A Haunted House Story

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I do not have a name, but I’ve been called many things. I have been called a demon, a ghost, a poltergeist, a spirit and even the boogeyman. However, I have no memory from before this incorporeal existence to confirm or deny any such names. I have no eyes yet I can see, I have no ears yet I can hear. I do not have a body, I have no shape. If I strain my will I can mimic a human’s. If I will it I can move objects with my thoughts. However, both take a great toll on me and grow more and more difficult as the number of witnesses increases. I do not know what I am, but I know am very old.

I can not escape the property of the house I was born in. An old 1937 American Foursquare. A very square looking home sitting in a rather average American suburb. My cage reaches as far as the sidewalk where I can watch people pass by but never follow. I do not believe I was born with the house as my memories only reach as far back as near the end of World War II. I lived with the Stockley family at the time. William Stockley was the master of the house and was married to his wife Ann. They had three children, two boys and a young girl named Ashley. Both boys joined the war and never returned. Like any young thing I craved attention and tortured the family with mischief. If the Stockleys could not find something, it was because I hid it. If they heard sounds at night, it was me banging on the walls.

My youthful antics never scared the Stockleys away. Time, however, made much faster work. Ashley had grown up, married and moved away. William and Ann stubbornly stayed in the home till they both grow old. One night, not long after the 70’s had started, William sat in his study reading while Ann slept. William suffered a heart attack and died on the floor. He did not join me as a spirit of any kind, he just simply ceased being alive and I could do nothing to aid him. It was the first time I truly realized how helpless my existence was. Ann moved in with her daughter and I never saw any of the Stockleys again.

I was left abandoned for a while after that. I felt loneliness for the first time. However, soon a new family moved into the home. I remember it was around the time a nuclear scare happened not far from the home. Protests were a topic of conversation as the Grahams had moved in. Donald and Maria Graham and their two children Mark and Robert. I was much more reclusive with the Grahams. I was much more brooding and withdrawn. Always watching, but no longer trying to be heard. I had long since stopped trying to test my limits.

The Grahams lived a rather uneventful life. I watched them for years go about their dull lives. I kept my distance, stayed unattached. They grow older and eventually left. They moved out west for a better job. This lead to the Youngs moving in. A modern family for a more modern age. Jane and Hank were the parents, both worked for a living. Elizabeth was their daughter, the kind of girl that would put posters of then-popular boy bands on her room walls. James was the youngest and most fascinating in the family.

James was broken and everyone else in the family ignored it. He was thirteen when I first met him. As I observed him, he observed others much the same way. He would spend hours alone and the rest of his family seemed happy to be away from him. His room was his sanctuary; a place he could be his true self. He changed when he left his room, he faked normalcy. Any breach of his sanctuary caused him to turn violent. The first time I saw this was when he nearly broke his older sister’s arm slamming it in the door. So his family avoided trying to break into his world.

As he grew older, James grew worse. He had a terrible fascination with death. What started with books and pictures grew into him sneaking corpses of small animals into his room. When he was fourteen he started to sneak out of the house at night. Going where I could not follow and coming back hours later. He had a habit of writing when he was upset. Often words or phrases in repeat like a mantra. Most often he would call his family and anyone else around him a liar. He seemed to think that everyone around him lied to him when they spoke of things like love and wanting the best of him. He hated them for it. He then started to collect knives.

It all came to a conclusion when he was fifteen. After one of his night trips out he came home with a handgun wrapped in a towel. The kind with a clip and sliding barrel, I had never seen one outside of what books and newspapers I could read around the house. He calmly grabbed a nasty looking knife with at least a 7-inch blade, out of a table drawer. He stuck the handgun in the back of his pants and calmly and carefully snuck into his sister’s room. He looked at her sleeping in her bed for a moment before grabbing a pillow and violently holding it over her face with one hand. He took his knife with the other hand and started stabbing the knife into the blankets his sister occupied. She screamed for a moment into the pillow but repeated stabs to her chest and lungs prevented her from giving much resistance.

When Elizabeth stopped moving James looked down at his work. After he was content he slowly started walking to his parents’ room. No longer comfortable just observing I tried to warn them. After a bit of effort, I managed to knock a lamp by their bedside off a table causing it to smash on the floor. They both awoke, but were completely unaware of the danger heading towards them. James walked into their room and saw that they were no longer sleeping. In a single motion, he dropped his bloody knife and pulled out his gun. It was still dark and his parents did not have time to figure out what their son was holding before he pulled back the slide on the pistol and fired several shots into each of them.

