Our twitter story threads posted here!

Below are our Twitter story threads. I’ll continue to update this and post it as we near the end of our journey. If you would like to join in on the fun and vote, you can find me here on Twitter. There is an active vote going on now! 

Today is an unremarkable Tuesday, you wake up, get ready, and slide into the driver’s side coffee in-hand. You have a team meeting, so you are leaving earlier than usual today and it’s still quite dark outside. It’s a new town with a new job for less hours and better pay. You got a good deal on a new place that’s less than thirty miles from the city.

You turn onto the main road, spirits high with possibilities of a new life. It’s quiet out where you live and you’re nestled behind a patch of woods. The neighbors are just a few minutes apart and the amenities are centralized. You chuckle at how boring you’ve become.You had taken the time over the weekend to get to know the city, so with confidence you turn left onto the main road and hum along with the music. 

You’re aware that you have to drive for several minutes before you hit the main highway, but after fifteen minutes you begin to second guess your turn. The trees haven’t grown any less sparse, in fact they look incredibly dense. You deliberate for a bit but decide to stay the course. Maybe it just seemed to take longer than you remembered. You shrug it off and crank the music up, there’s still plenty of time left. The road twists and bends, you don’t remember it being hilly either. It’s become narrow and to your surprise, the trees have cleared to reveal you are fairly high on top of a steep hill. You need to turn back but quickly realize there isn’t even enough room to do so.

There doesn’t seem to be anyone in the area so you put your car in reverse and slowly back down the hill, steering it into the middle of the road so that someone would have the chance to swerve if they needed to. The road swells a tiny bit and you are able to turn around. All too soon, you find yourself at the end of the road. It’s a T intersection with only left and right. You frown, confused at your predicament─ you hadn’t turned at all. Upon closer inspection you also notice the pavement has turned to dirt. Completely flustered at this point, you pull out your phone. There’s barely a bar on your connection and it keeps changing between the edge network and one bar. You call out to your phone assistant to open the maps app, but the only thing popping up is ‘lost connection’. You inch forward into the grass to get out of the way, cut the engine and step outside. Maybe you’ll get a better connection. The air hits you like a blast chiller, a wall of freezing winds beat against your face and skin. Your teeth chatter as you glance at your phone. 

The second bar pops up and you quickly call up to work to let them know you will be running behind. You get a hold of an admin at the front desk and are transferred over. After what feels like an eternity, the line clicks and your manager picks up. They sound confused. You quickly explain what’s going on and that you’re running behind. There’s a pause on the other end and then ask, “who is this?” Your face flushes as you realize they probably haven’t memorized your name. You explain that you just started and wanted to let someone know. There’s another long pause and then, “I think you have the wrong office.” I frown and repeat the phone number back to them and then give them the name of the company. “Yes, that’s correct and you have the right office─ but no one works here by that name.” Maybe my paperwork was shifted around I offer and that we were having a meeting this morning to go over progress on our projects. This time, they sound irritated, “Look, I don’t know who this is but we don’t have a new employee. If you worked here you would know the meeting was rescheduled for next week.” No one told me, I responded, starting to get a little miffed myself. I told them to ask Ben and that there was probably a little mix up. In any case, I will be up there as soon as I can. He says nothing and hangs up the phone. How odd.

You can get a signal but still can’t open your maps. The worst of it is you can’t see a road name to even call and ask how to get back. You look back and forth and then back at the road you drove on. The road is so bad that you worry you might blow out a tire but you manage to finally come to a part of it that has calmed. You continue down the path until it finally gives way to pavement and then ends at a main road. You purse your lips and look in both directions tapping your fingers on the steering wheel. If you don’t remember turning down the road to begin with, how in the hell would you know which way to turn? Just how many T roads were in this city? You glance out across the field to get some sort of idea on where you are, but all you can see is slow, creeping fog. Your attention turns to the left and you spot flashing yellow lights. Your curiosity is peaked, but on the right you can vaguely make out what looks like a city. 

You’re not sure, but it could be worth driving toward the yellow flashing, it could mean construction workers and help. On the other hand, it could just be warning lights and it would be a waste. After deciding to turn left towards the lights, you drive for several minutes before finding the source of the light. Shocked, you see the entrance of a tunnel. A long, dimly lit tunnel with yellow blinking lights looms ahead. You come to a stop just outside of the tunnel, unsure if you want to proceed but ultimately decide it’s the best option. The end of the tunnel isn’t in sight but does look vaguely familiar. You press the gas pedal and slip into the darkness. 

You drive down what feels like the longest tunnel in history, but still can’t see the end. 

It’s beginning to dawn on you that you haven’t seen a single car, or anyone for that matter. The sickly yellow lights flicker every hundred feet or so creating an eerie twilight effect. The abysmal amount of light they put off couldn’t light a house, let alone a tunnel. Even in dark tunnels you can see some sort of light. Something isn’t right. You become more and more apprehensive the further in you travel. Are you being paranoid or is it getting darker? The lights have now taken on a faint green hue. Your foot eases up on the gas pedal and you slow to a crawl. The green-lit area continues for quite a way down. You’re in a straightaway, no more bends, and an end still isn’t visible. Your panic mounts as you turn back toward where you came from and the road is nearly pitch-black.

It could be just your mind playing tricks on you, though, so you manage to turn your car around. You can’t shake the feeling that you need to get out of here as soon as possible. The air here is stagnant with a distinct musty smell and you can’t put your finger on it, but

The primal part of your brain is in full force, screaming to run away. You barely make it out of the green lighted space when your car dies. You look down at your gas tank meter and see that you still have plenty of gas. Maybe the air down here is causing issues?

You know it’s total b.s. but at this point it has to be something non-gas related and you don’t want to even think about the possibility of being stranded here. You try starting it up again, but nothing happens. Not even a click. Your heart races as you fail again and again

to start it. You glance around nervously to see if anyone is around but only the ghoulish glow and silence surrounds you. Taking a deep breath you grab the door handle and push. You wince at the noise echoing down the tunnel sure that at any moment something horrible

Would rush toward you from the shadows. The air is heavy on your lungs and you struggle to feel as if you can draw in enough air. It’s heavy and─ wet, saturated with a cloying damp sensation and musty. The air actually tastes musty with the scent of three week old bread.

You roll down your window, put the car in neutral and push the car toward the lighted part of the tunnel. The car instantly roars to life, nearly giving you a heart attack. You reach over, put it in park and hop inside─ eager to get back on the road. Just like before as soon

as the front end crosses the threshold it dies. Curious, you put it in neutral and back it up. It again fires up. Maybe your original theory is right and the air is weird. There’s nothing more you can do except turn back and continue down the road the way you were going.  

You travel several miles in the milky-green twilight when a blue light catches your attention to the left. You slow down and peer over. It’s a small gas station with a convenience store. You sigh in relief and pull into one of two spaces.

He still doesn’t respond. You’re stuck mentally trying to decide if you need to bolt─ Then a thought occurs to you, in your haste to get out of here you have forgotten to check and see if you need gas. You take a deep breath and turn back toward the counter

“Um, sorry. I also need gas, I think. What would cover all of those?” Your eyes raise up but you’re surprised to find that the attendant is gone. You spin around quickly but there is nothing there either. You can clearly see the pumps, but no price listed on their sign

You spin back, expecting him to be right behind you but only the same empty counter with the twenty dollars greets you. You rummage through your bag and pockets but only find another twenty and some ones tucked away. You place everything you can find on the counter and walk briskly back to the door. You reach for the handle and freeze. The breath sticks in your throat as you stare at the reflection in the window on the door. 

The blood slowly drains from your face─ you can’t move, can’t breathe. A sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach forms as you realize that there is definitely something very wrong with the store clerk. His reflection sits unnaturally tall, so tall in fact that the ceiling is less than a few inches from his head. To your absolute horror you see his head is bent at a 90° angle. His face is distorted, you can’t make it out but his body reminds you of the daddy long legs you used to play with as a child. Your legs won’t move, you’re stuck staring at the abomination─ fascinated at your impending doom.Insect-like noises fill the space, like a loud brood of cicada’s calling for their mates. But this is different, it’s paired with static-y type sounds that vibrate through your chest and head. You stagger back, clutching at your head. This is it, the moment your body snaps into action. You shove the door and bolt outside to your car. The food spills everywhere as you shove the key into the ignition and lock the doors. Your car roars to life and you slam it into reverse then peel out of the parking lot.

You put enough distance between the gas station and the car that you finally slow down and pull over. You let out a long shaky breath, your hands trembling as you grip the steering wheel. What the hell was that, you wonder. You take in long, steady breaths trying to make sense of what happened. Your heart beats so hard and fast you can feel the blood rushing through your head and chest. In your haste to get away you now realize that the tunnel has grown lighter. Instant relief washes over you as you see an end to your concrete prison ahead. Your shoulders relax and you hit the gas, screaming toward the end of this hell. You can’t believe it, the car finally clears the exit into the beautiful night air beneath the open sky and bless them─ the stars. Your eyes drop from the sky back down to the road. No. It can’t be, it’s impossible. This can’t be real. Your lip quivers and tears stream down your face. The entrance to the tunnel stares back at you. The small patch of land between the tunnel you exited and the tunnel in front of you is no more than 500 ft away. The stars are twinkling above you and the surrounding area is lush and green. It would be beautiful if it weren’t for the fact that a tunnel waited for you at the end. You want more than anything for this day to end. It started out so wonderfully─ new job, new life ─ you had even left early to make sure that you were on time.

