Of Mocha & Muses

The official blog of author Jonathan J Snyder

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.”

“Why?”

“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?

Originally published at NoSleep on May 21, 2023.

Tags: #horror #shortstory #nosleep

I only write this down so that somebody would know what happened. Only a few of you are going to recognize the names and the places. For you, I am so sorry that you have to learn about it this way. I have nothing else I can add to it and this will provide very little solace.

It started on that night when the worst storm hit our small town. We all sat in the cozy booth of our local burger joint; the enticing aroma of sizzling patties and the lively chatter of customers filled the air. The walls were adorned with vintage posters, and the flickering neon sign above the counter cast a warm glow on the checkered floors. I adjusted my letter jacket, proud to represent my college football team, and glanced at the others at the table—Christina and Peter. Christina, with her captivating brown eyes and flowing brown hair, sat across from me, her smile illuminating the dimly lit space. Peter, a hefty but jovial guy with blond hair and a mischievous glint in his brown eyes, squeezed into the seat next to me.

“So, Jamal, tell us again about this Moonstone Spirit,” Peter prodded, his mouth watering as he glanced at the menu. Peter did not grow up in this town though his mother was related to an old family that had been here for generations.

I chuckled, taking a sip of my soda before launching into the tale. “Well, legend has it that a spirit haunts the Moonstone Cemetery. They say she's been lingering there for centuries, watching over the graves and punishing those who defile them.”

Christina leaned forward, her eyes sparkling with curiosity. “Ooooo. Spooky.” she had grown up here though her family was on the other side of our town and had gone out very little in her early life, preferring the libraries and studies.

I shrugged, a smirk playing on my lips. “People claim they've seen strange lights and heard eerie whispers in the dead of night. Some even say she has the power to make objects move on their own. It's all part of the mystery, I guess.”

Peter's eyebrows shot up in disbelief. “Come on, man! You don't believe in that stuff, do you?”

I shrugged again, my eyes glancing towards the direction of the cemetery in the distance, knowing it would be shrouded in an eerie ambiance right now. “I don't know. There's something about the place that gives me chills. I’ve been there a few times. It's an ancient burial ground, covered in Spanish moss and mausoleums. It feels like stepping into another world every time.”

Christina leaned closer; her voice tinged with excitement. “Maybe we should go check it out ourselves, just for fun. See if the spirit is as haunting as they say.”

My heart skipped a beat at her suggestion, my crush on her intensifying.“That...that sounds doable. What do you say, Peter?”

“Count me in! Let's go on a ghost hunt, guys!”

As we indulged in our burgers and fries, our minds filled with thoughts of unearthly encounters. As the sun descended, painting the sky with fiery hues, the Moonstone Cemetery materialized before us as our car arrived. Christina rode with me while Peter brought his own vehicle. The place was shrouded in shadow. Spanish moss clung to the ancient oak trees, their branches reaching out like skeletal fingers, while the wind whispered through the moss, creating an eerie symphony. The gravestones, weathered by time's relentless passage, stood in solemn formation, bearing the weight of countless stories etched into their weathered surfaces. The air grew heavy with anticipation as the tempest approached, dark clouds swirling above, thunder rumbling in the distance. And there I stood, my heart pounding in rhythm with the impending storm, alongside Christina and Peter. Together, we dared to enter, ready to confront the ethereal presence that had long haunted the moonlit nights of our town. Well, I was more there to impress the girl to be perfectly candid.

With cautious steps, we ventured in, our footsteps crunching leaves of that hallowed ground. The flickering beams of our flashlights danced across the gravestones, casting eerie shadows that seemed to come alive in the night.

“Watch out, Jamal!” Christina whispered, a playful glint in her eyes. “Don't wake the ghosts!”

I chuckled again, my heart racing in the presence of both the supernatural and Christina's infectious energy. “Don't worry, I'll be careful. Can't have the ghosts chasing us yet.”

Peter, ever the joker, chimed in, his voice a low whisper. “Yeah, Jamal, you wouldn't want to become their new favorite quarterback!”

We laughed, the tension easing as we immersed ourselves in the eerie ambiance. But there was a subtle shift in the air, a whisper of unease that lingered in the back of my mind. The wind howled through the trees, its mournful melody sending shivers down my spine.

As we explored further, I noticed a few gravestones that appeared damaged and vandalized, their inscriptions barely legible. It was as if a malevolent human force had touched this sacred place, defiling its sanctity.

“Hey, guys, check this out,” I called out, pointing at the damaged graves. “Someone's been causing trouble here.”

Christina's eyes widened, a flicker of concern crossing her face. “That's terrible. Who would do such a thing?”

Peter shrugged, feigning nonchalance. “Probably just some kids messing around. But let's keep an eye out. We don't want to stumble upon something we shouldn't.”

“If this ghost does exist and wants to protect the graves here, I can understand why she’d be pissed at us.” I commented irritated that someone would damage the last resting place of someone’s dear friend or relative.

“You know she’s called Astrid,” Christina broke into my thoughts as the first tremble of distant thunder sounded through the air. I looked back at her with a tilt of my head.

“The moonstone spirit. You all keep calling her that. She’s got a name. Astrid.”

“How do you know?”

“I may have led you on how little I knew about this place,” Christina giggled as I took her hand when her feet entangled with some loose branches that had fallen to the ground.

“Astrid, Moonstone spirit. Who cares,” Peter continued, his clumsy feet tripping over a long-smothered candle on a grave side.

“Jeez, man, watch where you’re going,” I said, quickly leaning down to try and fix the broken plastic that once held the pale thing in place.

As we continued forward, the thunder above became louder, and the trees moaned from the wind beginning to move them. Our flashlights cut through the inky darkness, guiding our path as we walked among the weathered tombstones. The air grew heavy with a sense of age and history, and I couldn't shake the feeling that unseen eyes were watching our every move. It had to be the pressure shift from the storm.

“Hey, guys, check out that mausoleum,” Peter exclaimed, his voice filled with excitement. “It looks ancient!”

I squinted through the gloom, and there, nestled in the oldest section of the cemetery, stood a towering mausoleum, adorned with intricate carvings. My gaze shifted to the flickering candles, casting dancing shadows on the aged stone. There were lit candles here? I glanced to Christina who seemed to have noticed the same thing.

“Who could've lit those candles?” Christina asked, her voice quivering slightly. Peter grinned mischievously. “Maybe the Moonstone Spirit likes to have some candlelight ambiance.”

Torn between Peter's adventurous spirit and Christina's growing unease, I slowed my walk. My flashlight aimed at the structure ahead. The flames seemed to beckon, their mesmerizing dance drawing me closer, despite the warning bells ringing in the back of my mind.

“I don't know, guys,” I interjected, my voice laced with uncertainty. “Maybe we should turn back.”

Peter scoffed, dismissing my concerns. “Come on, Jamal, don't be a scaredy-cat. We're here to experience something thrilling, remember?”

“I think I’ve had my fill of thrilling,” I responded through the newest peal of thunder that stole the sound of my words.

Christina's brows furrowed; her voice filled with genuine worry. “No, Jamal's right. This doesn't feel right.”

A pang of indecision rooted me to the spot I stood, Christina moving a bit closer to me. Peter’s flashlight danced along the mausoleum as he looked for the entrance in, his electrical flashlight mingling with the yellow of the candles. I had made my decision. This was no longer fun.

