Tag Archives: Horror

The Other Side of The Wall

“Do you think I’m pretty? Do you think that you could ever love me? Would you ever look upon me as something to be desired? Even someone like me?”

And just like that, Martin started hearing her. It wasn’t right away, but it wasn’t long after moving in either. And it was with such clarity that it was like he could reach out and touch her: the ghost, the girl that was just a voice, the girl that lived in the walls.

It terrified him at first. Because Martin –just like anyone, really– was not accustomed to the unknown or something so…ghostly. Even spiders scared him, a lot. But the girl was not a frightening apparition. She did not seem to mean anybody harm. Even more so, she seemed to take no notice that Martin was even there.

Except who was the girl talking to? It was rather puzzling. That was why Martin started to listen, to really listen. While doing so, he couldn’t help but wonder what she looked like or if the girl was as lovely as she sounded when she laughed.

At first, she was disrupting Martin’s daily routine, and Martin was all about his daily routine. After a short time, however, she became part his daily routine.

After work, as Martin began to spend more time with a chair close to the kitchen wall where he could best hear her, the unseen spirit began taking shape in his mind. He began to picture her face, her oval wandering eyes, her lips lifting into a smile. Some sunny afternoons Martin could even hear her sing.

What is this? Where are you? Martin would wonder. Occasionally, he would even go outside and around the corner to the place alongside the house by the driveway where she should have been –but there were only shrubs, if you could even call them that. Martin did not consider that the voice came from the shrubs. He doubted that shrubs could sing.

This was a strange predicament. Martin was alone and even sometimes lonely. He had always felt as much, especially when in a crowd. It was like he was looking for something that was never there. So, these days even a voice in the wall became good company even if they couldn’t respond when Martin asked questions aloud in the kitchen and felt like the crazy old woman at the grocery store that always counted her pennies and then slipped and started over again when Martin was behind her needing to get to work.

Despite that Martin needed to know what was happening here in his kitchen, it gave him a fresh perspective, a new light. It made things exciting. It made days seem more than just an endless parade of eating frozen dinners in front of the television and trying to avoid the mailman’s incessantly dull conversations about the weather.

“Every time I walk in the sunlight, I am glad to be alive. Just feeling the sun, its glow, its warmth –it’s like unconditional love on my skin and on my soul.” The ghost girl had said out of nowhere one day as Martin was putting the kettle on, and it felt as though she was speaking directly to him as it was a gloriously clear and warm Spring morning filled with birds fresh with song. “Even when it hurts, even when things are so bad that all I want to do is cry, seeing the blue sky and the white glow of our perfect star makes me take a deep breath instead because every day is a blessing.”

“I feel the same way,” Martin returned, but heard nothing more. Still, he smiled and went about his day with renewed vigor. Ah, this voice, this spirit, this girl –whatever she was, it was apparent that she was not malevolent at all but soft like the summer rain that drummed upon the awnings and the dawns that followed when the morning light was just a whisper along the horizon.

But then there was her father:
“Cassandra, why are you so useless? I swear to God, girl…”
He was malevolent.

Now there were more of them in the walls to Martin’s dismay. He could even hear the dog barking and the TV muffled in the background. It was like they were coming alive on the other side of the old plaster.

“Turn up the TV and go get the paper, Cassandra.” And so the television was turned up as requested in Martin’s world as well but faintly –a flicker, a shadow.

Who were they, really? They weren’t neighbours; Martin didn’t have any. He lived in a fully detached house on a barren lot with nothing around but the old railroad station where decommissioned engines and carts, stacks of old rails and railroad ties, and a broad array of other abandoned equipment lay haphazardly around –all cobbled into something reminiscent of a giant child’s forgotten toy set.

It wasn’t a haunting either. According to everything that Martin was ever told, ghosts did not travel in packs. They did not bring their dogs or television sets back with them either. It was rather that the house remembered. The voices, the people, and the time that they had lived here was etched into the walls and the house had decided that it wanted to relive what had happened here. It kept what it had heard and now it was playing it.

It was playing it all back for Martin.

“Cassandra, you’re as worthless as they come. Look at you! Who’s going to love you? Can’t even do the dishes right.”

Worst of all was that this was so familiar to Martin. He thought that he could understand Cassandra. He knew what it was like to feel that you didn’t deserve to exist at all and always be reminded of it. And things got worse over time. Fights became physical. Things would get broken. It would go on for hours, and all Martin could do was listen.

“Cassandra, get me a beer. Then clean up the kitchen and sweep the house.”
“You said I could go outside today. It’s such a nice day.”
“You talking back to me? Come here!”

It soon become apparent that her father was a drunk that liked to berate and beat on Cassandra day and night, and for whatever reason he could find. And Martin couldn’t do anything about it. It just wasn’t possible for him to interfere so there was no way to help her, to save her. Martin was irrevocably destined to helplessly sit there and listen to it play out from some distant memory that the house freely regurgitated like some asshole record player.

