Of Mocha & Muses

The official blog of author Jonathan J Snyder

Tags: #politics #essay

As a writer, I have written a lot of things in my life and honestly, the thing I hate to write about the most is #politics. I mean, I have always enjoyed the concept of how government works and the application of good faith discussions on what is best for the American people among their elected officials.

I hate to say it but that time is gone. It died in 2016 when The #republican party decided to sell what was left of its soul to the proverbial devil to maintain what little power they had left over the American psyche.

In this article, I'm going to explain why that is and how we are aiming to become a country where we are a #republic in name.

Cultural shift & Falling Behind

It started in the 1960s and has been going steadily since then. The American public has been shifting away from the old style conservatism that is white people being in charter of things. Anyone who takes a honest look at history, the Untied States has always tried to oppress the minority even with high sounding morals.

Since then the citizens of the United States have become more inclusive, respectful, and open to new ideas and thoughts that were once considered taboo and evil.

LGBTQIA+ recognition, the inclusion of black and people of color in voting, the idea that maybe we should help each other than being selfish.

This all came to a head with the election of President Obama and the passage of the Affordable Care Act. We were on our way to become a country where people of all race, creeds, and color were able to have a chance at pursuing their happiness.

That came to an end with the election of Donald Trump and the desperate screams of the theocrats whose power that almost dwindled to nothing.

Conservatism in the USA is dying.

This is a bold statement to make but there is evidence to prove it. Every election cycle voters are choosing more progressive candidates to represent them in government, the old white conservative platforms are losing their voters through death or attrition and the GOP cannot find good arguments to convince the next generation to join them.

There are now more independents in the United States in a long time. More people are choosing not to be aligned with a specific denomination or religion and are expecting more from their candidates.

These are things that the GOP cannot comprehend or combat against. The basic conservative ideals of male and white superiority no longer hold purchase with the majority of the next generations.

Instead of trying to change their ideals and to try to win voters back to their side, the republicans and their theocratic leaders have decided it is better to start cheating, and stacking things in their favor. They believe that it is now time to do everything in their power to remain in positions of authority and force their minority supported beliefs on the rest of the country.

Do not be fooled, the majority of conservatives believes is not supported by the general public in the United States.

Why do they do this? Why do they think that taking away the people's power and calling for the end of democracy is the correct choice? it's simple in their mind. Moral superiority.

The Insidious Disease of Moral Superiority

The Republican leaders and those who support them have come to the conclusion that their beliefs on the bible and their take of Christianity is the correct choice and that it is their job to spread that belief to the country., even if their actions are morally questionable or downright illegal. Because they believe that their belief is right and that because they are right, it excuses any and all actions that they take.

It was summed up perfectly by Jack Posobiec at #CPAC in his opening speech. “Welcome to the end of democracy. We are here to overthrow it completely. We didn’t get all the way there on Jan. 6, but we will endeavor to get rid of it and replace it with this right here (Makes fist like a half hearted Nazi salute)

They have lost the public vote, confidence, and support so they have decided that because they are right and the rest of the country is wrong, that the only way to make sure that we behave the way we should, democracy must come to an end and autocratic rule to take over.

They are simply saying: “You all are wrong so you shouldn't have a say. Just do what we tell you to do.”

There is no way to fight against an insidious belief like this as logic and reason do not work. They are in a cult and they're fanatics that believe they are right and their will must be established in this country at all cost.

Is it over for the USA?

Not yet but we are getting close. The blame cannot be laid just at the feet of the religious fanatics like Jack Posobiec, Mike Johnson, and others.

Their actions are supported by politicians who will do and say whatever it is just to stay in power. No, they don't believe what the #MAGA right is saying but it's what they feel they need to do to stay in power or to stay relevant.

All the actions of these people are funded by millionaires and billionaires for one simple reason. Greed. If the inclusive continues the way it was going, the writing was on the wall that they would be, at minimum, made to pay a fair tax, or at maximum, find their ill gotten gains taken from them and used to help the people of this country improve.

To invoke godwin's law, look at Hitler's rise to power, he was fully backed by the religious and the industrialists. They only turned on him when the war was lost but by then, it was too late.

We are in a Precarious time

We are now at a time where people who are open Nazis are mingling with members of the GOP, where foreign intelligence agents are helping members of the US government to subvert the upcoming election and to sew enough discord and mistrust that they can declare the election rigged.

January 6th failed because they didn't have popular support. They're not going to make that mistake a second time.

So, I call upon any #republican, #democrat, and #independent to look at the state of things and vote to stop it. I'm not asking to give up on any specific belief but to united and understand that we're facing a time where people who are supposed to be our elected leaders are trying their best to stay in power and make us do what they want us to do.

Let's vote together to get every single Nazi and sympathizer, every religious zealot who thinks what they think God told them is more important than their follow man.

Let's get rid of them and return to the time where we worked together in good faith and helped our country grow strong.

The only other option is the loss of our fundamental freedoms and the rollback of our rights just as we saw happen in Russia, Hungary, and Poland.

We are the only ones who can stop it. If we don't, then when everyone inevitably wakes up, it'll be too late.

The dictators are here and we're holding the door wide open for them.

— © Jonathan J. Snyder, All rights Reserved Like what you read and want to buy me a cup of coffee?

Originally published on r/nosleep

Tags: #horror #shortstory

I never believed in the supernatural, in the whispers of darkness that some say lurk in the corners of our world. This was…before the apartment. I won’t bore you with how I found the apartment. In short, I’m a programmer, I needed a new place before my next freelance project and luckily found a cheap place that was one bedroom within my budget.

I saw that hallway closet the first walk-through and gave it no heed. It was just a storage space with peeling paint and barely large enough to walk in. I mean, I’ve got to push the door closed when my clothes are hanging in there.

The first time I noticed something amiss was on Wednesday evening two weeks ago. I'd just returned from dropping my resumes at the tech companies. I was weary and mindlessly scrolling through my phone checking to see if anyone had hit me up on one of the many freelancing sites. As I passed the closet, a chill traced up my spine. I paused, glancing at the slightly ajar door. “Odd,” I muttered, convinced I'd shut it that morning. Shrugging it off, I closed the door firmly and continued my evening routine.

I think I kept closing that closet for a better part of two days without much thought. I would close the door firmly before leaving for work, only to return and find it slightly ajar and think nothing of it. I thought I was forgetting to close it, or maybe the old wood was just warping further. You know those doors that are so old you have to push it close and either pull it up or down to get it to latch? That's what I told myself. Even though I could easily explain it away, there was something in the back of my mind warning me about it.

Then came the night that changed everything. I was curled up in bed, my lamp casting a cozy glow as I lost myself in a tech manual. The hallway past that closet terminated in my bedroom and I had not closed the door. Why? It was my house, and I was alone.

The room was silent, save for the soft rustling of pages. Then, a faint creak. My eyes flicked up, heart skipping a beat. The closet door was open, just a sliver, but enough to let the darkness within seep out like a physical presence.

I swallowed hard, my mouth dry. Slowly, I set the book aside and got up, my movements stiff with unease. I approached the closet, my hand trembling as it reached for the door. The wood felt unnaturally cold under my fingers as I shut it, making sure to lock it this time.

Back in bed, I tried to convince myself it was just a quirk of an old apartment. But as I tried to settle back into my book, a soft click echoed through the room. My heart pounded in my ears as I sat up, staring at the now open closet door. The lock was undone, the door slightly ajar, as if mocking my feeble attempts at security. From then on, the routine was the same each night. I would close and lock the closet, only to find it open again, its dark maw gaping like a silent scream. I tried everything—barricading it, nailing it shut. But nothing worked. Each time I turned away, it would open, as if an invisible hand were at play.

Sleep became a distant memory. I lay awake, staring at the door, fearing what might emerge from its depths. The darkness within seemed alive, breathing, waiting. Whatever was in the closet, was not in a hurry to get out.

I began to see things, shadows flitting in my peripheral vision, whispers in the dead of night that woke me up. In the day, it was an ordinary closet. I searched it and there was nothing in there. At night, it took on this feeling of a living being watching me through the cracked it popped open every evening.

Then, one night, in a fit of desperate courage, I decided to confront it. That was probably the twelve or thirteen beers that I had down. I left the door open, staring into the abyss. I refused to allow this thing to keep taunting me. A few hours passed, my eyes focused, my body rigid with tension. It was about one in the morning, the alcohol finally fading from my system and my eyes growing heavy when I saw it. A pair of luminous eyes staring back at me from the crack in the door.

I couldn’t see anything else in that blackness as it peered at me. It knew I saw it and I knew it saw me.

The sight of those eyes – unblinking, unyielding – cleared the rest of the booze from my head. I wanted to scream, to run, but I was frozen, trapped in its gaze. It felt as though it was peering into the very essence of my being. The air grew colder, the shadows in my room stretching and twisting into grotesque forms.

“I know you're there,” I whispered, my voice trembling. The eyes didn't blink, didn't move. They just watched, unwavering. Then slowly, the eyes closed and opened in a lazy blink when I heard a guttural voice causing my skin to crawl respond.

“I know.”

The hallway closet door closed and locked itself which broke the spell over me. Since then, I’ve been in my car trying to decide what to do.

I don’t know what it is or what it wants but I can’t afford to move somewhere else. Maybe it’s not dangerous? Maybe it just needs a home too.

I’ll find out tonight when I go back in. There’s got to be a way out of this.

— © Jonathan J. Snyder, All rights Reserved Like what you read and want to buy me a cup of coffee?

Originally published on r/Odd_Directions

Tags: #horror #shortstory #odddirections

In the shabby corridors of my low-income apartment complex, a place where the paint peeled like sun burnt skin and the musty air clung to everything, I carved out a meager existence. The walls were so thin, whispers and secrets had no sanctuary; every quarrel, every burst of laughter from my neighbors invaded my space, shattering the illusion of solitude.

My apartment was a cramped, one-bedroom affair, with a window that looked out onto a concrete jungle of similar buildings. The constant cacophony of sounds from adjacent units often disturbed my peace, the worst offender being the incessant barking and howling from the annoying neighbor's dogs. They barked at shadows, at passing cars, at the mere hint of life outside their confined world.