Not only had you become lost, but upon calling your new job you were told that your job didn’t exist and no one was even hired. That could all be chalked up to a clerical error but─ this? Where the hell are you and for that matter, how the hell do you get out? What in the blue hell is happening? Why is it happening to you? Your breath comes out fast and shallow and you can feel your chest tightening the more that you think about everything. You nearly jump out of your skin when your phone rings next to you. You snatch it up and look at the screen. The text displayed just says ‘unknown’. Probably spam, but hell maybe there would be a salesman on the line─ someone that can help. You answer quickly and wait for sound on the other end. You hold your breath nervous that it may just be a computer on the other end. “Hello, are you there?” The man asks. “Yes,” you reply “I’m here! Please help me, I’m lost and my phone is barely getting a signal.” The caller pauses for a moment, “you said you are lost?” Your shoulders sag in relief that a real person is on the other line. “Yes, I am. Please, could you call someone to come and get me?” His voice is soothing, like butter coating a warm pan, “Of course I can. What was your last known location?” you pause thinking about how many turns you had made. Your voice shakes as you reply, “I was on highway 134 going toward I-35 when I somehow got turned around onto a mountain trail.” Your chest relaxes a degree as you can remember more, “there was a point on the Path that got too small so I had to turn around. I somehow spilled out onto a T in the road, then I turned around and made it back to what I think was highway 134 again. I took a left at that T and went through the entrance of an extremely long tunnel.”

“Mm hmm,” he said, sounding as if he were filing his nails on the other side, already bored with the conversation. You’re angered by his shitty attitude, but keep it to yourself knowing he is your only option to get out of here. You stutter but continue “I-I’m not sure where I am, but I know for a fact that I am now outside and there is another tunnel ahead of me. Please, please help me.” The man on the line sighs, “have you tried driving through the other tunnel?” Your temper flares, “I won’t drive anymore, my car is close to being out of gas please, just call emergency services and give them the general area, these calls are recorded right?” He chuckles, “yes, something like that.” You can’t believe how much of an asshole this guy is being but you take a deep breath and try to let it go. “Go through the tunnel,” he states. His demeanor has changed, almost threatening. “Didn’t you hear me─” “You shouldn’t have taken them.” Your body goes ice cold and your hands begin to shake uncontrollably. “Please,” you plead. He laughs on the other line, “go through the tunnel” he yells.

The line goes silent and you stare at it for several moments. The phone falls from your hand as your eyes drift up to the tunnel entrance. You can’t bring yourself to go back into that tunnel, you just can’t. There has to be a better way. You glance at your phone in hopes to find that signal has returned, it hasn’t. You make the tough decision to turn off your phone to conserve battery. The car charger works, but not nearly enough. If only you had remembered to bring the portable charger with you. Firm in your resolve you decide to exit the car and search the area. Maybe fresh air will help clear your head. You close the car door softly, just in case there is another murderous entity nearby. The open air feels magical against your skin and a warm, gentle breeze caresses you. You look around the area and sigh. There doesn’t appear to be any lights near which means no houses or city. You’re in a more elevated area so you can see hills and mountains in the distance. From either vantage point no sign of civilization seems to exist. It’s you, nature, and a road of never-ending horrors. The real problem is figuring out which way to go. Your pulse quickens as you realize it will be a guess─ one that could easily end your life. There is a small part of you that wants to believe you can make it out of this alive. You can’t bring yourself to accept that, somehow you feel it may be the end.

Without many options other than driving into that damn tunnel, you just have to make a calculated guess. But before that, there is something bothering you about what the creature and the man on the phone said. Why were snacks and drinks worth so much? Come to think of it, in your haste to get away you haven’t even looked at them. You open the driver’s side door and slide in, pulling the door closed next to you. Your hand connects with something crinkly and you fish it out from under the seat. You flip the chip bag around and scan the entire package, but can’t find anything out of place. Next you find a candy bar but it too just looks and feels like a normal one. You reach again and find a drink. It’s not very cold, but is still covered in a dewy condensation. You hold the bottle up to the dim light and your eyes grow wide. You inhale sharply and quickly toss the bottle on your passenger seat. Your lips tremble as you fight to keep it together, to not scream your lungs out. No, no, no, no! Inside the bottle, almost perfectly preserved is a fetus. You retch uncontrollably but only bile manages to come up. No way. There was absolutely no way you would drive through that tunnel again. You climb out of the car and try to make yourself think. Had there been any turns? Had you just gone straight? If you had continued west after your turn it would mean that the way back to the main road you came from is to the south. The problem is, you aren’t sure if that is any better─ everything has been deserted. Which leaves north, or further west paralleling the tunnel but not going into it.   

The Haunting Hour Podcast Returns and Other News

It’s a Wednesday morning and I’m at my desk wondering how on earth I got here in life. It’s an odd feeling working in such a male-dominated industry and yet, so fulfilling. It’s a buzzword these days ‘male-dominated’ and I think it goes without saying people are probably a little tired of hearing it. But in an industry like HVAC (unless you are mainly on the supply side) there are very few female workers.

It can get stressful and yes, extremely challenging with customers that are not used to not only ‘retail workers’ (I use this word very loosely because we run a unique business) not knowing what they are talking about, but especially female employees. At the end of the day though, helping others brings a certain joy into my life that I never knew could exist.

Unfortunately running a business also means less time to do a lot that I would like to do. Curse you, sleep─ I wish that I didn’t need you! I was tremendously excited to get my new podcast equipment this past Christmas and to also get my sound booth up and running. While I’m not 100% sure that I will be able to do a weekly show, I would enjoy making the show an every other week release.

If you’re not familiar with my past work, you can find my podcasts here, and my writing here.

If you’ve been following me on Twitter you’ll know that I sometimes do story threads! I will probably try and put those up on this website so you can follow what is going on. If you’d like to participate on a vote just get notifications set up so you can see when to make the magic happen.

So these are just a few things to expect from a girl that really likes to get spooked and fascinated by the unknown. Buckle up buttercups, we’re all in for a fantastic spooky ride! Happy Wednesday ❤

xoxo-

Grey

Where the Silent Ones Lie Part I – A Horror Novella

My gaze shifts to outside as his words drone on. I can see his lips move and hear the deep rumble coming from his chest. I can’t make out what he is saying but it really doesn’t matter─ anything he has to say after tonight would be pointless. I flinch as I feel his hand close over mine to give it a gentle squeeze. I understand that he is just trying to comfort me, but my skin crawls at this small invasion. His words go up at the end, the sounds registering to my brain as a question. I turn and tuck a loose strand of hair behind my ear.

“Sorry, what was that?” I ask. I shift myself to face toward him but my eyes are cast downward. I fidget with a straw wrapper focusing on pulling and then pushing it in my hand like a tiny accordion.

He sighs, “I asked if you were ok to drive home.” I offer him a quick smile, waving my hand in front of me, “of course I’ll be fine, Paul. It’s less than twenty minutes from here.” He regards my cool demeanor for a few seconds and then nods. “Alright, well just you know, take care of yourself and call me if you need anything.” My head moves mechanically up and down as I smile. The same smile I use when I want someone to believe that everything is hunky dory in Zen’s world.

A few more words are exchanged between us, I make promises that I don’t intend to keep, and then I stand and leave. There’s no doubt in my mind that Paul is feeling incredibly guilty, so I made sure to lay it on thick. No sense in making him fret for more than a few moments. Besides, it isn’t as if he personally made the decision.

I slide into my car, adjust the mirrors for the hundredth time, and pull out of the tiny parking lot. My car groans in protest as I drive over the familiar dips and bumps. The city has long forgotten these roads. It’s absolute murder on my 2001 Honda Civic. I’ve had great luck over the years, only needing to replace the main belt, spark plugs, light bulbs, and just recently, a new radiator. Thank god for the internet, I would have been out of a car for months if I had to have someone else repair it. I pull up to the main road and plug in my phone. No one would be pulling up behind me at this hour. By now I am normally rolling the pastry dough and prepping them for the long day ahead. My chest tightens and I feel my throat constrict. I fight the urge to keep everything down. I breathe, focusing on the air that exits and then fills my lungs. After several seconds I manage to calm down and draw one more deep breath.

I tap the screen on my phone and bring up my favorite playlist. I skip past the first few songs before settling on a metal band with a seriously awesome female vocalist. Her range goes from angelic high pitches to low, raspy growls─ she is definitely something special. I close my eyes as the beginning chords fill my car, her voice a silvery whisper brushing against my ear.

This time,

This time,

This time─ I’m really saying goodbye.

I’ve survived this long with one hell of a fight,

Clawed my way through the trenches,

You carved out of our lives.

Never-ending climb

to the other side

While you watched from above

Hoping that we would die.

Well watch this.

The car roars to life as I pull out onto the main road, the windows rolled down. The combination of cool air and heavy guitar rifts sends my heart soaring and for the remainder of the drive my troubles fly away.

*

The well-lit parking lot is a welcome sight as I pull into my normal spot by the light post. I am a few hours early so no one will be here yet. I reach down and grab the neatly packed bag in the back seat. As soon as I get inside the store, I make the rounds turning on the music, coffee machine, and re-stocking the fridges.

After all of the morning duties are taken care of I walk to the front and scan the parking lot. No one is here yet so I quickly cut off the lights and walk back to the lockers. Beth had a habit of getting here early but normally no more than thirty minutes. The handicapped stall is calling my name─ it has it’s own closed off room. I shut the door behind me, set my things on the chair, and then slide to the floor. I draw my legs in close, wrapping my arms around them and then rest my forehead on my knees.