But what if it wasn’t? Martin began to ponder things that were in his mind best left to scientists and people on reality television. What if Cassandra lived in the past but also somewhere alongside of him somehow? Somewhere reachable perhaps. The possibilities nagged at Martin because Cassandra was there, wherever and whenever that was. There was nothing tangible, nothing concrete. But sometimes possibilities were enough, and in them he dwelled. Otherwise, what was the point of all this? Was there one?

Days became nights that became days again as weeks led into months and everything had remained as it was. When Martin wasn’t working, he was in the kitchen seated on a chair listening to Cassandra’s sweet, disembodied voice lost somewhere on the other side of the wall -maybe across the whole universe. It could have been another dimension for all he knew. The result was the same: as time dragged on, the hope that he would ever cast eyes upon Cassandra had greatly diminished. Martin felt hopeless in that he couldn’t help himself from falling for someone that was no longer there –just a ghost, an echo; just a breath and a million miles away. Somebody without a face. Somebody without a time.

Still, just to close his eyes and envision her in a summer dress staring out the same window he was as she spoke to no one in particular was something that Martin reveled in, breathed in deeply, obsessed over endlessly. It made everything else seem so distant, just a parade of senseless activities.

“I feel that you are out there, listening,” Cassandra had said. “So, I don’t feel alone, even when I am. Does that make sense? Are you out there, somewhere that I cannot see or touch, but feel?”

Was there a connection somehow, in space and time? It sounded crazy, Martin thought. Maybe it was. But what wasn’t when you really thought about it? Martin pondered what he did every day and how insane that would look to an outsider that did not understand how society worked.

“I can hear you, Cassandra. It’s me, Martin.” Martin sighed, but at least he did not feel so ridiculous anymore. “I know that you’re long gone or somewhere very far away, but I still can’t let go. I won’t. I don’t know how to. I also don’t know what to do or why I’m really here or even why this is really happening, but one thing is certain: I will not give up on you, even if it’s a lost cause. It’s all I have.”

Yet ever-present was her father like the shadow of a hammer upon a nail. And the torture of hearing their daily routine reminded Martin that the universe just was. It did not bend this way or that to follow some fantastical predetermined destiny. Martin was feeding his own delusion like coals into a fire. This was all for naught and he was going to make himself sick or worse from obsessing over what the house was doing.

But then the hammer fell.

It began as all the other fights did: Cassandra’s father yelling, words angry and slurred. He was drunker than usual and punching the walls. Next would be her. The dog was barking. Cassandra was sobbing, begging for him to stop. But he was only gaining momentum. This was the worse that Martin had ever heard him: Cassandra was lazy; Cassandra had let him down; Cassandra wasn’t the daughter he wanted. As furniture was being overturned Martin seethed and gripped his chair white-knuckled wishing for anything just to make it stop. But then it did…

Martin heard a bottle smash followed by a heavy thud, almost loud even through the wall. A body fell…Cassandra’s? His mind struggled at what else it could be. Something was very wrong. Martin had a fairly good idea of exactly what had transpired but still…he might have just knocked her unconscious. Then came a long, drawn-out silence. Not good. Martin could hear weeping, barely audible.

Finally, “Cassandra? CASSANDRA?!” Her father shouted. “Oh no, no…my baby girl…”

When the drunken man started wailing, Martin’s stomach dropped like a lead weight to the bottom of a dark ocean. The man had trapped himself in the cycle of his own violence and now he was sorry, now he was the victim. Martin couldn’t even be angry anymore; his heart knew what had happened before his mind could accept the finality of it. Whatever the case had been the result was the same: Cassandra was gone. For a long time after, Martin sat in the dark kitchen listening to the father’s sobs and the rain falling outside, softly.

And then everything just stopped. There was no father, no television, no dog, and no Cassandra. It was as though it had never happened. Martin was shocked to numbness but eventually the numbness wore off and that’s when things got bad. Martin had never had his heart broken before and would have felt better if it was gone completely. If only he could have felt nothing instead. And so Martin let himself go into that dark place alone until he was fully immersed, finally breaking down beneath the weight of his sadness, but that’s not all he did.

Martin stopped sleeping. And he never left that kitchen chair. He stopped eating and was withering away and didn’t care. His work stopped calling. Envelopes piled up in the mailbox. Food went bad. He was completely lost, barely conscious anymore, slipping away as there was nothing to hold on to. This was the end. Martin’s sorrow had become a creature, had become his best friend. Hello, Old Chapo! And this was the end…the end…the end…

Everything was over. Nothing was ever over.

“Martin…”

That voice. Martin had heard it so many times through the walls. But this wasn’t through the walls. Martin lifted his head from the kitchen table, slowly sat up in the chair, turned around and there she was: Cassandra. Standing there. So terribly beautiful. Not a ghost in the wall. She was there. Not a crying, singing, or sobbing invisible entity in the never ether. She was right there in the kitchen staring back at him. There was something in the way that she looked at him. Martin melted. Reality shifted. Something strange and new and everlasting was here. Right there. With her. As alive as the sky. As real as his breath.

