Sunday, October 31, 2010

Just a Bug Bite

My mother claimed something bit her a week ago.

She complained of difficulty breathing and said that she couldn't feel her left side from the midsection down. As evidence, she showed us her left thigh. Sure enough, there was a red, inflamed patch of flesh. It looked like the aftermath of a mosquito bite, except several times larger.

We thought that a spider must have got her while she slept, but since nearly a week had already passed and we weren't exactly rich, we decided against her seeing a doctor. We couldn't afford paying a medical bill for something that would probably clear up in a few days. We were sure it would clear up, as it was only a little bug bite, after all...

It was our mistake.

When we woke today, mother was crying. She said that the numbed sensation of her side had indeed gone, but it had only been replaced by a burning anguish. Her breath hitched and was obviously labored. We inspected her thigh and were startled to find that the large mosquito bite mark had erupted across her side. A single mark had turned into several sickly, inflamed mounds that peeled and erupted pus. She claimed it burned. We certainly believed her.

It was time to consult a doctor.

My father told us he would drive her to the nearest neighborhood clinic. For my part, I departed for my day's summer session classes. My mother's frightening condition danced somewhere in the back of my mind for the rest of the day, but I didn't dwell on it. Summer classes were coming to an end, final exams were a few days away, friends were planning a trip to the beach, and a small pain in my breaths nagged me. I hoped I wasn't developing a cold.

I was driving back home when I got the call.

It was my father. He was in hysterics. Apparently, the doctor at the clinic had taken one look at my mother's condition and urged her to head to an emergency room. So my father and mother had gone and waited, waited, and waited a little more. Finally, my mother was allowed to see a doctor. That's where it all went downhill. He took one look at her and left the room. My father and mother were left in that room, confused, when nurses entered.

Some drew blood from my heaving mother, others ushered my father out of the room, blowing aside his questions and asking him to wait in the waiting area. He did, but while he waited, he had time to see a dozen police officers rush into the hospital, past the waiting area, and into the direction of the room that held my mother. He told me this last part in a choking sob: he heard gun shots.

That's when I heard him scream.

That made me jump in the car seat, my hands taught and white against the steering wheel and my eyes bulging. I realized I wasn't breathing. On the other end of the line, I heard something clatter. It was probably the phone hitting the floor. Then there were arguing, yelling voices. Authoritarian voices. There was one weeping voice: my father. It was the only time I had ever heard him like that - blubbering something out. I'll be honest...I was disgusted. I wasn't used to such a weak father. I was used to the man of steel my old man had come to represent. I guess I was confused.

When I heard the gunshots on the other end, I guess it just didn't seem real.

I turned off the cell phone and continued the drive home. I was numb, confused, and disbelieving. I got home...only, by then, it wasn't really home anymore. I found the block closed off. Police cars cordoned off the streets. People in bio-hazard suits were coming in and out of my house. In my befuddled state, I thought it looked kind of like something off of the movies REC or Quarantine. It seemed pretty funny, to be honest. It was really funny...until I saw them wheel out a body under a tarp and realized from the single exposed shoe that it was my younger brother.

I drove on, then.

I drove until I was out of town, far out of town. I realized then that it might be stupid to keep on driving. Whatever was going on, I had escaped out of sheer luck. They tried to put up a net around us, but only I'd escaped because of my college schedule.

So, what is it? I've seen enough scary movies to guess. I'm infected, but who the fuck knows with what. My lungs are slowly burning and there's a strange bulge on my back. I haven't checked it yet, but I'd bet everything in my pockets (which comes out to about twenty-five bucks) that it's a red mark - a red mark that resembles a large mosquito bite. What is it? Am I going to die? Well, it was serious enough that they offed my mom and dad, and even my bro to boot. Whatever I've got, I figure it must be some serious shit. I wonder what it takes to infect others...a cough? A touch? A bite?

I'll find out tomorrow.

I walked until I could hitch a ride, then I walked some more. I stopped at a motel after dark and paid in cash. I tried to sleep, but I couldn't. I just kept seeing my brother's shoe sticking out from under that tarp...that shoe... So I opened my laptop and decided to type this out instead.

They took everything from me. I'm...going to die. They didn't have to do what they did. They could have just told us we were a danger to others. They didn't have to shoot my father... I'm going to take as much as I can before I go. Tomorrow, I'll spend my day shaking hands. I'll go into convenience stores and touch the food - maybe cough in it. I'll lick the public water fountains. I'll do whatever it takes to bring you with me. So, tomorrow...please. Shake my hand.

...and if someone bites you, then don't worry. It's nothing; it can't be worse than a bug bite.

Genocide City

Deleted levels in video games have always been a source of fascination for gamers, and one of the best known examples of them is the four deleted zones in Sonic 2. Hidden Palace, Wood Zone, Dust Hill, and Genocide City are all listed on the level select screen of a publicly available Sonic 2 beta. Hidden Palace and Wood Zone can be partially played, and there is an old preview picture of what is believed to be Dust Hill.

Genocide City, however, is a mystery. Selecting it in the beta will simply load a blank screen where Sonic will instantly fall to his death. The lack of information and excessively threatening name have made this zone one of the biggest mysteries in gaming. Recently, I came across what was claimed to be a more complete beta of Sonic 2, which had all the missing zones intact and fully playable. I was skeptical that such a thing would exist, since most deleted levels are cut because they were never finished, but the download description claimed every zone had been completed, and removed for an unexplained reason.

I started playing the beta, aside from Tails not being present in gameplay (he was on the title screen), the game initially seemed identical to the final version. After completing Green Hill and Chemical Plant Zone, however, I ended up in Dust Hill. Dust Hill was pretty similar to the lone screenshot of it, a standard desert themed level. The oddly slow banjo music in the background was a little unsettling, but everything else felt just like a normal Sonic 2 zone.

The Robotnik boss was his standard vehicle with robotic arms holding six shooter guns, although they fired the standard energy bullets. After Dust Hill, I went through Aquatic Ruins, Casino Night, and Hill Top Zone with no differences from the ones in the final game. After Hill Top, I entered Wood Zone. Like Dust Hill, this fit in perfectly, with the exception of some odd textures on carved wood platforms, they looked almost like faces. The music had a tribal feel to it, Robotnik was fought on a few floating platforms above a spiked pit, he used an axe attachment to his vehicle to eliminate platforms and attack you.

In Mystic Cave Zone, I noticed the first difference from the final version besides the added levels: I collected the seventh Chaos Emerald in it, and didn't get any message about Super Sonic, just a "Sonic Got Them All!" message. I couldn't turn into Super Sonic either. After completing Oil Ocean, I went to Hidden Palace Zone. It was pretty much like the version in the well known beta, nothing unusual until I got to the end of the second act. Tails was tied to the Master Emerald, Robotnik was hovering above him, doing a laughing animation. Sonic turned into Super Sonic, and ran past the Master Emerald, grabbing Tails, right before Robotnik fired a gigantic beam at the emerald, shattering it. I got a message saying "Sonic Saved Tails!", and the screen faded. Metropolis Zone started, I could change into Super Sonic with 50 rings now, and Tails was following me. The rest of the game was just like the normal version, Genocide City Zone never showed up.

Confused about Genocide City's absence, I looked around online trying to find information about the version I had just played. I couldn't find anything, so I decided to try replaying the game without collecting the Chaos Emeralds.