Yet, amidst this urban chaos, I found an unexpected companion. I was never a fan of cats. Their aloof nature, the way they carried themselves with a detached air of indifference, never appealed to me. They seemed to belong to their own world, one where human affection was a currency, they neither needed nor desired.

However, there was this one stray cat, a scruffy, bedraggled creature with matted fur that looked like it had been through a dozen storms. Its eyes, though, were what caught me – piercing green, like emerald beacons in the night, reflecting a soul that had seen more than its fair share of hardships.

Every day, as I trudged back from my mundane job, my spirits as grey as the city sky, I would see it sitting near the dumpster. The cat seemed to be waiting for something, or perhaps someone. Its gaze would latch onto me, following my every move with a sort of quiet desperation. It never meowed, never made a sound; it just watched with those unnerving, knowing eyes.

Feeling a pang of sympathy for this feral creature, I began leaving scraps of food for it. I'd drop them near the dumpster and retreat, watching from a distance. The cat would approach the food cautiously, always maintaining a wary distance from me, as if unsure of my intentions. But as it ate, those green eyes would lift to meet mine, and in them, I saw a flicker of gratitude, a silent thank you that resonated deeper than any words.

Over time, this became our unspoken ritual. I found myself looking forward to these brief encounters, to that silent communication between man and beast. There was something comforting about it, a small beacon of connection in my otherwise isolated life.

One evening, as I lay in my bed, the sounds of the city a dull roar in the background, I pondered over this unlikely bond. The cat, with its tattered appearance and guarded demeanor, had become a fixture in my daily routine. It was a small, perhaps insignificant, part of my world, but in that tiny, shared moment each day, I felt a kinship with this creature of the streets. It was a reminder that even in the most unlikely places, connections can be forged, offering a glimmer of warmth in the cold concrete landscape of urban life.

One particularly cold and rainy night,, I trudged back to my apartment. My clothes clung to me, soaked through by the relentless downpour, and my mood was as dreary as the weather. The streetlights cast long, ghostly shadows on the wet pavement, making the familiar path home feel eerie and desolate.

As I neared the dumpster, a small, shivering bundle caught my eye. It was the stray cat, huddled miserably under a piece of soggy cardboard, its fur matted and drenched. The sight tugged at something in my heart. I had never considered myself a sentimental person, but seeing the creature in such a pitiful state stirred an unfamiliar sense of compassion within me.

“Hey there, little guy,” I muttered, approaching cautiously. The cat's eyes flickered towards me, wide with apprehension and the chill of the rain.

I hesitated for a moment, unsure. Then, making up my mind, I gently scooped the trembling cat into my arms. It tensed immediately, its body rigid with fear and cold. “It's okay, I've got you,” I whispered, trying to infuse a warmth into my voice that I seldom used.

The walk back to my apartment was a blur, the cat's shivering body pressed against my chest. Once inside, I set about making it comfortable. I grabbed an old towel, rubbing the cat's fur in an attempt to dry it off. Its eyes, those haunting green orbs, watched me with a curious intensity, as if trying to decipher my intentions. “You're a tough one, aren't you?” I said softly, meeting its gaze. “Surviving out there on your own.”

The cat blinked slowly, a silent acknowledgment of my words.

I opened a can of tuna, the smell immediately filling the small kitchen. The cat's ears perked up, and it cautiously approached the bowl I placed on the floor. It sniffed the food, then began to eat with a hunger that was painful to watch. “Guess you were pretty hungry, huh, Shadow?” I mused, giving the cat a name on a whim. Shadow seemed to fit – a creature of the streets, a silent witness to the world's forgotten corners.

As the night wore on, Shadow's initial wariness gave way to a tentative trust. It curled up on my lap, its purring a soft, rhythmic sound that filled the silent apartment. I stroked its fur gently, feeling the vibrations of contentment under my fingertips.

For the first time in a long while, as I sat there with Shadow purring in my lap, the loneliness that had been my constant companion seemed to recede. The apartment felt less empty, the night less oppressive. Shadow, with its quiet presence, had brought an unexpected warmth into my life.

That night, as I lay in bed, Shadow nestled beside me, I felt a sense of peace I hadn't known in years. The rain continued to tap against the window, but inside, there was a comforting stillness. Drifting off to sleep, I realized that this stray cat, this unexpected companion, had somehow bridged the gap in my solitary world. The tranquility of the night was abruptly shattered when I was jolted awake. A bone-chilling sensation crept over me, an icy grip that seemed to hold me in place. I tried to move, to speak, but my body was paralyzed, unresponsive to my desperate attempts. My breaths were ragged, sharp intakes of air that did little to calm my pounding heart. Panic surged through me, a primal fear that I couldn't quell. The room was suffused with an oppressive sense of dread. The moonlight, a ghostly silver, filtered through the window, casting elongated shadows that danced eerily on the walls. And there, in the farthest corner of my room, stood a horrifying, indistinct shadow. It was a mass of darkness, a shapeless entity that seemed to pulse with a malevolent life of its own.

My eyes, wide with terror, were fixed on this monstrous silhouette. It was as if every childhood fear, every nightmare I'd ever had, was manifesting right before my eyes. The air felt thick, charged with an electric tension that made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end.

But then, amidst the overwhelming fear, I noticed Shadow. She sat calmly at the foot of my bed, her green eyes locked on the entity. There was no sign of panic in her; the cat’s ears were forward and her fur smooth and unruffled.

“Shadow?” My voice was a mere whisper, strained and barely audible.

She turned to look at me briefly, her eyes seeming to convey a message of reassurance before she focused back on the shadowy figure.

Shadow then began to meow softly, a series of quiet, deliberate sounds that felt like a strange, eerie form of communication. It was as if she was speaking to the monster, negotiating with it in a language beyond human comprehension.

I lay there, frozen, watching this surreal exchange. The room seemed to hold its breath, the only sounds being Shadow's soft meows and my own shallow breathing. Time appeared to stand still, the moment stretching into an eternity.

Then, as abruptly as it had appeared, the shadow began to recede. It seemed to dissolve, melting away into the darkness until nothing remained but the normal shadows of the night.

The tension in the room dissipated, leaving behind a heavy silence. I was still unable to move, my mind struggling to process what had just happened. Fear, confusion, and a profound sense of disbelief swirled within me.

In the aftermath of the encounter, my eyes stayed locked on where the entity had been, half-expecting it to reappear. But it was gone, as if it had never been there at all.

Exhausted and overwhelmed, my consciousness began to fade. I slipped into a fitful, uneasy sleep, the events of the night haunting the edges of my dreams. The last thing I remembered was the feeling of Shadow's warm body curled up at my feet, a silent guardian in the stillness of the night.

The first rays of sunlight, warm and golden, filtered through the blinds, casting a soft, dappled pattern across the room. I blinked away the remnants of sleep, the peaceful light at odds with the turmoil that churned inside me. For a brief, blissful moment, I allowed myself to believe that the horrors of the night had been nothing but a figment of my imagination, a nightmare spawned from the deepest recesses of my mind.

But then, as my eyes adjusted to the morning light, I saw Shadow. She was curled up beside me, her breathing steady and calm, the picture of serenity. Her presence, so real and tangible, dispelled any lingering hopes that the night's events were just a dream.

I lay there for a moment, watching Shadow sleep, the memories of the previous night cascading back into my consciousness. The shadowy figure, the sense of paralyzing fear, and Shadow's inexplicable communication with the entity. It was all too real, too vivid to deny. A chilling realization settled over me – Shadow had somehow communicated with the monster, had somehow convinced it to leave. It was a thought that was as terrifying as it was mystifying.

“Hey, Shadow,” I whispered, gently stroking her fur. She stirred, blinking her green eyes open and fixing them on me with a knowing look.

“What happened last night?” I asked, half-expecting her to answer. Of course, she didn't. She simply meowed softly, nuzzling against my hand, as if to reassure me.

With a heavy heart, I got out of bed and prepared for work. My mind was a whirlwind of questions and fears, but the mundane routine of getting ready provided a temporary distraction.

As I stepped outside, the normalcy of my apartment was replaced by a scene of chaos and confusion. Police cars, their lights flashing ominously, lined the street.

Officers in uniform moved about, their expressions grave, as they canvassed the area. Neighbors gathered in small, huddled groups, their faces etched with shock and fear. Approaching one of the officers, I asked, “What's going on?”

“There's been an incident,” he replied curtly. “Multiple homicides in a different part of the complex.”

The words hit me like a physical blow. Homicides? Here, in our complex? I felt a knot form in my stomach. “Do we know who...?” My voice trailed off, unable to finish the question.

The officer glanced at a notepad in his hand. “Still identifying the victims. But I can tell you one of them was the guy with the dogs from building C.”

The annoying neighbor with the dogs. A surge of mixed emotions washed over me – shock, sadness, and an unsettling sense of connection to the night's events.

As I walked to the bus stop, my mind raced with thoughts. Had the shadowy entity been involved in the homicides? Was there a connection between what I experienced and the tragedy that had befallen my neighbors? And most importantly, what role had Shadow played in all of this?

The questions swirled in my head, unanswered and ominous, as I headed off to face the day, the image of Shadow's calm, green eyes imprinted in my mind.

The reality of what had transpired hit me like a ton of bricks. If not for Shadow, I might have been one of the victims. I looked at the cat with a newfound respect and gratitude. From that day on, I swore to keep Shadow by my side and to extend kindness to any cat I encountered. There was a chance, however slim, that these creatures had a connection to something beyond our understanding, and they could very well be the guardians of our lives.

As I left for work, with Shadow watching me from the window, I couldn't help but wonder about the mysteries of the world that we are oblivious to, and the unlikely guardians that walk among us.

— © Jonathan J. Snyder, All rights Reserved Like what you read and want to buy me a cup of coffee?

Originally published on r/nosleep

Tags: #horror #shortstory #nosleep

I’m glad that I found this place. What happened to me has been sitting with me for quite a few weeks now and I don’t know if any of you will believe me but here we go.

So, three weeks had passed since my mother passed away. As much as I wanted to ignore everything and just wallow in my grief, I knew I had to go clean out her house. My wife had been gently coaxing me in that direction a week after the funeral. I found myself in the basement of her old house much sooner than I wanted, sifting through memories and mementos my mother never got around to getting rid of. The air was thick with dust and nostalgia. As I moved a stack of old, yellowed newspapers, my eyes caught on something peculiar—a door, tucked away in a corner. Oddly, I didn't remember ever seeing it before.