“Martin.” She was smiling. Cassandra ran her hand along the wall as she turned around the corner and was gone but for the sound of her feet on the floor echoing down the hall.

Martin had finally cracked. Had to have been. It was just too much for him in the end. No other explanation but…

Martin knew…he knew that this place was special. And that he was special. And that maybe the house had been calling to him all along. And maybe he didn’t have to love her from afar.

Martin scrambled out of his chair, heart beating in his ears. This can’t be real. It can’t be….

Please let this be real…

It’s Back

Sonya was out back gathering dead leaves when she saw it standing in the schoolyard watching her, hands clenched at its sides, still and silent as a tomb, staring.

Sonya went into the kitchen where Frances was washing dishes.
“It’s back,” she said.
“What? Really?” Frances dried his hands and went to the window. He knew exactly where to look. “Shit. What do we do?” Frances started pacing like he did last time. It was happening all over again as though someone pulled up the needle on a record and dropped it back to the beginning of the track.
“Fuck…fuck…fuck…” He muttered like a broken robot.

“They did say it was possible,” Sonya interjected.
Frances stopped and gave her a look that could dry paint. “I know what they said, okay?”
He walked over to the counter and picked up his phone.
Sonya planted her hands on her hips. “Who are you texting?”
“Ellis.” Frances thumbs were working overtime when a simple ‘It’s back’ would have sufficed, but that wasn’t Frances.

Sonya laughed, “yeah, cause he’s a big help.”
Frances finished up and gave her the look again. “Why do you have to be like that? Honestly, like…fucking why?”
It really didn’t take much time for things to fall back to the way they were the last time they had to deal with that…thing.

And sure enough, when Sonya went back to the window, it was still there, staring. The thing was that it was stuck. It couldn’t move right now. She didn’t know how it had made it that far into the field except through sheer will; it was probably that pissed off.

But tonight, once the sun set and the stars came out -then it would be free to go where it wanted. And guess where it was heading? They needed a plan. Fast. It was only a couple of hours before the standing silent figure in the schoolyard would become mobile and therefore a major fucking problem.

“Come on, Ellis. He’s not answering.” Frances seemed to say it more to himself than to her.
“I have an idea,” said Sonya, trying once again to be the problem-solver. She held this conviction that if she started to say something the rest would just come out, would fall in line organically all on its own -but this time there was nothing.

Sonya didn’t have an idea at all.

And the clock was ticking…

The Dark Beyond The Parking Lot

I grew up here.
All this time the dark has been watching me,
waiting until I could understand it.

Now, it was calling me out.
It was time to collect.
And that’s why I was back.

I was walking to my car
across the lot behind the apartment building when,
“Hey!” Came a slippery voice
from beyond the trees.

“Hey!” I said back.
After a moment’s pause it said, “you used to live here.”

I stopped. “How’d you know that?”
Instinctively, I opened my car door.

“Remember Jinny? She used to knock on your door
after the streetlights came on.
Your parents did not approve.”
A slight rustle through the trees sounded like quiet laughter as I thought, for the first time in ages, of what happened to Jinny. I thought that whatever was out there knew that and was using it, taunting me.

“Is that so?” I went to the center console. Found the old zippo lighter my father had given to me long ago. It still worked. Like very few things in life, it always worked.
“This is a special lighter, Son. Use it sparingly.”
“How will I know when, Dad?”
“You’ll know.”

That was one of the last times I ever saw him. That day, in the garage, when the afternoon light after the rain dressed the sky in an otherworldly hue.

“Remember the first day you moved in here when you were ten?” The voice moved to the other side of the lot now, just behind the thicket –a coaxing, melodic string of words. “Teddy and Carol wanted to be friends. Not with you though, with your older brother. You were in your new bedroom unpacking your Star Wars toys.”

“Yup, I was there.” I put the zippo in my pocket and closed the door. Teddy didn’t last too long after that, maybe a couple of years. Carol too. Nobody had seemed to make it out of here. Nobody except for me.

“And little Timmy. Oh, what a beautiful bastard! Made you wash his bike. Want to know what he’s doing now?” The voice actually did laugh this time, like it was a little inside joke between us. Timmy had probably long rotted away in the back out there somewhere beneath the gravel and thistle.

I stepped to the edge of the parking lot. “Why don’t you show yourself and we can talk?”

Everything stopped then: the buzzing of the caged light, the night birds, the insects, cars on the streets, my breath.

And then the dark beyond the parking lot groaned, shifted –even seemed to sway.

I could see the darkness stretch…
I could hear the darkness yawn…
I could feel the darkness move air and night and nightmares with its being,
as it awakened…
as it was now getting ready to finally swallow me too.

“Do you really…” The voice came out differently now that it knew we weren’t going to be friends. It was Carol’s.

