Saturday, March 31, 2012

"Christmas Tree"

Journal Entry: December 25, 1891

This has been the weirdest holiday of my life. The strangest Christmas that I think anyone could ever have.

It started when I was walking through the park last evening. Several of the trees had been decorated, as they are every year, to coincide with the joyful festivities.

No one else was around. I slowly approached a lone tree with bright, colorful bulbs, starlight glinting off the tinsel. It was a beautiful sight to take in, these trees, so I had closely examined each one, taking it all in. There’s a reason Christmas is my favorite holiday—it’s just so beautiful.

But as I got closer, the air turned cold. I think snow began to fall. Which was odd, here in southern Texas, as we rarely get snow, and when we do, it’s very little. Then I heard a child’s voice singing.

It sounded like that famous song, the Twelve Days of Christmas, but some of the words were wrong. Nonetheless, my heart was warmed, as second only to Christmas, the sound of a child singing a happy tune is the most beautiful thing to my senses.

The boy, about seven I think, stepped out from behind the tree.

"Hello," he said. "Would you like to sing with me?"

I found it strange that he wasn’t wearing a coat in this temperature, and I noticed that he looked rather pale. I figured he was caught in it unexpectedly, as was I.

"Are you all right?" I asked. "You don’t look well."

"Oh, yes, sir. I’m all right indeed. But are you?"

I shivered, then brushed it off as being from the cool air. I knew better.

"Certainly. You’re sure you’re all right?"

The boy laughed. "Yes, mister. You’re all alone, aren’t you?"

I looked to the gravel beneath my feet.

"Yes. Yes, I am. "

He smiled. "Then sing with me, and together we can be cold. Be cold with me."

I smiled. "All right, child. Let us sing together."

Along the rest of the path we sang loudly, walking side by side. My spirits, in despair of late, were raised to the heavens.

Eventually, when we got far enough into the park and the snow was adequately deep, I stooped and hastily crafted a snowball. I threw it at him, and he exhibited nary a flinch.

Looking at me, he laughed, then threw a snowball back at me. Soon we were making snow angels and building snowmen. We played like that for nearly an hour.

Finally he stopped and asked me, "Will you join me in the cold now?"
I hesitated. "I’m sorry, son. I greatly love the cold, yet never having the opportunity to leave this land, but I have work to do. I must close my shop for the holidays."

I walked back out of the park. Looking back once along the way, I saw that the boy had gone.

"Poor child," I thought. "All he wants is a friend."

I arrived at the shop and saw that there were no customers, only a couple of my workers and a delivery boy.

I cleared my throat. "Listen, all you sluggards! (A term of endearment between me and my employees, I assure you.) You can all get out of here and return to your wretched lives in celebration of this holiday. I only am so generous, as this season of joy and giving touches even my cold heart. Now leave so I can lock up the place!"

They all turned toward the door, then stopped a moment and turned back. The shop became noticeably chillier. "We are cold. We are all cold. And soon you will be, too."

Everything returned to normal and they left.

After locking up the shop, I decided to go back into the park, to the tree, in order that I might meet that boy again. If anyone is innocent and pure in this life, or close to it, a small boy is. He reminded me of my own days of youth, before the world became so unlivable.

"Boy! Are you still here?" I called.

After a few moments of silence, I could hear him singing again.

"It is not your time," he said. "It is too late for this evening. Come back tomorrow night."

And so I have. I brought my journal in order to record this before I go, so that everyone will know what has happened to me.

He will be here for me soon. I can faintly hear him humming with the breeze. The ever colder breeze.

Soon now, I shall join this lonely boy and we will be cold together.

Monday, March 26, 2012

"The Land of Make Believe"

My family and I are from New Jersey. We lived there until a year ago. When it happened.

My parents took me and my younger brother Nick to an amusement park called "The Land of Make Believe." I was twelve and my brother was eight.

Even though we had never heard of the place, we were excited. We knew from the ads that many awesome rides were there and that a day full of fun and exhilaration awaited us. And indeed it was the best day we'd had together.

