Ghost Bridge

6812 words. 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.

Prerecorded For Your Viewing Pleasure

3106 words. Luanne’s husband brings home an experimental DVR device a few months before TiVo officially releases. While this seems exciting and fun, their son William begins to struggle with his basic chores.

“Come to the kitchen, come look at what I brought home today!”

I saw Ethan carrying a small box into the house.

“What’s in it, Honey?” I always sat in the kitchen while waiting for my husband to come home, so I was already there. It didn’t stop him from calling to me, anyway.

“I’ll tell you when William is here. William! Come here!” Ethan placed the box on the table, and sat down. William, our son, came in following that statement.

Ethan got straight to opening the box once William was present. “I got a DVR! I know how excited you guys were about TiVo, so I got this one!”

“No way, Dad! That wasn’t supposed to come out until March!” William was eyeing the box as harshly as his little nine-year-old body would let him.

“This isn’t a TiVo, Will. This is something different. We got early access to a different company’s DVR.” Ethan lifted the DVR out of the box. He beamed with pride.

“A different company? Is that why the box is unlabeled?” I said. William examined the box closely, and even lifted it up to look underneath it. It was completely clean of any branding.

“Okay, so we have a DVR. How are we going to contact this random company if there’s something wrong with it? How do we know this DVR even came from a trustworthy source?” I drilled Ethan. He clearly didn’t think this through.

“Well, um, I guess we don’t have any real way to take this back to the company. Either way, we still have a DVR. If it doesn’t work, we can just throw it away and get the TiVo later. It isn’t any sort of big deal.” Ethan picked up the box, and took it into the front room. William followed him excitedly. I wasn’t on board with a mysterious DVR.

“Let’s see, I just have to plug this into here, and that into there,” I heard Ethan say. William just giggled with glee. Eventually, I got up from the table to see what Ethan was doing. Much to my surprise, he was already done.

“That was much easier than I expected. Well, let’s test this thing out.” Ethan sat on the couch, and turned on the TV. Then, he used the DVR remote to power it on.

“Was there even an instruction manual for this?” I asked. I leaned in the doorway between the kitchen and the front room.

Ethan shook his head. “If the menu is good enough, we shouldn’t need an instruction manual.”

On the TV was simply some news station. However, Ethan hit his remote, and then there was a simple blue menu sitting over the face of some anchorman. Well, half of his face. The menu took up the top portion of the screen.

“See, this is easy to get, Lu. There are options for record, watch, and schedule recording. Well, besides settings and exit. That’s really easy, right?” Ethan moved his little hand-thing between the options. “Look, there are even buttons for pausing and fast forwarding the show. Isn’t that cool?”

“Dad! Let’s watch something that’s been recorded! Let’s do it!” William shouted.

“There isn’t anything to watch yet, sport. We haven’t recorded anything yet.” Ethan tousled William’s hair. I looked back at the screen, and stared at it. None of us had ever seen a DVR before, but Ethan heard about it a few months back at some technology demonstration. He told us about it, and we got pretty excited too. It wasn’t until a while after that I realised that I really wouldn’t use it often.

“Try it anyway, Dad! Maybe they recorded something for us to watch! Try it,” William said. He got slowly quieter then. He probably realised how loud he was being.

“Alright, lil’ Will. I’ll try it for you. But don’t expect any shows to be there.” Ethan moved his screen hand over the option that said ‘watch.’ When he hit enter, the blue menu at the top suddenly took up the whole screen. You could still hear the audio from the news, but you couldn’t see anyone.

“Huh. You were right, Will. There are some shows recorded. They mostly look like cartoons, though. Maybe they were recorded as a test before I got it?” Ethan looked up at me, and I shook my head.

“Well, I guess you can watch one of these cartoons, sport. I think your mom wants to beat me.” He laughed, and William laughed to.

“Alright, Dad. I’ll wait for you to get back.” Ethan handed Will the remote, then stood up and came into the kitchen with me.

“Okay, dear. What do you want to say? I know you seem really bothered by this whole thing.” Ethan pulled me near him, and kissed my forehead.

I pushed him off. “You can’t sweep me off my feet right now, Ethan. Seriously, how do we know that William isn’t going to find something deranged recorded on that thing? How do you know the only shows on there right now are cartoons?”

Ethan shook his head. “Well, I looked at the shows, for one. And still, we can just check everything tonight. If there is something bad on there, we’ll just delete it before William looks at it.”

“What if he’s already found something, though? We can’t risk that!”

As if just to prove me wrong, the Pokemon theme song started up. “That doesn’t sound terrible and messed up to me, Luanne. Just relax. We’ll be fine, and we saved money on this. And if it ends up being bad for everyone, I’ll be sure to make it up to you. Is it okay if I kiss you now?”

I looked towards the living room. The TV simply showed regular old Pokemon.

“Alright, Ethan. You can kiss me now.”

***

William came home from school the next, and was still just as excited about the DVR.

“Hey mom! Can I watch the DVR?” William asked.

I shook my head. “You still have to do your chores first. This is still just like when we had regular TV.” William nodded.

“Alright, I’ll do my homework and then sweep in the bathroom, then can I watch the DVR?”

“Well, those are your chores, so yes. You can watch the DVR after you do those.” I replied. William jumped in joy, then rushed toward his room. I smiled at him, then returned to reading. I always read in the kitchen once William got home, so that he could watch cartoons once his chores were done. It also let me make dinner easily.

After a little while, I heard the TV start in the front room. It wasn’t much of a big deal, because that was what often happened when William finished his chores. He was very good at finishing his chores properly.

Some more time passed, and I cooked dinner. Ethan was home from work a little bit before I was done with dinner. He was spending a bit of extra time at his job, so he came home later than he normally would. Times were a bit rough, but we tried to spend little on things we didn’t need, so that we wouldn’t end up in poverty like so many of mine and Ethan’s friends from high school fell into.

Either, Ethan talked with me while I cooked dinner. Once it was done, I called William into the kitchen for dinner. We all ate and talked, and it was nice.

Afterward, Ethan went over William’s homework with him. I cleaned up in the kitchen. Once they were done, Ethan motioned for me to sit at the table with him.

“Honey, I wish you had checked William’s homework before I came home. He had done so many of the problems wrong. I mean, I understand a mistake or two, but William is really good at math. That DVR distracted him.”

“Well, I’m sure he’s just excited. Give him a day or two, he’ll probably get over it by that time. He’ll fall into a regular schedule, and it’ll be just fine. It’ll be like before, and we won’t have to worry about him slacking off on his chores. I’ll pick up after his sweeping for tomorrow, and you can just go over his homework like always. It’ll be alright.” I kissed Ethan on the cheek to reassure him.

“You’re probably right. Yeah, okay, I’ll do that for you. I shouldn’t worry about Will so much.”

***

The day after, William came home from school at the time he always does.

“Hey Mom, I’m going to go watch the DVR,” William said as he walked past.

“Make sure you do your chores first, William,” I replied. William nodded and walked into the front room. He turned the TV on, but I didn’t hear him change the show. He must have just prepared the TV for later.

After some amount of minutes, I went and checked on him. He was sitting in front of the TV while doing his homework. “William, you know you aren’t supposed to watch TV while you do your homework.”

William nodded. “I know. But I like the background noise. I just want it to play while I do my homework. I’m not even really watching it.” It was believable, because he was focusing very harshly on his homework.

“Okay, William. I’ll let you sit in front of the TV while you do your homework if you can get 100% on your homework today. Then, if you can keep up that scoring, you can keep watching TV with your homework.”

“Okay Mom. Dad will check it when he gets home.”

“Actually, I think we’re both going to check it today. Your dad saw a lot of mistakes last night when you were doing your homework with him.”

William shrugged. “Okay. But Dad’s better at math then you.”

I didn’t say anything to that. He was in the third grade, I knew for a fact that whatever he was doing I could do just as well. But, there was no need to argue.

“Either way, I’ll be checking your homework as well as Dad. Besides, whatever you’re doing I can do easily. I still handle the house’s money.” William shrugged again.

I went back to the kitchen to keep reading. A few minutes passed by, and then I heard a rise in static coming from the TV. It was small at first, but it grew louder after just a moment before quickly cutting off into silence. Then, a regular theme song started playing.

I got up and walked over to the front room to find out what had happened. “William, what was that I just heard?”

William shook his head. “It was just some static. I changed the channel to one we didn’t have on accident. It’s no big deal.”

