows is a pretty good metaphor for pursuing a beautiful illusion that can never manifest as anything concrete.

I bring all this up because I think it was that same type of urge that compelled me to chase down the Effulgent One. It’s not a perfect analogy, however, considering that I did actually catch up to the eldritch bastard. 

I first saw the Effulgent One a little over two years ago. My employer – who happens to be an occultist mad scientist by the name of Erich Thorne – had tasked me with returning a young girl named Elifey to her village on the northern edges of the county. The people of Virklitch Village are very nice, but they’re also an insular, Luddite cult who worship a colossal spectral entity they call the Effulgent One. I saw this Titan during my first visit to Virklitch, and more importantly, he saw me. He left a streak of black in my soul, marking me as one of his followers. I can feel him now, when he walks in our world. Sometimes, if I look towards the horizon after sundown, I can even see him.

This entity, and my connection to him, is understandably something my employer has taken an interest in. I’ve been to Virklitch many times since my first visit, and I’ve successfully collected a good deal of vital information about the Effulgent One. The Virklitchen are the only ones who know how to summon him, and coercing them into doing so would only earn us his wrath. He’s sworn to protect them, though I haven’t the slightest idea of what motivates him to do so.

Even though I can see him, I usually try not to look, to pretend he’s not there. The Virklitchen have warned me never to chase after him. Before Virklitch was founded, the First Nations people who lived in this region were aware of the Effulgent One, though they called him the Sky Strider. Any of them that went chasing after him either failed, went mad, or were never seen again.

I was out driving after sunset, during astronomical twilight when the trees are just black silhouettes against a burnt orange horizon, when I sensed the presence of the Effulgent One. He was to the east, towering along the darkening skyline, idling amidst the fields of cyclopean wind turbines. I could see their flashing red lights in the periphery of my vision, and I knew that one of those lights was him. I tried to fight the urge to look, but fear began to gnaw at me. What if he was heading towards me right now? What if I was in danger and needed to run?

Risking a single sideways glance, I spotted his gangly form standing listlessly between the wind turbines, his long arms gently swaying as his glowing red face bobbed to and fro.

I exhaled a sigh of relief, now that I knew he wasn’t chasing me. That relief didn’t even last a moment before it was transformed into a dangerous realization. He wasn’t just not chasing me; he wasn’t moving at all. He was still. This was rare, and it presented me with a rare opportunity. I could approach him. I could speak with him.

This wasn’t a good idea, and I knew it. The Effulgent One interacted with his followers on his terms. If I annoyed him, he could squash me like a bug. Or worse. Much worse. But he had marked me as his follower and I wanted to know why. If there was any chance I could get him to answer me, I was going to take it.

“Hey Lumi,” I said to the proprietary AI assistant in my company car. “Play the cover of I’m Always Chasing Rainbows from the Hazbin Hotel pilot.” 

With the mood appropriately set, I veered east the first chance I got.

Almost immediately, I noticed that the highway seemed eerily abandoned. Even if anyone else had been capable of perceiving the Effulgent One, there was no one around to see him. I got this creeping sense that the closer I drew to him, I was actually shifting more and more out of my world and more and more into his. The wind picked up and dark clouds blew in, snuffing out the fading twilight and plunging everything into an overcast night.

The Effulgent One didn’t seem to notice me as I drew closer. He was as tall as the wind turbines he stood beside, his gaunt body plated in dull iridescent scales infected with trailing fungus. The head on his lanky neck was completely hollow and filled with a glowing red light that dimly bounced off his scales.

Seeing him standing still was a lot more surreal than seeing him when he was active. As impossibly large as he is, when he’s moving it just naturally triggers your fight or flight response and you don’t really have time to take it all in. But when he’s just standing there, and you can look at him and question what you’re seeing, it just hits differently.

It wasn’t until I started slowing down that he finally turned his head in my direction, briefly engulfing me in a blinding red light. When it passed, I saw that the Effulgent One had turned away from me and I was striding down the highway. Even though his gait was casual, his stride was so long that he was still moving as quickly as any vehicle.

Reasoning that if he didn’t want me to follow him he wouldn’t be walking along the road, I slammed my foot down on the accelerator pedal and sped after him.

That’s when things started to get weird.

You know how when you’re driving at night through the country, you can’t see anything beyond your own headlights? With no visual landmarks to go by, it’s easy to get disoriented. All you have to go by is the signs, and I wasn’t paying any attention to those. All my focus was on the Effulgent One, so much so that if someone had jumped out in front of me I probably would have killed them.

I turned down at least one sideroad in my pursuit of the Effulgent One. Maybe two or three. I’m really not sure. All I know for sure is that I was so desperate not to lose him that I had become completely lost myself.

He never looked back to see if I was still following, or gave any indication that he knew or cared if I was still there. He just made his way along the backroads, his bloodred searchlight sweeping back and forth all the while, as if he was desperately seeking something of grave importance. Finally, he abandoned the road altogether and began to climb a gently rolling hill with a solitary wind turbine on top of it. I gently slowed my car to a stop and watched to see what he would do.

I had barely been keeping up with him on the roadways, so I knew I’d never catch him going off-road. If he didn’t stop at the wind turbine, then that would be the end of my little misadventure. As I watched the Effulgent One climb up the hill and cast his light upon it, I saw that the structure at the summit wasn’t a wind turbine at all, but a windmill.

It was a mammoth windmill, the size of a wind turbine, made from enormous blocks of rugged black stone. It was as impossible as the Effulgent One himself. No stone structure other than a pyramid or ziggurat could possibly be that big, and the windmill barely tapered at all towards the top. Its blades were made from a ragged black cloth that reminded me of pirate sails, and near the top I could see a light coming from a single balcony.

When the Effulgent One reached the hill’s summit, he not only came to a stop but turned back around to face me, his light illuminating the entire hillside. Whether or not it was his intention to make it easier for me to follow him up the hill, it was nonetheless the effect, so I decided not to squander it.

Grabbing the thousand-lumen flashlight from my emergency kit, I left my car on the side of the road and began the short but challenging trek up the hill.

I honestly had no idea where I was at that point. Nothing looked familiar, and the overgrown grass seemed so alien in the red light. The way it moved in the wind was so fluid it looked more like seaweed than grass. The clouds overhead seemed equally otherworldly, moving not only unusually fast but in strange patterns that didn’t seem purely meteorological in nature.

With the Effulgent One’s light aimed directly at me, there was no doubt in my mind that he had seen me, but he still gave no indication that he cared. The closer I drew to him, the more I was confronted by his unfathomable scale. I really was an insect compared to him, and it seemed inconceivable that he would make any distinction between anthropods and arthropods. He could strike me down as effortlessly and carelessly as any other bothersome bug. I approached cautiously, watching intently for any sign of hostility from him, but he remained completely and utterly unmoved.

The closer I got to him, the harder I found it to press on. From a distance, the Effulgent One is surreal enough that he doesn’t completely shatter your sense of reality, but that’s a luxury that goes down the toilet when he’s only a few strides or less from stomping you into the ground. His emaciated form wasn’t merely skeletal, but elongated; his limbs, digits, and neck all stretched out to disquieting proportions. His dull scales now seemed to be a shimmering indigo, and the fungal growths between them pulsed rhythmically with some kind of life. Whether it was with his or theirs, I cannot say. There were no ears on his round head. No features at all aside from the frontwards-facing cavity that held the searing red light.

As I slowly and timidly approached the windmill, he remained by its side, peering out across the horizon. I turned to see what he was looking at, but saw nothing. I immediately turned back to him and craned my neck skywards, marvelling at him in dumbstruck awe. I’d chased him down so that I could demand why he had marked me as one of his followers, but now that I had succeeded, I was horrified by how suicidally naïve that plan now felt.

Many an internet atheist has pontificated about how if there were a God and if they ever met Him, they would remain every bit as irreverent and defiant and hold Him to account the same as any tyrant. But when faced with a being of unfathomable cosmic power, I don’t think there truly is anyone who wouldn’t lose their nerve.