Now, this was not my childhood home but a place she had moved into after my dad had died. I had been down in this basement quite a few times and never remembered a door here.

Hesitantly, I approached the door. It was plain, unassuming, yet felt strange to look at. I don’t know how to put it in words but the longer I looked at the door the more my eyes wanted to look away, like this plain wooden door hurt to be looked at. Curiosity got the better of me and I reached forward and grabbed the cool handle. An unexplainable dread flooded over me causing me to release it as if it had burnt me.

‘What the hell was that?’ I had thought to myself staring at the worn knob.

Stepping away from the door for a few moments, I haphazardly went through the basement finally locating my father’s old military flashlight, you know the ones that are drab green and at an angle? I had recently switched the batteries out, so I knew it was good to go and returned to the door. Taking a breath, I put my hand on the knob, turned and pulled it gently open.

Though it did not creak loudly, there was a puff of stale air that escaped carrying along the scent of plant decay and dirt. As my beam shined down, I was surprised to see solid stone steps that descended, hit a landing, and then turned around the corner to what I expected to be another flight. How the hell was there a flight of stairs like this in my mother’s house?

Taking a deep breath, I stepped onto the staircase. Each step echoed in the hollow space though it almost felt like that sound could not get past the open door above. I continued to the landing, peered around and found another set of identical stairs that continued.

After descending those two flights, a feeling of unease began to gnaw at me. Though the walls had been plain at the start, they were now adorned with faded frescoes and intricate carvings that felt familiar yet foreign. The air had grown heavier as if it had not moved in years. I couldn't shake the feeling that I was intruding on some sort of forgotten realm, a place not meant for the likes of me.

I paused, catching my breath, at the sight of the first stone door. Its surface was covered in strange glyphs which I recognized as a Greek symbols. The door was ajar and based on the collection of undisturbed dust, it had been so for quite a while. Beyond it, the next set of stairs looked older, less cared for. Layers of dirt coated each step, undisturbed until now.

My heart pounded in my chest. This didn't make sense. How could this exist beneath my mother's house? A house I thought I knew every inch of. I should have turned back at that point, but I knew I had to keep going.

As I made the first flight and landing of this new doorway, the entire design of the stairwell had changed. The floor had become a white and black marble with Grecian style pillars carved out of the walls on both sides. What I was not ready for was what lay beyond the corridor.

‘This is impossible.’

That’s what I kept telling myself.

‘This is absolutely impossible!’

I stepped into the subterranean marvel, immediately noticing the cooler air and the hushed serenity that enveloped me. Before me lay an architectural wonder, an underground bridge reminiscent of ancient Greek elegance. Both the bridge and its landings were crafted from the finest marble, its surface smooth and lustrous under the soft, ambient lighting.

The marble was a tapestry of colors, primarily pristine white, veined with subtle streaks of gray and hints of blue, resembling the tranquil skies of the Mediterranean. The craftsmanship was exquisite, with each slab meticulously joined, creating an almost seamless flow of stone.

The bridge arched gracefully over a still, reflective waterway. The surface of the water mirrored the majestic structure above, adding a unnatural quality with its gentle ripples sending soft echoes through this subterranean world.

Flanking the bridge were rows of columns, robust and simple. These columns supported an intricately carved frieze above, depicting scenes of ancient Greek mythology. I could recognize some of the stories, but a lot were unfamiliar.

The landing areas at both ends of the bridge were spacious and clean. They were adorned with empty pots that appeared to have once held trees or plants but had long since died. There was a subtle fragrance on the air that I could not quite figure out where it was coming from.

Overhead, the ceiling was high and vaulted. It was adorned with artful mosaics, each tile meticulously placed depicting the night sky though I could not locate any familiar constellation and that was hard to believe since I grew up studying the stars with my dad.

I stood there, staring in disbelief of what my eyes were showing me. I even reached out and touched the side of the bridge a few times just to prove to myself that it was there. In hindsight, I should have turned and left immediately. This was impossible and real at the same time which did not spell a good outcome for me but that did not happen.

As I think back on it, it felt as if I was in a dream and like anyone in a dream, logical decisions are not easy to come by. Before I even had a chance to think on it, I began to walk across, my footsteps echoing softly.

It was about halfway across the bridge that I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. I immediately spun to look to my right broken out of my dream like revelry but found nothing. In that very moment, I could have sworn I saw something moving up around the tops of the outcropping of the vaulted ceiling.

I shinned my flashlight up there and found nothing out of the ordinary…well, out of the ordinary for a place that should not exist in the first place. With bit more of a hurried step, I made it to the other side of the bridge instead of retreating the way I came. Like an idiot, I needed to know where this was going.

On the opposite side of the bridge, there was another identical corridor that led to yet another flight of steps. Impatiently, I hurried down them and came to a halt in front of another door. This one was pure granite stone, almost two feet thick. I knew this because it looked like someone had spent a lot of energy pushing on it and got it to move enough to allow a human to squeeze through. This door had symbols on it to and like the earlier one, I recognized them as ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. I had no idea what they said but my love of ancient history made me confident in my find.

At this moment, I knew I had come too far. Have you ever had that moment when you realized you were in way too deep and that you needed to get out. I felt that to my very core. The air had shifted around me and I knew it deep down but as a fool I decided that I needed to keep going, just a bit further.

Shimming through the opening, I was plunged into blackness except for the light coming from the cracked stone door.

The darkness beyond was almost palpable. I aimed my flashlight directly ahead of me and saw that there were more stairs. These stairs here were ancient, unevenly worn, as if carved thousands of years ago. The air was suffocating, thick with dust and the weight of time. I could barely breathe.

As I descended, a faint, indistinct sound reached my ears. It was barely audible over the sound of my own footsteps, but it was there—a whisper, a murmur, something alive in this tomb of history. My heart raced, and a cold sweat broke out on my brow. I wasn't alone and I was the idiot that got killed in horror movies.

I pressed on, driven by a mix of fear and fascination. The stairs became treacherous, uneven and dangerously steep. With every step, I feared I would slip and tumble into the inky blackness that light struggled to cut through.

Finally, I reached yet another door. This one was closed, sealed shut as if it hadn't been opened in millennia. It was weathered and appeared to have been hewn from the stone by hand. There were only a few scratched symbols in the door that I recognized. Babylonian. It was almost as if I had gone through time and arrived at a door to one of the planet’s oldest civilizations. The handle was a simply rope that had been looped through and looked as ancient as the door but somehow yet intact. I put my hand on the door knowing that this next decision would be the dumbest I could make but I had to see what was on the other side.

Fortunately, I never got an opportunity. I heard it first behind me, a hiss that was quite loud. I spun around in terror to see what had followed me in to the earth. At first, might light could not find it but that was because my brain could not process what I was seeing.

It was a giant snake, that was almost as tall as me as it sat back on its coils. Its scales shimmered like emeralds in the dim light, and its many heads, crowned with horns, swayed gently as if in a trance. The head of this creature was wide and the eyes golden and unnatural. Have you ever looked at an animal and realized that it was thinking and smarter than you? That was the feeling I got as it focused on me. The forked tongue came out as it tasted the air.

‘Shit!’ I had thought to myself as I wondered if I could move to the wall in hopes it had somehow not noticed me. That was stupid to think since it was looking straight at me.

From deep within its throat, it began to emit strange sounds, combinations I had never heard of but was pretty sure it was speaking. When it spoke again, the tone made it clear it was upset I had not responded.

After the third attempt, I could tell it was done. The movement was quick but I either was damn lucky or it was off balance (or a mixture of both). The strange snake monster lunged at me and I instinctively dived to the side. The massive body went over head and landed with a thud against the ancient, unopened door.

I did not wait to find out what its next plan was. I sprinted with all my might, fueled with adrenalin and dashed back the way I came. The sound of scales against dirt told me that it was right behind me. As I ran up the uneven stairs praying I did not slip, I felt it’s breath on my neck a few times. I threw myself through the cracked door scraping my head against the stone causing blood to pour into my eye. I heard the thump of the creature hitting the door and causing the crack to become smaller.

Part of me knew it could not get through that crack anymore but the rest of me did not care. I ran and ran up flights of stairs until at last, I burst back into the extremely small basement and kicked the door closed with my feet. The door slammed shut and I screamed for my wife.

That is pretty much where my story ends. My wife came running down the steps and saw the horrible state I was in. I’m pretty sure I babbled quite a bit because she could not make out anything I said. A few hours later when I was calmed down, I mentioned the door and she looked at me confused.

What was strange is that I took her down to the basement and pointed to it and her face would go blank. It was like she could see it but just not comprehend it. That look people get who are half awake and talking to you in your sleep? In the end, I gave up trying to explain it and we left.

Why am I telling you this? That’s because I want someone to know. I went back and the door is still there and it still opens. I plan to go in again and see if I can discover more about it. Why am I the only one that can comprehend it. Why does it exist?

I know that snake thing is still in there but I’m pretty confident it is trapped which allows me a chance to explore the rest. Is it stupid? Probably but I need to know. I need to know why there is a door in my mom’s basement that leads to a place that should not exist.

I’m just waiting for my gun permit to clear and finishing my research on Greek, Egyptian, and Babylonian myths to help me understand. Once I’ve gotten that, I’m going back in.

I’m going to find the answers and nothing is stopping me.

— © Jonathan J. Snyder, All rights Reserved Like what you read and want to buy me a cup of coffee?

Originally published on r/nosleep

Tags: #horror #shortstory #nosleep

I don’t know how to start this. So, I’ll just write it.

It was the normal route that I took every day from work. I think It might have known that. Being one of the few waitresses with experience at that stupid coffee store, my manager always made me close when he could get away with it. I think it may have known that too.

It was well past eleven when I finally got everything done and the doors locked. The night itself hung heavy, the air thick like an oncoming storm. It was the kind which clung to your skin and sent shivers down your spine. I walked briskly through the deserted streets, cursing that I had to do this again, the echo of my footsteps bouncing off the empty buildings that loomed like silent sentinels on either side. My breath formed visible puffs in the frigid air, and a sense of unease settled over me like a heavy cloak. Winter was an accursed time for me. That’s how it always felt. My coat was never thick enough, and my ears were always cold even with the knitted cap pulled low. That night had been much worse.

