434 Usher Lane, Appt. 6

A reimagining of Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher”

As I stepped toward the apartment, I felt a very particular sense of sadness. It was a dilapidated and weary building, one that had seen the sorrows of a dozen years and never spoken of a single one of them. The rain gutters were falling off, a few of the windows were boarded up, and there was evidence of re-plastering in some places. There were 6 mailboxes out by the door, hanging on the wall. Apparently, anyway. Numbers 1 and 4 had fallen off, and it was clear no one was going to put them back on.

To make matters worse for this already wretched building, it was essentially isolated. Any other buildings that used to be nearby seemed to have been leveled, for something to be built in their places. Nothing was ever erected, and odds have it nothing ever will be. The closest building to this apartment is at least a block away. Why Roderick chose to keep living here despite how terrible the place is made no sense to me.

The porch of this particular building had two doors. One of those doors led into a small hallway, visible from a small window in the door, and the other led to a stairway that went up, also visible from a small window in the door. The hallway contained apartments 2, 4, and 6, leading me to believe apartments 1, 3, and 5 were upstairs. A cold breeze blew through my jacket, making it clear that I should head inside.

The small hallway was still chilly, but it at least protected me from the breeze, which was a gift. However, the air was musty and filled with dust, which couldn’t have been good for my lungs. Thus I elected to get into Rod’s home as quickly as possible.

I walked down the end of the hall to the door labelled 6. I knocked on the door and waited for Rod to answer. I held my jacket up to my face while I waited, to keep the dust out. However, after a couple minutes and two more knocks, there was no answer.

I went to the other doors and knocked on them, too, but they threw up dust as if protesting my hand rapping against them. Obviously no one had used those doors in a long while, and the rooms were unoccupied. I sighed behind my jacket, and returned to Rod’s door. I knocked on it once more, louder than before, and waited.

Moments later, Rod opened the door up.

“Ah, you’re here!” he exclaimed.

“I am,” I replied.

“Come in, come in,” he said. “God, it’s been too long since I’ve seen you. High school sure has been a long time ago, huh? Even college, as a matter of fact.”

Rod led me into his house. His front room was poorly adorned, filled only with a blue love seat and a small desk with an old computer and some other device I was unfamiliar with. It must have been providing him with internet. The desk had a wooden chair seated at it.

He walked into the kitchen, which was cleaner and better furnished than the rest of the home. For one thing, there was a dining table there with 3 chairs, matching that of the one by the desk, as well as a proper refrigerator, stove, oven, and various cupboards.

“Rod, what’s up with this apartment? It’s empty and abandoned except for you. I’m honestly surprised the place has been torn down yet,” I said.

“Take a seat,” Rod said, pulling a chair out for me. “And yeah, that’s true. I’m basically squatting here. The landlord died, and the city is still looking for his most recent relatives. Or were, anyway. It’s been 4 years and they haven’t found anyone, or they gave up and haven’t bothered the place. Either way, home sweet home. This place provides for all we need, free of charge. Electricity, water, and heat. The only thing I have to get myself is food and a stable internet connection. Food is fine, I just walk up the street with a shopping cart I keep hidden behind the apartment and head to the local superstore. There’s also a prescription place in there so that I can keep Maddy medicated.” Roderick paused and looked wistful. “Or, well, so I could keep Maddy medicated.”

Madeline was Roderick’s twin sister. They were only fraternal twins, so they didn’t look too similar, but they had always been by each other’s sides. Their family was very wealthy, and the two of them lived through all of high school without either parent after they died. Rather simply, they’ve been independent for basically all of their lives.

“What happened to Maddy?” I asked.

“She got sick,” Rod began. “She has some sort of heart condition. I can’t leave her alone for too long or she might do something drastic. You know what I mean.”

I shook my head. “I’ve never heard of a heart condition that would make some,” I put up my hands to make air quotes, “‘do something drastic.’” I cocked my head at Rod. “Are you sure she isn’t just depressed? Or anxious? There are plenty of therapists she could talk to about this. Keeping her isolated in a place like this can’t be good for her.”

Rod shook his head, looking somber again. “No, she had a heart condition. She’s dead.”

“Oh,” I responded. We both sat in silence for a few moments, heads head low. Eventually I spoke up again. “What should we do with her?”

Rod looked back up. “Well, I tried talking to her about a last will and testament, but all she ever told me was that she never wanted to go anywhere. Now that she’s dead, I have to interpret what that means myself, and I think she wants to be buried in this house. I prepared a place a little bit in the basement, but I’ll need your help actually putting her to rest.”

I stood up in indignation. “You want to bury your sister in this abandoned old apartment? No, she deserves a proper burial, or at least to be cremated. Maddy shouldn’t just be thrown into a basement and forgotten. She was a good girl, you know this.”

Rod sighed. “She told me what she wanted.”

“She’s mentally unwell, Roderick. You can’t just take her word like that.”

“You know the ill still have will. We’re obligated to fulfill her request, even if it doesn’t make sense.”

I stepped backward, once. “I’m not following through with this.”

Rod sighed. “You can either help me with this and stay the night, catch up with me a bit, or you can just go. I don’t care which you do. To be honest, I can bury her myself. I called you here because I’ve been feeling lonely.”

I clenched my fists and stared Rod down. He made no motion to move. I sighed and let go of my hands. “Fine, Rod. I’ll help you. It’s… unfortunate that this happened. I feel awful.”

Rod stood up and put his hand on my shoulder. “Me too. Hopefully things will get better once this is all said and down. I’ll probably leave after tonight, anyway. Too many painful memories in these halls.”

I nodded.

Rod walked further into the apartment, and I followed him. He led me into a bedroom, where his sister laid on her bed, over the blankets. She was utterly still, and her cheeks were still flush with blood.

“My. She died recently, hasn’t she?”

“Yes,” Rod answered. “I called you just after I heard her last breath. I cried for a good while too. My tears are dry now, though. I just want to see this through to the end.”

I nodded. We walked over to her, and I picked her up, cradling her in my arms. She was still warm, too.

“It’s unfortunate that death plays these tricks, isn’t it? She still feels so lively.”

Rod nodded vigorously. “If I hadn’t heard her stop breathing, I would have thought she was still alive. Death isn’t kind to us.”

Rod led me out of the bedroom and into a hallway. There were two other doors and stairway leading down. Rod went down the stairs, and I followed him. Downstairs, I saw a washing and drying machine, but not before I noticed a huge section of the wall had been pulled aside, revealing a hole behind it.

“You built Madeline a tomb,” I stated, aghast.

“Well, digging into the floor wasn’t going to work. At least this way I can seal the wall back up.” Rod pointed to a bucket of plaster he had next to the wall. “Just lean her into there, and then help me push the wall back.

I gently laid Maddy into the tomb. It felt as if she had sighed as I put her down. I shuddered at the thought. It must have been her body settling and releasing gasses from when she was alive.

I helped Roderick shove the wall back into the slot where it was meant to be. There were thin cracks on either side, and Rod took to filling them in with the plaster rather quickly.

“Plaster doesn’t seem like the right solution for this stony basement wall,” I said.

“Likely not,” Rod replied, “But it’s the best I’ve got. This place is abandoned anyway. I doubt anyone will notice or care.” Rod sniffled. “It’s what she wanted,” he finished.

He finished sealing up the wall, and kneeled in front of it for a while, silently. “I’m sorry, but could you give me a few moments alone?” He asked.

“Yes,” I replied. I walked back upstairs, and returned to sitting at the kitchen table. He returned after a few minutes as well.

“It’s going to be a night before I’ll be able to sleep again,” Rod said.

“Maybe we could pass the time watching a movie?” I suggest.

“I don’t know. I just feel awful. I don’t know if anything can really help me.”

“Let’s give it a shot anyway,” I said. I pulled out my phone and started looking through a couple apps for a suitable movie.

I found something. “Have you seen this movie?” I asked.

Rod shook his head. “I haven’t been watching many films.”

“Perfect,” I said. I turned the movie on and set my phone up so that we could watch it together.

Not even after the opening credits had finished did I hear a loud sound coming from downstairs. “Did you hear that?”

Rod chuckled to himself. “We made a mistake, friend.” He said.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“I’ve heard those pounds many times before.” Another pound. “She’s been pounding at the door of this place for months now, desperate to escape. She’s wanted out more than you or I could ever understand, but I was scared.” The pounds continued in earnest. “I didn’t want Her to leave me alone in this wretched place. You see, it wasn’t Her who held me here, but the other way around.” Every time he referred to her, I could feel some sort of intensity behind the words. “I gave Her pills to reduce Her will to fight me and to break out of here. I had been drugging Her to keep Her in a nearly infantile state so that She may never leave me, and now I’ve done something much worse. I’ve buried Her alive in that basement. If I couldn’t have Her, no one could. Now here we are, and She rattles in Her grave to escape.”

I heard one final, deafening pound from below. I stood up in shock. “You mean to tell me that you knew she wasn’t dead, and you had me bury her anyway?”

“She’ll be here any moment now,” he replied.

I picked up my phone and stepped away from him, and toward the exit. “You mean she’s-” I didn’t finish my thought, as she was standing in the doorway. Her clothing was bloodied and covered in stone and dust, as were her arms similarly bruised and bloodied. Stone jutted out of various wounds in her body, but she simply stared at us with an intensity I never knew nor could ever know. There were bags under her eyes and bruises on her nose and forehead that made me shiver in their utter grotesqueness.

I stumbled backward as Roderick laughed, his mind broken, and Madeline jumped atop of him and began to strangle him with her beaten and broken arms. His cackling was replaced by death rattles as she crushed his windpipe with her bare hands.

I turned heel and fled that building, plowing through doors and rushing back to my car.

I jammed my keys into the ignition and turned them. The car failed to start twice, during which I heard a scream so inhuman that I could never attempt to describe it again. On the third attempt, my car started and I sped away from there faster than I had ever driven before.

Mistake

Portia has been missing for 7 weeks. Her brother, Tanner, is getting worried and tries to find her through any means he can.

Purpose


“It’s been seven weeks since I’ve heard from Portia, Father Thomas,” I said.

Father Thomas shook his head at me. “It doesn’t matter where she is now, Tanner. You know we don’t support her kind of lifestyle. It’s better that she’s gone.”

I shook my head. The priest in front of me knew Portia for as long as I had, ever since she was an infant. He had baptised her himself, but here he stood in front of me, denying her life as a whole.

“It doesn’t matter how she lives. She didn’t tell anyone where she went, where she’d be, or even what she might have been doing. Father, you knew her as a child. Just like I did. You have to be at least somewhat concerned, right?” I held out my hand for him to grab it. Even if he said he didn’t care, he could show me cared by at least grabbing my hand.

He crossed his arms in reply. “Tanner, if you know what’s good for you, you’ll abandon this search. Just let her go. She’ll face god one day on her own, and she’ll return to you once she does.” He nodded. “Have a good Sunday, Tanner. I hope you enjoy the sermon.” he turned from me, and returned to his path to the podium. I sighed, and sat down at the closest pew, in the far back corner.

A few minutes passed with me wringing my hands and playing with the songbooks in front of me before Father Thomas began his sermon.

“Good morning everyone. I hope that God has graced your week so far, and will do so next week.” There were some murmurs and nods from the audience.

“A time to search and a time to give up. A time to keep and a time to throw away. Ecclesiastes 3:6. We all have things that we seek. Some of us desire wealth. Some desire to reconnect with an averted past.” It felt as if Father Thomas’s gaze lingered on me as he said this. “Some wish to be popular online. We all have our reasons for seeking these things, and they are not sinful on their own.