James looked at each of what used to be his parents and simply walked away. He went back to his room, pulled out another clip for his gun, collected his knife and started walking towards the front door. I realized he was not going to stop. He was going to keep killing till the police killed him. I was horrified and furious as he walked toward the end of my cage. I focused all of my will power on him, trying to stop him from moving. In a flash, my point of view had changed. I was now holding a gun and stopped several feet from the door. I had possessed him. I was in control of his body, but I did not know for how long. I pulled the slide back on the gun like James had done not long before and put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger. With a thud, I was once again watching a boy bleeding on the floor, lifeless.

The police arrived not long after. The house was closed off, the bodies collected. It all seemed to go by in a blur. It was not long till I was alone again. I could hear people talk as they passed the house. Another version of what happened emerged from the murder-suicide the police had reported. They said that this house is haunted. That a spirit had possessed the boy to kill his family and then himself. Perhaps it was because they could not comprehend anyone doing what James had done. However, I never felt more alone.

Red Doors

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It is easy for the lost and the outcasts to find solace in technology. When you are lonely, you grab hold of anything that grants you comfort and eases your pain. Robert was such a person. He spent his days on forums and comment sections seeking out validation in his existence. He has never met his closest friends, they exist only as words on a screen.

You can find the worst and best of humanity on the web. However, people like Robert rarely seek out the best. They spiral down dark corners looking at things worst than themselves. That is where he met John. Robert did not know much about John other than that he was a cynical person who enjoyed talking about the downfall of society and failings of mankind. He showed Robert images. Pictures of people in pain, or dying. Pictures of monks lighting themselves on fire, of little girls trapped in a flood. They were images meant to elicit a certain type of emotion, Despair.

Robert and John spoke to each other for nearly a month since the first meeting. Robert became fast friends with John and started to adopt many of his nihilistic views. As John had planned, Robert truly grew tired of his life and humanity around him and like a predator stalking prey, John carefully waited for the moment to strike.

“What if you could escape this reality?” John asked.

“That be nice,” Robert agreed.

“All you have to do is agree and I can show you something,” John replied.

“What are you talking about? Whatever show me,” Robert finished.

Rob immediately felt a dizzying sensation as the lights went out around him. For a moment the world went black, then his eyes adjusted to the dark. He was still sitting at his keyboard, but the screen had no power along with the computer. He tried switching the computer back on but it was useless, the desk lamp next to him also failed to turn on. He stumbled around his dark house till he found the front door. He looked outside to find that every house around him was much the same. No lights, no power. The streetlights were out as well. “A blackout?” he thought to himself. However, he saw no one else. It was cold, and the world seemed to glow lightly with the light of the moon, but he could see no moon or stars.

Walking outside, Rob could not escape the feeling of everything being slightly wrong. Walking to his car he noticed the color seemed slightly off and the body felt cheap. Like a poor imitation of what it should be. The sidewalk, street lamps, and even the windows of the houses and cars all seemed like cheap imitations of the real thing. Like a Chinese knockoff of a whole town. This surreal world only grew odder with the lack of the wind and any noise outside his own footsteps.

Rob walked the streets of this imitation world for several hours or at least what felt like hours as the passage of time seemed impossible to tell. It wasn’t till he saw a light at the end of an empty road did he have a direction. At first, it was simply a glow in the distance but as he approached he could make out the shape of a monitor. In the middle of the road sat a computer on a desk. The only thing with any power for miles.

This world seemed like a dream. Slight imperfections giving away hints that this was not his reality. None more so than the glowing computer screen that sat on a desk in front of him. On the screen was only a basic text program with a line of text blinking, waiting for a response.

“Hello, again Robert”. Rob instantly knew it was John.

“Where am I?!” Rob reached down to the keyboard and typed.

“You are still home,” John immediately typed back. “However, I suppose that is not what you wanted to hear. Your body is home, your mind is in another reality just like you asked,” John continued. “As long as you are not using your body, I will take it in the meantime. Enjoy the peace Robert,” John finished. As the last words appeared on the screen the power went out. The glow was replaced with darkness. Robert desperately tried to type back and turn on the computer but it was useless.