“Okay, guys,” I finally spoke up, my voice resolute. More to convince Peter than anything. “Let's respect the mausoleum and its occupants. We've had our adventure for tonight. It's time to go back.”

Peter's stubbornness clung to him like an unwavering shadow. As we approached the exit, his voice grew adamant, his gaze locked on the ancient mausoleum.

“Come on, guys, just a quick look. What if Astrid's body is still in there?” Peter insisted, his curiosity getting the best of him.

Christina took a step back, her eyes wide with fear. “We shouldn't disturb the resting place of the dead.”

“This isn’t a good idea, dude,” I offered. Christina pulled my arm. I glanced at her and she was gesturing towards my friend who seemed hell bent to get in.

“Fine, I'll go alone. You two can wait outside.”

So, we huddled together outside the old building, our breaths visible in the chilly night air. Anxiety hung heavy in the silence as we strained to catch any sign of Peter's return. Christina's fingers tapped nervously against her arm, mirroring the cadence of my own racing heart. The moon cast an ethereal glow on our anxious faces, highlighting the concern etched in our eyes. Time seemed to stretch, elongating the moments as we shared a wordless understanding, united in our shared worry. Every rustle of leaves and distant sound sent a jolt of anticipation through us, each passing second intensifying the weight of the unknown. We were suspended in a liminal space, caught between hope and fear, desperately awaiting Peter's appearance.

“Jamal,” Christina started but I already knew what she was going to say.

“I’ll go. You stay right here.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” she said with a forced chuckle.

I cautiously stepped into the mausoleum, a chill crawled up my spine, the air inside carrying a peculiar, almost otherworldly scent. The ancient structure loomed above me, its architecture intricate and foreboding. The walls seemed to whisper secrets of something long forgotten, while no light filtered through stained glass windows, Shadows danced in eerie patterns from my flashlight, swirling around the stone pillars that supported the weight of centuries. Symbols, etched into the walls, seemed to pulse with an invisible, inexplicable energy that I almost thought I could see. The atmosphere was heavy, as if time itself held its breath within this arcane space. It was a place that defied the laws of the mundane, hinting at a realm beyond the mortal realm—a realm where the boundaries between life and death blurred into an enigmatic dance.

“Peter!” I called out, my voice echoing through the chamber. Silence greeted me in return.

I pressed forward as there was no way I was going to go back empty handed. The flickering beam ahead beckoned, drawing me closer, until finally, I found myself standing at the threshold of the central crypt itself. With a deep breath, I stepped inside, ready to uncover the fate that had befallen my friend.

The flickering candlelight within revealed a scene of unimaginable horror, etching an indelible image into my mind. My heart sank, constricted by a vice-like grip of fear and revulsion.

Peter's lifeless body lay sprawled on the cold stone floor, his eyes wide open in a permanent expression of terror. His flesh was marred, disfigured, as if something unholy had ravaged him. A dark, foreboding presence loomed over him.

The ghostly figure had to be Astrid—or what remained of her. Her once ethereal beauty had given way to a grotesque visage of decay. Tattered remnants of a flowing white gown clung to her emaciated frame, as if they were mocking the specter of her former self. Her eyes, hollow and vacant, glowed with an otherworldly light, devoid of any trace of humanity.

As Astrid turned her gaze towards me, a wicked grin stretched across her gaunt features, revealing rows of jagged, yellowed teeth. Her spectral form seemed to flicker and distort, as if her existence teetered on the fringes of reality. In her hands, she held a crimson-stained knife, a macabre testament to the horrors she had unleashed.

A guttural, chilling laughter emanated from the phantom, echoing through the chamber with an unsettling resonance. It seemed to carry the weight of centuries of pain and malice. My legs trembled, threatening to give way beneath me as terror gripped me. Yet, even in the face of this nightmarish tableau, an unyielding determination swelled within me. With gritted teeth and a resolve forged in the crucible of fear, I steeled myself. I do not know what possessed me to do this but I did.

I approached the scene, my heart pounding in my chest, determined to free Peter from this thing. The haunting laughter of Astrid filled the air, an unsettling symphony that accompanied my every step.

As I drew closer, the room seemed to warp and contort, the walls pulsating with an ominous energy. The stench of decay permeated the air, suffocating me with its sickening sweetness.

Gripping the flashlight tighter, I raised it high, the beam of light piercing through the darkness, aimed directly at the spectral form.

“Release him!” I commanded, my voice quivering with a mix of fear and determination. “Let him go!”

Astrid's laughter turned into a haunting hiss, her eyes narrowing with a malevolent glare. Her hideous mouth moved as black slime dripped form it’s lips. It was speaking and it took me too long to understand what it had said.

'Desecrator.'

The shriek destroyed whatever will I had to face this thing and I sprinted back the way I came. Behind me, the malevolent presence of Astrid surged forth with an unholy speed, her ethereal form flickering and contorting in the darkness, her shrieks following me.

As I burst out of the mausoleum of Astrid, I screamed at Christina to start running. She didn't even hesitate through her eyes grew wide as she began to run. She must have seen what was behind me.

Moonlight filtered through the gnarled branches overhead, casting elongated shadows that danced before us, threatening to swallow us whole as we sprinted back the way we came. The atmosphere itself seemed to conspire against our escape, as the rain began to pour down on us turning the ground around our feet into mud. We darted through the labyrinthine paths of the cemetery, the sound echoing in our ears like a relentless drumbeat of fear. Headstones and crypts blurred into a nightmarish landscape, each step taken in blind desperation.

Branches snagged at our clothing, as if the very trees sought to ensure our capture, to keep us trapped for Astrid to have her way. We stumbled and tripped, the uneven ground threatening to claim us as our pursuer drew closer, her presence at our heels. Fear clawed at my throat, my breath coming in ragged gasps as I spied the glint of wrought iron from a flash of lightning.

“That way!” I screamed.

I turned to look over my shoulder to see where Christina was. She had frozen in her tracks, a look of horror and despair on her face as the spectral figure materialized from the darkness right beside her. The Moonstone Spirit, lunged at my crush with supernatural speed, her skeletal fingers snaking through the air like the tendrils of a predator. With a malevolent cackle, she seized Christina by the hair as the poor girl screamed. That scream was cut off when she was yanked backwards with a force that snapped her head back with a cracking sound.

The young girl’s motionless body was dragged mercilessly towards the dense forest, her fingers dragging useless in the dirt. I lunged forward, but I could not reach her in time. She and the spirit vanished in to the black shadows of the trees.

I don’t know how but I dragged myself back to the entrance of the cemetery and my car itself. A few times I thought I heard my friend’s pitiful wail waft between the peals of thunder but I knew that it could not be the case.

It was that night the storm hit, destroying the power grid and flooding a quarter of the city. I, myself had barely made it away from that place to one of the shelters. It was a week before Peter’s car was found destroyed at the old cemetery.

Though their bodies were never found, the police chalked up their disappearances to drowning in the flood. They were just two names of twelve that had died that night. I knew the truth though and it haunts me to this day.

Sometimes when I look out my window or driving at night, I think I see that spirit standing there with another spirit hiding behind her. My therapist says it’s the guilt of losing friends in a traumatic flood but I think that’s Christina accusing me of not saving her and Astrid daring me to try again.