It’s going to be OK. It’s going to be OK. I chant silently. Except it isn’t. I’m prolonging the inevitable pile of shit that is suspended above my head waiting to come crashing down on me. How long will I have this time? What’s going to happen when I have to skip on rent─ again. Andrea is extremely lenient and knows my situation, but that can only go so far with anyone. I have a sneaking suspicion that she isn’t charging me what she is charging the other tenants. I’m surprised that she already hasn’t put a notice to vacate on my door. I’m already behind by at least six weeks and now this. I will be respectful and go tell her today about the situation. I’m going to have to ask for a week or so to move all of my things and hope that she will be kind enough to let me. The bakery has been having problems and I knew it but with only me and one other employee on each shift I was hopeful that I could stay there longer. I squeeze my eyes shut then gently massage the bridge of my nose.

I try again to repeat the phrase a few more times until I convince myself, for the moment, that it’s true. I stand on two shaky legs and then turn the shower on full blast. I rotate the nozzle almost all the way to the left, cranking it up as hot as I can stand it. No matter how hot it is I still can’t shake the chill in my bones. My teeth chatter as I rub my body vigorously with soap.

My mind wanders to the inevitable and I sink into myself allowing a little of the truth to come through─ I have nothing left. My chest tightens and I struggle with my thoughts, trying to shove them down. It won’t help to think like this, I need to focus on work or whatever else gets me out of this mental hell. I’ll just go apply to every place I can think today and early tomorrow morning. I pause for a moment thinking on what day tomorrow is. Thursday I remind myself, Thursday is your day off. I’m torn between asking for more hours or just using a full day applying everywhere I can. Most places want you to fill them out online but with how things work now an algorithm sends your application to HR and you have to know what to add to it. I am horrible at filling out the damn things but maybe I can search up some templates and fill them out at the library.

I’m drying off when all of a sudden a huge boom resounds across the floor. My hands shoot out but only manage to slide across the slick walls. My teeth slam together so hard I’m sure they are going to break. Searing pain jolts from my elbows and knees and then runs through the extent of my body. Everything hurts but it doesn’t stop me from quickly shifting myself into a fetal position. The floor undulates beneath me, and I stare in wonder at the small blocky tiles rippling seamlessly like water. Is this what an earthquake is like? Finally, the ground stills. I lay holding my breath for several seconds not sure if it is safe to move. I let all of the air escape from my lungs, then draw in a deep breath. Reassured that nothing else is coming, I slowly pull myself from the floor and on my feet. Cautiously, I peek out from the shower into the main workout area. Nothing is out of place or broken and there is no sign of damage that I can see from here. I glance up at the clock and frown, it is almost time for Beth to get here. The last thing I need is her wondering why I’m taking a shower here. Then again, I could always explain that I came in early to work out. I think Beth may be onto my situation or have her suspicions so I decide not to chance it.

After getting dressed and making myself look presentable I stuff my bag into a locker and walk to the front. I’m almost through opening the registers when the beep sounds. Beth walks in and smiles, “hey Z- you’re here early, did your shift end sooner today?” I smile and nod, “yes it did. I think Paul could sense that I am running on fumes.” Her eyes take on a concerned look and she places a hand over mine. “You have looked pretty exhausted lately. Everything alright, hun?”

Beth is the only person that I don’t mind touching me. She really is a sweetheart and I almost feel guilty for lying to her, “oh, nothing I haven’t handled before.” I place my other hand on top of hers and gently squeeze before adding, “I really appreciate it though.” She smiles at me and then reaches for something from her bag, “alright sweetie, well anyway, I brought you some of my homemade biscuits and jam.” I perk up, grinning from ear to ear. “Did you really?” I’m practically radiant, clapping my hands together. “You spoil me too much, I’m going to put on so much weight if you don’t stop!” She raises an eyebrow and purses her lips as she gives me a quick once-over “From the state of you I’d say you need it. You can’t be more than a hundred pounds soaking wet.” She’s just about nailed it. I laugh it off “oh, I just forget to eat half the time I’ve got so much going on.” She shakes her head, “well you get some food in you, I don’t want to have to wheel you out of here on a stretcher after you pass out from hunger.” She’s only half joking and I know it. I clear my throat and start over, making sure that I count all of the one’s correctly. Beth turns back toward the locker room, leaving her offering on the counter.

Something occurs to me and I call back to her, “Hey, Beth?” She spins back around smiling, “what’s up sweetie?” I pause for a minute, trying to form a cohesive sentence. “Have you had any crazy earthquakes, or really hard vibrations when you’re up here?” She cracks a smile at me and cocks an eyebrow, “hun, I haven’t had any hard vibrations like that since Obama was in office.” She sighs and shakes her head, “man I need to get laid.” We both laugh and I feel a little better, Beth has that sort of effect on me. “My sad dating life aside, no I haven’t had anything like that happen here. Did something happen this morning?” I nod, “Yeah it was really strange, like the whole earth just shifted. You didn’t feel anything driving in this morning?” She purses her lips and tilts her head, “no sweetheart, I sure didn’t.”

The uneasiness creeps back in but I shrug, “guess it might have been an earthquake or something.” Beth nods, “yeah that or the new construction up the road. I think they’re pounding in some large beams for the foundation.” She pauses and then smiles wickedly, “wish someone would pound me like that.” I shake my head, “you’re awful!” Her grin widens, “hey, you must feel it too─ I have literally never seen you take time off and no mention of a boyfriend,” then she adds quickly, “or girlfriend whichever floats your boat.”

I shake my head, “go back to work pervert.” She laughs and turns back toward the office. I glance over at the food Beth brought and sigh. My mouth waters and it takes everything in me not to scoop them up and devour them right then and there. I know how that will look to her and I can’t stand the thought of making her worry. She has enough on her plate as it is. I don’t know how she manages to put on a happy face every day and be such an uplifting person. Her daughter and son passed away just last year on their way home from Thanksgiving. Beth once admitted to me that she felt at least partially responsible insisting that they rideshare with their cousins. It was just one of those freak accidents, a literal once in a million chance. They had all just made it into the city and decided to pickup food downtown. Sandra and David, Beth’s children, and Grace, the younger of the two cousins, had decided to stay in the car while Grace’s older brother, John went in to pick up their order.

The next thing he knew there was a deafening crash from outside. It took John a long time to talk about it but after getting over the shock, he had described in great detail what had happened. Apparently a man desperate to end his life had chosen that exact moment to leap from the top of the hotel. It still gets my blood boiling, how can someone be so selfish? I mean, taking your own life is one thing─ but to snuff out another’s without a thought is reprehensible. I still can’t believe Sandra is gone. Beth’s daughter was something special, just as kind and caring as her mother. That girl was going places, she was done with high school by fifteen and working on her masters in neurology. She would have started med school next year. While David might not have been the ideal son and sometimes him and Beth didn’t get along, he did love his mother very much. He wasn’t as ambitious as Sandra but he did just get his first office job and in less than a year got promoted to assistant manager. They both were very dedicated workers─ something Beth had drilled into them for years.

I wipe the registers and counters down with strong cleaner. Normally the people that closed were young and never bothered to clean. With the virus nearly shutting down all of the gyms around town, we really couldn’t afford to get sued over uncleanliness. These damn kids think they’re invincible and have a clear lack of motivation to do anything. I once opened up to find someone hadn’t even removed the cash from the registers. I suppose I could understand though, the pay here is abysmal. I look up and realize it’s less than five minutes until open. I rush to the office, lock up the cash, lock the door, and run back to the front.

Our usual is out front and waves at me as I unlock the door. He smiles at me as I let him by. “Hey Chris, how’s your morning?” He returns the favor opening the second set of doors. His face is comforting as always, I can’t help but relax near him. His deep timber washes over me, “always better to see your shining faces. You and Beth are awesome, always open on time.” I chuckle as he strides to the men’s locker room. “What can I say, you keep some normalcy to my days. I like to think I do the same for you.” He gives me a thumbs up and disappears around the corner.

The first part of the day went by a little slow it was one of those days that there were a steady stream of people but not enough to keep my head completely focused on work. I frown looking over at the clock, come on lunch rush I plead silently. I look outside and sigh heavily, the sky is an angry shade of grey. It meant that we would slow down quite a bit, it didn’t always mean that but today was fairly chilly. I suspect it will last until the rain takes a breather. Probably until I leave, I think bitterly. I frown and walk over to the cleaning closet to grab some disinfecting wipes. I might as well make use of my free time. Beth steps out of the office and smiles, “you going to wipe down the machines honey?” I nod as I pull out a set of gloves, “yes ma’am. Figured I should make good use out of my time.” She grinned and patted me on the shoulder, “girl, can you please clone yourself? Or at least light a fire under all these kids asses.” I chuckle and shake my head, “you remember what it was like working your first few jobs, right? It’s hard to care making minimum wage.” She places her hands on her hips in mock outrage, “why, miss Z, it’s as if you are suggesting we don’t make a livable wage here!” she clicks her tongue and shakes her head. I smile shaking my own head, “oh I know it isn’t your fault Beth, you already pay me more than I know they would like you to.” She groaned, “hun, if it were up to me you would be salary with full benefits, no over-time.” She smiles and I notice her eyes dart from me to the floor. I laugh nervously and pat Beth on the shoulder, “oh I’m just teasing, we both know how Taylor can’t go without her latte and Justin, bless his heart, would be lost without his Tesla and three thousand dollar shoes.” We both burst out laughing as I turn toward the machines. I wave my hand to shoo Beth away, “you go relax, I know you are up to your eyeballs in budgets, schedules, and whatever other ridiculous tasks Taylor has you doing.” She sighs rolling her eyes, “yeah and speaking of which watch your ass, she’s on another one of her rampages. We were down by six percent last month and she’s flipping her shit trying to find a way to cut back on expenses.” I frown over at her “you can offer to cut my hours if you need to I don’t want you having to deal with the queen-of-bitches if you can avoid it.” She lets out a deep breath, “don’t you worry about me sweetie, I’ll lay off one of these lazy brats if I need to. But, unfortunately you won’t be able to work doubles for a few days, possibly a week or two.” My chest tightens, “oh” I say unable to come up with anything else. My mind’s racing but I manage to smile, “no worries. I’ll see if I can’t pick up a few more shifts at the bakery.” I flinch inwardly at the lie. Beth looks at the ground again unable to meet my eyes. “If it makes you feel any better she wanted me to cut more but I managed to talk her into cutting several of the brats hours instead.” I grin wickedly at her, “does this mean I get real breaks?” She snorts and walks back to the office calling out, “don’t press your luck kiddo.” I release a long breath of air not realizing that I have been holding it in. I really am lucky to have someone like her around.

