Tag Archives: haunting

The War Veteran

Johnny had his face in his iPhone.
He didn’t see the crippled old war veteran
lying like litter on the sidewalk
in a beaten parka begging for change.

“Get out of my way, you filthy bum!”
Johnny was disgusted. The city should do a better job
of keeping this scum out of his sight.

As Johnny went to kick the man’s legs
to teach him a lesson
the old man’s hand reached out
and seized Johnny by the ankle
for while this particular veteran had lost everything
along the way he had obtained a very special gift
and today it would be Johnny who was the one
receiving the lesson
of a lifetime.

Everything went dark and quiet but for only a moment.
Johnny opened his eyes but didn’t remember closing them.

He wasn’t downtown anymore.
Instead Johnny was in a rice field and his ankles were all wet
the air was stifling hot with no breeze
large insects buzzed all around him and he could
smell his own sweat along with cow shit
but he didn’t have time to feel disgusted again.

A large boom displaced the air all around him as
further up the way
the entire tree line disappeared beneath
a wall of mushrooming fire
as jets roared past overhead.

Johnny’s eyes widened as the heat hit him and as
dozens of men came running out towards him screaming
all completely covered in crawling flames.

Johnny could smell their skin burning
when the barrage of endless bullets began
whipping right past his head and
cutting down the men Johnny realized
where all around him
scared just like him –men that
he went to basic training with
that he played cards with
men that were like his brothers.

The way that his best friend’s body
twitched as it was riddled with bullets
made him look like a dancing puppet
and it might have been funny as Hell
if it didn’t break Johnny’s heart.

Bombs exploded dirt high into the sky
that came raining back down all around him.
Then another hit…and another
closer and closer each time.

Johnny turned his head to look behind him.
A boy, must have been only seventeen
a new recruit that Johnny knew well
was seated on the ground trying to hold his guts in
screaming for his momma.

Men in straw hats came running out of the forest
fire spouted in rapid succession from the barrels of their guns.
They were all around him coming in fast.
Johnny was paralyzed with fear
his bladder let go inside of his pants when
the sergeant –a large shirtless man wearing a cowboy hat
calmly smoking a cigar
came up to Johnny and slapped him:

“Don’t you dare wet yourself on my field, soldier. You worthless piece of wet chicken shit I’ll hand you over to Charlie myself and you’ll get ass-banged all the way to Goddamn China if you don’t get a grip on your gun and DO WHAT YOU”RE TRAINED TO DO!! We’ve got to take this damned village or we’ll all be sucking bamboo dicks for the next ten years so get your Sally-ass shit together and make yourself GOD-DAMN USEFUL! GET TO KILL’N SOME COMMUNISTS! YOU WANT TO MAKE IT HOME SOME DAY THEN START MOVING! THE ONLY WAY OUT IS FORWARD AND THROUGH THESE SHITBAGS!”

The sergeant was the scariest person Johnny had ever seen
he was obviously completely insane
and made Johnny want to run into the fire just to escape his presence.
Instead the sergeant pushed Johnny forward and at that moment
Johnny somehow knew that he had spent over a year
in this Hell and there was no respite from it
not day or night
it would just continue on and on.

Johnny’s Mom wasn’t going to be able to
bail him out of this there was no one
there was nothing but him and his gun and
he was going to die or go mad in this man-made Hell
where everything was burning and filthy and all covered in
grease and blood and where everyone wanted you dead
and the only thing worse than the insects was the heat
and the constant endless stream of enemies.

This was a reality that he had never had to feel
or know was real and Johnny just couldn’t handle it.
Johnny just wanted to go home and hide under his bed.

Johnny leaned over and vomited
then vomited some more
as the sounds of passing cars and people
laughing returned and Johnny opened his eyes
realizing that he was in the middle of the sidewalk
crying, having wet his pants and now
retching his insides out in front of a
group of Japanese tourists.

Johnny ducked into a nearby alley
and leaned back against the cold brick wall
shivering and still crying.

The last thig he remembered before all this was
the man…the old man…
The war veteran.

The old man climbed up into his wheelchair and
quietly rolled himself down towards the harbor.

He had found some bread to feed the gulls with.

It was getting late and the view of the water
at sunset always made him feel at peace.

Dad, Have You Seen My Scooter?

Life at times can unrelentingly kick your ass
without ever offering an explanation for it and
then brutally punish you for being desperate
until the world flips over gravity undoes itself and all of
the universe unravels in your lap

and this all occurs when you are
unfocused or not paying attention
like day-dreaming behind the wheel
missing where you were supposed to turn
and ending up in a ravine
or it occurs while performing a simple task
such as, let’s say
unpacking a box of used tools.