Everything in the game was identical until I reached the end of Hidden Palace. Tails was still tied to the emerald, Robotnik was still above him. Sonic ran to the emerald to try and save Tails, but Robotnik fired an energy beam diagonally, knocking Sonic back. Robotnik fired his huge beam at the Master Emerald, hitting Tails this time. I heard a loud, high pitched shriek, which I guess was supposed to be a voice sample from Tails. When the beam went away, Tails and the Master Emerald were both gone without a trace. Robotnik did a laughing animation, and flew away. Sonic did an animation I had never seen before, where he fell to the ground and just lay there. The words "You Couldn't Save Him." appeared on the screen, and the level faded out.

The next zone, as I was expecting, was Genocide City. When it loaded, it was a blank screen, just like the well known beta. Sonic fell to the bottom, and died. I had 14 lives when I reached it, and this falling sequence repeated itself 13 times. When I was down to one life, though, the level finally loaded. The best way I can describe the graphics is a combination of Chemical Plant and Metropolis Zone, with many objects in the background on fire. The music seemed like a remix of the title screen music, but played with nothing but deep bass tones. There didn't seem to be any rings in the zone, so being down to my last life, I proceeded with caution. There didn't seem to be any enemies in the zone either, in their place were the sprites for the animals you free from badniks, lying on the ground, not moving.

More and more animals appeared as I went deeper into the level, soon the floors were covered with them. The only challenges in the level were some simple platforming sequences, had to jump over gaps in the floor that lead to a burning fire at the bottom of the screen. After going through what felt like a normal Sonic 2 level in length, I reached the goal sign. There was a small gap in the floor before the sign, after touching the sign instead of running to the right like he usually does, Sonic turned around and just looked in the direction of the gap for about 30 seconds. Then he ran into it, falling to his death.

I got the game over screen, I had forgotten that I had earned a couple continues earlier in the game. I selected the Yes continue option, but I heard an earsplitting buzzing noise, like games do when you choose a menu option you aren't allowed to. I tried a couple more times, but the game clearly wasn't going to let me continue. I finally chose no, and got a game over screen similar to the bad ending in Sonic 1. Except instead of juggling emeralds, Robotnik was juggling the bodies of the creatures you free from badniks. I had to reset the game to get away from that screen.

I was disturbed by what I had just seen, this certainly explained why Genocide City had been removed from the game, but I couldn't imagine what made Sega even consider doing something like this. Even though I had already played through the game and gotten the good ending, I felt like I had to do it again, that I couldn't leave the game the way my second playthrough had ended. So for the third time in one day, I started the Sonic 2 Beta.

The first oddity was the title screen. Tails was gone from it, Sonic didn't seem to notice, there was just a bit of empty space the circle both of them are coming out of. I started the game, and it seemed normal until I collected 50 rings and entered the first bonus stage. Instead of rings coming at me, wave after wave of bombs appeared. I dodged them for as long as I could, but finally got hit. Instead of doing his ring losing animation, the 3D Sonic model did a death animation, and the bonus stage ended. The results screen listed 0 for every stat, but the message at the top was different, in solid black text: "You Can't Bring Back The Dead."

Getting really scared at this point, I collected another 50 rings as quickly as I could, but the bonus stage I entered was identical, ending with the same message. I deleted the beta from my computer, and downloaded it again so I could get the good ending again. I nearly screamed when I saw the title screen without Tails on it, and as I feared I got the impossible bonus stage again. But this time the message was different when I lost:

"You Can't Reverse Your Mistakes."

I was terrified, and was clinging to the irrational belief that if I could just get the good ending again, everything would be better. I went on a different computer, downloaded the Beta, and got the same title screen. Acting on baseless instinct by this point, I went into the bonus stage again. The message this time:

"You Have To Accept Your Mistakes."

I deleted the beta from this computer as well. I realized that the computers were sharing an internet source, that there was a possibility this was some kind of trick or virus. I went to my trusty Genesis, took out the Sonic 2 cart I had had for 17 years. If I could just see Tails in it, I knew everything would be okay.

But I still haven't gotten up the courage to risk it. Every rational part of me knows the beta couldn't possibly affect my cartridge, but I'm too afraid, afraid of what will happen if I see the title screen without Tails in it. I dream about it every night, but I just know that it could get so much worse.

(This story is credited to a person called KI Simpson. View the update story here.)

A Dead Bart Update

Well, I had to get rid of that computer I watched the episode on. Even after a complete reformatting, it never worked correctly. The episode file could never be deleted from it and it kept opening on its own. I wiped the hard drive clean several times and the episode wouldn't go away. The sound control didn't work and it was a laptop, but the power never seemed to run out and I couldn't get it to turn off. I was going to keep the computer just so I'd have a copy of the lost episode, but looking at it was making me nervous. I had a recurring nightmare several nights in a row: the episode was playing, but instead of the photo-realistic Bart corpse, it was myself at ten years old. I found a picture of myself at 10 and the nightmare was closer to it than my own memory had been. I swear...that picture of myself at 10, dead, started flashing on the computer screen so quickly that I could never be sure. After that, I destroyed the computer.

I haven't been able to get the episode out of my head, though, and decided to do more research to try to understand it. I found a few people online who seemed to know about it; apparently the episode aired once in a suburb of Portland, Oregon. I have a cousin who was watching The Simpsons during the first season and lives around there, so I asked him if he remembered the episode. He asked me how I knew about it; it was a nightmare he had that he had only told his parents about, and I was only a few years old at the time. I told him about the episode I saw and the people online who remembered it. He thought I was just playing a prank on him, and when I got him to look at the online posts about it, he screamed and hung up. He hasn't responded to any attempts I made to contact him since.

Determined to get to the bottom of this, I kept searching online. I found someone who said they had a tape of it they would sell to me. I was nervous, but determined to find out the truth about this and end the matter. I bought the tape as well as a really old and cheap TV/VCR, since I had a feeling neither would be the same after I watched the episode.

The episode was pretty much the same as the file I downloaded...I don't want to say anymore; this wasn't worth it and I'd give anything to go back to how I felt when I had the computer with the file scaring me. I destroyed the tape, but it didn't help. The commercials on the tape... I don't want to remember them. There were monsters from my dreams I had never told anyone about, news promos about tragedies that hadn't happened yet, surreal computer generated animation that wouldn't have been possible in the 80s - or now for that matter. A former friend watched it with me, but he saw completely different things, with one exception. There was a seemingly live news report from June 6th, 2013. In complete monotone, he recited the details of millions of people having died in their sleep, some of them waking up for a few seconds first, rambling incoherently about something that people could only piece together had something to do with nightmares. I'm sure you can figure out what date was on the tombstones of the currently alive celebrities.

There was one difference in the episode itself, though. The "joke" Homer told was completely clear on this version. When it zooms in on Homer's face, while looking at Bart, he says:

"If only we all were that lucky."

(This story is credited to a person called KI Simpson. Also, click here to read the original Dead Bart story.)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Masked Person

Tuesday, October 11

Today, I drove my seven-year old son, James, and I into town to go Halloween shopping. I didn't have to buy any candy this year because we live in a cul-de-sac out in the middle of a farming community on the outskirts of the city. I moved there last year because I had divorced my wife and lost my old house along with most custody of James.

It's okay, though. James and I love Halloween. It's one of the few times a year that Tracy finds it acceptable for my only son to come visit me. James stays with her on every other holiday through the year: his birthday and everything else in between. I get to see him only on my birthday and the week before Halloween, unless the court finds it suitable for him to come spend the night every once in a while. Frankly, I'm surprised Tracy let him come shopping with me.

