Don’t you hate it when you’re trying to have a good time harassing local and legal businesses and the people try to make you look bad with supposed security footage?
The irony is too good to pass up.
Don’t you hate it when you’re trying to have a good time harassing local and legal businesses and the people try to make you look bad with supposed security footage?
The irony is too good to pass up.
Do remember those moments, when you’re reading through your favorite book, and the author goes on and on about the details of a coat? Looking at you Anne Rice.
What would it be like to read a gripping, engrossing story that doesn’t pussy-foot around the point? What about a story that doesn’t have all that cumbersome filler and delivers an entertaining experience from cover to cover?
It would be Kiss Me Like You Love Me by Wednesday Lee Friday.
A horrific yet humorous tale that delves deep into the mind of a serial killer with mommy issues. Sounds familiar, and may even sound a bit tired for the genre. But it’s so much more than just another copy. Kiss Me Like You Love Me stands on its own with a narrative that flows like a train on consciousness. Wednesday Lee Friday’s unique style gives each paragraph energy to keep you engaged, and the tone may even have you sad for characters you should hate.
And for those that struggle to find time to enjoy a good read, take this as an example. I received a copy of Kiss Me Like You Love Me last night and stormed through it this morning, losing track of time, losing previous stress, and feeling like I went through an experience I would surely read again today.
Kiss Me Like You Love Me by Wednesday Lee Friday is highly recommended.
What’s that? Oh, it’s just another episode of The Walking Dead, a zombie themed drinking game where you down a shot of Southern Comfort each time Rick does his routine yell for Carol!
A drinking game is what you surely need to sit through some of the boring episodes, but there isn’t enough Carol to reach that good place.
But now with the Walking Deceased you can catch all your favorite Rick “Carol” moments back to back and end up so smashed that season 2 of the Walking Dead becomes somewhat bearable.
Walking Deceased also has other forget able characters from other mainstream zombie films, but don’t worry. You’ll be so fucking drunk you’ll find even the most cringest moments hilarious.
The Walking Decease: the perfect Walking Dead drinking game!
I mean, that is its winning quality.
Kayleigh always came back. I told that to the two cops, the big, friendly one with the gap-toothed smile, his blonde hair cropped to a stubble, and the older, black one with acne scars on his cheeks who constantly chewed spearmint gum and didn’t say much. Sure, we sometimes fought like cats and dogs and she’d storm off, proclaiming that she was done with my lazy ass for good this time, but she always came back.
“I know how that is, son. Women love drama even more than they love shopping,” the friendly one said, smiling his gap-toothed smile. He pushed the can of soda that I’d asked for toward me across the metal table in the little room. It was good and cold, the sides of the can beaded with drops of condensation. I popped the top and took a long drink.
The room had a mirror on one wall that I knew from watching crime shows wasn’t a mirror at all, but a piece of one-way glass behind which someone (or more than one someone) was probably observing me. The big cop asked me to go over it again for him and Sargent Woodhouse, if I didn’t mind. When was the last time I saw her?”
So I went over it again.
The fight we had that Friday night was over something utterly ridiculous. Our fights were frequently over trivial things, like who neglected to refill the water in the Keurig or who left the banana peel on the kitchen sink. This one erupted over the burning issue of which way the toilet paper should go in the wall holder in the bathroom of our cramped little apartment: facing out, toward the toilet and the person seated thereupon, or inward, toward the wall. I insisted that it should go facing out. Kayleigh took the opposing position in the great toilet paper debate of 2015.
The argument rapidly became heated and accusations flew. She called me a lazy piece of shit who needed to get a real job. I called her a controlling bitch who wouldn’t be happy until I was chained to a desk, like her dad. I believe I may also have informed her that it was at times like these that she reminded me forcefully of her mother, a dreadful harridan who chain-smoked Kools and had an uncanny resemblance to Hermann Göring, both in appearance and in temperament.
The fight culminated in Kayleigh hurling the roll of toilet paper at the bathroom wall, where it rebounded and splashed into the toilet. Grabbing her backpack, she exited the premises. That was eight days ago. I haven’t seen her since. This was the third time the cops had asked me to come down to the station and go over her disappearance. I was getting tired of telling the same story over and over.
“Where do you think she went?” asked the black cop, Woodhouse, exhaling spearmint fumes in my direction. I said I didn’t know. When she hadn’t come home by Sunday night, I called around to all her friends, asking if they’d seen her. They hadn’t. Next I called the restaurant where she worked part-time and asked if anyone there had seen her. No one had. Reluctantly, I called her parents’ house. Her mother answered the phone and said Kayleigh hadn’t been there. She seemed pleased when I told her we’d had an argument.
“I’ll certainly tell her to call you if she turns up here,” she said sweetly, leaving no doubt in my mind that she intended to do nothing of the sort.
“She didn’t take her car. It’s still parked in front of your building,” the friendly cop observed. His name was Van Horn, I now remembered, the same as my eight-grade home room teacher. He asked if I thought she might have gotten a ride from someone.
Kayleigh wasn’t in the habit of accepting rides from strangers, but she may have gone off with someone she knew, possibly someone from school. She was in her senior year of college, studying to become a special education teacher. It was where we’d met. I’d dropped out when I became bored by my political science classes and disenchanted with the idea of furthering my education with another boring, grueling and expensive four years of law school.
While trying to decide what to do next, I helped my Uncle Pete, who went around to estate sales, looking for valuable antiques that were being offered for sale at bargain basement prices by the unwitting relatives of the deceased.
He’d poke through a cluster of odds and ends laid out on a picnic table in somebody’s garage and come up with a dusty china figurine of a grinning monkey wearing a sailor hat. He’d say, “My sister’s little girl would like this. How much do you want for it?” The person running the sale would hesitatingly ask for ten dollars, which Pete would bargain down to five, all the while knowing full well that the funny-looking monkey was eighteenth-century Meissen porcelain that would sell for about three thousand dollars in one of the fancy antiques stores in the city.