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

NOW RELEASED AS AN EBOOK CRAKAW

Originally published at NoSleep on May 13, 2022.

Tags: #horror #shortstory #nosleep

Took me a while to figure out where I wanted to post this but honestly, the way the internet works, I could post it anywhere and all you millennials and zoomers can find it. I don't know how and honestly, I don't think I really care. Sorry if I come across cranky but since Carl showed me this thread…subreddit, whatever you call it, I could not remain silent. If all of you are wanting to mess around with the supernatural, then you need to be warned.

If you haven't guessed already, I'm a boomer. Not your typical suburban boomer with his two-story house, two cars, and a pension. I am a veteran paranormal investigator though, among our circle, we like to call ourselves auditors. It's easier to explain to those who ask us our job and it's what we do. We audit the situation and deal with it if it proves to be something we handle.

Now, I want you to get it through your heads. This isn’t some TV show where there is a monster of the week and you just take care of it like that show with the brothers. This is a terrifying profession that barely pays and makes you see things that you will never forget. The real threats out there can’t be defeated with bits of iron and the sprinkling of salt. It takes research, planning, and so much luck that your odds of survival are always abysmal.

I’m not going to give you my entire resume, but my war buddy Carl and I have killed everything from werewolves and vampires to ghosts but what we faced last week has made me decide that my luck is running out. Listen up you snowflakes and understand what is truly out there.

I'm not going to name the town specifically as those good folks didn't invite the thing that's coming. It started out as a lot of my jobs do. Either through word of mouth, an advertisement or you stumble upon it. When you've been doing this job as long as I have, you learn to sense when something is amiss and not normal.

In this case, it was a real estate agent who was at a local burger joint that got my attention. I had ordered my usual heart-attack-inducing food with way too much cheese than should be legal and had just sat down to chow down when I heard him behind me in the neighboring booth. I had glanced at him when I was bringing my tray and he looked what you expected. Nondescript, in a suit, brown hair and eyes to match. He was young so my guess was that this was probably his first sale or something.

Sitting with him was a couple, two women who were gripping each other's hand as if one would let go, the other would vanish. Their hair was different unnatural colors, wore a lot of jewelry, and had piercings that would have gotten them fired if it was when I was young. Don't get me wrong, people can dress the way they want now, but it doesn't mean I got used to it. They ain’t harming anyone and after all, I had gone through, what did I care about a bunch of lesbians with colorful hair?

It was what the real estate agent said that got my attention.

“Look. I know how badly you want to sell this house and move but the last family was a bust. It…happened.”

There was an audible gasp from the girls and her voice dropped low though I could still hear it.

“The…sound?”

“Yeah,” The real estate agent said and then spent the next thirty seconds sucking on his fountain drink. When he was finally done, he spoke again.

“I didn’t believe you, ladies, which I apologize for but as soon as I opened up the basement to show them how nice you all had made it as a second living space, we heard it come up the stairs. Oh, god I can still hear it in my head.”

“What do we do?” the other girl said, her voice reminding me of cheerleaders for some odd reason.

“I don’t know, I’ve never dealt with anything like this. I asked around at the office but everyone just gave me a look like I was nuts. I didn’t press it.”

“I’m not going back to that house, Shannon,” the cheerleader sounding one said with a certainty that I recognized.

“We can’t just leave it. We don’t have the money to move. We need to sell that house and get rid of the mortgage.”

“This NEVER ends well. I’ve seen the movies,” the nervous one continued.

I looked down at my burger that was calling to me and sighed. I, unfortunately, had a sensitive conscious of the plight of ladies, even if they were lesbians.

Grabbing my tray, I stood, swung around, and plopped myself by the agent. I'm not a small man. I mean, I eat cheeseburgers all the time, but I'm almost seven feet and have the physique of a trucker. He shifted away from me towards the window more out of instinct or anything.

“What do you want,” the more mature woman said her eyes narrowing at me.

“I heard what you were saying,” I said finally taking a bite of my delicious sandwich. After I took a swig of the diet coke of the real estate agent, I set the burger down. “I think I can help you.”

“You have no idea what’s going on, let alone believe me,” the younger said, her gray eyes watching me carefully.

“Sounds like you got an infestation of some type. That’s my specialty. I’m an…auditor…of sorts.”

“You’re nuts,” the oldest said.

I made eye contact with her and forced her to hold it.

“Who else is going to believe you? I'm offering to take a look for free. If it turns out to be something along with the neighborhood of what I work on, I'll even give you a discount on the fee.”

“Fee?” The older one I heard was named Shannon said. “How dumb do you think I am?”

“How badly do you want to get that housing problem solved?”

That seemed to get her attention. She was silent studying me, which was something I was used to. So many people would eye me up and down to see if they can guess if I was a crank or a crazy who had escaped the local asylum.

I was crazy but that was because of the things I had dealt with before.

“Fine,” Shannon said. “If you want to see it. Come by the house later this afternoon.”

She quickly scribbled down the address and thrust it at me. I stood, nodded to the real estate agent, and made my way out to the truck. After making such an entrance, I couldn't well go back to munching on my burger. It's surprising how much mystery you must play up for all these civilians. Plus, I needed to give Carl a call.

Carl is my auditor buddy. He and I got in the business about the same time when we dealt with a White Lady ghost in our hometown. It was horrible but after that, he and I decided to keep at it under some misguided notion of helping people. Now, Carl copes with all sorts of bad habits. In the grand scheme of things, I'm happier than eating junk food and smoking are the only vices for what we've done.

Once in my rusting blue truck, I slammed the door to make sure it latched, ignored the iron smell from my previous job I hadn't cleaned up yet, and fished my phone out of the pile of papers.

Finally getting his number typed in, I waited until the eight rings when he finally picked up.

“What the hell is it, Frank!” he growled panting as if he was out of breath.

“Shut up and listen. You still in XXXXX?” which was a town about a four-hour drive from here.

“Yeah, sure,” I heard him say as the sound of fabric and creaking of springs could be heard. I heard him mutter telling someone to get dressed before he came back to me. “Why? What’s up?”

“I think I got one. Two lesbians have a haunted house they want to be cleared.”

“They hot?”

I ignored him as I continued. “Get in your truck and head on over here. I’m gonna do a day sweep and see what I can figure out. Then we going to go clear it.”

“We gonna get paid?”

“Yeah, sure. Dunno how much.”

“Then why are we doing this?”

“Cause there’s a haunting.” I reminded him adding a bit of an edge to my voice. I wanted to make sure he understand that the conversation of payment vs duty did not come up again.

“Fine, fine. I’ll be on my way.”

I’m not going to bore you with a list of the things I did to prepare. I have a kit in my car that I built out of experience, and I only needed a few extra things that I used up in taking care of the rokurokubi a state over. In short, once I had my gear on, my trusty utility belt that got me through two tours in Vietnam, and my pistol hidden underneath my baggy t-shirt, I found myself at the address given to me.

From the outside, there was nothing different than what you would have expected from a suburban house in this state. Single floor, nicely manicured lawn, and a nice hedge that marked the borders between this property and the neighbors. The only way I knew it was Shannon's house was the rainbow flag in the window. I resisted the urge to roll my eyes, grabbed my satchel, and walked up to the door.

