-*The following recordings are those by Mark Lewis, a man found dead in his apartment located in Los Angeles, California. All of the following audio has been transcribed directly (including background noises). Some may find the following disturbing.*

• Recording. 1# September 17th, 2009: 4:39 p.m PST
-Sharp static- -click- Hello, this is Mark Lewis. I live in the 66th room of the Villa Brasil Motel located in Los Angeles, California. I couldn’t of chose a crappier motel. I’m still paying off my student loans so this is sadly the only thing I could afford. I recently found these empty cassette tapes in the back of my closet. I think my mom might’ve given ‘em to me last Christmas. –Chuckles- She was always a cheap woman…. I can’t believe she is gone…sorry, I’m getting off-track. I have decided to start recording everything I do from this point forward. Some…things have been happening lately that I just can’t explain. I just have recently felt as if something was…watching me. I’m not sure how to explain it. I just feel like whenever I turn my back there are eyes burrowing into the back of my head. That’s not the only thing, though. I’ve been having these nightmares. Not just your average sort of nightmare where you fall off a cliff or something. They are all really disturbing, screwed up nightmares. I haven’t slept in days, the nightmares are just…-Sighing is heard- -click-

• Recording. 2# September 19th, 2009: 10:00 a.m PST
-click- I tried to sleep last night, just to see if the nightmares were gone considering I haven’t slept in a few days. Once again I had a nightmare…but this one was different than the others. There was this creature…or a man. I’m not really sure. Anyways, this thing was maybe eight or nine feet tall. It had bleach-white skin, arms way too long for its body, and these pitch black eyes. The worst part though was his mouth, or what was left of his mouth. It looked as if some of the flesh around his mouth had fused together to form a sort of muzzle. The whole dream was just it standing there over me…and I couldn’t move. It was as if I was tied down to something. I don’t know why the dream was so terrifying to me. It was just those eyes…those black empty eyes. It all seemed so real to me. I don’t think I’m going to sleep anymore. -Click-

• Recording. 3# September 23rd, 2009: 9:00 p.m PST
-Click- I…I saw something, well I think I might’ve. I’m really confused right now. So…I was just randomly flipping through the channels on the crappy little TV in my apartment. I think we only get seventeen channels so there isn’t much to choose from. -Coughing- Anyways, while I was watching TV, I felt that “someone’s watching me” feeling. I cautiously looked behind me, once again seeing nothing. About an hour later, I felt the feeling again. I turned around faster this time, to see if I could catch whatever might’ve been there. –Silent for a few moments- I saw it…. The thing from my dreams. It was just…standing there. Then…it just turned and walked away. I jumped up from my couch and quickly ran into my room. Not entirely sure why I ran…never was the smartest guy. Anyways, when I got in my room…it was gone. It didn’t even look like anyone was there. The window wasn’t even opened so it couldn’t have climbed in. I checked my entire room but still nothing. I…I’m really scared right now. –Ruffling is heard- god…. I need more pills. -Click-

• Recording. 4# September 25th, 2009: 7:39 p.m PST
-Click- I saw it again today…the damned thing. I was at work. I work at the local supermarket. I really hate my job; I barely get paid minimum wage. But I still have to pay back those loans and this was the only job I could get. So I was helping a customer bag her groceries, just a normal day, when I felt this sudden urge to look out the window. In fact, the whole day I had felt like something was watching me. I glanced out and it right there…right at the damn window. From what I can remember I dropped all of her groceries out of pure terror. No one else saw it, though…I’m not crazy. I know it’s real…I know it. -Click-

• Recording. 5# September 27th, 3:27 p.m PST
-Click- I didn’t go to work yesterday, I was too scared to leave my home. I was afraid I was going to see that…that “thing” again. I always feel like I’m being watched now, all the time. -Breathing-… I think it’s behind me.

• Recording. 6# October 1st, 10:37 p.m PST
-Click- I’ve been fired from my job. I haven’t left my house in days…I have been too scared to leave. I see it all the time now; everywhere I look…just standing there. Staring at me with those damn, empty eyes…. LEAVE ME ALONE YOU PIECE OF SHIT! -Bottle cracking from far away- -Click-

• Recording. 7# October 3rd, 3:28 p.m PST
-Click- I left my house today…I don’t know why. I only needed to go to the pharmacy for my pills…it followed me the whole damn time. I asked everyone if they saw it…-slight sobbing is heard- no one else saw it…it is there. I know it’s real…I’m not crazy…I’m NOT! -Sobbing is heard- -Click-

• Recording. 8# October 4th, 1:49 a.m PST
-Click- JUST LEAVE ME ALONE! –Sobbing is heard- GO AWAY! -Glass breaking is heard- -click-

• Recording. 9# October 6th, 3:37 p.m PST
-Click- I…I bought a gun today. Just a simple shotgun…nothing major. If that thing shows it face again…-cocking is heard- -click-

• Recording. 10# October 7th, 3:29 a.m PST
-Click- I’m not crazy…I’m not crazy…. –something solid is heard being poured-drinking is heard- -click-

• Recording. 11# October 8th, 12:01 p.m PST
-Click- I…I can’t handle this anymore. It won’t leave me alone…. -sobbing is heard- -cocking- It can’t kill me if I’m already dead…. I’m not going to let it get me. -Gunshot is heard- -a thud is heard- -sharp static-

*An autopsy done on the body of Mark Lewis found heavy doses of Amitriptyline in his blood. This is a antidepressant drug used for moderate to severe depression. Side effects include psychosis, increased depression, thoughts of suicide, and hallucinations.*

by phillybro10


The Water Farmer

The Waterfarmer
Tonight he had purpose. The number was to be twenty…twenty of the best. Or at least the best he could find. The twenty were to be found in the water; in their place of rest. They will be part of the offering; an offering that must be made.

Out to sea he realizes he must go and in the horizon an aged wooden boat, similar to a small, rotting schooner appears to him as a specter of the sea. His Dark Captain greets him at the peer and waves him aboard as a servant would greet an expected guest.  It is known that the Dark Captain, shaped as a shadow of a large pirate, will guide him through to the soon to be chosen, with his oar in hand, steering through the salty, dense, and suffocating fog.

There were others fishing. He could sense it though he could not see them, these competing fishermen. Their presence weighed down the air as though a final plea, a plea for life, was soon to be heard. The pressure mounted as the urgency was palpable. And soon his lottery would be chosen.

And there they were, floating like underwater rows of corn. Souls, the ghost of weathered men and women made of oily liquid and illuminated smoke, familiar yet not. Vast fields of past experiences sprinkled the sea mirroring the starry night above in darkness, silence and spectacle. The harvest was to be made both quickly and with utmost certainty. He, the Waterfarmer, the fishermen, must choose his bait wisely and throw back the unworthy catch, for there would be only one offering.  