So I just stood there, gaping up at the Effulgent One like a moron, with no idea of what to do next.

Fortunately for me, it was then that the Effulgent One finally acknowledged my presence.

Slowly, he turned his face downwards and cast his spotlight upon me, holding it there for a few long seconds before turning it to the door at the base of the windmill. I glanced up at the balcony above, and saw that it aligned almost perfectly with his head.

Evidently, he wanted to meet me face to face.

Nodding obediently, I raced to the heavy wooden door and pushed it open with all my might. The inside was dark, and I couldn’t see very well after standing right in the Effulgent One’s light, but I could hear the sounds of metal gears slowly grinding and clanking away. When I turned on my flashlight, the first thing I was able to make out was the enormous millstone. It moved slowly and steadily, squelching and squishing so that even in the poor light I knew that it wasn’t grain that was being milled.

The next thing I saw was a flight of rickety wooden stairs that snaked up all along the interior of the windmill. Each step creaked and groaned beneath my weight as I climbed them, but I nonetheless ascended them with reckless abandon. If a single one of them had given out beneath me, I could have fallen to my death, and the staircase shook back and forth so much that sometimes it felt as if it was intentionally trying to throw me off.

When I reached the top floor, I saw that the windshaft was encased in a crystalline sphere etched with leylines and strange symbols, and inside of it was some kind of complex clockwork apparatus that was powered by the spinning of the shaft. Though I was briefly curious as to the device’s purpose, it wasn’t what I had come up there for.   

Turning myself towards the only door, I ran through and out onto the upper balcony. The Effulgent One was still standing just beside it, his head several times taller than I was. He looked out towards the horizon and pointed an outstretched arm in that direction, indicating that I should do the same.

From the balcony, I could see a spire made of purple volcanic glass, carved as if it was made of two intertwining gargantuan rose vines, with a stained-glass roof that made it look like a rose in full bloom. The spire was surrounded by many twisting and shifting shadows, and I could perceive a near infinitude of superimposed potential pathways branching out from the spire and stretching out across the planes.

The Effulgent One reached out and plucked at one of the pathways running over us like it was a harp string, sending vibrations down along to the spire and then back out through the entire network. I saw the sky above the spire shatter like glass, revealing a floating maelstrom of festering black fluid that had congealed into a thousand wailing faces. It began to descend as if it meant to devour the spire, but as it did so the spire pulled in the web of pathways around it like a net. The storm writhed and screamed as it tried to escape, but the spire held the net tight as a swarm of creatures too small for me to identify congregated upon the storm and began to feed upon it. But the fluid the maelstrom was composed of seemed to be corrosive, and the net began to rot beneath its influence. It sagged and it strained, until finally giving way.

A chaotic battle ensued between the spire and the maelstrom, but it hardly seemed to matter. What both I and the Efflugent One noticed the most was that the pathways that had been bound to the spire were now severed and stained by the Black Bile, drifting away wherever the wind took them.

The Effulgent One caught one of them in his hand and tugged it downwards, staring at it pensively for a long moment.

“That… that didn’t actually just happen, did it?” I asked meekly. I waited patiently for the Effulgent One to respond, but he just kept staring at the severed thread. “But… it’s going to happen? Or, it could happen?”

A slow and solemn nod confirmed that what he had shown me had portended to a possible future.

“That’s why you marked me as your follower then, isn’t it?” I asked. “You needed someone, someone other than the Virklitchen, someone who’s already involved in this bullshit and can help stop it from deteriorating into whatever the hell you just showed me. If Erich had picked anyone else to go to Virklitch that night, or hadn’t asked me to stay for the festival, it wouldn’t have been me! It didn’t have to have been me!”

His head remained somberly hung, and I hadn’t really been expecting him to respond at all to my outburst.

“Elifey liked you,” he said in a metallic, fluid voice that sounded like it was resonating out of his chest rather than his face. “I would not have chosen you if she hadn’t.”

He twirled the thread in between his fingers before gently handing it down to me like it was a streamer on a balloon. I hesitantly accepted the gesture, wrapping as much of my hand around the spectral cord as I could. The instant I touched it, a radiant and spiralling rainbow shot down its length and arced across the sky. When it reached the chaotic battle on the horizon, it dispelled the maelstrom on contact, banishing it back into the nether and signalling in biblical fashion that the storm had passed. The other wayward pathways were cleansed of the Black Bile as well, and I watched in amazement as they slowly started to reweave themselves back into an interconnected web. 

“But… what does this mean? What do I actually have to do to make this a reality?” I asked.

The Effulgent One reached out his hand and pinched the cord, choking off the rainbow and ending the vision he had shown me.

“A reality?” he asked as he held his palm out flat and adjacent to the balcony. “It’s already a reality. All you need to do is make it yours.”

It seemed to me that I wasn’t likely to get anything less cryptic than that out of him, so I accepted the lift down. He took me down the hill and set me down gently beside my car before setting off out of sight and beyond my ability to pursue him.

Even though my GPS wasn’t working, the moment I was sitting in the driver’s seat the autopilot kicked in and didn’t ask me to take control until I was back on a familiar road. I know that windmill isn’t just a short drive away, and I’ll never see it again unless the Effulgent One wants me to. I don’t think I can say I’m exactly happy with how that turned out, but I suppose I accomplished what I set out to achieve. I know what the Effulgent One wants of me now, and why he chose me specifically. If it had been all his decision I think I’d still be feeling kind of torn about it, but knowing that I’ve been roped into this because of Elifey makes it a lot easier to bear.    

And… I did actually manage to catch a rainbow. I just needed a giant’s help to reach it.

0 Comments
2024/06/09
21:33 UTC

2

Water Bears and Dirt Rats

0 Comments
2024/06/09
15:09 UTC

5

The Burden of Prophecy

Ghastly cold blankets the ground
Concealing the tears shed by man
Forced to hopelessly witness
The loss of everything he ever loved

A silhouette of agony
emerging from prophetic visions

The dream you call a bright future
Is nothing but an impending catastrophe

0 Comments
2024/06/08
23:49 UTC

2

Neath The Shadow of Impending Doom

Another waking fever dream
A cruel reminder from a place that no longer exists

Deformed I stand, damaged beyond repair
A small price for my countless mortal sins
One which I gladly pay to behold
The grotesque wonders of hell

A heart torn between suicidal ideation
And a persistent desire to live

I long for a time unstained by sorrow
But my soul is consumed by irrational wrath

Every day an uphill battle
But the slope is only getting steeper

A lost child enslaved
To be used as a weapon in the war
Between suffocating apathy and crippling fear
Orchestrated by the devil within

Paranoid
I am forced to relive false memories
My mind possessed by a legion of demons
Possessed by the evil
To which I am bound from birth

0 Comments
2024/06/08
00:07 UTC

2

My siblings’ imaginary friend wants to kill me [Part 3 - Final]

I - II - III

“Please. You have to remove Jumpy from the end of the episode.”

My animation supervisor looked at me with furrowed brows. “ We can't. We've already passed that sequence over.”

“Well then un-pass it. Just tell the client there was a technical error or something. We need to remove Jumpy from the background.”

He frowned at me and drank his coffee. A few people peered into the window of the meeting room, wondering why I was having another one-on-one with my boss.

“Elizabeth, it was you who wanted to add Jumpy in the first—”

“—I know! It was a terrible mistake. We should have never added him in. Please.”

He massaged his temple. “Why does it matter exactly? It's just a webcomic right?”

My hands were fidgeting, wringing each other constantly. I tried to keep my voice level.

“... If we don't remove Jumpy, we are risking the well-being of countless generations of kids who watch this TV show. Lives are at stake.”

He put down the coffee cup and looked me in the eye. “Elizabeth, I know you had that elevator accident. And if you’re feeling … untethered … that’s okay.”