I tried to knock lightly but my meaty fist probably scared the poor gals inside. The door opened a creak and the little cheerleader one peeked out and saw me.

“Oh…Mister….”

“Jones. Frank Jones.” I said wondering if the girl would get my James Bond reference. No recognition only what I recognized as fear. That was the first sign these girls were not making things up.

“Mister Jones,” came the older Shannon’s voice and then softly to the other girl. “Hannah, let him in.”

I stepped in and immediately felt out of place. The house was decorated with all sorts of knick nacks and looked like two girls living together. I had to slow my breathing and focus on what was actually making me feel weird. It was only a few seconds to realize it was not the interior of the house but something inside.

As Hannah closed the door behind me, I slowly moved my eyes through the parts of the house I could see. Looking for anything that seemed to be out of place. Have you ever had that feeling that something was right out of site but you could catch it from the corner of your eye? That's an extremely important skill to learn. I'm not sure of the science behind it but sometimes I could pick out something not wanting to be seen just by a flicker in the shadows. Dispatched a few ghosts that way.

The shadows in this house felt longer and deeper than what they should be at three in the afternoon. There was a faint odor in the house that at first thought might be weed but it had a different scent altogether.

“Any of you using weird candles or health foodstuff?” I asked pulling the thermometer off my hip in one hand and a little electromagnetic reader in the other. I made sure not to take my eyes off of anything ahead of me and slowly moved the items into view.

“No. We noticed that smell about two days ago,” Shannon said coming up behind me.

“I don’t give a shit if your doing drugs or anything,” I said to make sure. “You could be snorting whatever and burning whatever but I need to know. I can’t mistake something you’re doing for what it is.”

“We smoke weed,” Hannah volunteered from my other side. “to calm my nerves of course but I haven’t done any in the last day or two.”

“It’s not weed,” Shannon said.

That I agreed with. The smell was earthy but almost like a smell, you would pick up from a barn. I worked enough farms to pick up the decay of moldy hay and animal shit but this had another scent on it.

“You said the basement?”

“Yeah,” Hannah said stepping forward to lead the way.

“Hannah!” Shannon warned pulling her girlfriend back.

I moved ahead with my equipment in front of me. I didn’t bother to tell the girls that the temperature was fine but the electromagnetic reader was starting to dance in a way that I was not comfortable with.

We were still in the daytime so if this followed like the others, I had time to sort out what it was before there would be a danger.

“Have any of you seen anything or has it only been sound?” I asked trying to keep them focused on my voice. I didn’t need any panicking at this moment.

“Just sound,” Shannon said following slowly behind me. “Some sort of moan that changes into a strange croak. The smell gets stronger when there is sound.”

“I’ve seen something,” Hannah volunteered.

I did not have to look to know that Shannon was caught off guard.

“Where? Basement?”

“Our room,” Hannah said her voice quiet.

“When? Why didn’t you tell me?” Shannon demanded.

“I didn’t want to scare you. I thought it was the drugs.” Hannah pleaded.

I cut them off.

“What was it?”

“Well, it was when Shannon and I were having…..getting busy. When I…moved I saw out of the corner of my eye something standing in the shadow. It was tall, looked like it was wearing a ratty robe but when I blinked and tried to focus on it, it vanished.”

“When was this?”

“A week ago. I haven’t seen it since.”

“Let me guess,” I continued. “That’s when all the weird things really started.”

“Yeah,” Shannon answered though I could hear the admonishment in her voice.

By this point, I had reached the stairs to the basement and gently pushed the door open. I really hate how fucking loud those doors are when I'm hunting. The creaking made me wince but I kept my cool as nothing actually happened yet.

The light spilled down the stairs but it only illuminated the first two the rest was blackness. That strange, thick blackness that I knew shouldn't be there. I turned to look for the switch and as I reached for it, I saw it. Well, felt it and saw it out of the corner of my eye.

In the briefest span of my reaching over to flip the switch, I could make out four hooded figures just like Hannah had described standing at the bottom of the stairs looking up at us. Their faces were covered in shadow but their heads appeared strange and elongated in a way I didn’t recognize. My heart jumped as I thought to reach for my pistol but by the time the brain caught up with the fingers, the light was flipped on, and downstairs was bathed in light.

There was nothing down there. At the bottom of the steps was the start of a blue plush carpet that continued into a very modern basement with a large TV, mini-bar, and couches. Actually, a great place to entertain. I glanced at the two women but neither of them seemed to show any other response so my money was on that they didn't see the figures. I decided to leave it as such.

“Stay up here,” I said. “I don’t want you throwing off my readings.”

That was mostly a lie but I didn't want questions. Not yet. My mind was going fast running through every lore that I read, every encounter I had done, anything to give me an idea of what I was dealing with. Invisible hooded figures were not something I encountered before. And that was not a good thing.

I made my way down the steps and moved to the center of the room, back to the TV facing the minibar. Nothing looked out of place, the smell was not here. It looked like a normal average room. I slowly turned around with my devices held up and swore to myself that the needle on the electromagnetic reader was still jumping wildly about.

“Anything?”

When the voice came behind me, I about jumped out of my skin. I whirled about and found Hannah standing behind me, curiosity on her face.

“I told you to wait upstairs!”

“Sorry. I wanted to see what was going on. Is the needle supposed to be doing that?”

I just stared in disbelief at her.

“I told you not to go down there,” Shannon called from the stairs. “I don't give a shit how many supernatural things interest you.”

Shit. She was one of them. The dabblers.

Hannah seemed to have gained some courage and looked at me for an answer.

“The needle is picking up frequencies in the room. Could be anything.”

“But?” she asked.

I sighed. I had learned that not answering the questions only caused more trouble in the end.

“The way it’s bouncing around is not normal or like anything I’ve seen naturally occurring.”

“Ghosts.”

Or worse. I thought to myself.

“What do we do?” she asked leaning towards me.

“You do nothing,” I said with certainty. “This stuff is extremely dangerous and I’m not letting a civilian get involved.”

I turned away from the empty mini-bar to make a point for her to mind my business when I caught the reflection on the TV that was off. My blood went cold and I could feel the chills running up and down my spine and arms. I could make out five of those hooded figures watching me, unmoving by the mini-bar, their cloaked hoods hiding their faces. I controlled my breathing as best I could but it must have not been enough.

“What?” Hannah asked and I immediately turned to face her so she did not notice.

“I need you to leave,” I said. I decided that I had more time as whatever was happening hadn’t gone into full effect or it wasn’t interested in me. A glance at my watch told me it was already 4:30 which didn’t feel right. That also told me there was some weird time stuff happening in this room too. None of these signs were good.

“Let's go,” I said grabbing her arm and pulling her towards the stairs. All of a sudden, I felt this urge to move. To get out of the area. To run as fast as I could. The oppressive feeling started pushing on my lungs.

If you ever feel this, trust your instincts. I did not wait, I wrapped my arms around Hannah's waist, hefted her, and started up the stairs fast. Hannah squeaked and I heard an angry retort from Shannon at the top but I didn't care. My brain and body screamed that I needed to get out of there.

As my feet landed at the last step at the top, I felt a presence brush the heels of my shoes and a sound came rolling up the stairs. It was the creepiest and blood-chilling sound I have ever heard. It was as if a thousand voices were speaking and they made one sound. Something that sounded like “Crak-Kaw!”