“However, just like with all vices, they can consume you if you do not hold them in moderation. No matter what it is you seek, you must know when your effort is being wasted. Otherwise, you will perform evils to achieve what you want.

“And is it really worth it,” Father Thomas said, “to turn away from God and eternal enlightenment to pursue temporary human pleasures?”

Father Thomas looked directly at me. My eyes saw his, and they burned. “No. It is not. Nothing is more valuable than God’s love.”

He turned away from me and gave the rest of his sermon. I remembered none of it. None of it mattered. None of it was meant to address me.

I drove to my parents’ house immediately after the service. We normally got together for an early dinner and to watch football, when it was in season. It was in season currently. Mom was in the kitchen cooking, while Dad was in the front room waiting for the game to start. I sat in the kitchen with mom, drinking a glass of lemonade.

I held the glass with both hands, rubbing it nervously. No one had talked about Portia since she left. I was the only one who made sure to text her occasionally, to which she typically replied with “still alive” or something to that effect. I had texted her numerous times in the months that she had left. She stopped replying seven weeks ago. Nearly 2 months had passed since she had affirmed to me that she was alive.

“Mom. has Portia called you or anything lately?” I asked. I knew I was taking a risk by asking her, but I knew she might care more than Dad.

“No, she hasn’t. She hasn’t since said anything to us since she left,” Mom replied, still cooking.

“She hasn’t replied to me in a while. I’ve been texting her, but she doesn’t reply.”

Mom shrugged. “It’s probably better this way. She never really appreciated family.”

I sighed. “Mom, I’m worried about her. She’s out in New Orleans. You know what kind of city that is.”

“Well. Then it’s a perfect fit for her, isn’t it?” Mom replied.

I barely gasped. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. “Mom, she’s a good girl. Even if she makes some alternative choices. We shouldn’t just spurn her away like this. She’s still family.”

“Tell that to her!” Dad shouted from the living room. He stepped into the kitchen. “I’m not going to have a damned faggot in my family. She can either straighten out herself or never come back. I’m not holding my breath.” Dad crossed his arms. This conversation was over.

***

That night, I found myself scrolling down her facebook profile. I never really interacted with the kind of things she posted, they were too liberal for my taste, but I had made it a point to check on the page every night. Just in case she posted something.

She never did. At least, not for 6 weeks. She had shared some image about gun control. It was a weird note to leave off on. At least, I thought so.

Every night I checked her profile to see if she had posted something. Every night I found nothing. Yet I still found myself scrolling down the page, looking for some clue I knew wasn’t there.

There was always one post that I found myself reading all the way through, every time I passed it. It was dated June 22nd, 2017. It was from two years ago, but it still felt important.

Hey everyone. I’ve got a lot on my chest right now. It’s 2 am. My parents found out I was a lesbian yesterday. They didn’t respond well. My dad told me to kill myself and to never talk to them again. My mother told me it wasn’t god’s way. Tanner didn’t say anything. He didn’t know what to say. I think that hurt more than anything.

I’m typing this on my phone in the parking lot of the Donaldsonville McDonald’s right now. I don’t have anywhere to go. I’m going back to New Orleans, but I don’t know what I’m going to do there. Semester isn’t in session, so I can’t go to my dorm room. Honestly, I’m not sure I’ll be able to even afford to continue going to college anymore after this.

I just feel so alone right now. I’m so scared. I don’t want to do this. I just want things to be simple again. I just want to live. Why can’t I just do that?”

I never read the comments. They were all awful. I tried to convince Portia to just delete them, but she refused to. She said it would remind her that she could never come back.

At first I didn’t agree with Portia being a lesbian. It was against God’s will, I had been told. But I doubted that more and more as time went on. It didn’t feel right after a while. She didn’t choose the lifestyle, right? She never had a boyfriend, and she never seemed happy until after she left the house.

I closed facebook and dropped my phone on my bedside table. I sighed and picked it back up. I opened the app again, and found the post one more time.

Why can’t I just do that?

I hit the share button, and chose to type something on top of it.

Why can’t she just do that?

I hit the enter button, then got out of bed. I needed to look for her.

I threw on my shoes and a jacket, grabbed my keys, and drove out of Plaquemine and to New Orleans.

***

I woke up on a motel bed. I had almost forgotten where I was and why I was there.

I got up and stretched. It was 10:47 in the morning. I had gotten here at about 2 A.M. last night. I got dressed, grabbed the couple of things I brought with me, and went to check out.

The man at the desk was the same one who was there last night.

“I’d like to check out,” I told him.

“What’s your name and what room were you in?” He asked.

“Tanner Hide, room seven,” I told him.

He typed a few things into his computer. “Alright, give me your key and then you’re good to go.”

I handed him the small key card and thanked him. He waved goodbye as I left and got into my car.

I took out my phone and looked up the directions of Tulane university. This was where Portia had been going to university Most of her money came from scholarships, but some of it was from our parents. I didn’t know if she had gotten the money she needed to keep going, but hopefully since it the summer and the next semester hadn’t started yet, the college might still have some information on her.

I drove to the college. The streets were much busier than I had had any experience with. This was a disgusting city rife with crime, and I never had a reason to come here. I honestly still didn’t want to be here.

Eventually, though, I did make it there. It took me a while longer to find a parking lot, and then more time to find somewhere I could find information on her. By the time I had finally been pointed in the right direction, it was already 1:23.

Sitting at the desk was a young black woman. She greeted me as I approached. “Hi, what can I do for you?”

I leaned on the desk. “Hey. My name is Tanner Hide. My sister, Portia Hide, goes to school here. I haven’t heard from her in almost two months. I was hoping you might be able to help me find her.”

She cocked her head. “I’m afraid I’m really not in any position to give that information out.”

I sighed. “I know. But I’m so damned worried about her. She was kicked out of the house and disowned by our parents around this time last year. I know she was able to come this last semester, but I’m scared something happened to her. If you could just point me to a friend of hers, a professor, her dorm keeper or whatever they’re called, anything. I just need something.

She sighed. “If you can give me some piece of information that proves your her brother, something I can verify, I’ll let you in.”

“Her birthday is the 17th of August, 1997,” I replied.

“You could’ve found that on her facebook,” She replied. “Which, by the way, I have pulled up as well. Just so you know.”

“Oh, good. Her middle name is Eileen. Portia Eileen Hide. She hates her middle name, so that’s not public.”

The woman clicked around for a little bit. “Alright, that seems to be true. Here’s what I’ll tell you her current mailing address, but only if you give me your living address. If I find out you pulled some bullshit to the people at this house, I’ll know exactly where to point the police to.”

I shrugged. “I guess.”

We exchanged addresses, and I went on my way.

Again, the drive to this little house took much longer than I expected. It was on the edge of town, and looked totally abandoned. The windows were boarded up, the door was basically plastered over, and the mailbox attached to the wall looked as if it was going to fall off at any moment.

“I really hope Portia wasn’t actually staying here.”

I parked in front of the house, got out of the car, and looked for a way in. I checked out the doors and windows, hoping that maybe one of them was open in some way. Of course, one was. Unfortunately, it was a tight window leading into the basement. It was difficult to get myself in there, but I did manage it eventually.

Once inside, I found the place eerily empty and clean. I expected to find graffiti, needles, and ashes all over there place. But there was really nothing. Everything was covered in layers of dust, though. It was as if the place had been cleaned up a couple of months ago, but then abandoned to time.

Thee basement was just one large room, with some exposed piping. The only way out were some stairs that lead up, so I took them up.

The small home was just as clean and dusty as the basement. Every room, from the kitchen to the bathroom, was in the same condition as the basement.

There were only two rooms in the small hallway that lead out of the kitchen and living room. One was the bathroom, and the other, I presumed, was a bedroom. Probably an empty, dusty bedroom. Something about that idea unnerved me more than anything else.

It was also the only closed door in the house. Approaching it felt wrong. As if it was never meant to be opened again. As if whatever secrets this door held hadn’t been seen by anyone for 7 weeks, 3 days, 14 hours, 6 minutes, 47 seconds and counting.

Still, I put my hand on the doorknob. My shaking, cold hand. I twisted the metal ball. I could feel it struggle against me, trying hold itself closed, trying to keep anything from disturbing. I put my second hand on the door knob, and twisted harder. Still, it struggled and creaked against me, begging me not to open it, screaming at me to stop. But I wouldn’t. I couldn’t. Not at this point.

I twisted and pulled, as hard as I can. Then, door knob let go, It turned with ease, and the door fell open without any struggle.

There was ink everyone. It was unmistakable how drenched in raw ink the room really was. The ceilings, the walls, the floors, the…

The floor. There was a body in the middle of the room. In the middle of a rune.

“What the fuck satanic shit did I just walk into?”

The body was laying on its side, with a knife sticking out of its back. There was blood pooled around it, and yet the rune still managed to stick out through it all.

The body was rotting. It looked as if it had been there for 7 weeks, 3 days, 14 hours, 6 minutes, 59 seconds and counting. 7 minutes and counting. Despite the fact that bits of flesh were falling off and decaying, there was no trace of any worms or flies. Not even a mold or mushroom. The body was fading through some means that weren’t natural. This body wasn’t meant to be here. This body wasn’t meant to be used how it had been.

I ran out of the room. I ran and never looked back. I climbed out of the basement, ran to my car, drove home as fast as I possibly could, and convinced myself that it was just a dream. That I had been making it up. That Portia was fine and that she’d call me tomorrow and say sorry for worrying me. Everything would be okay. Everything will be okay. Everything is okay.

Hours passed, and I knew it wasn’t. I had seen a body. I had stumbled onto an untouched murder scene, where a demon had been summoned, and then ran away. I never called the police. I didn’t even send an anonymous tip at a payphone or something. I did nothing.

I sinned. I’m a sinner. My fellow man was lying dead at my feet, a perversion of god, and I did nothing about it.

I needed to tell someone. I needed to be absolved of my sin. I wanted to be clean. I wanted to free. I needed to be forgiven.

It was 6:35 at this point. It was late, but I wanted to see if my church was open. I needed Father Thomas. I needed help. I needed intervention from God, and I needed it now more than ever before.

I got back into my car, and drove to my church. If Father Thomas was there, he’d know what to do. He could save me. He could absolve me of my sin and save my immortal soul. He could quell the demon that has been loosed upon this earth, and he could prevent more sin from spreading.

I parked in front of the church. I felt safe just looking at it. “I hope the doors aren’t locked.”

I stepped up to the doors, and pulled them open. They did so, with ease. I sighed with relief. Everything would be okay.

I walked into the building, and turned to enter the main steeple.

“Father Thomas, are you-”

Father Thomas was being held 2 feet off of the ground by his throat, held by a woman with bare, grey skin. She wore no clothing, allowing her visage to be completely absorbed by anyone who looked. Her long legs had a dark skin tone attached to them, appearing as some sort of decoration on her. She stood on the balls of her feet, with her heels in the air.

She grinned devilishly as she held Father Thomas. He gasped and struggled against her. She only smiled at him in response.

Then, she spoke. Her voice sounded like the voice of dozens, maybe hundreds of women speaking together in one cacophonous moment.

“I thought you would be glad to see me, Father Thomas. What happened to our history? Does my baptism mean nothing in the eyes of God anymore?” Her grin widened to an unnatural length. She lifted her other arm up, reached into Father Thomas’ mouth, and pulled his tongue out of his mouth.