This was just after the divorce
it was rather messy
the entrails of our marriage
was still a burning trash heap of
screaming unsettled emotions
wailing sirens and tears

and so there was the new (but somebody’s old) house
seems like somebody left in a hurry
it was messy neglected and needed some care
but that would all be done

It was old but large and on a corner lot
not far from the school
not that far from work

Sometimes in bed
I would hear things at night
but you just had to get used to
how the house settled

And what a deal it was
when I had so little to put down
instead of asking questions I
counted my blessings

whatever was wrong with it I could fix
the only thing that mattered now was
that I had custody of Brian
as long as I had that and
we had a place to live and to call home
then it would all be okay
eventually

This was a fresh start
a new coat of paint over everything
and I was just starting to embrace it
on a overcast Saturday afternoon
in our long open basement
aimlessly sorting through a box of tools
when gliding into the room like a newborn superhero
came my son draped head to toe in last year’s
black hooded reaper Halloween costume upon his silver
adjustable kid’s pro stunt scooter

I smiled a little remembering his face
when he opened it last Christmas
until I realized that he was going too fast
and was sure to speed right into the
darkened backroom that was little more than a
closet that housed the water heater

He paid no attention to where he was going being
too busy looking at me bending down on his knees
swinging himself around and
off to the side showing off
laughing like he was super high on chocolate
having the time of his life

only when he was
halfway across the long room
did I realize how unsettling
his way-past giddy laughter was
and how strange his movements were

As I opened my mouth to say something to
the little rock star like ‘calm down!’
the body beneath the black reaper robe
swung down like a pendulum
so low that it was almost even with the leg board
much further then could be possible
having a spine or bones or even skin but as quickly
it stood back up to become the form of Brian again

nothing came out of my mouth
it was rather dry
my mind was busy trying to piece together
a logical explanation but
was not doing a very good job

The laughter continued –louder and higher
the scooter passed right in front of me now
closer to the darkness of the doorway

The cloak swooped down again
now inches from the ground
rippling like a water serpent then
viciously whipping about as though it were caught in the
maw of an over-excited alligator

the laughter came faster and faster
-a tea kettle pitching higher
and higher until ‘POP!’

the robe suddenly swooshed up and away
into mid-air floating dreamily before falling flat
revealing that there was nothing
but the scooter underneath which then
riding solo
sped up straight into the back room
where I heard it crash into the concrete wall

I cannot express enough that, as a parent
it is probably the most terrifying thing
to watch as your child suddenly loses
all of their bones and turns into a
a gelatinous pile of goo
or a rippling flag of black that disappears altogether
in complete daylight

There was something stuck in my throat
pretty sure that it was a scream
and it would not come out because there
was no air there was nothing but the
dropping of my stomach as my mind raced
to try and find something that would
make sense out of what I had just seen

after a full minute of not breathing
I finally managed to gasp
as my son rushed into the room
red-faced flushed from running

“Dad, have you seen my scooter?”

The Disappearing Factory Across The Street

“RAP-RAP-RAP-RAP!”
Good ol’ Eddie always banging on my door
with a cold beer on a Saturday afternoon.

He was here to talk about the humming again
the strange sound of machinery in the air
where there was no manufacturing plant for miles
we all heard it increasingly over the summer months
and of course Eddie was the expert on what it was.

The field across the street from our house
at the center of our neighborhood
that has been barren since we moved in
five years ago
was once an old factory
that had burned down decades ago
nobody survived
not even the foundation remains
every project to reclaim the space had
simply failed.

The humming came from the factory that once was there
according to Eddie who had chatrooms
about it on his phone
forums, blogs and other obscure articles.

According to town legend
every so often a great storm would come
to tear down the veil between the known
and the unknown and during this time
the whole entire factory appeared
to take over the field once again
like a ghost ship but with
an employee committee.

“That makes no sense at all, Eddie.” I’d say,
“Things like that don’t happen in real life.
it’s just a ghost story meant to attract tourists.”

But it was real enough to Eddie; he’s dreamt about it
his wife was concerned and the cats avoided him
he was becoming increasingly obsessed
as the humming became louder.

“Can’t you hear it? It’s every day now. It’s coming back. Soon. I can feel it in my bones.”
“I think that might be the beer…or maybe cancer.” I replied.

The only live witness that Eddie could muster
to having actually ever seen the factory was Bayou Billy
who lived on the corner but that his dog had died
of a Methamphetamine overdose
three weeks ago and the fact that the
thing was still lying dead on his front lawn
chained to a tree like it
was in any condition to escape
did not make him the most reliable witness
and also he was blind.

I had decided that Eddie was delusional
but on certain nights when we all could hear
the low rumbling sound of machinery
coming out from everywhere
it did kind of have me spooked.

Then the day came when he finally did prove me wrong and man
it was like the end of the world
during the World Series
a huge strangely intense storm was in full force
the cat got blown off the porch hours ago and

“RAP-RAP-RAP-RAP!”
I opened the door and there was Eddie
soaking wet screaming -I could barely hear him
because towering behind him
where the field always was
there loomed a gigantic menacing brick building
that took up the entire wall of my vision
an utter monstrosity
and I could hear it so loud
producing God knows what
from God knows where.