Shannon went pale as Hannah screamed in my arms. I did not hesitate, I shoved Shannon towards the front door and she did not even hesitate. She made a run for it just like me and we both got outside. I threw looks over my shoulder while I carried the small one and saw nothing but I knew something was on our heels.

Once I crossed that threshold, the oppressive feeling faded, and I gasped as if I had not been able to breathe. I stood there, still holding Hannah in my arms and we all just stared back at the open door. Nothing stared back but I couldn't convince myself of that. My aching arms finally made me put the girl down who immediately made her way to the street where Shannon was waiting. I joined them by the truck.

“What the fuck was that!” Shannon demanded.

“I don't know,” I said grabbing my phone from the passenger seat and flipping it open. Carl had texted me and he was about two hours away. The sun had started to go down and I glanced at my watch. It was ten minutes after six.

“What the hell?” Hannah said seeing her own watch. “We weren’t in there that long.”

“Loss of time,” I said heading to the back of my pickup and pulling down the gate. I pulled open a few containers searching for some journals I kept in a secure chest. I typed the password, popped it open, and pulled out the ancient book.

“What are you doing now?” Hannah asked. Her interest is still too dangerous to feed.

“Waiting for my pal. You two should find a hotel for the night. If we don’t call you, don’t come to this house without the police.”

Shannon paled but nodded. I gave them my number and they soon quickly took off. I now needed to wait for Carl. I wasn't going back in there without backup. And in hindsight, that wouldn't really matter.

It was dark when Carl finally pulled up, loud country music blaring from his honda and a pile of cigar smoke following him out as he pulled his sorry ass from the vehicle. I was sitting on the edge of my truck and had gone over my fifth journal while taking notes of my thoughts. The door to the house still hung open but I wasn't risking crossing the property line until I had more information and another gun.

Even as much as Carl was irritating with his cigars, booze, and hookers, seeing that bald-headed idiot always brought a smile to my face. I hopped off the truck and we quickly shook hands.

“So, what you got?” he asked rolling the smoldering cigar in his mouth from one side to another, his gray mustache always at risk of catching fire. “A haunting?”

“Not sure,” I said handing him my notes. His eyes scanned them and then slowly his bushy eyebrows began to climb.

“Well, that ain’t no haunting,” was Carl’s declaration after handing the notebook back. “Seems like a gathering of some creepy dudes.”

“They’re not visible. I’ve only caught glimpses and reflections. I don’t think they’re human,” I said finally closing up my containers.

“Cult-like aren't they. Hooded robes and all. Symbols?”

“None that I saw,” I said.

This is also one of the hazards of the job. There is never enough information. Most of it was guesswork and luck.

“I saw something like this a few years back,” Carl said munching on the cigar. “Turned out to be a human cult trying to summon a demon.”

“And?”

“This might be the same thing but instead of humans. They’re….others…trying to do the same thing and your lesbians just was in the wrong place and the wrong time.”

I wanted to believe that but my gut was not telling agreeing.

“And?”

“I think we need to go stop by the local church and get us some holy water and cleansed salt. Might not be able to defeat them but we might be able to fuck up their ritual.”

The door slammed and both myself and Carl jumped.

“Well, they definitely didn’t like that. Means we gotta go get it.”

I agreed and after a quick call to Shannon to let her know our plan, we made our stops. Now, this part of the job is simple. It serves two purposes. It lets you get some weapons that have proven effective against the supernatural but it also gives you a false sense of security. I admit it. There are times that none of this stuff works but you don't care. You embrace that sense of security cause you're not going to walk back into someplace after what you experienced if you did not have some sort of defense.

While Carl got his “holy hand grenades” ready, I had loaded two extra magazines for my sig saur with silver bullets and another set of bullets dipped into a concoction we Auditors made up that is effective against non-spirit creatures. Herbs, salts, and other stuff that help get an edge when your opponent isn’t human.

We were on the drive back when my phone rang. I answered it and I heard the panicked voice of Shannon.

“Hannah is gone.”

That was all she had to say. Again, I said that I have done this before and I knew what that meant. The little fool was on her way to the house to see things herself. I told Carl to step on it and we made it back to the house in record time. We were lucky no cops were around cause we definitely would have attracted their attention.

When I jumped out of my truck with my hand on my weapon, I saw the door was open again. That was not a good sign.

“I'll take the back way,” Carl said tapping his ear and I turned on my headset. We weren't going to be dumb and lose contact when dealing with whatever it was. I was going in the front door and see if I could get to the little fool before she did something stupid.

As soon as I stepped into the house, I felt the oppressive feeling come over me again. My mind became muddled but I quickly began to mutter an old chant under my breath that, in the past, had helped clear my head. So far, that was working.

The house itself looked the same but in the darkness with only the moonlight coming through the windows and my own flashlight, I could make out much more. There were dark footprints pressed into the carpet. What stood out was the three toes and the wide gait of its walking. I drew my weapon ready to shoot anything that I saw.

My heart was pounding hard as the stench that I initially picked up seemed to permeate the air as I got closer to the basement. I knew it had to be in the basement. Opening a flask of the holy water I poured it quickly over my head feeling as if the darkness quickly receded around me.

Oh, god those steps. I had counted thirteen when I first had gone down but when I had stepped on the twentieth and still felt there was more to go, I knew I was in the thick of it. I could hear the low chanting of something in the distance and the glow of a red light slowly getting closer as I advanced.

I finally did reach the bottom and felt my boots stick to something on the floor. The iron tang was easily recognizable as blood. I stepped through the sticky mess, turned the corner, and saw it.

I cannot give describe the full horror of what I saw because this story would be banned and I don’t think human words could describe the horror and do it justice. What I could tell you is that in the center of the living room, back to the TV was Hannah. She was on her knees, topless but still wearing her shorts. Her skin appeared to have been cut hundreds of times and the dripping of blood could be heard echoing. Her eyes were wide open as she stared at the ceiling. I followed her gaze and saw painted on the ceiling and glowering were strange symbols, like pictures of an ancient book. They were giving the red glow. I looked back down at Hannah.

I had assumed she was already dead but she was now looking at me. Her face had not changed but I could see the look in her eyes. She wanted to be dead. Honest to god, I wished she had been dead.

I felt the things move towards me and instinctively went for the grenade. It popped and sent a cloud of smoke into the room filled with salt, ash of a good person, and other stuff. The creatures fell back as I charged forward to Hannah.

I had to get her out of there. I reached for the ropes that bound her and discovered there wasn’t anything. Something invisible was holding her in place.

“I’ll get you out of here,” I said trying to calm the terror in her eyes.

Hannah’s eyes rolled back and she became to convulse as if trying to throw something up. The sound that came out of her throat turned me cold.

“Cra-kaw! Cra-kaw!”

She repeated it over and over again while convulsing until it just became a gargle as if something was blocking her speech.

I shown my flashlight on her and saw her open mouth and the wide-eyed look of sheer panic and pain. There was a bulging in her throat and it was trying to move its way up.

Everything seemed to fall in place in my brain. This was a cult of some kind and this poor innocent girl was their prey. She was being sacrificed to some unknown creature. I knew what I had to do. Carl had said it himself. Disrupt the ritual.