He showed an extremely strong attraction to a flamboyant green and purple Buzz Lightyear costume. It's really typical for a kid to have an eye for the most expensive thing on the rack, but I didn't have the heart to say no to those profound blue eyes. He also picked out the house decorations. I know we won't be getting any trick-or-treaters out where I live, but embellishing the exterior of our home was always one of our favorite things to do together.

Friday, October 21

It looks like James and I will be having some competition for the "best Halloween decorations in the neighborhood" award, which sadly, in this community, is only fictitious. When I lived with James and my wife, we won the trophy every year since he was three. Now, my next-door neighbor is really giving us a run for our money. It looks like he did quite the splurge on decorations, just as we did.

He must have ordered everything online, though, because aside from the cliche "Happy Halloween" banners and the like, some of the festive treasures found on his house and lawn were nowhere to be seen in the store that James and I went to - which sold primarily Halloween-related contraband.

The thing that stuck out most to me was the kite string strung from both ends of his garage door that suspended dozens of expensive-looking bones and skulls several feet off the ground. He had also placed several other bones sticking upwards, perpendicular with the edge of his lawn. It almost looked rather sinister. There was no color or detail, just random bones placed here and there, strewn about his overgrown and unwatered lawn. I think James and I have beat him, though.

Saturday, October 22

While walking through my house at dusk, I noticed a quick flicker of movement dash in and out of my peripherals outside my dining room window as I was preparing for James' arrival the next day. I can't recall why I chose to inspect was it was, seeing as how I immediately dismissed this movement as a cat or other small animal. I don't even know if I should be glad that I did.

I walked back in front of the window about a minute later and saw the same animation, but this time in the center of my vision. I walked back away from the window and slowly peeked out from the corner of the glass. I made out the shape of the very top of a person's head peering over the top of my fence and seemed to be watching me.

Whoever it was ducked down again right after they realized that we had made eye contact. I backed away from the window. I don't know why. I crawled over to the family room window, which was about fifteen to twenty feet to the left of where I was and facing the same direction as the dining room window.

I stayed, kneeling timidly but curiously grasping the curtain; I ever so slowly pulled back the cloth, only to reveal the masked fellow who was snooping around behind my property. This time, I saw the entire head. The mask had a gaping, dangling mouth, similar to the mask used in the "Scream" series. The only difference was that the jaw of the mask was swaying about in the wind and that it also had teeth.

A lot of teeth of all different shapes and sizes, surrounding the entire perimeter of the mouth. The expression on the mask was plain, and the tone of color was rather pale, with a sight gray discoloration. It didn't have a goofy smile or an intimidating stare, just a mouth hanging wide open and a couple of perfectly round, beady little chameleon eyes.

After about ten seconds of observation, one of the eyes appeared as if it was steadily drifting off - away from where it was fixated and, very slowly, began to scan to the right - and as soon as the eye seemed to lock onto where I was, he/she quickly disappeared. What a mask.

Tuesday, October 25

I don't really know my neighbor, much less where he gets all of his decorations. I noticed a new ornament of sorts in front of his door today. It was a ceramic bowl full of guts, strategically placed where one would put a bowl of candy if they were too lazy to answer the door for trick-or-treaters. Behind it was one large white piece of paper bound to the wall of his house with masking tape.

On it was written, in nearly illegible chicken scratch, "TAKE ONE." The whole sign had bloody fingerprints smeared all over it. Even more convincing was the bloody tape...and the bloody wall. Nearly the entire wall was smeared in brownish red. Spooky. The blood streams all over the place were even dried. I didn't know they made novelty blood that looked dried like that.

I've only ever talked to this neighbor once, and it was around the time that I moved in. He seemed rather distraught. Wen I approached him, I asked him if everything was all right. He said that he was late for work, which was odd because it was around 8:30 PM. I asked him where he worked and he revealed to me that he was a biologist and worked for the military, but said nothing more.

It was strange...every time I saw him after that, his pants had always ridden up his ankles a little bit more. He was always stumbling around awkwardly and constantly tripping over his own feet. My other neighbors and I liked to joke about him from time to time. I remember one specific instance when he was watering his shrubbery and one of his knees gave out. Backwards, like the way a bird's leg works.

It looked excruciating to me, but he just walked it off. I've only ever seen him outside again a couple of times after I saw this happen. We stopped making fun of him after that.

Last month, as I walked to the mailbox one afternoon, I had heard his kids crying really loudly and frantically. There wasn't any screaming to be heard, just horrible crying. The crying stopped later, which I was thankful for. I was having trouble sleeping through that horrifying racket. It's been several months since I've seen him last.

Wednesday, October 26

Ever since James arrived earlier this week, he has simply abhorred the idea of removing his costume. Little Buzz has been running ramped throughout the house quoting "Toy Story" and "Buzz Lightyear of Star Command." He hasn't changed once since he put it on, except for the time I demanded that he allow me to wash i because he was rolling around outside in the dirt, so to speak.

I haven't sen any more of this weirdo in the mask lately. It's probably some mischievous kid from the neighborhood behind mine. It's a cul-de-sac too, just a bigger one. There is a dirt road that accompanies an irrigation canal separating the two cul-de-sacs. My house is the farthest house from the main road, and the canal runs parallel to my fence. There's no bridge that I know of that one could use to cross the water, though. Maybe the guy just runs track in school.

My neighbor bought a new decoration. Why he's procrastinating so badly, I don't know. It's about 200 feet of lights to accompany the 200 feet of intestines he had previously thrown all over the tree in his front yard. The lights don't coexist with the prior decor, though. All I could smell when I went outside was the burning odor of his literally sizzling ensemble of mix-matched decorations hanging from the tree. When I went outside at night earlier on to go ask him to kindly turn off the lights, most of them appeared to be burnt out, so I went back inside.

Come to think of it, the smell wasn't so bad. I'd smelt it plenty of times before, I just don't know where.

Friday, October 28

I'm going insane. No simple words can properly describe what I believe I have witnessed. Today, I got another glimpse of 'the masked person.'What I saw this time was not at all what I would describe as a mask. I was sitting in my living room reading. The bay window in my living room overlooks the entire street I live on, and I had my blinds open.

I had lifted up my head and looked up and out the window at the nearly dissipated sun because I had heard what sounded to me like an asthmatic individual audibly struggling to inhale accompanied by a restless house cat. After a bit of listening to this unnerving sound, I stood up from my couch and walked casually toward the window. I cupped my hands above my eyes to deter the sunlight and pressed my face against the window...and I saw it.

It was pursuing a small cat. It ran like an ostrich. Its entire figure was covered in thin hair and big blue veins; its long, matted, nauseating black hair closely following its flaky, decomposing head. Its flapping, jawless chin bobbinghappily to and fro, occasionally slapping the sides of its scrawny, pale, indisposed neck. Narrow shoulders rhythmically bounding up and down in harmony with its tree branch-like arms, easily giving it at least a five foot reach.

Mammoth hands were dragging its chopstick fingers, tickling the ground as it ran. Its emaciated, stilt-like legs completed its horrific image. Altogether, I observed an eight-and-a-half foot question mark with greasy hair practically leaping from yard to yard chasing this poor creature for a reason obviously beyond simple sustenance. One could be no less than appreciative that they weren't in the shoes of this poor feline.