I was almost home, my pace quickening as I approached the familiar glow of the streetlamps. The pools of light they cast on the pavement felt like beacons of safety. I had always loved the streetlamps with their orange glow. Little did I know that, tonight, the light would betray me.

As I turned the corner onto my block, I noticed that for the first time, all the lights had been on. There was one halfway down that cast a very soft, green light that felt comforting to see. I had heard about other countries experimenting with lights of different colors to ease pedestrians, and a part of me was glad that they were trying it out. Honestly, one bulb was not going to be enough, but in this case, I was glad to see it.

The green light flickered, casting an eerie glow on the deserted street. Surprisingly, the warmth it emanated felt like a welcome embrace, and an overwhelming desire to stop and rest. My tired legs grew heavy, and the green glow seemed to warm me up inside.

Without realizing it, my steps slowed, and I found myself standing beneath the peculiar light. The soft hum it emitted seemed to echo in the stillness of the night, lulling me into a sleepy feeling that usually never hit me without a fifth of vodka and half package of Oreos. A strange calm settled over me, and for a moment, the tension that had gripped me since leaving work seemed to dissipate.

Then, as quickly as the comfort had set in, a cold realization crept over me. Something was wrong. The comforting green light started to shift, its glow taking on an ominous hue. The air around me thickened, and I felt a sudden, overwhelming sense of being watched. I felt trapped. My mind wanted to react, but the rest of my body just stayed there basking in the light.

As I poured every ounce of will into moving again towards my home, the green light seemed to elongate and twist, forming grotesque shadows that danced along the pavement. Panic clawed at the edges of my consciousness, and I forced a step forward. The once-friendly glow now felt like a malevolent force, guiding me into a trap.

The shadows coalesced into…something—a grotesque figure with elongated fingers that reached out like the tendrils. The streetlamp seemed to come alive as if it was actually some sort of creature waiting for prey. It couldn’t be true. I was confident until I smelled the tang of rust and felt its fingers start tangling in my hair.

With a scream of desperation inside, the spell that I was held under broke. I ducked just in time to avoid the monstrous appendages grabbing hold of me. I broke into a cold sweat which coated my skin. I ran back as the green light seemed to twist to look at me, the hood of the lamp the creature’s face emitting that once peaceful glow.

I broke into a sprint, the echoes of my footsteps now accompanied by the nightmarish clatter of the pursuing creature. The thing had unfurled its long, sinewy legs from its body where it had been pretending to be a pole, leaning forward with claws snapping, desperately attempting to get a hold of me.

I ran. The silhouette loomed closer, its shadow from the green light the only clue was still behind me. Somehow, the street was empty and only the sound of my ragged breathing and the soft clang of metal as it galloped after me!

The chase continued through the labyrinth of empty streets since I lost track of home. I could feel its malevolence closing in, a predatory force hungry for its prey. My heart pounded in my chest, and fear clung to me like a suffocating shroud as I raced against the night and the monstrous creature that hunted me through the dimly lit streets. Every single time I thought I was ahead, the green would come around the corner, scan, and begin to barrel after me.

Gasping for breath, I sprinted into a large, open parking lot, hoping the labyrinth of cars would offer some cover. The stark, flickering fluorescent lights overhead created eerie shadows that played tricks on my senses, were there more?

I crouched between two cars, my chest heaving, and my eyes darting nervously around the desolate parking lot. The distant hum of the city seemed muffled, drowned out by the pounding of my heart in my ears. The green light filled the parking lot as It slowed down and began to search methodically. It moved ominously between the rows of cars, its glow flickering with malevolence.

I pressed myself against the cold metal of the car, desperate to keep a low profile. The monster's elongated limbs reached out, probing the air like a predatory insect, searching for any trace of my presence. Panic gripped me as I realized the enormity of my predicament – this creature was relentless, and the darkness seemed to amplify its insatiable desire to capture me.

The green light moved back and forth, casting grotesque shadows that danced across the asphalt. I held my breath, praying that the creature wouldn't sense me amidst the sea of parked cars. Each step it took echoed, reverberating through the empty expanse of the parking lot. Where the hell was everyone?

A guttural growl emanated from the monster, sending shivers down my spine. It was a sound that seemed to transcend the boundaries of the known, a primal call t that shouldn’t exist. I strained to control my breathing, terrified that even the slightest noise might betray my location.

The green light hovered dangerously close, its sickly glow revealing the twisted contours of the streetlamp monster. As it came within inches of my hiding spot, I held my breath and hoped it could not hear my heart.

Summoning every ounce of courage, I waited for the opportune moment. As the creature turned away, I seized the chance to slip away, darting between cars like a phantom in the night. My footsteps were silent, but the asphalt seemed to groan beneath the weight of my fear. I knew I could not have been fully silent as the green light seemed to flicker as its head shot back and forth looking and trying to figure out where the soft noise was coming from. I knew if I could get out and around the corner where the walls would block its view, I would have a chance.

I found a break in the rows of cars and sprinted towards the edge of the parking lot. The green light followed, casting long, haunting shadows as it continued its pursuit. The open expanse stretched before me, and to my relief the street had come alive with people who had been exiting the bars. I made a desperate dive towards a group of people meandering past the lot.

Breathless and trembling, I stumbled into the midst of unsuspecting pedestrians. I knew they looked at me confused but all I cared about was that light. I looked and only caught a sign of it on the opposite side of the block retreating into the dark, the green slowly vanishing against the black night. I merged with the group and stayed, and they didn’t protest. I think the fear in my eyes told them something was up, but they weren’t interested in finding out what. I had kept casting furtive glances over my shoulder to ensure the creature had abandoned its chase and saw no sign of it. The last thing I heard about it was a strange warbling wail of frustration that could have easily been mistaken for the Amtrak passing by.

Arriving home, I fumbled for my keys with trembling hands. The safety of my apartment brought only partial relief, for the echoes of the nightmarish chase still reverberated in my mind. I locked the door behind me, leaning against it as if to barricade myself from the horrors that lurked outside.

I quit that morning and moved. I didn’t alert the landlord or even give a reason to either. I told my mother I was coming home because “things happened” and fled. I don’t know if anyone will believe me but if you see a green light, please, please be careful.

— © Jonathan J. Snyder, All rights Reserved Like what you read and want to buy me a cup of coffee?

Tags: #essay #nonfiction

It has been awhile since I have written a blog but today, I got pretty pissed (if the title didn't give that away) and I wanted to write it out instead of just fuming throughout the house.

As some readers my recognize, my title may allude to something familiar, something you might have experienced yourself. The vermin and filth of the Collectible Card Game world.

What Happened

It was shopping day and as much as I did not want to leave the house (I'm American and still recovering from Thanksgiving), I had to go get groceries or my children would start screeching again for their granola bars and oatmeal.

While meandering about like a lost puppy due to ADHD, I stumbled across stocked Pokemon Cards at Walmart which was not common due to players and the aforementioned scalpers hitting the racks within hours of delivery.

It had been about three months since I had bought any cards as I love the game but don't really get much time to play it. I like to keep a low-tier competitive deck ready to go for that one day I might be able to go to a local tournament or something.

I grabbed six sets since they were only $3.78 (normally at this Walmart they price them $4.99 like Magic Cards) and happily headed home. Once I got the groceries put away, the monsters fed their granola bars, I curled up in my office to take 30-ish minutes to open each one and savor the fun of seeing what's in there and maybe, just maybe find a V, VSTAR, Rainbow Secret or even a Gold Rare. I never hold out hope because I know the odds on it.

At the moment, the pull rate for a Gold Rare is 1 in every 82 booster packs of Paradox Rift

When I opened the first container to pull the booster pack out, I noticed that the top had already been ripped. My first thought was: “Dammit, I wasn't careful tearing the card board” but then I opened the second and found the same thing.

That sinking feeling hit as I took the last four, flipped them over and found that someone had popped the back to pull the booster pack out without damaging the cardboard, sliced open the top, slid the cards out and checked them. The realization hit me like a ton of breaks and made me quite upset.

Someone had gone through the six packs I had already! That meant 1) if they found any of those good cards, there would only be 8 or 9 cards in the back and if all 10 were there, they were never any to begin with. That meant that at that very moment, I knew that there was going to be nothing in my packs either way.

I still went through and opened each one of them and counted the cards to see and in this case, each one had their 10 cards plus their basic energy and QR code (I haven't even checked to see if those are working yet).

I got cards but it wasn't enjoyable to open. The feeling of excitement and mystery that I was hoping for with this rare purchase was gone because someone decided to try and steal the good cards without paying.

They choice profit over the excitement of discovering a wonderful, beautiful card you didn't truly expect.

Whoever it was, that damn scalper stole that feeling from me.

Profit And the Collectible Card Community

If I was a child, I would have cried. The sheer disappointment in my soul had made the inner child weep. I'm not ashamed to admit it. In this life there are many joys one can have and cards are one of the few that I have.

Since the Great Plague of 2020 and the mad rush off venture capitalists and those who wanted to make a quick buck started buying up every booster in existence, the true wonder and value of a card has been lost.

People just open packs to see if one of the special cards were in there and when they weren't, discarded it. They don't take the time to admire each one including the common cards that get overlooked.

It is so much worse to me to take this to another level and secretly try and steal the cards, find nothing, and leave them on the shelf so that a true lover of cards goes through what I did.

I'm tired of people joining a hobby or participating in a cultural phenomenon just to make money.

Don't get me wrong! I have no problem with true collectors who buy cards and sell them online because the difference is that they're not in this just for the money. They aren't looking for a Hyper Rare to make a hundred dollars but are looking to share that card with others, to find that card a good home.

I do it. I've sold a few of my high priced cards at a lower price because I knew the purchaser was going to give that card a good place like their own collection or in a deck where they truly belong.

This might come off as childish and may be it. It is beside the point. It just made me realize that late stage capitalism has infected so many things that you can't escape it anymore. Even a hobby that I love has been poisoned and I don't see any way to stop it. I don't want to have to now examine every single booster I buy for tampering or to see if someone has tried to steal from it. There's signs that it's finally coming to an end but we'll see.

I just want my hobby back.

— © Jonathan J. Snyder, All rights Reserved Like what you read and want to buy me a cup of coffee?