Still is. Except for...

Well, Nick and I were kind of worn out after all the running and playing and eating cotton candy.
"Mommy," he said, "my tummy hurts."

She placed her hand on his head. "All right, dear. We'll be heading home in a few minutes."

Soon we were nearing to the main entrance. It was getting dark, but still light enough to see. Suddenly Nick's pouting dissolved and a big grin replaced it. He was pointing at something. A ride we hadn't seen before.

A ride that we couldn't remember being there when we passed this way before.

"Cool! I didn't know they had a Candle Cove ride!" He scampered toward it.

I glanced at my parents, then followed. But I felt disturbed. Mom and Dad's faces were white.

A whisper reached my ears before I went through the entrance of the ride. It was Mom. "But they made up that Candle Cove show! Didn't they!?"

There was no one inside the structure to help us into the car, so we climbed in by ourselves. After a moment, the restraints locked into place and we started rolling down the track. That old, familiar calliope music played loudly, but there wasn't anything else Candle Cove-related, it seemed.

At last we saw animatronic duplicates of Pirate Percy and the Laughingstock. They looked toward us and I could have sworn they were terrified.

They began to speak to us. Their message made my blood run cold.

"Go! Go back! Get off this ride! It's not safe!"

Nick whimpered and I smirked.

"It's just part of the ride, silly. Nothing's gonna hurt us."

As we left them behind, I heard Percy yell out, "The Skin-Taker is up ahead!"

The calliope music became distorted, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't bothered by it.

We both jumped when Horace Horrible popped out. He didn't say anything. He just laughed. His monocle followed our path until we had left him behind in darkness.

"I'm scared, Evan."

"Good. That means it's like the TV show," I said, thinking a little humor would make him feel better.

"I...I gotta puke!"

Fortunately it went over the side and not on me.

Just then the Skin-Taker, with his trademark hat and cape, was lowered from the ceiling with a shriek.

"I'm going to grind your skin! Grind your skin! Grind your skin! Hahahaha!"

Just like on the show, his mouth didn't move right.

At this point, I was unnerved but tried to put on a brave face for my little brother. We could see the end of the ride coming up, and I believe we both sighed in relief.

That's when the lights went out. It was pitch black. I couldn't see anything. I couldn't move, either; it felt like my hands were being held down by ropes.

I heard Nick scream at the top of his lungs. The screams became gurgles and then there was silence.

"Nick? Nick, you all right, buddy?"

He didn't answer.

The lights came back on and I could move again. I looked next to me and it was my turn to scream.

Right next to me was the bloody, skinned corpse of my brother. His eyes were still wide in shock. He was staring right at me.

I threw up in my lap.

After that experience, none of us could stand to live anywhere near that place. So we moved here to Texas. Far away from the bad memory.

Just one last thing, though. After the lights came back on, and before I exited the ride, I saw the Skin-Taker again. I could've sworn his cape was longer. And dripping red.


The bruises on my skin were still developing when I heard a knock on the bathroom door.

"Michael, come out of there!" It was my dad. He wasn't done for the night.

I replied to him, "Just a minute," trying to hide my sniffles. Couldn't show my weakness.

I rubbed on my temples, and as I heard my dad retreat down the stairs, my nerves began to calm.

I asked the mirror, "I wish life was better. I wish the world's problems would just disappear so people could be happy."

And then I vanished.

Saturday, March 24, 2012


The mist laid low as I sat by the crumbling well. The evening sun had fled behind the mass of clouds, a shapeless grey sheltering the ocean of tall trees. To my right was the old man. His small, restless frame bound by the shadows moving across the forest floor, he lifted his endless gaze and muttered to me:

"Here, sir, here was where she ran."

I swept the highest branches with my sight, unsure of what I should be looking for. They might have been green once, but today all in view is grey.

"And do you know what happened next?"

"She was alone, sir, no friend to watch over her. She was all I have in this world, so good and young, and then she was just gone."