The cat approached a fence on the left side of the street, followed by its lanky predator. It began to scale the fence. The beast then proceeded to effortlessly jump from the sidewalk, clear the 20-foot lawn, and snatch the animal from the top of the fence with its talon-like claws, as a falcon might. The cat didn't stand a chance, nor did it even manage a voice to squeal.

I saw it for a whole three seconds before it disappeared into the shadows with its prize. That amount of time was more than enough to tattoo my retinas with its grotesque image.

Saturday, October 29

I now thoroughly believe that the aforementioned beast does, in fact, exist. I've never thought about calling the police, but we all know how they would never find a "monster." That is, if they would even respond to such a ridiculous call. I definitely couldn't call in and report a burglar or anything human for that matter, mainly because they wouldn't be looking for what needed to be caught.

Earlier tonight, my neighbors threw a street-wide costume party at their place down at the end of the cul-de-sac. I didn't go because I had to work late, and after I picked up James from his friend's house, we anticipated having a game night with the two of us. My reclusive neighbor stayed at bay as well.

Some time during the night, James decided to take a bathroom break. He was gone for over fifteen minutes. When he returned, he seemed excited to inform me that he looked out the family room window and saw what he described as a "really tall weird-looking person with a bag" running patiently to the house where the party was being held, empty bag in hand.

They would disappear into the backyard of the house and, seconds later, bolt out of the lawn with a full bag and tear off towards my neighbor's house, wearing a costume. They repeated this process several times, each time wearing a different costume than before.

He said that on "her" last round, "she" stopped in the middle of the street, cocked "her" head to the right slightly, and "her" right eye slid to the side of "her" head and stared right at him as if there weren't a window between them. he said that "she" then turned "her" head 180 degrees and locked eye contact with him, and then "her" colossal mouth sluggishly transformed from a probing expression to the widest smile he thought he'd ever seen.

He said that its smile had then hastily collapsed, dropping the chin into a visible free fall which ended with a slinging slap on its chest. It then darted off into a neighbor's yard and that was when he decided to come alert me of his findings.

I looked outside the window, but I could see multiple figures...standing around inside the house of the party. I thought of that horrid monster smiling at my beautiful boy. I despised the idea. Next, I tried to envision what that particular smile might look like, though I really couldn't. I didn't think a jawless maw that gargantuan had any muscle at all to maneuver that flailing chin in the first place.

Lincoln skeleton, so-on; so-forth. Every one of them was strung up by the back of its neck, feet swinging, head looking down. I really wanted to ask this guy how he comes up with all this and where he gets it all. If he knows that last night's rain washed the color off of most of his little knick-knacks. I have to hand it oto him, though. The slew of morbid decor in combination with his dirty, run-down, cobweb covered home gives it a true horror movie feel to it.

Later that night, I had nearly passed out while finishing up some of my work when my doorbell rang again and again until I reluctantly rose up and walked toward my front door. It was past midnight.

I opened the door. It was my neighbor. No, not whatever lived next door, but the fellow who lived behind me on the other side of the canal. He was disgruntled. He was upset and threatening me about something but none of it sank in because one of the skeletons hanging from my neighbor's tree was staring right at me, jaw wide open.

It was smaller than the other skeletons around it. A gleam of moonlight revealed that a small string tied through a hole bored in the top of its skull was its support. I got goosebumps when I noticed that its eyes were still intact.

I then tuned in to the man yelling at me.

"You listenin' over there," He asked.


"The hell you tryin' to pull? You almost gave my wife a heart attack with that mask."

So, apparently, my son and I aren't the only ones who have spotted the neighborhood missing link. How could he possibly confuse that thing with me?

"And don't try to smooth-talk yer way outta this one, pal. I saw you jump clear over that fence of yours - the hell you managed to do that, I'm still wonderin' - and crawl right back into yer basement."

"...I'm terribly sorry..." I improvised. "I don't know what's come over me... If there's anything I can do-"

My heart sank. I thought about what he said.

I don't have a basement.

"Wait here," I nearly screamed.

I sped off into my house. I bolted down the hall. I began to spasm as I neared the guest room door. My trembling hands applied their convulsing energy to the doorknob, then turned and flung the door wide open to reveal my son, sleeping, facing the wall, just as I had left him. He normally doesn't sleep with his head all the way under the blankets, but I was too flustered to notice. I jogged, reassured, back out to my bewildered guest. I didn't know what to think anymore.

"Sorry...I just-"

He interrupted.

"Aww, save it. I, for one, do NOT care at all about your problems. You just stay the hell away from me and my family. Ya hear?"


A calming chuckle dug its way into his angry tone right after I noticed the freshly familiar bottomless blue eyes stuffed inside the head of that skeleton.

"I gotta hand it to ya, though. I nearly died laughing when I saw you runnin' around wearin' that little kid's Buzz Lightyear costume."

Lost TMNT Episode

Has anyone heard of the alleged 'lost' Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles episode?

Its name was 'Dawn of the Dread' and was one of the early season two episodes. There's no official reference to it and evidence of its existence is quite scant, but accounts that can be found seem consistent in their detail.

Leonardo wakes up and looks around him before getting out of bed. The picture quality is quite poor and the animation is jittery. There is no background music and the only sound you can hear is a ticking clock. Leonardo then mutters something to himself, but his voice seems muffled and it's difficult to make out what he is saying.

Suddenly, a male voice can be heard in the background, though the voice isn't recognizable and doesn't seem to belong to any of the show's regular characters; "Are you up yet," is all it says. It is difficult to tell if Leonardo responds to the strange voice or not, but he leaves his room and heads to the living area of the lair.

The lair seems empty; neither Splinter nor the other turtle are anywhere to be found and the living area is quite messy. He finds a pizza box on the kitchen table, but upon opening it finds a very old and moldy pizza with hundreds of insect carcasses on it. At this point, Leonardo decides to leave the lair and goes looking for his coat.

The picture suddenly switches to black for about ten seconds, as if for advertisements; some say a very faint whispering can be heard if the volume is turned up high. The scene then switches back to Leonardo walking through the sewers. The picture quality is now very poor; the backgrounds look rushed in their design and don't loop properly in their repetition.

What follows is a scene with Leonardo standing and looking into a sewer stream. He is not moving and the only animation is the slow movement of the water, with what sounds like a dripping noise playing in the background. After a few seconds, Michelangelo suddenly drifts into frame; he is otherwise motionless. He just seems to be slowly drifting by, face up with his eyes wide open in a vacant stare. His tone is sickly green and his face is slightly sunken. Leonardo stoically watches Michelangelo's clearly lifeless body drift by before slowly moving on.

Leonardo is now walking the streets. It is somewhat dark; there is no one around and none of the businesses seem to be open, with many seeming abandoned and derelict. He doesn't seem to be going anywhere, just wandering aimlessly as there is nowhere to go. He passes the channel six building; it is clearly vacant. He decides to rest on a street bench and begins testing his turtle com, but there is no reply to any of his calls and he angrily thrusts the device on the ground, smashing it.

Suddenly, the unidentified male voice reiterates, "Are you up yet," to which Leonardo doesn't seem to respond, instead just sitting and staring at his broken turtle-com; "They're gone," the voice quietly utters, followed by an extremely loud tearing scream, "THEY'RE GONE! GONE! GONE," after which Leonardo starts cringing in wild agony, screaming in pain and furiously punching himself in the head.

