The rumours, speculation and conspiracy theories surrounding the so-called Cedar Cove Incident of August 2009 are so varied, so wildly divergent and contradictory that one despairs of ever uncovering the truth of what happened. I have undertaken here to lay down and weave into a coherent whole only the established, verifiable facts, and let the reader draw his or her own conclusions. I will be the first to point out the many seemingly irrational choices made by the people involved, and the narrative gaps left where we cannot say with certainty how events unfolded. To these I say, we must wait for further information, but until that happens: Caveat lector. I’m sure even the most skeptical reader will agree that the following is the most parsimonious telling that accounts for all the known facts.
The favorite urban legend of the Mortuary School was the drunken student in the morgue. Either a student or a local boy– depending on the version. He and some friends go rabble rousing in the town. They get back to the campus completely sloshed. There is a dare to streak through campus and go into the morgue. His friends bar the door, and he passes out on the slab unable to get back out.
A class comes in early the next morning to perform an autopsy or an embalming on a cadaver. They find the boy naked on the slab. Sure it’s odd he has no tags, but what the hell it’s not like we have an over abundance of cadavers. There are many variations on the ending. In some he wakes up right before the first incision. Or during. In the funny ones he’s ousted by the gasps and pointing of female students at his erect penis. In the dark ones no one ever notices…
Victoria felt the ridges of the staples in the in the cadavers through the fingers of her latex gloves. A big cross on the man’s chest. One of the problems with the myth is that a school has no problem with reusing a cadaver on the newbies. Were these staples from the original autopsy or a subsequent? Hard to tell. The students observe one, but they never actually perform. The man’s toe tag reads Robin Smith. Must have died from embarrassment of his name.
She jabbed him in the chest with her index finger. The flesh was cold and spongy. It lacked the smooth elasticity of her own. Or the rigid stone of Rigor Mortis. She could have poked straight through him if she had a mind to. Victoria was always fascinated with death. She always watched it with an academic eye. It was something that only happened to grandparents and pets. It changed from hobby to career when a Pinkerton ran a Charger through a coal picket line.
Electricity jumped from her fingertips. All the air rushed from her lips. The hands on the clock lurched forward.
Another hand wrapped in latex wretched her hand away from the body. There was an audible pop like a circuit at been broken. Victoria felt her blood rush from her head. Her fingertips exploded. She clenched her hand and crumbled into the other man in scrubs.
She recovered in seconds and remembered propriety.
“What the hell was that?”
“N-Nothing,” Victoria replied. “It was just…the smell. Yeah, how long has this stiff been lying out?”
The pathologist cocked a perfectly manicured eyebrow at her. He shook his head and took the hedge clippers from the tray. She never did like how mundane the tools were. The everyday implements that could dismantle a human in minute. She thought that maybe the tools were more specialized in a County Coroner with a budget. Then again a Coroner with a budget wouldn’t be looking for a pair of hands out of Mortuary school.
He nodded towards the other side of the room. Maybe it was a charitable act. Get her away from the cadaver when he first plunged the tip of the snipers right above the groin. They would bite along the line of stitches swiftly chomping through sinew and the rib cage. She pondered if there was even anything recognizable left inside. If the cadaver’s internals were pulped from the frequent demonstrations. She hit play on the docked Ipod. Mozart streamed from the speakers.
While her back was turned he took the first plunge. She heard the blade slurp when he swung open the maw. Victoria whirled on the balls of her feet when she heard the Pathologist’s bagged shoes slosh back from the table. A vermillion line dripped down from his goggles, spotted his face mask, and splattered his apron. His eyes were just whites, and the bare spots on his forehead between splotches of blood were ashen.
The blood on the floor soaked through the baggies right down to her socks when she approached the body. The scent of formaldehyde danced in her nostrils – that new corpse smell. The cadaver was rapidly draining its fluids that should have been long gone by now. Victoria approached as if in a dream. She laid her hands on the great wooden handle of the shears. The Pathologist stood frozen in place.
She could have sworn she saw the slight heave the cadaver’s chest. A rookie mistake. Every teacher had to remind the Morgue virgins that it was just their imagination. She plunged the blade further. The blood kept coming. The cadaver’s eyes flashed open. He lurched forward and took her wrists in his hand. Victoria furrowed her blood spattered brow and closed the scissors. The cadaver was split down the middle.
He wouldn’t stop screaming.
It’s alive! It’s alive!
She thrust the blade deeper into the even softer tissue. The hedge clippers continued gnashing its teeth until he stopped. The Pathologist laid a dripping red hand on her shoulder. She knocked him flat on the ground when she withdrew the scissors. She was suffocating. She tore her face mask loose and shredded her apron. She widened the neck line on her scrubs. She still couldn’t breath. She clawed at her bare white neck before collapsing on the slab.