“I'm feeling totally fine. This has nothing to do with the elevator. Please just believe me when I say we need to remove that cartoon frog.”

He took a deep inhale and shook his head. “My hands are tied here Elizabeth. But if you want to talk to production, see if they are willing to communicate with the client for us to resubmit the animation sequence. Go right ahead.”

***

I spoke with production. I spoke with the head producer at our studio and explained how important it was to remove the frog from the background of episode six.

Everyone gave me strange looks and didn’t see the big deal, but I kept pushing.

Eventually, even the head producer said there was nothing that could be done.

The only person who had the power to make changes to episode six, was the client side boss. A wealthy studio exec who worked from home, some two hours away from my city.

His name was Paul Winslow.

I tried calling him, emailing him, messaging him via linkedin, slack and every other platform imaginable. But he was some big shot, and didn't have time to respond to anything.

I had given him three whole days. Three whole days where all I did was worry about my cousin’s nephews, and all the kids I could see going to the school across from my apartment.

This wasn't up to him anymore, It was up to me.

***

HR said I was required to take a ‘ leave of absence’ for 2 weeks as they ‘ reassessed’ something. This was fine with me, because It gave me the time I needed to execute my plan.

On a dark, overcast night I drove all the way to Paul Winslow's house.

***

It was late, but I could still make out the black, wrought iron gates at the entrance. The intercom box on the right.

I had waited too long, the episode was going to release imminently, so I didn't have time to bother with the intercom. Instead, I flashed my high beams and pointed at the gate.

In view of my headlights, the iron gate started to shake and bend.

The middle latch snapped off.

Within seconds, the gate had been peeled apart as if it were made of putty.

I drove through.

Along the path, two large dogs came barking at my car, they looked eager to leap at my throat.

But before they could reach my bumper, there came a large, earth-shaking stomp. The dogs froze. Noses sniffed the air.

Their tails curled between their legs as they ran away.

I pulled up to the enormous front doors made of some kind of red cedar. The handles looked like they were made of polished bronze, or maybe even gold.

The expensive handles crumpled. The doors were torn from their hinges.

I walked in holding a laminated copy of my Jumpy sketch. I spoke loudly and assertively.

“Mr. Winslow. We need to talk.”

From upstairs, I could hear a panicked voice: “Who are you!? Get out of my house! I have a gun!”

Wasting no time, I pointed at the stairs. The bannister bent and splintered.

I waited at the foot of the stairs until I heard a gunshot, followed by shrieks.

“What the hell? What is happening?!”

Some banging and screaming ensued. When it turned into crying, I walked up the stairs.

Mr. Winslow was lying in a bathrobe on his hallway floor. I could make out the wet indentation of a heavy footprint on his chest. He looked up at me with watery, frightened eyes.

“Paul, believe me when I say I’m sorry I had to do this. But I had no other choice.” I said.

He whimpered as he spoke. “Is it money you want? I have gold in the attic. take as much as you want.”

“Lives are at stake. I need you to remove this character from the kids show you're making.” I held up the Jumpy sketch to his face.

“ …What?”

“You have the ultimate sign off. I need you to prevent episode six from airing.”

“You’re talking about … that singalong show?”

“YES! You have to prevent this character from ever being seen by anyone!”

“But it's already … It's already been sent to the streamers.”

“What!? What do you mean it's already been sent?”

“They’ve already released it in … Asia and Europe.”

I dropped the picture, and lowered my face to his. ‘Are you serious? Kids have already seen it!?”

Mr. Winslow's face was beginning to turn blue. “Listen. Do you have any idea how tight the turnaround is on children’s programming? I don't make the rules.”

“No no no!” I pulled at my hair. How could I be too late?

I stared at the air above the studio exec and pointed wildly. “Jumpy, is that true? Is there something you're not telling me? Have some kids seen you?”

The air slowly rippled into green, white and orange patterns, until all the colors solidified into the shape of a massive tree frog.

I looked at one of the frog’s massive red eyes. “Do you have other believers? Can you sense them already?”

Jumpy frowned, holding one hand on its stomach. “Only thing that Jumpy can sense. Is how hungry belly is.”

The frog eyed Mr. Winslow.

“No Jumpy!” I shouted. “We agreed, only as an absolute necessity.”

“Holy fuck!” Mr Winslow tried his best to wriggle out of Jumpy’s foot. “What is this thing? Is this real!?”

Jumpy lifted its foot. The man rolled out and crawled away.

“Jumpy!” I waved my arms. “What are you doing?!”

Mr. Winslow ran for the pistol lying on the floor at the end of the hall. Just as his fingers leaned down, A massive tongue whipped out and grabbed him by the head.

There was a crack and a twist.

Mr. Winslow's body lay face down on the floor. His shocked face was turned upwards, staring wide-mouthed at the ceiling.

“Now can I eat him?” Jumpy asked.

***

The following day I left town. Paul Winslow's sudden disappearance would eventually be traced back to me. Everyone at my work knew what I was after.

I had been obvious about it.

I had been stupid.

Terror prevented me from seeking Jumpy, but now survival has forced me to pair with the frog. It followed me wherever I drove.

Ironically, I was no longer afraid of the monster which used to keep me up at night, because I had turned into somewhat of a monster myself. A murderer on the run.

The silver lining was that when I finally got around to watching episode six of my company's kids show. You couldn't see Jumpy.

It was a sing-along show for young kids, and the baked-in lyrics on screen obscured the background characters for the whole sequence Jumpy was in. You couldn't even make out it was a frog.

And so here I am, driving from city to city. Never lingering too long.

I'm giving myself a few months to figure out what to do. I’ve mostly been staying in cheap hotels and hostels.

Every now and then I go swimming at the nearest public pool late at night. Jumpy always finds a way through the roof. We swim together.

Through Jumpy I’ve been learning more about my late twin sisters. They used Jumpy a lot to get what they wanted.

But I don't need anything excessive. I don't want money, I don't want fame, I just want to live somewhere peacefully. Maybe teach synchronized swimming. If I can use Jumpy to arrange that—it's enough for me.

As much as I hate it, I feel like I deserve to be the sole believer. To have this invisible creature haunt me, and follow me wherever I go.

I was a Whitaker sister after all.

Jumpy is my imaginary friend.

0 Comments
2024/06/06
23:46 UTC

5

Rat King

Divine wrath unleashed this airborne curse
The archangel has unsheathed his flaming
Sword to purify every corner of the world
And cleanse it from all traces of human filth

Unclaimed by death – they turn to soot
Consumed by fires rising from the underworld

Fate has condemned every man, woman
And child to languish in the infernal void

Ash and bone united in a morbid dance
To the solemn song of dying flames

Long live the Rat King

Leprous Pest laying God's kingdom to waste

2 Comments
2024/06/06
11:01 UTC

2

My siblings’ imaginary friend wants to kill me [Part 2]

I - II

“Are you sure we can't make Jumpy the Frog a little … friendlier looking?”

My animation supervisor was looking at my sketches, and pointing out how Jumpy’s eyes looked a little too bloodshot, and how too many veins protruded through his gray skin.

But that's just what Jumpy looked like.

“He can stay in the background,” I said. “ I would really appreciate it— if we could sneak him in there for the next episode.”

My anim supe frowned at the picture. “Is this like a webcomic you are trying to make viral or something?”

It's actually some awful, real life entity I'm trying to appease so it doesn't kill me.

“Yeah, it's a webcomic. I would really appreciate it. Seriously. Just this once”

My supe liked me and I could tell he was willing to make this small favor happen, but that still didn't wipe the look of confusion off his face.

“Okay. I'll talk to production. It doesn't need to go higher up the chain. We can just slip Jumpy in near the end of the episode in one of the crowd scenes.”

I bowed and clasped his hands.

***

Hallelujah.