Once again Rob was left alone in this dark world. He had no sense of time and was unsure how long he had been there. The only thing he could think to do was walk. He tried opening doors to surrounding buildings but they were sealed shut like they were never meant to be opened. Windows only showed near empty insides with furniture that looked fit for a model house. He kept walking, never feeling tired or hungry as surely hours must have passed. It was as he walked that he found a small gray building fitted with a red door that looked completely out of place in this world. On the door, a white piece of paper with the words “Keep Out” in black ink sat.

Robert ignored the warning without any hesitation and opened the door revealing a completely dark room. The horrible smell of rot and death reached out. Still, without hesitation, Rob stepped into the room and as his eyes adjusted he could see what was making the smell. The building was one impossibly large room, like some sort of warehouse, with concrete floors. Stacked in the center were dead bodies all in deep stages of decomposition. Skin hung from them like leather.

“Ah, ah, ah, Robert, you should learn to read signs. No need to look on at your predecessors,” a voice rang in Robert’s head. The smell began to overpower Rob causing him to flee. As he walked away from the building the red door slammed shut behind him.

Unable to work up the nerve to try the door again Rob walked away. He found himself wandering endlessly in a daze. He no longer recognized any of the scenery. Architecture and age seem to change rapidly. Buildings in styles years apart sat next to each other. Yet, it all seemed fake. Like props on a movie set, they could pass for the real thing from afar but fail on close inspection. He could not escape the feeling of being watched as he moved along.

Continuing his journey Robert noticed other red doors like the one he saw before. They did not have any signs on them, but he still hesitated to touch them. His courage from before had faded. However, as time passed and any other options failed to reveal themselves he decided to try. The closest door was attached to an old stone building that seems fit for a long-lived city like New York or Philadelphia. Slowly opening the door he saw a deep darkness in what appeared to be a glass door holding it back, but it was not glass but a perfect slice of water. With a touch, Rob could feel water drip onto his skin, but the larger mass refused to fall out the door. With a deep breath, he smelled the nostalgic scent of the sea. Daring not to enter, Robert moved on looking for another door.

Another red door sat attached to a wooden cabin. A building completely out of place sitting between two brick buildings. Slowly opening it, Rob shielded his eyes as bright sunlight spilled out. Inside the door, a vast savanna spread out before him. A dry golden grass seemed to go on for miles only broken by the occasional small tree. He had ever only seen such a thing on TV and pictures of Africa. Looking at the gray world behind him and the golden one before him Robert stepped through the door.

The first thing to hit Rob was the oppressive heat. The change was drastic from the cold world behind him. Looking back, the door he stepped through seemed to sit attached to nothing. The world was much different than the one before. If the world before was a dream, this one was more a vivid memory. A sense of odd nostalgia entered Robert’s mind. Walking forward into the endless planes the red door behind him vanished. Despite the heat, he still did not feel thirst, hunger or exhaustion. He was fascinated by the vastness of the world before him. Besides the vegetation, not another living thing seemed to exist. That was why when he noticed the grass moving in front of him his eyes focused immediately. Time seemed to slow as a female lion burst out of the grass and sprinted at him at full speed. Rob only had time enough to turn away before it reached him and pounced on him. Hugging and grappling on to him with sharp claws. He hit the ground with a hard thud as his vision went black. A few moments later Robert was able to open his eyes once more. However, he was unable to move. He did not feel any pain but could hear the sounds of footsteps as the lion moved into his view. It looked into his eyes before opening its jaws and reaching down to bite him in the throat.

He awoke once more on the cold streets of the grey world before, gasping for breath. A dark voice laughed in Rob’s head once more.

“Curiosity can be a dangerous thing, Robert, it killed the cat after all,” John said with a laugh. “Am about done on this side, you will be home soon enough. You were a good sport so perhaps I’ll sate your curiosity a bit.” The red door before him opened again. This time, a different scene lay before him. A vast village made of sandstone sitting under a bright sun. “Am old Robert, very old.” The door closed again as John spoke, only to open again. This time to a small computer server room, electronics in black boxes lined the wall while a single computer screen and keyboard sat on a desk at the end. “However, even old things can adapt to the age, Robert.”

“It’s time now, I can’t stay here for long,” the voice of John spoke for the last time, “The human body simply can’t handle it.” The world around Rob started to fade, his vision blurred, it turned black with a familiar dizzying sensation. When light entered his eyes once more he found himself in a cold wooded area. Rob tried to center himself but he did not have the energy to stand. He was desperately thirsty, his whole body felt dry. When he finally glanced at his arms he tried to scream but his dry throat could not get a sound out. He could see his bones with leathery skin hanging off of them. The last of his energy left him as he collapsed completely to the grass floor. His eyes quickly dried to the point he could no longer move them, not a tear could escape. His body was already a long dead corpse that would never move again.