Submitted by Chase Henderson
NetNostalgia Forum – Television (local)
Subject: Candle Cove local kid’s show?
Someone from the creepypasta.com thread actually put that video together! How flattering! It is legitimately scary and pretty much what I imagined that awful last episode to look like (except for the Christmas tree, anyway). Great job and I’m so thrilled.
There are few now left alive who remember the Song and Dance Man. Time has claimed the ones that survived the long night and I’m sure they went willing to meet their maker. Life takes on a strange tint after a night like that.
The ones still left, Bill Parker, Sarah Carter, Sam Tannen, they don’t talk about it. Sam is lucky. His brains started to turn to porridge a few years back and now he has trouble figuring out how to put on his pants. He got an early reprieve from his memories. He doesn’t wake up night after night, the music still playing in his ears, tears still drying on his cheeks.
The Song and Dance Man came to Belle Carne with little fanfare in the fall of 1956. I had just gotten out of high school and was working as a stockboy at Handy’s Hardware. I was there the afternoon that Sarah Carter burst through the door, making the bell over the door jingle like mad.
“George, you gotta see what’s been set up by the bandstand. There’s this huge tent up and this man standing in front of it yellin’ like a carnival barker.” Sarah was out of breath and obviously had run from the park and all the way down Main Street. Her hair was whipsawed every which way and one strand stuck to the end of her nose. She gave a quick puff and blew it out of the way and waited for me to react. With Sarah, I was always two steps behind and running to catch up. Girl had energy in those days and in an unlimited supply.
I stopped rearranging the nails and said, “There wasn’t anythin’ up there when I walked by this mornin’. When’d it go up?”
She shrugged her shoulders, a quick raise and drop, “Dunno, but it’s up. And you gotta see this guy. He’s all dressed up, head to toe and he can talk. Boy, can he talk.”
I thought about and checked the clock. It was near about 5 and time for me to quit anyway. “All right, let’s go check it out then.”
Sarah grinned from ear to ear and was gone. I didn’t doubt she was telling everyone in the gang, the ones that were still in town anyway. Most of us scattered to the four winds after graduation. Only a handful of us remained in town and only a handful of us were on hand to witness the dance.
I walked down to bandstand by myself, not bothering to wait for the others. Most likely Sarah was already there waiting for us. I met up with Bill as I passed the drugstore, where he worked as a soda jerk. “What the hell is Sarah talkin’ about George? She blew in here and then blew out again before I could ask her anything.” Bill was a big guy, tallest (and heaviest) guy in our class and I just about cracked up the first time I saw him wearing that little peaked paper cap McCleary makes his soda jerks wear. Bill doesn’t really like to be laughed at though and after the knot under my eye went down, I made sure not to laugh at him anymore.
He’s a good guy aside from that temper. He was the best guy on the highschool basketball team too, though he’s one of the few guys who got kicked out of a game. Threw another player halfway down the court. And they were on the same team too. Bill said the other guy elbowed him in the gut. Had to have been an accident, no one would have done it on purpose.
We both walked down the street, Bill smoking a cigarette, a habit that caught up to him in 1995 when they removed his right lung. At the end of Main Street, we crossed Buchanan and entered the park. Normally, at that point, we would have been able to see the bandstand, perched on a hill near the center of the park. During the summer, there’d be concerts: performances by the school marching band, a church choir singing some hymns, that kind of thing. Once a couple of kids from the high school had put together a pretty good rockabilly group, but somehow the parks committee passed an ordinance that banned rock ‘n’ roll in the park. Small towns, you know?
But now, there was a huge, faded yellow tent blocking the bandstand, like the kind in the circus or the kinds those old revival ministers like to use when they’re feelin’ the spirit and they like to feel your wallet too.
There was already a pretty large crowd around the tent and as Bill and I got closer, we could hear the fellow that Sarah had told us about. He sounded like a carnival barker all right. Bill and I walked faster down the path that lead to the tent. We pushed our way through the crowd, up toward the tent and where we thought the man was.
“Come on everybody, it’s getting’ close, getting’ close, we’re goin’ to have ourselves a heckuva time tonight, yes indeed, a HECKUVA time. We’ll be singin’, we’ll be dancin’ I PROMISE that and the Song and Dance Man always keeps his promises!”