I am supposed to work a double today but that’s gone out the window. Shit, I won’t get pay from the bakery until the end of the week. At least last week I was able to work a few double shifts so pay should be decent enough to make ends meet. At least for gas, food, electricity and water. Rent is another story. I pause and then do the math in my head─ holiday pay! I should actually be able to pay rent. I’d completely forgotten that last week was thanksgiving. Whether that’s enough to keep my place, I don’t know. At least I can try. The end of my shift comes way too fast and I dread every step out to my car.

#

Andrea peers over at me from across the table, she’s quiet but her face has hardened. I’m shifting nervously, waiting to hear what she has to say. I know that look and this isn’t going to end well. Unable to hold it in any longer, I break the silence, “I understand Andrea, I don’t expect a miracle. Can you please give me one week to get all of my things moved out and clean the place up?” I’m getting more worried by the second as she looks me up and down. Her arms cross in front of her and she sighs, “well, at least you were honest with me. To be frank, that space has been paid off for quite some time.” She picks up her cup of coffee and takes a long sip. “You know I try and be as forgiving as I can for you because I know about your situation. Tough having to work two jobs and barely make ends meet, been there a few times in my life.” She takes another sip and then gently sets the mug back on the table. “Listen, hun, I know how things can get, especially right now─ but I’m in the same boat with many other tenants. With the pandemic and job losses, I’ve got more than a few properties we’re going to have to take legal action against the tenants.” She shakes her head, “it really is a shame what has happened to them but now that the government has lifted the restrictions on rental properties, I have got to start getting paying tenants in here. I’m already starting to dip into my savings just to stay afloat.” I fidget with my hands, unsure of what to do with them.

My voice cracks as I respond, “no, really I understand. I’m so sorry that I’ve been behind and I know at the end of this month it will be two months.” My eyes start to burn but I take a couple of deep breaths and try and fight back tears. Renters have heard every sob story in the book, mine will just come off as manipulative. “After holiday pay this past week, I can go ahead and give you this month’s rent. If I’m able to get out of the lease and have a week to get everything ready, I can be out of your hair by beginning of next month.” She’s still quiet so I add nervously, “and I can have it all cleaned and tidy for anyone that you may need to show the space to.” Andrea regards me for a few more seconds and then nods. “Alright, but I need the space to be spotless and you have to be ready to leave if someone is coming by.” My shoulders sag and I can breathe again. “Thank you so much Andrea, I really appreciate it.” I fish out the envelope with my money and hand it over reluctantly. I planned on keeping a bit for food but having a warm bed for a week sounded much better. I’d be able to have plenty of water and some snacks at the gym. She takes the crisp envelope, counts the contents and then crosses over to her computer. The gentle sound of her nails hitting the keyboard somewhat settles me as I wait patiently for my receipt.

Her delicate flowery perfume contrasts her firm, business-like personality. It makes me wonder if there is a hidden feminine side to her. Even though her words are kind, there is a ‘don’t fuck with me’ vibe behind her fierce green eyes. I respect the hell out of her for it, you have to have a stiff upper lip to own properties. I have a theory that she can sense a lie from a hundred feet away, maybe more. “Alright, so I’m not going to charge you for the last few remaining months of rent owed. I just need you to sign this agreement that you will be moved out by─” she looks at her watch, “December thirtieth.” I take the paper from her, initial all of the marked sections, and then sign my name. “No problem,” I say double checking that I had filled everything in, “I’ll hand in the keys the day before so your guys can look it over for move-in ready.” My hands are shaking something fierce as I quickly hand the paper back to her. I’m practically burning a hole through her table with my eyes as she glances through my signed copy. “Thanks again for being so honest with me and saving me the time of going through all the legal motions,” she says softly and then adds, “It really does mean a lot to me.” My knuckles are squeezed together so tightly that all the color has completely drained from them. I know that my voice will betray me if I respond so I choose instead to smile and nod.

After several seconds of awkward silence it dawns on me that we are done talking. “Anyway,” I say, “on a personal note, thanks for being a kind person and putting up with me. On a business note, I’ll hold up my end of the bargain and hopefully you can get someone placed there soon. I’ll check around and see if anyone trustworthy I know needs a place.” Feeling better I reach out my hand to shake before realizing I shouldn’t and quickly withdraw it. “Sorry,” I say, “force of habit.” She laughs despite the situation, “I do the same thing all the time. It takes quite a bit of getting used to.” This is the first time I have heard Andrea laugh. It somehow warms my heart hearing it. I’m almost to the door when I hear Andrea call out, “hey, Zen?” I freeze and then turn toward her, “hmm?” Her face softens, “All things aside, I hope things do get better. Just, take care OK?” I’m on the brink of losing it, but manage to whisper a thank you. I wave and smile again before stepping out into the rain. My place isn’t too far from the main office so I opted to walk. The cool wind and wetness on my face and hair helps clear my mind. I have a lot to think about, even more to take care of, and a week to make it all happen.

Update: Ready to write again!

Hello all! I just wanted to let you all know that I have been working to finish my other horror novel The Watchmen https://cagreyson.com/2019/10/22/the-watchmen-part-i-a-thriller-short-story/ and will be posting another one that I have been working on as well! I’m excited to get it to all of you and even more excited at the motivation I’ve been having to write again. It’s been a rough road for me emotionally but I am ready to get out there again.

I really appreciate the kind words I have received recently, they have gone a long way and haven’t gone unnoticed. So, really, thank you so very much. I’m hoping to have the first chapter up this weekend! I hope that you can enjoy it with all your hearts. ❤

xoxo – Grey

You can find all of my work on Royal Road now

If you’ve wondered what I’m about, I’m not just a blogger─ I write novels, novellas, and short stories. (when we aren’t adventuring with our stories on Twitter.)When I have time, I record podcasts and audiobooks for all of you as well. Occasionally, I will post my work on here for you to read but I thought it a good idea to post where you can find all of my work!

I’m aiming to become published, (so that I can write and do podcasting for a living) but until I become one of the lucky few to do that, I like to share it with others. It gives me real joy and excitement to create these worlds for all of you.

If you would like to see what I’m about, you can find all of my written work here. 

I don’t have all of my work up, but I am working toward getting it ALL slowly uploaded (I have to sort through tons of stuff) but I should have it all up in the next month.

If you’re familiar with my work and you’d love to support it, this is a great site to do it through, or through my Patreon page.

For anyone and everyone that takes time out of their day to read my stories and check out my work, thank you.

Have a wonderful Tuesday

❤ Grey

Hell’s Gate Awakening – A Fantasy Novel

If you would like to read this in it’s entirety, you can find it here. 

 

“My Goddess The Moon Can be as Bright as The Sun,

But She is Only a Reflection.” 

Her eyes flew open, the magnitude of the dream still lingering in her vision. The swirls of darkness lulled above her bed, the last of it lazily rising from her still form. Celeste pressed her eyes closed, willing it away. Please just leave, she pleaded silently, you aren’t real─ you can’t be real. She opened her eyes and focused her vision. The last of the fluid seeped into the ceiling, leaving behind a discolored smudge on the surface. A rustling sounded and she turned her gaze to John. His hair stood out in stark contrast against the sheet─ a sea of black that kissed the golden beach. She frowned, her eyes shifting to the ceiling. Celeste had longed to feel a connection with others, especially with John. But now, she wasn’t so sure. The thought genuinely terrified her.

John sighed softly, and then turned on his side. Her eyes returned to him and then moved down to the chiseled lines along his back. Her eyes lingered on the pale flesh, frowning at the twin scars behind his shoulder blades. Once back when they were first dating, she had mistakenly reached out and touched the marred flesh. He had jerked away and then moved to cover himself. Since then, she mostly kept her curiosity to herself─ but now as he rested, they were open and bare. Celeste couldn’t help but stare.

 Her vision blurred for a moment and she closed her eyes drawing a deep breath. She remembered it like it was yesterday, the first time his lips had graced hers. It had been an exceptionally cold winter last December. They had spent the weekend in her Father’s cabin along the slopes in Aspen. It was John’s first time to travel anywhere. She remembered his infectious grin as he stared up to the sky, marveling at the large flakes as they swirled to the ground. 

 Celeste would never forget how John’s face glowed as they sat by the fire. He was reading his favorite bits of poetry as she lay in his lap. This had been where he found much of his inspiration for his work─ poets that wrote anonymously. He had a real fascination with people not claiming their own work, or working in secret. Celeste never knew where he found them, but they were full of insight, and sorrow─ many speaking of an alternate universe or hidden worlds.