Uncle Pete was what was called a “picker” — a middleman who sold what he bought at a fat profit to antique dealers, who subsequently sold what they bought from him at an even fatter profit.
I was learning a lot from Uncle Pete. I thought that maybe someday I’d start an antiques business of my own. Kayleigh thought that was a terrible idea. She hated my uncle, whom she disdainfully called “Picker Pete,” and begrudged the time I spent with him. My lack of what she called a “real job” was a major source of friction between us.
“What happed after she left?” Van Horn asked. I’d already told them that I watched TV and went to bed, but I told them again that I watched an episode of a reality show called Carnies, about a feuding, dissolute family of carnival workers. In that Friday’s episode, Jayde tries to make funnel cakes for the first time and breaks the funnel cake fryer.
Then she and her brother, the one they call Full Moon because he’s always dropping his pants and mooning people, go out to a bar where a guy hits on Jayde and he and Full Moon get into a fight.
“I watch that show,” Van Horn said. “I like the one they call Uncle Daddy. He’s a real piece of work.” He turned to Woodhouse. “Do you ever watch Carnies, Al?”
Woodhouse shook his head.
Van Horn asked what happened the next morning. I said I got up early, at 6 A.M., and went to meet Uncle Pete. We took his van and went to a diner for breakfast, then started hitting yard sales, getting there early, just as people were setting up. We went to six or seven yard sales, and three estate sales that were advertised in the local paper. We unloaded the stuff Pete bought into one of his storage lockers (he rented several) and then returned to his house at around five. It might have been closer to six, I wasn’t sure. Pete counted off two hundred dollars from the thick roll of bills wrapped in a rubber band that he carries in his hip pocket, paid me, and I took off for home.
Uncle Pete lives out in the country. As I drove home, my car started acting up. It did that sometimes. The thermostat would gradually creep into the red and the car would start bucking and sputtering. When that happened, I’d pull over and wait until the engine cooled down before continuing on my way. I meant to get it looked at, but I hadn’t gotten around to it.
The place where I pulled over was on a narrow county lane overhung with large old trees so that it was almost like driving through a leafy green tunnel. A disused canal ran along one side, the water brown and stagnant. There was no other traffic and it started to rain lightly. The sound of rain pattering on the car roof made me sleepy. I hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before, having awakened several times thinking I’d heard Kayleigh come in. I pushed the seat back, closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep.
I awoke to the sound of someone tapping on my window. It was a woman who looked to be a few years older than me, her red hair tied up in a bright blue bandana, like the woman flexing her arm on the World War II poster that says “We Can Do It!” Rosie the Riveter, I think she’s called.
I have a thing for redheads. Kayleigh’s hair is sort of a brownish-auburn but this woman’s hair was fiery red. She had big blue eyes and a cute smattering of freckles across the bridge of her nose. Her denim overalls were caked with mud. Her hands and arms were muddy, too. She smiled brightly at me as I blinked drowsily at her, still half asleep. I rolled down the window.
“I saw you parked out here. Do you need help?” she asked.
I told her my car was acting up.
“Do you want to come in and use my phone to call a tow truck or something? I live right over there,” she said, pointing.
The roof of a house was visible behind a high privet hedge to our right. It was getting dark. There were no streetlights and no sign of any other houses. I told her it wouldn’t be necessary; the engine just needed to cool down.
“It’s not very comfortable sitting out here. Why don’t you come in and I’ll make us some ice tea or something. I was working in the garden and I’m pretty thirsty. I could use some company.”
The way she said it made me think there might be more than a glass of ice tea on offer. She was pretty, and I was single (at least temporarily) so why not take her up on her invitation and see what developed? I said I’d love a cold drink.
“Great! I’ve got some brandy and there’s ginger ale in the fridge. If you want, I can make horse’s necks.”
I said that sounded fine. I got out of the car and followed her through an opening in the hedge, up a flagstone walk that cut through a well-tended lawn with flower beds planted with rose bushes, to the front door of a cottage that had wooden fish-scale shingles painted a buttery yellow. She opened the door and ushered me into the living room.
“I’d shake hands, but I’m all muddy,” she said smiling, “I’m Milly, short for Mildred, by the way. And would you believe it? My last name is Pierce, isn’t that a riot?”
I must have looked confused because she added, “Like in the movie? With Joan Crawford?”
Aha! The wire-hanger lady. I told her my name was Sam Hurley. She said to have a seat on the divan while she freshened up; she’d only be a minute. I looked around while I waited. She had some nice antiques, including a Biedermeier bookcase and matching desk that Uncle Pete would love to get his hands on.
She returned about ten minutes later bearing two tall glasses containing an amber liquid in which ice cubes clinked. Spirals of lemon peel were draped over the rims. Truth be told, I’d been hoping she’d be naked, or at the very least wearing only a robe, but she had on a blue and white striped cotton sundress that set off her tan nicely. It had a wide skirt that came down to her calves, which could best be described as shapely. Her hair was down over her shoulders in loose waves and she wore dark red lipstick. She looked absolutely gorgeous, and I told her so.
“Why, thank you, kind sir,” she said, handing me a glass and raising hers in a toast. “Here’s to new friends.”
“To new friends,” I echoed, and took a drink. It tasted good. I asked her, “What’s this called?”
“I told you, it’s a horse’s neck. Haven’t you ever had one before?”
I said I hadn’t and drained my glass. I was thirstier than I’d realized.
“Let me get you another,” she said, and went out of the room, presumably to the kitchen. In the approximately ten hours that I spent in her house I saw only two rooms: the living room and the bedroom. She returned with another drink and then another. After that, I lost count.
“You slept with her,” Woodhouse said. He wasn’t being judgmental; he was just stating a fact. Just the facts, ma’am, I though, suppressing a grin. Now that I thought of it, the stony-faced Woodhouse reminded me of Joe Friday in Dragnet, as portrayed by the late, great Jack Webb. He even looked a little like a darker version of Jack Webb. I wondered if anyone had ever told him that.