“What’s the problem, Thomas? Are the words having trouble finding their way to your tongue? Perhaps I can help with that,” she growled. A third arm came out of her chest and made its way to his tongue. She curled back all of her fingers beside the index, and looked to be writing something on his tongue.

“Perhaps you’ll want to call me a faggot again? Or claim that my existence is a spit in the eye of God? What will it be, Father Thomas? What are the last words you choose to say to me?”

No words came out of Father Thomas’ mouth. No sound came from his throat. It was clear he wasn’t dead from his struggles, but he made no noise.

The demon frowned. “Of course you have nothing to say. I’m holding your tongue. A skill you seem to have never learned.” She furrowed her brow.

“Disappointing!” She shouted. She jammed her index finger into his tongue, and then through it. With only this finger, she ripped it out of his mouth completely. Blood spilled out of his mouth, down his chin, and onto the demon’s arm.

“I wrote the word sinner on your tongue. I hope whoever finds your body understands the irony.”

She moved her third arm aside, still holding the tongue on her finger.

Without a sound, a fourth arm burst forth from her stomach and pierced Father Thomas’ own abdomen. He shrieked in pain. A fifth arm did the same. Then a sixth. Then a seventh.

She pulled one arm back through his body, and licked her hand with an extended tongue. She dragged the tongue back into her mouth and licked her lips. “Delicious. Now, let’s ensure your blood can only tell others what your final thought was before you died. Let’s see what that might be.”

She reached one hand back into his stomach, this time pointing it upward. It moved through him and up into his rib cage. He coughed, and blood came out. He coughed again, and the blood began to turn black. It fell onto the ground, and began to writhe It moved for a while, but then stopped.

“You will die in seven minutes, Father Thomas. The number of your God. Your blood will write down your sins for all to read. You shall receive no absolution, and you will die in here alone. Good luck, Father Thomas, because these seven minutes will will be of nothing but your failings and the harm that you’ve done to others.”

Her face was neutral as she stabbed her finger with the tongue attached into his chest. Her face made no change as she pulled the arm back into her body, missing a single finger. She looked beyond Father Thomas as she dropped him to the ground.

I saw all of this transpire while standing in the entrance of the steeple. I stared in terror as the demon did this to Father Thomas. I stood just as still when she spoke to me. “I heard you come in. I apologise for failing to greet you, but as you can imagine, I was handling more important topics.”

She tilted her head to look at me. Her expression was still blank. “Do you hate me too? Are you scared that I’m going to ruin the sanctity of marriage? Or displease God with my alternate lifestyle? What is it that you think of me?” Her extra arms slinked back into her.

This was when I finally heard it. The loudest voice of them all. It was Portia.

I fell to my knees. “I was looking for you.”

She frowned and cocked her head. “You were?”

I nodded.

Her face was suddenly right in front of mine. Her neck was stretched across the room, and right in front of me.

“Tanner. I see,” she said. The rest of her body followed her neck, and was in front of me again. I couldn’t find the courage to say anything else.

“Give me your tongue, Tanner.” She brought a single arm in front of our faces. One hand, outstretched. I saw her adjust her body in front of me, in order to be in a more comfortable crouch.

“Tanner. You can either stretch your tongue out willingly or I can take it from you myself.” Portia’s eyes were unfeeling. At least, that’s how they felt.

I opened my mouth, and pushed out my tongue. My hands were shaking. So this is where I die.

Portia pinched my tongue between two fingers. “What have you to say, Tanner?”

I felt my existence slip away from my body. I was suddenly watching myself from outside of myself.

I looked at my hands. They were transparent. I was in my soul.

I looked back to Portia. I saw small, glowing feet above her physical body’s back. My eyes slowly moved up to look at her.

She looked unamused. Maybe even disappointed.

“Tanner,” she began, “We have all the time in the world here. Nothing will happen in the waking world while we sit in this plane. Tell me all that you want to tell me.” Her voice this time was hers alone.

I sighed. “I’m sorry, Portia. I really am. I have so many thoughts right now, and so many questions. I’m just so confused and scared, and I just want you to forgive me.” I laughed. “It doesn’t matter what I want, does it? I wasn’t kicked out of my home for just being me. I never lived through what you did. I probably never will.

“I’m wrong about a lot of things, aren’t I? And to think, it took you murdering the worst influence in my life for me to finally realise. I have a lot of learning to do.”

Portia crossed her arms and waited for me to say more. “Is that all? You know we have literally eternity in here. There’s nothing stopping you from saying anything else. Anything you want to get off your chest or whatever you can do right now. This is all you.”

I shook my head. “I have nothing else to say. I’m wrong, and I’m sorry. You deserved a better life.”

Portia sighed and dropped her arms to her sides. “Alright Tanner. You’ve learned something.”

My body was mine again. Portia let go of my tongue. “You may leave, Tanner. I have others who need retribution.” She stood up to her full height and walked away, still standing on the balls of her feet. I watched her as she left. I wasn’t sure if I was scared still or just sad.

She turned her head back to look at me, and put a hand on her hip.

“I haven’t seen Heather or Paul in a while. Do you think they’ll be pleased to see their daughter all grown up?”

Purpose

Portia and Caldwell summon a demon. Well, one more than the other.

Caldwell lit the last candle. Everything was in place, exactly as it was meant to be.

The room we were in was completely devoid of furniture, and was lit only by candles. In the center was a rune and a circle. On the floor was a basket of tulip petals and a silver dagger.

“Portia, I think I’m done. You ready to follow through with this? I mean, I trust you, but I’ve never heard of a demon story that turned out well in the end.” Caldwell stood up from his crouch. “Maybe it’s media bias or something, I’ve never met a real demon, but still. Sometimes stereotypes hold a bit of truth?” He looked at me. If I couldn’t hear the concern in his voice, I could see it in his eyes.

“Yes, Caldwell. I’m sure. I’ve done as much studying on demons as I possibly could, and I know this ritual inside out. The demon will give us what we want, and and we only have to give it something small in return. Demons like knick-knacks.”

Caldwell laughed. “You going to give a demon your baby blanket?”

“Maybe. If it wants it. Kind of ironic how sentimental demons can be.” I shrugged. “You’d think souls of the damned wouldn’t want anything to do with earth, but whatever.”

“Yeah. It’s strange.”

We both stood silently, staring at the rune and circle we had etched into my floorboards. The rune would be the actual mechanism which would allow the demon entry- it literally translates into portal- while the circle would keep the demon from wreaking havoc. We carved the circle with the silver dagger and filled it with salt. It sounded like superstitious bullshit, but nearly every account said it worked, so I chose to trust the books.

“Well,” Caldwell clapped his hands, “The candles won’t burn forever. Should we start?”

“Yes. Let’s start.” I kneeled next to the circle and sprinkled tulip petals into the circle. They began to burn as the touched the wood, their form changing into rotted teeth.

“Oh. That’s what the petals are for?” Caldwell asked.

“Yeah,” I replied.

“Honestly I just thought demons needed you to set the mood. Can’t get it up without the right atmosphere right?”

I didn’t bother responding, and instead threw on more petals. This handful turned into rusty nails.

Caldwell sighed. “Tough crowd tonight. Hopefully the demon likes my jokes a little.”

“Sorry if i’m a little dry tonight. I am trying to summon a demon.”

“Oh yeah, don’t mind me. I just figured you might need some more help from me.”

“I’ll let you know when it’s your turn to do something.” I tossed a last handful of petals into the circle.

This time they turned into polaroids. Each image was of a failure I had endured. My second spelling bee, failing in the second round. My junior high school valentine’s dance, where I was turned down by a girl I had a crush on. My high school graduation, where my uncle showed up drunk.

Each photo held places and objects that would mean basically nothing to anyone else looking at them, but I knew what they were. I could see all of them. The first time I tried to get into a sorority and they told me they didn’t accept lesbians. The first time I tried to join and fraternity, which I had almost forgotten about. There was even the first time I was fired from a job, some sushi place that decided I “didn’t fit in” because someone else outed me.

I could feel my hands shake. I let out a ragged breath, and pushed the remaining petals aside.

“Whoa, Portia. Are you alright? You look like you just- scratch that. What’s going on?” Caldwell kneeled next to me and put his hands on my shoulders.

I didn’t respond.

“What’s in the photos, Portia?”

I brushed his hands off. “Nothing. That just means the ceremony is working.”

“Okay…” Caldwell slowly stood up. “I believe you. Just let me know if something goes wrong. I’ll get you out of here.”

“Mhm.” With that, I stood up. “Okay. It’s your turn now. Stand where I was just standing and close your eyes.”

Caldwell shivered. “Hoo, yeah, okay, that gave me the chills. Close my eyes? This is a little too spooky for me.”

“It’s okay, I have everything under control,” I reassured him.

He sighed. “Alright. Okay. Yeah. I can do this. I trust you. This will be alright.” He stepped into the spot where I had been only a moment before. “I can do this,” he told himself one more time.

“Oh, and Portia?” He started. “In case anything bad happens, I just want you to know that I care about you a lot” He turned around to look at me. “I… I hope this demon thing gives you what you need.” He closed his eyes and turned back around.

I blinked a few times. “So do I, Caldwell.” I leaned over and picked up the dagger. “So do I.”

I thrust the knife between his ribs, then pushed him into the circle. He gasped as I did. The he fell to the ground, and his blood began to pool around him.

I pushed his feet into the circle. I didn’t need any demon getting out

There was nothing but quiet for a few moments. Then, the candles turned into a dark red light. The room hard a harsh wind, circling around Caldwell. His body floated in the center of the circle, turning until he was face up and his feet faced the ground. A bright spear of energy suddenly shot through his chest, and his eyes opened. They were bloodshot, and his pupils replaced his irises. He floated down, landing on his feet.

There it was. The demon I had spent so long attempting to summon was in front of me. It took a step toward me, stopping just a moment before the barrier that kept it from murdering me.

“So it’s you. I had heard about you.” The demon’s voice was just Caldwell’s voice. Nothing had changed. “Tell me. What is it your name?” The demon stared at me. The blood in its eyes receded back into white.

“My name doesn’t matter,” I told the demon.

“Oh, do you think giving me your name gives me some power over you?” The demon asked. “No, names mean nothing. They’re a human construct. Gods and demons know each by essences, and have no need for names. However, for dealings like this we tend to have one. You may call me Moniker. My pronouns are gi and gir.”

I laughed. “You know what moniker means, right?”

“Very,” gi responded. Gi didn’t laugh along.

I cleared my throat. “Very well. I am Portia.”

“Portia. Interesting. Now what would a Portia want with a demon?” gi asked.

“I want… I want a purpose,” I told it. “I want to feel like my life will make a difference on this earth. I want to prove that I’m worth something, and I want to-” I stopped myself from saying something I might regret. “I want to make the world a better place for me. And for others like me. I don’t want us to have to live in fear anymore.”

Moniker cocked gir head and smiled. “Interesting. And who are you, Portia? Who would you categorise as ‘like you?’”

“I’m- I’m a lesbian. And the people who I’d say are like me are other queer people.” I clenched my fists. “We deserve better.”

“Hm. I’m not usually one to mettle in human affairs.” Moniker clapped gir hands, much like Caldwell used to. “I will do this for you, however.”

“What’s your price?” I asked Moniker.

“Hmm. This room is rather empty.” Gi looked about the room, before scanning the floor. “I’ll take the photos in my circle. They feel charged with emotions. It’s been a long while since I’ve felt an energy like this.”

“Oh. Demons really do like knick-knacks,” I said.

“Who told you that? We keep that part of our deals secret. We like to surprise those we deal with,” gi said.