I looked into his eyes. Deep in brown once, a mist had begun to claim their surface. Now what was left in them had turned to the forest floor. Grey and growing blacker by the hour, fallen leaves seemed to blanket the land for a long, lonely sleep. Under the spots of sky the mist had fallen, bringing with it the night’s early rise. He shivered, not quite for the cold.

I’d heard of countless little girls like his; we all certainly have. In the morning paper, in the evening chats, in long winding dreams, countless disappearances, countless victims. Nothing to laugh at or dismiss with ease, at least the better half of the time. But hearing it like this? From someone who knew and had all the reasons to mind? Why, all the better, not the least at the very place. Hunched against the oncoming mist, curiosity opened my mouth.

"Go on."

Now the old man was still. His gaze had shifted to the midst of the fading woods ahead. Just now, I noticed the marks by the well’s gaping mouth. Carvings. Some were old, some were new. All of which I had never seen before.

"Do you know, sir," he slowly started to speak, "the forest is a lonely place." He looked around into the approaching mist, as if unsure of what to say.

Taken aback by the sight of sorrow, I laid an arm over his shoulders. At the same time, I thought I saw a dark mass behind the thickening grey. Eager for the old man’s tale, however, I simply thought of how to bait the words out of his mouth.

"I'm sorry, good man, I really am," I said to show some sympathy. "But should there be anything I might do to lift your grief-"

"Grief?" the man interrupted with a sudden zeal. He’d grabbed my closer arm, wrenching the blood from my stiff fingertips. I ran my eyes over his discoloured face, his perfectly still frame, and his one free arm, where another mark ran red over the lower back.

"No, sir, none at all," he said with a grin. "Who said anything of grief?" As his eyes stared to our front, a look of pure happiness took over that old crumbling face. "Why would anyone be grieving, good sir?" he muttered under his racing breath. "Rather than do it all again?"

Beneath the pale mist, a dark shape was closing in.

"A Happy Place"

He is cold. He left his jacket at home when he rushed out of the house an hour ago. He didn't forget it, he just didn't take the time. It isn't the first time he’s done this. He doubts it will be the last.

The swing next to him creaks as the wind gently pushes it. He comes to this playground when he feels overwhelmed, or hated, or alone. He comes to this playground a lot. It's safe, and pretty. A so-called "happy" place.

Sometimes it's his parents that make him run here. Today it's his friend. It's amazing how much one cruel action from a usually kind person can affect a person. Maybe it's because one would never expect it from them. Maybe it's because it makes one wonder what is so wrong with them that they could have driven such a kind person to it.

He is cold. The chill wind is slithering up his sleeves and down his collar as he sits on the abandoned swingset. Of course it's abandoned now.

He saw the last child leave with their parents a little while ago, when the sun started to set. He knew that their reasons were entirely unrelated, but a tiny voice whispers that they left because of him.

Everyone leaves because of him. They don't like him enough to stay. They don't care enough to stay.

He pushes these thoughts aside, telling himself to be realistic. Those whispers, his doubts, never listen.

He is cold. Truth be told he was cold before he left the house. He was alone before he left. He hates people when they do this to him. When they make him feel so small, so cold... so alone.

Once or twice he wanted to run away. Away from their yelling, away from their bitching, away from their criticism, away from their lies, away from their disappointment, away from their guilt-trips... just away.

He's imagined what would happen when they realize that he’s not coming back. He imagines them crying as they try to find him, wishing that they had been nicer to him, wishing they hadn't said those things, wishing they hadn't...

He imagines a lot of things. But that's all that he does. Imagine. He can never find it in him to act. The furthest he ever got was two streets down from here, before his legs wouldn't move anymore. Before his will was suppressed by the voice in his head.

That whisper that tells him that they won't cry. That they won't come looking. That they won't care. That what he’s always thought is really true.

So he remains on the swing, like he did last week and the week before, his legs frozen in place not only by the fear that if he goes back he will break, but that if he doesn't he will be alone.