That weekend trip was the first moment she knew she wanted to spend the rest of her life with him. She had always felt something that drew her to him, some force of nature. But as she laid there, watching his face light up as he talked about the meaning behind his latest poetry obsession and tying it to the possibility of a multiverse, she knew he was the one.  

John’s sculptures were profoundly beautiful. Among his regular clients, he was considered a modern Bernini. Known for his exquisite attention to detail, most of his works were portraits of mythological creatures and people. John’s ability to capture other’s lives brought many to tears, including herself. It looked as though the stone could simply stand and walk away. Every detail was hand-molded, even down to the flaws. His stone fabric flowed as if it was a real garment.

His sculptures were something to behold, but John’s paintings were even more so. The colors blended in a way that you would swear it was a window into another world. A secret one, far better than our own. It was otherworldly─ just like him.

Celeste’s attention returned to the present as her gaze fell to the addition on her left hand. Surrounding her finger was a silver band with a princess-cut solitaire. A blood red stone sprouted from the center. It was made from garnet, her birthstone. She had never found diamonds appealing, the lack of color reminded her of death. Her eyes shifted to the Baroque paintings and décor in the room. Father spoiled her too much. He knew it was her favorite period in art and made it a point to collect things for her over the years. Each piece of furniture that surrounded her was dainty and hand-carved from dark mahogany wood.  She adored the crushed red velvet that lined the chaise that was next to the fire. It was her absolute favorite. Every night she would curl up with her blanket and book in hand. Celeste knew it was old-fashioned. Most of her friends had some type of reader or listened to Audiobooks. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but there was something magical about holding a book next to the fire. It brought back memories from her childhood. Mama had read to her every night. She would download the app eventually, but for now she was content with paperbacks.

 Celeste looked over and smiled at the crimson drapes along the windows. It was her first real purchase, one of the few things she could be proud of. She had to defend them constantly against her friends. They said it made the room look like something out of a Dracula novel. She stuck her tongue out at them mentally. Let them think what they wanted─ she preferred it this way. 

Shadows drifted along her marble sculptures, Celeste’s eyes stopped on the one close to her dresser. Deep shadows encased the young mother and child holding hands. It was as if it welcomed them into the shadow realm. She relaxed, thinking that maybe this time the dream left her with nothing to fear. The dreams were coming more frequently now, each more menacing than the last. Her head tipped up to the ceiling again and she stared uneasily at the smear and frowned. It was still there. Were they just dreams? Maybe there were warnings of things to come. 

She jumped at the loud tapping sound on the side of her window. She tensed, straining her ears to see if she could hear anything else. When the sound happened again, she released the breath she had been holding in.  It was the Japanese maple her father had planted some years ago. She closed her eyes, listening as it brushed lazily across the house─slow and rhythmic. Celeste had always been fond of them, so for her twentieth birthday, her father had surprised her with one for her housewarming party. Shaking her head, she grinned at the stubbornness of the old man. No matter how many times she refused his gifts, it only strengthened his resolve to do more.

A crackling came from the foot of the bed and she jerked toward the sound. Celeste half chuckled, half sighed in frustration, feeling foolish. It’s just the fire place, Jesus get a grip, she scolded herself. It was one of the major selling points for Celeste. Even though she lived in Texas, and winter lasted all of two or three months, she used it every year. The fire place acted as a sort of divider, separating the small library from the bedroom. It was designed to provide a reading nook on one side, but kept the space open enough that she could see outside through the bay window. 

Unable to sleep, Celeste stretched and pushed back the covers. With cat-like grace she slunk from the bed, careful to not wake John. Grabbing her robe from the chaise she quickly glanced back at John before slipping from the room. Out cold, she mused. 

Celeste emerged from the long hall, her attention shifting to the left. The robe unclasped as she came to a halt, revealing a petite frame beneath the billowing gown. Just to the left of the French doors sat her mother’s piano─ an oasis of red against the desert-colored walls. The keys were worn, but she could never replace it. Celeste knew it was silly, but somehow the thought of restoring it would feel as if the last of her mother would disappear. Her hand trailed the length of the case, and then slowly pulled it back─ revealing the ivory keys. She sat and placed her slender fingers on the cool surface. A millisecond passed, and she began. The chords started shaky and uneven as her mind struggled to remember the notes. Finally, it smoothed itself out and she eased herself into the composition. Celeste swayed back and forth lost in the melody. There was something familiar about it. She couldn’t remember when, or how she had learned to play it─ and yet, the song now flowed easily from her fingertips. She strummed the last chord, blinking back the wetness that had gathered at the corners of her eyes. The air was heavy with silence. It left her longing for the past. Why did you have to die? Celeste wondered. Her mother’s smile flashed through her mind. You were always so warm, she thought.

Celeste rose from the bench and glided from the piano to the patio doors. The Moon’s light drew her in and she pressed herself into the glass, longing to feel the night on her skin. She clutched at the doors and thrust them open. The Moon sensed her, emitting a soft hum as it pulsed─ her own life force felt as if it was joining with it. She stared openly, captivated by its beauty. She didn’t want to, but finally tore her eyes from the glowing goddess. She crossed the threshold into the cool night air. The wood felt soft and warm beneath her feet, it was similar to the feeling of packed dirt. She walked five feet to her favorite spot on the patio and eased herself down.

Celeste stretched out her arms and leaned back on the wooden swing, her legs dangling. Her skin shone like porcelain in the moonlight, further emphasizing her doll-like figure. She stared down from the patio ledge─ the wind gently combing through her long, obsidian hair. She swept a strand from her eyes, troubled by the thoughts that traveled through her mind. She looked down to the untouched gardens─ at the plant life swaying to the Earth’s sigh. It had been years since Celeste felt so normal─ so nice. John was the best thing that had happened to her this past year.

Then what was this feeling slowly curling in the pit of her belly? It was naïve to think that somehow the curse had vanished and that maybe, John had something to do with it. She cringed as thoughts began snaking through her mind. They undulated and curled, twisting around her head. She gasped, as it bit down, pumping the venomous thoughts throughout her brain. No more, she silently begged. Please. She moaned, clutching her head. John, please, no. The thought echoed through her mind over and over until it lost its meaning. She hugged her knees to her chest as the tears flowed. Images of people lost to her flashed within seconds of one another, their faces full of contempt. You did this to us, they seemed to say. Smiles leered from the dark cracks and crevices. They were calling to her, a mix of jeers, and begging. She couldn’t make out a single thing that was being said, it was all a jumbled mess. 

Then suddenly there loomed a sea of faceless demons behind them. The silence was heavy in the air as they drifted closer. There was a low, menacing hum, amplifying with each of their steps. They lashed out─ their grip ice cold against her flesh. She panicked as they drew their frigid limbs across her frame. Her mind screamed in agony as each entity burned through, trying to be heard. It was so cold that it burned. She prayed that it would stop, raising her hands up to her ears and squeezing them tight. All sound ceased, and in a flash─ they were gone. Celeste sighed, her hands falling to the sides. The earth trembled, then turned on it’s side. She screamed, her hands shooting out and gripping the swing as the violence continued. In seconds, something flashed before her, something far worse than before pushing it’s way through. Celeste stared at the face of pure evil─ at death. She was face to face with what the others must have seen seconds before it had claimed her friends and family’s lives. Celeste was looking into the eyes of Hell. It was soulless─ a deep, black pit. The tunnel stretched, and stretched into nothingness. She wasn’t sure how it was possible, but it was there inches from her face. The black death. It was that same smudge, that tar that had oozed from her ceiling. The darkness released her finally as the remaining images roared across her mind like sirens to the damned. Unable to stand it, her eyes shot up to the pure, heavenly body as she pleaded to the sky.

Kami-Sama, please.” Celeste drew herself up on the railing and looked down. She spoke again, this time with feeling “Please, let this end.” She clasped her hands together, her eyes glued to the massive glowing orb. The goddess flickered, and then grew brighter. It had acknowledged her plea, she felt it. She pressed her eyes together and filled her lungs with the wintry air. It was crisp, and clear. All at once, the idea came to her and she knew what had to be done. A breath, then a blink, and she threw herself from the edge. Like an angel her white gown flowed behind her, the illusion of wings on her dark form. For a few precious seconds, she felt the cleansing glow from the Moon’s light. How she longed to be bathed in Its purity. It wrapped her in Its loving embrace, cradling her delicate figure. Child, my child, It seemed to whisper. The sounds of the passing cars filtered through, their drivers’ unaware of the fast descending girl meeting her end. She felt the wind, and peered out at the sprinkle of lights. Each twinkling, pale yellow glow held families. Families that lay dreaming, and warm in their beds. Celeste smiled. It was the right thing to do. The last of her thoughts were swept into the wind as the deafening blow reverberated down the street.

 

*              *                *

The loud thud woke Celeste from her dream. She bolted upright, pulling the sheets from her chest. Her hands ran along the length of her frame as she made sure she was still in one piece. Her hands moved around her throat and she swallowed thickly. It felt extremely dry, she must have been screaming. She glanced around, confused for a few seconds before realizing that she had fallen out of bed. A dream, she thought bringing her hand to her face. She got up and sighed, apologizing to John about the scream. She paused and frowned at the empty space on the bed. He hadn’t come over tonight. Then Celeste remembered John had mentioned a meeting early in the morning with a client. He had probably stayed at his place Downtown. She picked up her phone to check, and then placed it back on the stand? Of course not, she thought. It had been a week since she last heard from him. She was beginning to wonder if they were still dating. Her mind switched to the dream. What did it mean? She wondered.