“I honestly made it up a few minutes ago,” I replied.

“Hm. Interesting.”

I and Moniker sat in silence for a few moments. I stared at the photos at gir feet.

“Well, I need you to do one more thing for me to enact my end of the bargain.”

“What is it?” I asked.

“Give me your hands,” the demon responded.

“Oh no, you aren’t fooling me,” I told gir. “I know how this works. I break the circle, you kill me, and then you kill everyone else in a mile radius. Not happening.”

“I have no intentions of killing you, Portia.” I winced when he said my name. Just like Caldwell. “I will change the fiber of your being, yes, but I will not kill you. You will do that much more effectively than I could. Your form will be suited to the job.”

“Hold on, I interrupted. “Will you run that by me just one more time?”

“I’m going to transform you. Your human life as you know it will end, but you will be reborn as something greater. You will be beyond humanity, and even beyond demonhood. You will roam the earth and be submerged in glorious purpose. I almost envy you.”

“I still don’t trust you,” I replied.

“Portia, I’m trapped in a human body with a knife sticking out of my back. Do you truly believe I pose a huge threat to anyone, save infants?” Moniker shook gir head. “No. I will give you what you crave and take the photos in return.”

I stole a glance at one last photo. It was of a leather recliner. A recliner I lost my virginity on. The recliner that my parents walked in and kicked me out of the house.

“Portia, time is running thin. The candles won’t burn forever. Shall we start?” The demon extended a hand, stopping just before the circle.

I sighed. “I trust you.” I put my hand in girs.

“Wonderful..” Moniker gripped my hand, holding on tightly. I felt nothing for a few moments. Then gi let go.

“Welcome to your new purpose. Welcome to your new life,” Moniker said.

“Nothing is happening,” I replied.

“Not yet,” Moniker said. Gi began picking up the polaroids. “They’ll happen soon. Farewell, Portia. I look forward to our next meeting.” Gi had picked up all of the polaroids. They all burned into ash, and then gi closed gir eyes. Caldwell’s body fell back down.

I knelt on the floor and began crying. Had I really killed someone for nothing? Was this really how this was going to happen?

In between sobs, I wiped my eyes. Looking at my hands, something was amiss.

My hands were covered in ink. I pressed them to my face again, and felt the cool liquid.

“Ink. Curious.”

I started laughing, but my breath failed me and never let a sound out. I dug my nails into my cheeks, and felt more of the ink fall out. I felt no pain.

Continuing my cold cackling, I grasped my shoulders. They were soaked. I ripped into my own flesh anyway, just to feel even more of my cursed blood leak. I danced around the room, leaving ink stains on the walls with my hands. Sometimes I dragged my hands across the walls, sometimes I threw ink off of them onto the walls.

I finally knew what it meant to be real. I knew exactly why I was on this earth. I could feel my reason to exist welling up in my chest.

I was born for this.

Suddenly my laughter could be heard. It was quiet. Private. Only I needed to hear myself laugh. No one else deserved to hear me. No one else had the same amount of purpose that I had, and no one ever would.


Mistake

No Stops Tonight

Halloween night? Time for a fright…

“Fucking subway pass,” I mumbled, while attempting to reload it. “Damn thing got wet, and now it just refuses to work.” I threw the pass onto the ground. “Whatever, just forget about it, Tessa. You’re fine.” I had the printing machine print me another pass. That was three dollars out of my pocket I could’ve saved.

I hate New York’s subway system so much, but it’s much faster than trying to bus. I’m not even going to attempt to drive in this city.

The machine accepted my cash, then dispensed a thin slip of paper, with a magnetic stripe on the backside. That was why getting it wet was a problem, because the water would just seep into the paper and screw it up if it got too wet. I had ten dollars on my last slip, and that’s just gone, too. I need to move to a different city.

I took my new pass, swiped it at the gate, and waited for my next train. The station was practically empty, except for one guy waiting by the stairs to go up. I stood next to the tracks, and waited for my train.

It didn’t help that it was gross down here, either. The tracks for the trains always seemed to have water pooled in them, and I’ve seen plenty of rats taking drinks from the damn puddles. The walls were often tiled, and that looked good, but the tiling was pretty negligible when the wall just above was nothing but rusty metal, same with the ceiling. Hanging from the ceiling were plenty of light fixtures, which hung on by thin and similarly-rusty tubes. I was always worried a light might just come crashing down one day. Oh, and the ground is often just a dingy and browned concrete. Seriously, it’s disgusting, and probably has never been cleaned since it was installed.

Then, as if to make today worse than it was already was, the lights all went out. I screamed, and ducked down. Shit shit shit!

Only a couple moments later, the lights turned back on. I stood up and looked around. Nothing had changed, except the guy by the stairs had left. It was just me now. “Damn it. I got scared for nothing.”

I pulled out my phone just to look at it. I didn’t have any service. Figures, that’s what happens when I’m underground.

I heard some strange noise coming from down the tracks. It sounded like some sort of quiet chanting. I looked down the dark tunnel, but couldn’t see anything. I lifted my phone and turned on its light. I still didn’t see anything new coming from the tunnel, but I stared for a moment.

Suddenly appearing in my light was the shape of a person. Well, sort of? It looked absolutely like a shadow, but also shimmered a lot and looked blurry. It looked like it was expending a lot of effort to hold itself together.

“Oh FUCK!” I shouted as I realised what was shambling out of the tunnel. It wasn’t human, that’s for damn sure.

I quickly looked back and forth, trying to decide what I should do. Was running a good choice of action? What about my train? Shit shit shit shit shit shit shit!

Then, I heard a rumbling from the distance. The train was approaching. I smiled at the thing and stuck my tongue out at it. It was going to get hit by a train, because it was so slow it couldn’t move out of the way. Whatever it was, it wouldn’t be my problem.

Just as I expected, the train rammed through the shadow-thing and stopped. I stepped onto the last train car, and sat down on a bench. I just beat a weird monster by literally waiting for a train.

“Wow, I should probably be reacting to that more, shouldn’t I? Fuck it, I’m way too tired for this bullshit anyway.” I leaned back in my seat, and got nice and comfortable. “Not. My. Problem.”

The train car was empty besides me. Honestly, the whole train was probably empty except for maybe a homeless person somewhere in the train. I didn’t need to worry about anyone bothering me, I just needed to worry about getting off at my stop.

Then, the conductor of the train spoke over the speaker. “We will be skipping the next stop due to unforeseen technical difficulties. Sorry for the inconvenience.”

“Yeah, whatever. The most inconvenient thing is how impossible it is to hear you. Damn, speak up.” Seriously, I hated how impossible it was to hear that speaker, even in an empty car.

Another minute passed before the man spoke up again. “The issues are continuing, so we will be unable to stop at any stations until further notice. Sorry for the inconvenience.”

“Are the brakes not working or something? Jesus. There is literally no other reason for us to not stop.” I stopped and thought about it. “Actually, maybe this is a good thing. No one will bother me on my car.” Smug, I snuggled into the chair.

A few more moments pass, then the loudspeaker started up again. I waited for the voice, but there was nothing. All I heard was that quiet static from the speaker. I sighed. “You knocked the speaker switch on, buddy. Turn it off or something.” I think this conductor didn’t know how to do his job. I’ll be furious if I die on this train.

The static just kept going for a while. I was angry. “Why is the conductor having such issues just running a train?”

I looked at the door connecting the cars. There was a large red sign that made it very clear that you shouldn’t be crossing between cars while the train is moving. Probably for the best, but I might just have to go find that conductor and give him a piece of my mind. He can’t drive a train and he can’t even keep the intercom from turning on. Seriously, who hired this guy?

I got out of my seat, and stepped toward the door. “Yeah, someone needs to go figure out what’s going on. It’s probably just me one this train anyway.” I shoved the door open, and a furious wind started blowing into the train car. I pushed against it, and tried to hold my breath. Not only was the harsh wind making it hard to breath, but the subway never smelled that great.

I stepped between the cars, trying so carefully to keep from flying off the side. Lights from the tunnel were soaring past me, blinking in and out faster than I could think to use them. I pulled the door closed behind me, and got into the next car. With great effort, I shut that door, too. I was relieved once the wind was no longer tugging on me and trying to pull me to my death.

I turned and looked at the car. All of the seats were empty, of course, and there was an empty energy drink can rolling back and forth on a seat. The car also smelled pretty badly of alcohol, so I was in no mood to rest. I went straight for the next door.

Again, a harsh wind blew into the car once the door was open. However, the usual gross smell of the subway was not as bad as the smell of the car I was just in. I almost welcomed it, but the gusts from the train’s speed were still too much to breath.

I covered my face with my arm as moved, this time. I could breath a bit better through my nose this way. I took careful and small steps to cross the short distance from one car to another. I pulled on the door, stepped through, and then pulled it shut. The wind stopped, and the smell went away a bit. I breathed a sigh of relief as I looked into the next car. There was a paper bag that was floating down to the ground and settling, probably because of the door I opened. Once it landed, it rocked back and forth with the movement of the train.

“Wow, you just can’t escape trash in the subway, can you?” I said. Maybe I had too much of a habit of talking to myself. “Yeah, whatever, it’s not like anyone else is affected.”

I started walking to next door when I heard the static suddenly rise in volume. I had forgotten that was even playing for a while. I stopped in my tracks and looked for the nearest speaker. It was up on the ceiling of the car, in a corner. “Oh, yeah, that’s lovely. So atmospheric and nice.”

I stomped over to the next door and pushed it open. After doing this twice, I felt much more confident in myself and got through much quicker and steadier.

The next car looked worse than the previous cars. There were plastic shopping bags fluttering about, and the contents of the bags were too. There were unlabeled cans rolling around, a broken and cracked carton of eggs making a huge mess, wrappers and other sorts of paper trash flying about, and even an empty and spilled milk carton was bouncing around. It took a couple of moments, but everything eventually settled in place.

I sighed again. “Seriously, who just brings a carton of eggs onto the train? And how do you get a carton of milk to open and spill like that?”

The lights went out, and the car was dark. The only source of lights were the quickly passing ones out in the tunnel. I looked out the window and saw us blast past a station. There were a few people waiting for a train, but they clearly didn’t get to catch this one. Something was more off than just an incompetent conductor.

I pulled my phone out and turned on its light. I flashed it around the train car. Nothing looked different than when the lights were on, but now the trash caused bigger shadows in the car. I quickly stepped onto the seats and walked over the trash. “I really didn’t sign up for this shit.”

I hopped off of the seats and in front of the door that led to the next car. I grabbed the handle, ready to turn it and shove the door forward. Then, I heard a noise behind me. It sounded like chanting, again. “Fuck no.”

Without letting go of the door, I turned around and shined my light back into the car. Walking through the door behind me was a blurry and dark figure. It opened what had to be its mouth, and I heard more whispers float from it and toward me. Its mouth-thing connected one side of its head to the other, but certainly wasn’t quite grinning. It lifted one hand, a hand previously resting near its knee, and reached out to me.

“What the fuck!” I shouted. I pulled on the door handle and used my entire body to shove it open. I stumbled out into the between-car section, and tried as quickly as I could to tug the next one open. I slid open as quickly as I could make it, and I stepped onto the next empty train car.