I admitted that I’d slept with Milly Pierce. Kayleigh and I weren’t engaged, although we were officially in a relationship, according to our Facebook status, which I suppose is the twenty-first-century version of the medieval custom of handfasting.
What can I say about my night with Milly? It was magical and wonderful. Unlike a lot of redheads, her only freckles were the ones scattered across the bridge of her nose and a few cinnamon-colored ones on her tanned shoulders. She was long and lean and lovely and we took our time, savoring each another.
At one point, she lightly stroked my chest and asked where I’d gotten the scratches. I hadn’t noticed them before. I suppose they came from helping Uncle Pete load an unwieldy neoclassical Second Empire sideboard into his van. (A sideboard that he assured the lady who was selling her dead grandmother’s possessions came from Sears.)
“I’ll kiss them and make them all better,” said Milly, bending down from where she sat astride me and doing exactly that.
I awoke the next morning in the front seat of my car. The sun was coming up and I had a rotten headache. I dimly remembered Milly walking me to the car and giving me a lingering kiss.
“Goodbye, lover. Drive safely,” she said. Did I feel guilty? A little, but Kayleigh didn’t need to know about this. And she had been pretty mean to me. It served her right that I’d spent the night in another woman’s bed.
Van Horn spoke up. “What do you say we drive you out there so we can talk to her in order to verify your whereabouts that night? Would that be okay with you, Sam?”
I said it would be okay, although I’d rather Kayleigh didn’t find out about it when she came back from wherever she’d taken herself off to.
Van Horn nodded his head and gave me a wink. “Gotcha. We won’t tell her. We just need to cover all the bases, you know?”
I agreed, although I didn’t see how talking to Milly would help find Kayleigh. (Who was probably off sulking somewhere, hoping to throw a scare into me.) I was looking forward to seeing Milly again, even if it was in the company of the police. Who knows, if Kayleigh decided to call it quits, maybe Milly and I could become a steady thing.
Feeling hopeful, I accompanied Woodhouse and Van Horn to a patrol car and we set out toward her place.
Van Horn drove and Woodhouse sat in the passenger seat. I was in the back, behind a screen of wire mesh. “How do you like riding back there, Sam?” Van Horn asked, studying me in the rearview mirror when we were stopped at a traffic light. “Do you feel like a bad guy?”
“I ain’t talking, copper,” I sneered, doing my best James Cagney imitation. Van Horne and Woodhouse laughed. “Look out, we got a badass on our hands,” Woodhouse remarked.
We found the street where Milly lived without too much trouble. It looked different in the bright daylight. The trees still formed a tunnel overhead and the canal ran along on the left but now there were joggers and bicyclists on the towpath. The last time I was here there hadn’t been a soul around. There were more houses than I’d noticed before. I watched for the privet hedge in front of Milly’s house and almost missed it. It was a lot thicker and higher than I remembered.
“Over here is where I parked,” I told the two cops. Van Horne pulled the patrol car over to the shoulder.
“This is it, huh? Let’s go talk to the lady.” Woodhouse opened the door and let me out. He stretched, looking around. He observed, “Looks like it’s for sale.”
There was a for sale sign next to the road. I was fairly certain it hadn’t been there before. We walked through a gap in the hedge and what I saw made me stop dead in my tracks. It was Milly’s house all right, but the yellow fish scale shingles were gone, replaced by grey vinyl siding. The windows were bare, the lawn was neglected and the house had a deserted look.
There was something else that Woodhouse spotted at once: a pile of dirt covering what was unmistakably a freshly dug hole about six feet long. It’s a grave, I thought wonderingly.
“Get him in the car,” Woodhouse barked.
“Come with me, Mister Hurley,” Van Note said, taking me firmly by the arm.
I was no longer Sam; I was Mister Hurley. That didn’t bode well. I didn’t understand what was happening. Was that really a grave? Had somebody killed Milly and buried her in her garden? Did the cops think I did it? They surely couldn’t think that, could they?
It turned out that’s not what they thought.
It was a grave, but Milly wasn’t in it: Kayleigh was. Her backpack was in there too, containing her cell phone on which there were a number of increasingly frenzied voice mails from me, asking where she was and when she was coming home. The police found a shovel caked with dirt in the trunk of my car. The dirt matched the dirt in the grave. Don’t ask me how they could tell. I guess they have ways of determining things like that.
They also found bits of my skin under Kayleigh’s fingernails. They said she’d clawed at my chest when I strangled her. I told them it wasn’t true. I’d never hurt Kayleigh, but they didn’t believe me.
Uncle Pete got me a lawyer, a buddy of a friend of his. I took two polygraph tests, both of which indicated that I had no memory of killing Kayleigh. The polygraphs weren’t admissible in court, but that didn’t matter because I didn’t have a trial. My lawyer worked it so a judge found me incompetent to stand trial on the grounds of insanity.
That’s about it. I’m now in a prison for the mentally ill. My lawyer said my stay here is “indeterminate,” which I take to mean that I’ll probably be here for the rest of my life.
I have a private cell, since my fellow inmates don’t take kindly to guys who refuse to acknowledge that they murdered their girlfriends. (It appears it’s perfectly acceptable to kill one’s girlfriend, the reasoning being that she probably brought it on herself, but it’s not okay to deny any knowledge of it.) I don’t mind. I’m not lonely. Kayleigh comes to visit whenever the C.O.s aren’t around. I told her she shouldn’t be missing her college classes, but she says it’s okay; she wants to be with me.
“I forgive you for squeezing my neck so hard,” she told me the first time she came. She seated herself next to me on the thin mattress of my bunk and gave me a hug. “I forgive you for sleeping with that woman, too.”
I said I was sorry we’d fought. I didn’t remember squeezing her neck.
“You did,” she said, looking up at me with serious brown eyes. “It was really scary but it doesn’t hurt anymore.”
I said I was glad. I asked, “You want to hear something weird, about Milly?”
Kayleigh frowned and tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear. She didn’t like me talking about Milly but I went on. “She killed her husband, back in 1949 and buried him in the garden, probably right around where they found you.”