“Is your homework done?” I asked. William pointed to the floor, not taking his eyes of the television. I picked it up and took it into the kitchen. Half of the problems weren’t even done.

“William, you haven’t done half of your homework,” I informed him after walking back to the front room.

“I know, I was going to do the other half after one episode.”

“William, if you just did all of your homework, you wouldn’t have to split up your time watching TV at all. What’s gotten into you?”

“Don’t worry, mom. I’ll get it done just after this episode. I promise. It’ll be really good, too.”

***

“William, did you finish your chores that you needed to today?” I called from the kitchen.

“Yeah, Mom. They’re all done. I swept and did my homework.” William replied.

I couldn’t really believe that.

“Bring me your homework so that I can check it, William.” I laid down the magazine I was reading and looked toward the door into the living room.

“Alright, just let me get to a commercial break.” William said.

“Will, you can pause the TV because it’s on the DVR. Just pause it and bring me your homework.” Will knew he could pause the TV, because he had been told he could do that the first day we got it.

“Yeah, but I don’t want to miss anything! This is really important!” William called.

“You can rewind it, William.” He was really starting to get on my nerves at this point.

“Then I have to watch it all again!” Hearing that, I began to tap my fingers on the table.

“William, what could you be watching that’s so important?” I got up from my chair. I knew I could’ve have done this already, but I was trying to give William a chance to police himself. I didn’t think this would happen.

“It’s just cartoons mom, but I really need to watch it,” William said.

I shook my head, and walked into the living room. I learned then why William was being so defensive.

The TV was showing only in black and white. The image on the screen was also very blocky, as if they turned the person on TV into a video game character or something. Despite the blocky shades of grey, black, and white, I could still tell what was going on. A woman was being brutally murdered in greyscale, but the sounds were still of just regular Tom and Jerry. I even heard Tom’s iconic scream while in the kitchen.

“William! We need to turn this off right now!” I marched over to the TV, and did just that.

“Mom! No!” William shouted at me. He grabbed my arm and tried to pull me away from the TV. I let him hang onto my arm, because I could still use my other to unplug the DVR.

“Mom! What are you doing! I was watching that!” William hopped up, and tried to use his whole weight to pull me down.

“William, stop that this instant!” I shouted. His little nine-year-old body wasn’t heavy enough to stop me.

“He grunted with effort as he tried to pull me down.”

“William, do you have any idea what you were just watching? Whoever sold us that damned DVR is a maniac!” I pushed William off of my arm, and he fell down to the ground. He laid there for a second.

“William, we have to get rid of this thing. That was terrible. We aren’t going to test things like this ever again. We should have just waited for a proper TiVo, and not gotten this thing.” I turned away from William, and started to take the DVR off of our TV and unplugged all of its wires.

I heard William start to run away. I turned back, and saw a blur dash into the kitchen. “William, what are you doing? Your dad is still at work.” I left the DVR there, and then followed him into the kitchen. I heard a drawer open followed by clinking metal.

“William, what are you doing?” I turned into the kitchen, and saw William holding a small kitchen knife. He screamed and jumped at me. I lifted my arm to protect myself from the assault, and so that I could try to take the knife from him. There would be no way for him to really injure me. He only grabbed a steak knife.

I felt the small knife cut my left arm, then I used my right to grab him. I took the arm that held the knife, then used my cut arm to take it out of his hand. I saw my blood fall onto the floor as I moved it. Maybe he cut me just a bit worse than I thought.

“William! What has gotten into you! Why are you behaving this way?” William struggled to get out of my grip. I looked over at my cut arm. It was bleeding an amount, but didn’t really hurt. I think that the cut was long rather than deep.

William didn’t say anything, but instead stared away from me while he tried to get away.

“William, we’re going to just wait right here for Dad to get home, and then we’ll see what happens afterward. Does that sound proper?” Again, William said nothing.

So, we waited for his father. It had to have been at least fifteen minutes of me holding him, because the blood on my arm had dried and scabbed over by the time he opened the door.

“Good. You’re home. Hold onto William for me,” I said. He looked at the two of us, confused.

“I haven’t got all day. Come on now.” I motioned with my cut arm for Ethan to hold on to William. His eyebrows rose in surprise for a moment, but then he came over and held onto William. William was tired out, and so he had essentially stopped struggling.

I walked over to the sink and washed my arm clean. I was right about the cut not being very deep. It cleaned up really fast, and the scab looked like a very long cat scratch.

“Come on, William. You’re going to your room. Your mother and I have things to talk about.” Ethan carried William into the hallway door that connected to the kitchen, and presumably to his room.

Only a couple moments later, Ethan was back in the kitchen with me. “Jesus, Luanne. What happened?”

“You’re damned DVR happened! William was obsessed with it! Worse yet, he was watching some women get murdered on it! You told me that all of the prerecorded things were just cartoons, and that I didn’t need to worry! You were wrong!” I shouted at him.

“Oh. That’s awful. Alright, honey, I’m sorry. You were right. We’ll get rid of the DVR immediately. I’m so sorry about this. Next time, I’ll talk to you before I get something like this.” Ethan stood up and stretched. “I still feel so stiff from sitting at a desk all day, though.”

Then, we heard glass crash. The window had broken in the front room. We both froze.

We heard a grunt, something heavy fall, and then soft patting. I snapped out of the terror, and ran the front room.

The window for our front room had been broken. There was blood on one of the shards. I ran over, and threw the curtains aside. William was running away, with the DVR in hand. Carefully, I climbed out of the window after him.

“WILLIAM! GET BACK HERE!”

A car horn rang through the quiet evening. William stopped in the middle of the street, and looked over. A car swerved away from him.

It swerved straight towards me.

Buried Deep

2700 words. Two roommates begin to have some minor disagreements on things, that quickly escalate to much worse ones

Off in the distance, I heard a door open. Oscar had finally gotten home. He worked in a warehouse, so his job was to just move boxes around, usually off of shelves and into trucks. Sometimes he moves them from one shelf to another, when he wants to spice things up.

“Hey, Persy. Do you know if we have a socket wrench?” Oscar asked.

“No idea. I haven’t used our tools in a few months, at least. You checked the garage and the shed thoroughly, right?” I replied.

“Yeah, about as thoroughly as I could manage without lying down and crying. I’ll go check the attic next, maybe it’s up there. Damn it, man.” With that, Oscar walked away from me.

I returned to simply reading. I had to write a report for a local paper, and I needed it done fast. They hadn’t given me a very good time frame, but they thought that I’d be perfect for it. My study was on how to properly handle domestic abuse and abusive relationships of various sorts. I’ve only ever had one such relationship, so I really wasn’t a font of knowledge in that field. But alas.

A few minutes later, Oscar came back downstairs. “Hey Persy, did you know that we have a to scale model of medieval armor? It’s tiny as all hell, but it’s all the dimensions are perfect. I think.”

“I’m pretty sure that armor is yours. I’ve never cared about the dark ages past childhood.”

Oscar squinted at me. “Fair point. I’m putting it in my room.” Oscar walked away once more.

I kept at my project. An abusive relationship can often be seen by the victim attempting to isolate themselves from others, or they’ll have signs of physical abuse. They may attempt to avoid eye contact. At times when they are confronted about their abuser, they will get defensive and angry about it, or they will try to avoid the topic altogether. There are many ways to tell if someone is in an abusive relationship, but most of them are incredibly subtle and can easily be missed by-

“Persy, you know that old news article you were trying to find, from when you were in the high school marching band? I found it!” Oscar proudly held up a newspaper, and waved it around.

“Good for you, Oscar. But I’m busy. I really need you to leave me be for a while so I can keep reading. This project has to be written by Thursday of next week, and I don’t even have a first draft,” I calmly spoke. Oscar placed the newspaper on the kitchen table across from me.

“Right. Sorry about that. I’ll let you be now, and I won’t bother you unless it’s important.” Oscar left me alone again. I hoped he’d keep up on his word.

A little while longer went by, before I decided to stop reading and cook dinner. As much as I wanted to keep reading and get things done, I wanted even more to just take a damned break. I had been sitting around and reading all day, and dinner time was time to stop. Finally.

I had taken out some chicken and some frozen vegetables, and I put them into pans to fry them both. I also set the table while I was at it. This went on for only a few minutes before Oscar came back down. He had let me be for at least an hour.

“Hey, Persy, what’s up with this photo?” Oscar asked me, holding out a photo for me.