“I TOLD YOU! I KNEW IT WOULD COME! COME ON LET’S GO INSIDE!”
Eddie practically dragged me from my porch and across the street
I had no words but his face lit up like a crackhead at Crack Christmas
I tried to pull him back
something was wrong with this place
other than that it was actually there to begin with
Eddie didn’t see what I saw
the way the factory looked like a yawning death trap
from a terrible nightmare or a thousand-year Reich
the jagged surfaces jutting out in impossible angles
that sole figure looking down at me
how it waved at me
it would always give me nightmares.

But Eddie would hear none of it
“I NEED TO GO IN! I NEED TO SEE IT!” was all he shouted
he broke my grip and
ran into one of the many doors
it seemed that at that moment the storm stopped
and the factory disappeared
and so did Eddie.

I never told anyone about that night not even my wife
because I wasn’t stupid enough to sound that crazy.

Eventually his wife stopped looking for him
a couple years later the family moved away
my kids grew a little taller and my wife and I
more than a little distant the room was always
full of unspoken words and maybe
it was me maybe I blamed myself for what happened
to Eddie I should have stopped him somehow and now not a night
went by where I didn’t see his stupid grinning face shouting:
“I NEED TO SEE IT!”

A year later my wife and I were divorcing
and we had put the house up for sale
she was no longer living there it was just me and
I could hear the humming those nights
but what it really felt like was some kind of PTSD
from long before reminding me of the things
I should of done.

Once again during the world series
I had just switched the TV and all the lights off when
a storm had swept in and was raging terror all across the sky.

Suddenly my bedroom was flooded with light
and outside I could see the many levels and windows
of the factory as it was once again now standing in full force
right across the street right in front of my window and it
took me by such surprise
that I almost didn’t hear the front door:

“RAP-RAP-RAP-RAP!”

The Bully

Tyler was the biggest, meanest, toughest
bully there was in our neighborhood
and he terrorized us younger kids
on a daily basis as he lay in wait
in the alleyway,
in his leather jacket,
smoking Marlboro’s.

A decade ago,
a car accident put him in a
wheelchair for life and had
reduced his mental capacity
to that of the local produce section.

Nobody had seen him since then
until I did the other day,
now in my forties.

His sister was wheeling him
across the broken pavement of
the local strip mall and after
some conversation was struck up,
she asked if I could wait with him
outside while she went into the drugstore.

Tyler was silent, small and stared
vacantly at the ground.

“Sure thing,” I said,
wanting to be nice to her.
She still had it.

Not a moment had passed since she went inside
when I felt a sudden cold, steel pressure
clamping down on my wrist.
It felt completely alien, but some part of me
automatically knew that it was Tyler’s hand.

The crushing grip tightened as he
applied even more pressure and
worst of all was that while Tyler was
staring up at me
–where before there was
nothing but blankness in his eyes,
there now was this evil spark,
this glaring, searing manic light,
widening with recognition.

“Hey, look who it is! It’s the Little Toad!”

‘Little Toad’ was Tyler’s nickname for me and
suddenly I was twelve again,
trying not to get pulled into his madness but
compelled by the force of it all the same.

“Little Toad! Little Toad!”
Tyler shouted with glee
as his hand continued to crush my wrist;
his face now right up in my mine.

“Nothing ever changes! You’re still a Little Toady Toad!
And while you’re wrapping your arms around the bottle,
your wife is wrapping her legs around the dentist!
That’s right, I see it all, and it’s all a million laughs!”

Tyler’s entire face seemed to grow out and distort
like a balloon inflating from the stump of his neck
or a twisted medieval gargoyle coming to life.

“What?! You think I was done with you back then?”
Tyler’s voice scraped through my ears like
unrelenting poisonous sandpaper.

“HA HA! Little Toad! I’ll always be here!
I’m at your house every day and every night!
I’LL NEVER BE DONE WITH YOU -IN FACT,
I’M JUST GETTING STARTED!”

It was all coming together like
the worst possible nightmare
in all eternity
and I started to scream.

“My God, are you okay?” His sister was standing
just outside of the shop door staring at me
like I was a complete lunatic and
Tyler was leaning against the side of his
wheelchair, back to normal,
staring away at nothing,
even drooling a little bit.

I didn’t say anything.
I just walked away
to my car then drove to my house and
to my wife and kids.

Later on that week,
I thought myself silly for sleeping
with a baseball bat beneath my bed.
Really, what was wrong with me?

Perhaps because we were sleeping
in different beds now,
or perhaps because of something else.

Later on that night,
I thought I heard a noise
from out back.
It seemed somehow
deliberate.