The selections were to be made through the senses, not just of those senses of the physical world, but of the metaphysical as well. He must feel their energy, their being and emotion, their wisdom and sin, what made them who they were and what will make him part of them, part of one. But how would he know? Understanding the task at hand but not the how, he fished, reaching his hand as far as he could toward the water touching soul after soul, each time rejecting yet taking a part of them with him as though he were collecting letters to home from lonely soldiers. Catch after catch is made and thrown back…until he finds one and another…each choice made filled a hole in his spirit, like a mathematically perfected piece of a whole. He now knows that these chosen few represent his past, his present and most importantly, his future.

As each undeniable link is made with these lonely souls, each one manifests itself onto the Dark Captains schooner, slowly floating upside the boat, over the edges and into their place in the pews much like mercury finds itself. Only these souls start taking shape into ghostly men and women with cloudy and hollow eyes, skin of liquefied pearl, and strikingly faceless. They begin to slug into a pool at the bow of the ship. As the souls gather they begin an entangled embrace, one after another, taking a liquescent shape.

At the base of the creation, broad backs and strong chests stack in rows and depth to solidify the structure above six stacks of feet, hands and knees. A backrest of sturdy shoulders begins to form. Armrests made of thighs melt together with the smooth curve of breasts at grips. The heads and bones gather at the top of the nine-foot design creating a complex helixed catacomb revealing the shape of an incomplete but great throne of pearly iridescence. This beautiful architecture will be his offering.

The boat is almost filled with the remaining faceless twenty, each one sitting at the inside edge of the pews when the Dark Captain points to a massive foggy wall slowly approaching. Time is running out to finish the harvest. The Doctor will soon have his gift and his future may be granted.
…The Patient…
He is lost in a nauseous stare. His fever has peaked now and his energy is seeping through his pours as if it is an August afternoon in the swamps. As they prophesied, the pounds melted away, thirty-seven of them in fact. Food would no longer be a pleasure but a chore. The shivers, fevers and cramps were undersold however. And he still has his flowing silver hair; a miracle by its own standards. Their poison was effective in its side effects but the results are an invasive surgery away. The visitation to his bladder tends to take an unkind path; as though the cancer and its’ treatment were not penance enough. Now he finds himself struggling to make the simplest of movements as he rushes toward the emergency room for time feels as though it is slipping away.

The hospital is unusually quiet today. He notices there are no ambulances under the canopies and the parking lot seems empty. The entrance way is exceptionally bright as well as it leads down a narrow hallway walled with frosted glass. There is a nurse at the end of the path waiting patiently for her patient in front of the triage desk. Strangely there are only three people sitting idly in the large and bright waiting room, each with an expression of angst, uncertainty and desperation. The nurse, dressed in white scrubs and red lipstick simply points toward the waiting room with a smile and a nod. He knows the Doctor must be coming out soon.

Walking with an ethereal gait, the extraordinarily tall and slender Doctor approaches the room wearing a long white and buttoned doctor’s coat and pressed white pants. He greets his patients with a smile and clinched hands.

“We all know why we are here don’t we?” the Doctor asks. “Which ever one of you four brings me the best offering will be healed. Those who fail, do so, for as you know, I only have the time and inclination for one. Tomorrow your presentations will be made here. Go now to the water’s edge, the captains await.”

He, the patient, did not understand. Had he not given enough to the Doctor? His tortured body, broken spirit, and dignity were only the obvious tokens he had bequeathed to this Doctor. Yet the price has not been paid? The other patients did not seem to bother with such tawdry questions. None of it mattered, all that mattered was the prize at hand and that the competition had begun.
…The Offering…
The elderly schooner breaks through the dense fog and a shore emerges. It is dusk now. To his left and right he can see the other three patients on their boats, each distinctly different from the next. He shares glances of guilt, pity, sadness and hopefulness with each of them; the emotions showing on his face as one would if they locked eyes with someone who had just lost someone. Three will fail. Three must fail.

Having drifted ashore over large rocks and steps, the bow of the boat flattened out making a ramp leading to newly paved asphalt roads. Each boat had its own empty road leading in the same direction. In the distance up the large and wavy hill was no longer the hospital but the Doctor’s office surrounded by a magnificent cityscape sculpted by mismatched sized skyscrapers and crafted as though it could fit in a gigantic snow globe. This is where the offering would be delivered.

In unison, the remaining souls gathered behind the throne and lifted it up onto their shoulders and began to march in a two row procession off the schooner. He quickly noticed that there was a soul missing from the middle of the procession that he now was forced to fill. Had he made a horrible miscalculation?  Would the Doctor notice the error? His color, while sickly, was more vibrant than the faint oyster shell iridescence of the ghosts. Surely the Doctor would notice but what other choice did he have? The other patients were marching as well, each carrying something in the front of their procession, yet invisible to him. The scene was that of a New Orleans jazz funeral; intensely sad and heavy though awkwardly festive and beautiful. Yet he was the only patient to not be standing alone at the end of their marching party. He was confident his offering would still be enough, regardless of ritual.

They soon reach the top of the hill and each march meets at the foot of the steps of the Doctor’s office with their invisible offerings. The office resembles the exterior grandeur of a city museum. While there were no parade goers on the street, the vast buildings were littered with strange figures cramming out of open windows for as tall as the eye could see. Their faces expressionless, yet body language showed a childlike wonder, grappling for a better look at an execution. The Doctor stands at the top of the elevation with a welcoming smile while taking in the spectacle of the event, pleased.

The Doctor motions each patient forward with their offering and gestures them into his office. A shared expression of panic and qualm waxes over the other patients as they climb up the steps, each behind their procession and the last to enter the large arched double doorway entrance. After a few moments, each patient returns outside to the landing and each with an evacuated gaze. The Doctor finally locks eyes with him and calls for him to present his offering sending unease and hope shivering down his spine.

The procession of souls begins to march up the stairs with the incomplete throne at the lead. The throne was not brought inside like the other gifts were. It was placed in the middle of the landing at the top of the steps directly in front of the Doctor and out in the open for his guests to admire. One by one the remaining souls morphed into the throne, each adding a different element and final touches to the masterpiece of his subconscious imagination. Towering over the Doctor, the throne shined with what appeared as glowing and pulsating white marble. It fluttered iridescence with every heartbeat for it was living architecture. At the top of the backrest, the helix hummed with the wisdom of the collective souls as though they would forever be guidance for its owner. It was complete, immaculate and divinely sublime. This throne was him, his shared soul with those chosen, his life experiences and combined energy from the life-forces webbed throughout his life. It was his purpose, revealed and stunning.

The Doctor leaned over and whispered to him, “It’s beautiful.” Taking a lap around the glimmering throne, the Doctor sensually caresses it as thought it were water at his finger tips. He steps forward, arms thrown to the sky to his guests and yells with rebellious and incredulous tone, “IS THIS NOT BEAUTIFUL?!” All of the guests shrilled in excitement and quickly floated out of the windows, twisting up into the overcast sky, into the raised fog still lingering from the morning. The Doctor, clearly pleased, turned back at the patient and gave a wide smile full of large white and perfectly capped teeth.