“You’ve got to be kidding me. What the fuck?” I realised my phone was in my hand. “Oh shit, no no no no.” I patted myself down, and touched a large shape in my pocket. “Oh, fuck. Okay, I’m good, I still have my phone. I never even realised that I stuffed it in my pocket while trying to move from one car to another. Fuck, dude.” I pulled the phone out of my pocket. Its light was still one, so I shined it into the car. The seats of the car were covered in a blurry, shadowy mess. The shadows were slowly moving onto the floor of the car. I ran past them all and to the next door. I pocketed my phone again, pulled on the handle of the door, and shoved the bastard open. It easily let me out, and I moved over to the next car.

“Please let there be one more, please let there only be one more,” I whispered. My light illuminated the car. For a moment I thought the light wasn’t working, because I still only saw darkness. I turned the light to my face. It was definitely still on. The static from the speakers was suddenly more apparent in the dark. “Fuck me, is this really happening?”

I put my left hand in front of me, and tried to use it to help me figure out what was in front of me. My legs bumped into what had to be the seats often, but my hand didn’t touch anything. All of my steps were slow. And agonising. I was already sick of this train car. Then, my hand touched a pole.

“Shit!” I shouted, and stumbled backward in pain. I looked at my hand. The dark stuff was a little stuck to it. “No!” I tried to shake it off. Luckily for me, I was successful. My hand was reddened from where the shadows had been. It stung.

Eventually, I stumbled to the other side of the train, and found the other door. I guessed at where the handle was. I grabbed it, grunted from the pain, and tugged the door open. The lights from the tunnel were still flashing by. I stepped through the doorway, and tugged the door closed behind me.

“Aah!” I screamed as I let go of the door. I felt relief from the pain, but then a stinging followed. I shook my hand vigorously. I pulled out my light and shined it at the other door. That same darkness covered it. “Fuck. Fuck!”

I stood in place for a few moments, thinking of what to do. An idea crossed my mind. “Hell, I might as well give it a shot.”

I pulled my shirt off, and the winds were even colder on my bare skin. I used the shirt to keep the shadow-stuff off of my hand as I pushed the next door open. It worked, and I didn’t feel the same pain from touching the darkness. Yet, the stinging sensation was still there.

I entered the train car and put my shirt back on. “How the hell can this thing cause me so many problems, yet not even be here?” Shining my light into the train car revealed everything as it was supposed to be, and I sighed in relief. “At least I can see again.”

I crossed my fingers as I approached the next car. “Please be the last one, please be the last one, please be the last one!” I pulled on the handle, and the door opened. From the side of the train, I saw a really bright light. I looked over, and saw a stop approaching. “Yeah, great, I bet we’re missing this one, too.”

No one was at the stop as we flew by. I wish there had been at least someone. How many of the other stops had people at them that I just missed? How many times had I lost the chance to call for help?

The light from the stop disappeared in the distance. I was only illuminated by the tunnel again.

Suddenly, I realised I didn’t really remember why I was trying to move to the front of the train. What was my goal?

“Right. I should probably stop the train. Hit the brakes or something.” I sighed. “Fuck, how did this happen?” I turned over to the other door and pulled it open. Inside was just another passenger car.

“Why the fuck does this just not end? I’m done wasting time.” I stomped over to the other door, and ripped it open. I shut it, and broke into the next car.

My phone light illuminated seats. I lifted it up to the other wall. “Oh thank god.” The door was closer to me than any of the other ones had been. “The fucking cockpit or whatever you call it. Jesus, finally.”

I ran to the door, and pulled it open. I gasped.

The conductor’s face was covered in pitch black. The speaker microphone was hanging, just above the ground. I was reminded of the static playing behind me. I pushed past the man in the chair, and started looking for an emergency brake. “Fucking fuck, there’s gotta be something somewhere!”

Behind me, I heard the whispers again. “You’re fucking with me.” I flashed the light back into the train. The shadow was stepping through the door, and toward me. “You’re fucking with me.”

I stood in place. There was literally nothing I could do to stop it. I flashed my light at it, constantly flicking it off and on, but it didn’t change anything. It just kept chanting and stepping towards me.

I stopped flicking the light, and just kept it on. “What the hell do you want?” I could feel a lump welling up in my throat. It was halfway through the car at that point.

I felt a tear slide down my face. Am I crying?

Its chants got louder and louder, and I saw it open its mouth. It was as wide as my face, and split the head greatly. Shadowy strings connected the two halves. Its body shuddered.

I regained control of myself, and immediately started hitting buttons on the control panel. One of them had to be a brake or something. Right?”

Nothing was happening when I hit the buttons. They all just kind stayed dim.

“Won’t… Work…” I heard from between the chants. I looked back, and the thing was maybe two feet away from me. I tried to scramble away, shining my light at it. The area behind it was suddenly covered in pitch blackness.

“Turn… Off…” Were the only understandable words that came through its mouth. Maybe its mouth? It was making noise, and it was still chanting. “Off… Light…”

I breathed quickly, and my vision was blurry. I wiped my eyes with my arm. The creature was inches away from me. I still held my phone at it. Its body quivered more and more the closer it got to my light. It grabbed the phone in my hand. The light turned out, and the screen itself powered down. The sound of static was loud again. The chanting disappeared.

I covered my head in my arms, and I sobbed. It was so dark.

Shopping

I stood outside of our house, waiting for my husband. He always took a while to actually get out of the house once I tell him ‘I’m ready.’ He’s the kind of guy who thinks he can get ready in a couple minutes, so he puts it off until he’s either late or almost late. Either way, it gave me the chance to smoke before we went grocery shopping.

It was only early afternoon, but the evening fog had set in early today. I could only see about 40 feet away from myself in any direction, but it’d be enough. The grocery store wasn’t too far away.

“Alright, let’s go,” Brett said, walking down our porch stairs to our car.

“Wow, I only smoked half a cigarette this time,” I replied, laughing.

Brett scowled. “You really should quit smoking.”

“I know, I know. I’m working on it. No need to remind me.” I kneeled down rubbed the cigarette out on the ground

“I’ll stop reminding you once you have completely quit,” He replied.

“Not even a rare social smoke?” I asked as I put the cigarette away.

“Not even that.”

Either way,I got into the driver’s seat and drove us to the closest superstore. Really, it was just a Walmart, but I hated admitting I shopped at Walmart.

“You’ve got a list, right sweetheart?” I asked.

“Of course I do, Arthur. Why wouldn’t I?” He replied.

I laughed. “Ah, well, I just like double checking. You know how I am.”

“I know, sweetie. It’s probably a good thing you’re so insistent on keeping me up on things.”

“You’re welcome,” I replied, smugly.

“Oh, I see how it is, Mr. Marlboro,” Arthur laughed.

“Okay, fine. Thanks for pushing me to better myself too.”

“I can live without a shopping list,” he said, “but you aren’t living if you’re missing a lung.”

“I know, I know,” I wave him off. “Gee, you’re worse than my mom.”

“I feel like your mom,” he started to laugh, “Old and crotchety!”

We both laughed, and let the quiet hang in the air afterwards. It was nice.

“Fog’s out early today, huh,” I mentioned.

“We’re probably in the thick of it right now. It should pass in a few days.”

“I hope you’re right. It’s pretty dreary, and we have to drive at 20 miles-per-hour everywhere we go.”

“It could be worse. We could just be not shopping at all.”

“Oh, you know that isn’t really an option. We should have just gone last week,” I piped in.

“Oh well,” he said. He pulled down the sun blocker, so that he could look at himself in the mirror.

Within a few more moments, we arrived at the superstore. We both found a parking spot near the back of the lot– so that we wouldn’t lose our car among other cars– and walked toward the store.

Once we entered, I was relieved to see my breaths stop leaving a huge cloud of steam everywhere I went. I grabbed a shopping cart, and caught up with Arthur. “Alright, where to first?”

“We should left and get cereal first,” he told me.

“The freezer section is closer, though,” I replied.

“We’ll get frozen goods on the way back,” he said.

I started walking toward the dry foods anyway. “You know, this isn’t summertime down in Georgia anymore, Arthy-dear.”

“I lived in Wyoming. Georgia is nowhere near Wyoming.”

“Eh, they’re both just as conservative to me,” I chuckled.

“S’why I left,” Arthur replied. We reached the cereal aisle, and he grabbed some off-brand cheerios. I grabbed a box of Cookie Crisp, and we put them into the cart.

“I can’t believe you can still stand eating that stuff,” Arthur chided me.

“Come on! It’s like desserts, but in the morning! That’s awesome!”

“Whatever, you can have your kid’s cereal,” he said, waving his hand farewell to me as he walked forward.

I followed him. “I will have my children’s breakfast item, thank you very much,” I said.

The rest of our shopping went rather similarly, with Arthur grabbing foods you actually have to cook, while I grabbed pizza rolls and burritos.

At check-out, I ribbed into him a little bit. “I know you have to be incredibly jealous of how I live?”

“And how is that?” He demanded.

“Oh, allI have to do is go to work for a few hours every week, and then I get to come home to a lovely hubby who cooks all my meals for me while I just laze around the house,” I bragged.

“Oh yeah? Well, I can’t help but wonder who enables your lifestyle,” He said, with dignity.

“You know who that is,” I said through a smile. I grabbed him from behind and gave him a kiss on the cheek.

The counter girl laughed. “Get a room, you two.”

I gasped. “Is not a superstore just one giant room?”

She laughed, along with Arthur.

“Your total will be $127.34,” she told us.

I took out my wallet, paid, and we left the store with groceries in tow. The moment we walked out of the door, though, it was incredibly apparent that things weren’t right.

“Where are the cars?”I asked.

“I have got no idea. Did we come through the wrong doors?”

“Even if we did, there should still be cars on the opposite side. What the hell?”

I left the cart on the sidewalk, and I stepped toward the parking lot.

“Maybe-”

I jumped. “Jesus, I didn’t know you followed me, Arthur. Warn me next time.

“Sorry,” he said.” “Was there was some emergency alert you and I missed?”

“I doubt it. Our phones would have been buzzing and going haywire and shit.”

“Um,” Arthur mumbled. “Hell. I don’t know.”

“Let’s just see if we can find our car, alright?” I reassured Arthur. At least, I thought I was. I didn’t really know how scared Arthur was.

“I was about to suggest that myself.”

The two of us continued to walk into the parking lot. Of course,since we parked so far away from the the store, we lost sight of it due to the fog. Scouring the parking lot yielded no car.

“This is either terrifying or a really good prank.” I reached into my pockets to make sure I still that the keys. I felt them, and pulled them out.

“What do you make of this?” I asked.

Arthur shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe you’re just dreaming. Pinch yourself.”

“Real nice of dream-you to tell me the secret of the dream, don’t you think.” I sighed.

“Maybe we should just head back to the store,” he suggested.

“Sure. Let’s just do that.”

The two of us walked back toward the store.

“Hey, we forgot to grab our cart,” I mentioned.

“I left it on purpose. Not much use dragging a cart around when we don’t even have a car,” he reasoned.

“Yeah, okay, that’s fair,” I said.

I stopped walking. “Does it seem weird to you that we haven’t seen the building yet?” I asked. “Like, we went the right way. All I see is more parking lot all around.”

“I didn’t want to say anything,” Arthur admitted.

“Hell,” I said. “What do we do now?”

“I don’t know,” he sighed. “Like, this is some kind of bullshit you see happening in one of your b-films.”

“Or one of your video games,” I said.

“Yeah, but in the video game you find a way out. There are usually clues or something,” he said.

“Nothing out here but unlit street lamps. It’s still daylight out.”

We both stood still, without saying a word for a few moments. That was when the alarm sounded.

Arthur and I refused to make a sound, instead opting to look about wildly for the source of the sound. It sounded like it was coming from everywhere and nowhere at once. It hurt my head to think about it.