I took it from him, and examined it. It was a photo of my dad holding a shotgun. He stared at the camera intensely. I didn’t remember the man for his smile.

“Where did you get this? What were you doing going through my shit?” I stuffed the photo in my pocket.

“You didn’t get mad about the newspaper. Look, it doesn’t matter. Seriously, this photo is kind of weird. Why do you have it?” Oscar took a seat at our kitchen table.

“It doesn’t matter. Just don’t go through my shit again, you get it? Things are put away for good reason,” I turned back to the stove and the dinner I was cooking.

“Sure dude. Usually that’s because you don’t have space for it but don’t want to throw it away. Like, for memories or something. You don’t seem to like that photo. Why didn’t you throw it away?” Oscar absently scraped a fork against a plate.

“I- it- why does it matter to you so much?” I flipped a chicken breast over in the pan.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to pry so much. I was just confused as to why you’d even keep something you hate around.”

“Whatever, man. Didn’t you need some tools to fix a thing?” I gave him a glance.

“I did, but I couldn’t find what I needed. I’ll have to just buy it tomorrow.” Oscar tapped a beat out on the table. “I found some other things up there, too. That wasn’t the only photo in the box, it was just the first really weird one I found.”

“I’ll go mark which boxes are mine, and then you can leave them alone. Some things don’t need to be remembered.” I threw some seasonings into the pan.

“Hey man, I’ll throw the stuff away for you if your conscious can’t handle the stress. You know, as a favor from one friend to another.” Oscar changed the beat he was tapping to one that was simpler and easier to follow. 1, 2, ah-3 and 4. 1, 2, ah-3 and 4.

“Don’t throw it away. It’s my stuff. I wouldn’t throw away your stuff.” I stirred the pan with fried vegetables around.

“Well, unless I asked you to. At least, I would hope you would. As a friend.” Oscar leaned back in his seat, tossing and catching his fork.

“Okay, fine, except in that case. Why are you pushing this so hard? Can’t we just change the topic?” I turned down the stove.

“Yeah, we can. That was just where the conversation was. Sorry to bother you so much.” Oscar may seem like a dick, but he did have good intentions.

“Look, I know that you’re trying to be nice in the best way you know how, but fuck off about it. It doesn’t matter, let’s just forget about it.” I sighed, and brought the pans to the table.

“I’m sorry, man, but this isn’t something you should brush past. I will, because I care about you, but this is just getting to me, man.” Oscar motioned for me to serve myself first. I did.

“It’s fine. How was work today for you, Oscar?” I sat down with my plate, and began to eat.

“Eh, same old bland stuff. I just moved boxes and listened to some podcasts and music and stuff. You?”

“I had today off, so I just cleaned and worked on my report. Cleaning’s gotta get done sometime.”

Oscar coughed and leaned forward. “Shit, right, I forgot it was my turn. Damn it, man. Well, thanks for that. I’ll have to cover you some other time.” He mumbled a few more expletives under his breath before stuffing a bite of food into his face.

“It’s fine, Oscar,” I smiled a shit-eating grin, “I’ll just go through your shit while you’re sleeping.” I started guffawing.

“Fuck, hell. Whatever, man, that’s fair. You win.” Oscar laughed, and we continued with our meal.

***

The next day, I got up and found an old journal out on the kitchen table. Oscar was asleep in the chair in front of it. I went to the table, quietly. There was a page that he had dog-eared. I picked up the journal and opened it.

XX/XX/200X

I took a secret photo of dad today. He was smiling for just a moment before I took the photo, and I was hoping to capture it. He noticed, though, just before the flash. All I got from him was an intense glare. And I got in big trouble. My back really hurts now, and I can’t go to sleep very well. I guess that means I shouldn’t try taking any more photos of him. I don’t get it, though. It’s like he wants me to forget him. Or maybe he wants me to remember him from pain. I don’t know, I guess it’s just who he is. I shouldn’t take anymore photos of him.

I stopped reading and closed the book. Oscar. He had gone through more of my stuff while I was asleep. I’m going to have his head when he gets home today.

I took the journal and put it back in the attic. This time I took my box with all of those old photos and journals and I placed them underneath other boxes, more recent ones that had been packed. Oscar wouldn’t go through boxes that had been put away by himself only a couple of weeks prior.

Either way, Oscar wouldn’t be home for a few hours, so I had time to keep reading and getting things done. I needed information for this report, and I think I was finally getting to a decent point to begin writing. I just wanted to read one more chapter of my book before going forward. Thus, I went to my office to do just that.

There are many warning signs for whether or not someone is abusive or not. One of the most telling signs I’ve found tends to be if someone was abused in their childhood. Children tend to pick up the behaviors of their parents/parent, and thus might go into adulthood believing that the behavior is proper, even if it really isn’t.

Now, while that might be one of the most common causes in my studies, it does not make it the only sign. Some other signs are: Cruelty to children/animals, jealousy, isolates others, blames others for their problems/feelings, and sudden mood swings. Commonly, these are some of the swiftest signs that a person is abusive.

The rest of this chapter will detail warning signs in greater detail, and a greater amount of them from here. However, you must remember that every circumstance is different and not every abusive individual will show these warning signs. However, they very likely will, and so you must watch out for them.

I continued reading that chapter until the very end. After about an hour and thirty sticky notes later, I was ready to begin a draft. Just the rough draft, though. It would still need refining after the fact. I wasn’t looking forward to that.

Either way, I took to it. It needed to get done, and I didn’t have all the time in the world to get this done.

I wrote for a few more hours, before Oscar finally returned. I heard the front door open off in the distance. I finished my sentence, then went out to greet Oscar. “Good to see you’re back, Oscar. I couldn’t help but notice that you still went through my stuff last night. You left an old journal on the kitchen table.”

Oscar swore. “Yeah, I did leave it there. I was reading it this morning, actually. I should’ve just taken it with me. Fuck.” He stepped inside, and put his stuff down in his room. He came back out. “Look, I’m really sorry, but you had me super worried. I couldn’t just let you keep hidden away like this. I’m not here to let you keep sitting on terrible memories like that. I’m here for you, and I just want to help.” Oscar’s arms were at his sides, palms facing towards me.

“Oscar. I did NOT ask for your help. I don’t need you help and I don’t need you to keep acting like you’re my keeper! Fuck off about this already! Jesus Christ, it’s almost like you don’t fucking listen! If you think I’m emotionally compromised, it’s because YOU keep running around and fucking with me!” I shouted at Oscar. He took a step back from me.

“Alright, I’ll stop. Look, you have the notebook. I can’t do anything else. I read the journal, and that’s all I know. You probably saw the page I bookmarked. I didn’t read anything past that.” Oscar’s eyes darted away for a second, before returning to me. “You just keep working on your project. I’m going to order some food in about an hour, and we can eat. No harm, no foul, right?”

I shook my head. “Get out of here, Oscar. I find you in my shit one more time, you’ll be homeless. You understand?” I turned my back towards Oscar, and walked away. He didn’t say anything else as he walked away.

I went into my office. I could try to keep writing, but I was too furious to do so. Instead, I picked the book back up and continued to read.

My advice to you, if you find yourself to be a victim in an abusive relationship, is to get help and get out. Talk to someone who you know can help you. If you don’t know of anyone who can do so, then contact the police. They are guaranteed to help you out and they will ensure that you can get back to a safe and healthy place, to their best ability.

If you have found yourself to be an abuser in an abusive relationship, then you should also get help. There is a solid chance that the person you are abusing still loves you, and you still love them. I doubt you want to cut the relationship off, but that might be the best option for both of you. I highly recommend you see a counselor to help you through these issues, and I would hope that your future holds more joy than it does now.

I continued the read the closing statements of the book. It was mostly just advice for how to get out and get help, along with some closing statements that made it known that nobody enjoys an abusive relationship.

Only moments later, I heard a scream. From below me. I leapt out of my seat, and rushed to the backyard. There was a hole dug in the ground. Fucking damn it.

Furious, I raced back into the house. I ran into my own bedroom, and tore my da- my shotgun out of its case. I placed one shot into each of its barrels. I took a few extra shells and pocketed them.

I then walked back outside and clambered into the hole. Inside, I saw a flashlight shining over a skeleton. Oscar held the light tightly in his hands. I couldn’t see his face, but he was staring at that skeleton for longer than I would have given him credit.

“I see you’ve found him, Oscar. It seems you skipped to the end of the notebook. I’m going to regret this,” I said.