Drunk from the intoxicating vision of the moment, unease somehow penetrated him at the sight of it all. Then sobriety hit him as he thought to himself, “Why were twenty needed but only nineteen used? Why am I in the procession and the other patients were not? Am I part of my throne or is the throne made for me? What am I truly offering here?” As the last question rolled off his tongue he began to melt away, turning into a puddle much like his collection had done before creating his masterpiece.

“You prayed to be healed did you not? Healed of pain, suffering, embarrassment, burden and uselessness? I am granting you answered prayer. You have brought me the finest of offerings and I warmly accept!”

His head now nearing the floor to top off the puddle of self he has created, angst and dread fill his soul. His thoughts spoke to the Doctor one final time, “Who am I to question Your judgment, Your will? And yet, at my end, I still have questions…” The patients’ puddle flowed purposefully and split toward all six legs of the throne with his final piece, his head, solidifying the base of the left leg; his skull poking out just enough for the Doctor to rest his heel, in comfort. 

by StupidDialUp

Moment of Eternity: A Psychopomp’s Tale

She’s whispering in my ear now, my lovely Harvester. It must be close to that time.

My entire life has lead up to this one moment and a moment like this makes you relive everything you have done up until now. And as I listen to Her, I know why I’ve been chosen. I am one of the few who understands. The meaning of life, the meaning of creation and death…these things were always obvious to me.

It is why I became a psychiatrist so many years ago. I’ve always been able to shepherd people through the toughest of times and my understanding began early as an adolescent girl. Watching your younger sibling die in front of you tends to create more difficult questions than it offers answers. And I’ve never been one to not seek answers. I wanted to know why God wanted me to watch my little sister die in front of me without giving me the tools to be able to help her. What was it that I saw in her eyes as she floated away into the dark? What was the pain I felt billowing from my mother when I watched her pull my sister’s body from the pool? I needed to know why God would allow, if not will, the innocent to die. Why are we all mortal? What was it about human beings that allowed the greatest kindnesses only to be matched by unimaginable horrors? My curiosity would prove insatiable. I always needed to know.

Through my search for answers I came to realize what separates us from other living things; what makes us important to the universe is our perception-if not understanding-of the metaphysical. It’s from this understanding that I realized that there is one crucial thing that both connects everyone we come in contact with but also gives us our own individuality and soul: emotion. Emotion is the energy that is created and shared between souls. It’s what molds us. Eventually, it’s what defines us as it helps create our character. The concept of evil and good, while necessary means to an end, are ultimately irrelevant since they are both interconnected through emotion. And it is emotion, I learned early on, that is the meaning of life…

And death. Death…her death…I could not escape it. Her face and that last flicker in her eyes gave me nightmares for years. I researched the moment of death extensively: life flashing before your eyes; out of body experiences; bright light; the sense of an invisible presence. It all seemed obviously interconnected but I had to test it. The couch in my office would eventually become my laboratory.

After years of research on the moment of death and more importantly emotion, I came to believe that all emotions fit into one of 6 categories and if I were to test my theories I needed to find people within these emotional throws at their precise moment of death…their moment of eternity. With this in mind, I decided to specialize in serving the terminally ill. As I helped guide them through their final days, finding peace where it could be sought, I was able to extensively study my theories.

I started my research as an “exit guide” for an assisted suicide underground network. It is here where I learned the emotional reasons that lead many to choose their own death, their “plan” as it was often referred. Dignity, escape (both physical and mental), and the refusal to burden loved ones were the most popular reasons given. After being around dozens of these finished “plans,” you could start to sense when Death was near. At first I just thought it was a general eeriness to the situation at hand. It’s hard for your mind to not get invested when finality is near. You tend to empathize with these individuals and the coming sadness for their friends and loved ones. I thought the eeriness could also be attributed to the tools that were used: the box the candy apple red helium tanks came in, depicting happy children running around a yard with balloons in their hands; the fish tank air bubble tubes used to administer the gas; the Thanksgiving turkey bag turned executioners hood that would seal in gas that was always 100% effective. The helium…the same gas we would swallow when we grew up as kids to make funny voices…tricks the brain into thinking it is oxygen like a clowns’ gag at a birthday party. I thought the innocence of the death method was what caused the eeriness every time. But I now realize it wasn’t.

After serving as an “exit guide” on 18 cases I realized that this turkey bag was an inconvenience for testing my theories. We would always remove the bags from the individuals head and remove all of the evidence of the assisted suicide. The coroners would have no choice but to categorize it as “natural causes” since the helium is hard to detect and, of course, being that most of our clients were elderly, no one would really question otherwise. Every time I would pull off the bag (usually after 10-12 minutes), I would miss out on the moment of actual death, because of the wrinkling and bodily fluids that would drape the plastic, I could not clearly see through the bag in order to watch the eyes…I must always see the eyes…when the time came.

So the decision was made to move to Oregon, where assisted suicide is legal and it wound up being a large part of the reason why I was so successful in my studies. One of my theories, I felt, was proven right away when I noticed the flicker. There is always a flicker in the eyes. The moment when you know it is over and the face contorts as though the air has been let out of the balloon, the eyes lose focus, and you can sense the denseness in the room. If you are in the room, you cannot only see it but feel it. It is why your body aches and weeps when it recognizes it. But the flicker was always different and the intensity of that moment seemed to be determined by the strength of the emotion at the time of death.

The first time I noticed the intensity difference was during my 12th assisted suicide in Oregon. He was a 65-year-old father of two sons; divorced, lymphoma and alone.  During one of our sessions, this one in particular being hypnosis, he shared how he molested his youngest boy and how this was the reason he lost his wife and children. After convincing his sons to be there to witness his death and shortly after he took the correct pill combinations, he made his final apologies and confessions and said, “This is not my escape but rather my gift to you for all I have done.” You can sense that his moment was not one of sadness or anger, but rather one of sacrifice and intense love and peace that only comes with giving and forgiveness…or at least in his mind, repaying a great debt. While his sons had a different take on the matter after the deed was done, this father’s moment of eternity had been decided, and more importantly was chosen by him.

Which meant the moment could be manipulated. And so with each patient in which I felt I could garner their unyielding trust, I expressed my theories. Theories on how when your life flashes before your eyes it’s your minds way of condensing all of your emotional experiences into one file, your soul, and how that is what carries on to God, the Source, the Creator, the Universe, whatever you may believe. How the bright light you see is your soul as it moves on; how out of body experiences are your body’s way of rejecting death; how the presence that those in the room feel may be an unknown physical or metaphysical psychopomp of some sort.