We still couldn’t see him, still too many people were blocking the way. It looked like the whole town had shown up to see the Song and Dance Man. Bill tugged on my sleeve and pointed. I followed his finger and got bug eyed. It was Reverend Harper, the Baptist minister. I’ve lived a good long time, but I ain’t ever seen a man that could thump a Bible harder than he. Harper preached against the evils of sin; sin in drinking, sin in smoking reefer, sin in smoking tobacco, sin in lying and most of all, sin in dancing. And here he was lining up to get inside the tent too, ‘cause he certainly wasn’t preaching. We waved at him, Bill waving with the hand that held the cigarette and that old Baptist turned red as the Red Sea and turned and walked away. Bill and I grinned at each other and kept on walking toward the front and toward the Song and Dance Man.
Finally we broke through the crowd and there he was. He stood on an old crate, splintered and lookin’ like it was on the verge of collapsing under his feet. On the grass beside him lay a black fiddle case with gold trim along its edges. It looked old, older than the crate, older than the town. It seemed like something ancient.
He was all angles, all knees, elbows and shoulders. Tall and gangling, his body moving and bopping to the rhythm of his words. He wore a red and white pin-stripe jacket, looking like he belonged in a barber shop quartet. A straw hat sat on his head, always getting pushed back or pulled forward by his long fingered hands. Long, six fingered hands. I started when I saw that. I had read that it some folks are born with six fingers, but readin’ about something and seein’ it are two different things.
His eyes just about flashed blue lightning as he spoke and sparks nearly flew from those white teeth. And he just never stopped talking. Not for breath, not for questions, not for anything. Just kept up that patter like his very soul depended on it.
“All right, all right, all right, we’re getting’ close, getting’ real close, yes we are. Are you ready to dance? Are you ready to sing? Cause I’m ready to play my fiddle, yes I am, yes I am. Gotta fiddle at my feet and I’m ready to play. Ready to make those strings SING, can you believe it?”
He’s clap his hands and that’s as close to a pause he was willing to do.
Sarah and Sam came up to us now, having found us in the crowd. Sarah elbowed me in the rib and said, “What’d I tell you? Looks like he should be in a carnival tryin’ to get us in to see the bearded lady or somethin’.”
Sam nodded his head in greeting to us, which caused his glasses to slide down his nose and he gave them a short push back up to where they belonged. He was as tall as Bill, but nowhere near as built. He was the smart guy in our gang. You had to have someone like him around to tell how to do things like take apart the principal’s car and rebuild it in the school gym. Not that we ever did anything like that.
“What’s he sellin’?” asked Sam.
“A dance, I figure,” I said.
“What’s it cost?”
The Song and Dance Man must have heard him because he said, “What does it cost I hear you ask? Why it don’t cost a dollar and it don’t cost a quarter and it don’t cost a dime. Folks, this will cost you nothin’, just get on in and dance to the song all night long.”
We all looked at each other. Good deal. A little free music and space to dance? There wasn’t much to do in town back in those days and there still isn’t. This was almost too good to be true.
The Song and Dance Man stopped now, a minor miracle in and of itself. He dug deep into his pocket, pulled out a gold watch and checked the time. And then he grinned a grin that must have shown every one of his teeth. He repocketed the watch and said, “Folks, it’s time for the dance so come on in. Come on in, everyone because it’s time for the dance to begin.” And with that, he hopped down from his crate, grabbed it up with the fiddle and darted through the tent flaps.
Sarah, Bill, Sam and I nearly got mowed over in the rush to get inside, but we were still the first ones in. We stopped short when we pushed aside those big old tent flaps, but were quickly driven inside.
It was huge inside. There was a hardwood floor beneath our feet that looked like it must be oak, a dark, dark oak polished to a mirror shine. There were candles in holders all along the tent-pole posts and when I looked up, I couldn’t see the ceiling for all the darkness. It was like looking up at a starless night sky, where the moon didn’t dare show her face.
The crowd kept driving us and more and more people poured in. It wasn’t just the young people either. There was Missus Crenshaw, our Junior year English teacher who was in her fifties. There was Mr. Hoskins the principal. There was the good old Revered Harper, still looking embarrassed, but also like he couldn’t help himself. It really was the whole damn town. Hell, even the mayor was there with his wife, standing and talking with the chief of police.
Soon everyone was inside and the murmur from all the talking was nearly deafening. It was already getting warm in there and I was feeling cramped and claustrophobic. We were all looking for the Song and Dance Man, to see where he had gone. No one looked up, so no one saw him until the first pull of his fiddle bow.
He was there, on the center tentpole, sitting on a small, wooden platform, about twenty feet off the floor. God knows how he got up there, because there certainly wasn’t any ladder goin’ up. He dangled his feet over the edge and held his fiddle in one hand and the bow in the other. The fiddle and bow seemed to be made of that same dark wood that the floor was and gleamed in the candlelight like a thing alive. I almost doubted that the fiddle even needed the Song and Dance Man to make its strings hum.