Celeste glanced down at her barren hand. Why had she dreamed that John had given her a ring? He had asked questions about how she felt about marriage, sure, but he had not asked yet. Maybe one day, she thought wistfully. Or you’re just fooling yourself, she added. John had been spending long hours away from her lately. It wasn’t as if marriage defined her, or she would simply fall over and die from not being married. She just─ wanted to. It was beyond the whole tax thing, or paperwork. It was something she had dreamed about since she was a girl. It was a dumb, old-fashioned sentiment but it was hers. Things had just felt right with John. Or her ovaries were wreaking havoc on her decision making. Stupid hormones. She had the University to keep her busy, and her piano students, but it wasn’t enough to fill the emptiness she had been feeling. John was still warm and loving with the time they had spent together, he just wasn’t always there mentally. She was being silly. They were, after all, both happy. Wasn’t that all that mattered? Maybe she was being too quick to judge. John had been working hard lately and daddy hadn’t been much help, telling John to ‘get a life and a real job.’ Sometimes her father could be a huge traditionalist and it bugged the crap out of her.

Celeste crossed the room and walked out to the kitchen. Her throat felt like needles had been jammed into it. Her hands shook as she grabbed for the edge of the counter. I’ve never had a dream like that before, she thought. Celeste snatched orange juice from the refrigerator, gulping it down. She was wiping her mouth when a series of booms erupted at the front door. She relaxed, realizing that it was knocking. Then she scrunched her face in confusion, looking at the time. Who could be here at this hour? She wondered. It was four a.m. 

She left the kitchen and slowly walked down the stairs to the front entrance. Standing on her tiptoes Celeste peeked through the peep hole. It took her a minute to focus as she flipped the outside light on. Sighing, she unlocked the door. It was her neighbor Sally. Probably heard me screaming my lungs out, she guessed as she pulled it open. Standing before Celeste was a very unhappy Sally─ arms crossed, and a scowl in place.

“Celeste, what on God’s-green-earth is going on over here? It’s four o’clock in the morning and I have to take the boys to school in a couple of hours.” Celeste opened her mouth to respond but did not get a word out before Sally talked over her, “Not to mention, oh, I don’t know? you scared the bejesus outta all of us.” It took all of Celeste’s strength not to giggle at her neighbor. She pronounced ‘bejesus’ with a southern drawl. She started, realizing that it wasn’t just Sally standing outside. 

Celeste leaned out and glanced at several of the neighbor’s worried faces. She waved nervously and apologized. “Sorry, everyone, I had a horrific dream.” They didn’t budge. One of her neighbors stepped forward and spoke. He had an air of confidence in his speech, someone that took to authority well, “Ma’am, I don’t mean to get in your business, but─” he shifted from his left leg to his right, glancing up the stairs. “That was some yell. It woke up half the neighborhood.” His eyes rested on hers and he softened his tone, “Only reason I didn’t call it in is because I wanted to make sure before I went bothering anyone at the station.” That’s right, now she remembered─ her neighbor was a police officer. She frowned, trying to remember his name. Was it Geoffrey? No that didn’t seem right, George maybe? They all stared at her quietly and she realized they might be taking it for something else. She quickly shook her head, “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to frighten any of you. It was honestly just a bad dream.” The man nodded, appearing relieved and walked over to his wife. She waved again, her face feeling like the surface of the sun.

She winced, as Sally hadn’t moved from the doorway. Jesus, did the lady have an ounce of tact? Glaring down at her, Sally opened her mouth to speak, but Celeste quickly interrupted, “I’m sorry I woke you and your family, Mrs. Henderson, I’ll try to keep it down.” Nodding, she looked up at Sally, giving her best ‘I’m sorry’ look and pulled the door toward her. Sally, like Celeste knew she would, put her foot in the way. She always had to get that last word in. Celeste yearned for the polite neighbors in Japan. No one would have dreamed of behaving this way, let alone keep doing it.

“Well, alright,” she boomed, “Can’t be too careful these days, what with all the murders going on.” Sally ran fingers through her frizzy hair, her eyes darting outside, then back to Celeste conspiratorially. The curls took on a life of their own as the copper strands bounced around Sally’s face. She had that kind of hair you wanted to reach out and touch. Her light mood darkened as Celeste thought about the locals. Now it made sense, the neighbors weren’t just concerned about a scream. They thought─ oh god. Now she really felt awful. She made a mental note to write an apology to everyone, maybe send them something. 

The deaths were a great shock to the local community. It was all her students talked about on campus anymore. Every time she turned on the news it seemed like there was another murder. So far they had uncovered seven bodies. Were they ever going to catch this guy? All the victims shared the same appearance─ dark hair, younger, and petite. The main connection was how they were murdered. Each was found in some type of water and drained of blood. It sounded like some sort of lame vampire flick.

When Celeste didn’t respond Sally cleared her throat and added, “I just wanted to make sure, you know?” She paused and peered over Celeste’s shoulder, looking inside. Sally had one of those large frames. She was solidly built, but lumpy, like a sack of potatoes. Her eyes, though a vivid blue, were much too small and set close together. She appeared to be in her late forties, possibly early fifties, but wore clothes that no self-respecting sixty-year-old would touch. She looked like something straight out of a bad 70’s film. Sally was a bear of a woman, but honestly, it didn’t take much. Celeste had the stereotypical Japanese build. But that’s where it ended. Her features were a blended with large, expressive brown eyes. She had a more round nose, yet a petite jaw line. Her hair was a soft black, almost brown, and her skin a peachy-white. She was tormented maliciously in Japan, they called her half-breed. It was something Celeste was very self-conscious about. At least here in the States with her adoptive parents, kids had been slightly more forgiving. 

Her adoptive mother, Kotone, had shared a little about her past. Celeste had always assumed that an American soldier had fathered her, or a European man. She long came to the conclusion that she probably brought shame to her real mother─ so her biological mother had given her up for adoption. All she could do was guess, she had never known the truth. Celeste had the kind of frame that people found adorable. If only they knew how annoying it was to have to use a step ladder every time she needed something. Forget trying to see anything at a concert. 

She stared at Sally, sizing her up. The old minx would have put Nancy Drew to shame. She may have looked frumpy, but that’s where it ended. Sally had that keen sensibility about her, the kind that missed nothing. Celeste noticed that the old woman had checked both her shoe rack, and the coat hanger at the front door. And while, she definitely appreciated it this time, she didn’t normally. For as long as she could remember, Sally was at her front door snooping around and asking questions about her life. Especially about John. He had a tough exterior, but was gentle as a kitten. It was a shame that people had the habit of only seeing with their eyes. She forced a grin, and bowed, “Thank you again for your concern, Mrs. Henderson. I am fine.” Saying good night and apologizing, she firmly closed the door.

 

I will be posting this on royalroad.com

Halloween Audiobook Coming – Your Votes Put To Spooky Fun

So after two days, we got all the votes in and you guys have spoken!

We’re going 1600 occult style witches, in a modern setting, with a family home. I can’t wait to write and record this, it’s my favorite time of year! I thought I’d make it even better by creating a fun, creepy audiobook. I haven’t gotten to make one in a while, but if you aren’t familiar with my work, you can find the audiostories here

Thanks for everyone that participated in the vote and I’ll get this up as soon as I can. I’m shooting for two weeks, just to make sure that it is done well, and still in time for the holiday.

Stay tuned, dearies. An awesome, scary tale is coming your way.

Image result for witches occult

Stay creepy, friends.

❤ Grey

Someone left their cellphone in my store. I shouldn’t have unlocked it. A horror short.