Oscar spun around to face me. “PERSY!” He saw my shotgun. “Persy, you don’t have to do this. Please, Persy. Just think this through.”

I cocked the shotgun.

“Is that your dad, Persy? Did you shoot him and bury him in this crawlspace?” Oscar eyed my gun, but shook his head and looked up at me. He kept eye contact.

“Yes. It is. I didn’t think it had to be said.”

“Look, Persy, he was one of the worst people in your life. I get it. I know why you did it. I-” He faltered, “I still want to help you. Please, just put the gun away, and let’s get some food.” Oscar held one his hands out to me. He still kept his gaze in mine.

I said nothing.

“Look, I’ve learned my lesson. My curiosity is sated. We don’t have to talk about this again. Please, Persy.”

I raised the gun, and pointed it at him.

“Oh. This is happening, isn’t it. Oh god.”

Oscar fell to his knees and covered his face.

“Get up. Let’s go.”

Oscar pulled his hands off of his faces. His eyes were red and moist.

“You’re buying dinner. Come on, let’s go.”

Doctor, Doctor!

2364 words. A girl is trapped in an abandoned yet overstocked hospital with a deranged doctor, and doesn’t truly feel like escape is possible

“It has come to my attention that you have expressed an intense dislike of my profession, and others within my profession. A slight phobia is natural, but a great loathing like yours is not.”

“…”

“So is that how it is going to be? Look, I’ll give you another chance to reply. It’s always better that way.”

“…”

“Do you still refuse to speak? Implorable! I have you in as a guest to help you overcome your negative feelings, and this is how you treat me? Do you treat all doctors in this fashion?”

“…”

“Answer me!”

“…”

“If you don’t speak up, I will have to use the needle again. You’re already getting dangerously low on bone marrow.”

“I’m not afraid of doctors. Just you.” God, I hope he doesn’t hurt me.

“…” Why has he stopped talking?

“Please don’t take more of me…” I whispered feebly.

“…” His silence was starting to unnerve me. Did he feel the same when I was silent?

“I respect your job, I just don’t respect what you do with your degree.” I already knew flattery wouldn’t get me anywhere.

“…” I so terribly wish I could see the chap’s face right now.

“Please, doctor. I just want to go home.” Pleading never did anything, either.

“…” I so terribly wish this blindfold didn’t itch and scratch my eyes.

“Doctor, please. Get help, for both of us.” I thought that there might have been some off chance that even if he killed me, he might still get arrested and executed. I know he was once a swell fellow, but something pushed him over the edge.

Then, I heard footsteps move away from me, before a door opened and closed. He was getting his needles again, and he planned to take more of me. I wasn’t going to let that happen this time! I was ready this time, and I knew how to escape my bindings.

I shuffled my hands back and forth against one another, eventually loosening the knot that was tied, and the soft rope keeping my hands behind the chair I was confined to fell off. I reached an arm up, and tore off the blindfold. Then, I moved along to the bindings on my feet, and then I stood.

I expected to fall down, from weakness, but I didn’t. I was still standing, and I felt refreshed. Maybe it was adrenaline. Maybe it wasn’t my place to question the circumstances.

I tried to gather a short look at the room, and take in as much as possible. I had no idea when he would be back, and I had no idea how long I had been trapped with him. It was at this point I also realised I was surprised the sudden light hadn’t hurt my eyes.

The room was empty, besides the chair I had been tied to. I stepped toward the door, and my footsteps were heavier than I remembered. There was no way I could just quietly get out of here. If he came too close, I would certainly have to stop moving and hide.

I continued my loud paces towards the door. Upon further inspection, I realised that the door was still slightly cracked open.

I placed a hand onto the cold steel, and slowly pushed the door open. My eyes were then rapidly put back into their place, being overwhelmed by sunlight.

A few closed moments later, I reopened my eyes, and they adjusted much better. I could see well enough at that point to tell that the hallway I was standing in was empty.

I looked out of the window, and noticed I was a few stories above the ground. I was at least three or four stories up, but I wasn’t quite sure. I must have lost some depth perception when I lost my right eye.

From here, I can either go left or right. There’s no way I’m hopping out of that window.

I chose to go left. That meant I was going right from the door’s perspective.

Each step was slow and agonising. Each step was loud and noticeable. Each step stung and felt like a dozen pine needles were jamming up my leg. Christ, now I specify the type of needle I’m feeling.

I followed the hallway until I found stairs that led downward. In all reality, I was constantly asking myself ‘who in their right mind would abandon a fully functional hospital like this, while also leaving behind so many functioning medical supplies?’

Once I reached the stairs, I placed a leg onto the next step, and I felt my leg attempt to give way. That meant that walking down the stairs normally wasn’t an option. Thus, I sat at the top step, and dragged my butt onto the next step. Then I did that again. And again.

I eventually got to the last step that would lead me to the conveniently labeled second floor, and then pulled myself down to it. I reached up for the railing, and used it to pull myself up to my feet.

I took a tentative step. Realising, I was fine, I began to walk back over to the second set of stairs, that would lead me to the first floor.

“I KNOW YOU’VE LEFT! YOU HAD BETTER GET BACK UP HERE BEFORE I HAVE TO PUNISH YOU WORSE THAN BEFORE, GIRL!” His voice tore through the intercom system, and shredded its way into my ears. I felt warmth rush into my face. There was no way I could get away from him faster than he could catch me. I needed to hide.

I was glad I had stood up, because that would make it easier to open up a patient room, and put myself into a closet. Assuming there still were closets.

Wincing at the volume of my feet constantly slamming the ground, I opened an unsurprisingly unlocked door, let myself in, and proceeded to hide in the nearest cupboard. I’m not sure why I thought closet. Cupboards are so much more prevalent in hospitals.

“You know that you won’t get away from here. I’ll check every room and every cabinet if I have to, you are not getting out of here,” he said through the intercom. I honestly prefered his actual anger to this sing-song voice he was using.

I held my breath. I could make it out of here alive. I just needed to avoid being caught.

I waited in that closet for maybe twenty seconds before I started breathing again. My heart was pounding the entire time.

After what seemed like years, I finally decided to leave the closet. I hadn’t heard him speak over the intercom in a while, and I hadn’t heard his footsteps at all, either.

I pushed open the closet doors, then stood up. My legs felt much more stable this time. Maybe that meant that I could actually walk down the stairs.

I tentatively stepped toward the door. This was going to be how I escaped. I would walk down the stairs as quickly as possible, and rush away the moment I was on the ground floor. I would try to find a police officer, and I would do whatever I needed to to get that guy put away.

I opened the door just a crack. I peeked through, and looked out into the hallway. There was no one there. I’m safe. Thank god.

I pushed the door open the rest of the way, and walked back towards the stairs. I’m glad I hadn’t gone too far from them.

“No no no!” I was grabbed from behind. There were hands on my throat. I couldn’t breathe. I reached up and tried to pry the hands away. I still wasn’t strong enough.

I felt something sharp poke at the back of my thigh. A needle? A knife? It doesn’t matter, just grab it and stop him!

I reached down toward the sharp thing, and tried to grab it. It was in his pocket. I had to reach in if I wanted it. Just avoid the urge to breathe.

I tried to stuff my hand into his pocket, but he let go of my throat with one of his hands, and grabbed my hand. “I wouldn’t dare let you touch that.”

I could breathe at least. I took a deep breathe, then broke away from his other hand. I turned around to look at him.

He was a tall man, probably in his forties. He was clearly fit. He wore green scrubs, like the stereotypical surgeon, and a face mask covering his nose and mouth.

He roared at me, then jumped at me. I put up my hands in self defense, and he jabbed his needle into my palm. I was greeted with the sharp end of a needle poking out of the back of my hand. It was surprisingly large, but not large enough to avoid breaking off into my hand!

“Hell!” I tore my hand away, and heard metal snap. I could still feel the needle inside of my hand.

“This could have been so much easier,” he muttered, almost to himself rather than me.

“You’re bat-shit crazy!” I tried to ignore the needle.

“I have spent eight years in school learning to diagnose things like that. Tell me something prolific next time.” Despite the fact that most of his face was obscured, I could still see the rage in his eyes.

“Do you know how sharp scalpels are?” he asked me.

“Let’s not do this right now,” I said, clearly and precisely.

“There’s no time like the fucking present!” He leapt at me, with a scalpel suddenly yet unsurprisingly in his hand.