I went outside and
nobody was there…
but somebody had been:

on the patio table there was
a cigarette left burning…

a Marlboro.

The Laughing

I must have been twelve
the first time I heard it
deep in the woods
-the laughing.

Sometimes it was a woman’s laughter
sometimes it was a man’s
sometimes an old voice
and sometimes young

but there was something about
the laughing
unlike anything you’ve
heard before.

Deep in your bones
you knew that it was not
like you or me
or the forest or the
cars on the street
grown or made by man
or in any way
natural.

Nobody knew what it really was
why it was there or
how it came to be.

Nobody talked about it
but everybody knew.

When you heard it from your room
late at night you knew
that harrowing echo
wasn’t a teenager by the bonfire
a drunk in an alley
a coyote or another night
animal
this was different
there was something about
the laughing
that made you want to
crawl deep inside your bed
and stay there.

When it came
even the animals appeared
from the trees out
onto the streets
startled
eyes wide in terror.

You would wonder what it might
look like
but you never wanted to find out

of course,
unless you were a kid
on a dare.

Steven was sixteen
when he went into the forest night
through the trail then off into the woods
after it
following it
looking for it
because we had dared him
egged him on

we did not fear much
then

but that had changed

because we all heard
what it sounded like
when he had found it
or it him.

Even after the search party we never
told what really happened
that night.

We never caved
in fear that they would send us out next.

Even to this day
we don’t even mention it to each other
anymore
like we had forgotten
but none of us had.

Some nights still
the room drops in temperature
the blood stops running in my veins and
I become gripped by an old fear
when I hear it
because it knows
that I know that

thirty years later
what was out there
in the barren darkened wilderness
really wasn’t
young Steven…

laughing.

The Demonic Bathroom Tiles Get Me Everytime

It could be in the mirror
behind you
seen just for a second
or spotted in a photograph
-something that doesn’t make natural sense.

It could be you.
It could be me or
it could be something else.

You decide.
I’m tired of trying to
discern ghosts from the blonde next door.

“You have a comfortable bed.” She said.
Though it was the third time she’s used it.
“Thanks.” I muttered best I could
as the toothbrush viciously scoured my bottom row,
me being a fervent believer in oral hygiene and all.

The tube was spent and when I turned to the trash to discard it
that’s when I saw it:
The patterns on a single tile of stained linoleum
appeared to be forming into a visage.
The more I grew fixated on it
the clearer it became
until it sharply resembled the face
of somebody screaming.
The eyes were blank with terror and
the lips stretched back far as they could go.

I would only know such pain
if I were in Hell
and that’s where this face came from
as it was a window directly into the bottom
of God’s boiler.

I began to hear the cries
of a thousand souls
-a million.

I thought of death, war, Walmart, eternal suffering, Cthulhu, diabolic torture, George W. Bush.

It was pulling me in.
It was pulling me in.

“What are you doing, Silly? You’re dripping.”
She smiled in the doorway, laughed, rushed down the stairs.

I looked back to the floor. I could no longer see it
so I spit, rinsed, spit and followed.

It was time for me to cook some eggs
with the Peameal bacon left over from camping.

It was a lovely Sunday morning.

Dead Girl Writing On A Blackboard (Don’t Turn Her Around)

I lifted my head and looked around me. Mist breathed out from beneath every door down the hallway as though on cue, lapping up against my feet, slowly reaching out for my face. I scrambled back and stood up with a start as it violently swarmed around my legs like bees upon a honey-covered child. Seeing that no harm came from it, I wandered through toward the light coming from a classroom at the end of the hall –unease building with each step. A flickering fluorescent strobe greeted me when I came to the doorway.

Looking into the classroom, I saw the back of an unfamiliar little blonde girl writing ‘I won’t let go’ over and over again on the dull surface of the blackboard. Her hair was tossed over her face like an old mat and she wore a white dress dashed with streaks of long-dried blood. Despite everything screaming for me not to and not knowing what I was hoping to find, I walked up to her between desks far too small for me, placed my hand upon her shoulder, and turned her around.

Her face was gone. It might have seemed like she once had one, but it was covered over by a sickly growth -a veiny veil of taut skin that wrapped like a suffocating shroud around her features. I could almost make out socketless eyes and maybe a hole where her nose had been. But her small mouth I could definitely see beneath as it was opening and closing, working to form the words that she was still writing out into the empty air now that I had pulled her away from the board. Seeing that this situation would be of no use to me whatsoever, I turned her little fragile body back to the board where she continued to scribble away in pretty handwriting – as girls always seemed to have– the same words, over and over and over again:

‘I won’t let go’.

Disappointed, I left the classroom and the sound of her relentless scribbling behind me as I made my way to a field behind the school where yet another phantasmagoric entity awaited to molest my conception of reality.

(excerpt from ‘The Dweller’ – coming out soon)