With my gut reeling from everything, sweat pouring down my face, I pulled my bowie knife from its pack and saw the glint of the knife catch Hannah's attention.

She knew what I was going to do. There was no doubt in those haunting blue eyes what I was about to do. I don’t know how else to say it but those eyes begged for it. Begged me to do what I had to.

The smoke was failing now. I knew my time was running out so I turned the point towards her bare chest and leaned forward. I keep my knives extremely sharp so there was no way her flesh could have even resisted it. Honestly, it feels like when you cut cake. I felt the warm sticky liquid gush out onto my hands but I focused and focused hard on what I was doing.

The blade had pierced her and whatever was trying to come up. As tears fell down my cheeks I could see the gratefulness in her eyes as they slowly faded.

I stepped back leaving my knife where it was and looked at the horror in front of me. I had done it in time. Something with a beak and feathers had started to crawl out of her mouth when I pushed the blade in.

Both were dead.

That’s when I felt it. The sheer rage around me. The ritual was broken and they knew I had done it. Without looking back I tore for the steps releasing the last two of my grenades. The smoke billowed behind me as I came out and ran for the door. I about ran over Carl who was swearing at me.

“Dude! I’ve been trying to call you. I can’t get in. The doors sealed themselves.”

He broke off when he saw me covered in blood.

“Go. Now.” That was all I said and honestly, nothing else needed to be said. We jumped into the truck and tore on out of there.

The only mistake I made was looking back. That’s where I saw it. The tall, hooded figure whose head seemed to scrap the door jamb. It was still wearing its hood but I know what I saw protruding from it. A long, sharp beak.

I didn't call Shannon. This whole thing had gone to hell. Carl took his truck and left. I wiped my phone, crushed it, and threw it in the river. I left that town and drove through two states before I slowed down for a break. No cops were after me nor anything else. I knew that as the sun rose they would find her body with my knife. I doubted anything else would be there as it never was in these types of things. The police would hear the story and just assume some sadistic trucker tortured and murdered the girl and then left in the night.

So, that’s my story. I’m already heading to a cabin I bought years ago in Montana to live out what is left of my life. I’m either going to die of old age or that cult is going to find me. Either way, I’m done with this shit and pray that Carl gets his head out of his ass and does the same thing.

Listen. Many of you might judge me for what I've done or not believe me. That's okay. I don't need your pity or your judgment. I know you all look on us old people as the generation that fucked up your life and yes, my generation did but there is more out there than inflation, bigots, and rich white people stealing your money. The true monsters are ancient and hidden and they aren't content to feed from the shadows anymore.

I beg you all. If you have any hesitation about this career field, don’t do it. Just leave all the supernatural and paranormal alone and live your life.

For the rest of you who decided that you're still interested, you're as dumb as fuck but shouldn't start this alone. Carl set up an email address for youngsters like you to reach out to him. Email him at sexycarlmiller@xxxxx.xxx and reference this post.

He'll get you set, but your life is going to be short, and you'll wind up like that girl.

There are horrors out there and they know you’re coming.

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

Originally published at NoSleep on April 25, 2022.

Tags: #horror #shortstory #nosleep

I think we all know the old phrase about things going bump in the night but honestly, those things don’t scare me as much as the things that you see in the day. I should just start at the beginning so that this makes sense.

My name is Bethany and I’m one of those average girls you would see working a cashier's job or as a barista at your favorite coffee shop. I’ve got that uninteresting brown hair, eyes that can’t make up their minds if they want to be brown and hazel, and a figure that advertises that I prefer donuts over the gym. I think petite is the word.

I work as a cashier at a local mom-and-pop shop in a small town in the pacific northwest. It’s not anything to write home about but it pays the bills and keeps me in the small studio apartment above a local dry cleaner. The Russian family underneath has always been nice and I’ve had dinner with them a few times in the two years I’ve been in this town.

I was a nobody and I liked it. Nothing special, nothing interesting. No boyfriend never bothered with any of the dating apps, had no contact with my bible-thumping parents I ran away from, and only had two people I would call friends. Joyce and Carl.

Joyce was a fellow cashier who also ran away from her parents while Carl was the day manager of the store. I worked. We hung out after work a lot and those two are the only ones I had any connection to.

So what is the point of all this? I just wanted to make it pretty clear how boring and unassuming I was. I have nothing special in my past, I don’t profess to be interested in anything supernatural or weird. I just want you all to understand I didn’t ask for this in any way.

I think I first noticed it about two months ago. I may have seen it before then but it wasn’t close enough for me to realize something was out of the ordinary. All I knew at the time was trying to keep my white sun hat on while the summer wings ripped at my blue summer dress tangling it up between my legs. I was on my way home from a short shift at the shop and was taking my usual way home down an alley. The damn dress had gotten itself tangled again and I was silently cursing Joyce for convincing me to buy it when I came aware of a scent on the wind that had not been there before. It was that smell of rotting soil like from a compost pile? Since I had fences all about me, I assumed that one of those people had started a compost bin and being all green. It wasn’t a strong odor but enough to make me ignore my dress and decide to start walking again.

It was standing at the edge of the end of the highway, still a thousand or so feet away. At first, I just thought that someone else had decided to take the alley. Not something I’m really fond of since I’m not much of a fighter but something I had dealt with before. I kept my eye on what I assumed was a person and took two more steps before the hair on the back of my neck started to tingle. The wind had shifted and the earthy decay had gotten a bit stronger which did not help the unease that was settling in my stomach.

I studied the man standing down there, shielding my eyes with my hand from the bright sunlight. It was just a tall blackish silhouette. What the hell was my problem? I tried to take another step but my brain just would not let me. Details came into focus as I could not tear my eyes away from it. Though I could not make out any fine details, the first thing I noticed was that the arms were longer than you would expect, hanging down to where your knees would be, its head was elongated in the strangest way, as if someone tilted their head to study you but didn’t tilt their head. The wind hit me hard pushing down my hat and when I pushed it up, my heart jumped. It seems that in that small moment, it had moved about ten feet closer while still maintaining the same posture.

I have no shame in admitting that my flight instinct kicked in and I sprinted back the way I came as fast as my legs could take me not once looking back. The stench of decay was strong around me and the wind seemed to try and push me back. My brain felt like fire from the Adrenalin and the fear that was now coursing through me like a fourth energy drink. I did not stop running until I charged into my workplace catching Joyce and a few customers off guard.

It was Carl that must have realized that something was wrong because he did not hesitate to walk up to me, take me by the arm, and lead me back into the break room. He asked me a few times what was wrong or if he should call the police and frankly I could not get any words out. He just brought me a coke and told me to relax.

It took about twenty minutes plus Joyce sitting with me that I finally began to calm down. As my breathing began to slow, rationalization kicked in. Though my friend was being very polite, I could tell from her face she wanted an explanation.

“You okay, Bethany?” Joyce asked, her eyebrows knitted in concern. “What happened?”

“Ummm….I just had a scare.”

“I would say it was more than a scare,” she responded, not letting it go.

I shook my head and took another sip of the soda that Carl had brought. “It’ll make no sense.”

“Try me.”

“I…” my mind went back to the strange, bent, decaying, shadowy figure that I thought I had seen. “I thought I saw...something in the alley.”