“…think that…” Timmy’s voice now.
The lights flickered.
The air grew colder and the cracks
in the pavement widened.

“…that lighter is going to help you…” Now Teddy’s, ending his sentence with a laugh just like always.

“…out here?” All of them now – whispers falling into whispers surrounding me, invading me invisibly.

I held out the zippo to the wall of blackness and flicked the flame alive. The landscape before me could be heard more than seen, but could be seen enough to know that it was moving in different places as though it were one living, breathing entity.

“This is all I need. This is all I ever needed,” I said.

And with that
I stepped down the embankment from the lot
into the trees and
into the darkness,

if only because I was so tired of hiding away from it
and from myself.

Now it wants to know what I’m going to do about it…

and so do I.

Dream Phone

“I know it’s been a couple years since lockdown…but I heard and I’m so sorry about Beth, Man. I really am.”
“Yeah, so am I.”
“You still think about her?”
“Every single minute, Martin. Things like that don’t just go away.”
“Fuck cancer.”
“Yeah, fuck cancer,” I said without conviction, staring down at the table. Still the same Martin then. I never quite understood how someone as empathetic could be so socially tone-deaf. And why was I here? What did he want?

But really, what was I doing other than sitting in a room with the drapes drawn staring at a television that wasn’t turned on?

Someone at the other end of the coffee shop coughed. I looked over to see an old man in a checkered shirt frowning at me.
“Oh, check this out.” Martin reached inside his jacket. “Got this phone on Amazon. It lets you take pictures of your dreams.”
“Bullshit.”
“No, seriously. All you have to do is make a clicking motion with your finger –like this, and it’ll take a photo of what you’re doing right inside your dream. But you have to remember while you’re dreaming to do this. Harder than it sounds. Took me a while to get the hang of it.”

I drummed my fingers on the table.
“Bullshit,” I said again. I mean, believe this guy?

Martin laughed, “Okay, I get it. But tech these days? And this phone? I got it a week ago and you should see some of the shit that it can do. Unreal. I don’t know who made it, and I even looked.” Martin then leaned forward and whispered as though what he was telling me was a grave secret: “Listen, this is so much more than just a phone. It’s like a line to the other side of the universe; a bridge to beyond and back. Something happened soon after I got it…so…I had to show you it.”

“Okay, Martin,” I clasped my hands together and looked over at the old man again. He was still frowning at me. “First off, what the fuck? Why me? And what do you mean ‘other side?’” This was when I started to feel something begin to crawl around the inside of my stomach, something cold and unfriendly.

“Alright, alright…” Martin smiled. He has always been a decent enough guy, but this conversation made a quick right turn and went a little too far down the yellow brick road. Maybe Martin was a few gumdrops short of a gingerbread house. Who knows? Either way, I didn’t like where this was going.

“Don’t freak out. Okay? Promise?” Martin didn’t wait for an answer. He slid the phone over and I found myself staring at a pic.

It was me and Martin leaning back against a beach bar with Chinese lanterns filling the sky behind us. Somewhere tropical. Sailboats and gulls. Even though I was never there, it did look like an actual photo. But the only thing that I really saw was Beth, my dearly beloved and departed, standing on the other side of me in a white flowing dress with her arm around my waist.

“What?” Was all I could muster to say, and I could hear my own voice begin to choke. I didn’t know what I was looking at, at first. But it hit me, hard. My vision began to blur. I wasn’t expecting to see her today. It changed things. Memories came flooding back: watching her live, watching her die.

“You fucking photoshop this?” My hand started to shake, so did the phone. I felt tears begin. Fuck, I thought that I was getting better for a while, but obviously I wasn’t.

“Whoa, Man.” Martin looked around. “Let’s just chill for a sec. You’re not seeing the whole picture.”

I actually began to laugh, “I’m not…whew!” I wiped my eyes with my sleeve and looked at the pic again; brought it closer to my face.

Martin shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “You need to listen to me, I…”

“You Sick Fuck, you think this is funny?” I said it softly, my voice quivering. I could barely make out Martin sitting across from me. My face felt hot. Holding the phone anymore was no good so I lay it down on the table, gently.

Martin’s eyes widened. “Easy, Man, just give me one second to explain.” He seemed just as unnerved as I was. Maybe he wasn’t a complete asshole, just hopelessly misguided. But by now he had certainly realized that this was a mistake.

That’s when the phone lit up with an incoming call and I stared at it in disbelief.

Back in college, when we were starting off, Beth and I had made a pact. We made it because deep down inside we knew that we were meant to be together. We would always be in love; there was no question. And we would always find each other no matter what. That was the pact. There was a song that was part of that pact. It was playing when we made it. It was forever, just like us. We adopted it. Sang it to each other. Stupid shit. It was a silly, young romantic gesture. One that I had almost forgotten until now.

It was a collection of flat eight-bit tones, but the ringtone the phone was playing –it was mine and Beth’s song.