We all looked up at him and he grinned and jumped to his feet while the crowd gasped, worried he might plummet into their midst.
And then he began to play.
He made those strings sing. I haven’t heard anyone play like that before or since and I thank God for that every day. It made the air around us crackle and spark. It loosened the joints and jolted the mind. You felt the urge to move deep in the bone, buried in the marrow. I grabbed Sarah’s hands and we began to move across the floor and everyone followed suit. Some with partners and some without. Some doing the foxtrot, some doing a waltz and some of us doing the twist. We dance, moved, shucked, jived, rocked and rolled.
I passed Reverend Harper moving his feet in a clunky boxstep with Eloise Grendel, an old battle-axe of a Catholic. I saw the mayor’s wife waltzing with Dan Adams, one of our firemen.
I swirled with Sarah, moving across the floor, bumping and jostling with the people around us. It was hot and getting hotter in there and it wasn’t long before it smelled of sweat and bodies moving against bodies. I felt dizzy, but we kept dancing together, kept dancing and not stopping. It was awhile before I realized that the Song and Dance Man was singing too, but in a language I didn’t understand.
He lorded over us, standing on that platform, making his fiddle sing and sing. His bow rose and fell, slid back and forth, side to side. He played like he talked. No breaks, no pauses, just a manic deluge of tunes while his tongue curled around words that had no business being said in this world.
I gave my head a shake as I spun with Sarah and I realized my legs were tired. My feet ached and my lower back was beginning to throb. I checked my watch and realized we had been dancing for a solid hour. I shook my head again, trying to shake off the dozy feeling that was clouding my thinking.
“Sarah,” I cleared my throat. I had only spoken in a whisper. My tongue felt thick and funny. I tried again, “Sarah.” Louder this time, but she still didn’t respond and we kept dancing. I shook her, but she didn’t respond. I kept shaking her until I realized I was doin’ it in time with the music.
So I just tried to stop. And I couldn’t. I couldn’t stop.
Underneath the fog, I began to feel frightened. I began to see the faces of the other people now. I saw their terror. Reverend Harper’s face had grown redder than it had been before. Sweat poured down his face, but still he kept moving, twirling Missus Grendel around and around, her head lolling from side to side. She had fainted, but her feet were still moving. We moved past Bill who danced with Susie Watkins and I saw her frightened eyes darting around the room, but Bill bobbed his head in time with music and his glassy eyes looked at nothing in particular.
The Song and Dance Man laughed from his perch and kept playing, tapping his feet. His eyes were glowing in that dark, humid place. Glowed and glowed and light glanced off the bow with each sweep.
I heard a scream and swiveled my head to watch a woman drop to the floor holding her leg. She had cramped up. I was envious. She got to stop. She got to rest. My own legs felt like dead wood and the ache in my back had deepened.
Then her partner stepped on her ankle and I heard the crunch from across the room. He was still dancing, his eyes blank and empty as he moved. She screamed again and started to crawl away, but began to stand up instead. She started to dance, bringing her weight down on the broken ankle. Again and again and again. I turned away, but I couldn’t block the sound of her sobbing.
The music ran on.
I checked my watch again and it was three hours now. We didn’t flag. Didn’t falter. We kept up the same speed as the fiddle. The damning fiddle. Rapping our feet against the floor. Never mind the blisters that burst. Never mind broken toes or broken ankles. Never mind that deep pain buried in the spine that refused to go. Never mind old hearts and bad knees.
We kept up that frantic pace as one mass: a bobbing, thumping, jumping creature with one mind.
Reverend Harper died at one point. I watched it happen. He was holding up the still fainted Missus Grendel (whose feet still moved with the music) when he dropped her. And then fell to the floor. He twitched once, his feet beating a quick, staccato rhythm and then was still. Missus Grendel got back up and kept on moving. I watched Harper as I danced, trying to see if he was breathing.
He wasn’t. I swear to you he wasn’t. But he still got back up. He was dead, but he still got back and began to dance again. He turned to look at me, and he grinned the Song and Dance Man’s grin. His eyes were red, filled with blood from whatever had broken in his brain. I watched as a single red tear rolled down his cheek.
I shut my eyes and kept moving.
Harper wasn’t the last. He probably wasn’t the first. The old and the sick were the first to drop. Exhaustion, heart attacks, hemorrhages somewhere deep inside, they died. And then they got back and kept dancing, grinning their grins.
I passed Sam and Lizzie. He had lost his glasses at some point. His eyes darted around, terribly aware. I looked at his leg and I saw a jut of bone tearing through his denim jeans. There was a trail of blood behind him and as he swirled, a spray landed on the legs of the people around him. He stepped on that broken leg, twirled on it, jumped on it. All in time with that fiddle.