“Hell!” I dove aside, and put my hands out to break my fall. I noticed the needle still stuck in my hand, and regretted the choice before landing.

I landed, and felt an even sharper pain force itself into my hand. I caught a glimpse of the needle, and it didn’t look well.

“What kind of doctor would I be if I didn’t take care of my patients?” I stood up, and tore the needle out of the back of my hand. My hand bled. I think it missed my bones, because otherwise it would have broken on them. I hope, anyway.

He stepped toward me again, holding his scalpel with confidence. I didn’t want to test the strength of that scalpel.

“Quit running and die, whore!” He leaped toward me again, and tried to cut me with the scalpel. I stepped aside, narrowly avoiding his slash. He stood behind me. “I’m not even a woman!” I shouted.

“Not yet you aren’t!” he replied, and I felt a liquid run down my thigh, followed by even more pain.

“Fuck!” I fell to the ground; my injured leg had collapsed beneath me. I felt the pain become more acute than before.

“Looks like you won’t be standing for a while. Perfect. What kind of surgery will I perform on you now?” The doctor was standing above me. “Don’t go anywhere, I have to get a new needle. I still enjoy the idea of taking bone marrow.”

He walked away.

I had to do something. I couldn’t just lie here and die.

I dragged myself back into the room I was hiding in, and found some gauze in a drawer. I tore my pants off of the beaten leg, took the scalpel out of it, then wrapped my my leg tightly with gauze.

I stood up. My leg wasn’t holding up very well. I could only limp around. If only I had a crutch.

I picked up the bloodied scalpel. It was going to be my way out of here.

I stepped out of the room, and limped to where I had been standing before. He didn’t want me to move, so I wasn’t going to.

There was a small trail of blood from where I had been stabbed, leading into the room I bandaged myself in.

“Perfect, you’ve already helped yourself. That will save me some time. I’m glad you’ve decided to be compliant, finally. Come.” He started to walk past me, and he did so rather slowly. He must have expected that I would move slower myself. I limped a bit faster, attempting to catch up to him.

“I honestly thought you would fall after that first step. I’m glad you proved me wrong. Don’t push yourself too hard, however. I wouldn’t want to harm any more of your precious tissues.

Seriously, an entire empty hospital that still has all of its supplies. What the hell?”

I kept moving quickly, and I slowly caught up to him. He didn’t see the weapon I had flattened and hidden within my palm. That was just what I needed.

He stopped and opened a door. That was the break I needed. He turned, and motioned for me to walk in. A second later, his throat was spewing ochre onto me and the surrounding floor.

He gurgled, and slowly fell to the ground, attempting to cover his throat with his hands.

“I guess we did find out how strong scalpels are, after all.” His face turned to face the ground, and then he fell. Blood pooled around his corpse. It was a mess. I think I might have thrown up from the smell, or maybe the mental toll, or perhaps my injuries caught up to me.

I took slow, deliberate steps out of the hallway, down the stairs, and eventually out of the hospital. As luck would have it, there was an officer driving past at that very moment. He stopped when he saw me.

“PUT YOUR HANDS WHERE I CAN SEE THEM!” I did as he demanded. I didn’t expect his voice to blare through a megaphone, however.

“STAY WHERE YOU ARE.” The officer stepped out of the car, and walked toward me.

“Officer, thank god you’re here. There’s some madman in there! He tried to kill me!” The officer looked me up and down.

“I see. How did you get away?” He put his hand on his chin, as if considering me. I was still bleeding, so maybe he was admiring my impromptu bandages?

“Well, I… I had to kill the pyscho to get away. I wish I could say I feel bad, but you can see what he did to my leg. I’ll probably need stitches.” I motioned at my leg, for effect.

“Turn around for me, will you?” I complied to the officer’s request, and felt metal slap onto my wrists.

“Wait, what? What’s going on?”

“You’re under arrest for the murder of Doctor Macmillan.”

“Hold on, murder? He tried to kill me!” I squirmed in his arms. He simply started dragging me toward his car.

“Sure, but you succeeded. That’s why you’re getting arrested.”

“That’s not fair!”

“Too bad Macmillan had connections. You don’t.” Before I could get out another word, the officer stuffed me into the back of his car. I never heard his voice again.

 

 

Matters of the Heart

1870 words. Walking alone in the big city is known to be dangerous, but the dangers aren’t always thieves and murderers

New York is always loud at night, but I always found a certain peace walking the dark corners of the city so late. I know that it’s dangerous for a small girl like myself to just walk about dim alleys at this time of day, but I’ve always found it enjoyable.

Tonight, however it was just depressing. As I wandered through my familiar paths, admiring the graffiti and street art that people left about, I felt alone. I suddenly longed for someone’s company, no matter who that might be.

I took my phone out of my pocket, and scrolled through my contacts. There had to be someone I knew who I could call to come out and walk with me. They might enjoy it as well.

I stopped my phone on one particular number. Clarisse. She was always up late at night, and constantly slept in past noon. As long as she retains a good work schedule, she’ll be fine. I tapped the call button, then held the phone up to my ear. I kept meandering down the street.

A few tones later, I was greeted by a voice telling me she was unavailable, and to leave a message at the beep. I sighed, and hung up the phone. It looked like I would have to walk alone again tonight. Maybe I should plan ahead next time?

With that in mind, I continued along my barren path. I just need to persevere a little longer, and then things will turn out better. Right?

Sighing frequently, I just carried on. Thinking about how drab things are isn’t the worst thing I could do, and sometimes you need a little introspection to put yourself in order. I think.

Then, I heard coughing in an off alleyway. I was startled at first, but quickly regained my composure and looked into the alley. There was a battered young man facing away from me, and also at a dead-end wall. He wasn’t too poorly dressed, so I knew he wasn’t homeless. I wasn’t sure what it was that he was doing.

“Excuse me, sir? Are you alright?” I spoke at him a little loudly, so that I could be sure he heard me. However, he made no notion that he had heard me. I pulled a small knife out of my pocket, and held it at the ready, just in case. I’d heard stories of sociopaths who would lure people, especially girls, into alleys and then murder them. I wasn’t going to let that happen, but this fellow still confused me.

“Sir, are you alright?” He kept coughing, but didn’t make any other movement.

“Um…” I took another couple of steps toward him. I could clearly see that his hands were empty, so he couldn’t beat me down with some weapon. Most likely.

A moment later, the man turned to face me. His eyes were glowing orange, as if they were burning iron. The veins in his face supported that same glowing color scheme, but his skin was deathly pale. I gasped and put one hand over my mouth.

He stumbled toward me, and started to slowly arch his back backwards. After a couple of steps, his torso faced the sky, and I was surprised his legs were keeping him stable. I took a few steps backward, keeping some distance between us. Although, if he tried to run towards me, I could easily outpace his weird steps.

I held my knife at the ready. This guy was some kind of ghost, and I had to deal with him. This isn’t how I had planned this walk to go.

 

He took a couple more steps towards me, and I took one step more than him backwards. “Okay bud, I’m just going to leave you to your death, and head out. Okay with you?”

Apparently it wasn’t because then his rib cage burst open. There was no blood, however. Even though I could see his pristine and white bones, I could only see a black emptiness within his chest. I had spent countless amounts of bored hours online reading about demons, and had never heard about something like this.

“Shit!” I shouted, and I turned around to escape. I hadn’t taken more than a step before I had heard sounds of water splashing loudly. No, not quite water. It was something heavier than water. I took a scared look back, and witnessed something climb out of the man’s chest. It first reached one hideous and black hand out, grabbed the side of the open rib cage, then did the same with the its other arm. It then lifted itself out of the man’s chest, and stood- or maybe sat- up from within the man.

The demon was just as black as the open chest, and it looked two dimensional, even while it was moving. It’s hard to perceive depth within direct blackness. Its silhouette was jagged and messy, and it shook constantly and blinked frequently. It extend at least ten feet out from the man, and that was while it still sat inside of him at the waist. Its arms were around the same length as the creature itself, and hung next to the man’s thighs.

The demon also had the same shade of orange within its own eyes, and inside of its gaping and raw mouth. It opened its mouth, then screamed at me.

I shook off my shock, then bolted out of the alleyway. I looked back a few seconds later, and saw the man’s legs shuffling out of the alley. It looked as if the beasts reach didn’t matter because of the small and weak legs. I slowed to a fast walk, but continued my escape of the creature. This was a fine time to catch my breath.