I would be seeding Jumpy’s image across a generation of kids who streamed cartoons. If that Frog said it needed believers to exist, it would now have a legion of kids who would see it, and probably wonder what that creepy frog was doing in the background of a popular TV show.

It might not happen right away, it may take weeks or months for anyone to notice, but if I could have Jumpy appear enough times to get other kids to simply think about the frog, I would no longer be condemned as the sole believer.

All I need is one fan to make a meme about it (hell I could lay the groundwork myself), and then we’d have tons of people on the internet seeing Jumpy, fan-arting Jumpy, and dreaming about Jumpy. He’ll have hordes of adherents loyal to his image.

I felt like this plan would work. Something in my bones told me so.

To celebrate, I removed all the Jumpy drawings I had put up in my apartment, and I deleted all photos from my phone.

“You’ll have plenty of believers, Jumpy! Not just me! A sea of ten-year olds will keep your essence alive!”

I was laughing, pouring myself some wine and cheersing my reflection in the mirror.

The evening was young, and for the first time in what felt like years, I decided I would go out. To a pub. A club. Anything.

I pinged a couple friends and got some suitable dancing clothes.

***

My elevator is the glass kind that rides on the exterior of my building. I usually don’t appreciate the view, but tonight I relished the sun setting on the horizon, basking the entire city in a warm orange glow. I had found a solution to Jumpy, and I deserved a moment to appreciate the good things in life.

I admired the other skyscrapers, which framed the white capped peaks in the distance. I admired the graceful fir trees which fit in-between the downtown streets. And I admired the grimy footprints on the elevator glass that didn't block any of this magical view.

Wait a second. Grimy footprints?

The elevator jolted to a stop.

I flew several feet in the air. Fell straight on my tailbone

My entire spine was on fire for a few moments as I looked at the elevator’s little screen .Floor 31 - SERVICE ERROR.

What just happened?

I heard loud warbling on the elevator's glass, and there the answer presented itself. Outside, waving its massive webbed hand, was an ecstatic, smiling Jumpy the Frog.

“Whitaker sister! It’s me! It's me! It's meeee!’

Even muffled behind the glass, I could make out the high-pitched voice.

“Jesus Christ,” I said, barely able to speak. My body had frozen stiff.

“What you say?” Jumpy pressed its head against the glass. “I can't hear you.”

I collected myself, realizing how much weight Jumpy was adding to the elevator. I tried shooing with my hands. “Get off. Get off the glass!”

The frog's pupils widened and looked in two different directions. “Okays! I’ll take off the glass!”

“What? Wait. Wait!”

The amphibian applied both of its sticky hands on the glass above the elevator, creating a vacuum-tight seal. The arms lifted, flexing dozens of wiry, cord-like muscles. I could hear metal and screws pop.

The glass exploded atop the elevator.

I shielded my head as hundreds of shattered pieces fell. A few cut my arms. Crisp, thin air breezed in along with Jumpy’s jovial voice. “Whitaker sister!”

I watched as the frog clambered down into the elevator. Its skin looked healthy and green, evidently all my ‘believing’ had maybe helped heal the creature after all. I stood with my back against the closed metal door. Jumpy reached the elevator floor.

“Why are you removing Jumpy art?” The frog used a massive arm to sweep the glass away from its feet.

I could barely move. “What?”

“I sawed you remove the pictures of Jumpy in your house. Why? why? why why why?”

Although I was terrified for my life in this broken elevator missing half of its ceiling. I was now doubly creeped out that Jumpy had been watching me in my apartment? For how long?

The frog licked its eyes, The cheeriness from its voice fading a little. “Why. You. Remove. Drawings.”

I cleared my throat, and brushed hair out of my eyes. “Listen Jumpy, I am going to convince lots of kids to believe in you.”

The frog stared blankly.

“I’m going to get a lot of kids to believe in you, so I don't have to believe in you. This way you can outlive the Whitaker sisters. This way you can live your own life, Jumpy. I’m setting you … free.”

The frog held still, not moving a single muscle until its head tilted sideways. “But Jumpy belongs to Whitakers. Jumpy always helps only the Whitakers!”

“Well, I'm giving you permission to stop. You can be free. To be your own frog.” I was trying to sound confident, like the way my sisters may have commanded Jumpy.

But Jumpy didn't seem to take this well. The frog slowly cradled its face, as if such a suggestion was sacrilege. “But how is Jumpy supposed to help you then? Who do you want Jumpy to gobble up?”

“I don't need you to help me. I don't … what do you mean gobble up?”

“Marie-Anne and Jamie had Jumpy gobble up lots of peoples!”

They did? “Like … who?”

“Oh other pretty little girls. Girls who did too much talking and singing. Lots of peoples.”

I haven't mentioned this yet, but my twin sisters were rising young actors. They landed recurring roles on a sitcom and their careers only seemed to be looking up. Until the fatal car accident of course.

“I don't want you to gobble anyone up, Jumpy! I want you to be free, to go live in the pond or Forest and do whatever you like.”

“But …” The frog lowered its gaze and approached me“... Jumpy likes gobbling. Please tell Jumpy who to gobble.”

I couldn’t back up any further than the elevator door. “Fish! Worms! Whatever normal frogs gobble up. You go gobble that.”

Jumpy pressed one of its sinuous fingers against my belly. “Oh but you can think of some juicy, jiggly peoples for Jumpy to gobble up. There must be someone you don’t like.”

I closed my eyes, sealed my mouth. The moldy fruit breath was overwhelming.

“Tell Jumpy who to gobble.”

I shielded my face. “Please Jumpy. I don’t have anyone. I don’t want you to eat anyone.”

The breath retreated. Its voice turned disappointed. “You don’t have … anyone?”

“No. It’s not good to eat people, Jumpy.”

When I opened my eyes, the frog was turned away. It placed one of its massive hands on the glass wall.

“You don’t want Jumpy to be happy …” The frog bonked its head along the glass, penalizing its own sorrow. The glass cracked a little bit.

“No, I want you to be very happy! I just want you to discover a new source of happiness that isn’t … gobbling.”

The frog bonked its head on the glass again. “Marie-Anne and Jamie told me you wouldn't understand Jumpy. Maybe they were right ...”

The remaining walls of glass were growing cracks at an alarming rate. If they broke, I would be completely exposed at thirty one stories above sea level.

“Please Jumpy! I understand everything! Maybe I can find you, like, I dunno, a people meat substitute? Have you tried pork?”

Jumpy ignored me, and climbed back to the opening up top. The glass was spider-webbing everywhere

“Sorry Whitaker, Jumpy must eat peoples. There is no choice.”

Pops and snaps came from all the walls around me. I turned to hug the elevator door as close as I could.

“I’ll just wait for your kids,” Jumpy said. “I’m sure one of the childrens will have lots of gobble ideas for Jumpy.”

Before I could reply, the frog hopped away, climbing along the side of my apartment building.

Then, the glass around me fractured in aggressive zigs zags until … SNAP! CRACKLE! POP!

Shards fell like a waterfall.

Bits shot at my back and neck.

Within seconds, the glass walls around me were gone. I could feel the cold, atmospheric wind rippling through my clothes.

The platform slanted from the weight of the glass. I rolled once or twice before digging my nails into the floor.

I was at least four hundred feet in the air, completely at mercy to the elements. If the elevator jolted in any direction, I would certainly roll off the ground platform and plummet.

Oh god. Please don’t move, please don’t move, please don’t move, please don’t move …

***

Screams would erupt uncontrollably as the elevator jiggled every now and then. I’m not ashamed to admit that I soiled myself.

Birds cawed at my panicked form. The twin elevator would rumble past me, causing my whole platform to tremble too. I was in my own private hell for forty five minutes until the fire department showed up.

It felt more like six hours.

When they finally did manage to pry open the elevator door and pull me to safety, they announced I had no real injuries, only a couple of minor scrapes. But I was trembling so much from fear, that they took me straight to the hospital. The paramedic said I looked like I had seen a ghost.