The night passed.
I remember stepping on something at one point and realizing I had just crushed Missus Dempsey’s right hand. She was lying on her back on the dance floor. She had been stepped on time and again. I could even see a man’s shoeprint on her stomach. Her head had been caved in, her chest beneath her dress had a sunken look. And still she was trying to get up to keep moving.
The smell of blood mixed with the sweat and I couldn’t breathe anymore. The air was thick and from all around I could hear cries, screams, but nothing that drowned out the fiddle or the Song and Dance Man’s singing.
And then it stopped. I danced one more step and then stopped myself. I looked up at the platform. We all did, craning our necks upward. He was checking his pocket watch.
“All right folks! That’s all for tonight! The dancing is done and the morning has come. You may leave if you can walk and you should walk quick cause this Song and Dance Man is gonna be gone.”
We all stood there, like stunned cattle. And then marched to the tentflaps. No one ran, because they couldn’t. It was a miracle we could walk. Sarah stepped ahead of me and left, but I stayed behind. I turned and looked. And saw at least twenty people still standing there. Harper was among them. They were all grinning, their eyes empty. They stood and made no sign of wanting to leave.
“Go on now friend, the Song and Dance Man has what he wants, but he’d be glad to add you too if you tarry and dally too long.” I looked up at him and saw him smile. And then I turned my back to him and left the tent. When I turned back again it was gone along with the people inside.
That’s the story of what happened. The others won’t tell it or pretend it never happened. Never mind the 21 people that vanished that night, the mayor’s wife included. They’d rather not think about it.
Sarah and I took Sam to the hospital over in the next county, far from folks that knew what had happened, where they had to remove his leg. Sam was quiet before and was quieter still after, pulling odd jobs that a one-legged man could do. Doesn’t move around much nowadays, just sits on his porch, a cane across his lap and massages the stump with his hand. Says it bothers him on cold nights. And warm nights. And wet nights and dry nights.
Bill left and joined the army, stayed in long enough to fight in Vietnam and won a bunch of medals. Came back and settled down to drink and drink hard and if you want to find him, you can find him in Eddie Dixon’s bar. No matter how drunk he gets though, he doesn’t talk about that night.
None of us saw much of Sarah after. She came through the best, but that’s how she always was. She left and went to college, but like Bill, she got pulled back to Belle Carne. She teaches over at the high school now, teaching English to the Juniors.
And I stayed here, plugging away at the hardware store. I ran it for a while, but now I don’t do much of anything. Just sitting around with Sam on his porch, talkin’ about things sometimes. Though not often. Because if I stay too late, stay too long, I’ll see his eyes go glassy behind those coke-bottle lenses and he’ll disappear into himself. And I’ll catch him humming a faint trace of a song and the hairs on my neck stand on end and goosebumps rise on my arms in great knots.
And my foot will start to tap out a small beat on the hardwood porch and a big wide grin will spread across Sam’s face. The grin of the Song and Dance Man.
Submitted by Dylan Charles.
VILLAGE OF VERNON CONSTABULARY
INCIDENT NUMBER 000152034
REPORTING OFFICER: CARL JENNINGS
2/14/2005 21:47:16 REPORT RECEIVED OF MULTIPLE SHOTS FIRED AT THE EAGLE INN ON MACARTHUR ROAD BY OWNER STEVEN WALKER. ADVISED SHOTS FIRED “WITH TIME TO RELOAD”, POSSIBLE NARCOTICS DEAL. ADVISED SINGLE MALE TENANT IN ROOM 16 WAS SHOOTER, AND THAT WHEN HE CHECKED IN TENANT APPEARED FATIGUED, PARANOID AND POSSIBLY ON THE RUN. NO MORE INFORMATION ABOUT POSSIBLE INVOLVED INDIVIDUALS PROVIDED.
OFFICERS JENNINGS AND HENDERSON DISPATCHED. UPON ARRIVAL, WHITE ’02 MITSUBISHI ECLIPSE PARKED IN FRONT OF ROOM 16, AND DOORWAY TO ROOM 16 WAS OPEN WITH NO ONE INSIDE. DOOR HAD BEEN FORCED OFF OF HINGES BY UNKNOWN MEANS (NO BOOT PRINT TO DOOR OR RAM FOUND), LARGE AMOUNTS OF BLOOD OBSERVED AT DOORWAY AND INSIDE ROOM. IMMEDIATELY LABELED CRIME SCENE, COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT NOTIFIED.
FURTHER INVESTIGATION REVEALED NO OTHER SIGNS OF STRUGGLE. ALSO FOUND THREE EMPTY MAGAZINES FROM A FORTY CALIBER PISTOL, THIRTY (30) SPENT SHELL CASINGS, AND THE ATTACHED HANDWRITTEN LETTER. **see attachment 17** INVESTIGATION DEFERRED TO SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT.