And then I gave them a choice: will your gift for eternity be random in nature or do you want it to be the most powerful emotion you had in your life? When they made the choice what they did not realize is that this emotion could be anything. We would not know until it revealed itself through our therapy and hypnosis sessions. To ensure their commitment to my project, they could not know what it was either. And so we constantly trained when we could. I had to teach their body and mind, through hypnosis, to recognize a pattern of sounds and words that would instantly bring them back to their most intense emotional experience quick enough to be there at their dying moment. This had to be done, not only to ensure no outside influences would interrupt, but to protect against the legal ramifications of such actions. Thankfully, we were always successful.

I understood that this was my duty…my compassion and understanding to those in the greatest of need for both…to shepherd them out of this world. They were always thankful and there was always emotion…and it always one of my 6 emotional triggers. There was the love of the delusional pedophile. There was the joy that Joan felt when her pregnancy test came back positive after 8 years of trying to conceive with her husband. There was the rage that Bill felt in that courtroom as the drunken driver, who killed his wife and 2 children, asked the prosecutor, “What was that stupid bitch doing on the road at 2am anyway?” There was the surprise and astonishment Ellen felt when, 6 years after declared killed in action, her son calls to say hello as a former prisoner of war. There was the fear…that fear in my sisters’ eyes as I watched her drown many years ago, looking up at me without understanding and even worse, without hope.
And now here I am with my great contribution to the Universe…my eternal sadness. The sorrow I felt for my mother as I watched a part of her die as she lovingly stroke the hair of my cold, pale sister. The suffering and anguish I felt for my parents as they dealt with the effects of the tragedy which I am sure ended their life sooner than was expected. But most of all, my 43 years of unquenchable and unburdened guilt and remorse for nudging her into that pool; a jealous reaction to the affection my mother gave to her that was unprovoked and unshared. Yes, this shall be my contribution.

I hear my Reaper’s whispers louder now, my lovely Shepherd, explaining to me that I am Her and always have been and how I have been preparing for this moment for years. I hear the throaty screams of my train’s whistle. A train…how befitting…the vehicle I’ve chosen to move on from this life…more dramatic of course but equally as effective as a turkey bag but without the fanfare of sniffling loved ones.  It is a vessel that brings souls onto future destinations with a conductor who is responsible to get them there…steadfast, true and always punctual. This choice of mine could not have been coincidence.

As the cold and rusty tracks begin to rumble under my ear, the force of Her continued words strike me harder than this train ever could. Before my contribution can be given to the Source, my usher explains, I must continue my life’s work until the next one like me, one who understands the meaning of life and death as eloquently as I have, comes to pass.

At what would be my moment of eternity, She explains, “The answers you have sought are here, my dear, and with them come your prize. As you have done impeccably well for all these years you must withstand your misery for much longer. You see, my beautiful replacement, there is no escape with death. For you now must become…Death.”

By StupidDialUp

A New Friend

I’m putting this out there to see if anyone else has had this experience or is it my fate to be alone in this? I hope someone will contact me with an answer to add some logic to all of this.

    It felt like we had unpacked all the boxes last week when dad’s job relocated… again. I guess constantly moving has its perks, like being able to see different parts of the country. “New Jersey here we come!” dad said in a somewhat overly cheerful voice as we pulled out of our suburban California home for the last time. The look on mom’s face was perplexed. I could not tell if she was upset or hopeful about the move. If I had to pick I would have said she almost looked relieved…
    After a long silent drive with nothing to listen to other than my dad’s self-help cassettes, we pulled up to an antique-looking neighborhood. It reminded me of a place straight out of my mom’s favorite black and white detective movies. The “For Sale” sign in the yard looked as if it had been untouched for years. The paint on the front door was chipping and the hinges creaked loudly as dad pushed opened the door. The power was not on yet, which might have been a good thing. I did not want to see what critters were hiding in the dark crevices beneath the floor boards. I could tell my mom was not thrilled about the house. “Here we go,” I thought. My dad was going to get an ear full. Instead of listening to them fight again, I went back to the car to start bringing in boxes.
    Standing in the front yard, I notice a large black walnut tree in the lot across the street. In the tree was a boy about my age. He had curly blonde hair and was wearing overalls with holes in the knees and a turtleneck underneath. He was really high up in the tree. I did not want to admit it, but I was impressed and slightly jealous. I don’t remember how long I stared, but it startled me when he suddenly turned and began staring back. I acted as if I didn’t notice and continued to bring the rest of the boxes in.
    The next day was Monday, my mom took me to my new school. By the look on her face you would have thought that she was the new kid not me. It made me wonder what I was not catching onto. I was used to being the new kid; used to the looks, whispers, and odd stories about our past. None of the teachers made too much of a fuss about having to review half a quarters worth of lessons in a week for me. Surprisingly, I did not have to endure the baby talk either. That was the worst part about moving often: There typically was at least one teacher who thought it was nice to “take me under their wing” and talk to me as if I had only been in school a few days of my life. At lunch I sat at a table by myself, which was fine by me because who knew how long I’d be here anyway. Plus, who enjoys repeating their life story to complete strangers pretending like they care. The final bell rang and instead of taking the bus I decided to walk home, less likely to run into someone.