My lawyer told me all about it. He even brought me copies of the old newspaper articles that described Milly’s late husband as a decorated war hero who had returned home blind and minus his right arm as a result of being blown up by a Japanese landmine on some island in the South Pacific.
According to the testimony at her trial, Milly got tired of taking care of him and hit him over the head with a heavy vase, cracking his skull. She then dragged him out to the garden and buried him.
Unfortunately for the late second lieutenant Roy Pierce, he was still alive when his wife tumbled him into his hastily dug grave. He managed to claw himself out partway with his remaining hand before finally succumbing to his head injury. The milkman discovered him the next morning.
The news stories featured pictures of Milly in the courtroom, looking downcast and dressed sedately in a black dress with a white lace collar. Even in the old black and white photos you could tell she was something to look at.
Her lawyer painted a picture of her husband as a mean-tempered alcoholic who’d attacked her, causing her to whack him over the head in self-defense, but the jury didn’t buy it. She was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to forty years in the Scarborough Women’s Reformatory. She died there in 1976, of pancreatic cancer.
“Humpf. She doesn’t sound very nice,” Kayleigh said. “If she died in 1976, how come you saw her?”
I said I had no idea. I didn’t believe in ghosts. Maybe I’d somehow stepped back into 1949 when I was parked there on the side of the road outside her house. She was awfully muddy, and she said she’d been working in the garden. Maybe she’d just finished burying her husband.
“I don’t believe in ghosts either,” Kayleigh said firmly. She rose and kissed me. “I’ve got to go. Somebody’s coming.”
I could hear jingling keys. It must be a C.O., coming to check on me. I turned to tell Kayleigh goodbye, but she was gone. That was okay, though; Kayleigh always came back.
As an author, I wrote because I wanted to, because I needed to. By channeling my emotions and thought into the craft, I created fantastic and horrific environments rich with jaded and broken characters that resembled my reality.
There is little I enjoy more than knowing that someone has read and commented on my work. I know that others, other authors share the same.
Effective today, Deadman’s Tome will offer payments to authors based on how well their story is received. Now, I know that there are hidden gems, stories that the editor enjoyed, but somehow went overlooked. I’ll address those situations when they arise.
Deadman’s Tome will offer Authors published from this date, 6/21/2015, payment based on readership. This payment is calculated $.05 US per likes, shares, and $.10 US comments for a three month period after date of publish.
I’ll be reading through submissions this weekend. I’ve peeked at a couple, and from what I’ve seen, it’s going to be worth the wait.
If you got a short story ripe with unfathomable horror, then send it in.
Quick update: Deadman’s Tome needs submissions! Enjoy writing? Have a desire to express through written word? Want the satisfaction of others relating to you through story, or do you simply want to scare?
Well, send in your short fiction and we’ll let the public feed on it!
For authors, some of you know that I payout incentives based on likes, comments, and shares. Deadman’s Tome will release payouts June and July.
(The following account was written by Stanly Ford in Reno, Nevada, between July 3 and 4, 1928. The events described reportedly took place between on June 18 of that same year somewhere in the desert west of Austin, Nevada. Though no hard evidence has ever been discovered that would definitively prove or disprove the events herein related, Mr. Ford was able to convince a number of scientific figures of the day, including the folklorist Howard Lovecraft, who wrote a lengthy article on the Ford case which he published as part of his Eldritch Myth in 1942. In researching his article, Lovecraft met with Mr. Ford, who had been found “wandering in the wilderness, vacant and babbling” on the morning of June 28 by a nature photographer from National Geographic. In Lovecraft’s opinion, Stanly Ford was a “Frank and intelligent fellow whose eyes shone with honesty.” This account was first published in Amazing! Magazine on February 18, 1956, under the title “Attack of the Fifty-Foot Ghoul.”)
My name is Stanly T. Ford, and I was born twenty-eight years ago in the town of Patricia, California, which straddles the Oregon border. As a child, my pursuits were normal and wholesome. I attended church, sang in the choir, played sports with the other boys, and aspired to one day become a missionary in strange and foreign ports. I eventually abandoned the calling, but remained faithful.
What I have to write today is, then, not a delusion born of morbid fascinations or exaggerated whimsy. I come before the world with the truth. Already, the papers in town are calling me mad, and while that perturbs me to no end, I am resolved to stand firm in the face of ridicule.
God help me, I’m not lying when I say that I and my colleagues encountered something hideous in the badlands of central Nevada, a creature which has no rightful place in this world, a foul, soul-petrifying thing escaped from the most depraved of Arabic folklore. I beg you all to take my words to heart.
It, whatever it was, is out there now, shoved into some dark subterranean chamber, waiting to rise once more. God help us, it might even be coming this way as I write.
The firm for which I work, Birchen Asphalt Co., was contracted by the government to erect a highway between Austin and Ely, Nevada, a distance of some fifty miles. As the house surveyor, it fell to me to scout the best possible route for this proposed highway.
I arrived in Ely on the fifteenth of June along with my partner, a stout and brutal former doughboy named Lewis, and a sixteen-year-old apprentice by the name of Elroy. We checked into the Union Hotel on State Street around noon that cursed day, and then took our lunch in the café across the street. As we waited for our food, Elroy picked my brain, so to speak, and Lewis sat to himself, seeming to gaze into the ether.
The day was well over 100 degrees, and the café felt like an oven. The combination of the heat and Elroy’s incessant questions began giving me a headache, and, as politely as I could, I excused myself before it could progress into a full-scale agony.
Outside, the arid breeze washed over my fevered face; compared to the stuffy air of the diner, it was blissful. I closed my eyes and leaned back against the wall flanking the door. Slowly, the pain faded, ebbing away like spring runoff.
“Hot day, isn’t it?”
I opened my eyes, and saw, before me, a brown man in khaki shorts and shirt. At first, I mistook him for a negro, but quickly realized that he was, indeed, a white man, albeit one whose prolonged exposure to the sun had baked his skin an unhealthy shade of dull brown.