Originally published at Join me at the Campire on June 4, 2023.

Tags: #horror #shortstory #joinmeatthecampfire

Hey all, it’s me Frank Jones again. I wrote that post a while ago about why you shouldn’t be a paranormal investigator and a lot of you liked it. Since settling into my hideaway in the mountains, life has become quiet and I thought about checking in. The plague hit us like nothing and now that everyone is wanting to travel again, I thought to say hi. I want to say thanks to all of you who commented and gave me those weird pointy thingies this social media does. Some of you even figured out my post office box address and sent me letters. I appreciate it (and don’t do it again).

The common strain among your posts was wanting to know if I had ever encountered other things as an auditor. Of course I have but I have been reluctant to tell you because I don’t want to shine some sort of light on all of it or make it sound like some romantic adventure. It’s “pissing yourself” fear all wrapped up in a waking nightmare with a side of gory terror. I am one of the few who actually made it to retirement…if that’s what you could call this life I’m living now.

But, I have nothing else to do really. Carl only visits once in a while when he’s passing through and I cannot risk any other sort of company knowing I’ve pissed off a lot of people…and things. So, I’m back on this internet board and sharing. So many are curious, I thought maybe another story can scare you all straight. This was the first time complacency almost got me and another killed.

This story takes place somewhere in the 90s in a small New England town. It was one of those places nestled along the banks of a serene river, historic brick buildings line the winding streets, their facades adorned with weathered signs that hint at the town's seafaring heritage. A place where everything smelled like either the ocean or decaying fish. I’m not going to specifically name the town to protect the young lady that may still be living there but in the heart of the town, there’s a renowned drawbridge which stands as a testament to the place’s affinity for water. Its ancient mechanisms creak and groan when allowing vessels to pass through the calm waterway. It also had some of the best outdoor markets I had a chance to stop and check out.

I didn’t pass through this part of the country that often as my boss preferred me to do the long hauls across the country but there was a dead haul nobody wanted.I took it cause I wanted a change of scenery. I was already working as an auditor and part of a loose alliance of others who investigated and dealt with any weird things. I actually had a few monsters under my belt. I honestly had the foolhardy idea that I could handle anything out there. God, I was an idiot.

The supernatural never crossed my mind until that evening, stopping to fuel up my red 1992 Peterbilt 379 and paying for the gas with the attendant and restocking up on those beef jerky sticks and coffee.

That was when I noticed her. She was a young woman about in her mid 30s looking like one of the corporate types with the short hair cut and business suit. I would have not paid her any mind if it wasn’t for the touch of apprehension on her face as she talked on one of those new fangled bright yellow Nokia cellphones. Soft strands of chestnut hair framed her face, their gentle sway moving as she glanced around while talking on the phone. As I observed her, I couldn't help but notice the way her fingers trembled slightly, when trying to get money out of her pocket. I’ve seen that type of fear before. So, like a creep, I eavesdropped on her call.

“Yes, it happened again,” she had said as the nickels finally made it to the counter to pay for her snacks. “I could have sworn there was something outside the window near the edge of the forest….no, of course the security cameras didn’t pick up anything. They’re cheap. Ronald was a skinflint when it came to things like this. Hope he’s rotting in hell wherever he is.”

My mind began to drift away, more annoyed I couldn’t get a move on it. It sounded like a problem for the police and if anything, I was gonna tell her that. It was what she said next that made me stop and brought back the reality of the world.

“Yeah. like nine or ten feet tall. I’m thinking kids are playing around with scarecrows or something. Won’t come from the edge of the forest and when I check, I can see foot impressions and stuff. I already put in a call to the cops. They found nothing.“

“Did it sway a bit and its eyes seem to glint like a cats or owl?” I asked without thinking.

The look I got from both her and the gas attendant made me realize what I had done. Well, too late now.

“I’ll call you back,” she said quickly, eyeing me as she hung up the phone and slipped it back into her purse.

“You need me to walk you to your car, ma’am?” the attendant asked, staring at me.

Of course, I forgot that The Truck Stop Killer had only been arrested a few years before.

“I’m fine, thank you,” she said, quickly gathering her stuff and making for the door. I slapped the one hundred and seventy bucks on the counter to pay for my diesel guzzler ignoring the change and followed her out but making sure to not move in a way that caused the teenager in the station to call the cops.

“Ma’am,” I called out to her and she turned to me while hurrying up her pace.

“I’ve got pepper spray. Stay away from me.”

“The thing in the woods. You could have sworn you smelled fresh dirt like mulch and it seemed to sway back and forth like it could not keep its balance.” I threw it out there in desperation.

She froze and turned to look at me. Eying me up and down as I kept my distance and angled to head towards my truck.

“How do you know?”

“I…uh…dealt with something like that before. On a job in Canada.”

“Who are you?” she asked, looking at my faded shirt and company logo. “A trucker?”

“I moonlight as a problem solver. Like an auditor of sorts.”

“Who is it?” she demanded, eyes still affixed to me and hand in her purse.

“Better question is ‘what is it?’,” I answered.

I have learned to pick up on the contempt and disbelief from people who hadn’t seen what I have. I was already being dismissed as a whack job.

“You have tracks on your porch you have written off as animals, especially if you own a dog. If you did own a dog, it’s missing. Cops told you it ran away. You got a garden?”

“Yes,” the certainty had started to leave her voice. “A walled garden.”

“And anytime you’re in there, you feel like you’re being watched.”

At that, her hand came out of her purse empty and she approached me with the fear I had seen in her eyes now on her face.

“How did you know?”

“I’d rather not explain out here,” I said sheepishly running my hand through my sandy brown hair that only started getting flecks of gray. “But you got a…pest problem.”

“And you can do something about it? I’ve had exterminators, cops, nature lovers…even a priest.”

“None of those won’t do you any good and I don’t want to scare ya but it’s more active which is not a good sign.”

For a few moments, I could see the indecision in her eyes. The desperate want to dismiss me as a lunatic but whatever she had heard or seen won over.

“Fine. You can follow me to the house.”

“Mind if I hitch a ride?”

The woman started but then looked at my truck. “Promise. I mean you no harm. I really think you’re in danger.”

That was when I found her name was Isabelle Walker.

We left my truck in long-term parking after she told the attendant that I was a long lost relative and that’s why the change of demeanor. I don’t know if he believed her but at that point, I don’t think he cared. I left my truck with its metallic frame standing tall and proud amidst the rows of other vehicles.

I did not realize how desperate this woman was until we got going on the road. I had loaded myself in the passenger seat after pulling out my military backpack from the war which I also used for my auditing services and tried to look as harmless as a man of my stature could.

For the first fifteen minutes of the drive, her focus was on the lonely road, those beautiful eyes darting to me anytime I shifted my weight. I didn’t want to scare her so it was her that spoke first.

“What is it?”

“I really don’t know but the people in my profession call it a Bone Walker.”

The nose crinkled in disbelief.

“Halloween is not for a few more months, Mister…”

“Jones. Frank Jones.”

The James Bond reference caused her to snort in amusement.

“I don’t know what to tell ya, ma’am, except I’ve dealt with some pretty scary things out there. Normally I’m never this forward as most people try to call the cops on me or dismiss me as a lunatic. I mean, I could be a lunatic but I know what I’ve seen.”

“And that is…?”

“You know. Ghosts, vampires, werewolves. They’re real. They’re not common but real nevertheless.”


There was still the disbelief in Isabelle’s voice but I grew to ignore things like this.

“Sure. I mean, think of all the things you experienced and be open to alternate answers.”

Isabelle was quiet for a few minutes and then sighed. “Either you are telling the truth or you're the biggest liar and I’m a fool that’s not going to live through this night.”

“I promise,” I tried to reassure her. “I’m not going to hurt you.”

After a few more minutes and off the main highway, we approached her home. The large house stood resolute amidst the dense, ancient forest, its weathered exterior a testament to the passing of time. It was a grand structure, its imposing presence commanding attention. The sprawling estate exuded an air of mystery and faded grandeur, as if it held stories whispered through generations.

As we pulled in, the main house loomed before me, its facade adorned with intricate woodwork and worn stone. Ivy crept along the walls, weaving an emerald tapestry that hinted at the passage of years. The windows, framed by elegant yet slightly cracked panes, stared out into the world with a mixture of curiosity and melancholy.

To the side, a large shed stood detached from the main house, its weathered boards echoing tales of forgotten tools and lost endeavors. The wooden structure sagged under the weight of time, its roof covered in a patchwork quilt of moss. Inside, shadows danced amidst remnants of a bygone era, rusty equipment and dusty shelves attesting to the once-bustling activity that had long since ceased.

Not far from the shed, a family cemetery nestled amongst the ancient trees. Tombstones, adorned with intricate carvings and weathered inscriptions, dotted the landscape. The hallowed ground exuded a solemn tranquility, as if time stood still in reverence for those who rested eternally in its embrace. Wisps of fog clung to the grassy knolls, lending an ethereal quality to the sacred space.

At the far end of the property, an old walled garden stood as a testament to the house's former splendor. Once vibrant and lush, the garden now appeared overgrown and untamed. Stone paths meandered through a sea of tangled foliage, leading to hidden nooks and forgotten corners. Dilapidated stone benches, adorned with intricate carvings, sat scattered throughout the garden, silent witnesses to a time when laughter and conversation filled the air.

As I stood amidst the silence of the forest, the house, shed, cemetery, and walled garden formed a tapestry of history and mystery. They were a testament to the ebb and flow of life, the remnants of a bygone era that clung to the present. Within their weathered walls, secrets whispered and memories danced, waiting to be discovered by those who dared to venture into their enigmatic embrace.

“Great place to be haunted, huh?” she said with sarcasm. “My ex left it to me in the divorce. Was only going to be here long enough to sell it but no one wants it and my job wants me to move to this state anyway.”

“Where are you originally from?”


“So, this is definitely a change of scenery for you,”

Isabelle only hummed back at me as she fumbled for her keys in the dying light of evening. I pulled my backpack closer to me as my eyes scanned the treeline where the shadows had begun to deepen. Nothing stood out against the silhouettes of ancient trees which was a good sign. I wasn’t too late.