I kept up my pace for a few minutes, then turned to look behind me once more. The demon was gone. It had either given up on chasing me, or it had disappeared, because of its summoning restrictions or something.

I leaned against the wall, and was satisfied to simply breath. That had been more excitement than I had ever wanted in the first place. I only wish that someone else had been with me to see that beast.

I leaned against a wall, pulled out a cigarette, lit it, and finally took in a long breath. I didn’t smoke very often.

I savored every breath that I took of that cigarette before deciding to leave. I tossed the cigarette to the ground, and stamped it out. In its last moments, I couldn’t help but notice how similar its orange glow was to the man’s and the demon’s orange.

I rubbed my foot on the cigarette a little extra, out of spite, then wiped the ashes off of my shoe. “Good riddance, you beast.”

I stretched my arms upward, yawned, and took a couple of steps away. I heard a loud crash. Panicked, I turned around and saw a black shape formed out of a man’s chest.

“Hell!” I screamed as I scrambled to get away. I had taken maybe one step before the beast had grabbed me with one of its large hands and began to pull me towards it. It turned me to face it. I was breathing rapidly, and struggling to get away. My eyes glanced up from its hand, and at its face. The moment It knew I was looking, it grinned.

The demon lifted me above its head, and sunk back into the chest at an agonising pace.

I shrieked, and my high tone pierced through the night without a reply.

The demon kept its shit-eating grin on its face the whole way down. I saw its glowing eyes disappear into the abyss, followed quickly by its smile. The last thing I saw before I was completely submerged in black was the face of the man. I reached out to touch him, but I was gone before I had the chance to have one last human touch.

***

“For the longest time, the most terrifying thing about this purgatory was the loneliness I felt. The only sound I knew was the sound of my own voice.”

“That sounds terrible. I hate to seem selfish, but I suppose I’m glad someone fell in here before I did. I would have gone mad being here on my own. At least now I have someone to talk to.”

“That’s only if I don’t die in here. I don’t know how long it’s been.”

“Funny. I don’t remember the date. I think it was someday in mid April?”

“I couldn’t tell you.”

“I suppose it’s all the same either way.”

“You know, the last thing I tried to do before falling down in here was touch the man’s face. Can you believe that? I had only moments to live, yet my last living thought was to touch the thing consuming me.”

“You must have been lonely. I’ve read theories about what the last thing people do before they die means.”

“…”

“Are you still alive?”

“I think you might be right. Maybe I was lonely.”

“Well, you won’t be anymore. At least, for a while.”

“Do you think we could shake hands, or hug, or something?”

“Um…”

“Maybe we could swim toward each other? I know that there’s some atmosphere or something, because we can breathe. That means we could use the air resistance a little bit, right?”

“I don’t know.”

“Do you have a phone? You could shine it, and then I could see you and go towards you! I’d take mine out too, but I’m pretty sure it’s dead!”

“I’ll- I’ll try.”

“Perfect!”

“…”

“Anything?”

“I don’t think so. I can’t see anything, but I know I did it right.”

“Oh… That’s okay! I can just follow the sound of your voice! Keep speaking at me!”

“Um, alright, I suppose. Do you really think this will work?”

“Do you have a better plan?”

“I mean, not really, but-”

“Then just keep talking until I find out whether this works or not!”

“I really don’t think you have any idea what you’re doing…”

“Keep going!”

“I think that you’re just desperate at this point. Have you ever heard of that theory that claims that if you are alone for too long, you’ll create personalities and place them onto objects? How do you know I’m not just a voice you created?”

“I don’t!”

“Then why are you so insistent?”

“I trust you!”

“You can’t trust a stranger so easily! What if when- if!- you get to me, I just try to kill you?”

“It’s better than what I have now!”

“This isn’t going to work!”

I stopped. His voice was behind me suddenly. It never passed either of my sides, it was just suddenly behind me.

“Speak again.”

“Is this really want you want to do? Chase down a fever dream as if he is a reality?”

“You aren’t fake!”

“Says the crazy person desperate for someone else! You’re irrational”

I’m not irrational…

“You’ve gone crazy!”

I haven’t gone crazy…

“Then prove it!”

My throat was hoarse, and my arms were tired.

I think I just want to take a short nap. Goodnight, Vox.

“Goodnight, I suppose.”

One Such Lost Reality

1845 words. Jon is 11 years old, almost 12. He’s sent to clean his room, and finds a crawl space hidden in his closet he wants to use to store some things.

I put one foot in front of the other, and walked home. I really like that phrase. It’s nice. I like to use it whenever I can.

Either way, that was exactly what I was doing. It was Friday, school was over, and my twelfth birthday was this Sunday. I was going to go home and clean up so that we could have a really good party on Saturday, so that we could still go to church on Sunday.

I found a small rock and kicked it around for a couple of blocks, before I ended up kicking it into the road. I wish I had had a friend to talk with while we walked to our houses. Maybe we would live right next to each other, and become best friends! We could spend every night together, and hop over each others fences to grab things from our houses. That would be the best!

Eventually, I got home. I stepped inside, kicked off my shoes, then took off my jacket and hung it up. “Mama, Pop, I’m home!” Most kids call their parents just mom and dad, but I wanted to be cool and different, so I called them Mama and Pop. They seem to like it, too.

“Come upstairs, Jon, I’m in the kitchen,” Mama yelled out to me. I rushed up each step, and hurried into the kitchen.

“Perfect, you’re just in time to lick the cake batter off of the whisk,” Mama handed me the whisk. I thanked her, and did just as she suggested.

“Pop isn’t home quite yet, he went to go get some party supplies,” Mama went to the oven, and turned a knob. ‘Preheating’ is what she calls that. It’s when you let the oven get hot before you try to cook anything.

“That’s okay, Mama. I’ll say hi to him once he gets back,” I took another big lick off of the whisk.

Mama smiled at me. “That sounds fine, Jon. We’ll be heading to the store to get dinner once the oven is preheated and the cake is baking. It shouldn’t take us any longer than an hour, but that’s only if traffic is really bad.”

I nodded at her, with the whisk still close to my mouth.

“I think you should also clean your room while we’re gone. You’re going to get presents, and I think it will be good if you have some extra space to put them.” Mama put her hand on my shoulder, and guided me to the table. We both took a seat.

“I cleaned my room last week, though,” I protested. It was true; I had cleaned my room last week, and I did it well, too.

“I know, sport, but your closet is really jammed up with stuff. Really, it’s just your closet that you need to clean. I don’t think it’ll be that bad, you’ll just get rid of some clothes that you don’t use and toss out some things you haven’t played with for a long time, and don’t think you will for even longer.” Mama was right. I did still have clothes that didn’t fit me in that closet, and I did have some toys that I hadn’t played with in years.

“Alright, Mama. I’ll go clean up my closet after Pop comes back.” I stood up from my chair, and put the whisk in the sink after rinsing it off.

“That sounds fine, Jon.” Mama stood up after me so that she could put the cake in the oven. The oven usually preheats really fast, so Mama doesn’t have to wait long when she preheats things.

Then, because I’m really lucky, I heard the door open from a distance. Pop was home.

“Pop!” I ran over to greet him. He worked in a big, fancy business, so he always wore suits to work. He looked fine in suits, but I think he looked even better in jeans. Jeans are really comfy.

“Hey, buckaroo, how are you doing?” Pop said while he picked me up and tossed me onto his shoulder.

“Pop, I’m getting too big for this. I’m going to hurt your shoulder! I’m too wide!” I tried to climb off of him, but Pop grabbed me and put me down.

“You’re probably right, kiddo. I just don’t remember when you got so big. You’re almost twelve! That’s crazy!” Pop took my hand, and we walked up to the kitchen.

“Yup. Twelve is almost as old as you are, Pop!” Once we got into the kitchen, I hopped onto a chair again and swung my legs.

“I’m not so sure. Thirty-six is three times the age of twelve,” Pop replied. I made angry-eyebrows at him. He just laughed. “Sorry, but you can’t fight facts.”

Mama stood up then. “Well, we’d best get going. It’d be bad if we didn’t have anything for dinner tonight.” She then grabbed her purse and Pop, and started to head out. “Make sure you clean your closet, son!” She shouted at me from the door.

“Will do, Mama!” After they left, I went down into the basement so that I could clean my room. Well, my closet mostly.

I walked into my room, and opened up my closet. It was filled with all sorts of toys and clothes. It also had my guitar that I practiced with every other day, and a few other things. First, I took everything out of the closet and spread it all over the floor. That would make it easier for me to sort out what I should keep and what I shouldn’t.