I stayed the night, unable to sleep.

They even kept me the full next day because my heart rate still wouldn’t go down.

“You’ve got to relax, you’re safe now,” one of the nurses said. And I told them, “I know, I know, I’m doing my best.”

But what I didn’t explain was that I was absolutely petrified that a horrible frog monster could come back and kill me. I had only met Jumpy twice in my life now, and both times it felt like I was staring death in the face. Even if it was by accident, the frog could easily hop on me, choke me or toss me down a flight of stairs without intending to murder me.

Jumpy was too callous, too oblivious in regard to preserving any human life… and then I realized I would soon enable kids to see Jumpy.

I would be allowing minors to not only risk their lives meeting the frog, but also risk the lives of others by letting him gobble.

I had sent the wheels in motion for a Pandora’s box to open via children’s television across the internet, across the entire world. The frog could terrorize the lives of countless kids for eternity because they would all believe in and fear it. Bullies would abuse Jumpy. Parents won’t know what to do. I would be creating a real life boogeyman.

Dear God, what have I done?

0 Comments
2024/06/05
16:38 UTC

2

The Night Ripper

[ Based on the Puppet Combo Game]

" This city needs the nightripper. People love spreading their propaganda; saying he's terrorizing New York and killing innocent females. LIES! The Night Ripper is cleansing the streets of its filth! Our city is plagued by drugs, prostitution, and homosexuality. We need a savior who can bring New York back to its glory. The Night Ripper deserves a badge of honor for all that he has done. The Night Ripper is our hero and we-" The crazed ramblings of the radio talk show host were cut short by the turn of a dial. Rachel could not stand that nutjob and she couldn't understand how anyone could give him a platform. Did anyone deserve to die just for living differently from others?

Rachel sighed to herself as she finished cleaning the last of the dirty dishes in Hunter’s diner. She had a terrible late shift filled with drunk customers who kept her busy cleaning up their messes. She hated coming to this awful job every day but she had bills to pay. She wiped the sweat from her forehead and gazed out the windows of the diner. It was practically pitch black out there with barely any lights to illuminate the city. As she changed out of her work clothes and prepared to leave, she noticed her co-worker Tim standing by the door.

" Are you really about to walk home on a night like this? The night ripper killed three women just this week alone. You're as good as dead if he sees you." Standing at a little over six feet, Tim resembled a bodyguard blocking the door with his folded arms and serious expression.

" Oh please. That psycho only goes after hookers and I don't exactly match that description. This girl can handle herself just fine, thank you very much. I don't live far so there's nothing to worry about. See you after the weekend!" Rachel gave Tim a faint smile before slipping past him and went out the door.

" Can't you get your boyfriend to drive you home!?" He shouted after her.

" We broke up cause he bored me so I'm all on my own. Maybe the night ripper should go after mediocre boyfriends instead!" She waved goodbye to her coworker before venturing off into the night.

Cold night air brushed against her rosy cheeks, making her wish she had dressed more appropriately for the late autumn weather. She pulled out her mini mirror and examined her outfit. It was a simple yellow sweater with faded blue jeans and converse shoes. No way was she going to be confused for a hooker. She looked at her surroundings during her walk home and never before had the quietness seemed so loud. The idea of a quiet New York City was an alien concept to her. Rachel figured all the news of a serial killer must've sent everyone hiding in their homes. Rachel wanted to be in her safe little apartment too, but she had business to take care of.

Working at a diner in the sleazy part of the city didn't do much to pay the bills. Rachel needed a second gig to make ends meet and it was one she wanted to free herself of as soon as she got the chance. Her second source of income came in the form of ravaging crack houses to scoop up as much drug residue as she could. It was a shameful hustle of hers, but it was the best way for Rachel to make quick cash. She collected the powder thrown about in the room and gathered it in her plastic bag. Rachel sold her findings to the local addicts and even to a few prostitutes if they crossed paths. She hated masquerading as a drug dealer at night, but she only needed a few more payments until her debt was settled. Rachel couldn’t wait until the day she could put all of this behind her. She was on her way to leaving the den when she heard the agonizing slow creak of a door being opened from downstairs. Her heart nearly exploded from her body as her mind raced through several possibilities: A cop who’s trying to catch her in a drug bust? Another dealer taking out the competition? Or was it someone even worse? Rachel bolted it out of there. The creaky floorboards ruined any chance she had of being stealthy so thought it best to leave while she still had the chance. Rachel navigated through the twisting corridors of the den until she escaped to the outside patio that connected to another house using a long board of wood. She paused. It was an extremely narrow space to move across and the fall down would end everything.

'Damn it! I don't have time to think things over. I have to get outta here before he catches up with me' She thought to herself. Willing her nerves, she carefully placed one foot in front of the other on the slender plank of wood. Both arms were stretched to the side to maintain her scant amount of balance. She felt herself wobble on one side and then to the other before her leather purse slipped off her arm and down to the ground below.

" Shit! My keys were in there!" Rachel cursed to herself while praying she too didn't plummet to the ground. Each step forward felt like an eternity, anxiety pooling inside her like a bomb ready to explode. She carefully scurried across the wooden plank until she reached the other side. As soon as her feet touched the rooftop, Rachel took off running down a flight of stairs and was faced with another confusing corridor of twisting angles. 'Who the hell designed the place?' She thought as she struggled to navigate her way around.

This building was even worse than the previous one. The apartment didn't look too big from the outside, but inside it was practically a labyrinth. Each corner led to several halls to transverse and she even found herself walking In circles. Her heartbeat pounded in her chest with every second she spent wasted in the corridors. She felt so relieved when she finally found the staircase. Rachel nearly tripped over herself as she shot her legs down the spiraling set of stairs. Once she reached the first floor, she headed straight for the door and stopped right in her tracks when she saw the Nightripper waiting for her. There he was. She saw his signature black trench coat and a bright yellow duck mask with a knife in hand. Her blood ran cold and every ounce of energy she had left in her vanished. It was her worst nightmare come to life.

Rachel's screams echoed throughout the entirety of the crack den. She did a complete 180 and took off bolting down the hall. Her frantic thoughts were muffled by the sounds of the feet slamming against the ground and her heart on the verge of bursting.

Rachel could hear the night ripper hot on her trail. His iconic duck laugh cackled in her ears. Rachel found herself in the absolute worst place to be hunted down. The various twisting corners and halls made the crack den resemble a maze. It was like every component of the building served to slow Rachel down further. She let out a sigh of relief once she reached the fire escape.

She almost tumbled down the metallic flight of stairs with how anxious she was. Her shoes stomped on the cracked concrete as she ran through the vacant neighborhood. Before, Rachel enjoyed how quiet the neighborhood became due to the night ripper's crimes. It lowered the chances of her being caught occupying crack dens. Now? She was desperately clinging onto the hope that someone,anyone, could save her.

It was after five blocks of running did she meet another human. The woman wore a tight-fitting dress that went well above her knees and shabby looking high heels. She waited on the street corner with a cigarette in hand like she was waiting for a client.

"You have to get out of here! The night ripper is on the loose and he'll chop us up if we don't hurry!" Rachel cried in a desperate attempt to at least do one good deed that night. Perhaps if she managed to save the life of a stranger, it would make up for all the crime she had done.

The woman simply rolled her eyes and blew a puff of smoke in Rachel's direction. " Fuck off. I'm not gonna let you steal my clients with some stupid made up story. I have bills to pay so I ain't budging."

" I'm not in that line of business, lady! The night ripper is really out there and I just barely managed to escape from him. We have to run outta here now!"

" I said fuck off! This business is all I have and I ain't gonna let some crazed bitch take that away from me." The woman went back to puffing her cigarette. Rachel had no time to argue with the fool. She tried in vain to save her, but some people dug their own graves. Rachel bolted down several more blocks until she came across a payphone. She had just enough money to make one phone call. She contemplated between calling 911 or her roommate.