“It is,” I replied, “much warmer than California. I’m afraid I’m no good in such brutal climes.”
The man chuckled, a raspy, rusted sound that grated the nerves. I feared that my headache would flare back up like an ember buried deep within a seemingly extinguished campfire.
“California man, eh? What brings you here? And in summer?”
I told him, and he grinned. “Looks like we’re coworkers, almost. My name’s Sam Johnson, and I’ll be doing some digging in that area.”
Johnson, in a surprisingly plainspoken manner, told me that he was a professor of archeology, and was conducting a dig along with members of his college’s folklore department.
“Looking for evidence of Old Ones,” he said, nearly whispering the last two words.
“Old Ones?” I asked uncertainly.
Johnson nodded. “Those who walked the earth before us.”
Intrigued, I invited Johnson to accompany me, and, together, we returned to the table, where Elroy was making the grave mistake of questioning Lewis. For his part, Lewis sat with his arms reservedly crossed over his broad chest.
I introduced the Doctor, and then listened rapt for what must have been a half an hour as he regaled us with tales of these Old Ones. From what he told me, the world was once ruled over by strange beings unlike anything ever seen since. With the advent of man, the Old Ones went “underground,” so to speak, and have been biding their time, waiting through untold eons to retake what is theirs.
“Dr. Franklin can tell you much more than I ever could,” Johnson finished, taking a sip of water, which the waitress had brought with our meals. Looking around like a man just woken from a long coma, I saw Lewis, drumming his fingers on the table and looking impatient. The plate before him was clean. Elroy, like me, had been listening intently. His eyes were large and boyish, and he had hardly touched his food.
“He’s the head of the folklore department,” Johnson explained. “Say, how about we all meet up tomorrow? We can take you surveying, and then you can come with us on the dig? I’m sure Dr. Franklin wouldn’t mind.”
I jumped at the idea, as they say, and we arranged to meet in the lobby of the Union the following day.
Back in the hotel, Lewis, Elroy, and I spent rest of the day relaxing. I wrote a lengthy entry into my diary (which I seem to have lost in the desert), and read a newspaper. When it came time to sleep, I was restless, and laid awake long past midnight, my mind spinning. I cannot say that I believed in Johnson’s Old Ones, but he had offered compelling evidence, and the singular nature of the whole thing awoke in me a hitherto unknown chasm of dark curiosity.
Perhaps there was something to it. I do, and did, believe that there are things which man cannot explain. Or rather, there are things that conventional and intolerant science cannot explain. Men like Johnson and this Dr. Franklin are our only chance at truth, for the scientific community, despite its tremendous strides in the past hundred years, is stubborn in its refusal to entertain things like the paranormal, and dismisses what it cannot account for as stupidity, superstition, or flat-out falsehood.
Thus wired, my sleep, when it finally came, was light and fitful. When dawn crested in the east, I rose and hurriedly dressed. When the appointed time came, my compatriots and I met with Johnson and a small group of swarthy men in the hotel lobby. With them was a small, rotund man with large glasses and a bald pate. Dressed haphazardly in a tweed jacket and a pair of dirty slacks accented by a yellow bowtie, Dr. Franklin was not an impressive specimen. When I spoke to him in the car, however, I found him to be a genius of the highest magnitude.
I’m embarrassed to admit this next part, but I, after little thought, called off that day’s work so we could accompany the Johnson-Franklin group to its campsite, roughly thirty miles west of Austin, and fifteen miles south from there. I was like a giddy child who ignores his studies in favor of playing in the dirt, and my professional nature recoils in hindsight. Then, though, I was concerned only with the blasted dig.
On the way, Franklin told me more of these Old Ones. An assorted race of star dwellers who came to earth several millennia before the accepted dawn of time, they built weird and futuristic cities and regularly traveled between here and unknown planets in space. Godlike, the Old Ones are monstrous in appearance and intent, and, Franklin whispered, may have even created humankind themselves.
My head swam with the frightening subject matter, so much so that I was struck speechless until we arrived at the campsite sometime after noon. Horror suddenly forgotten, I was agog at the starkly beautiful terrain surrounding us; Strange and alien rock formations rose from vast seas of sand, and mountains that seemed somehow off towered into the duty skies on three sides of us.
At once we set about getting set up. Lewis approached me at one point and demanded to know when we would be leaving. “Tomorrow,” I told him, though, and again I regret to even say it, I was lying. I was consumed. So much so that I can’t help but think that that thing was influencing me all the while, pulling strings from a distance.
Within an hour, a virtual tent city had sprung up. There were twenty people in the party, not including us, but in that isolated waste, they seemed multiplied; I could have sworn there were twice as many.
Ever the amiable host, Dr. Franklin invited us to stay with them as long as we liked. That night after dinner, as we sat around a small fire, I told him that we would most likely be leaving in a day or so. Was it a lie? I don’t know.
“Well, then,” Dr. Franklin said with a grin, “I suppose we had better follow up the most promising leads first.”
“Leads?” I asked.
Franklin nodded. “I told you earlier that there were many types of Old Ones. They are like man, grouped into races, classes, what have you. I did not tell you, though, which Old Ones we are looking for.”
“No,” I replied, “but that…”
Ignoring me, Franklin went on: “They are popularly called ghula, or ghoul. In Near East mythology, the ghoul is a demonic entity that dwells in the wilderness, usually near cemeteries and oft traveled highways. Cannibalistic by nature, ghouls are incorporeal, and thus are forced to take on the form of the poor wretch they last ate. Most ghouls eat only the dead (and so appear as the dead). Others, however, are more…daring, and kill living humans…”
Trailing off, Dr. Franklin poked the fire with a stick, sending a shower of sparks into the night. For the first time in what may have been hours, I became aware of the camp around me. Dark and silent, it was asleep. Dr. Franklin and I were alone with the night.
“It is believed that the first ghouls were created by a cannibal giant who lived under the Arabian Desert. This proto ghoul, I believe, was but one of a race, a race with lives even now beneath the deserts of the world.”
“What brings you to this particular spot, then?” I asked, “what leads do you have?”