**Description: Transcribed letter located on desk in hotel room.**
I should have listened to that little voice in my head that said “this is a really bad idea.” Instead, the voice of reason was drowned out by the dozens of other voices telling me that nothing bad would happen, that everything would be okay and best of all I’d be happy for the rest of my days. And then it all went to hell.
It started with an act of kindness. Every town has its poor and destitute, Ichor Falls being no exception, and I always prided myself on giving them a few dollars every now and then when they ambled out of Lower Alethia and into Olympus. Well, lately there had been a new homeless man around town. Unlike most of the others, he was always ambling around, never sitting down and rarely ever still, and he was always in a good mood, blessing the day even when he had nothing to eat and nowhere to stay. He just stayed active regardless of the weather, whistling a tune with a spring in his aimless step. It was a great surprise to me then when I encountered him sitting at a bus stop in the middle of a torrential rain, just barely covered enough to avoid being completely soaked but it was evident to anyone who looked the poor old man was cold, wet and miserable.
I took him to a local diner, bought him a meal, and sat with him as he ate. He gave me his name: Owens. As he ate, he told me tales of his days in World War II, when he was just sixteen, and then the war in Vietnam, about shootouts and fighting and the people he’d meet and the sights he’d seen. When I asked him what made him re-enlist after being in the Japanese theater, he said he went back during Vietnam because at that time he had longed to die. Turns out his whole family got wiped out during the Ethylor Summer, and he alone survived watching the slow, agonizing and bloody deaths of his family. He said that he’d come across one thing there in some tiny, lost Vietnamese village that let him smile again and gave him unfailing happiness despite the deep-seated pains of his life. It appeared to be nothing more than carved rattan, something typical of southeastern Asian nations, so I didn’t think anything of its appearance. It was just a box after all.
Take it, he said, to a hill, any hill where no buildings or anything man-made stand on any adjacent hills, and open it on at midnight on any night of a new moon, when the world would be in darkness. I asked right out why the hills had to be empty and why everything had to be dark and he shrugged, saying only that if it wasn’t done right, then it wouldn’t work. Not only would it not work, but there would be hell to pay afterwards. It worked for him, he said, and even though he had recently lost his house in a brush fire, he still said what the box had shown him kept him happy even as a wandering vagrant.
He left the box with me as payment for the meal and said it was up to me to decide whether or not to use it. That was the last I saw of Owens.
As it so happened, a new moon was only a week away from that meeting, and while the thought was still fresh in my mind I decided I would give this a shot, if only to see what kind of hokey zen bullcrap was really going on here — it was more likely I’d get robbed than find happiness. Not a total fool, I brought a gun and a flashlight with me as I drove out of town to the middle of a large open field that as far as I knew didn’t have anything built in the area, climbed to the top of a hill, and turned off the light.
I should have taken the immediate sensation I had as a warning; the sudden lurch in my stomach as if the world had fallen away from beneath me, that I had dropped into a yawning pit of blackness darker than the night itself. It only lasted a moment though, so I attributed it to nerves and took the box in both hands. It wasn’t glowing, ticking or bleeding so I assumed it would be okay to open it, and so I did.
A new reaction came in the form of a shrill, bloodcurdling shriek, and again the sensation of falling returned, this time stronger, and darker if that makes sense. I jerked back to myself with such a shock that I collapsed on the spot to sat stupefied in the darkness. The scream still echoing in my ears, I turned around in every direction scanning the darkness for the source, but even if it were twenty feet away I couldn’t have seen it. Given the way it sounded though — like a strung-out woman gargling blood — if it were that close I’d know for certain. Then, as my eyes rested upon a hill towards town barely illuminated by the glow of the city lights, the hill itself moved. A silhouette of something, or many somethings seemed to pause, watching me, before slipping into the inky blackness of the night. Thoroughly freaked out, I shoved the box into my coat, flipped on the flashlight and with my gun in hand ran for the car as fast as I could.
They had already surrounded me. I don’t really know for certain how they did it, but I was aware of them on every side, darting out of sight just as my flashlight would fall upon them, their torn, blackened bodies gliding along silently beside me, some of them running on two legs, some on four, but all of them keeping perfect pace with me. I made it to the car unscratched, only to find one of them on the roof of the car, perched and waiting. It made that scream again, so much more horrible up close — human, once, a long time ago. Now it was wracked with open wounds and necrotic flesh.
I shot it. I put three bullets into it and it jerked and flopped down onto the hood, leaving a smeared, bloody mess where it made contact, while the rest of the creatures held back just within visible range, watching with amused, sinister expressions on their misshapen faces.