Loud banging and high-pitched scraping sounds now fill the scene. Strange moving black shapes start forming around Leonardo and circling him, some appearing to rush towards him in a violent manner before suddenly disappearing, their victim too afraid to look at them.

The picture goes to loud static for several minutes until it suddenly ends.

Cell Phones

My first thought was that my medication had suddenly and severely stopped working. It was really the only rational explanation at the time. I want to start out with that because, before I explain myself, I want you to know why it's taken me this long to take action. You see, I have a condition. Well, maybe that's not the word most people would choose. I suppose most people would say that I'm batshit crazy and, to tell the truth, I wouldn't blame them, but that's really not fair.

When I'm on my medication, I'm pretty much normal. Eccentric, yes, but nothing for worry. It's taken me years to get this far, a multitude of failed prescription cocktails, and over a dozen institutionalizes, but what I tell you next is true, is real, and is, most importantly, urgent. I know that knowledge of my past will work against me, but please try to look past that and see me for who I am now. Do I sound mad? Do I sound irrational? Ask yourself these things as you listen, and ask yourself what you would have done.

It occurred roughly eight months ago. I work the graveyard shift at a 7-Eleven (Unfortunately, with my sort of past, it's one of the only jobs available, but it's an honest living and it gets the bills paid...but I digress) in Chicago. One of the benefits of living in the city is that I'm walking distance from my apartment, so there's no need for a car.

As I was walking home, my cell phone went off. I remember thinking it was strange since it was a little after four in the morning, but I wasn't too alarmed. My friends and family know I work the graveyard so there was a good chance it was someone I know being polite and not interrupting my sleep during the day. Whoever it was hung up before I could answer and I couldn't call back because the number was listed as private.

Shrugging it off, I continued on, only to have it ring again as I got to my apartment door. This time I answered in time, but the line was so filled with static that I couldn't make anything out. That's all that happened that night. They may seem mundane and unimportant, but it isn't. It happened again the next night, the next, and has happened every night since then, including last night, and I'm sure it will happen tonight. It was the first sign that something had gone wrong, but I didn't know it until four days later. I had assumed that someone was just prank phone calling me every night, but when I went to see my sister that weekend I found my second sign.

My sister lives in the suburbs, has been happily married for the last eight years, and has a three year old son named Francis. It's become something of a tradition that I take a taxi over to her place for dinner once or twice a month, so my showing up on a weekend unannounced shouldn't have been a surprise, but when I got there her house was empty. Ah, I can tell. You don't understand. When I say her house was empty, I mean it was empty. Deserted. Nobody was there, and there were no signs of people having ever been there.

There was no furniture, no locks on the doors, and no light fixtures - just bare walls with exposed outlets and bare floors. I told you of my condition earlier. While I had never had this sort of hallucination before, I knew better than to think that what I saw was real. An entire family just disappearing in the middle of suburbia doesn't make sense, so the logical thought was that they hadn't disappeared, I just wasn't seeing reality as it was. I called another taxi, went home, and called my psychiatrist.

Three days and innumerable blood tests later, it was declared that my medication was still at full strength in my blood stream and that perhaps I had dreamed the whole thing. It is worth noting that at this point I had tried calling my sister several times and only received a wrong number message. With no immediate options available, I decided to take a friend to see my sister's house. If nothing else,I would at least have someone to confirm that it was empty.

I should note again that this started with receiving phone calls. The day that I decided to enlist the help of a friend, the number of calls doubled. I don't have many friends, and of the friends I do have there aren't many who are aware of my condition, so I didn't have many options to choose from. I eventually decided on Lisa. She knew the most about my past, the most about my problem, and I knew I could trust her not to judge.

When I cold her, she told that I was dumb to have waited that long to call her and to get my ass over there so my life could get back to normal. God, I miss Lisa. She was always so good to me. I headed over to her place that evening only to discover it empty as well. Since then, everyone I know has disappeared, one by one, and the damn phone calls have continued to plague me.

I threw away my cell phone months ago but to no avail; pay phones ring as I pass, I find cell phones in my pockets...the means vary, but the end is always the same. Ringing. The world continues on, though, even though every last house I come to looks as if it's never seen a living soul. When I pass a street vendor's empty shop I can still pick up a paper with today's date and a new story.

That's why I'm writing this. If the world can still talk to me, then maybe I can still talk to it. Maybe I can still send out a message, and it is a very important message. You see, I don't care so much about the loneliness - I don't even care that much about the prospect of never seeing another living creature again. I care about warning the outside world. Reading the papers has become an obsession of mine, and I've come to realize something: it isn't the world that's disappeared, it's me.

I also know why I haven't been missed. You see, I didn't just vanish without a trace, I was replaced. I don't know what it was that replaced me, but it doesn't have good intentions. When I said earlier that I'm okay with the prospect of never seeing another living soul again, I meant it...but every time I open up one of the cell phones that appear in my pockets, I'm greeted by an image of my hand clutching a knife and a slit throat.

It's been roughly eight months, and I've seen thousands of cell phones.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Chinese Letters

This story takes place in Flushing, Queens NY. For those of you familiar with the area, it's a house between the big cemetery and Queens College.

About two years ago, I lived in a pretty nice house. It had three rooms, a full kitchen, and an attic for only $1300 a month. For all of you who rent apartments, you'd know this is a damn good deal.A large cemetery was about six to seven blocks away, but it really has nothing to do with my story.

Anyway, after moving all of my stuff into my new place, I started to explore - all the rooms, all the nooks and crannies and whatnot. I noticed that the room I chose (I let my mom have the larger room - yes, I live with my mom. Go fuck yourself) had a small piece of paper above the door. It was placed flat on the wall between the top of the door and the ceiling. All that was on the paper was a few Chinese letters. Now, I'm Chinese, but I can't read Chinese for shit, so I had no idea what it said, but I have seen those types of paper before.

Basically, there are old traditions about monsters (usually vampires) that have a piece of paper attached to their head, hat, or whatever. Google "Chinese Vampires" and look at some of the pictures. That's what this paper above my door looked like.I asked my landlord (a semi-old white lady) about it. She said that the last guy to live in the house was very superstitious, so I brushed it off. I left that paper there, though, because...seriously, who wants to mess with something like that?

My room had a very deep closet. It was narrow, but it took a good four to five steps to get to the far side of it. After checking out my room, I headed up to the attic. The landlord previously told me (or, sort of, warned me) not to let anyone sleep in the attic. Whether or not this has anything to do with my story, you'll have to decide. She said it gets extremely hot up there during the summer or something. I had a room, my mom had her room, so it didn't matter much.

I walked upstairs to a two-roomed attic that had the door in-between them removed. The first room had nothing inside, but the second had a couch sitting in the middle of it. There was nothing around it - no tables, lamps, light fixtures, or anything else. Just a dirty white couch in the middle. I decided not to fuck with it or sit in it, because...seriously, would you plop down on a couch that the last tenant left in your new house? That's disgusting.

Everything was sorted out and the place started to feel like home. A few months passed and some weird things started to happen. I would stay up very late, most of the time on my laptop while sitting on my bed, and on a few random nights, my closet door would swing open. Not swing open as in that *creakkk* shit they do in movies. I'm talking swing open like someone roundhoused it open. The first time it happened, I was scared shitless. My bed was facing the closet, so I looked up, scared as shit, and saw...nothing. The closet door was just flat against the wall with nothing but darkness in the closet. There were no demon eyes, no shadowy figure, just darkness. I got up, closed the closet door, and went back to my laptop.