    The air was warm and the leaves were bright and crisp. When I turned onto our street, I saw the boy in the tree again. This time he called out to me. I figured I had not talked to anyone all day, I might as well talk to him. At least that way I would have something to say when my mom interrogated me at dinner. The closer I walked to the towering tree, the colder I felt. I blamed it on the shadow of the branches not letting the sun come through. Before I had time to concentrate on the temperature the boy called out again. “Jimmy, the name’s Jimmy – what’s yours?” he was asking.
    “Ben. I’m Ben” I replied.
    “I saw you come in yesterday. How long you reckon’ you’ll stay?” Jimmy asked, almost yelling. He must have thought he was higher in the tree than he really was. Why would he ask how long we would stay we just moved in?
    “Not sure, as long as my dad’s job keeps I guess, how long have you lived here?” I answered.
    We continued our conversation for quite some time. I found out that he had lived in the same house his whole life. That must be a nice feeling, never having to pick up and move all the time. Jimmy was quick to say the same thing about my life. He said he wished he had been able to move as often as I did. The grass is always greener, I guess.
    Everyday after school I would sit under the tree talking up to Jimmy. When my mom would ask about school I would change the subject and talk to her about Jimmy. At first she seemed upset, but after a while she began to relax as I told her more details and I could see that her smile was more genuine and less forced at the dinner table. Dad was always focusing on work, which gave me more time to talk to Jimmy. Looking back, for being so young, Jimmy sure did know a lot. He even knew what I should tell my parents in order to be able to spend more time with him.
    Seasons changed and it began to snow outside. Jimmy did not have a jacket, but he never said he was cold. Jimmy said he went to a special school that let out early and so he was always in the tree when I left for school and when I came home. I wanted to go to Jimmy’s school so I could see him more often, but my mom could never find the time to look into switching me and she would not go across the street to talk to Jimmy’s parents. So I remained a loner at my school and Jimmy at his. Then spring came.
    One afternoon when I came home from school, Jimmy was angry. I had not seen him that mad before. He told me that his parents wanted to cut down his tree. He was really distraught. What would he do without his tree? It was the only time I had seen him cry. I tried to calm him down. I told him we would find him another tree, but he would not accept that answer. He said he wanted my parents to talk to his parents in order to persuade them to keep the tree. He said that they would only listen to other adults and, whatever we did, not to mention him. He told me if they mentioned him then the whole thing would be ruined. It had to be my parents’ idea.
    At dinner that night, I asked my mom what she thought of the tree. She told me it was a beautiful tree; a nice change of scenery from the California palm trees. I told her that they were going to cut it down unless she told them how wonderful the tree was. I begged her to talk to them. I could tell she was nervous. She coughed and told me that adults do things differently. She said she could not go over there and do that because adults mind their own business and cannot control what other people do with their property. Then her expression grew sad and she said that she sympathized with my love for the tree.
    Jimmy did not take the news well. He told me that he was going to have to take things into his own hands, but I would need to help. He told me to come over to the tree at midnight and he would have a plan by then.
    I did not sleep at all that night. I was so scared of what he was going to say. I didn’t think I was going to like his plan. Jimmy had been so upset. When the clock hit 12:00, I climbed out of my window and Jimmy was already in the tree. He told me that I needed to burn his parents’ house down. I told him that was crazy; that we couldn’t do that. If we burned the house down we would go to prison. He then began to tell me horrible, horrible stories of terrible things his parents used to do to him. He told me that the tree was his only safe place. I tried to calm him down again, telling him that I would come up with a plan and if my plan did not work than we would try his – but he had to give me some time. Jimmy agreed.
    At breakfast that morning, after my dad had left on a weekend business trip, I told my mom I needed to have a serious conversation. I tried to explain how important the tree was. I wanted to start a protest, get the police involved, anything in order to keep the tree there. My mom was a nervous wreck. I could see that she was muttering something to herself, but I couldn’t make it out. My heart sank. She wasn’t going to help me.
    I didn’t know what else to do. I knew Jimmy was serious about burning down the house. I had to stop him. I ran across the street. I passed Jimmy and covered my ears to block out his screams. I knocked on the door and a gray-haired woman opened the door. His parents were older than I imagined. I ran into their front room weeping, begging them not to cut the tree down. I had word vomit. I didn’t even take a moment to catch my breath. I told them how special the tree was to their son, Jimmy. The woman fell to her knees and stared vacantly at the floor. The man swore at me and then literally picked me up and threw me out of his house. He told me to stop playing cruel games.
    I did not understand. The man followed me home and talked to my mother. I ran to my room upstairs, but I could hear their voices through the cracks in the floor. The man was yelling at my mom who was trying just to get a word in. He told my mom that Jimmy… Jimmy was dead. He said Jimmy had been dead for 20 years.
    Why would he lie?! I snuck out of my window and went to get Jimmy. I didn’t even make it across the street before I stopped. A man was already beginning to cut the tree down. I looked up into the tree. Jimmy was still up there, but now he looked different. His skin was unusually pale. Underneath Jimmy’s turtleneck was a rope. Jimmy was hanging from the tree by his neck. He couldn’t talk to me anymore. I screamed. The whole town must have heard me. I screamed for the man to stop. I thought he was killing Jimmy. The man stared at me. He said there was no kid in the tree.
    That night when my dad came home I could hear him talking with my mom. She was really upset. She just kept saying, “Why our son, why Ben? Why everywhere we go does this happen?”
    And then I remembered: We didn’t keep moving because of my dad’s job. We keep moving because of the friends I keep making…