Nobody else knew that. When the song then began to play over the radio in the coffee shop it felt like somebody had just tapped me on the back in an empty, locked room. It brought back the nights I lay alone in our bed after she was gone, having conversations with her in my head, wishing to God that I could have went as well and not be left here, like this, grown-ass man crying in the dark like a lost little child. What I would have gave to speak to her again, if only for a minute.

What I would have gave.

Martin put both his hands up like he was under arrest –only to show me that he was non-threatening. He then slowly reached over and answered the phone.

“Hey. Yeah. Thank you. Here he is.” Martin handed it over across the table. As though in slow motion and like in a dream itself, I slowly reached out, grabbed the phone, and brought it to my ear.

“Hello?” I said.

Can You See Them Yet?

Sometimes I hear people
right behind me,
and I don’t know who they are.
All that I know is that
they’re not really there.

It all started with Alice.
That wasn’t her name.
It was what she was after…or who.
She wouldn’t shut up about it.

I take long walks, you see.
One day her voice caught up to me
and out of thin air came:
“Alice wasn’t home today.
I want to show you where she lives but
I follow you. You don’t follow me.
You can’t. That’s not the way it works.”

“What? Hello?” I turned around and saw no one.
“Is anybody there?”

“Don’t be a lunkhead. I was fucking telling you about Alice.”

From there it didn’t stop.
Next came James,
“Alice always wears green, but don’t tell her I told you that.”
Then Marcy,
“Alice isn’t as nice as she comes across. Her kindness is a charade.”
And Sean,
“Alice pretends that she doesn’t want me. But that’s all it is, pretend.”

I don’t know what they look like
because I can’t see them
but they are right there
and nowhere at the same time.

I started walking faster, but it didn’t help
because the voices were always
just behind me:

“Alice is being a real bitch.”
“Oooh, I just love your skin.”

It wasn’t just one place, one walk, one road.
It was at the mall, at the bank, the bakery,
on the street or in my shitty apartment
as I sat on the recliner watching TV.

“What’s he doing?”
“He’s just sitting there staring at that talking screen.”
“Does Alice know?”

I don’t know who they are
(who the fuck is Alice?)
or what they are or where or
how they can see me or if they only see me
or a million other things.

The only thing scarier than this being all in my head and that
I was going batshit crazy
was the possibility that this wasn’t
-that this was real and
what that implied.

Two weeks later I got my answer
from once again, the unlikeliest of places
because our expectations of life
and all that it entails
are meant to be smashed, obliterated,
run over and then set on fire
every single step of the way.

So, there I was on a Monday
at the shop when
Marcus (the mechanic)
nodded me over, wrench in hand.

He wasn’t working on my vehicle just yet
and I didn’t really know him so
I approached with caution
because humans were dangerous.

As Marcus went back to changing a tire he said,
“Alice’s friends have been telling me about you…”
in a happy, sing-song voice.

“Alice?” That sounded so familiar that it was painful.
It still took me a second to process because,
“you mean the voices in my head?”

I wanted to grab Marcus and shake him
and scream and cackle madly
but I just stood there staring at him…stunned,
because none of this seemed real.
I could smell the oil, the exhaust, the lubricants, the cold air outside.
The lighting was harsh and glaring as usual. Nothing was out of the ordinary.
But yet, everything had changed forever
in one casual conversation.

Marcus shook his head and laughed.
He slowly turned to me,
set his wrench down on the cart
and with excited eyes said,

“Can you see them yet?”

The Dealer’s Apartment

The text read: 122 Hamilton Street. Apt 42. Bring a flashlight. Get the stash and go home. Easy.

I arrived at a six-story apartment building that was completely dark. All windows were black squares. No lights in the parking lot. No cars.

Was this place completely empty?
It looked like a utilitarian tomb, but that was under closer scrutiny than I would have given any apartment building on any of these streets. Hidden in plain sight, there was something definitely wrong here. I could smell it.

Bring a flashlight. So, the dealer knew about this. Of course he did.

I opened the front door to silence. No dogs barking. No babies crying. No life. I pulled the flashlight app on in my phone and held it in front of me as I went up the stairwell to the fourth floor. All was still. Eerie. A night museum.

I shone my light upon each door until I came to the right one and knocked.

“Get your light off my door.” I heard someone say from behind it.
“What?”
“Put your fucking light down. Do you understand English?” The voice sounded gruff, tired, angry.

“Okay.” I complied. The door opened to an apartment I couldn’t see as it was pitch black except for the echoes of light my phone reflected off the linoleum floor.
“Keep your light down. Don’t shine it in my face, so help me God.”
“No problem.” My hand was shaking slightly, causing the light to bounce around. I steadied it, but everything about this situation made me extremely nervous.

“Wait here,” he went into the bedroom and slammed the door behind him.
I heard the distinct sound of somebody sucking up a rail of cocaine (or whatever) up their nose. I heard a female’s voice.
“Shut the fuck up,” he said, almost at a shout. “Nobody fucking asked you.”