Gorge

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It had been days since he saw the sky. Gravity pushing him deeper and deeper into the hole. Every moment the walls would get tighter. He could hear voices above him, people walking along the street. Something had caused sound to echo down into the abyss, but never out.

It had been a cold winter. Pot holes on worn out city streets were a common sight. He was walking home from work on a late and chilly night. His name was Connor and he worked late waiting tables. He walked the same path hundreds of times, every time never stopping to look at the little alleyway dark with shadow, where the street lights shine did not reach. But this time, this last time, he stopped when he heard a sound. It was a whimpering like a hurt animal. Connor followed the sound expecting to find a hurt dog in need of help. The sound came from a crack in the cement, a dark chasm just big enough to fit a person.

Connor tried to light the hole with his phone’s flashlight. Still expecting to find a trapped or hurt animal. However the world turned black as something forced him forward into the abyss. His arms were pinned to his sides. His phone provided the only light but he could only look further down the hole and there was nothing but more earth and darkness awaiting him. His struggles only pushed him further and further down. His screams did not reach any ears.

His phone’s light did not last till morning. He struggled to get some kind of call out, but even if he could see the phone no signal would find its way out of this hell. Hours passed and Connor know day had to have come, but he saw no sign of the sun. The lack of light was so great he could not trust that his eyes still worked. However the worst part was the sounds he heard. People passed the little alleyway going about their day. He could hear them, soft words echoed down to him. He screamed for help every time he heard one, but no would ever come. His throat was on fire but still he screamed on.

Time had become a blur for Connor. The voices from the surfaces faded the further he slowly fell deeper into the darkness. He first cursed the voices that moved on without helping him, but now he missed them. Isolation fed on his sanity. Hunger and thirst fed on his body. Hope of rescue faded and the realization he was going to die set in. His mood had shifted between anger and grief. He no longer had the energy to struggle. He drifted in and out of consciousness. His mind would drift to dreams of freedom. He dreamed of the sun and it’s warmth and of people helping him out of his hole. However this only added to his frustration as he awoke, fall asleep and have to start the dream over once again.

Some part of him had accepted death. He hoped for the time he start to dream and it would never end. He feared the waken world. In the darkness he started to see things. He thought he saw red eyes watching him further in the dark, despite the fact his own eye have been deprived of light for so long. He just wanted to sleep. However sleep was soon taken from him. His numbed and stiff body soon awoke with searing pain. Something damp oozed from the rocks around him and stuck to his clothes like tar. It burned his skin and he was unable to move his arms to even attempt to wipe it away. Connor’s body felt on fire. He tried to scream but the ooze made its way into his mouth with each attempt. He only hoped shock would take him soon, so he could die in peace.

Stargate Diner

diner-336499_640.jpgThere exist a diner not found on any map. It will not show up on any GPS. It appears on long roads to those hungry and in need of rest. Open 24/7 and always occupied by strange regulars and a cheerful staff. A bell would ring if you entered and a smiling waiter would show you to one of the many wooden booths. Wood panelling lines the walls and classic rock plays softly on a radio. The coffee is heavenly, just don’t mind the stares from the regulars.

Tell your troubles to the waiter, she won’t mind in fact she is counting on it. She would listen with an open mind and a kind heart, and when you finish she would tell you “Don’t worry dear, all will be well.” Words that seem to lift a weight off your soul. Just like that you know, all will be well indeed.

Take Mrs Emmie Barnet for example. A businesswoman, traveling the long road home. She complained about her old Pontiac to a smiling waiter over a cup of coffee. “Don’t worry dear, all will be well” she was told, and with renewed confidence she traveled onwards towards home. Only a few hours later she was hit by a drunk driver. She survived with a number of injuries but her hated car was totalled. Her wish granted, but such things have a price and Mrs Barnet’s injuries were not enough. When her children visited her in the hospital she found herself unable to feel any warmth towards them. A part of her soul was taken.

So things go, over and over again. Such faustian packs are made every night. The diner never seems to be in the same place twice for those wise enough to put together the pieces. Most however simply never notice. There memories of the diner fade like a dream.