“Something?”

“Look. I don’t know what it was. It looked weird shape and it appeared to teleport closer to me. It smelled horrible.”

“So, a bum?”

“No!” I said, anger coming over me that I had not expected. “it was something.”

I enunciated the last word trying to get through to her that I knew what I saw. I just did not understand it. Joyce just stared at me for a few minutes before slowly beginning to nod her head.

“Okay. You saw something. It looked dangerous?”

“I dunno. It didn’t do anything. I just got really scared and felt the desire to run. So I ran.”

Silence reigned between each of us. I was trying to process what I saw and Joyce to decide if I had gone nuts. Honestly, it could have been either.

“Let me talk to Carl and I’ll drive you home.”

The drive home was uneventful though I could not take my eyes off of any of the alleys, doorways, and paths that lead into the small woods we had around the city. Though I didn’t see anything, it felt like something was looking back at me.

That night, I triple-checked all my locks, left the lights on, and hid under my blankets. I’d be lying if I said I slept that night. I started awake when my alarm started screaming and in my panic expected to see that thinking oozing through my bedroom door. Nothing was there though and my heart began to calm.

For most of the morning, nothing was out of the ordinary. I was able to shower, dress, check my email, watch a few videos on the internet, and other time-wasters until the alarm on my phone went off. I had convinced myself that what I saw was either a fluke caused by the hot sun or just something I had completely mistaken for something else. I was ready for my afternoon shift, stepped out of my apartment, locked the door, and made my way down the steps.

That was when my nose picked up the smell of decay. Sweet rotting apples mixed with hay and mold. My heart began to beat so loud that I could barely hear my feet on the steps and the machines of the dry cleaners clacking away. That smell filled the stairwell like a sickening fog engulfing me as if it was trying to force its way into my brain.

I gagged and made the mistake of looking back up the stairs where I came from. Standing there was it again. This time though I got a full view of the grotesque monstrosity that my brain told me could not exist in the real world.

The visage stood seven feet filling the stairwell, its arms drooped down towards its knees. From this distance of twenty feet, I could see that it was twitching like a movie out of focus. This abomination seemed to have three joints per arm and its leg bowed backward from its body giving it a strange leaning appearance. Its clothing was ragged, a pea coat and shredded jeans where I could make out the pale skin. When I focused on the exposed skin, I could swear I saw stuff wiggling as if trying to get out. The face was covered in a rotted bandanna as if it had been injured. I could not make anything out except movement under it too.

I tried to scream but my breath was stolen by the stench coming from this unnatural scarecrow. That’s it. It was like a scarecrow from hell. It was the thud of someone opening the door behind me that broke the spell.

Someone grabbed a hold of my shoulder and the scream finally escaped. Spinning around ready to attack with my purse, I stopped when I saw the startled expression of Carl.

“Whoa! Beth! It’s me!” He grabbed my wrist and stopped me from beating him with the purse.

“There! There!” I shrieked, spinning around and pointing up the stairs. Carl looked but like me, nothing was standing there.

“What? What is it?” Carl asked, placing his hand on what I realized was a concealed gun. “Do you have an intruder?”

There was nothing there. The hallway was empty and that monster was nowhere to be seen. I broke into tears gripping him.

“What are you doing here?” I asked him.

“Joyce thought I should come to get you for your shift. You were a mess yesterday. She was right. You don’t have to come. God, smells like a barn in here.”

“Get me out of here. Now!”

I pulled him out of the stairwell and climbed into his beat-up blue Honda. He followed suit, started the vehicle, and began to pull away. I stared out the back of his window at the doorway and could make it out in the shadow.

What the hell was happening? Why had this monstrosity come looking for me? I racked my brain pretty sure that I did not hallucinate. I struggled to digest the image of the creature that continued to replay in my brain. When we finally arrived at the store, I did not wait for Carl but charged right in and to the break room. I needed to find somewhere safe.

Joyce spilled her salad when I came bursting in the door, looking at me like I was possessed.

“What happened?”

“I saw it again, Joyce. I’m not making this shit up.” I begged her.

The frown was back and she set her plastic fork down. I frantically explained to her again what had happened and what I saw. With each word, her frown became deeper and I think she realized I was not making this stuff up even though it was so hard to believe.

“That sounds horrifying.”

“No shit,” I said, finally collapsing in a chair beside her completely worn out from my tirade.

“Sounds like the Mulch Man.”

Both Joyce and I got silent as we turned to face Carl who had come in some time while I was screeching about my encounter. It took me a few seconds to realize he had named it.

“Mulch man?”

“Yeah,” Carl said, grabbing a soda from the machine, cracking it, and sitting down. “It’s a local legend.”

“Mulch man,” I said again trying to make the words come out of my mouth.

“Well, now you have to tell us about it,” Joyce said in a mixture of humor and seriousness.

“Not much to tell. I lost a friend to it...I think when I was a kid,” Carl started sipping on the bubbling beverage. “In short, around these parts, there is something called the Mulch Man. No one knows what it is or where it comes from. All we know is that this legend has been pervasive as long as we’ve lived in this area. The S’Klallam tribe has stories about him I think. No one knows why it shows up or its motivations but people report seeing it and then they disappear. That’s what happened to my friend. I was eight and he told me he saw it. Two days later, he vanished from his backyard. No one has seen him since.”

“Oh, that’s comforting,” I responded. “Is there any way to fight it?”

“Not that I know of. I can do some research but I’m not sure what’s out there or what. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact you saw him. I hadn’t heard its description in years.”

I did not work that day. I was too much of a mess but Carl didn’t let me out of the break room. Joyce would check in on me and Carl said to scream if I even got a whiff of decay. I didn’t and that day was mostly me on my phone reading up on anything I could find. And that was pretty much nothing.

Near the end of the shift, Carl came back in with a bit of hope on his face.

“Hey, Beth. So, I called my grandmother. Her family has been here for years and I told her what is happening to you.”

“Great, now everyone is going to think I’m nuts.”

“No, she won’t. She’s always dabbling around with the weird and the strange. She immediately latched on to what you said. My gramma told me to come to get some stuff for you. Like a necklace, a recipe for a ward, and a few other things. I’m heading out now to get it. She’s about 45 minutes away. Go home. Joyce will go with you and keep you company.”

So, that’s what I did. I went home and that’s where I’m sitting right now typing this and wanting to make sure that this got posted. I could have easily left this for Carl and Joyce to find but I don’t want to take a risk of no one believing the story and more people getting hunted by this Mulch Man.

The smell of decay has flooded my room and I can sense it in the closet to my right. The smell came when Joyce stepped out to get the food from the delivery driver. Carl is still 30 minutes out from his last text but the thing, this Mulch Man is here and it’s waiting for me. I don’t know how but I know it’s waiting. I can see Joyce flirting with the delivery driver (who is pretty cute) and I don’t blame her. No one expected it to just show up like this. I’m not going to risk her life so I’ve made a decision.

I’m scared to death, I don’t know what fate is going to wait for me or what this thing is going to do to me but I’m not going to risk Joyce’s life. Carl, if you’re reading this, thank you so much for everything you did to try and stop this thing. Joyce, it’s not your fault. I’m glad you weren’t here when it decided to appear. I couldn’t forgive myself if it took you instead.