This event started happening more and more frequently, and since I always had a window fan installed, I figured it was just some really strong draft. The fact that I couldn't close my closet door all the way supported my theory - the locking mechanism on it would have prevented it from swinging open like that. As I'm writing this, I just realized that I should have just put something heavy in front of it. Whatever. I told my mom about it and apologized for the noise in the middle of the night,but she said that she never heard a thing. I found it pretty odd since the door slammed pretty loudly into the wall.

A little more than half a year after first moving in, we decided to move out. We found a cheaper, but smaller, apartment and decided to go with it. My friend knows people who work for a moving company, so we hired a few workers to move all our stuff out. While we were packing up all our things, I set up a radio in my room to listen to while I was busy putting everything into boxes. I went to the bathroom, and upon leaving my room, I closed my door. It wasn't by accident or anything; I just had a habit of closing doors behind me. I took a piss and went back to my room.

I opened the door and stood there for a moment, closed the door, and opened it again. That's when I noticed that I can't hear anything coming from my room when the door is closed. The radio was pretty loud, yet I couldn't hear even a tiny bit of it when the door was shut. This actually weirded me out more than the closet door slamming in the middle of the night because it just didn't make any sense. Then I realized that maybe that's why my mom never heard the slams. Still thinking about it, I continued to pack.

I went into my closet to get my clothes. I swung the closet door open and held it flat against the wall - I didn't want to keep opening and closing it as I walked in and out. But the door wouldn't stay flat against the wall. I would open it all the way, then it would creak back a bit into a 70 degree angle. This is where I started to get creeped out. All those nights that the door slammed open, it was at a complete 180. The only way it could stay like that was if someone or something held it open Freaking out, I grabbed all my shit in the closet ASAP and threw them onto my bed. I did NOT want to stand in that long, narrow closet any longer.

I went up to the attic to check up on the workers. They had just finished clearing the attic and asked me about the white couch. I told them it wasn't mine and to leave it there. They shrugged, put it back down, and went downstairs. As I turned to follow them, something on the floor caught my eye: an extremely black, seemingly burned mark stuck out underneath the couch. I walked over and pushed the couch out of the way. Sitting there, at my feet, was a pentagram burned into the carpet.

It was as if someone had one of those cow-marker/prodder things or whatever they're called, except it was huge and in the shape of a pentagram. I quickly called the workers back and we stared at it for the longest time. A few "the fuck is this shit" were exchanged, and then a few chuckles from them. I wasn't laughing. Especially after they pointed out that this pentagram was right above my room.

I was going to go downstairs, finish packing, and get the fuck out of this house. As I took the last box from my room, I looked one last time at the room, at the closet, and at the paper above the door. The top right corner of the paper was falling off a little bit. I felt a deep, sudden urge to rip it off, but I denied that feeling and brought my stuff outside.

It's been about three to four years since I've lived in that house, but I still think about it often. About a year ago, I went to my aunt's house for my cousin's birthday. I've been there before, but on that day I noticed something I've never noticed before. As I was taking off my shoes, I looked up. Above the door to her house, stuck in-between the top of the door and the ceiling, was a very similar piece of paper.

This piece was different, though, as the Chinese letters were very faint, as if it was flipped and faced the wall instead of facing me. I asked my aunt about it and she told me it was a sort of charm to keep evil spirits away. It haunts me now - what if I succumbed to the urge of ripping the paper off the wall? Is that paper still there? It was peeling off the last time I saw it, did anyone fix it? Or worse,did anyone remove it?

She told me what the Chinese letters meant. Literally translated, it said "No entry beyond." I asked her why she had the piece of paper flipped around, and the words she told me next will scar me forever. "It's supposed to be that way. The wordings on the paper are supposed to face where evil spirits will come from."

I stood there, frozen. A feeling of enormous dread swept over me. That man, that superstitious bastard of a man that lived in the house before me wasn't trying to keep evil spirits from entering that room. He was trying to keep something from leaving.


If you are the type who eats out regularly, a stranger might join you at the table one day. This stranger will always appear to be of your age and sex, and he/she will only appear if you are alone. No matter what style of restaurant it is, he will always be carrying his own plate of food.

After a few seconds, he will look directly at you and say, "You seem like an interesting person. May I know you better?" Say yes and he will begin to ask you questions about yourself in-between bites. These questions will be innocuous enough at first: what your name is, what you do for a living, and so forth. Should you open your mouth to answer, you will be forced to tell the truth, even if you do not consciously know what the truth is.

Remain silent and the stranger will scowl at you, pick up his plate, and leave. You will never see him again. If you do indulge his questions, however, they will grow darker and darker as the food leaves his plate, and it will become harder and harder to resist answering. Do not attempt to leave the table before he does under any circumstances.

When his plate is clean, he will stand up to leave, but not before asking you one last, irresistible question: "What would drive you to take your own life?" You will be instantly aware that you will be able to lie in response to this one question, and I suggest you do, for whatever you describe will come to pass within the week.
Those who are canny may use this chat to gain whatever they desire, but know that if the happenstance you name does not drive you to suicide, the stranger will start guessing as to what will.

..and consider how much he now knows about you.

The Angel

A few years ago, a mother and father decided they needed a break, so they wanted to head out for a night on the town. They called their most trusted babysitter. When the babysitter arrived, the two children were already fast asleep in bed, so the babysitter just go to to sit around and make sure everything was okay with the children.

Later that night, the babysitter got bored and went to watch TV, but she couldn't watch it downstairs. She called the parents and asked them if she could watch cable in their room. The parents said it was okay, but the babysitter had one final request: if she could cover up the angel statue outside the bedroom window with a blanket or cloth, or at least close the blinds because it made her nervous. 

The phone line was silent for a moment, then the father said, "Take the children and get out of the house. We will call the police. We do not have an angel statue."

The police found all three of the house occupants dead within three minutes of the call. No angel statue was ever found.

The Cure

Finally, doctors have found a cure for the common cold. Parents all around the United States take their children to get this life-changing vaccine. You don't have children and have always had a strong immune system, so you decide you don't need this new vaccine, but you can't help but pay attention to the commercials.

"Don't you hate that sick feeling you get from the cold? You could believe a simple shot could make you forget about this forever? This vaccine has been tested again and again to ensure your safety and wellness. Side-effects may include extreme drowsiness, mood swings, and swelling of the lower eyelids. Temporary side-effects are nausea, dizziness, and loss of coordination. After receiving the vaccine, you should not drive or operate heavy machinery for at least three days."

Typical, but nothing extraordinary. You glance at the clock near the television. 7:34. You're going to be late for work as a janitor at the local public elementary school. You slip on your Crocs, grab your backpack off of the couch, and make your way to the garage. On your way you see the mailman at the mailbox. You always BS with him. He has been your mailman for over twelve years. He tells you that he was thinking about getting his son vaccinated. It's not shocking; it seems to be all over the news and the topic of choice for mothers and other adults.

You politely tell him that you will talk with him tomorrow. You arrive at the school, slipping on your headphones, and focus on sweeping the floors. You do not look up at any students. Why would you? Why would you care?