Two hours later, I saw them again. I had driven home, locked and bolted the doors and prayed I had seen things and that the still-present gore on my car was just my imagination. That was when they started popping up in the darkness of the neighborhood, visible in almost every direction. I called the police, and they came, but the things were too quick and would hide, scattering like flies with uncanny speed, climbing up buildings and darting behind trashcans. The police asked me a whole bunch of questions and I answered everything, but they didn’t buy my story. They thought I was high — maybe I’d accidentally killed somebody. After an hour in the company of police in my home, that jerk Brana already started making out a citation for making a false report. But as the cops searched, I could see those things peeking their heads into windows, lurking across the street and peering inside, avoiding the police like it was just a game to them. And they watched, as I did, when the police drove away, their gaze as one turning back to me. They poked around the house a bit, but never came inside. Day broke, and for the time being I was safe.
I tried and failed to find Owens, and tried and failed to find the body of the one I had killed, if anything to prove these things could die. Not knowing what else to do, I loaded my gun and as much ammunition into my car as I could and left town for a while, left the state. I rented a cheap motel with only one door and one window, and now I’m here, waiting and writing my story for anyone who might read it. Night fell about an hour ago, and they wasted no time coming back for me. I’ve accepted that I’ll never be able to run far enough away from them and I’ll never be able to hide.
I can hear them now, climbing over the motel, tapping on the window, knocking on the wall and door, but making no other sounds that might give them away. They know I can hear them. That scream still echoes in my ears, and I shiver just thinking about whether or not I’ll have to hear it again.
In case you’re wondering, I know what I did wrong; when I went exploring and looking for the body I found a tiny, almost unnoticeable shed built onto the far side of one of the hills. To think, here I am, now, waiting to be killed by these things because of one run down pile of wood.
I hear more of them outside, and they’re gathering by the door. If I don’t make it, spread the word and let my death serve as a warning. Let everyone know that if you’re going to play with destiny, make sure you do it right.
PER ORDER OF CHIEF BRYANT, ALL FURTHER INVESTIGATION HALTED AND ALL FILES FLAGGED FOR DESTRUCTION.
Submitted by A. R.
If you see the Blue Man walk
Mind to him you do not talk.
For if you see the Blue Man smile
Your sweet soul he will defile
– From “The Blue Man”, traditional folk ballad
Samuel Douglas drove home from town, taking the main highway instead of the usual back roads that he was particular to. He hadn’t had much business in town, so his visit was short and sweet. Spending time talking to the other men who farmed the area, the last few holdouts who hadn’t been bought out by any of the big conglomerates yet. It wouldn’t be too long before Ned Harrison sold though. Crops weren’t doing well. Sick child in bed. Sell the land and get a pretty check in the mail. Maybe they’d even let you stay on and work the land.
Sam shook his head. There wouldn’t ever be a time that he’d work another man’s land, not for any amount of money. His was his and had been in his family since folks started coming out here to the Midwest and he’d be damned if he was going to be the one that let it go.
Once upon a time, you brat, there was a spoiled little prince who wouldn’t eat his dinner if he didn’t want to, and nobody could make him because he was a prince.
And one day, there was fish for dinner and the fish on the prince’s plate was green and purple, and the prince wouldn’t eat it because he said it looked nasty. But that night the prince woke up screaming, saying he dreamed that a huge green and purple fish stood over his bed and said “You’ll have me, brat, one way or another!”
And every year, on the anniversary of not eating his fish, he dreamed the same terrible dream. One day when he was king, he came home from holiday with his sweetheart, and said he was going to marry her. She was very beautiful but her skin and hair were always damp and she had big eyes that didn’t blink, and she wore green and purple all the time. And the king married her.
And the night after they married there was a terrible scream from the royal bedroom, and they found the king lying in the big royal bed completely mad, and the damp lady was nowhere to be seen but on the pillow beside the king was a little green and purple fish! And the king was mad for the rest of his life, and if you don’t eat your greens now, you little creep! The Damp Lady will come and turn you mad too! No, it would not be more fun than spinach!
(Reprinted with permission from “Ethylor Voices: Effects of phenolic toxicity on the folkloric imagination in Ichor Falls, Mason County.” Hiram Whipporwill, Miskatonic University Press 2007.)
The sound of jet engines blared in the tiny rooms. Victor plugged his ears and waited for the howling to stop. He really hated to be the one to do this. But there was really no one else.
Those Servers needed rebooting, and that’s all there was to it.
He pulled his fingers from his ears. The worst was over. Soon the Servers would drone into the back as just white noise. Now the tune of John Denver’s Country Roads – that was a sound he could never ignore.