So, this is it. My story. Not all creatures wait in the dark to find you. Some stand in broad daylight and steal away people. We believe in a foolish lie that the sun will protect us. I can see the sun shining through my window right now and I’m still going to be taken away.

Okay. I can’t put this off any longer. I can hear Joyce coming up the stairs. I’m going to hit send, stand up and open the closet door.

I hope it doesn’t hurt.

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

Tags: #political #satire

This blog is written from the point of view of an alien and such alien person is fictitious. The thoughts, issues, and references are real. Sometimes we just need to look at our world from outside our own view.

Subject: Recent Law Enforcement Actions against Known Cult Leader

Report ID: 2800-06-09-A

CC: Security Bureau, Edelen High Command; Medical Bureau, Edelen Research Directorate.

BCC: Edelen Library of Knowledge

Data Tags: Fascism, cult, justice system, American culture, Artificial Intelligence.

Introduction

This report is a supplement and expansion of data dump 3312-335-C that was transmitted over the past cycle. As requested by Arch-Primary Geesu, I am to provide my own take on the situations that are happening on the planet's surface. I have attempted to make this as succinct as possible for proper classification.

Cult Leader Has Been Indicted

As mentioned from report 2800-05-23-B, the leader of a cult called MAGA, which is located on the continent called North America, has been indicted by the main government's department of Justice.

As I suspected, the archive in charge of tracking government paperwork was not happy with the fact that Donald Trump had kept files that did not belong to him including those of higher classifications. Classified documents that have gone missing since they were in his care.

In response, the human Trump has continued to take the unusual tactic of making claims to the public through many of his own platforms that have already been demonstrated to be false by multiple sources and facts. Most of what he says is nonsense when compared to the greater body of facts that can be easily found. I have CCed the medical wing for possible analysis on this aberration in behavior for consideration. Like I have mentioned before, the MAGA appear to want to believe what their leader and his acolytes say instead of making judgements on their own. (I'm still working on a report to explain this deviation in judgement and will submit when it is complete).

What is the biggest surprise of all of this is the fact on how quickly the fascist leaning members of the government body in what is called the House of Representatives has reacted to this. Those of the misnomer of a name “Freedom Caucus” has come out in the defense of Donald Trump at the expense of their credibility and stance.

This country and specifically this party has claimed that they are a party of law and order and that they support “freedom for all Americans” but their words appear to say the opposite.

I mean, I am very impressed how much this group completely fails at any sort of common sense. I have transcribed some a segment of the transmitted clip from the female human Alina Habba who claims to be a laywer (I have not been able to yet confirm credentials):

“Any investigation that comes to fruition against the biden corrupt family...every single time...Now we have Wray who is being held in contempt because he won't share documents...Every single time there is a coordinate dance that is becoming obvious to the American people because they are smart and what they do is say look at this shiny ball...”

I apologize for this mess. I believe what Habba is attempting to convey to the audience is that the entire process of the justice system is one sided and targeting their cult leader instead of the present man in power (this would be the Biden mentioned earlier).

Why do I use this as an example of a lack of common sense? Everything in that statement is not correct but she speaks with a certainty that it is.

For example:

  1. Any Investigation against the Biden Corrupt Family.

    1. This assumes guilt instead of innocence which contradicts the party Law and order stance.
    2. There has been one Special Council reported colloquially known as the Durham Report that has no recommended charges.
  2. FBI Director Wray held in Contempt for not release Report.

    1. This one is wild even by my own experiences. The MAGA Freedom Caucus is holding a chief law enforcement officer in contempt for not wanting to release a unproven report filled out by an enemy of their country.
    2. The Director actually has not been held in contempt and their own party is retracting the threat in actuality.
    3. This director was actually appointed by the MAGA cult leader when he was in power!

The part that actually made me almost spit my kuulu juice was her statement that said American people were smart and then continue to infer they were too stupid to see what the Biden government is doing. This section is a mess.

Other MAGA government officials have also appeared to have reacted harshly to the indictments in differing fashions.

  1. The official Judiciary social media account posts “Witch Hunt” (at 3:08) with no evidence and with only the desire to gas light.
  2. A known pundit claiming “process crimes” (at 8:19) with no evidence or a complete lack of understanding of how their own legal system works.

In short, you are seeing the exact same as I do. This political party appears to not understand the fundamental of their own law system by claiming that due process of giving the cult leader a chance to answer the charge is somehow a crime.

I will monitor the situation and report more.

Minority members of the Species Get A Voice

I have to end this report with something positive. The American's highest court has thrown out a map created by a rival political party (not surprisingly the same Republican party that has the fascist wing problem).

The way their political system works is to divide territories up in to districts to help with voting and knowing where to go to vote. It has been used as a weapon where they draw weird lines to strengthen a specific party or ethnic group. They do have laws about that but since the Cult Leader Donald Trump put judges on their high court, their voting right laws have been pretty gutted.

The positive about this is that even with a heavy leaning of the fascist movement, the judges actually sided with the minority voters. This means that a new map will be created and it will be more fair.

See! This species does have a chance!

Their Artificial Intelligence Has a sense of Humor?

I am still working on the report on their AI advancements but I wanted to close this report with a humorous incident. Lawyers claim they were [tricked by their own computers] to cite non-existent case law.

SISI, my own AI, found this exceptionally funny that “organics” didn't bother to proof read and make sure. I'm with her on this one.

Closing

This species has been going through a lot lately. My hearts hurt for them as they are full of a lot of amazing ideas but they are still led by their emotions and not by logic and reason.

I refuse to give up on them no matter was Alfra says. I will take his bet of 30 Quenloz that this race somehow pulls it together. There are signs of unity among the fractured beliefs.

Until the next report.

With Respect of Alusha,

Meetek, Observer

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

Tags: #political #satire

This blog is written from the point of view of an alien and such alien person is fictitious. The thoughts, issues, and references are real. Sometimes we just need to look at our world from outside our own view.

Edelen Consortium

TO: Arch-Primary Geesu, Exo-Species Directorate. BCC: Edelen Library of Knowledge

SUBJECT: Species E-2215 and unexpected evolutionary anomalies

My friend Geesu,

I hope this transmission finds you well. I heard that you replaced Galthax when it comes to being Arch-Primary of the Exo-Species Directorate. I extend my warmest congratulations to your achievement in the role and also wish Galthax a much-earned rest in in the Pollax sector.

I write to you today to inform you that the species that you have assigned me to watch, Species E-2215, has reached a unique point in their evolution that has deviated from the expected norm for a bipedal life-form orbiting this G2V spectral class star. Some of the more notable developments are:

  1. Emergence of generative Artificial Intelligence.
  2. Environmental abnormalities of their home planet.
  3. Social and political fluctuations with far reaching ramifications

I know this would not be much of a surprise to you, but they are still a type I civilization per the Exo-tech list (which these humans call the Kardashev scale in their own language).

Yes! It is fascinating. There are changes in the technological evolution that have made them quite fascinating.

I am officially requesting a direct hub connection to the main system to begin transmitting video and reports as this species progresses. Though it would be a welcome addition but not a requirement, another observer or two to help put together as much data as we can. This species is short lived and I honestly do not know how long it will take them to pull out of their course or exterminate themselves.

With Respect of Alusha,

Meetek, Observer

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

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