He is cold. Not just from the chilly air nipping at his skin, but in that empty place where his heart is supposed to be. He doesn't understand why that happens. He knows that the heart is just something that pumps blood around, and that the poets dramatize everything. This knowledge has never stopped it from hurting though.

His tears leave a cold trail down his cheeks as he realizes that he has to go home soon. He doesn't want them coming here. He doesn't want them in his "happy" place.

But he doesn't want to go back again. Not this time.

He was cold. The playground lies empty, the wind gently pushing at the swings where he once sat. He'll never know if those he left were crying, or looking, or caring...but then again, he'll never wonder about it.

He’s made a new happy place where he will never be cold again.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

"Incident Interview"

"Alright, we would like to get through this as quickly as possible. Why don't you tell us what happened that night?"

"We all sat shivering in the room. I don't know how we even made it inside alive. The monstrosity outside attacked the door with a ferocity that I haven’t seen in all my years of life. I glanced to my left, and saw Joseph clutching his arm, ripped nearly to shreds. His tears blending with the blood oozing from the wounds, pooling around his knees. He wanted to think that we were all crazy. He wanted to live in his naïve, peaceful world, ignorant of the monster that was going to break through the door any second now.

"I wondered at how he ended up being the one hurt the worst. The cynic, the one who refused to believe us. It was almost like the thing focused on him, forcing him to accept that such monsters do exist. And when he hesitated to run, struck dumb in horror, it struck with more rage than it ever showed against Will or me. I pitied him for an instant, wondering that he should have to go through so much pain before his death.

"I remember the words it spoke now, so long ago. The promises of a sweet, painless death. I remember ignoring it. I remember turning the offer down. I remember pretending to sleep as he stood there whispering.

"The hinges began to creak against the onslaught. The slips of paper on the door glowed faintly, but were slowly waning. I remember Will claiming that this matrix of spells would keep any evil entity out. I knew I shouldn’t have bought in to his Occultic crap.

"I looked over again, past Joseph kneeling in despair over his ruined arm, at Will. He was beyond mere shivering, he was shaking like a leaf in a gale. I saw him clutching at a scratch of paper, and I saw his mouth moving slightly.

"I stood up shakily and asked him what he was doing.

"He looked at me, but didn’t stop chanting. I couldn't hear the words, but I could feel the pressure in the small room changing. He choked, and a few audible words slipped through. 'With order without chaos...' He swallowed, but the words continued on without him, as if the walls themselves were speaking. He looked at me solemnly, tears welling up in his eyes. And he spoke for the last time that night.

"'I'm so sorry, there is no other way.'

"He blinked, and his eyes were no longer there. They weren’t empty sockets, they were filled with nothingness. The exact same nothingness that filled the eyes of the monster struggling to get into the room. A hinge cracked, as a tar-like substance began pouring out of Will's mouth. I backed up away from him...from it. Joseph looked up from his arm just long enough to get a glimpse of what Will had become before it attacked.

"Joseph.... He didn't stand a chance. It... it took him. It seeped into his arm wound, and moments later, he was just like Will. Same black, empty eyes, same ghastly expression.

"The monster broke the door then.... I don't really remember exactly what happened next. There was running. The walls were turning black and the ceiling was dripping the black gunk. I don't even remember how I got here..."

"How you got here isn't important. What happened after you left the room?"

"I... I don't remember. Running, more running, and then...nothing.”

"Alright. I'm going to leave now. Some words are going to appear on the screen there, and we want you simply to repeat the words. This should let us know if there's a disconnect in your short term memory somewhere."

"What do you think"

"Red elephant."

"I don't know. The kid seems pretty shook up."

"You think it's just trauma?"

"Grand Canyon."

"Man, trauma can do some weird shit."

"Yeah, yeah. And I’m smelling something fishy."

"She is holding the ball."

"Think something’s really wrong with the kid?"

"H̵̛E̸͟ ̷҉͝C̸͝O̴͘͠M̴EŞ͘͠!̸͢͝"

"Mm-hm.... I want him euthanized by sundown."

"...Yes, sir."