Stepping through the weathered front door, I entered the interior of the old house, greeted by a mix of nostalgia and faded elegance. The air carried a hint of mustiness, a reminder of the countless years the house had to have witnessed. As my eyes adjusted to the dim light filtering through the stained-glass windows, I could make out the clash between old decor and the modern furniture Isabelle had bought.

The foyer, adorned with a worn, threadbare rug. The walls, once adorned with portraits and intricate wallpaper, now bore the markings of time's passage. The wooden banister of the grand staircase, polished with use, creaked softly under my touch as we made our way towards the living room.

Moving further into the house, I found myself in a spacious living room. Large, ornate windows which would have allowed slivers of daylight to filter through the heavy velvet curtains. The walls were adorned with faded wallpaper. An aged fireplace, its stone mantle adorned with trinkets and old photographs, served as the heart of the room.

“You want some coffee?” Isabelle asked, throwing her keys on to the coffee table. I sat down on her couch and dropped my backpack on it with a clunk.



“A lot.”

The kitchen light clicked on and I heard her moving about setting up the coffee pot. The adrenalin was now pumping through me as my mind raced. I’m not going to go into a lot of detail on what a Bone Walker is but it’s a creature that usually haunts the western coast. It being so far out east was strange. I pulled out my old gun bag and unrolled it. My Stevens Model 520-30 “Trench” shotgun was the first thing I reached for as I popped open the internal pouch holding he high flash shells I was glad I packed. It was the startled sound from Isabelle that made me quickly look up.

She stood there with my coffee, eyes locked on the shotgun in my hand. I slowly held up one of the cartridges I was planning to load.

“Flash powder shotgun shells. No load. Just makes a loud noise and a bright white light. What we’re facing lives in the shadows and hates light…normally,” I had heard stories that they could strike in the day but it was extremely rare. She didn’t need to know that.

“Oh,” was her quiet response. “Do…do I need a gun?”

“You know how to use one?”


“Then it’ll do more harm than good. You got any flashlights?”

Isabelle nodded mutely, the gravity of the situation sinking in at the array of weapons and items in my pack laid out in front of her.

“Go get them.”

While she was gone, I quickly unloaded the silver bullets out of my Makarov pistol (a gift from a Viet Cong officer and a story for another time) and placed normal 9mm rounds in the clip. I had it holstered under my jacket with the two back up clips when she returned with three cheap flashlights.

“One in your hand and one in your pocket.”


“In case you drop the one you are holding.”

The woman obeyed silently.

As night fell quickly around us, I slung my shotgun over my shoulder and with Isabelle close, we made our way upstairs. There were tell tale signs I needed to check as the only advantage I had over this thing was the fact it stuck to a pattern. If it was at the stage I thought it was, there would be signs.

“Which room is yours?” I asked.

Isabelle pointed to a door down the hallway across from a large window. Approaching it, I quickly shined my flashlight at the mahogany door frame. It was the glint that caught my eye. Deep gouges in the wood.

“What’s that?” she asked.

“Claw marks,” I responded. There was no use sugar coating anything now.

“This thing was in my house?” Isabelle said horrified.

“For the last few weeks now,” I said, my nose picking up the faint odor of dirt and mud.

“Why didn’t it attack me then?”

“It wasn’t time.”


Talking was going to be the only thing to keep her focused. I had felt the world shift a bit as night fell and I needed her not to panic.

“Bone Walkers are ritualistic creatures. They are very choosy over their prey. It can take a month or two before they move in. That’s why they are so hard to catch.”

“Criteria? Like what?”

“We don’t know.”

That was the honest truth. The only reason we knew their existence and patterns was thanks to blind luck and people surviving their encounters. I showed my light around looking for other signs. Discolored stains in the corners where shadows would naturally form, healthy moss and mold that shouldn’t be there. I found a patch around her bed. She did not notice and I did not want to tell her that it probably stood over her through the night watching her sleep. The sooner I buried this thing, the better.


There was a trill of terror in Isabelle’s voice and I immediately looked to where she was. The woman was standing by her bedroom window staring out at something. I quickly moved and spotted what she saw. In the forest, at the edge of the shadow cast by the moonlight was an almost, imperceptible form. It stood nine feet, hunched over like a broken scarecrow, its owl like eyes staring back at us.

“Shit,” I muttered. Thank god we had turned on the lights as we went.

It was the flash of light and the crack of thunder that heralded the arrival of the storm. The lights of this old houses flickered which caused my belly to flop a few times. My brain was on fire as I glanced back from the lightbulb to where the creature was and found it had vanished.

“Where did it go?”

I did not have time to explain as another crack of lightning caused the lights to dim. I grabbed Isabelle roughly by the arm and yanked her back down the hallway towards the living room where I had left my stuff. We barely made it to the living room when the lights dimmed low. I grasped the glow sticks out of the bag, cracked a handful and scattered them about, their bright yellow light beginning to glow. The power then went out bathing us only in the eerie glow of the emergency lighting.

As we waited in breathless anticipation, the storm struck, its wrath manifesting in torrential rain. The mansion seemed to respond, succumbing to a power outage that plunged us into an abyss of blackness only moments before.

A trill of terror coursed through me. I knew this Bone Walker thrived in darkness, using it as a cloak to conceal its malevolence. We auditors were not sure if it actually teleported or it preferred to move in pitch darkness. I just knew that the black was our biggest threat.

For a few moments, we could only hear the ragged breathing of the two of us being drowned out by the pounding rain against shingle and glass. Isabelle had wound her hand into my jacket pocket and was gripping it tightly, I could feel her shaking with terror. I kept my shotgun gripped tightly in my hand listening for the tell tale sound of its arrival.

It was the movement out of the corner of my eye and the fact her grip got tighter on my jacket. I swiftly turned on my high-powered flashlight as I spun around and the brilliant beam pierced the obscure corner of the room. No matter what I had read or seen before did not prepare me for what I saw.

It stood there in the corner, its eight foot height engulfing that section of the house. My eyes strained as it appeared the thing was struggling to stay in focus. Its arms were too long for its body, spindly and almost to the floor while the legs appeared backwards giving it a strange forward leaning look. It wore a hunter’s long coat and trousers but through the rips and tears I could make out something squirming and moving underneath. The air filled with the stench of decaying plants and diseased vegetation. Its face was covered with what looked like the remnants of a cheap bandanna but its owl-like eyes gleaned back with malevolence.

Isabelle whimpered, her fear palpable in the room and the Bone Walker lunged toward us. Even though my fear was ripping through me like an unstoppable train, I had the sense to pull the trigger of my shotgun aimed in its direction. The flash and resounding roar painted the entire room in a brilliant black and white shadow causing every corner and edge to appear thick and vivid. The creature screamed and fell to the side into the shadow not illuminated by the weapon’s fire.

Isabelle had thrown herself on the couch and was huddled there, trembling with terror, while I moved quickly to crack a few more glow sticks and toss them into the dark corners of the room. In one, I saw its foot recoil back into the kitchen where it was darker than night itself. This was quicker than I had anticipated. The plans I had been formulating on the drive were no longer viable. I wanted to lure it to where I controlled the battlefield but that was not an option anymore. This had become a cat and mouse game and I knew this was with a predator I could not even hope to understand and had years to hone.

Out of the kitchen again this thing charged forward, relentless in its pursuit, it was trying to find a way around my light barrier which only appeared to slow it down. With shaking hands, I fired several more rounds, each blast forcing the creature to retreat and the girl to scream in terror. As soon as it retreated to a dark part of the house, I turned to where the woman of the house had been. To my horror, Isabelle's fear had gotten the best of her. In that moment of panic, she darted from the safety of the light, towards the hallway and the door outside.

“Isabelle! Stop!” I yelled trying to command her back with my voice but I doubted she heard me. Between the abject horror and the relentless rain, she was going to take her chance. A chance I knew she did not have.

I only took a step when I sensed it. The musty smell of an organic landfill overwhelmed me as the form silently darted past me, its long arm clobbering me up the side of the head. The world spun as pain burst through my brain. I felt the world tilt and fall heavily to the ground, flashlight and shotgun falling away.

As I slipped in and out of consciousness, I knew I was a sitting duck for this thing. There was no way for me to stop it from ripping me to shreds like some of the corpses I had seen. As I blinked, I came to my senses and realized I was alone. How long I had actually been on the ground, I did not know.

I sat up, my head pounding and I could see the door hanging open, the wind slamming the door on its hinges and the rain soaking the hallway floor. Struggling, I found my flashlight and gun and pulled myself together.

There was a slim chance that Isabelle was still alive. I had to think. Where would it go? I ran all the stories I could think of and then it hit me. The garden. The walled garden.

I charged into the rain-soaked night. I sprinted toward the enclosed garden at the edge of the property. As I grew closer, I saw that the rusted door was open and hope flickered in my soul. As I came to a stop, I brought my flashlight up again with my shotgun and saw it.

This creature stood there in the middle of the overgrown garden, its massive clawed hand wrapped around Isabelle’s chest and holding her up. Out from under its bandanna mask, putrid vines had appeared and led up to Isabelle’s face where they were forcing their way down her throat and up her nose. I could see the wide terror in her eyes as vines were snaking their way around her waist and I did not want to think about what they were planning to do.

I brought up the shotgun again and fired. Knowing that I had distance, the flash of light caught the creature by surprise. It shrieked as it fell back. Trying desperately not to release its prey. I did not hesitate to grab the machete at my side and hack at its arm until Isabelle fell down free of it.

It’s claw swiped at me striking me on the leg and easily tearing through my pants leaving bloody lacerations but I put the weapon point blank and fired another round. I do not know if it was the flash, the combination of the creature, or that the almighty above was looking out for me, but the creature caught ablaze from the spark.

It fell back swinging wildly as the fire spread unnaturally fast catching the plants around it on fire. Within a matter of seconds, the walled garden had become ablaze with the bone walker in the center. As I ripped the vines out of Isabelle’s mouth and dragged her towards the door, I looked up to see those owl-like eyes looking at me with such abject hatred that the look stick with me today.

I honestly don’t know how we survived. I had helped Isabelle to her porch and we both passed out against our will from the sheer terror and exhaustion. We were awoken by the sound of a siren. The lights had come back on sometime in our sleep and the rain had drifted off to a comforting drizzle. The fire was still raging in the garden but contained by the ancient walls. At least two fire trucks, an ambulance and cops were flying up the private road towards us.