by Thia

It’s Cold Outside

I don’t know if this is going to scare you guys, but it sure has me freaked out.

    My family just moved here a few months ago from the coast and this winter has been the first time I’ve ever seen snow. Growing up on the beach, you take great weather and sandy beaches for granted. I know a lot of people dream of vacationing in what was my backyard, but to me the most exotic thing in the world is snow. So I was pretty excited when we moved here and even more so when we got our first real snow just a few days ago. It began snowing while we were in class and the first thing I did when we got out was try to start a snowball fight. This only pissed off my friends who are sick of the stuff after having spent their whole lives surrounded by it, but I loved it. I didn’t even mind learning the hard way that snow will still melt and you’ll have to walk the entire way home with freezing wet clothes.
    As soon as I got home I changed my clothes and hung my red, light jacket in my closet in favor of only heavy coat. Even though I’m a teenager now and probably a bit too old for this kind of thing, I immediately ran back outside and began building a snowman. Our house is at the end of a cul-de-sac, so I wasn’t worried about anyone seeing me and spent the rest of the afternoon sculpting my frozen dopplegänger. The end result was slightly misshapen, but I thought it was perfect for my first attempt.
    Later that evening, my parents went out a Christmas party and told me that they would not be back until late. I didn’t think much of this because I usually spend my nights in my room either watching television or on the internet. It was the same story this night and it was sometime after midnight when I fell asleep. I wasn’t asleep for long though before a loud banging on the back door woke me up. My parents had come home drunk before, but never so drunk that they couldn’t open the door. I began to head downstairs when I glanced out the window. Their car wasn’t in the driveway. I paused. The knocking got louder and faster. It sounded angry; almost desperate. I moved back towards my bed where my phone was in case I was going to need to call the police. The knocking was now so loud that I thought the door was going to give way. I turned on my phone and began punching in the numbers when the noise suddenly stopped. In the dreadful silence, I tried to hear any sounds over the thunder of my pulse. Nothing. Were they waiting outside the door? The I heard the sound. A shrill, high-pitched moan, almost like air being slowed released from a balloon. It only sounded once, and I’m still not sure that it wasn’t my own breath caught in my tightened throat, but it left me shaking. For the rest of the night I sat in my bed listening to the darkness and fighting the thought that whoever it was hadn’t really left. Eventually my parents came home, but they were drunk and I knew that there was no use in trying to explain what had happened.
    The next morning I woke up to find that someone had destroyed my snowman. Probably some of my friends, I thought. In a way, I was actually relieved. It made sense of the night before. Some of my friends must have come over, knocked down my snowman, and then banged on the door trying to scare me because they knew that my parents weren’t home. I couldn’t believe that I had let them scare me like that. The only thing that puzzled me was that they had written “It’s so cold outside” in the snow around my snowman.
    After school, I ran home and began rebuilding my snowman. I was not going to let my friends have the last laugh. That night my parents stayed home and I didn’t give a second thought to my friends’ pranks. Since it was a Friday night, I was still awake long after my parents had gone to sleep. I was sitting at my computer when the knocking began again. It was quiet at first, but still sharp. Like dry bone striking the door. I looked at the clock. It read 4:00 a.m.. The knocking grew louder. I moved towards the window and looked out over our back porch. I could see a shadow standing at the door. It appeared to be wrapped in black rags and very thin. I heard my dad moving downstairs. “Is somebody knocking at the door?” he asked in a voice that let me know he still wasn’t fully awake. “Yes, I can see someone out there!” I yelled down the stairs. I heard him turn on the porch light and I looked back out the window. Nothing. The shadow had vanished. I saw my dad step out onto the porch. He stood there for a moment, looking around, before swearing at the cold and going back to bed. The next morning my snowman again lay in pieces, surrounded by the words, “It’s so cold outside.”
    I wasn’t sure what my friend were up to, but I nearly panicked when my parents told me that they were going to another Christmas party that night. I spent my Saturday afternoon rebuilding my snowman and even added a mother and father to make a snow family. As the sun began to set, I tried calling some of my friends to see if I could stay the night at their house, but all of them said they were busy. “I’ll bet you are,” I thought to myself. As soon as it got dark, I turned on the porch light and went upstairs to my room, confident that no one would dare knock on the door with the light on. I watch some television and then fell asleep.
    I woke up to the sound of heavy breathing. In the darkness of my room it took me several seconds to realize that it was my own breathing. I took a deep breath, but my pulse continued to race wildly. My eyes began to adjust to the darkness. My room appeared to be empty, but I feel something, a presence, weighing down upon me. I knew that the television remote was beside my bed, but I also knew that if I moved even a single muscle, it would alert whatever was in my room that I was awake. I remained frozen. Even though I couldn’t see anything, I knew that something was moving, shifting in the darkness. I felt faint, as if I would pass out from the terror. My heart was palpitating and threatening to stop altogether. As my head began to spin from the lack of oxygen being carried to it, I felt a cold blast of air on my feet. The sensation crept slowly up my paralyzed body from legs to my chest to my constricted throat. It paused there. I felt as though I was choking. It was too much. I don’t know if was my heart or my brain that gave out first, but in that final moment of terror I slipped into unconsciousness.
    The sun was shining when I awoke the next morning. I had headache as I made my way to the bathroom and then down to the kitchen. My parents were eating breakfast and looking slightly hungover.  Everything appeared to be perfectly normal. I looked out the front window to see if my snow family had survived the night. The mother and father were missing, as if someone had carried them off, and my original snowman was covered in something red. Still in my pajamas, I ran out into the snow to find that it was my red jacket. The one I had hung in my closet the first day it snowed. A new message had been written in the snow: “We’re still cold.”