Franklin smiled. “This…area has always been shunned by the Shoshone Indians, who have lived in this part of the country for centuries. There are stories of “Wendigos” haunting the deserts, giant cannibal creatures who turn human beings into flesh-eating revenants. This part of Nevada is particularly legend haunted. I’ve spoken to a few Shoshone, including a medicine man who claims to be one-hundred-and-fifty, and they all agree that there is, in fact, a “Wendigo” in the salt flats. They couldn’t agree on where it lived, but the medicine man says there is a “bottomless” cave about three miles south of here. That, my friend, is where we are going tomorrow.”
There, we ended the night.
I had no trouble sleeping, thankfully, but my dreams were plagued by giant, hoven creatures. By morning, I was fatigued and lethargic. When Franklin came around to rouse me, I nearly begged off, but forced myself out of bed anyway.
We began our trek into the desert at once, just Johnson, Franklin, two of their laborers, and myself. The heat of the day was astounding, the sun a boiling caldron of hellfire, and by the time we came into view of what Franklin believed to be the cave (a large, humplike mound of rock), all of us were heat sick.
Taking refuge under an out jutting rock, we ate lunch and excitedly discussed the looming hill, yet a mile off.
Done, we buried our trash in the sand and pressed on. Twenty minutes later, we stood before the mound. Composed of reddish rock, the hive-like mound rose perhaps eighty feet into the air. At its base was a yawning maw. A sort of pathway had been erected leading into it, stones laid out like fine jewels.
“I want you all to stay here,” Franklin said, pulling a crumpled piece of paper from his pocket. “I’m going to make sure the land is clear. Once I know it’s safe, I’ll come out and get you.”
We grudgingly agreed, and stood in the sun while he cautiously disappeared into the darkness.
“If we don’t find anything here,” I asked Johnson, “where is our next destination?”
“About two miles north of here. There’s a little oasis that near the mouth of another cave.”
For the next several minutes, we waited in silence. Finally, Dr. Franklin appeared. “Come on!” he cried excitedly, “you have to see this.”
Johnson and I looked at each other. Followed by the laborers, we went to Dr. Franklin, whose eyes shone. “It’s amazing! Simply amazing!” he babbled. “It all but confirms the presence of the ghula.”
For the first time, apprehension blossomed in my stomach. I could see that Johnson was slightly rattled as well. Regardless, we followed Dr. Franklin into the cave, which was cold after the heat of the day. In the dim sunlight filtering through the entrance, I immediately noticed strange hieroglyphics on the walls.
“Arabic,” Dr. Franklin said, “it says ‘All entering, know that this is the kingdom of the living dead.’”
A shiver trickled down my spine.
Franklin, electric torch in hand, motioned for us to follow him deeper into the cavern. “And up here.”
Close to what I imagined to be the back of the cave, we found a pit, perhaps twelve feet across and twelve feet long. “Down there,” Franklin said, “is where I believe the ghula to be.”
Franklin shined the light down, but the beam only reached five feet. I cannot say what lay beyond that, but I sensed that it was forever.
Looking up, I then noticed that the walls were honeycombed with archways, gaping holes which no doubt led to hidden chambers. In one of them, I perceived, or thought I perceived, a flicker of movement, and my heart jolted against my ribcage. Behind me, one of the laborers muttered something under his breath, and the other spat the word “Evil.”
“Dr. Franklin,” I stuttered, licking my sandpaper lips. Scanning the lopsided thresholds, I became convinced that each one held something living, something infinitely grotesque. “Shine the light up there.”
“What?” he asked, turning. I pointed to the first entryway I had seen, and he gasped.
“I hadn’t noticed those.” He raised the light, and at that moment a dreadful noise, much like a long, hollow moan, drifted from somewhere imperceptible.
Almost simultaneously, the light fell upon the opening, revealing a figure in a dark, ratty robe, its face bluish and…crusted, for lack of a better term. I started, while one of the men behind me yelped.
The thing stood there watching us, its eyes as black as midnight on the ocean floor. Paralyzed, we could do little more than stare back, which we did for what seemed an eternity, but really couldn’t have been more than a minute. Finally, the spell was broken by Johnson, who yelped like a small dog tread underfoot. “Something has me!”
Franklin turned the light, and we all beheld it; hands, gray with decomposition, were popping out of the ground like abominable serpents, and one held fast to Johnson’s ankle.
Panicking, Johnson pulled back, and the creature who had him, displaying a detestable premeditation, let go; screaming and pin wheeling his arms as though he were a bird, Johnson toppled into the chasm. Franklin reached out to grab him, dropped the flashlight, and was tripped by one of the hands, falling to his knees with a muffled umph.
With a cry and a rustle of feet, the two laborers fled, leaving me rooted to where I stood, too terrified to move, my heart thundering and my stomach tightening.
Dr. Franklin screamed; the darkness teemed. Seconds crept by, a minute, I stayed where I was, my legs like cinderblocks. I sense movement all around me.
“Damn it!” Dr. Franklin screamed, struggling with the creatures, “get off of me!”
In the beam of the fallen torch, his face was contorted in fear and desperation. There must have been five sets of hands rising from the floor, clawing, pinching, grabbing.
As I looked helplessly on, a head broke through the dirt not a foot from Dr. Franklin’s face. Its eyes were black like the others’, and its mouth, twisted in hateful hunger, worked up and down, chomp, chomp, chomp. The doctor wailed, and the creature, becoming aware of his presence, turned to him. I can’t be sure, but it looked like it smiled.
“No! No!” Franklin screamed.
The ghoul strained forward.
“Help me, Stanly!”
The ghoul bit. Blood gushed. Franklin howled.
With an electric jolt, my paralysis broke, and I threw myself toward daylight, teetering precariously on the brink of madness. All around my feet, hands waved mockingly back and forth, clawing at thin air, waiting to rip and tear. Close to the cave mouth, beyond which sanity lie, one of the ghouls had worked its way entirely free, and stood in my way, waiting to enfold me in its undead embrace.