Warning** This is NSFW and for some, NSFL. ** Reader beware.
Let me start by saying, I’m not a nosy person─ and I’m definitely not a thief─ so when I first noticed that the customer had left their phone, I ran outside to give it back to them. We’re located in a little strip-mall shopping center, so the parking lot is literally right outside.
Here’s where things began to get weird. The parking lot, was empty.
I tried to rationalize it. Maybe they had been picked up and drove away.
Maybe I hadn’t walked outside as quickly as I thought I had.
I’m telling you I had myself relaxed and snacking on some beef jerky within 10 mins of that man leaving.
Notice I said it began to get weird.
You probably won’t believe me. How can you, you weren’t here?
Please, don’t judge me─ I’m begging you. I need to tell someone my story. Because there is no way in hell anyone will understand.
Especially when they come for me.
It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.
September is an especially slow month in retail. I’ve been working in it for nearly ten years and every year is slow as hell around this time. When I say slow, I mean one customer per three hours kind of slow. The only people that tended to walk in were personal shoppers, or old people. Everyone buys shit online now.
Which leads us to my next predicament.
It started as a little jingle in the drawer. You know, one of those little trills an app makes when it gives you a notification or a reminder? I was pretty annoyed at first because it reminded me of my own app I use to buy and sell stuff online.
By the third chime, I scooped up my phone to turn off the notifications. I was super annoyed because I had just finished selling my prized books and marked them as sold. I was already sore I had to get rid of them and it was marked as sold. Jeez buttholes, leave me alone. But it wasn’t my phone. In fact, I hadn’t even received any spam mail or texts. So that got me curious.
It’s not your phone, I reminded myself.
After the dozenth trickle of messages, and no calls, I decided to go ahead and pick it up. I mean, why not? It probably had a finger print lock on it anyway. I thought about just shutting it off, but then thought better of it in case the owner called the phone looking for it.
Personally, if it were mine I’d just use a phone locator and ping it.
The guy had seemed older though. Maybe he didn’t know how to.
The red notification indicated that there were more than a thousand messages waiting for a response. Whoa. So it was the same app I used. Whatever this guy was selling, it was super popular. The most messages I’d ever received on there was when I gave stuff away for free. I bet he was doing just that.
I wish I could say that I put it back in the drawer and went about my business the rest of the day─ and to be fair I had the first hour or so. But the messages just kept coming.
Every few seconds triing.
It was really getting under my skin and at the same time peaking my curiosity. Over a thousand messages waiting for you, and still counting. What the hell was he offering?
OK, I reasoned. Maybe I just take a little peek.
I pulled down on the screen and then tapped the app. To my surprise, it logged in. The tab for messages was at the bottom and I shamelessly opened the top one.
Is this still available?
??
Hello?
I squinted at the thumbnail. It was pale flesh colored and looked folded up. From the image, I couldn’t exactly make out what it was.
Well, I had gotten this far.
I tapped on the picture and waited as it pulled it up.
It appeared to be a jumbled mess. I still couldn’t make sense of what I was seeing. It looked like a piece of furniture straight out of a Halloween shop. The feet looked like they were made of actual feet. The rest of the─ chair? Was made out of various body parts all sewn together. For reference, the seller stood next to it and you could see him from the neck down. I recognized the same shirt he had worn into our store.
OK.
Not what I was expecting, but couldn’t be what all the messages were about. Disgusted, I clicked on the messages again.
The next photo was more disturbing than the last. I retched and quickly closed the picture.
Holy. Shit.
This guy was fucked up. I needed to call the police right away.
You bet your ass I was going to, until this next part.
I had my phone in my hand, when it went off. First, it rang.
I do what I always do when I don’t recognize the number─ I rejected the call.
Big mistake.
My phone shut itself off. I mean, straight away. It was like by rejecting that call, I shut off the power instead.
I nearly jumped out of my skin when the store phone rang. I was shaking, but put my game face on and picked up the phone.
“Thank you for calling─”
“Why didn’t you pick up the phone?”
“I’m sorry?”
“Well, you were so enthralled by my apps and going through my private messages but you couldn’t pick up your phone?”
“Jesus.”
“Yes, I suspect you’ll pray to him soon enough.”
“You’re a piece of shit, and I’m going to call the police. Right fucking now.”
“Are you?”
I swallowed a few times in confusion. “What the fuck is wrong with you man? That’s a little kid. That’s so fucked.”
He laughed at me. He actually laughed at me. The kind of laugh that makes you think they know something that you don’t.
“I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that you touched my phone with your bare hand. I’m also going to take a guess that all the cameras in your store don’t work.”
I was completely silent. He had me there. But it didn’t change the fact that this was his phone, with his info stored on it. All of it was stupid, he was just trying to scare me.
“Fuck you. You don’t have shit on me” I shouted.
He paused and then chuckled. “Call the police, Richard. Go ahead.”
The line went dead.
Shaken, I replaced the phone back on the cradle. What the fuck was going on? He wanted me to call the cops. Told me to. He knew my name. I glanced down at my shirt and then sighed in relief. I’m a fucking idiot, my name was on my shirt.
I was going to nail this asshole. The cops would take me seriously, it’s not like I would call the police on myself if I were guilty. I felt sick to my stomach as I heard the cute jingle going off repeatedly. How old did these people think that child was? Chained up like that, covered in─
I bent over to the trash and puked until I couldn’t any more.
First thing’s first. My hands shook hard but I managed to take a few breaths and steady them enough to pick up the phone. I dialed 9 when the phone lit up.
“Call the police, Richard. Go ahead.”
I hung up the phone and picked it up. I’m ashamed and glad that I did. It was a text. A text from someone labeled ‘mom’.
Hey hunnie, I was thinking about making a pizza tonight does that sound good?
My eyebrows creased as I looked at the message again. Mom spelled hunnie that way. My mom.
But this wasn’t my phone. I picked up my own, unlocking the screen. It was still blank. I searched through my apps frantically looking for my Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. I sighed as they popped up. I clicked on my instagram and frowned. It was asking me to login. I tried to select to login with Facebook and sighed in frustration when it said my account wasn’t found.
What the hell?
The phone next to me went off again.
Hey dude,ustill going to come this weekend?
I got the doritos if u can snag some cokes.
The name on the text read JB. His name was Josh, but he’d always hated it and went by JB. We all knew that. I also knew that we were going to have a chill online stream with him, me, and his followers. Fuck.
Fuck this was all wrong.
I grabbed the phone and looked at it again. It was exactly like mine, a black galaxy s8 with a black cover. A black cover with a WW logo on the back just like mine of my favorite super hero. I clicked on app after app, all logged into my accounts with saved passwords from everything.
This guy had every password I ever owned, all logged onto this device under my name─
with my fingerprints.
Oh fuck, oh god. I swear to you guys it wasn’t me and I didn’t.
I couldn’t do that to anyone.
Especially a child.
#
Guess what? I’m back and wish that I had better news.
Yesterday went by uneventful. I still haven’t called the police. There is an image waiting for me on the new phone. I’ve tried texting and calling on my other phone, the one that was mine just yesterday. It just hangs up immediately and telling me that my text messages aren’t going through.
I’ve tried everything from resetting it (even factory resetting) and turning it off, and then on. Even weirder is the fact that I can’t download anything on it, even on wifi. It’s like the thing all of a sudden bricked. I think I’m going to go ahead and get a new one later today after my shift.
Since last night until this morning the messages haven’t stopped. I told you guys earlier that if I attempt to uninstall the app, it starts appearing in my email. I mean, full messages with images and all. I glanced through a few of them and quickly deleted them all.
I’ve changed every single one of my passwords, my bank account, all of my social media accounts, and got a new phone number. I was a little late coming in today because of it.
Did you just read that? I said I changed my phone number and all of my accounts.
That’s why I thought I had escaped this.
Until I pulled into the parking lot less than ten minutes ago.
tirring
I couldn’t believe it. Could. Not. The messages started pouring in again, one after the other just like before.
Who in the actual fuck is this guy and how is he transferring my stuff over like this?
I had this all figured out. I was going to attempt to do my research tonight so I could have a solid leg to stand on when I called the police. But the more I’ve asked people, the more they let me know it was in my best interest to just start my life over and not mention it.
I’m so torn. I want to do the right thing, but how can I when I know that it will mean years of convincing juries otherwise? And some definite jail time for me while proving my innocence. Even if I don’t get jail time, I’ll spend years of my life in and out of courtrooms. No one will believe me. I’ll be labeled a serial killer, or worse maybe a pedophile. I haven’t looked at more of the pictures, but the ones I did see were enough to lock me or anyone away forever.
All that blood.
This next part I’m sharing with you─ the one that made me lose the contents of my stomach─ well, you probably should stop reading this. Now.
My hands can’t stop shaking. I can’t make those images go away, I have to tell someone.
What I’m about to share with you, you can’t un-see. So just be warned, reader. I gave you a warning, so this next part is on you.
Those poor children. They are being forced, they have to be. God knows what else has happened. They’re all skin stretched over bone. The look on their faces. I don’t mean to be crude, but I can’t find any other way to relate to what their eyes show─ have you ever seen someone that has just died? Or maybe a junkie that has OD’d? Their eyes have this really weird glaze over them, like a film. I only know because my father OD’d on heroine and then later died. His eyes looked the same, moments before he stopped breathing.
This child in the photo had that very same look. The same eyes. The eyes just before death. They were covered, and I mean covered, in blood and─ parts. Human parts.
It gets worse. Remember, I tried to tell you not to look at this.
Some of those parts were large, they looked like they belonged to an adult. Then there were─smaller chunks. Please, don’t make me say it. Fucking christ. It was other children.
Do you know why that child was covered in blood?
I want you to think long and hard about starving. Really starving. Like the kind that will leave you desperate to ingest dirt or bugs, literally anything that gets near you. That is the level of thin this poor child looked.
Not only were they covered in who knows how many other parts of any known age, I haven’t gotten to the reason for not getting any sleep last night, or eating anything since then. It’s all I can think about─ all I can see. I mean, this is really messed up.
The child was also eating itself.
I can’t stop crying, I don’t know how I’m going to make it through work today. I know tomorrow is my day off, so if I can just pull through this six hour shift, I can have a whole day to do something. I’ve heard of reverse image searching, so I know if someone has ever posted from this image address it might show up again. Right? Maybe give me an idea of where this guy is located. I mean, that’s how it works I think. I could be horribly dumb or wrong, but I think it can find it if it’s been posted before.