He pulled his phone from the belt clip. It was illuminated by Mary’s photo. She wore an exasperated smile and black strands of hair hung in her face. It was the first photo he snapped on the phone; she had just woken up from a nap.
Victor sucked his lower lip, his thumb hovering over the big red Decline button. He walked over to the window behind his desk. The phone reported no bars, and the call disconnected. He clipped the phone back to his belt and his hand went instinctively to the white band around his finger. He twisted the skin between his thumb and forefinger — his personal worry stone.
He rested his forehead on the windowpane. It was damp with cool condensation from the mist hanging in the air. He almost wished he could stay here forever. Opening his eyes, he could almost make out the distant lines of Sweetbrook Hospital, a wraith in the distance. The blinking blue light of the heliport told him where he was.
This was his lighthouse. If he ventured too close, he’d wreck himself on the rocks. Mary would be getting off work right now. If she pulled the night shift. No. He would stay over here. His office was on the upper floor of what used to be a Haelig Meyer department store, its floor cluttered with deceased computers. He’d stay over here in MIS. That’s where they preferred him anyway.
“My friend,” said a voice from behind accompanied by a hairy brown hand landing on his shoulder. “I got you tickets for speed dating at Sharkie’s. They have karaoke!”
“I’ll have to pass… my heart will always belong to Mary.”
“That is the most melodramatic thing I have ever heard,” Ramir scolded. It always amazed Victor — the only place he’s ever actually seen the cliché Indian systems admin was here in the Falls, of all places. “And yet they make fun of arranged marriages. Look, they work. The secret is that the husband and wife lead separate lives…”
Victor chuckled. “Hey, want to take a ride today?”
“And if the hospital needs us?”
He patted the pager on his hip. “They know where to find us.”
It always surprised people to find out that there even was an IT industry in Ichor Falls. Half of the town was still on AOL, assuming they had any Internet at all. Even facilities the size of Sweetbrook Hospital were wired. There were no actual paper trails with medical records, thanks to Bill Clinton and HIPAA. Some nurse left a senator’s STD screeen out in the break room one too many times.
The real issue here is that prior to 1998, Sweetbrook had no records.
Victor pulled his truck into the dirt lot in front of Amaranth Mental Hospital. Ramir whistled when he dropped out of the passenger side. Victor couldn’t blame him — even at high noon it was creepy as hell. He decided the mist might actually help the old folks in the New Haven Rest Home right across the hospital. Wouldn’t have to look at the thing.
Upon the polished tiles of alabaster marble glided a figure gaunt and garbed quaintly. The bleak hallway of opaque white lingered into a coiling miasma of black –- infinitely cold and eddying in its pitchy depths. The odd décor of arabesque patterns upon the papered walls gleamed whitewashed beneath the moonlight, which spilled forth from casements draped in blood red. Through these windows, dusty parapets rose ominously against the pink sky, their blackened faces looming over vacant battlements in silent vigil. Hills blanketed in dense wood rolled beyond a stone bulwark, and at their edge sat a small town glowing dimly in the growing light.
Augustine’s passage through the ghastly corridor produced upon the cold marble floor an unnerving serpentine slithering. The starkness of his black robe hypnotically coalesced into the shadows. He passed tall portals of dark wood lacquered unsparingly with mephitic oils, and stone daises whose glassy surfaces reflected the sputtering sconces, dim flames tossing luridly in the musty darkness. Upon each dais sat an odd figurine or statuette; artifacts carved intricately of ivory or pristine obsidian, resembling those things which the mind can conceive only in the darkest of nightmares. Oily portraits of noblemen grinned at his passing; their fragile vampiric countenances suggesting a time long ago. In the lofty heights of the rustic ceiling were folding stone faces and wooden girders veiled in cobwebs and the dust of time.
Augustine approached a dark portal lacquered heavily with pungent oil and ornamented by a charm of silver, encrusted with a profound ruby of sharpest red. He placed his hand upon its curved handle, pausing briefly to breathe deeply the peculiar odor. The bitterness of a half century fooled his senses as a knave of time’s breadth. He heard faintly a discordant ringing of gothic bells from another chamber and then a queer chant accompanied by an evil plucking of lute strings. His thin lips melted into a tight line and he entered the room.
It destroys a family, this kind of winter. Towns have a long memory — the Falls especially, though the memories of people are mercifully (or unfortunately) short. In a little less than seven months he and his mother and sister will move away, at the onset of what will be called the Ethylor summer. That season will be remembered.
But no one will remember this winter. Not even him. He is still a child, only in second grade, and while he will dream about this for years to come, he will not remember. The thoughts will tumble out of his mind shortly after they move across the river into Ohio.