Now you may wonder what does Stargate want with bits a pieces of human souls. Well you see Stargate serves more then just mortal clientele. The strange regulars all have a specific taste and the diners cook knows just how to please each one useing the special ingredient gathered for him. So next time you unload your troubles to a stranger be weary, for that stranger may take from you more then just your burdens.

Eye of Madness

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Is insanity contagious? In school, I learned of many diseases that can affect the mind but I never understood the horror someone must face when their very thoughts could be affected by something so out of their control. My name is Jacob Mason and before it all started I was an ER nurse just outside Boston. I was used to hectic days, the sight of blood and even death but nothing could compare to what I’ve seen since that one dire night. It was what passes for a normal weekday in the ER, chaotic. A line of people needed to be seen. All the staff did their best to see to everyone while sorting them between the time of arrival and seriousness of the injury. My eyes had long gotten used to the fluorescent lights and smell of sanitizer that filled every inch of the hospital. The waiting room was filled with the sounds of low muttering, and coughs contrasted by the loud yelling and rushing of staff that filled the rooms behind.

A homeless man was rushed in on an ambulance. He was young, unwashed, unshaven and covered in self-inflicted knife wounds. The blade had been recovered by the police and he was already bleeding profusely before he reached the hospital. Still, the doctors worked all their magic to try and save his life. I was called over to assist. Holding the struggling man still as the doctors tried to stop the bleeding in each wound. Another nurse rushing towards us with donated blood. I looked into my patient’s eyes, he looked terrified. It was then that he started to violently cough blood, it splattered into the air and into my right eye. Another nurse wordlessly took my place as I rushed to an eyewash station to clean out the biohazard. I was at risk for a number of blood transferable diseases, but that was always a risk and the hospital was prepared for it.

I was not there when the man they brought in died. A John Doe, we could find no trace of his identity. That was all the information I was privileged to hear. The rest was up to the police. I was used to the coming and going of many of patients, but he was someone I now truly wish I know more about. I took an HIV test and had blood work done to check for other diseases. The news seemed positive I seemed to have had little worry that I had any infections. However, within twenty-four hours I was experiencing symptoms to something I am still unable to fully explain.

I awoke ready to face another long day when I noticed it. A blot of something in my right eye. Like a single drop of black Ink in the corner of my eye. It moved when I tried to focus on it and when I looked I could not see it in the mirror. Trying to wash it out failed to yield results. Before my shift started I had a doctor who was a friend take a look at it but he failed to see anything wrong. Soon I was wrapped up in another busy day and failed to follow up on it. It did not obstruct my vision so I let the issue wait. It wasn’t until that night that I started to worry something was truly wrong. It was after another busy day I waited in my bed for sleep to take me. My eyes were closed, half asleep I could feel it. Like worms crawling across my eye stretching. Contracting and elongating to reach further and further across. I awoke in a panic, fumbling around to turn on a light. It was then I could see it. Reaching out of the black little dot in the corner of my eye, tentacle-like growths now obstructed my sight. They streaked across my pupil making my view look like peeking through a fence.

This time, I did not hesitate. I rushed back to the same ER I worked at. This time, a patient myself I was granted no special favors. Sitting in an uncomfortable chair under fluorescent lights with the familiar mumbling and coughing around me I waited. My discomfort soon turned to sharp pain. My eye felt like it was attacked by a red hot needle. All I could do was cry out in pain as I covered it with my hand. It was then I saw something in my eye. Something moving in the hazy darkness. It looked like faces in pain shifting in a mass of flesh. Each face trying to escape before being swallowed by the flesh and replaced with another.

By the time the visions had stopped I was being rushed into the back to be looked at. My eye forced open and carefully examined by a doctor. The pain was gone, replaced with the tedium of awkward questions and paperwork. I was in shock, unsure what to even tell the doctors. They looked at my eye, took more blood but only ended up shaking their heads. I saw the familiar eyes of pity and annoyance, the kind reserved to the hypochondriacs and the mentally ill. I know what they were thinking. Hours passed as I waited for a specialist and an ultrasound, meanwhile, I started to grow hopeless and anxious. I did not like being so out of control, to be the patient. After hours of waiting, a doctor sat me down and looked me in the eyes. He told me my initial tests looked good and that some other tests may take some time to process, that I should go home and rest. Before I could leave he handed me a piece of paper with the name of a psychiatrist that could help me.