A man more in his right mind might have stopped. I didn’t. I barreled right through the thing, knocking it aside, and exploded into the sun.
I had expected to find safety outside of that cave, as if such horrors could only exist in the dark. Instead, I found more terror. There were two, three dozen ghouls hobbling aimlessly to and fro. A number more were bent over two supine figures, partaking of their flesh.
The ones not otherwise preoccupied quickly noticed me, and began shambling in my direction, their arms outstretched and their mouths working furiously.
With a muttered curse, I ducked heedlessly to my left, and almost fell over a boulder sticking out of the ground. Climbing over, I landed on my back and struggled to my feet. Before me, a long, sandy incline hugged the bottom of the accursed hill. Beyond, open desert.
Panting raggedly, I got perhaps halfway down before I tripped in the deep sand and fell. Screaming, I rolled head-over-feet the rest of the way, striking hidden rocks with my knees and elbows.
When I finally came to rest, I got back to my feet and spared a glance over my shoulder: A line of ghouls were picking their way down the hill.
I ran then. It seems I ran for eons before I again looked back, but it couldn’t have been more than five minutes. Thankfully, the ghouls had given up the chase. In the hazy distance, the hill stood like a beacon to the living dead.
Before I could turn my back one final time, something extraordinary happened. With a shake and a rumble, the hill collapsed on itself like a house of cards. Within seconds, the debris exploded into the air as something titanic rose from the depths, a gigantic stalk of organic horror fifty feet high and as wide as a building.
The human mind can only handle so much, I’ve been told, and at this point, I lapsed into blessed catatonia.
When I came to, I was here, in Reno. How I came to be in this area is beyond me, as it is three hundred miles west of where I began. For several days after being found, I am told, I was stark raving mad. In fact, yesterday was the first moment of lucidity I’ve known in some time, though when I came to, I imagined that I was still in the desert, moments away from being trampled or eaten.
The others weren’t as lucky as I. The paper says that they are all missing, but I know what really happened to them.
As for the ghula itself, the animating spirit of dead flesh, I know where it is, if, God forbid, it isn’t in transit. You won’t see it, just a fraction of it.
My grandmother once told me that God was so big that the sky was but the iris of his eye, but even she could never comprehend the size of the ghula. For that rising stalk I beheld in the desert was not the ghula. Right before I blacked out, I recognized what it was, from ball-and-socket pivot to the jagged, misshapen crown. It was not the ghula. Or at least not its body, or even its arm. What I saw was but one single finger.
I should never have gone there. I should never have prodded into the depths of unknowable things. That deep, dark realm of nightmares and horror, it was my doom. I will not condemn you if you decide to take my account as the result of a bizarre fantasy, for it is a difficult tale to accept. But I am writing this down in the hope that someone finds it amongst these ruins. My own consciousness constantly hopes that everything that has happened is just a dream and that I shall wake up soon.
At an early age I had come to the realization that there was something wrong. I always felt an intrusive, alien presence within my own self; part of me, but also distinct. I noticed abnormalities with how the flow of time was perceived, with how space and distance were judged, and how the world seemed incorrect to me. I lived with these thoughts every day, trying to push them from my mind so that I could go on with my life. However, these inclinations never truly disappeared. There would always be a tugging at my mind, forcing me to bring my realizations back into view. And with each passing year as I matured into young-adulthood, my noticing of these aberrations became more and more intense and debilitating. They would cause me great anxiety and paranoia. I would seldom leave my home, and would spend most days cooped up with my books.
As far back as I can recall I had a substantial interest in matters of the occult and of the mind. My family being not of great wealth, I could only study and learn from what paltry offerings my young and inexperienced self could get my hands on. Yet as I grew and circumstance changed, I was able to expand my knowledge, being able to afford to buy books, go to school, and procure other sources of information. I divided my time between studying psychology in school and occultism in private. But what I could not discover was the source of this…pulling at my mind. What was this accursed presence within me that was driving me slowly to madness? I obsessively studied my occult and psychological materials in search of an answer, but to no avail.
My mental condition grew worse with each passing year, although I managed to keep it hidden from my family and peers. My anxiety had become so overwhelming that I never stepped outside, with the exception of going to my classes.
But at the start of my third year of university, the dreams began.
In my dreams I would find myself in a dark city, not a city of metal and glass, but a city of ancient stone. A place with buildings constructed of massive obsidian blocks covered with hieroglyphs, obscured by countless years of overgrown moss and vines. There were immense pyramids crumbling to ruin, and colossal brooding obelisks scattered around, whose purpose had been lost to time. This was a city of great antiquity that sprawled out in all directions as far as I could see, and was bathed in the sinister moonlight emanating from a sky of eternal night. And although no living things were in sight, I had a creeping and inexplicable sense that this place contained a lurking horror which should not be disturbed. After initially taking in the surrounding view I decided to move deeper, but that is when I awakened in my bed.
From then on every night I dreamt and found myself in that lonely, decayed city of timeworn stone. And every night I would manage to explore more and more of the bizarre surroundings before waking. I walked among those dead and silent buildings for what seemed like hours every time I slept. My fear of rousing some hidden horror among these ruins was overcome by a sense of fascination and curiosity. The decrepit and alien city sparked such a grand wonder in me, perhaps due to my occult interests. But there was an utter loneliness and silence that disturbed me down to my core, for I had not encountered any living things. Surely I should have come across something by now. I would roam around the hulking buildings, gently caressing the cold stone with my fingers as I passed by. I wandered under uneven archways of oddly menacing angles and through large, empty city squares, admiring the unearthly architecture. Even though this place brought on a sense of terror and dread, it also inspired great awe.
I kept the knowledge of this world to myself, of course. What would be the point of telling any others? My educated classmates and my knowledgeable professors would most likely tell me these were just some fanciful dreams my subconscious mind had concocted. But were they? I had never had dreams of such vividness that at times I wondered whether my waking life was the dream, and if my dreams of the ancient city were my true waking reality. The crunch of gravel beneath my shoes, the gusts of wind through my hair, and even the smell of rotting vegetation that I experienced there had to be much more than simple constructs of the mind. Had my study of the occult, of the arcane, and of the forbidden, sparked something inside me? Had my fascination with dark things and my studies into the inner workings of the mind opened some sort of mental rift into a world unknown to man, only accessible through a higher state of consciousness attained in the dimension of dreams? I set out to discover the truth.