This entire hunt had been ill-planned and stupid. I knew it. As the cops approached with their hand on their pistols, I knew that I had allowed my own ego to get in the way. I should have taken Isabelle somewhere else until I had done a proper reconnaissance. I shouldn’t have taken her home where it was waiting. And now, the cops were looking at two thoroughly soaked humans, one a trucker with a wound and a gun and a young lady in distress. I was pretty sure I was going to go to jail.

“Isabelle?” One of the cops and his voice caused her to sit up, relief washing over her.

“Derek!” she wailed. “We were attacked! In the garden!”

Another two cops that had arrived had taken off in that direction while Derek helped the girl up and took her towards the ambulance. The other cop with a comically large mustache looked at me with keen eyes, his hand still on his pistol, sergeant stripes glowing in the light.


“Yeah,” I said, sitting up slowly and keeping my hand away from the shotgun and trying not to show the one under my jacket. “Someone came after Mrs. Walker. They were in the garden.”

The cop watched me closely but there seemed to be a recognition in his eyes.

“You by any chance Frank Jones?”

My heart jumped and I must have looked startled as the cop’s face broke into a smile. To my relief, his hand fell away from his holstered sidearm.

“I’ll take that for a yes. My guess is you don’t remember me. Clay Wilson. Santa Fe PD, about six years ago. You helped my partner with a...problem. Nellie Nelson?”

I knew the name but the face escaped me.

“She told me you helped her audit a police union building.”

“Ah, yes,” I said, remembering dealing with the wraith and the twinge in my right arm from it’s bite.

The cop looked towards the fire that was slowly being put out by the fire fighters.

“Any chance this will be one of your audits?”


He seemed to think for a few minutes and then nodded.

“Then I think you need to grab that shotgun of yours and hitch a ride with me before too many people ask questions. Whatcha think?”

I nodded. I was not going to look a gift horse in the mouth. I collected my stuff quickly from the living room and made my way back out where he was waiting. As I limped with the cop to his car, I looked towards Isabelle who was being held by the other. She gave me a look of thankfulness as the cop looked at his partner with confusion.

“Her brother’s got her,” Clay said, opening the back door for me. I was not gonna argue or fight. If he took me to jail or not.

And that was it. My leg was not as bad off as I thought and wrapped it in the back of the police car. Clay only asked where I wanted to go and he took me back to my truck. With that time, I was back on the road with that small town in the rear view mirror.

I never did find out what happened to Isabelle after that, if another creature came looking for her or if she had a chance to live in peace. I just knew that we both barely made it out alive and that was due to my own stupidity. I was furious with myself for weeks after that and told myself I wouldn’t put another person in jeopardy like that again. At least, despite my idiocy, another life was saved and another monster was put in the ground...I hoped. I never did find out if they found a body.

— © Jonathan J. Snyder, All rights Reserved Like what you read and want to buy me a cup of coffee?

Originally published at NoSleep on June 4, 2023.

Tags: #horror #shortstory #nosleep

I had always found stories of ghosts and people’s re-telling of their own personal supernatural events amusing. Honestly, The Exquisite Trinket Extravaganza was filled with a lot of weirdos and strange people who wanted to tell me their stories. I’d politely listen as I rang up their purchases and then promptly forget.

Oh, yeah. I work at one of those indoor flea-markets. Those places where it’s a giant warehouse and there are rows of cubbies and shelves where vendors can hang their crap and hawk their wares. A lot of our vendors are only on premise for a few hours a day but each has their own unique sticker code and my job was to ring them all up by their vendor numbers so they all got paid at the end of the week. It was a boring job but it paid well.

It was closing time at the old flea-market and it was always a somber affair. The dusty aisles echoed with the fading footsteps of weary customers either leaving or getting the last minute deal run up, and the vendors who were still there were hurriedly packed up their wares, eager to escape the encroaching darkness. Many of the customers and vendors reminded me of cockroaches on how quickly they scurried away and abandoned this place. It was during one such evening that I found myself alone, a lingering customer lost in the maze of forgotten treasures. I normally tried not to be the last one here as my boss liked to lock up but I had to go back three times to check on a price at the far end of the warehouse for a customer who decided they didn’t want it in the end. I had put the cracked vase back in its spot when I realized that the place had gotten eerily quiet.

The air hung heavy with the scent of aged wood and musty fabrics, creating an otherworldly ambiance I had never really noticed before. The flickering fluorescent lights casting eerie shadows on the chipped linoleum floor, making the forgotten trinkets appear like macabre relics of a bygone era. Unease crept through me, but I dismissed it as exhaustion. There was nothing here that I hadn’t seen a million times before.

As I made my way toward the exit to find my boss and tell her I was done, the hollow sound of my footsteps resonated throughout the cavernous space. The silence was deafening, broken only by the distant creaking of doors and the occasional gust of wind rattling the windows. It appeared a wind storm was building up. Something common in the Nevada deserts. A chill ran down my spine again, and I quickened my pace in a mixture of confusion and irritation. Why was I freaking out so bad?

Just as I reached the last row to then make a dash for the office, a glimmer in the corner of my eye caught my attention. I turned to face the source, my gaze falling upon a peculiar artifact—a tarnished pocket watch just hanging with a bunch of other junk I had seen before. Its ornate engravings seemed to come alive in the dim light, whispering tales of forgotten souls. I had passed this point many times but had never seen something like this before. Curiosity overwhelmed me like I had never experienced before and before I stopped to think about it, I reached out for it.

The moment my fingertips brushed the cold metal, a wave of icy air washed over me, sending shivers through me as if I was dumped into the arctic ocean. The world around me seemed to blur, and when my vision cleared, I found myself standing in front of the same aisle but everything had taken on a newer look. The other thing that I realized was that I was not alone. There was a bustle of noise from shoppers around me and I started in surprise as something brushed up against me.

I turned to tell whoever it was that we were closed but I lost the ability to speak. There were shoppers alright, shifting through dusty books, examining shipped plate ware that deserved to be trashed but these...things…were not human. It was like looking at something out of focus. I knew they were dressed but they seemed to shimmer and shift, the only feature that I could make out was the fact that their eyes glimmered like brilliant stars.

Confusion gripped me as I searched for familiar faces among the crowd, but the sea of strangers offered no solace. Panic surged through me as some part of my brain realized that these were not human.

I fell back and tried to skirt my way around these things that had not seemed to have noticed me. I made my way through the crowded aisles to where the office should have been but found it was just a blank wall. My heart racing and my breath shallow. The noise of the market faded into a distant hum, replaced by the sound of my own thundering heartbeat. Every step felt heavy, as if an invisible force were pushing me down, guiding me toward an unknown destination.

As I turned a corner in my desperate quest to escape, a figure materialized in front of me—a ghostly apparition, pale and translucent. I could not tell if it was male or female. Its eyes gleamed with an otherworldly light, fixated on me with an intensity that sent shivers coursing through my veins. Unlike the other “shoppers”, this one was looking right at me. Its presence was suffocating and its energy palpable and suffused with an overwhelming sense of malevolence.

Fear consumed me, paralyzing my body as the apparition drew closer, its gaze never wavering. I tried to retreat, but my legs refused to obey. A cold sweat dripped down my forehead as I desperately sought an escape, my mind clouded with terror. The ghost's unearthly presence seemed to seep into my very being, stripping away my sanity.

“You do not belong here,” it sang in an off-key tune but I never saw its mouth move nor its eyes turn away from me.

“You do not belong here.”

My brain finally kicked in and I jumped to the side, luckily under a standing rack of winter coats and army-crawled my way into another aisle. I rolled out into the neighboring row and popped up startling some of the parishioners from hell. They seemed to only notice me in an oblique way that one would notice an ant on a sidewalk.

“You do not belong here.”

I turned from where I was crouching to see the ghostly guardian float around the corner with determination, her eyes never breaking from me as it swerved between the shoppers.

I began to sprint as fast as my legs could take me down the hall dodging the others also. I felt the feeling of wanting to vomit and the world turning itself upside every time I got too close to one of them. Still, that thing was on my tail saying the same thing with arm outstretched.

“You do not belong here.”

“I know!” I screamed back at it in terror.

I kept weaving through the aisles and the rows dodging this relentless hunter as I desperately tried to find the exit. This warehouse seemed to have no way out nor could I seem to get closer to the walls I could see down the aisles. All the while it was only a few steps behind me. Twice it almost grabbed me and I felt an icy pull that scared me worse. I knew that if it got to me, things would be bad for me. I tripped and fell landing into a pile of coats that smelled like dead animals. I smelled from their places on the highway and could feel the thing behind me.

“You do not belong here,” it sang only a foot away from me. In my mind's eye I could see it reaching for me, to grab me and do horrible things to me for being where I should not be.

It was when a power grip on my wrist wrenched me forward deeper into the clothes that I felt the icy shift of the world around me. My eyes popped open and I found myself staring into a pair of gray ones of the owner of the Exquisite Trinket Extravaganza. Harriet Powell was a heavy set woman but it was not fat. I had seen her lift furniture and move things that would have made my scrawny arms buckle. Anytime I offered to help, she just gave me a mocking laugh and did it without me.

I jerked my head around looking side to side for the monster that was chasing me but found myself alone in the flea-market. The watch was gripped by it’s chain tightly in my hand and Harriet had her hand fastened tightly on my wrist.

“Harry,” she said firmly, causing my panicked expression to come back to her. “Give me the watch.”

“What?” I said speaking. My voice came out as if I hadn’t spoken in years.

“Give me the watch, Harry,” she said again firmly.

With great effort, I forced my fingers open and the chain slipped through my fingers. With the other hand, Harriet caught it and whisked it into her gray vest emblazoned with the logo of the place. She led me dumbly to her office where she wrote something and stuffed it in my pocket and took me to my car.

I sat there for an hour not able to move or speak before I drove home on autopilot. The first inklings of what had happened only came to me when I woke up in my bed still dressed.

The paper that Harriet had stuffed in my pocket was a check for my pay plus two weeks. It appears that I have been fired from the Exquisite Trinket Extravaganza which was not a problem with me. I would have quit when my senses came back to me.

I did want to go back and demand an explanation for everything that happened but when I saw the building, I could not bring myself to pull into the parking lot.