I left the hospital feeling hopeless and drained. I called out of work and decided to rest as the doctor ordered. After drifting to sleep I dreamed. I dreamed of masses of flesh as dark as oil. They looked almost human but wrong. Misshapen as if they were made of melting wax. The almost humans all looked at me as if just noticing my presence. The crept slowly towards me. I awoke in pain, sharp pain. My eye felt like fire and nothing I did could ease it. Painkillers were useless. The pain would occasionally subside just long enough for me to start to fall asleep once more then start again just as I was about to pass out. I did not sleep at all that night.

I did not sleep the next night as well. Or the one after. My days turned into a blur of pain and sights that become harder to explain. As the blackness spread across my right eye it looked as if a painting was ripped in half to reveal another painting underneath. The two paintings contrasting against each other but at the same time creating a whole. I was losing my mind. I stopped even attempting to go to work. My tests came back negative. The doctors seemed more certain that this was a mental problem. Mental or not the pain was real to me.

Hopeless and wrapped in despair I did something reckless, auto-enucleation. Before I started I called an ambulance. I know the dangers involved and would need aid as soon as possible. Taking a scalpel I carefully cut into the orbit of the eye. I started like a surgeon careful and precise before pain and adrenaline turned my efforts violent. Cutting muscle and flesh without regard to which. Before I know it, what was left of my eye was a thick soup dripping out of its socket while leftover muscle tried in vain to hold the mess in. I passed out before the paramedics made it to my home.

I awoke in a dark hospital late in the night, drifting in and out of consciousness. My hands bound to rails so I could no longer harm myself. I had succeeded, my right eye was black. I could live with one eye, the pain was gone replaced by working pain killing drugs. For the first time, I could sleep. I had won. However, I could feel something move…it pushed against the bandages that covered my eye. Finding an opening. Something warm and slimy pushed out of the bandage like a popped pimple. It slid down my cheek. I tried to grab it but my hands were still chained. It wormed its way down my shoulder then my arm and dropped onto the floor with a splat. I could not see it in the dark as it vanished. My ordeal was over, my pain was gone as was my visions but I fear I let something out.

Survival of the Coyote

Writing has always been a way for me to organize my thoughts. However, for the past couple years it has been a luxury I simply couldn’t afford. Yet here I sit, alone, far from home and all I want to do is write about what has happened to my life because I fear this may be the very last chance I will ever get to tell my story. My name is John Lawrence. As of writing this I just recently turned twenty years old. I have been homeless now for four years now.

When I was seventeen my parents kicked me out of my home and onto the streets. They could not understand me, they called me “sinful” and disowned me. I would later learn that they told others I ran away from home so they could avoid any consequences of their abandonment. In a way I did, I left town on a bus with what little money I had on me. That first night I slept at a bus station for what could only be a few hours. My mind and body racing from the confrontation.

My life slowly became one of survival. I used to think about the future, but now it is only a matter of making it one day at a time. I had no phone, no contacts. I was on my own. Shelters helped at first. I met people there, people who showed me how to survive. Where to find food and when, where to find shelter, how to beg. There was no longer any room for pride. I saw the best and worst of people. I met men that would give all they have, or give away as much food as they could spare. I’ve seen people who would attack other homeless while filming it on a phone, laughing. I saw a man give up and take his own life. I do not have enough paper to write everything I saw from the outside of humanity’s society. To many, I became invisible.

After I turned eighteen things only became harder for me. I was no longer a priority for shelters and I slept on the streets more than ever before. Begging became harder as well. The more I withered and became dirty the less people would spare anything to me, despite the even greater need. That is when I met Frank. Frank was “Frank,” no last name, claiming he had no family that would share one with him. He taught me the art of train hopping. The east was too cold, but he claimed the west was more welcoming, warmer, and easier to survive all around. While he was certainly exaggerating I agreed to travel with him.

Frank was an interesting man. He spoke of the great American tradition of train hopping like a Knight speaking of his family’s deeds. He taught “Never say you don’t want to die, but rather say you want to live.” However he never lived the words himself. He had done things to survive that he was not proud of and you could see the toll that it had taken on the man. He drank himself stupid when he could find alcohol. As such, we were not always together, but we always agreed to meet up before hopping a train to the next town.