After clearing out the closet, I sat down in the center of the pile. This was going to take a while. I started sorting things into two piles: things to keep and things that I wouldn’t keep. There were a lot more things that I wouldn’t keep than I would.

After a time, I felt like I had finally sorted through both piles. I didn’t know how long it would take me, but I imagined that Mama and Pop would be home soon. In the meantime, I needed to put away my things back in the closet.

That’s when I noticed a strange little door sitting inside of the closet that I didn’t remember. I thought about it really hard for a few moments, but then I realised that I didn’t have that door when we first moved in. When was it added? Was it while I was on vacation? If so, why did no one tell me about it?

This was perfect! I could put some of my old stuff into that new closet and have extra storage space! I wouldn’t have to throw anything away.

I hopped to my feet, and leaped over to this small door, and opened it up. I crawled into it, and started looking around.

There were dolls all over the wall. There were plastic dolls that looked like Ken, there were porcelain dolls, which were easily the creepiest ones, there were wooden dolls that hung stiffly, and there were even a few dolls made out of metal. I suddenly didn’t want to put my things into this closet.

Then, in the center of this candle lit room, I saw a woman stooped over a table. Her hands were moving furiously. I gasped at the sight of her.

Suddenly, she stopped and turned to look at me.

“Alex… Alex, is that you?” She stood up from the table. She was wearing a red dress that was torn in many places, and had a few patches of blue. The biggest patch of blue was on her right leg. Or was it her left?

“Alex, come here!” She rushed toward me, and picked me up. I wanted to scream, but she covered my mouth.

“God, Alex, I was worried I’d never see you again.” She put me down in a chair, and tied my arms to it.

“MAMA! HELP ME!” I screamed as loudly as I could.

“Sh sh sh… Don’t worry, Alex. I just want us to be together again. We’ll be a family once more.” She started to play with my hair.

“M-m-my name is Jonathon,” I managed to say. “I don’t know anyone named Alex.”

“Oh, Alex, is that what the kids at school told you? Look at all of these dolls! Don’t they look like you? Don’t you like them, Alex?” She held my hands, and I looked around desperately.

I looked around at the dolls, secretly scared. I couldn’t let her see my fear. The dolls did have a similarity to each other, but none of them looked like me. Most of them looked like they could be another boy, but I didn’t know that boy.

“No, miss, they don’t look like me. Their hair is too long, and too dark. Also, I have green eyes and theirs are brown. My name is Jon. Please let me go, miss.”

“What about this one, Alex? I was just making it before you came in. Doesn’t this one look just like you?” The lady pulled the doll off of the table that she had been at before. The doll was made out of what looked liked sewn together shirts and jeans. It was messy, and didn’t look as clean as some of the other dolls. Its eyes were just small holes torn into the fabric, and it didn’t have any hair yet.

“Miss, that doll doesn’t look like me. It looks-”

“Oh! Of course it doesn’t look like you! It’s missing something!” She crawled over to the table where she had it, grabbed something, put it on the doll, then came back to me. The doll now had a full head of hair. “Here we are! It was missing its hair! Isn’t this better?” As she spoke, she shook the doll around in her hands. Every time it was shaken, the hair would fall off, and she would stick it back on.

I took in a deep breath, and collected all of my courage. “Miss! Listen! Your dolls aren’t bad, but they don’t look like me.”

She stood up and stared at me. Her dress was dry and stiff in the places where it was red.

“Alex. I worked hard on these dolls,” Her stare was scaring me, and I wanted to cry. “Are you going to sit there and insult my hard work? The details, don’t matter, but they are you Alex!” She leaned back down toward me.

“I think I could give you some longer hair,” She said that, then took the hair off of the doll in her hands and put it on my head.

“I don’t think that’s enough.” She quickly grabbed a doll off of the wall and tore out its hair and placed the hair on my head. She threw the doll away, and I heard it shatter.

“There. That’s better. Isn’t that better, Alex?” She grabbed my hands and held on desperately. I felt hot tears roll down my cheeks.

“Please, miss. My name is Jon.”

“Alex… Jon. You aren’t Alex. Are you sure?” She stared at me. Her eyes looked empty, and it felt like she was looking through me.

I nodded, still crying.

She sighed. “Alex, I’m going to let you out of the chair. I want you to hug your mother, like a good boy would.” She did as she said, and started to untie my arms.

“There you go, poor dear. Now come hug me.” I stood up, wiped tears off my my face, then ran past her. I looked back, and saw the lady limping after me.

While, I wasn’t looking, I ran into a wall and fell on my butt. I looked up at the wall, and saw something crazy. I stopped my sniffles, and simply admired the doll on the wall. It was made of porcelain, and it almost looked like a real boy. I could have easily pretended that this doll was my younger brother or something.

“Alex!” I shouted. I figured out what the doll was. I looked back at the lady. She was still limping after me.

“Yes! Alex, that’s you!” She smiled at me, got on a knee, and held her arms open for me.

I pulled the doll off of the wall.

“Alex, what are you doing?”

I lifted the doll above my head.

“ALEX! DON’T YOU DARE!”

I threw the doll onto the ground, and it shattered. I saw its face break into a million pieces. One of its eyes didn’t break, and it sat on the ground and faced me.

“Alex! It’s going to take me weeks to fix that doll!” She stood up, and started to limp towards me again.

“Miss! I’m not Alex! My name is Jon! JON!” I was angry now, and I knew that she couldn’t run as fast as me. There was no way that she could get me if I decided to run off.

“Alex, you will not get away with this. You are going to be in a lot of trouble.” Her head started twitching. I felt a lot less brave.

“Miss, I’m still not Alex. My name is still Jon…” My voice got quieter with every word.

“Alex…” She sounded angry and threatening. My eyes got blurry. I didn’t want to be there anymore. I made my feet push me forward, and I ran past.

At least, I tried to run past her, but she managed to grab me again and hold me in one arm.

She held me in front of her and looked at me. Her eyes stared into my eyes. I looked away, and my vision got even blurrier. I held my breath, so that she couldn’t hear me cry. “You aren’t Alex. I can’t make you Alex.” I looked up at her, and wiped the tears out of my eyes so that I could see her face. I wish I hadn’t.

“Then I don’t want you here!” She threw me away from her.

Everything began to move slowly for me. I saw how angry the lady was. I saw the blue of her dress swirl with the red. I felt the wall hit my back, and I felt it crumble behind me. I saw my legs flailing forward and I saw dolls slide off of my skin, pelting me and breaking once they hit the floor.

Then, the tiny closet was in front of me, and there was a large hole in my closet that led into that room. I felt my back hit another wall. I fell to the floor. At least I’m not in the chair anymore.

I looked up at the lady, but she was no longer in the tiny room. I felt my eyes close.

“Mama…” the word left my lips, and I fell asleep.

A Porcelain Lover

2066 words. Two cousins are out hunting deer late one night. It seems, however, that something unhuman is hunting them, too

“You know what you need? A girlfriend,” Ben whispered to me.

“Shut up. I’m fine as I am, thank you very much.” I would have glared at him, but I was busy aiming my rifle.

“Look, I get that you have this whole ‘being-a-virgin-isn’t-bad’ deal, but come on! How old are you, twenty-eight?” I aimed the rifle downward a bit. This would be clean shot, right through the buck’s heart.

“I’m twenty-seven, but that doesn’t matter. Now shut up, and let me take this shot.”

Ben stopped talking. Good, now I can actually pull off the shot. I put my finger on the trigger of the rifle and squeezed.

Ben stood up and bolted away from me, and I saw him turn on a light.

“Ben!” I yelled as I ran toward his light. I knew he had an industrial lamp, so I figured that would be bright enough for me to keep track of him.

I picked up the pace as I ran towards him. His light seemed to be moving away from me at about the same pace. I kept sprinting faster and faster until I thought I was catching up, or I couldn’t go any faster.

Eventually, his light started moving back towards me. I stopped running, and tried to catch my breath. Once I had caught enough, I yelled to him. “Ben! It’s me!” The light kept rushing towards me. I breathed a sigh of relief. I didn’t know where we had camped.

The light kept getting closer and closer, until I had to cover my eyes to keep from being blinded. It was at that moment that I got tackled to the ground, and the wind had been knocked out of me.