by Ward Hocut

Krampus Is Coming

I was only a child when I saw Krampus.

    My family had just immigrated to this country. We had left our every earthly possession behind, but the memories and stories of our homeland followed us on our journey. Once we arrived, we immediately settled into the same ghetto that so many others from our Eastern European village had. A decrepit row of four-storied slums along an alleyway that was more sewer than street. Our father, during the few hours that he was home from the mill, said that we were better off here, but my sister and I missed the deep forests and high mountains that we had played in only a short time ago. Even when I tried to imagine myself back at home – my real home – the noise of the city always broke through my thoughts and brought me back to the alleyway.
    My mother tried her best to remind us of our old life. Often, as my sister and I were crawling into the bed that we shared, she would tell us the stories. The same stories she said that her mother had told her. Some of the stories were exciting, other made us laugh, but a few terrified us. The most awful story told of an evil one who  until the deepest part of winter to kidnap naughty children. We shuttered as she told us of how it would torment children just like us and sometimes we would even pretend to fall asleep in the desperate hope that she would stop, but she always finished the story. Our father would often tell her not to fill our heads with such horrible things; that some tales from our homeland should remain there. Mother though, would shake her head and quietly insist that it was dangerous to forget where we came from.
    Our lives continued like this for the next several months. I had believed that I would eventually come to see our forgotten alleyway as home, but its sense of foreignness persisted. In fact, it felt as though hardly anything had changed since we arrived. Our lives had neither improved nor gotten worse and I still felt like an unwanted stranger in my own neighborhood. The only the thing that had changed was our behavior. My sister and I had recently begun getting into trouble more often. We never meant to hurt anyone. It was just that we had so little and sometimes we had to steal if we wanted to eat that day. Usually our misdeeds were my sister’s ideas and I followed along. I guess one always looks up to their older sibling. I never believed that our petty crimes would ever have serious consequences, but looking back now I can see that we were walking blindly down a dark path. I can even remember when things took an ominous turn.
    Ever since All Saints’ Day our mother had been warning us to be good little girls.  She pleaded with us to stop our bad behavior. I remember her crying a lot. Early in December, my sister got caught stealing a piece of fruit and I thought my mother’s heart would break. She began to shake and pulled her rosary beads from her pocket. For the rest of the night, she clutched the beads tightly and desperately repeated her prayers. When I finally asked her what was wrong, she paused just long enough to glance at the window and hissed, “He knows! He knows! It might be too late!” I didn’t know what she meant, but I was scared. My sister didn’t seem to care.
    The days passed and the temperature dropped. It was the night before Christmas and snow had begun to fall. The heating had already gone out several times and the flickering lights threatened to go out as well. As we would be attending the sunrise mass the next morning, my father told my sister and I to go bathe. Suddenly my mother began shrieking for us not to be alone. I heard my father quickly move towards her and begin trying to comfort her with his deep, soft voice. She quieted down some, but still insisted that we not be alone. My father told us to take our baths quickly and then join them. As we headed down the hallway towards the washroom, my sister sprinted ahead of me and stood in the doorway.
    “I’ll go first,” she said. “I won’t be long.” She laughed.
    I stomped my foot, but said nothing as the door closed. On the best of days there was barely enough warm water for everyone in our family to bathe. With the heat going out, there was likely only enough warm water for a single bath. My sister knew this.
    I bounced from one foot to the other as I stood outside the door trying to keep warm. I heard her draw the water and then begin singing softly to herself as she dipped into the water. After a few minutes, the singing had stopped and I began to fear that she had fallen asleep in the tub. Then I heard a noise. A sharp clacking noise, like someone was wearing wooden shoes. It was slow, but deliberate. Almost like it was sneaking up on something. I knocked on the door and the clacking stopped. No answer. I assumed my sister was just ignoring me or possibly trying to irritate me as she often did. Then the noise began again. This time even slower. I pressed my ear to the door and held my breath. The clicking noise had stopped, but I could now hear a light tinkling sound, like the chime of a hundred bells playing in the distance. I listened until I could hear my own heartbeat, then I heard a soft splash. She hadn’t fallen asleep. She was playing a game, waiting to see how long I would stand out in the cold hallway while she turned her fingers and toes into warm prunes. I knocked again, louder this time. Still no answer. I was quite frustrated and cold by this time and so, without another knock, I swung open the door and stepped inside.
    As I did, the power in our building went out. The hallway behind me plunged into total darkness and I heard my mother give a cry of fright. I blinked my eyes a few times. The small heater in the corner of the washroom cast an eerie orange glow across the room. Feeling my way until my eyes adjusted, I stepped around the curtain at the end of the tub and began to scold my sister for taking to long.
    Then I saw it.
    It was standing beside the tub. Though it was hunched over, it must have stood nearly seven feet tall with its horns adding another foot or so. Course, black fur, like the pelt of a goat, covered its body. It had powerful legs that ended in hooves – the source of the clicking noise. A thick tail whipped through the air behind it like a cobra circling its prey. Heavy chains wrapped around its muscular shoulders and torso. As it inhaled and exhaled, the chains produced their bell-like chimes. Yellowed eyes that burned with a smoldering rage stared down from above its twisted nose. A wheezing, bubbling sort of breath passed between its fangs and incisors that extended so far from its mottled gums that I don’t believe it could have possibly closed its mouth completely. A long, pointed tongue hung down past its scarred and disfigured chin like some grotesque dog and thick globules of spittle collected at the corners of its mouth. One of these globules broke free and fell into the tub. I looked down and saw its hands, long and hairless. Each finger ended in a sharp nail and was wrapped in the same kind of corpulent skin as a vulture’s bald head – the result of too much exposure to rotting flesh. Then I noticed the thin wisps of hair floating up between its fingers. My sister’s hair.
    The beast was holding her head under the water. I screamed. Only at this point did it look at me. It was not alarmed, but rather seemed almost whimsically bemused. As if I was asking it a riddle that it already knew the answer to. Looking directly at me, it stood up to its full height, its horns now brushing the ceiling. As it stood, it lifted my sister out of the water. My screams caught in my throat and I began to choke. It held her with a single hand, each of its five sharp nails having pierced completely through her body. Strangely, the only coherent thought that passed through my mind at that moment was the hope that my sister had already drowned and could not feel the pain. The beast took a step towards me and gave a dry, shrill laugh that sounded like an animal being strangled. It held my sister out, as if it were cruelly offering her body to me. Then we both heard the footsteps in the hallway. My parents were running to see what was the matter. The beast quickly wrapped its heavy chains around my sister’s lifeless body and cinched her to its back. Then, with surprising agility, it threw open the window and leapt onto the narrow ledge. It balanced there for a moment and then turned to look at me one last time. Our eyes met and in that moment it burned the full horror of itself into my very soul. Then it leapt from the ledge and disappeared.
    My parents were already in the washroom before I realized that the beast was gone. They held me tight and began asking what was the matter. I could not speak, but only pointed towards the tub and then the window. My mother was the first to notice my sisters clothes laying beside the tub and instantly ran to the open window. I heard her scream curses in our old language at the darkness. Then she collapsed and my father ran to her, begging for someone to tell him what was going. My mother was near to fainting and could only point to the hoof-like print in the snow upon the ledge and speak a single word: “Krampus.”
    I don’t remember much after that. Four days later, my sister’s body was found by a sewer grate. There was no investigation; no arrests made. To this society she was just another dead immigrant child. No different in their eyes than a drowned sewer rat. Not that it mattered much. No manhunt would ever turn up that creature which was not a man.
    I am old now. Over the years I have seen all of my friends from that hellish ghetto die, some of them in horrible accidents, yet I have always found some measure of peace with every one of their deaths. I do realize that death is inevitable. But there is one fact that keeps me from finding peace with my sister’s death: When the police officer came to visit my family, he said that my sister had only been dead an hour before they had found her body.