Life seemed to move on the same way for some time. We would hop on a train and split up at the next town. We looked for food, shelter, money and Frank looked for his “medication.” Frank was not entirely wrong, things were a little more easy going out west. We never stayed in one place for too long, a week or so at most. We arranged places and times to meet ahead of time in case we were chased off or ran into trouble. I felt like I was some sort of secret agent. Infiltrating each town undercover. It was exciting in a way, it at least kept my mind off other troubles.

In small towns and good weather it was safer to sleep in wooded areas away from people. We were in a small wooded area just outside town that night. Frank had already set up a makeshift campsite by the time I arrived. The sun was already down and I was afraid I would have to find a place to sleep without him until I nearly tripped over his camp. The camp was nothing but a small clearing on flat ground. A fire was a bad idea but a couple of old worn sleeping bags on top of some cardboard felt like heaven. Frank used an old metal flashlight when needed. I set down my worn old backpack and we talked for a while and shared a bit of food, until a stray dog startled us. A mutt with a bit of pit bull in him. Begging for food, I threw a bit of old jerky his way and he just grabbed it and ran off. Frank shook his head but did not say anything.

When I awoke in the middle of the night my entire world changed. A large black coyote had wandered into camp. I tried to jump out of my sleeping bag to scare it off but the moment I started to move it locked eyes with me. I was paralyzed. No noise would escape my mouth while Frank slept on the ground unaware of the danger. Then the animal started to change right before me. It began to walk on two legs as it took the shape of a man. He/it wore a mask made out of the tanned face of a coyote, not unlike the coyote he just changed shape from. The mask was missing the coyote’s lower jaw and exposed his emotionless mouth. He looked out the eyes of the coyote skin scanning the surroundings.

It stalked closer to Frank, slowly, like an animal closing in for the kill. I tried to jump to my feet but the moment I started to move it locked eyes with me again. All strength suddenly left me and I was paralyzed. Helpless only to watch what came next. With one swift motion he put his hand over Frank’s eyes. I watched in morbid anticipation for what would happen. After long seconds of nothing Frank started to convulse in pain. Blood dripped out of his nose before all movement stopped. The Coyote man then removed his hand to reveal Frank’s lifeless eyes. His body laid still on the ground.

I was his next target. My heart raced, my face turned white in terror. He stalked towards me with a grin. His eyes seemed to glow inside the mask. I struggled in vain as he put a hand over my eyes like he did with Frank. My world turned black. I could feel my mind, my consciousness being pulled away. It felt as if I was falling into a void of blackness. Then I saw something, a face in the darkness. A mass of blackness that I struggle to describe. It seemed to grin as I was pulled towards in.

Suddenly I was snapped back to reality with the sounds of barking. The dog from before. It came back and was barking and growling fiercely, surprising both me and my attacker. With the sudden realization I could move, I slapped my attacker’s hand away and threw my weight on him as I got to my feet. As he fell backwards I ran. I turned my mind off and let instinct take over running faster than I ever had before. I collapsed under a bridge some distance away, completely exhausted.

I dreamed of dark things that night. Looking out the eyes of a wolf mask I saw human bones harvested out of red flesh. Then I saw a scene that seemed ages ago of a native American dancing and singing to something in a fire. The scene transformed into another setting of an old stone room filled with markings made with blood as a European man spoke Latin. Again I saw the same blackness as before. I saw the face again, made of black smoke and clearly grinning. The scene changed once again. This time I was standing in front of a fireplace in what appeared to be the middle of nowhere. Across from the fire sat the man with a coyote face. However this time it was no mask, but a part of his body. He spoke to me in a deep voice, his words echoing as he did. “You have been traveling a place you have not been meant to visit,” he said as he motioned for me to take a seat. I stood and asked back “What are you?” He smiled, “I am many things: Mage, Warlock, Alchemist, Witch, Skinwalker. I appropriate spells of power from many cultures as it matters not the origin of the spell but rather if my master will empower it. Many such cultures have reached him before, intentional or not.”

I was a bit shocked at his honesty before he told me, “A better question is who are you?” Before I could reply he answered his own question. “A blundered sacrifice, whose soul has been stretched between another world and the world you consider your own. Your soul will rip if such a situation remains.” With a grand wave of his hand I was flung backwards, falling until I awoke in a shock under the bridge I spent the night.