I tried to speak, but my lungs wouldn’t let out a sound. “Quiet!” He whisper-shouted at me, “It’ll hear you.” I would’ve asked what, but my lungs still didn’t work. I was gasping for air, but without the actual gasping happening. Ben laid on top of me, and wouldn’t move.

Once I could breathe again, I whispered my question at him. “What will hear us?” He covered my mouth.

“It chased me. I don’t know. We have to avoid it.” He pulled his hand off of my mouth. “Stay silent.”

We walked through the forest, as quietly as we could. I kept seeing other lights out of the corner of my eyes, but Ben pulled my face toward him whenever I tried to look at the lights. He wouldn’t tell me why I couldn’t look at them. His light was still on, which didn’t make sense. Wouldn’t a light this bright attract whatever was chasing him?

“Hey, Ben,” I tried to get his attention.

“Shut it!” He whispered at me again.

“Those lights could be a search party,” I tried to reason with him.

“No!  They aren’t! Now quiet!” He turned back around, and kept moving forward.

“Ben, I’m not just going to follow you to our death! I’m going to find one of those search parties, you can come with me if you want.” I continued the tense, whisper-shouting, but I don’t know why

Ben grabbed my arm. “Stop. Those aren’t search parties. We’ll die out here if we stay. We’ve already spoken too much to begin with. We’ll be heard. Come on!” He tried to pull me towards him, but I pulled my arm back.

“HELP!” I finally built up the courage to shout. Ben stared at me in horror. He turned off his light, then burst away from me, leaving me in the dark.

I turned toward one of the lights, and started jogging towards it. “HEY! HELP! I GOT TRAPPED OUT HERE!” I kept moving forward.

The light floated up into the trees, and out of my sight. It hadn’t been a search party with another lamp. I don’t know what it was, but I think I had scared it off.

Then I realised that there was no sound. Usually I would hear crickets and owls and other insects and nocturnal birds, but this time there was no sound. I only heard my own breath. I turned around, and saw a few more lights. I didn’t know if any were Ben, but I now wish I hadn’t left him.

I stood in place. I didn’t know whether or not I should run, stay where I was, or hide. So, I chose to hide by climbing a tree. If there was something out here, I didn’t really think it could climb a tree. Black bears didn’t reside in this area, only grizzly, and even they weren’t common.

I started shifting myself up from branch to branch, ensuring that I wouldn’t fall, and making sure that I don’t get myself hurt.

I got up a few feet before suddenly noticing a totally white face right next to mine. It looked as if it were a mask, but its features were perfectly symmetrical, and its features were very soft. It looked like a lovely porcelain doll.

For a split second, I was fine with its presence. I admired the handiwork. The moment that I saw the face tilt I realised that something was wrong. I fell a few feet off of the tree, and landed on the ground. I might have felt sore, but my panic was overwhelming. I scrambled to my feet, and started to dash away. I looked back, and saw the face floating above the ground, with a shadow of a human body beneath it.

“AAH!” The ground disappeared beneath me. I found myself lifted into the air, my body contorting into a ball, where I realised I was stuck within a net. My eyes could still see the porcelain face moving toward me. Its face didn’t hold any new expression. It stayed neutral, and it stayed empty.

I  tried to reach for my pocket knife. I was going to cut myself out of this net before that thing got to me!

I grabbed at the knife, and slid it out of my pocket. I was lucky I hadn’t dropped it, because all of my weight was forced onto my side with the knife. I opened it, and began to cut at the rope.

“YOU GET AWAY FROM THERE!” The shout startled me, and I tightened my grip on the knife. I looked up, and saw Ben. He was waving his lantern around like a madman. Suddenly, the porcelain thing ran towards him with incredible dexterity. I hadn’t expected that sudden grace.

A moment later, I realised what Ben had done for me. I took the chance to continue cutting at the rope. A few strings later, I was falling to the ground. This time the wind wasn’t knocked out of me, because I was prepared for the fall. I might have broken my off-arm, though.

I stood up, and raced away from where I thought I remembered seeing those two run off. I had no clue whether or not I would get away.

After a few more moments, I had to stop. I was out of breath, and needed to stop and catch my breath. Then, I saw another light flicker into existence. Ben!

I ran toward the light before suddenly realising my mistake. This light was going to float away, too. I watched it for a moment, then saw it move toward me ever so slightly. I guess that means that this wasn’t one of those fake lights. This was Ben.

I broke into a hastened walk, and made my way toward the light. Ben wasn’t speaking, so there might have been a chance that he still needed me to be silent.

Once I got into range of the light and could see the lantern, I realised it was alone. I stared at the tree it sat before blankly. Why would Ben abandon his lamp?

Then, I heard muffled sounds of struggle from behind the tree. I leaped toward a nearby tree, and hid behind it. I listened to the sound closely. I heard some rope, and some quiet cries, as if the person crying was gagged.

I kept listening. Maybe that wasn’t Ben and the porcelain thing. Maybe it’s a couple of fetishists? I didn’t know, and I didn’t want to find out until the sounds stopped.

A few more minutes passed, and the sound continued as it had. Then, there was one much louder cry, the sound of animal flesh being torn into, a splatter of blood, then nothing. I didn’t hear the sounds of any footsteps running away.

I slunk toward the origin of the sound, and hoped for the best. Maybe it’s just a satanist?

I picked the lamp up off of the tree, then moved myself around the tree to see what had happened.

“BEN!” Ben was tied up. His arms were tied onto a branch above his head, and his feet and legs were just tied together. His head hung over his neck, and his abdomen was torn open, and everything was falling out of him.

I gasped and dropped the lantern. Ben was dead, and I was alone in this forest- alone with god knows what.

I hurtled away from the scene. Ben’s dead. Ben’s dead. Ben’s dead.

I kept sprinting, hoping that I wasn’t going to run into the porcelain thing again. Then, lights of various colors appeared from behind the trees, and I took a sharp left.

More lights began to show themselves. I kept turning and kept seeing more lights, until I realised I was boxed in. I dropped the lantern, and stood in place. There was nowhere for me to go. There was nowhere for me to run.

The lights slowly moved toward me, the colors becoming more muted tones: grays, blues, and yellows.

When they were close enough to me that I could have taken one jump and touched one, they opened up a small entrance, and a porcelain mask floated through. Now, however, I could see what the mask’s body looked like. It looked like scrap metal jammed into a humanoid shaped, albeit a rather accurate one. I could consistently see through certain parts of the body, and many areas of it were rusted. I could tell it was supposed to have a more feminine form, because of its small steel breasts and its visible curves.

It walked up toward me, and lifted my chin to match its eyes. I should have ran, but I didn’t know what the lights would have done to me.

She grabbed my jaw, and pulled me up to my feet. She stroked my cheek, almost as tenderly as a real woman. At least, I think. I closed my eyes, mostly out of fear.

She placed her hands behind my head, and pulled me forward. Suddenly, I could feel the curves of her cold, glass lips between my own. The lips stayed rigid in their place, which caused my lips to move to make way. Her face stayed near mine for a moment, then she pulled away, and released my head.

I opened my eyes once again. What is this thing? Her hands ran down my neck, shoulders, and onto my hips, which she pulled into her own. I could feel the metal of her pelvis rather clearly, but those same curves felt almost natural, if only a bit stiff.

She quickly pulled her hands back to my face, and pressed my face against hers once again. One of her hands stayed on my head, and the other slid down to my lower back. It felt like a real person trying to love me, but her metal fingers and hands didn’t hold the same qualities flesh did.

After another few moments with her lips forced onto mine, the lights began to shift to more warm tones, such as red and orange. I think the yellow lights probably stayed the same.

The doll held my hips, and kept them pressed to hers. She cocked her head at me a few times, as if trying to decide whether or not I had said something funny or embarrassing. I found myself awaiting her judgement.

Then, one of her arms was caressing my chest, while the other stayed in place. Her iron appendage made its way down my torso and onto my abdomen. Her head tilted back forth at a slow and random pace all the while.

“There’s no way you were the one who killed Ben. What am I missing?” The porcelain doll’s face didn’t change its neutral expression.

Her hand was forced into my abdomen. She punched through my organs, and I felt her hand slide out of my back. I gasped, and she pulled her fist out of me just as quickly as it had gone in, tearing even more flesh off of my midsection.

“You lied…” I feebly let the words go. She removed her hand holding me up, and let me fall to the ground. I saw my insides fall out of me. My vision was turning red. That might just be the floating lights. I might have chuckled to myself, but the color faded to black before I had a real chance to think.