I grabbed the sides of my head in recoil, trying to block out the sound. It didn’t work.

Then, almost as suddenly as it began, it stopped. It was just over.

I looked up at Arthur. My head was throbbing from the sudden end of the alarms.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

Arthur said nothing, but he pointed past and behind me. I craned my head back to see what he was pointing at.

There were silhouettes in the fog shambling toward us. There were dozens of them.

“Holy shit,” I whispered.

“So you see them too. That’s- that’s good,” Arthur said.

I squinted to try and see them a bit better. “Oh fuck, I think those things have holes instead of faces.”

“Don’t you try telling me those are the goddamned pirori!” Arthur shouted

“I don’t know what the hell that means,” I said, “But you can look for yourself.”

Arthur squinted at the figures, much like I had, and gasped. “Okay, what the hell are we still doing here, Brett?”

“What do you mean?” I asked. “We already tried to leave.” I was desperately trying to stay calm, but I wasn’t sure how long my bravado would last me.

“No, I mean right now!” Arthur grabbed my hand, and started to run away from the figures emerging from the mist. Not really able to choose, I kept up with him.

Despite our clear goal being to get as far away from the figures as we could, I couldn’t help but look back at them. Which, of course, is when what was behind became even worse.

Standing far behind the now-miniscule figures was something huge. I looked vaguely like a giant human, but it’s stomach was facing upwards, and it’s back was arched back terribly. It’s limbs didn’t look quite right either, with more than one joint bending in each one, suspending it. I saw its mouth open before it receded into the fog and out of my vision again.

“Arthur, run faster!”

There was a curdling scream. Unlike the alarm, it clearly came from one direction.

Arthur took my advice after hearing that. I only wish he hadn’t looked back.

Crumbling

A wretched thing was found tonight
In a weald not far from here
An item which held a life of its own
But lacked a shape to show its life

It was green and minuscule, but the finder knew something
About the way that it held no mouth, no teeth to speak
But still told him that it hungered
He had heard of this and knew it should be left
Yet he took it home to study

“The thing should feed,” He told himself
“It won’t last long if it doesn’t.”
Yet he knew it was wrong
The formless creature shouldn’t have an eye
and the eye shouldn’t have fangs

The item grew to the size of a toddler, at least
Its eye was wide and bared its teeth
Another eye was growing on its back, behind the first
The man could tell the more it grew, the more that it would feast
With or withour his help, the thing would grow
The thing would hunt and consume

It ate his cat whole with a single look
The kitten was gone, the man saw it all
He held his head in shame. He couldn’t face the town
The man must have known what he was doing
For a crumbling could be heard coming from behind the eye

Ghost Bridge

In an attempt to prove that ghosts aren’t real, Tucker crosses the locally known Ghost Bridge. What he fails to realise, however, is that there is a ghost there, and she isn’t very sociable.

A fire crackled in the center of our circle. Four of us were here: Grey, Red, and Jack. Grey’s name was actually Greg, and Red’s was really Fred. Grey really hated the name Greg, and Fred just thought that being called a color was cool after Grey started doing it.

“Hey, we should tell some ghost stories around the campfire. You know, for old time’s sake.” Red suggested. He smiled eagerly.

“Yeah, no. Ghosts don’t exist, Red.” I crossed my arms at him.

“I don’t know, there’s some weird shit out there,” Jack said. I shook my head at him.

“Okay, but that doesn’t just magically mean ‘ghosts.’ It means that you’re desperate for an explanation for something that isn’t real. You just watch too many fake ghost videos online,” I replied.

“Okay, sure, whatever. I’ve found some reputable sources. Real ghost hunters, not those TV show pricks. Tell them they’re wrong.”

“Gladly,” I said, “As soon as you can bring them to me.”

“Shut up,” Grey interjected. “Ghost exist. I’ve fucking seen one. The banshee of Ghost Bridge.”

“Fuck off, dude,” I said.

“Keep going,” Red responded. He smiled, obviously pleased he was getting a ghost story.

“I’m listening,” Jack responded.

“Alright, so here’s the deal. You try crossing that bridge, and there’s this ghost that appears. They call her a banshee. You know, because banshee’s scream and then they die. No big deal. Alright, but here’s the kicker: I crossed Ghost Bridge. About halfway through, I see this fucking girl crying. She’s got stupid long red hair, and you can’t much else of her. Her back’s turned to you. So, I fucking asked her if she needed help. She’s just fucking alone on a bridge, crying. I didn’t know what to think. So, she hears me; she stops crying. Next thing I know, she’s standing straight up, and her hair is blowing away in the wind. She’s got this fucking tattered dress, it goes to just a little above her knees. It would be cute and all, if her skin wasn’t fucking white as snow. She looks like a ghost. She’s fucking is a ghost. I panic, and shove past her. She sees me, and she screams. I fucking lose it, and start running faster. I didn’t look back until I was across the bridge. There wasn’t shit there when I looked back.” Grey leaned back in his seat. He closed his eyes and scowled. He didn’t seem to like his own story very much.

“Damn, man,” Jack said.

“Seriously,” Red followed up.

“Alright, sure, a god damned ghost. How can you prove this thing is real?” I demanded.

“I can’t,” Grey admitted. “I saw what I saw, and that’s that. I don’t really want to try and see the banshee a second time.”

“Yeah, that’s what I thought,” I said. Grey shrugged in response.

“Hey asshole,” Jack said to me, “I’m pretty sure that’s some real proof of a ghost. A firsthand encounter? He totally saw her and everything. She’s a full blown ghost, man.”

“Did you see her?” I asked in response.

“Well, no,” Jack said.

“My point exactly.”

The circle was quiet. Red poked the fire with a stick, and I tossed on another log.

“I’ve got an idea,” Red started, “If you want proof of the ghost, why don’t you try crossing Ghost Bridge?”

“Okay, sure, whatever, I’ll prove there’s no ghost. Let’s all go to ghost bridge and waltz across like some ballerinas,” I replied.

“I’m not crossing ghost bridge,” Jack said, “I believe Grey, and I’m in no mood to see a banshee.”

“Fine, I’ll go alone.”

“No, you’ll need a witness,” Red said, “Someone else to know that you actually crossed the bridge, and didn’t just say you did.”

I sighed. “Fine. You and me, Red, tomorrow I’ll cross ghost bridge.”

Red shook his head. “I got family photos tomorrow. Mom’ll be pissed if I miss them.”

I shook my head. “Alright, who’s going to go with me, then?”

No one spoke up for a few seconds. “Come on,” I said, “You want to prove this ghost? Someone has to come with me.”

Again, no one spoke for a couple moments.

Finally, Grey spoke up. “Alright, fine. I’ll come with you. Damn it, I didn’t want to go back to that damned bridge.”

“So it’s settled?” I asked.

“Yeah, sure,” Grey responded.

Red and Jack high fived each other.

“The two of you are a couple of pussies,” Grey said.

“Yeah, duh,” Jack responded.

“Family photos, dude,” Red said.

“My ass,” I said, before laughing, “OoooooOOOoohh, I’m a terrifying ghost who’ll eat you alive!”

Jack and Red laughed. Grey gave me a very solemn look.

*****

“Come on, Tucker. Go cross Ghost Bridge. There’s nothing there but a measly ghost.” Grey egged me on.

“Yeah, whatever, Greg,” I snapped back.

Grey winced. “Hey man, I’m just fucking around. Please don’t call me Greg.”

“Don’t worry,” I reassured him, “No one else is here. Only the ghosts.”

“Yeah, and I’ve got a reputation to keep up with the ghost. Help me out, man.” He started staring down the long bridge.

“What’s the time, Grey?” I asked.

“11:53.”

“Seven minutes. Great. The wait is going to kill me before the ghost has the chance.” I sat down, and looked up at the sky. There weren’t a lot of stars I could see.

“You can just go. That midnight thing is bullshit. The ghost comes around at any time of day.” Grey kept his eyes fixed on the other side of the bridge.

“Whatever dude, fuck off. There isn’t a ghost there. I’m crossing now.”

“You’d better fucking run across that bridge, Tuck,” Grey told me as I got up and walked away. I flipped him off in response.

The bridge was empty. There were old railroad tracks on either side, and some tall, iron railings. I walked between both. I looked back at Grey. “Let me know if you see any spooks!” I called to him.

“You’ll see the bastard before I do!” He shouted back. I laughed, and waved him away. He wasn’t actually going to leave, but you get it.

I kept strolling along, and I looked off of the bridge while I went. The bridge looked over the whole city. It would actually be kind of romantic if I brought someone here. Me and a girl, just watching the sunset over the city. Or me and a guy; I have options.

I took some slow and deliberate steps, stepping from railroad board to railroad board. All the while, My eyes tracked the small glints in the distance. This would totally get me laid. Tonight wasn’t a total waste.

After a few moments of watching the city, I turned back to my boards. They were evenly spaced, and they kept the rusted lines of metal upright. I kind of wanted to kick a broken piece of the railroad aside, but I chose not to. There might have been a dog or something hanging around that I didn’t want to kill.

I counted the boards to myself. The bridge was much longer than it really needed to be. Well, maybe not for trains. I looked off to the side. There wasn’t a river below me. I looked back and forth between the two ends of the bridge. The mountains were pretty steep, I guess. Grey still waited for me back at his side of the bridge.

Once I was about halfway across, I was thinking about just going back. There was clearly nothing on the bridge.

I looked back to Grey and shook my head. I turned back around to take a few steps, when I saw a girl on the bridge.

She was crouching and crying. Her back was turned to me, so I mostly saw an incredible amount of red hair. It was matted and kind of a mess on her. It must have been one solid wig. The girl was crying, and I could see her hair shudder as she gasped and sobbed.

“Alright, you did pretty good. Did Grey put you up to this? Fred? Jack? It doesn’t matter, just get up and let’s go.” The girl was about 9 steps away. I started to walk towards her.

Once she was around 6 steps away from me, she stood up. Her hair fell to her knees. If it were brushed, it probably would have landed around her ankles. That wasn’t the case, though.

“Seriously, that wig is impressive. Like, how would you even get that much hair? Someone was really dedicated in making that thing.

4 steps away, and she turned to me. Her eyes were sunken in her face, and her lips were chapped and scabbed. Her nose was dry, and flakes of skin were scraping off.

“Jesus. That’s good makeup-”

She screamed. It was earsplitting and terrible. The whole town had to have heard that awful screech. I covered my ears and closed my eyes. “FUCK!”

I opened my eyes to see small blue lights floating around the girl. Wait, they were flames. Shit!

She screamed again, and suddenly the balls of fire were rushing toward me. I fell backwards, and some of the flames flew over where I was standing.

“Shit, shit, shit!” I shouted. I scrambled to my feet, then ran away from the ghost. She screamed again. I looked back, and saw more blew flames coming at me. I dived to the ground again.

“FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK!” I was hit in the back by fire. I could feel the awful burns, and I could feel a sudden cold on my back in spots where my shirt was missing.

She screamed again. I stood up, and kept running. Then, I turned and small the fire close to me. I stepped to the side, and avoided more flames hitting me. Yet, they kept coming at me. I took another step, and more fire missed me.

The ghost was floating above the bridge now, and was flying towards me, flames all around her. She was probably twenty feet away when she screamed again.

Fire approached me, quicker than it should have.

“No, no, no!” I shouted. The flames were almost upon me. I looked over the side of the bridge. I had only a moment to react.

“I looked back at the flames. They were only feet away. I dived to the side, only a little bit away from edge of the bridge. I felt a wave of heat pass over me.