I was cold, wet, and dirty. Everything I owned was back where it all happened. I decided to go back, not just for the supplies but also for my own sanity. What I found shocked me. The dog, the one that saved my own life, was chewing on the corpse of my old friend. He growled at me as I approached, but after a loud scream from me he relented his meal. Only a bloody mess lay where my friend once did. I grabbed my belongings and Frank’s flashlight. I wanted to call the police or anyone and tell them what happened and where the Frank’s remains were. I searched for a payphone before I had to give up. I threw up in an alleyway. I felt weak and tired. The world was spinning.

I dreamed again of the man in the coyote face. He sat again at a campfire, chewing on raw meat. He looked at me, the meat vanishing. “The laws of this world are different from the one you’re used too. You have two fates ahead of you boy. You do nothing and let your soul be ripped apart, you will find your body will quickly follow; or you let me complete my spell and give your soul to my master. I assure you this fate will be less painful. If you wish to give yourself up, or perhaps simply seek revenge before you die, find me in the center of the fire break in the very woods we first met at the witching hour.”

I awoke weak and groggy. I could feel something was wrong with me. My instincts told me that the Coyote Man was telling me the truth. I would die soon if nothing was changed. I reached into my pocket and pulled out a wad of dollar bills and some change. All the money I had, gained from begging. I found a pharmacy/convenience type store. I bought a handful of candy, a pen and a notepad. While sucking on sugary sweets I started to write this journal. Like a warrior of old meditating before battle, this was my way to mentally prepare. I had to face him again.

I made my way to the firebreak early, while the sun was still up. I did not know what to expect, would he kill me without saying a word? Or would he sit and talk to me like in my dreams? I felt a strong pull on my mind and my eyes began to haze before I was forced to take a seat on the ground. Once again I saw old worshipers of the face in the dark. A man in primitive clothing yelled at the darkness before being swallowed by it. Then I saw another world, a world full of sand and a dark blue sky that kept the land in an eternal twilight. It felt alien and cold. Was this where the face lives? Where my soul is being forced?

I awoke to see the tanned coyote mask staring down on me. He was already over top of me bending down to meet my face near his, stars rested in the sky. I was out for some time. I could not move, all I could do was look into the eyes of my foe standing over me. His brown eyes looking out of the mask reminded me that he was human. In my dreams he seemed more than a man, but in reality he was just that, powerful but human. I summoned all my will to move, I tried to will every cell in my body to fight and win. I did not want to die, I wanted to live. As if to answer my will to fight I saw in my mind the dark figure grinning at me. With that I was free. What I could see of the face under the coyote skin changed to shock. Before he could understand why I could move I felt around the ground for a weapon finding the heavy metal flashlight I swung it like a club at my would be hunter. With a thud I hit him aside the head and he fell sideways. My hands stung with the impact and my blood rushed with adrenaline. I did not hesitate and found my way to my feet and hit him again. This time, knocking off his mask, I could see the face of a man. He screamed at me angrily as he tried to attack back. One last time, I hit him in the head with the flashlight. This time he went limp.

He lay dead on the ground, blood pooling under his head. I had won, but not wholly by my own power. That thing he called master let me win. I watched as the puddle of blood grew. I could feel myself getting weaker once again. At first I felt content to die having defeated the one that started all this. However my mind turned to panic. I did not want to die. Once again I started to lose consciousness. I was afraid I would not wake back up this time. Before my eyes closed I frantically looked around for something, anything to aid me but it was pointless.

For a moment everything was black but then knowledge filled my head. I saw visions of a spell. A magic to reunite my body and soul. My eyes opened with a jolt of new energy and I started working. Taking the blood of the man who tried to destroy my soul I created symbols in the dirt. Old symbols, of which I did not know the true meaning of. I only needed to add my own blood and the spell was complete. As soon as I finished my vision faded once more but only for a moment. In that moment the world around me had changed. I was in the land of sand and a dark blue sky just like my visions. However this was far more real. There was a lack of wind that gave the world an odd sensation. In my immediate position I saw my belongings, this journal, and the corpse of the man I killed. My spell had worked, my soul and body were reunited, however it seems my body traveled to where my soul was being pulled and not the other way around.

I sat for a long time in this world. There are no stars or sun to mark the time. Soon I will travel on and look for a way to survive. This may be the world where the master whose magic allowed all of this lives, but I’ve run out of fear and am still pushed to live. I still remember the words of my friend. “Never say you don’t want to die, but rather say you want to live.” Am leaving these last few pages of the journal here. Perhaps as a message for any who enters this world in the same place I did, or perhaps I just feel the need to move on. They may even find a way back before I do.

-John Lawrence

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