The man came back out and put something on the table. I shone my light on it. Pills in a Ziploc bag. I could see his stained white shirt momentarily before pulling my phone back down. I thought that he was going to berate me for shining my light on the table but, “go on, take it.”

I stepped forward and shoved the bag into my inside pocket.

“Get the fuck out. Keep your light down. Don’t shine it on anyone. You’ll be sorry that you did. You Shitbags never fucking learn. Scram.”

I gladly got out. In the hallway, from the opposite end towards where I was going, I heard a door close and footsteps start to come my way –heavy, awkward ones. I did what my immediate instincts told me to, shut the light off and plastered myself back against the wall until they passed.

Once I was outside, I could really feel the cold in the air. I punched in an Uber and waited, thinking that my problem –my whole new fucking situation– might have been a little understated.

And I wasn’t sure about these pills anymore.

THE PARTY DRUG

Tom lost his fiancé at a party. He didn’t like being without her in an apartment crowded with people. He didn’t like people. He didn’t know what to say to them. Stacy was the only one he could talk to. And now she was gone.

That’s when he saw the boy standing in the living room with an open Ziploc bag handing out pills like it was Halloween candy. He looked so nicely cooked that you just wanted to be him.

“This is Eddie’s shit, Man. Best in town. Y’all know Eddie, right? We’re just around the corner so hit us up. Nice chill buzz. It’ll get your girl in the mood. Spread the word that I’ve got free samples cause I’m only here ‘til it’s gone. Only got fragments left, Man, fragments.”

Largest reason why Tom didn’t like being around people was that he easily saw into them and mostly didn’t like what he saw. The boy with the bag didn’t add up at all. Beneath his entrepreneurial bravado he looked scared. Of what? It was a party, Man, not even a particularly exciting one.

People were snatching pills up as word circulated around the apartment. When the boy gave out the last one and noticed that Tom was watching him he took the empty sandwich bag in both of his hands, blew into it and then popped it with his fist. He mouthed a word slowly to Tom and made for the door, fumbling the knob on the way out. Tom couldn’t make out what he had said but he barely tried.

Fuck, where was Stacy? She knew better than this. Tom didn’t want to seem desperate enough to go looking for her either. It was one of those situations that exemplified exactly why he was dragged here by his balls and Tom was just going to sit there and wait a few more minutes like a good dog.

That’s when the laughter in the kitchen started.

Everybody was laughing in there. What a riot. Good times. They kept on and on. They didn’t stop. After a while Tom could tell by the way that people in the living room had stopped talking with eyes nervously darting back and forth that it scared them too. A couple of them started laughing themselves. It was catching on, whatever it was. Something was happening.

The laughter became louder until it was all anyone could hear and it wasn’t only coming from the kitchen now. People were bent over here and there having a fit. It didn’t look fun; it looked forced. Tom realized that he was gripping the sofa he sat on with white knuckles.

Tom wasn’t sure what was going on but it was strange enough to potentially send him over the ledge and all the way down. His short bursts of breath were signaling a coming panic attack and Tom wasn’t about to have one here because there was nowhere to hide. Stacy would be disappointed, even if she didn’t show it.

A skinny blonde girl stumbled out of the kitchen cackling like a rabid hyena. The people that weren’t laughing started screaming –her face; her fucking face. Tom sprang from the sofa and sped to the back of the apartment calling Stacy’s name and going into every room until he found her.

“We’ve got to go, now!” Stacy saw enough to not protest and held Tom close as they made their way back down the hall towards the front door. Stacy looked into the next room they passed and screamed as Tom pulled her away.

Uncontrollable laughter was only a symptom of becoming something far worse. What they saw now were no longer people. Their faces and bodies had disfigured into some morbid curiosity. It made you sick to look at them but you didn’t want to look away as everything was happening so fast.

Tom knew that it wouldn’t stop there and that this was the beginning of an event that was beyond his comprehension. What he did comprehend was that they weren’t going to make it past the living room. Not with what he saw happening up ahead. Nothing should make a person look like that and do those things. Rage wouldn’t describe it.

Passing by the bathroom Tom saw that it was empty, pulled Stacy inside and locked the door. Not satisfied, he held the doorknob with both hands. Tom now felt shut in and trapped but at least he didn’t have to see what was going on out there. Screams filled the apartment. Screams and laughter. It was pandemonium. It was a living Hell.

It was only then that Tom thought back to what the boy had said to him and realized it was, ‘I’m sorry.’ If it didn’t make much sense then it was much clearer now. But what in God’s name had he done?

“Call 911!” Tom shouted, but Stacy wasn’t moving, until she lifted up her face. Her mouth had already frozen into an sickening grin that almost met her yellow bulbous eyes trapped in a blank mad stare that was both haunted and haunting. It was a face that would have been comic had it not been terrifyingly so.