' Who knows how long it'll take for the police to get here. My best bet is to get my room unlocked.' Rachel thought to herself as she inserted two nickels. She heard the low groan of her tired roommate from the other side of the phone.

" Hey, it's me Rachel. Do me a huge favor and keep the door unlocked. I lost my keys and I should be coming home soon. Please just hurry. " The words fumbled in her mouth with how quickly she forced them out. It wasn't until she heard her roommates' confused confirmation did she hang up the phone and went back to running.

Along the way, she heard the blood curdling scream of a woman in her last moments. Rachel could only imagine it was the woman she tried to save earlier. Tears welled in her eyes as she imagined how close she was to facing the same fate. Her adrenaline and anxiety kept her going. Rachel dashed out of the slums with all the energy she had left.

Words couldn't describe her relief once she finally arrived at her apartment. She flung the door open and locked it behind her before sitting down on the couch. She was free. Everything else was behind her now. Rachel was beyond exhausted from the blocks of running and mental anguish she went through. All the energy she had left her body as she closed her eyes to drift off into a peaceful slumber. Into a peaceful dream where she was unable to hear the front door slowly turning open. Unable to hear that duck laugh quickly approaching her.

0 Comments
2024/06/05
13:38 UTC

5

My siblings’ imaginary friend wants to kill me [Part 1]

I - II

Something grabbed my leg at the pool.

I was on my last lap—just doing a leisurely breaststroke—when massive fingers wrapped around my thigh and dragged me down.

I squirmed and tried to get away, but the fingers were wrapped tight. They had some form of suction cups. My ensuing struggle attracted the attention of the lifeguard. As soon as he came to my aid, the massive fingers let go.

The guard believed me when I said that something had caught my leg. He inspected the area. But all he could find was a pink plastic wristband.

“That’s not what pulled me down,” I said.

He shrugged and put on the wristband.

***

In the locker rooms I swear I could hear something walking around, making large, squishy, plodding sounds. I stayed hidden in my change room, waiting for the sounds to stop.

From beneath the change room curtain I could see wet footprints. I could literally see large, towel-length footprints appear on the ground—out of nothing.

Of course it freaked me out. And of course I gasped out loud.

Before I knew it, the curtains opened and closed on their own.

I was cornered in the back of the changeroom.

I let out a half a scream before invisible wet fingers wrapped themselves around my face. My head was shoved against ceramic tiles.

Fear froze me completely.

A hot breath arrived, smelling like moldy fruit. Then a voice came. It was high pitched and squeaky, choking a little on its own words.

“No need to be scared. It's just me. JUMPY!”

Like a chameleon, the skin of the creature slowly solidified into gray. One of its eyes was the size of my head. I would say it looked like one of those red-eyed tree frogs, except it was nine feet tall and it could easily kill me.

It switched from holding my mouth to pressing its sticky fingers against my throat. “Remember me? Remember me?”

‘No’ seemed like the wrong answer, so I just repeated the name it told me. “...Jumpy?”

“YES! YES!” The creature jumped up and down—still holding me by the throat. If I hadn't grabbed hold of its fingers, it might have hung me on the spot.

“Jumpy! Jumpy Frog! That's me!”

I was dropped to the floor as it started to clap. The massive webbed hands created a deafening applause.

“Marie-Anne and Jamie made me when they were babies! I was their best friend!” The frog jumped onto a wall effortlessly and peered down at my struggling body. “Every day I was with them—every day I helped them!”

It was referring to my older twin sisters, who died last year in a car accident. Part of the reason I was out swimming so late is because that’s how I’ve been coping with their passing. We all used to do synchronized swimming for many years.

“But now they’re gone… They're gone! How terrible is that?!”  The frog sounded like an overdramatic, sad cartoon. It teared up, and pounded the very wall it was climbing. “And now, no one believes in Jumpy!”

I was still recovering, breathing through a pinhole, but that didn’t stop Jumpy from hoisting me by the leg.

“You’re the only Whitaker sister left! You have to believe in Jumpy!”

It felt like I was speaking through a tiny straw. “Have to?”

“Yes! Can’t you see? I’m fading! I used to be green for frog’s sake!” Jumpy shoved its forearm against my face. Some of the gray slime stuck to me.

“If you don’t believe in Jumpy … I’ll die! And I don’t want to die!”

The frog crawled to the ceiling and dangled me by the leg, high above the marble floor. “You have to believe in Jumpy! You HAVE to!”

If I landed in the wrong way, I could easily break my neck, or skull. I forced myself to sound happy. “I believe in Jumpy, I believe in Jumpy.”

For the first time in the entire encounter, the creature treated me like a porcelain doll. I was gently lowered to the floor, and then patted on the head.

“Good. Keep believing in Jumpy. Think about Jumpy every day.” The frog made a gagging sound, then leapt back to the ceiling, leaving wet marks along the wood. “And if you stop believing in Jumpy, don’t worry … I’ll come back to remind you!”

The frog smiled in a way that made its giant eyes bulge and look in two opposite directions. I thought for a second it had a tongue lolling out of its mouth, but I peered closer, and could make out a human hand in its lips.

A human hand with a pink wristband.

Jumpy slurped it up.

***

Since that encounter I’ve basically been in a permament state of fear, praying that Jumpy never visits me again.

I’m an animator so drawing is a hobby of mine. I’ve drawn countless sketches of Jumpy and left them around my house, my work, on my phone, etc. Not a day goes by without me seeing a picture of that frog.

I believe I’m fulfilling my promise. I’m thinking about Jumpy every day. But I also haven't slept properly in like … months.

I’d like to stop thinking about the frog. But that also sounds terrifying.

I’m pretty much forced to think about my worst fear all the time.

Its wearing me down. I’m so exhausted…

What am I supposed to do?

2 Comments
2024/06/04
02:34 UTC

2

Khosyn

The melancholy melody of longing
Is beaten onto the blood-stained war drum
At the center of my chest
A longing for the cold stygian water
To fill my lungs and anchor this pale corpse
Imprisoning me to its chthonic river
Depths

I remember a period in time before
Meandering desperation carried with it
The eerie fog of hopelessness
And slowly poisoned the natural landscape
Erecting monoliths commemorating a living
Plagued with endless disappointment

Once blissfully lost in the boreal forests of eventually
My stillborn carcass was pulled out of a plastic bag
To be cursed with renewed mortality

0 Comments
2024/06/02
00:07 UTC

2

In The Shadow of Loss

Possessed by the unclean spirit of creativity
Once more I drag the knife across old scar tissue
Drawing the crimson language from my veins
To mix with the ashes of the misled angel
Who foolishly dared to swear she'll stay by my side
Until we are separated by the arrival of death

Slowly ghastly color taints a white canvas
Giving birth to the beautiful shadow of loss

This form you've often mistaken for a man's
Is nothing but a hollow costume worn
By the evil embodiment of the bleak void
Solely responsible for the ills of human life
A glimpse of the terrible future that will
Soon enough blanket the face of the earth

Inspired by the bitter sweet taste of negativity
I renew my sacred vows to the one true god below
With ashes of a life I've ended many years ago
I draw a portrait befitting the holy shadow of loss

0 Comments
2024/06/01
00:14 UTC

4

What color is Alex?

I’m the third. Alex the parrot was the second. A man named Karl Schuster who lived in Berlin in the early 1900s was likely the first. In total, only three individuals are known to have overcome the natural cognitive limits of their species’ brains. Alex did no harm. Mr. Schuster, I’m afraid, may have inadvertently damaged reality. My transgression may be humanity’s undoing.

I didn’t want to hurt anyone. I just wanted to be like Alex. 

What made Alex special? He is the only animal to have asked a question.

Lots of animals communicate. Whales and birds sing their songs to each other. Coyotes use barks and howls for identification. We’ve been teaching primates sign language since the 1960s. But these animal tweets and howls and signs aren’t language. There’s no grammatical structure. No deep concepts conveyed - just surface-level stuff. I’m here, they say. I’m threatened, or breed with me.