I was on my side, and rolled to my back to see the ghost.

“Fuck!” The burns on my back stung when they touched the rusted railroad track. Instinctively, I rolled back onto my side.

I rolled too fast. The bridge was no longer beneath me. I grabbed the edge, and held on for all I had. I started to try and pull myself up when I heard one last screech.

I glanced toward where the banshee was. I couldn’t see her through the bridge. The only thing I could see over the bridge were the flames that struck my hands.

I didn’t shout in pain as I let go. It hurt, but I knew that the fall would hurt much more.

Grey, you were right. Hell, you were right.

I closed my eyes. I didn’t want to know how close the ground really was.

*****

Grey watched in horror as the banshee threw me over the edge of the bridge. He knew the moment he saw the flames that I wouldn’t make it. He ran away from the bridge after I fell, shouting and screaming about how dumb he was to let me do this. I saw him cry over me. I didn’t know he cared that much.

After he finally pulled himself together, he called the police. A few moments passed, and I heard him speak. “Yeah, hello, um, I have a problem. My friend just, um, jumped off of the old bridge. Yeah, the one that’s no longer in use.”

Oh. Grey was lying to 911. That’s good. He certainly won’t get framed for murder that way. Although, I guess if he told them I was killed by a ghost, that wouldn’t be much better. Hell. Grey was going to go to prison.

“No, no,” I heard him say after a moment, “I didn’t push him. He sent a very concerning text. I knew he liked to be here sometimes, so I tried to save him.” He listened for a moment. “Yeah, his name is Tucker Gold.”

I stopped listening. He was just going to go through the motions of a report to the police. It didn’t matter, because the police would come, Grey would be arrested, and he’d be stuck in prison. I died, Grey would go to jail, and Red and Jack wouldn’t have any idea what really happened. They might believe Grey killed me, or they might not. They might be angry that a ghost killed me, and nobody could do anything. They might come and try to get revenge on the ghost.

“I can’t let that happen!” I shouted. I needed to keep anyone from crossing the bridge!

Grey jumped. He looked back at me. I heard a loud voice from the phone: “Is something wrong?” he asked.

“No, sorry, I thought I heard something,” Grey said.

I walked back up to the bridge. I sat down at the entrance, and laid my head against the tall rail, the rail that was supposed to help keep trains from falling off. Too bad I’m not- I wasn’t- a train.

*****

Thirty minutes passed. Police arrived at the bridge, on foot. There were too many trees for any vehicles to show up to the bridge itself. I saw flashlights appear, and I saw the officers arrive. I stood up, ready to tell them to leave. They had no chance at this bridge, and I needed to stop them.

Casually, they walked up to the bridge. I heard them speak. “So, you think that kid killed the other one?”

“Well, the body had burns. There’s no way that he just died from the fall. I think the other kid must have done something to him,” the second officer replied.

“Sure, but Greg didn’t have any sort of hot items on him, and we haven’t found anything else. There isn’t enough evidence right now,” the first retorted.

“Innocent until proven guilty. Yeah, you sure do believe that.”

I took in a deep breath. At least, it felt like I did. “You two! Don’t cross this bridge! You aren’t going to make it over alive!” I shouted at them. Hopefully they would listen.

“We should look for signs of fire on the bridge, though. That might give us some evidence. Maybe there will be a lighter there. Who knows?” The first officer said, walking straight through me.

I turned to look at them. They had walked straight through me, without any hesitation. They didn’t even notice me. God damn it.

“Those burns were way too big, and way to bad to be lighter burns. Your skin doesn’t turn black from lighter burns,” I heard the second say.

I followed the officers. At first, I took steps to keep up with them, but at one point I noticed my feet weren’t even moving. I started trying to slap the back of the officer’s heads, to get their attention.

“You feel a breeze?” the first officer said.

“A little. It’s no big deal,” the second replied.

“You’re fucking with me, right?” I said. “Neither of you asshats are noticing me? Come on, I’m not that hard to fucking see, dude!”

One officer flashed his light back at me. “I thought I heard something. The night must be psyching me out.”

“Yeah, it happens to the best of us,” the other said. “It doesn’t help that the kid might have been killed by his own friend.”

“I already told you, innocent until proven guilty,” the first said again.

The two officers weren’t moving down the bridge at the moment. They were just standing still and arguing. Maybe if I kept shouting, they would eventually hear me.

“DEATH! RUIN! OTHER WORDS THAT MEAN THAT KIND OF STUFF!”

The cops didn’t make any motion that they heard me, and continued to walk down the bridge.

“No, no no!” I shouted, before rushing over to the cops. For a second I ran, before letting my feet drag beneath me.

I caught up to the officers within moments, and shouted at them. “You can’t keep crossing this bridge! There’s this fucking banshee in the middle! She killed me, and she’ll kill you!” The words left my mouth, and they felt kind of odd. I was dead, and it seemed strange to keep talking like when I was alive.

“Something seems off about all this. The kid probably wasn’t killed, but he certainly didn’t burn himself in multiple places before jumping off of the bridge. There are just a few details we’re missing here,” the officer said. This was the same one who had said ‘innocent until proven guilty’ multiple times.

“You think this will become one of those weird urban legends nobody knows how to explain properly?” the other cop asked.

“Maybe. I don’t know, what with the internet and stuff, things spread really quickly. This might become something big.”

“You tried to stop them, didn’t you?” I heard a voice behind me. I turned, and saw the banshee. She was quiet, and floating.

“They won’t be as lucky as you,” she continued, “You had the mercy of falling. These men are going to just be burnt until they die. Maybe one will fall off, but the other will be seen here.”

“Um, okay,” I replied. “I don’t really understand what’s going on.”

“You’ll forget everything you knew, soon enough. All that you’ll do is the same thing, for eternity.” The banshee looked off in the distance. She looked sad. “I get angry whenever people cross my bridge. I was thrown off of it by a terrible man years ago. Pretty soon, I’ll look back at those two, and I’ll become angry again. There’s nothing you can do.” She still seemed rather sad, and looked like she was going to cry.

“Um, miss, if you know that you feel that way, then why don’t you just keep looking away from them? If you never see them cross your bridge, you won’t get mad. Right?”

Tears started to form in the banshee’s sunken eyes. She shook her head, and her knotted hair flew around her knees and back.

“It- it doesn’t work like that…” She said. She started sobbing.

“Oh hell,” I muttered to myself. “Look, uh, I’m here now. I can be your friend or something, right?” I gave her a desperate look. I promised myself I wouldn’t let anyone die on this bridge.

The banshee let out a wail, and flew past me, to the middle of the bridge. I tried to follow her. “Wait!”

The ghost floated down to the ground of the bridge. “Hold on!” I shouted.

The officers looked back to me. One of them spoke, “Don’t you dare try telling me you didn’t hear that shit.”

“I heard it,” the other said, “but that doesn’t mean I believe it.”

In front of them both, the banshee suddenly become solid. I could see through her before, but now I couldn’t. I hadn’t really thought about until just now. Her cries were very easy to hear.

“What the hell?” The officers swung the flashlights back and saw the banshee crouching on the ground, sobbing.

“Oh no,” I mumbled.

“Ma’am, how did you get here? What are you doing here?” The same officer asked.

The banshee didn’t reply. She just kept crying. One officer nodded to the other, and the second drew his gun.

“Hey now, what’s wrong?” The unarmed officer asked. He stepped toward her, and reached out to her.

She screamed. Furious.

The flames started to appear around her, and the second officer fired at her. She bled, but it was very clear that it made no difference to her. She was still angry. Another scream, and the flames began to charge the officers. The first cried out in pain as the flames licked his flesh. The second ducked, and managed to avoid any fire. He shot at the banshee twice more, and hit both shots. One must have hit her heart, and the other was nearby. She bled from both spots, but that was it. All it did was stain her dress in the spots, and spread outward. The officer who was hit by the flames held his face and stumbled backward. He fell onto his ass, and shouted. The second officer fired once more, hitting the banshee in the head. She only shrieked in response, and more flames appeared, and chased the officers. The one who writhed on the ground caught a lot of the flames, and simply continued to scream in anguish.The other officer fell onto his back, but still caught some of the flames. He also screamed.

Behind me, I heard footsteps crunching up the path. Other officers were coming to help. They didn’t stand a chance, and they wouldn’t notice me.

I didn’t look back. I continued to watch the officers on the bridge be totally lit aflame on the bridge. Gunshots rang out behind me, and I felt bullets soar through me. More red spots appeared on the pale banshee.

After a short while, the banshee stopped screaming. Instead, she fell back down to her knees, and cried some more. The officers behind me had fled after seeing their bullets have no effect. The ones who were burning and dying stopped squirming and shouting shortly after. I walked back over to the banshee.

“Lady, what the fuck is up with all of that! You just killed two people!” I demanded to know what she was doing.

She didn’t lift her head up. Instead, she simply shook her head and showed me three fingers.

“God damn it! Okay, three people. Why?”

The banshee shook her head again. “You’ll forget soon. Then you’ll leave. It doesn’t matter.”

I didn’t understand what she was saying. “That doesn’t make sense. I don’t see how I’ll just forget everything. I’m still me, just,” I paused. “Well, dead. That’s so fucking weird to say.”

I sat down next to the banshee. “My name’s Tucker. Tucker Gold. Do you know your name?” After everything she had said about forgetting, I wasn’t sure if she knew anything about herself.

She shakes her head at me. “This is my bridge. A man pushed me off of it. Now no one is allowed to cross it.” The banshee wasn’t crying anymore, but she certainly wasn’t calm.

I floated away from the banshee. I went back to the entrance of the bridge. The officers were only a short distance away, so I floated toward them.

“There was an unknown entity on the bridge. Two officers approached it, and it burned them to death with some strange flames it created,” one officer said to another. “Besides that, we don’t know anything. We think that thing might have also killed the Gold child.”

The officer who was spoken to grunted. “Go check on the bridge again, and give me a status report on the,” he put up finger quotes, “unknown entity.”

The reporting officer nodded, and jogged off to check the bridge.

“Gregory, do you know anything about that ghost?” I heard an officer ask. I turned to face the sound. Grey was sitting, arms cuffed behind his back, in front of a female officer. The only one I had seen tonight.

“Yeah, I did. I didn’t know it made fucking fire!” he said. “I crossed bridge as a dare once. I ran away too quickly from the ghost to get hit by any fire. Tucker was crossing the bridge to prove there were no ghosts. I really wish he was right.”

I took a few real steps toward Grey. He was staring at the ground. His face lacked any emotion.

“Grey, it’s not your fault,” I said to him.

He looked up at where I was. “I know,” he replied, “but it was so fucking dumb of me.”

The officer turned around. “Who are you talking to?”

Grey shook his head and looked back down. “I don’t know. It doesn’t matter.”

“Son, we just found out tonight that ghosts can exist. If you just spoke to one, I think it’s relevant.” The officer bent over to look at Grey’s face. He didn’t move.

“Maybe I spoke to a ghost. I don’t know. It’s gone now, anyway.”

I wasn’t gone, though. I was still exactly where I was last. I hadn’t moved. What was up with this shit?

The only person who I knew might tell me anything was insane, and could go off on me at any point.

The officer who was questioning Grey walked away. She went and started talking to another officer. They were probably talking about Grey. Either way, I moved closer to him.

Grey kept his head down. He seemed just so… Defeated. I had never seen him like this before. “Grey,” I began, “You’re going to be alright, right man? Nothing’s gonna keep you down. Come on, Grey, listen to me.”