“Oh no, Baby. NO BABY! No no no no…not you too…” Tom reached for her and began to cry.

Stacy began to laugh.

Part 2 of 2. Catch part 1 here: THE DEALER

THE DEALER

“I’m going to tell you what’s going to happen if you go to the hospital in order to save you some time. First, they’ll take some tests, stick needles into you, give you some saline and sedatives, pump your stomach and slide a catheter into your dick. None of which will be pleasant under your current condition of duress. None of which will work.”

I got high with a couple friends eight days ago. Ecstasy and a little bit of coke, nothing crazy. But we haven’t been able to come down since. None of us. Drinking wouldn’t do anything. Sleeping pills? Forget it. Wasn’t able to sleep at all, barely could eat. Called into work. Couldn’t drive. And it was getting worse. Had to go back to the source, the source that was this voice over the phone.

“And when they don’t find anything physically wrong with you they’ll bring you to the next step: psychological evaluation. Welcome to the psyche ward. By this time you’ll be so aggravated that they might consider you a danger to yourself and others and that’s ninety days right off the hop. Either way, you keep up this ‘I’m high and I can’t come down’ story and they’ll keep you in for 72 hours at first for observation, then two weeks, then a month. Jesus, a month in the loony bin is enough to drive anyone insane, especially one who is already fucked up on what nobody else can see or detect and God knows what else they’ll make you swallow and how that’s going to react with what you’ve already ingested. The drug is a ghost. One that only you see. I made it that way.”

Went to Derek’s. He was way worse than I was. Kept shouting that he needed Christ. Yeah, got it. Sarah couldn’t even look at me; she was in some catatonic state. Kept pulling at her hair and clawing at her own face. Something had to be done. None of us wanted to go to the hospital and admit what we were on. Our episode would go on public record. Future employers would see it. Cops, family –it was a no go. But when it got to the point where that didn’t matter anymore that’s when the fucking phone rang. Guess who it was?

“Am I painting a somber picture here of how things are going to go? Because I can give you names of people just like you that are still there, wasting away in some hospital basement without the ability to even construct a sentence. Or what about the ones that saw it coming and decided to take things into their own hands not bearing the thought of eventually becoming a vegetable that nobody gives a fuck about. Nah, not them. Smart ones, you see?”

The dealer. Like he was reading my mind. Just like that. And things got worse the more he talked until it made the trip I was on the least of my fucking problems. But why? Derek and Sarah were already falling apart and would probably never recover. What was it worth to ruin people’s lives like this? The answer I got made me realize that my problems were just starting because if I was looking for empathy I was in the belly of the wrong beast.

“Why you guys? Motherfucker, why not? You got high off my shit and now I control you and that is the way it goes. I’ve built this. I’ve got designs. Nobody asks where it comes from anymore so this gets easier all the time and I’m aiming even higher. Ha, get it? Remember that I control you because I control how you feel now. I can make it good just like the very first time you ever dropped, or I can make it so bad that you’ll want to die. Just die. That’s all. We all know how lonely and final it can all be. Just one little tweak and your whole narrative will change.”

What do you want?

“Now we come to the point. What do I want? Well, that all depends on what you want, my new friend. You want out of this? You want to be able to go back to your job, your family, your girl or guy or whatever the fuck you’re into? I need you to do something for me and I’ll make it stop. Are you ready to listen? Do I have your full attention?”

Yes. I’m listening.

“Good, cause there’s this party coming up and you’re bringing the treats.”

 

Part 1 of 2. Catch Part 2 Here: The Party Drug

Horror Flash Fiction #10: Looking For Victoria

Johnny Spirit sat beneath the bridge downtown beside the tracks on an old battered mattress placed among train cars splattered with graffiti. He took from his coat pocket the handful of mushroom caps that Evil Jesus had given him, popped them into his mouth and began to chew on what tasted like pliable copper. Unlike most he was loath to do it as they made his mind a train-wreck and the come down was unnecessary but he needed them to get tonight’s job done. They let him get far enough into the thin veil that separated all things to where his own natural abilities would kick in and take it from there. It was very much like jump-starting a vehicle in the dead of winter.

Far across the silent, broad street under the sole streetlamp a fire burned high in a rusted steel barrel. Beyond it on the facade of an abandoned factory a doorway led into darkness. Something bad had happened there not long ago into the past or perhaps into the future. It was hard to tell and it wasn’t his business unless someone paid him which was why Johnny was here to begin with. He needed to eat, pay rent and maybe get a bottle of Jack to help manage his own demons.

After a half-hour had passed in silence the mushrooms started to kick in. Johnny felt nauseous and cold. His thoughts took shapes of their own and took him to places he needed to forget but simply could not and it was all part of the trip:

Her face appeared again like it did every time he closed his eyes. She was laughing as she danced between trees drenched in soft summer’s eve light.

The image faded, replaced by another of her some time later -the same lovely face contorted into a mask of anguish as she screamed for him to leave, followed by the heavy presence of silence and emptiness that had since remained like a long, dark hallway.