Animals manage to transmit information and even desires through their species’ form of communication. But none of the thousands of animals observed by science have ever asked a question. Except Alex.

Alex was an ordinary gray parrot, purchased at a pet store by a researcher studying animal psychology. Alex was taught to identify shapes and objects and to speak the name of the items he was quizzed on. One day, while being taught to identify different colors, Alex turned to a mirror and asked “What color is Alex?” This is the only known case of an animal asking a question. Even the famous gorilla who liked to pose for pictures with his kitten and the chimpanzee raised as a human child never managed to ask a question. 

As you cuddle up on the couch with Mister Snugglekins the cat, or make Mister Woof Woof the dog beg for treats, think about what it must be like to have an animal mind. Animals’ brains cannot even conceive of the idea of asking a question. They can wonder things: When’s dinner? Is this new person a threat? But the notion of using communication to get answers is beyond their capacity. The gulf between us and our beloved animals is truly vast.

Now, let’s take the next logical step. Is there a mind - can there be such a mind - that is to ours like ours are to animals’? What thoughts are permitted by the laws of physics but are unattainable to the limited machinery of our brains? What if we could improve our own cognitive infrastructure, so our own minds could grasp these currently-unattainable ideas. What lies beyond the ability to ask questions? Hyper-questions? What are they like? What is their purpose? Is there hyper-love? Hyper-joy? What accomplishments lie beyond our grasp?

I used to believe that these ideas amounted to only pointless philosophical wondering. Just stuff to talk about while you’re passing the joint around. Then I learned about Alex, who somehow broke past the cognitive limit of animal thought. If Alex can do it, maybe it’s possible for a human to do it. Maybe, I thought, I can do it. 

Unfortunately it is possible for a human to do it. And unfortunately, I did.

* * *

In 2015, dozens of social media users posted images of a confused-looking elderly man slowly driving in circles in a Walmart parking lot. The emblem on the back of the car said he was driving Toyota Raynow. Toyota denies that a vehicle called a Toyota Raynow ever existed, even as a prototype.

* * *

I’m not the first researcher to set off on a project to improve human cognition. The eugenicists whose work flourished at the dawn of the 20th century may have been the first people to search for ways to adjust to the human mind. Of course, they had their own spin on the endeavor that, let’s just say, didn’t age well. Take a look at this: an excerpt from the Proceedings of the Third Berlin Conference on Eugenics, 1904. (Translated from the original German by me)

The session on Friday afternoon was opened by Mr. Gerhard Van Wagenen, who presented the report of the Berlin Directed Intelligence Improvement Society.  If we are to develop ways of improving the overall intelligence of the human breed, Mr. Van Wagenen argued, we must have, as a guide post, the ultimate limit of human intelligence. Only when we know this limit, can we pose the fundamental question of our effort: Are we to use selective breeding to improve average human intellectual fitness in a population, or are we to find ways of advancing the limit of human genius itself into areas that no individuals born to date have occupied?

Our immediate research goal was therefore to find individuals for whom the light of genius burned, not just at all, but brighter than the lights of all others of that intellectual rank. We sought to find the one individual currently alive who can look down on literally all the rest as his intellectual inferiors.

It is known that in the mass of men belonging to the superior classes there is found a small number who are characterized by inferior qualities. And in the mass of men forming the inferior classes, one can find specimens possessing superior characteristics. Therefore, we shall search wherever those of superior intellect may be found, without regard to their current station.

Inferior classes? Intellectual rank? Try putting that in a research grant proposal today! 

Mr. Van Wagenen and his assistants set out across Berlin and asked thousands of people a single question: “Of all the men you know who are still alive, who amongst them is the most intelligent?” They carefully reviewed the resulting list of thousands of names. They removed the duplicates and any female names that ended up on the list. (Those crazy eugenicists, right?) They tracked down each of these men who ranked as the smartest known by at least one male resident of Berlin, and asked them the same question, generating a second-stage list: the most intelligent people known to a group of individuals already considered very intelligent.

And they kept going. They generated the third-stage names, found those people and had them produce a list of fourth-stage names. And so on. This project took a year. There was a running joke in Berlin that Mr. Van Wagenen would only stop when the last name on the list was his own.

But, to Mr. Van Wagenen’s credit, he did not rig the study to identify himself or one of his patrons as the one individual who can look down on literally all the rest as his intellectual inferiors. Indeed, Mr. Van Wagenen eventually concluded that his year-long study was a failure.

A fraction of the people named, about eight percent, simply could not be found. We were appalled to note that a small percentage of the respondents identified themselves as the most intelligent man they knew. While the ultimate individual we seek could only truthfully answer with his own name, we took these first and second stage self-identifiers to be adverse to our research and ignored their input.

In a few hundred cases, pairs of individuals each identified the other. In smaller numbers we found sets of three, four, and even five men whose linkages formed closed loops of co-admiration, eventually working around back to the first man.

But the most striking feature of the data was that over three thousand lines of reported superior intelligence ended in the same name: Karl Schuster. Mr. Schuster had been a successful industrialist before suddenly retreating from public view later in life. Strangely, when we tried to find Mr. Schuster, we learned that he had, of his own volition, taken residence in the mental asylum located at Lankwitz. 

He refused to see us when we paid a visit to his private room in the asylum. The only communication we had from him was a note related to us by the Lankwitz staff, in which Mr Shuster wrote:

“I’ve spent most of my life hiding from It. I have isolated myself here, with the notion that the confused noise of mental anguish that surrounds me would act as a form of concealment. I did not suspect I might one day be discovered by ordinary men. Please do not visit me here again.”

From his note, and the fact of his residence within the asylum, we must conclude Mr. Shuster had become a mental defective. Even more damaging to our research, we subsequently learned that Mr. Schuster was a Jew. This finding, unfortunately, invalidates our work. In the coming months, we will strive to find a protocol more suitable for investigation into the nature of superior intellect.

Let’s not be too hard on these anti-Semitic, white-supremacist eugenicists. I’m willing to cut them some slack because I’ve done far, far more damage to mankind than all of these guys combined. I should have listened to Mr. Schuster’s warning. I should not have let It find me.

* * *

In 1954 a man arrived at Tokyo’s Haneda airport with a passport issued by the country of Taured. No such country exists, or ever existed. Despite the man being detained and guarded, he mysteriously vanished overnight.

* * *

Where the eugenicists looked to make improvements in the human population over generations by controlling or influencing reproduction, I had a more ambitious goal - to make improvements to a specific human brain (my own) in-vivo. I set out to upgrade my brain while I was using my brain to figure out how to upgrade my brain. I had astonishing success.

I’m not going to tell you exactly how I did it, because it’s just too dangerous. I don’t mean because it’s dangerous to the person undergoing the process (which it is), but because doing so can lead It to notice you. I don’t care if you fry your own cortex. But having It eat even more of our reality will be a calamity.

The human brain consists of gray matter, which is the stuff that performs perception and cognition, and white matter, which deals with boring stuff like running your metabolism. The gray matter - your cerebral cortex - forms a nice thick layer on the outside of your brain. This layer wraps the white matter underneath. I found a way to use pluripotent stem cells to expand the thickness of my cortex. With careful dosing of the stem cell culture through a spinal tap, I created new layers of gray matter underneath my cortex. These new cells replaced the white matter that was there. 

For reasons I don’t fully understand yet, the new cortical cells only become active when I have ingested a potent mixture of hallucinogens and antipsychotic drugs. 

The process is arduous and very illegal. Experimentation on humans, even if the test subject is also the researcher, is extremely highly regulated. And the drugs I need to use are not available from the suppliers that the rule-following scientific community uses. This work was performed in isolation and in secret. No regulators. No administrators. No rules. Just pure scientific progress.