Some time passes and you leave the building after disinfecting every desk and scrubbing every sink in every bathroom. You open the back door and walk to your car. Rage pours through your veins as you see the windshield of your car is smashed. You look and see a boy. He may have been in fourth or fifth grade. He tilts his head forward and raises his eyebrows. You wonder why he makes this face, and then it hits you. His lower eyelids are extremely swollen.

You want to confront him, but decide to let him go. There's nothing he can do for you. Tomorrow, you'll park in the hospital parking lot on the other side of the street. You see the boy slowly, tiredly, walking away. After about seven steps, he leans up against the brick wall he's walking next to. You open your driver's side door, sweep some broken glass from the seat, drive home, and go to sleep.

Your alarm clock's battery died. You walk into the living room and squint at the clock near your television. It's 8:04. Great, you're already late and you haven't even brushed your teeth. You get ready and arrive at work. Your boss, a fifth grade English teacher, wants to speak with you. You walk into his classroom and notice all of the children either slouching in their seats or sleeping with their heads on the desks. He tells you how unacceptable it is for you to be coming in late so often and made you promise that it will never happen again, then excuses you. You walk towards the door, but have your eyes glued to the puffy eyelids of the children.

A boy in the front row began snoring on his desk, clutching a sharpened pencil, a pen, and an eraser. You see the teacher nudge the boy and ask him to stay awake, but then the boy's face twists as he stabs the teacher in the heart with the pencil. You try to scream but you're frozen in shock and only two words flash in your mind: mood swings.

None of the students seem to have noticed what just happened before their eyes. You suddenly gain control of your body and scream for help. This angers the children, whose faces now portray extreme hatred. Some of them charge you with energy you would expect from fifth graders, and others just limp towards you like zombies from the video games you play until morning. Their eyes were glued shut with pus, but somehow they knew just where you were. You run down the hallways, screaming uncontrollably.

As you look to your left and right, into other classrooms, you see blood. Everywhere. You don't know what happened, but you continue to scream. The children from other rooms begin to chase you in a similar fashion as those behind you. Some of them cover their ears and you realize that your screaming is angering them. You decide to stop, but you can't.

Children are coming from everywhere. There is nowhere left to run. There are no adults around other than you. You try to decide what to do, but then you notice blood streaming down your arm. A child has bitten your shoulder and is still holding on. The others see this and begin biting you, too. You are panicking, but the sea of children has surrounded you.

You notice that the students begin lifting and carrying desks, similarly to how a rock star would surf a crowd. A girl near you smashes it against your head. You should have seen that coming, you think as you fall to the ground. The children begin to slowly tear the skin off of your face and body with their teeth and nails. After a few hours, the pain kicks in as you slowly die of blood loss.

...if only you could get to the building on the other side of the street...


Did you ever see one of those videos where you are asked to look for or follow a specific thing throughout the video? Then, at the end they reveal that as you were watching, something large and intrusive moved around in plain sight and you never even noticed it? It's frightening how often that happens, like how I just moved from the doorway into your room as you read this.

Actaea Pachypoda

A mile or so into the woods by my house is a trail. It's about six miles long and hardly used; some parts are nearly impassable because of the overgrowth. I love to run on this trail for precisely this reason, as I can be truly alone, and the occasional narrowing path or branch that requires hurdling is  more diversion than detriment.

I recently saw the first individuals other than myself on the trail. About three miles into my run, I saw an old couple walking together. They smiled warmly at me and waved. I was shocked to see other people here; I had thought I was the only one who knew about this place, but I nonetheless stopped and chatted with them. I figured they might be the landowners taking a rare stroll, and it would hardly be tactful to disregard them, as I was a trespasser.

Soon, we parted ways - I continued running one way, they continued their slow march in the other, hand in hand, a picturesque couple even in their advanced age. Eventually, I came to a stop at the end of the trail and turned back. After a while, I thought I saw someone lying on the ground in the distance - I accelerated when I realized one of them might have fallen and hurt themselves. As I got closer and closer, I realized that both were lying face down. Luckily, I had brought my cell phone and I called the ambulance, but by the time they arrived, both were dead.

I was shocked. I had seen them smile at me just an hour before and now they were dead.

Unfortunately for me, the tests indicated they had been poisoned. I was arrested because I was the only person within miles of the bodies. I was the main suspect.

After isolating the poison in the lab, it was determined that it was from an extremely toxic berry called Actaea Pachypoda. This exact type of berry plant was later found during the forensic investigation of the trail. The fingerprints of the couple were on the plant.

I was released. The case was closed - they had died due to accidental ingestion of poisonous berries.

I watched the local evening news that night. The deaths were the main story. It was a beautiful segment about their love and how misfortune tragically ended their lives. It turns out they had both been diagnosed with cancer within the last two months. This was followed by an educational segment detailing the dangers of eating unknown plants such as the Actaea Pachypoda.

I watched the news the next night, also. It turns out Actaea Pachypoda isn't native to our area. The police found a bag full of the seeds in the old couple's home.

Never Turn Around

I live on the top floor of a five-story apartment building in a moderately big city. My apartment is a one bedroom with a fairly large living room with big windows out towards the street and the opposing building. That building has a small parking lot up front, so it is not directly across from mine, which I kind of like because of the privacy.

Being a night owl, I like to sit up late with my laptop. Sometimes I peek out the window at the building across, looking for lit windows and wondering if anyone else out there is doing the graveyard shift. Last night, I wish I hadn't.

I usually sit with my laptop facing the windows. For the last couple of nights I had, in the corner of my eye, been seeing a sparsely lit window in the building across and in it some sort of movement. Last night, my curiousness got the best of me, so I put my computer down and went over to the window to check it out. Surely enough, you could see someone waving, but just barely. The window was dimly lit, but you could definitely see some movement. I thought about it for a second and went to get a pair of binoculars. After some searching I found a pair and went back to the window, putting them to my eyes.

I located the window and got a better look at what was in it. It appeared to be a person, lit up by a candle. I couldn't make out the person's face, but he was waving. At me, apparently, because after I had locked onto him with the binoculars he stopped waving for a second and then pointed at me. I felt a chill go down my spine.

This was fucking creepy.

He pointed at me and then made a circling motion with his finger. He kept doing this over and over until I realized he was signaling for me to turn around. I reacted out of instinct and quickly turned around, as if I really were expecting something to lurk behind me. Nothing was there but darkness, obviously, so I chuckled to myself and turned back to the window with my binoculars only to find it empty, except or the candle slowly fading out.

I jumped back and dropped the binoculars on the floor, the noise of the impact spooking me even more. "What the fuck," I thought to myself as I went back to my computer. I put on some music to calm me down and surfed around a bit more until I looked at the time and realized it was about to get light out. I put my computer down and made my way through a small hallway that led to my bathroom. I didn't have any lights on, but as I approached the bathroom I noticed a flickering light underneath the door.

My body froze. Even if I did forget to turn off the bathroom light, a light bulb could not produce that kind of lighting. I slowly walked up to the door, took a deep breath, and lightly pushed the door open. I stepped inside and, to my horror, I found a candle sitting in the sink, revealing a message scribbled on the mirror.


Scooby-Doo Lost Episode

Okay, so I haven't talked about this in a very long time. This happened to me when I was ten or eleven.

My dad had bought us a Scooby-Doo VHS tape of an episode which I can't fully recall. All I can remember that it was about a little girl's ghost haunting a whole town. Our parents didn't go out very much, since my brother suffers from asthma and they were very protective of him, but one night they had this important party thing and decided to call a babysitter.