No…I’m sorry, Sweetheart. I’m so sorry for what happened to us.

Then came the little apartment room swallowing Johnny up to the moment that he was trapped with the elfish nymphet happily hurling bottles at his face as she laughed at him and at his pain. She was all scars, stitches and rage under a barrage of flower tattoos -a girl that was nothing but damaged and as such had damaged Johnny in return by trying to love him the way that others had taught her.

Some people’s sickness you can’t see until it’s far too late.

Again his world transformed to become the burnt-out husk of their house after the fire where everything was blackened and wet as he wandered through alone in the night still clearly recalling the kaleidoscopic din of sirens and lights. It was a place that he had never really left and Johnny hated himself for it just like he hated the four walls he lived in and despised even more the need to ever leave it and walk out into the brutally confusing world.

Johnny, get a grip. You’ve got work to do.

Johnny jerked his head up, opened his eyes and forced himself into the present. He had to own this trip or it wouldn’t work. The nausea dissipated and he couldn’t feel the cold or anything else now as he experienced the weightlessness that was the dominion of dreams. It was how Johnny knew that it was time. He needed to find the girl in blue by the station as it was Johnny’s ticket to where he wanted to go tonight.

Johnny began to walk in the direction his mind told him to go and it wasn’t long before he heard steps falling, skipping along beside him. He turned to face a girl of about twelve whose light-blue dress and dancing shoes spoke of how long she had been residing here unseen except for when she needed or wanted to be.

“Do you think I’m pretty?” She asked.

“I’m bad, but not like that.” Johnny replied as he lit a cigarette. The act of it taking more of his concentration then it had a right to. “I’m not interested in that or in you in general, not really anyway.”

Johnny felt sorry for the girl as he took in her dead visage, her pale dead legs beneath her tattered dress, her pale dead everything. He wondered how many of the missing have fallen to her in these parts in this town.

“You sure know how to talk to a lady.” She crossed her arms.

“I’m looking for Victoria.”

“Oh? And what do you know about Victoria?”

“She’s been hurting some of my friends and I want her to stop. I thought that things might be better off if her and I had a conversation in private.”

The girl’s laughter was humorless and beyond her years. “What makes you think that I would help you?”

Johnny reached into his pocket. “Because she takes possibilities away from you. Help me, and I’ll help you. All I want is some information and in return I’ll give you this.”

Johnny pulled out a small black key and handed it to her. The girl knew what it really was and smiled. She nodded over to where Johnny came from, to the barrel fire and the door behind that led into a very bad place judging from the feel of it.

“I think you already know where to find her.”

Johnny looked over to see that the fire was still burning like a beacon. There was still nobody tending it. And the door was still open like an unanswered invitation. “Fuck.” He said.

“Not for you. Not tonight. Not if you go in there.” The girl cupped her mouth and giggled.

“A grand says I do.” Johnny turned and started walking.

“Oh, poor Johnny.” He heard from somewhere behind him. “She’s not really the one your looking for, is she?”

Games The Dead Play

Jackson with the long blonde hair
Hollywood smile
badass black leather jacket and slim frame
gracing the kitchen at a party

I was watching him
from the living room
making some beautiful girl laugh
playing it all up smooth as
silk rippling in a fine french wind
but that was Jackson
last I remember
the thing about this was
that he’s been dead
for fourteen years

Don’t tell me that I’m
crazy or mistaken
it was him all right
the way he moved and tilted his head
when he laughed and looked away

Hell, I could see the scar on his right cheek
from here
I gave it to him when we were sixteen
with a bowie knife
that was supposed to hit a tree

Best days of my youth were
spent that last summer
before his funeral when
we were all seventeen and
all we did was skateboard
drink whiskey
get high

He got all the girls’ numbers
every single one of them
you had to hate a guy like that
if you didn’t like him so much
because Jackson had all the charisma
that the rest of us didn’t he was as pleasing
as a Beatles melody
with his laughter his calm eyes his lack of caring

He was one of those guys that would never die
but then one day he did

I remember well
the way his mother cried at his
open casket
his ashen gray face with the
lips sewn together

When you see someone you know
in such a manner
with all the light gone
their dormant body
just looks like a
cheap rubber suit

Now here we are and
there he is
glancing at me all nonchalant

This even isn’t the first time
I’ve seen him
yeah, he’s been here and there at
parties, festivals, bake sales

I put it all together a while back
that he’s been watching me
following me
but for what?

It appeared there was a game afoot
which rules I did not fully understand

Well, having had enough of this
it was finally time to find out
and get some answers from the
dead man himself
so I set my glass down
and made my way towards the kitchen

Jackson lit a smoke as I approached
now that he was alone
leaning up against the fridge

For a moment he just looked at me
and I felt that I must be losing
all my marbles and that
it wasn’t him at all
but then

flashing that signature Hollywood smile

“What took you so long?” He said.