by Ward Hocut

A Bedtime Story

We had just finished a late dinner and my mom was putting up the dishes. Her husband gave her a look that was obviously meant to convey some silent message before rubbing his hands together and declaring, “Okay kiddos, time for bed!”
    I knew what this meant (sex) and I let my eyes roll a little. Not out of annoying or disgust, but rather because I’m just getting to that age when I can usually pick up on their “adult” signals to each other and it’s kind of awkward. I actually liked my mom’s new husband Todd. He seemed really nice, treated her well, and didn’t try to pass himself off as anything other than my new stepdad. He didn’t even try to buy my support with over the top gifts even though he was obviously very well off. Even his little daughter―my new stepsister―seemed nice enough. A bit shy for even a six year old, but still nice. Overall, he seemed good for our family. Especially when I thought of how bad things had been for my mom after my dad died. Even if you had remarried a monster, it still would have been better than seeing her go back to those dark places.
    “Tuck me in Daddy,” said little Marcia.
    My stepdad looked at my mom, obviously torn.
    “I have an idea,” said my mom as she turned towards me. “Why don’t you tuck her in? You can tell her a bedtime story. It would a great chance for you two to bond a little.”
    “Are you okay with your new big brother tucking you in, Sweetie?” asked Todd.
    Marcia nodded. I shrugged.
    Before we had even finished climbing the stairs I heard my parents’ door shut and the lock click. I rolled my eyes again. There were worse things that could be happening to my mom. Worse things had happened.
    Marcia jumped onto her bed, bouncing up and down a bit as the box-springs settled. She quickly scrambled to the far end of the bed from me and wrapped herself in her favorite pink blanket. I sat at the foot of the bed, feeling somewhat uncomfortable as a fourteen year tucking in my little stepsister. Everything in her room was just so pink and girly. She looked at me suspiciously; her eyes expectant. She was waiting for me to begin.
    I had never been known for my creativity and I soon realized that I didn’t even know where to begin in telling a bedtime story. I mumbled a few words about a princess and a dragon, but a dramatic sigh of boredom from Marcia cut me off. I was caught a bit off guard. I had never seen her act dramatically. I scrambled to think of something else when I got an idea. I might not be creative, but I could be mischievous.
    “Okay, enough with the boring bedtime stories. How would you like to hear a scary story?” I asked.
    To my surprise, Marcia begin nodding excitedly. She even began making those weird little grunting noises that kids make when they want something.
    “Okay,” I warned, “but you can’t tell mom or Todd―I mean, your dad.”
    “I promise,” she whispered.
    I decided to start off with something easy for her. Kid stuff. I knew how shy she was and didn’t want to risk giving her nightmares. That sure would piss my mom off. So I told her the lamest scary story I knew―the one about the hitchhiker and the skeleton. When I got to the part where the hitchhiker opens the door and the skeleton pops out, Marcia burst out in a fit a high-pitched laughter that I was sure would be heard by our parents. Or maybe not…
    “So you didn’t think that was very scary?” I asked.
    She shook her head, still giggling.
    “Do you want to hear some stories that are actually scary?”
    Her head nodded violently and the little grunts returned.
    “Okay, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
    I began telling her all of the creepy stories that my friends and I would share at school. We got most of them off the internet and even though I knew they were fake, some of them still managed to keep me awake a little longer than usual at night. But every story I told only ended with Marcia laughing even louder. Each time I would respond with an even scarier story, but the result never changed. Finally, frustrated and somewhat annoyed by this small girl who appeared to have sense of fear, I did something I probably shouldn’t have. I told her the scariest story I had ever heard: The Russian Sleep Experiment.
    This time Marcia was silent. As I began to detail the horror of that tragic experiment, her eyes grew wider. As I told her of the blood and terrible screaming, her breathing to accelerate. I began to think that I should probably stop. Just end the story and say, “Good night.” But she had challenged me with her undaunted laughter and there was no turning back now. When I reached the final, haunting speech of the last dying patient Marcia appeared to be shaking.
    “So…nearly…free…” I whispered in a choking voice, ending the story and hoping to really drive home the same terror that had kept me awake for almost a week. I glanced at my stepsister. She had shrunk so far back into her blanket that I could only see her tiny eyes peering out. I was about to ask if she was scared now when she suddenly threw the blanket back and screamed with laughter so loud that I had to cover my ears. It was so high-pitched that it almost sounded more like a shriek of pain than the laughter of a child. I was sure that my mom and Todd would hear and coming running.
    But no one came and now I was angry.
    “Okay, fine. Do you think you can do any better?” I asked once the screaming had died down. The question came out in pouty way and only made me even angrier when I realized it. I was acting her age while she was the one laughing at ghost stories.
    Marcia nodded her head excitedly. The grunts were back.
    “Whatever. What’s your scary story called?”
    She looked at me and then the door before whispering, “What Daddy Does To Mommy.”
    I nearly lost it. Now it was my turn to laugh, though I tried hard to stifle it. Marcia looked at me confused. I had agreed to tell her a bedtime story, not give her “The Talk,” so I let it go and asked her to tell me the story.
    “Okay,” she said in a calm, even voice that I had never heard her use before, “but it’s really scary.”
    I only nodded. I was still trying not laugh and didn’t want to risk trying to speak. She paused to look around the room one more time before beginning.
    “One night when I was just a little kid, Daddy and Mommy―my real mommy―tucked me in, but I wasn’t sleepy. I tried really hard to fall asleep, but I couldn’t. So I very quietly got out of bed and walked down the hall. I just wanted to give Mommy and Daddy a hug. I heard them downstairs. It sounded like they were bumping into the walls.”
    I snorted. Oh please don’t let her go into details, I thought to myself.
    “Then I went down the stairs. Their door was open and the light was on so I went in, but they weren’t in there. There were clothes all over the floor and it looked very messy. The rest of the lights in the house were off and it was very dark. I went in the kitchen, but they weren’t there either.”
    Her voice had fallen back to a whisper.
    “So I stood very very still in the dark and listened. That’s when I heard Mommy making noises. They sounded like this.”
    She began to make a kind of whimpering that sounded more like a hurt puppy, but I knew exactly what she meant. If it hadn’t been so funny, I would have felt really uncomfortable at that moment. She continued in a whisper.
    “I tiptoed out of the kitchen and followed Mommy’s noises. They were coming from the basement. The door was cracked open a little and they had the light on. I opened the door just enough to squeeze inside. I had to be very careful because the basement stairs were very creaky and I didn’t want Mommy and Daddy to be mad at me for getting out of bed. When I got near the bottom of the stairs, I saw that Daddy had tied Mommy to a chair.”
    “What the fuck?!” I almost said out loud. “That kinky son of a bitch!” I thought to myself. Then I remembered the look on his face after dinner and the thought of him and my mom…. I almost asked Marcia to stop, but then she said, “Mommy was crying.”
    I listened closer as she continued.
    “She was crying a lot and Daddy looked sad too. He looked like he had done something he wasn’t supposed to and had hurt Mommy’s feelings. He told her he was sorry. I think he was sorry for hurting her because there was red stuff all over her legs. I don’t know if Mommy accepted his apology because there was something in her mouth, like a rag, that made it hard for her to talk.”
    This wasn’t so funny anymore. Her father obviously had some very depraved fetishes and her creepy, monotone whisper was only making it worse.
    “Daddy said he was sorry a couple more times. Then he turned around and went over to his toolbox. I don’t think he or Mommy could see me. I saw him pull out his saw and some of those metal clamp things that pinch really tight. When Mommy saw them she started breathing really fast and tried to say something, but the rag was stuck in her mouth.”
    This was getting really weird…
    “Then he started whispering and got really close to her, like he was telling her a secret. She began to shake her head and she cried even harder. Daddy stood back up and asked her to sing the bedtime song that she always sang to me. But she couldn’t with the thing in her mouth, so he asked her to just hum it. He said she should do it because he didn’t want her to get hurt anymore. So she started to hum it and he sang along with her. Real softly. Like they were afraid they might wake me up, even though I was right there on the stairs.”
    Marcia giggled at that thought and continued in her dreaded whisper.
    “When the song was over, Daddy got his saw and cut Mommy’s head off.”
    My mind went blank. I was sweating now.
    “Daddy held Mommy’s head and said he was sorry one more time. That’s when the stairs creaked and Daddy saw me. I thought he would be mad at me, but he ran over and gave me a big hug. He told me that I wasn’t supposed to have seen that. He said it was supposed to be a surprise. I asked him what the surprise was and he said he was making me a doll. The prettiest doll in the world. He said that mommy was the most beautiful girl in the world and that was why he needed her skin. He told me to go back upstairs and go to bed. He said that if I did this, I could have the doll in the morning.”
    She started to giggle again and when I looked at her I realized that she was holding a strange looking doll. She had been hiding it all along under the blanket, but now she held it tenderly. It’s skin had the appearance of waxy leather. Crude stitches held it together. She was stroking its long hair.
    “I really think it’s past your bedtime,” I said. I felt sick.
    “Good night, brother,” she whispered.
    I closed her door and stood in the hallway, unsure of what to do. I moved down the stairs and saw that their door was slightly open. A light was still on. I knocked and swung the door open, startling both of them. They had been lying in bed watching late night television.
    “Is something wrong?” asked my mom when she saw the look on my face.
    “No,” I said, relieved. “Nothing is wrong. Just wanted to let you know that I tucked her in.”
    “Thank you so much, dear. I’m glad to see you two getting along.”
    Todd was looking at me with a puzzled expression.
    “Yeah, sure. Good night you guys,” I mumbled as I shut the door behind me. I went to bed, but I couldn’t sleep.

    Now nothing unusual has happened since that night, and you might wonder why I even brought this up at all, but I still can’t shake the feeling that there’s something different about my stepsister. I feel as if, since that night, she’s been watching me and my mom, like a cat watches a mouse or something. Like there’s something going on in her mind that doesn’t go on in other kids’ minds. It’s been almost three months since I tucked her in and I haven’t seen the doll again. It’s almost as if I imagined it. I even searched her room one day while she was at school. No doll.
    The reason I wrote all this is because her birthday day is coming up soon. I asked her what she wants, but all she said was that she already knew what present she was getting from me. I asked how she could know that. She just smiled at me and whispered, “Daddy already told me. He said I’m getting a new doll.”

by Ward Hocut