I remember getting upset and telling them that I was old enough to take care of my brother, but they didn't listen. They left us with this freckly 15-year old neighbor girl called Amanda or something. Before leaving, Dad gave us the tape, which got us pretty excited, as it would be the first time Dad let us use the VHS player. After they left, we all noticed that the tape was kind of weird; the art on the cover looked hand-made somehow. Scooby looked REALLY terrified and the ghost girl was really creepy. I remember Amanda calling my dad a weirdo for buying such a thing for us, but I assume he just picked up the first tape he saw.

I also remember that Amanda didn't want to play the tape, but after my brother and I insisted for almost an hour, we finally sat in front of the TV to watch the thing. The episode itself was kind of boring; there were almost no jokes and it wasn't that scary, but I do remember being surprised that the ghost from the cover didn't look at all like the one in the video. I don't really remember the plot of the episode; I guess it was pretty much the usual, and Amanda would repeat 'stupid show' every five minutes.

Close to the end, when they got the ghost and were about to unmask her, something weird happened. All of the Scooby-Doo gang stopped talking and looked at the camera with a really sad and serious look on their faces. They stared at us for a very long time in silence; even the background music had stopped. The only person not looking at us was the ghost girl, but she suddenly lifted her head and stared at the camera with her terrible eyes wide open. The final credits came abruptly after that. We all stared at the TV without saying a word until the tape finally stopped. We were shocked.

My brother looked at us and said something like, "Shit...I can't believe Shaggy died. This is so fucked up." We both looked at him, confused, and Amanda asked what he was talking about. He insisted that it was stupid to kill a character and then bring him back to life in the next episode. She got really nervous and told him that Shaggy didn't get killed, that the ghost girl disappeared right after they caught her and the episode finished with the whole gang scared to death. Nothing made any sense; I couldn't understand a thing. When I told them what I saw, Amanda freaked out. She said at least ten times that it wasn't funny and left our house, pissed off and, I assume, scared to her bones like we were.

After discussing for at least half an hour, we decided to put the tape in and watch it again. We turned all the lights on and pushed rewind. The thing is, when we got to the part when they get the girl, the episode suddenly ends. Nothing happens. They get the girl and there is  no unmasking, no killing, and no staring. It just ends there. We stopped the tape and ran to our room. My brother had an asthma attack and I stayed by his bed crying and praying he wouldn't die. Eventually, we fell asleep. The next morning, my brother started acting like nothing happened. After insisting for about two days, he told me he never wanted to talk about it again, and that was it.

Damn. I think I actually never told anyone about this. It feels good to share it.

The Egg

You were on your way home when you died.

It was a car accident. It wasn't anything particularly remarkable, but fatal nonetheless. You left behind a wife and two children. It was a painless death. The EMTs tried their best to save you, but to no avail. Your body was so utterly shattered you were better off; trust me.

That's when you met me.

"What...what happened," You asked. "Where am I?"

"You died," I replied, matter-of-factly. There was no point in mincing words.

"There was a...a truck and it was skidding..."

"Yup," I said.

"I...I died?"

"Yup. But don't feel bad about it. Everyone dies," I replied.

You looked around. There was nothingness, just you and me. "What is this place," You asked. "Is this the afterlife?"

"More or less," I stated.

"Are you God," You asked.

"Yup," I replied. "I'm God."

"My wife," You said.

"What about them?"

"Will they be alright?"

"That's what I like to see," I said. "You just died and your main concern is your family. That's good stuff right there."

You looked at me with fascination. To you, I didn't look like God. I just looked like some man...or possibly a woman. I looked like some vague authority figure, maybe, or more of a grammar school teacher than the almighty.

"Don't worry," I said. "They'll be fine. Your kids will remember you as perfect in every way. They didn't have time to grow contempt for you. Your wife will cry on the outside, but will be secretly relieved. To be fair, your marriage was falling apart. If it's any consolation, she'll feel very guilty for feeling relieved."

"Oh," You replied. "So what happens now? Do I go to heaven or hell or something?"

"Neither," I said. "You'll be reincarnated."

"Ah," You said. "So the Hindus were right."

"All religions are right in their own way," I replied. "Walk with me."

You followed along as we strode through the void. "Where are we going?"

"Nowhere in particular," I said. "It's just nice to walk while we talk."

"So, what's the point, then," You asked. "When I get reborn I'll just be a blank slate, right? A baby. So all of my experiences and everything I did in this life won't matter."

"Not so," I said. "You have within you all the knowledge and experiences of all your past lives. You just don't remember them right now."

I stopped walking and took you by the shoulders. "Your soul is more magnificent, beautiful, and gigantic than you can possibly imagine. A human mind can only contain a tiny fraction of what you are. It's like sticking your finger in a glass of water to see if it's hot or cold. You put a tiny part of yourself into the vessel, and when you bring it back out, you've gained all the experiences it had."

"You've been in a human for the last forty-eight years, so you haven't stretched out yet and felt the rest of your immense consciousness. If we hung out here for long enough, you'd start remembering everything. But there's no point to doing that between each life."

"How many times have I been reincarnated, then?"

"Oh, lots. Lots and lots. An in to lots of different lives," I said. "This time around, you'll be a Chinese peasant girl in 540 AD."

"Wait, what," You stammered. "You're sending me back in time?"

"Well, I guess technically. Time, as you know it, only exists in your universe. Things are different where I come from."

"Where are you from," You said.

"Oh, sure," I explained. "I come from somewhere. Somewhere else. And there are others like me. I know you'll want to know what it's like there, but honestly you wouldn't understand."

"Oh," You said, a little let down. "But wait, if I get reincarnated to other places in time, I could have interacted with myself at some point."

"Sure. It happens all the time. With both lives only aware of their own lifespan, you don't even know it's happening."

"So what's the point of it all?"

"Seriously," I asked. "Seriously? You're asking me for the meaning of life? Isn't that a little stereotypical?"

"Well, it's a reasonable question," You persisted.

I looked you in the eye. "The meaning of life, the reason I made this whole universe, is for you to mature."

"You mean mankind? You want us to mature?"

"No, just you. I made this whole universe for you. With each new life, you grow and mature and become a larger and greater intellect."

"Just me? What about everyone else?"

"There is no one else," I said. "In this universe, there's just you and me."

You stared blankly at me. "But all the people on Earth..."

"All you. Different incarnations of you."

"Wait, I'm everyone?"

"Now you're getting it," I said, with a congratulatory slap on the back.

"I'm every human being who ever lived?"

"Or who will ever live, yes."

"I'm Abraham Lincoln?"

"And you're John Wilkes Booth, too," I added.

"I'm Hitler?" You said, appalled.

"And you're the millions he killed."

"I'm Jesus?"

"And you're everyone who followed him."

You fell silent.

"Every time you victimized someone," I said. "You were victimizing yourself. Every act of kindness you've done, you've done to yourself. Every happy and sad moment ever experienced by any human was, or will be, experienced by you."

You thought for a long time.

"Why," You asked me. "Why do all this?"

"Because someday, you will become like me. Because that's what you are. You're one of my kind. You're my child."

"Woah," You said, incredulous. "You mean I'm a god?"

"No, not yet. You're a fetus. You're still growing. Once you've lived every human life throughout all time, you will have grown enough to be born."

"So the whole universe," You said. "It's just..."

"An egg." I answered. "Now it's time for you to move on to your next life."

And I sent you on your way.