From the musty storerooms at the university, and through some shady dealings, I managed to acquire the ingredients for a drug that we had learned about in class that would send one into an extremely deep and long slumber. I hoped that consuming this would give me sufficient time in the dead city to find some sort of evidence that the dream was indeed an alternate world. Afterwards, I headed home to begin the second step of my preparations.
Years ago I had unofficially “borrowed” an ancient, leather-bound tome of supposed spells from the off-limits section of the university library for my own private studying of arcane knowledge. In it, I had discovered one incantation that seemed well-suited to my venture. Never having attempted to cast magic before, and not sure whether I actually believed in it and whether it was foolish to even try it, I studied the yellowed pages of the book for a good while before carefully performing the spell step by step. Swallowing the drug with a glass of water, I strapped my schoolbag around my shoulder, secured my pocketknife in my shirt pocket, gripped my flashlight, and made myself comfortable on my bed. The spell I had performed would supposedly allow objects of my choosing to travel with me into the alternate dimension. I felt the effects of the drug taking hold soon enough, and when my eyes became heavy with sleep I closed them without hesitation.
When I opened my eyes again I found myself staring at that familiar decayed city of eternal darkness and night. I looked down to see my flashlight in my hand and felt the pull of the bag on my shoulder and the weight of the knife in my pocket. Either the spell had proved successful, or my subconscious mind had projected the ideas of these objects into my dream. Not caring just exactly how my items were with me, I set about to explore the deepest levels of the desolate metropolis, smirking at my own cleverness. I had made much progress though the winding streets and structures since the dreams first began, but this night I would cover much more ground. I walked along the deserted streets, weaving my way through the enormous buildings, pyramids, and obelisks. I went through the city going farther than I ever had before. Even after so many trips to my dream world, I still found the eerie architecture dread-inducing yet beautiful.
It was after several hours of intensive exploration that I came upon what seemed to be a sort of cemetery. There were broken markers scattered about that resembled gravestones, mounds of odorous black dirt, and large oblong boxes made of smooth rock and covered in bizarre markings. With my interest in dark and occult things I was instantly fascinated. I crept among the alien-looking graves and sarcophagi and finally came upon what appeared to be a grand mausoleum of finely-cut black stone and rusted dark metal. I stood there taking in the sight as the baleful moonlight shone down across its front archway revealing indecipherable characters of an unknown language. And below that lay the open gateway of the tomb, like a gigantic yawning mouth leading straight to the darkest recesses of the Pit itself.
The opening in the mausoleum filled me with unease, for shining my light into that black abyss could not even penetrate its darkness. I studied that grim tomb until I noticed the rank, fetid smell of rot in the air which seemed to be emanating from the dread doorway. I let the flashlight fall from my grasp as I quickly moved my hands to cover my nose and mouth as the stench grew thicker. And along with it came the sound of something moving inside the crypt, the first living thing I had heard in all my time here. Such a wretched and nauseating odor mixed with a sound so disturbing was terrible, but my feet were transfixed to the spot as a man-shaped shadow drew itself from out of that mausoleum.
I rapidly drew out my pocketknife but the thing suddenly spoke to me. It did not direct its words to me through vocalized communication, but I perceived the words right inside my head. It told me, in a malicious manner, that it had dwelled in this hell for quite some time and that I was to help it escape. I was to finally be its freedom from this dead place. I was to be its key to unlocking the gate and that I was going to help it whether I wanted to or not.
Wanting to look upon this shadowy being I gathered up the nerve to quickly pick up my flashlight, and I shone the light at its face. Horror gripped my heart as I beheld my own face staring back at me; my own features and likeness, except with a certain malevolence and malignity in its eyes. What manner of delusion was this? This could not be real. This must be some terrible nightmare after all, a construct of my own mind.
The being began to lessen the distance between us as I stood there awe-struck. While my brain tried to rationalize the situation, my body made its own decision and I turned to flee. I ran in a frenzied panic through the streets of that decayed and massive city. But how would I escape? My means of leaving this place previously had been by waking up, but I had taken that accursed sleeping drug. My only hope was to hide from this doppelgänger until the medication wore off and I could awaken. But no matter how far or how fast I ran, I could hear him behind me, although the sound was not the sound of footsteps, but of something large pulling itself across the ground.
I shouldn’t have looked back; it was my downfall. As I ran I had begun to feel a rousing and stirring somewhere out of my current body which I interpreted as my real body waking from its slumber. How grateful I was to feel that sensation. I would soon be free of this nightmare. My morbidly curious mind, although terrified, wished for one last glance at my pursuer. As I turned my head to look behind me, my feet stumbled and I fell. I screamed in utter terror at the thing pursuing me, a creature so horrid and blasphemous, it was almost beyond the description which human minds can fathom. Its body had changed completely. The wretched things was so terrifying, my mind could not retain the image of its full form. All I can recall is a pale, bloated body, and a mass of eyes, mouths, and limbs that bent at grotesque angles. A truly hideous monstrosity from the darkest depths of insanity had been chasing me. I cowered there on the ground and feebly raised my pocketknife as the thing grabbed me and all went black.
I finally awoke, not in my own bed, but still in that ancient city of my nightmares. I do not know how long I’ve been here now; time has lost all meaning as the sunless days have all blurred together. Sometimes I can hear faint voices around me, voices that sound familiar but I cannot remember who they belong to. And sometimes I can hear my own voice and see flashes of scenes as if I were back in my own waking world. I do not know what has happened to the body that used to be mine in my own reality or what shall happen to me in this place. But that nameless horror that attacked me is gone and I am still here, with my mind half-broken, in this dead and decayed city of eternal darkness.
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