My laboratory is as unconventional as my approach to science. I’ve set up shop in an assembly of forty-foot shipping containers in the center of my heavily forested seven-hundred-acre plot of land. Privacy!

* * *

Thousands of people have vivid memories of news coverage from the 1980s reporting that Nelson Mandela died in prison. In the reality that most of us know, Mandela died in 2013, years after his release.

* * *

Uplift #1 - 3 cubic centimeters

By last October, after six months of stem-cell treatment, I estimated that I had added a total of three cubic centimeters of gray matter to my baseline cortex volume. I could already feel the effects of the diminished volume of white matter. My sense of smell and taste were all but gone. My fine-motor-control was diminished. I had weakness in my legs and arms. But I had three cubic centimeters of fresh cortex to work with. I only needed to activate it. To Uplift myself, as I came to call the process of thinking with an expanded brain.

I planned for the first Uplift as if I was planning a scientific expedition into an uncharted jungle - I stockpiled food and water. I stockpiled lots of drugs. I bought a hundred blank notebooks to record my uplifted thoughts in.

I filled a seven-day pill container with hallucinogens and antipsychotics. I scratched off the Monday, Tuesday, etc. labels on the pill compartments and relabeled them: hour 0, hour 1, and so on. I planned my first Uplift to last seven hours.

Over those seven hours, I learned how to make use of the new, extra capacity in my cortex. I filled notebook after notebook with increasingly complex thoughts. Here are a few excerpts: 

Hour 1: The linguistic-mathematical relational resonance is far stronger than most have suspected.

Hour 2: Questions lacking prepositional multipliers of context prevent full expository [(relations)(responses)] yet, but (!yet) there is still an I in the premise.

By the fifth hour, I was fully Uplifted, asking hyper-questions and providing my own hyper-answers. What do the musings of a fully Uplifted mind look like? Page after page of this:

(((Imagine)Imagine[)Imagine)Relate->Time]<--Force(Animal,Object–>Think)

* * *

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.

H.P. Lovecraft, Call of Cthulhu

* * *

Uplift #2 - 5.5 cubic centimeters. 

I waited a few weeks before my next Uplift. I needed time to recover from the mental strain of the first experiment, and to wait for a new dose of stem-cells to produce even more gray matter.

Although I only spent a few hours in an Uplifted state in my first experiment, I felt diminished as I returned to baseline. Hyper-questions. Hyper-answers. Hyper-joy. All of these are wonderful to experience. Life can be so much more rich and full with a post-human cognitive capacity.

But, as I learned during my second Uplift, there is also Hyper-fear.

I descended from my second uplift by screaming and running naked in the snowy woods outside my laboratory. As the drugs wore off, the activated sections of the new parts of my brain shut down. Thoughts that were clear one moment became foggy, like waking from a nightmare. 

I fell into a snowbank, breathing hard. Only a trace of what terrified me was left rattling in my tiny, baseline brain: ItIt noticed me. I occupied Its attention.

What was It? I knew exactly what It was moments earlier, when I had more gray matter to think with. But now I was like a dog trying to grasp the idea of a question. I was still afraid, but I couldn’t understand the source of the fear.

I returned to the lab and warmed up. Then I reviewed what I had written in my notebooks during the ten hour session. Most of it was the same sort of advanced writings that my now-normal brain could not comprehend. But, somewhere towards the end of the session, perhaps just before I shed my clothes and ran into the woods, I wrote this:

I know what Schuster was hiding from. Find out information about Shuster.

When I recovered from the strain of my second Uplift, I drove to town, where I was able to access the Internet. I found some information about Schuster in the same archive where I found the proceedings from the 1904 eugenics conference. 

A short article in a Berlin newspaper described the man who had been named by so many people who took Van Wagenen’s survey.

…Mr. Schuster, at the age of fifteen, had made significant contributions to machine design, metallurgy, and chemistry. He founded four companies which he ran nearly by himself, without a large management staff to insulate him from the workers and day-to-day engineering tasks… 

It seems that most of the people who identified Mr. Shuster as the most intelligent person they knew had known him well at this time in his life. 

Another article, written in 1905, described strange event at his funeral:

…Also present was a contingent of a dozen people who claimed to have been friends with Schuster during the five years he spent in America. Many who had known Schuster for his entire life stated that he had never been to America, let alone spent five years there. Did a group of people mistakenly attend the funeral of the wrong man? 

Everyone in attendance had similar memories of him. All recognized his photograph on the coffin. Indeed, some of the America contingent had letters, written in Karl’s hand and signed by him, fondly recalling his time spent in the New England woods. It is as if there were two Schusters: the one who lived his life in Germany and the other who spent years in America. 

Uplift #3 - 6 cubic centimeters

Perhaps I’ve allowed my cortex to consume too much of my white matter. I now have trouble with perceptions. The woods surrounding my laboratory have been transformed into a city. Where there were trees, there are now charming stone buildings from a European city. The song of birds and the whisper of the wind in the trees is gone too, replaced with streetcars and voices speaking German. 

I prepared my pill container and notebooks for my third Uplift, as the sounds of a busting turn-of-the-century city rang through the metal walls of my laboratory.

Although I had dozens of blank notebooks prepared, I only made one page of notes during my third Uplift:

I met it today. I know what It is. It is alive. Not just alive. Hyper-alive. 

It is built into the very material that logic and mathematics is made from. The digits of the square of pi, when computed to the billionth quadrillionth place, is a sketch of a fragment of its structure. 

It consumes pieces of reality. It weaves them into its being, and leaves the tattered shreds of logic and causality to haphazardly mend themselves. It ate the circumstances of Karl Schuster’s life, leaving the ragged edges of different universes to stick and twist themselves back together, like shreds of a tattered flag tangling together in a gale. 

It has only begun grazing on the small corner of Hyper-reality where humanity lives. Imagine a cow eating grass from a field. A field where humanity lives like a small colony of aphids on a single blade of grass. It likes it here. It likes the taste of reality here.

I tried to tell it to go away. That we are here and have a right to exist. 

It replied to me, in its way. I found its words at the bottom of a twelve-dimensional fractal, woven into the grammar of a language with an infinite alphabet. It taunted me with a question: “What flavor is Alex?”

Update to the Proceedings of the Third Berlin Conference on Eugenics, 1904

Mr. Gerhard Van Wagenen provided the committee with an update on his finding that the individual Mr. Karl Shuster was strikingly-well-represented in the responses of his survey on intelligent men. Mr. Van Wagenen writes:

Upon further reflection of the results of my survey, I returned to Lankwitz again to try to meet with Mr. Schuster. I arrived to find his ward in an uproar, as only a few minutes prior to my arrival, Mr. Schuster had been found missing. The preceding letter, which is reprinted here in its entirety, was found in Mr. Schuster’s room. While the letter does not indicate where he went or even how he managed to slip away from the asylum unnoticed, it does show the extent of his derangement. His detailed descriptions of question-asking birds, strange events from the future, and even methods of biological manipulation unknown to science are not the product of a mind that we wish to recreate. Perhaps intelligence, as a phenomenon of nature, is more complicated than we are able to appreciate with our current notions of science. If I may speculate even further, perhaps Intelligence is a phenomenon we should avoid study of, lest we learn things about ourselves that it is best not to know.

ANKoM

0 Comments
2024/05/30
15:09 UTC

3

Cold Morning Sun

The voice of reason
Dressed in the comforting tone belonging
To a once, a lifetime ago, someone I used
To consider a close friend echoes softly

Offerings of a permanent solution
To thousands and thousands of problems
A wonderful and everlasting cure
To the innumerable wounds plaguing my soul

As I take the final step towards eternal freedom
Mechanized animals resurface from the memories of my time
Spent in hell to freeze the blood in my veins
With the intention of saving me from myself

The green-blue surface of the abyss glows beautifully
Under the rays of a cold morning sun
As seen from the top of a cliff
At the edge of the world

0 Comments
2024/05/30
11:00 UTC

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