Grey made no motion he had heard me. What did I do before that let him hear me? What do I have to do now to get others to hear me?

Hours passed. Grey was sent home after a short while. After even more time, most of the officers went home. A few others came to take their place, but there were certainly less than at first. The were instructed to simply keep people away from the bridge, and not to touch the bridge itself. That was supposed to be my job.

I sat down at the bridge, and let my head down. Would I be able to sleep, if I wanted to? Do I even need sleep? Hell, what do we even do in our spare time? Nothing good, I imagine.

“Hello,” a female voice spoke into my ear. My head shot up, and I turned to face the sound. It was the banshee again, sitting next to me on the bridge.

“Oh, hey. You scared me for a second.” I scooted away from her just a little bit. She was incredibly close to me.

“I’m sorry. I just noticed you were alone. I’ve been alone for so long.” The banshee looked out past the bridge, and at the town. I followed her gaze.

“I’m sorry. But, I mean, at least I’m here now. We can just be friends here on your bridge, right? You and me, until time itself withers away.” I looked over at the girl, and smiled. She had closed the distance between us again while I wasn’t looking.

“We can be friends,” She agreed. “I would like to have a friend.”

Looking at her, she must have been around 15 years old. That was two years younger than me.

“Well, if we’re friends, we should know each other’s names. I’m Tucker, but you can call me Tuck if you want.”

The banshee didn’t move her face, her eyes, or anything else. “I don’t know my name. I lost it a long time ago.”

Oh, boy. I really didn’t like this ordeal. Just forgetting your name? She must have been on this bridge for much longer than I can think. If she doesn’t know her own name, she probably doesn’t know much else about herself.

“I have to call you something, right? What would you like?” I asked her. She just shook her head.

“Okay,” I said, “Then what if I just gave you a nickname? Something new?”

The banshee smiled and nodded, her eyes still fixed on the town. “I would like that.”

Okay, think quick. We’ve gotta name the girl. Um, banshee is all I’ve been calling her so far, but that probably isn’t very nice. Shit, think. B, B, B… Banshee, bitch, uh, blank, blanca? I’m not very good at this, am I?

“Alright, how about I call you Bianca?” I asked.

“You can call me Bianca,” she answered. “It’s nice to have a friend, Tucker.” She leaned her head on my shoulder and closed her eyes. “It’s nice.”

*****

Bianca and I simply sat in place until the morning came. We talked during the whole night. Bianca had a lot of questions about and for me, and I had an equal amount of answers. She found out that Grey was last the person I had talked to before dying. When I asked her a question of the same manner, she told me it was the same bad man who threw her off of the bridge. She nuzzled closer to me after saying that. We could both feel each other, in a sense, but we really didn’t have any physical ability beyond that.

“So have you ever fallen asleep while you were here?” I asked.

“No,” she replied. “Sleeping isn’t something we can do. We just lay still, with nothing but angry thoughts to bide the time. I don’t like being alone.”

I could see that. I kind of did the same thing when I was alone, too. I don’t think I festered my anger over a couple hundred years, however.

“I see. So we’ll just sit here and talk. Man, it would have been nice to not need sleep while I was alive.”

Bianca giggled at that. It’s weird how your humor changes after you die, I think.

“What kind of things would you do instead of sleep?” Bianca asked.

“Well, I would play a lot more video games. I would just stay up all night and play, then go to school in the morning. I could just do my homework before I left, too, and that would save me time as well. I would love that.”

“I don’t know what a video game is,” Bianca informed me.

“Oh. Well, did you ever see films or movies or anything like that?” I looked to her for an answer. She shook her head.

“You had to have seen a photo, though, right?” I really needed something she knew.

“I have seen photos, yes. They don’t have any color, though. They look like dead versions of reality.”

“Okay, a film is like a moving picture,” I began to tell her.

“You mean like a zoetrope?” She cut me off.

I hadn’t seen a zoetrope since I was six. “Yeah, kind of. Except the image doesn’t just repeat, it does different. Like, imagine a train running down this bridge, and some people on horses chasing after it. That would be more like a film. For a long while, they were just black and white. But after some time, they became color.”

“That sounds interesting. That’s something I might like to see,” Bianca said.

“Movies are cool, but video games are cooler. Video games are like a film, except you get to control a person and tell them where to go.”

Bianca sat up straight. “That’s impossible. That can’t exist.”

I shrugged. “It does. I’ve lived with them all of my life. There were people before who couldn’t believe trains existed, but you know they do.”

Bianca leaned back onto me. “I guess you’re right. It just seems so crazy.”

“It probably is,” I replied. “They didn’t exist thirty years ago. In the span of time, they only became a thing recently.”

Bianca nodded.

“Did you have any siblings at home?” She asked me.

“No, not really. I was an only child. Though, I guess my parents don’t have a child anymore.”

“No. But now I have a friend. I’m sorry I killed you.”

I didn’t say anything for a while. I didn’t know what Bianca was. I knew she couldn’t hurt me anymore, but she could still hurt others. All I would be able to is watch, most likely. I wasn’t sure I wanted any of this.

In the end, I decided on what I should say. “I’m sorry I tried crossing your bridge. I didn’t even think you existed when I was crossing.

In the distance, I heard engines growl. I could tell they were HUGE engines. It seemed strange to have them coming so quickly. What kind of trucks would you need here?

“Hey Bianca, I hear something. I’m going to check it out. I’ll be back.”

“Okay,” she said. “I’ll think about some of the things you’ve told me.”

I floated through the woods, until I eventually found the source of the rumbling. There was one incredibly loud truck, with a large trailer behind it. The truck was filled with men.

“The mayor declared this a state of emergency. We’re taking down the bridge tonight, before anyone else can cross,” The driver of the truck said to an officer.

“Alright, you can tear this bridge down once my boss tells me it’s safe,” replied the woman who talked to Grey last night. “We’re under strict orders to keep everyone away from this bridge. It’s a matter of life and death, and the mayor can kiss my ass if he thinks he’s overriding orders.”

Oh god. They planned on destroying the bridge. I had no idea how much time I had until it was to be torn down, but I couldn’t let it happen. I had to do something.

But what could I do? I didn’t know what I should do to stop this. I couldn’t even stop two men from walking to their own dooms. There was nothing here that I could actually affect. The officers wouldn’t listen, the construction men wouldn’t listen, and if I could get to the mayor, he couldn’t listen either.

There was only one person here who could listen to me. Bianca. She was the only one with any sort of agency with me. I needed to talk with her.

I rushed back to the bridge. I needed to do something to handle Bianca and get us away from the bridge. There had to be something I could do.

“Hey, Bianca, you haven’t heard of airplanes, have you?” I asked once she was in range. Still seated, she shook her head at me.

“Well, airplanes are kind of like flying trains. Imagine the engine of a train, but with big and stiff metal wings that poke out of the side. It’s a bit like that, but they fly through the air,” I said.

“That sounds incredible!” She stood and shouted.

“Would you like to see one? You and I could just get out of here, and go get on an airplane. We could see the world, right?” I moved to her, and grabbed her shoulders. “There is so much to see, and we have all the time in the world.”

Bianca looked away from me. “My bridge…”

I waited for her to say more. She didn’t. “The bridge will be waiting here when we get back. You can come back to this home.”

Bianca shook her head. “I think I need to think about this more. I haven’t ever left my bridge.” Bianca shrugged my hands off, and walked down her bridge. “I’ve never left this bridge.”

I followed her at a slight distance. “You had to have gone places besides the bridge when you were alive. Right?”

Bianca stood at looked out at the town. “That was so long ago. I haven’t left in so long.”

I stood next to her. “It hasn’t been that long for me. I can show you the way. Please, Bianca. Let’s go.”

Bianca doesn’t reply. She continues to stare out at the town. She didn’t speak. I didn’t attempt to say anything either. I didn’t know how she worked. I didn’t know how I worked.

“I was thrown over the edge of this bridge. I died, then remembered waking up again on the bridge. I was scared and confused. I didn’t know where to go or what to do. I didn’t know how to go back to town. I was lost out on this bridge. So, I never left. Trains would pass me by, but at one point they stopped. All I could do was wait. Then, someone tried to walk across. I was angry at them. I had been alone for so long, and I didn’t want anyone to intrude on that. He died- I killed him!

“I had never before in my life thought that I could do what that terrible man did to me. Yet, I did. He fell off of the bridge. I didn’t remember doing anything but screaming at him to go away. Yet, he was gone. I heard him shout as he fell. Then he stopped.”

Bianca continued to stare out in the distance. I heard the engines again. They were driving, and I think they were driving to the bridge.

“I don’t know anymore, Tucker. I don’t know why I’m here. I don’t know if I should be glad for that or angry. I don’t know if that makes it harder to leave or not. I feel as if staying here is the only option I had.” Bianca turned to look at me.

I opened my mouth. The engine stuttered at the base of the bridge, then turned off. I heard faint voices below.

“Bianca, you don’t have any happy memories at this bridge,” I said.

“I have you. The bridge gave you to me,” Bianca replied.

I don’t think that’s how the bridge works. “I suppose that’s true. But I’ll still be with you, bridge or no bridge.”

Bianca was silent for a moment. She was probably thinking.

I didn’t know how much time I had left to get away from the bridge.

“Maybe I’m a parting gift from the bridge. It could be telling you to go ahead and live your life. Well, ironically.”

Bianca giggled. She knew a lot more than I would have expected some young girl from over a hundred years ago to know.

“Maybe you’re right. Maybe it is time I left the bridge. But where would we go? All I’ve known is that I need to keep this bridge as my own.”

“You’ve let me onto your bridge now, haven’t you?”

She said nothing. She sat down on the bridge. “I think I’ll miss the bridge. I’ve been here for so long, I find it hard to imagine anything else.”

I squatted down next to her. “It’s okay to miss things. We’ll come back and visit if you feel too homesick.” Below us, the engine roared to life once more. Were they just looking at the bridge or something?

“So are you ready to go?” I asked Bianca. It seemed like she had made up her mind.

“Yeah. We can go now. I just want to bid the bridge farewell. You go on ahead.”

“Alright. I’ll wait for you just at that end over there.” I walked to wear I had motioned, and did what I said I would. I watched Bianca as she did what she felt she needed to do with her bridge.

“It’s too bad I didn’t get to say goodbye to anyone. I hope nobody misses me too much.”

Then, an explosion. The bottom of the bridge suddenly flashed a bright white color. I looked at the bridge. It was falling. Bianca simply floated above it as it crumbled.

“BIANCA!” I flew to her. “Bianca, the bridge doesn’t matter. I’m right here. Come on, let’s go. Let’s leave the bridge. We have so many other things that we could do. Have you ever been to Italy? I heard Italy is amazing.”

Bianca simply stared below her. She made no motion she had heard me.

“Bianca?” I put my hand on her shoulder. It slipped through her. “Oh no.”

She shrieked, and color began to appear around us. She dove down. She was looking for the people who ruined her bridge.

I only watched. It was too late. There was nothing else I could. I was wrong about everything. I was wrong about ghosts, I was wrong about Bianca being an angry banshee, and I was wrong to think I could help her get away from the bridge.

I slowly sank down. I was wrong. I was wrong. I was WRONG.

I roared in agony as I fell. I held my head in my hands. I was wrong I was wrong I WAS WRONG!

Flames crackled around me, from the decimated bridge. I stood up and wiped my face. I don’t know if I actually cried, but I know I shouted again. The flames around me grew bigger and brighter as I yelled. I looked toward the town and saw blue explosions.