So, that’s my story. I’ve already packed up to leave and I’m posting this before my internet is shut down. I plan to move as far away from this town as I can. Even the thought of seeing that building again keeps me up at night. Maybe at my new place, I can finally sleep again.

I don’t think it’s healthy not being able to sleep for an entire week.

— © Jonathan J. Snyder, All rights Reserved Like what you read and want to buy me a cup of coffee?

Originally published at Library of Shadows on May 21, 2023.

Tags: #horror #shortstory #libraryofshadows

The night was pitch black as the rain poured relentlessly, creating a haunting symphony of thunder and wind. Emily Walker found herself alone in her car, desperately gripping the steering wheel. She had taken a wrong turn moments ago and ended up on Echo Road.It A road that ended at the river bank. A very short road. Sheer panic surged through the girl as the storm parted long enough for her to see the edge and feel the tires of her vehicle leave the road.

Her heart raced, pounding against her chest like a trapped animal. The vehicle nosed into the water. She screamed for help but no one was going to hear it. Desperately looking for an escape, it felt as if the world seemed to shift. The swirling currents of black water against her windshield transformed into ghostly apparitions, dancing around the car, their eyes glowing with malevolence. The specters reached out with ethereal hands, scratching at the windows, desperate in a way that caused the poor girl to scream again.

Everything was terror. Emily frantically searched for an escape. But each movement only fueled the determination of the ghosts, their wails piercing through the water and driving the vehicle deeper into the river’s depths. Their transparent fingers scraped across the windows, leaving faint traces of icy coldness on the glass. Emily peeled her fingers from the steering wheel and started her climb from the front to the back. What greeted her there were faces of the things outside grinning in. “No, no,” she begged as the last glimmer of light and the rain disturbed river surface vanished from view. The water now reached her waist as the pressure intensified.

Desperation. Emily shouted and wailed but made no effort to break the glass. The river ghosts were there, gleefully waiting for her. Their haunting songs of laughter grew louder around her.

In her final moments of despair, Emily turned back to the front of her car, her eyes locked on the windshield where she could make out the silt and dirt of the river bed in the last working headlight of the car. The ghosts circled around the light both fascinated and appalled by its presence in their depth.

Looking up, the back window was clear and the water had only reached her chest. This was her last chance for freedom. She pulled herself forward to put her back to it but the effort died when the resounding crack of the breaking windshield echoed out.

Decayed, bony hands wrapped around her waist and tangled into her hair pulling her down into the brackish water. It’s oily taste flooding into her mouth and lungs. She was only able to pull her head up once more to beg. With hands fastened securely on her legs, arms, hair, and throat, she was effortlessly pulled down.

The last thing the young girl would remember on this side of the veil was the burning of her lungs desperate for air and a bony finger working its way between her lips to pry her mouth open. The last thought of hers was of understanding.

How else would the river claim her?

— © Jonathan J. Snyder, All rights Reserved Like what you read and want to buy me a cup of coffee?

Originally published at The Cryptic Compendium on March 9, 2023.

Tags: #horror #shortstory #crypticcompendium

It was honestly the second week when Jason Hughes noticed the strange man and the house at the end of the street. The house itself had been known for quite some time among the teenagers of the neighborhood and anyone who bothered to look in the historical files at the library could see the dilapidated old house had been there as far as the records go back. The poor excuse of a home sat at the edge of town, the last street moving on past Jason’s own home, another 500 feet and ended right at its rotted picket fence.

It was in the week of summer break from college that Jason found himself sitting on his step dad’s porch staring out at the failed construction project, the trees that seemed to lean in to protect it (even though their branches never seen to grow anything but patches of ugly old brown leaves) and anyone walking by it always picked up their pace.

“You know anything about that dump?” Jason asked his dad as he stepped on the porch to grab the morning newspaper he never got in the morning.

“The Alden house?” the potbellied man with graying hair asked freezing as if broken from a trance. The sports commercials blaring through the screen door. “Nope. In my day we’d avoid that place. A few kids tried to do challenges there, but no one ever stayed.”


“Dunno,” the man said, tossing the newspaper in the trashcan by the door and letting the screen slam loudly.

It was only an hour later when the first weird thing happened. Jason had started his second beer (after flipping off the tired cop who really had no interest in getting involved in underage drinking) and had downed half of it when he saw him.

An old man was walking briskly down the sidewalk, his cane with a silver knob clicking against the cracked cement, brown suit tailored perfectly, and a mustache the same gray as his head. He did not look in either direction nor seemed to pay attention to the random stranger hurrying by. Jason was about to ignore him and finish the last of his beer when the man slowed down in front of the Alden House.

Jason raised an eyebrow as the man, instead of continuing forward, turned into the sidewalk, through the rotting gate, up the unkempt path, between the long grass, up to the door knob, inserted the key, and went in. The college kid glanced at his watch and saw it was eight pm.

“Dad. Someone just went into the Alden house.”

“So what?” came the half distracted response followed by a bellow of cheer as the sports team his step dad was rooting for won a point.

The clock ticked away. Jason kept glancing down at his watch until eight thirty when the door opened again, the man stepped out, locked up, and retraced his steps back out. Then continued on his merry way as if he did not stop by what was probably a haunted house.

Over the next week, Jason saw the strange man enter the weird abode every day at the exact same time and leave at the exact same time. Asking questions throughout the day did not elicit anything interesting than the librarian stating the house was owned by the town, the police officer said it was a vandal that they’d patrol for, and his friends thinking it was some dumb loser looking for a place to do drugs. None of these fit the look of the man or the precision that he showed.

It was the thirteenth day that Jason had finally had enough. Waiting until the man had gone into the house, the college kid sauntered across the street, dived into the yard when nosy Rebecca Morsley wasn’t looking out her window, and ducked behind the left side of the house through the tall grass.

The seeds of the thistles and grass stuck to his clothes as he made his way to the window hoping that the swishing and gripping of the grass around his feet was not so loud that the weirdo had heard him. Jason knelt down and tried to find a clear enough spot to peer through the grimy window. A cricket somewhere near his feet began to sing out mistaking his red sneakers for a mate looking to get busy. The little guy sang his heart out while Jason gently scrubbed at a pane. Though it was not much, he could make out the man in the far corner of the house setting out utensils on a gingham tablecloth which he must have brought with him. They showed near the rot or decay that surrounded him. The stranger moved out of view and Jason focused, hoping to get a better look at what was on the table near the plates.

Was it instinct? Heightened alertness because of the brazen act or spying? Whatever it was, the college student felt the urge to hide even though he did not see anything in his view. It got so overwhelming, his heart pumping hard and he immediately ducked. It was none too soon as the light from inside was blocked by a form that appeared in the window. Jason kept crouched and pressed up against the outer part of the house ignoring the rotten smell of the wood and a bug wiggling here and there. Even the damned cricket that had been screeching nonstop near his knee since he had knelt had gone silent.

What felt like forever was only about ten minutes. The soft green glow of Jason’s sports watch he won from his coach for an intramural running contest showed that it was eight twenty-nine. As soon as it turned that minute, he heard the door open, the lock click and the footsteps of the stranger walking away.

As soon as it was silent and the cricket starting singing to his shoe again, The Hughes boy made a run for it not caring if Mrs. Morsley saw him. Only when he was in the safety of the yellow light of his own porch did he finally let out the breath that he was holding.

What was on the table? Was it a doctor’s bag? Why was it bulging? Was there something in there? It was only after three more beers did Jason decide that tomorrow, with cellphone in hand, he was going to solve this mystery of the stranger at Alden House.

Jason did not sleep, nor did he hang out with friends as he had planned. That was especially irritating as Tiffany seemed to be interested in coming back to his place, especially since his dad was going to be doing an overnight delivery for the trucking company he worked for.

This time though, he took his time and made sure to be early. It was only seven in the evening when he sidled up to the door and found it unlocked. That was the first weirdness. Didn’t he lock it? Examining the lock, Jason found that the lock wouldn’t have worked if the stranger wanted it to. The latch had rusted off completely so nothing could lock it in place.

The door creaked way too loud as he pushed it open and began to make his way in. The smell of rot was stifling and he gasped and pulled up his tee shirt in hopes to filter out the pollution that was shredding his nose.

The table cloth was still laid out when he got to the kitchen and the object in the center was still there. It was a doctor’s medical bag and there was something bulging inside. Anxiety gripped Jason as he slowly moved forward. A glance at his watch only showed it was seven ten so he still had a lot of time to do his investigation and leave. Creeping up slowly, the idiot who had done a year in college reached out his hand and clicked the hasp. It opened and he let out a sigh of relief. It was a blue bowling ball.

“You’re an idiot, Jason,” the kid muttered to himself.

It was the click of the door that made him spin around in panic. The stranger stood there with a grin on his face, a grin that was way too wide to possibly be normal. It seemed that his jaw opened all the way back to the edges of his ears, his eyes a list like the snakes from the Discovery channel.

Jason was frozen in place as the thing closed the door. He tried to move, to run but he found his feet would not obey. Nothing would obey him. It was not just fear. The kid had found himself paralyzed.

“I was wondering how long before your curiosity got you in here,” the stranger said in a weird strangled sound. “I had almost given up.”

The smile grew wider showing not only hundreds of small, little teeth, but at least two rows of them.

“Oh,” he said with a shrug as the stranger gently sat the kid down in front of the table. “A paralyzing toxin on the clasp that you touched. You won’t be able to move for a few hours.”

It had been a trap. The entire time. Jason realized only too late that there was no one who would know where he was and that he had played right into this creature’s game.

“It doesn’t matter though,” the stranger said, picking up a razor sharp knife. “I am so hungry.”


Damn the kids who won’t stay out of anyone’s yards. Rebecca Morsley was sure that the stupid neighborhood teenager had gone over to the Alden house to disrespect the property with their graffiti and gang signs. She had watched the door since the strange old man had come. She had not seen him in quite a few years and assumed he had been the caretaker checking on the property.

When the man finally came out, she let out a sigh of relief. Looks like the kids didn’t upset the poor dear. He was carrying his bulging doctor’s bag and absently dropped a bowling ball into the grass. More trash to be cleaned up later.

Now, to just wait for that stupid kid to come out so she could call the police.

— © Jonathan J. Snyder, All rights Reserved Like what you read and want to buy me a cup of coffee?