If I can somehow prove that this has been done before my social media or emails were created (and I suspect he must have been doing it for a long time) maybe I have a snowball’s chance in hell to prove this was all being pinned on me.
I’m grasping at straws and I know it.
#
I finished my work day somehow. He hasn’t messaged, or called me anymore. I still haven’t had the courage to look at that image. That text message with the ‘?’ on it and ‘image attached I told all of you about earlier. I don’t think I have the heart or the stomach to see what this psycho has prepared for me. Or what he’s doing in my name, on my accounts.
I’ve mostly grown immune to all the vibrations in my pocket throughout the day. I don’t trust throwing it out in case he’s watching me, but I don’t want to destroy it because it’s evidence. I’m still clinging to some belief in human compassion. Maybe people will believe me.
But even as I think it, I know they won’t. I have to actually prove they exist somewhere I can’t get to. I could get lucky, he might be another state away.
#
I’m sitting at my computer at home now when I discover the truth.
He isn’t in another state, neither are they, and I now know that I am unequivocally fucked.
In fact, it could be a neighbor for all I know. It’s in the same fucking area as my house. And I’ve only managed to reverse image search two of the pictures. The one’s that I’d already seen.
How long has this been going on? Has he been watching me this whole time?
I’m beginning to wonder if it isn’t me doing all of this and if I even believe myself at this point.
#
It’s my day off and now I have something else to worry about. My mother is missing, she never came home last night.
Her job called earlier asking if she was coming in. I didn’t even know they had the landline number.
I always thought it was strange that we were probably one of the few families that actually still had one.
I was a little worried when she didn’t show last night since we had planned to have a pizza and watch a movie. I didn’t get too worried since she’s a nurse and sometimes has to work odd shifts. She also gets shit reception, so a missed text wasn’t really that big of a deal.
Not coming home the next day, or showing up for a shift? Big deal. My mother is the sort of woman that hasn’t missed a shift since the 90s. Pretty sure she isn’t going to mess up that track record.
I don’t want to admit it, but I’m pretty sure me ignoring that image has everything to do with this. He isn’t going to stand for being ignored. Apparently, I didn’t learn this the first time I didn’t answer his call.
I’ll admit it, I thought this could have been a prank. Somewhere in the back of my mind I was thinking this had to be JB doing some stunt for his Youtube. He’s pranked me before. I grew sort of suspicious after the reverse image search showed up in my neighborhood and my phone was bricked. I thought maybe he had put my phone as the ‘new phone’ and maybe gave me a bricked phone.
Though admittedly, he’s not really a genius and he wouldn’t do something as disgusting as this. Denial has been strong in me since all of this is happened. I’m looking for any way possible way to not have a choice in this.
I know it’s shameful, but I don’t want this kind of responsibility. I didn’t ask for it. Why did this asshole pick me?
He’s forcing me every step of the way and by ignoring him, I’m just pissing him off.
Now my mother is suffering for my own ignorance. It’s one thing if it’s me, but she doesn’t need to be hurt because of it. That woman does everything for me. She has since my Dad decided that drugs were better than his family.
Now I’m getting mad. Mostly I’m confused, but my anger is slowly mounting at the sheer arrogance of this asshole. OK, squeamish or not, I’m going to have to look through more of these photos and reverse image search these. Maybe they’ll give me some kind of clue. Maybe they’ll give me something.
My answer was another text message. I knew better than to ignore it this time.
I snatched it up and opened the message.
Maybe you’ll do better at not ignoring me this time,it read.
There was an image above it. I recognized the chair immediately and my mother’s favorite pair of sandals. I clicked the image and braced myself.
She looked better than I thought she would, the only thing I noticed was a few small bruises by her left eye and a thin trickle of blood from her head. But her eyes were closed, which meant he had hit her hard enough to make her unconscious. My mom wasn’t super old, but I knew that a head injury on a woman that was nearing her 50’s to not be a good thing.
I’m so angry, I’m barely able to respond but I take a few breaths and type,
Alright, you have my attention. What do you want?
His response? A single smile emoji. Seconds go by, and then minutes. I’m to the point that I’ve chewed off all of my fingernails and even drew a little blood before the next message sends.
1309 David St, come through the side gate, bring no one.
Enter the back door and sit at the kitchen table.
Put your hands on the table, and do not move.
If you call the police, I will kill her and then I will kill you.
#
Fuck, you guys. I’m actually doing it. I know it’s got to be a trap, I mean, it has to be. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that this man is going to do exactly as he says he will. Even if I do manage to call the police, he will kill her. Then, who knows how long until it’s me. I have the sinking feeling that if he is able to do as much as he has with the phone he’s given me, he’ll easily be able to brick and delete everything on it.
I would be the prime suspect in all of it and he wins, again. He knows that I’m at his mercy, he is toying with me and I can’t do anything about it. I may be on my way to my death, but I do exactly as he says.
#
My hands are resting on the table. There’s a strange odor that’s filled the house. It doesn’t smell bad, in fact, it smells absolutely delicious. The room smelled like something similar to a chicken pot pie. I could smell flour, carrots, onion, maybe some─ I sniff at the air again─ garlic? And there was another smell, like a rich and creamy smell. It was heavenly, and despite what I had been through in the last 48 hours my stomach audibly growled. I guess it had been a while since I’d actually eaten anything.
“Richard, I’m so glad that you could make it.”
His voice sounded different than I expected. I expected it to creep me out, or make my skin crawl. It was pleasant, like an older gentleman that was talking to an old friend. I immediately stared down at the table, careful to not look over at him. He was standing in the doorway.
“Oh now,” he tutted, “there’s no reason for that. You can look at me, I won’t harm you.”
I kept my eyes glued to the table, sure that this was some kind of trick. I’m really thrown by this nice guy act. He sounds genuine, like he really wants to be nice to me. My stomach twists in knots.
“Really, I won’t do you any harm. I just wanted to chat.”
“And, my mom?” I stutter.
“I promise I won’t harm her if you look at me. I prefer to look in your eyes. You can tell a lot about a man by looking him in the eyes. I prefer it.” His words were friendly, but there was an unspoken warning there. “You are a man, aren’t you Richard?” Now he’s insulting my manhood, but it’s his other words that lead me to think that I should listen. Not the insult.
I nod and tilt my head up and then stare right into his eyes.
I was right, he’s older but not super old. His eyes are kind, large and a pale shade of blue. He’s got creases just around his eyes, the kind of wrinkles you get from years of smiling and easy living. He’s dressed in a blue polo with khaki shorts and brown loafers. He looks the epitome of a well-off dad that just got back from the store. His hair has grayed a bit near his temples and he has a slender, yet masculine jawline. He doesn’t look particularly strong, but you can tell he keeps himself in shape.
It’s what’s in his hands that intrigue me. Two bowls with equal looking pies and forks sticking out.
He pads over and sets them on the table, scooting the one from his right hand to me.
My stomach rumbles again as the smell reaches my nose. It smells so damn good. I eye it warily as he digs into his own. After eating a couple of bites from his, he sighs, sticks the fork into mine and takes a scoopful into his mouth.
“Eat, Richard. You’re going to need your strength,” he says soothingly.
I don’t really want to, but I know this is part of his game. Control, power─ These sort of guys thrive off of it.
I stare down at the golden crust and smooth, creamy soup-like filling. Despite it all, he’s right. I do need to eat.
He smiles, raising his eyebrows and leans in, “don’t be shy, it’s homemade. None of that store-bought junk here. Made it just last night, popped it in the freezer and baked it a little while ago.” He stuffed some more in his mouth, “You’ll love it, I promise. It’s my mama’s recipe, she won best-in-state with this a few years ago.”
I picked up the fork and cut into the crust, there was an audible crunch as I scooped it out. He wasn’t joking about the flavor. The crust was perfectly flaky and buttery and the inside was creamy and smooth. It might have been that I was hungry, but this had been the best meat pie I’d ever eaten.
He smiled over at me, “how does it taste?”
I’m still baffled by him, but I nod, “it’s good.” I scoop more into my mouth, “really good,” I add.
He’s all grins from ear to ear and slaps the table, “see? You thought I was fibbing, didn’t you?” He leans over his own and shovels a bit more.
I grin nervously and relax a degree, looking around. I hope he hasn’t harmed mom too much. I don’t know what this man is planning or what he wants to do with me, but I know that I know too much.
I swallow a few times, take a breath and start my plea, “Please, don’t hurt her because of me─”
“Let’s not talk business over food, now, this is sacred,” he interrupts angrily. “People these days, they don’t understand about hunger. You can walk down the street and see the obesity.” He clicks his tongues a few times, “they raise their own damn kids the same way. Oh─” he covers his mouth, “please excuse my obscenities, that wasn’t very gentlemanly of me.”
I nod, shaking my head up and down like an idiot. As if he needs my permission. “Although, you’ve got a bit of a mouth on you too, don’t you young man?” He asks. I nod again. He eyes my fork hovering over my bowl, long enough that I get the point and quickly spoon some more into my mouth.
His easy smile returns and his face relaxes. I eat quietly, my eyes returning to the table. I thought about what it was he was saying, a knot of dread forming in my own stomach. My own mother was pretty heavy set for her height, she looked like she could have been close to two hundred pounds and was always fussing about losing weight. She’d tried different diets over the years, but would constantly sabotage herself and eat candy or cookies. I think she gave up some time ago.
So he didn’t like people that took food for granted, or over-ate. Was this why we were being targeted? I’m not thin as a rail, but I was nowhere near heavy.
“Most parents I get don’t deserve their children. They take care of themselves, you see,” he says. “I have to teach those children and parents a lesson about not taking life for granted. He leans back and finishes the last bite of his food. He neatly dabs at his mouth with the napkin, sets it down and then crosses his arms.
I’m about halfway done with my own when I finally get to the meat. The veggies had been extremely delicious, but the meat─ it was unlike anything I’d ever had. It was moist, yet firm and fell apart in my mouth. It had sort of a game-y flavor, but it wasn’t bad, I could tell it had been marinated or possibly pressure cooked to make it juicy.
“Well now, you’ve made it to the best part,” he chuckles. “That is a secret family recipe right there. Mama was so hung up on it, she’d never tell any of us.” He sighed and brushed at invisible crumbs on his pants, “except me.”
I nodded, trying not to say anything that would upset him more. Until just a few moments ago, you’d think this guy was just some pig-headed old man stuck in his ways. I know the reality behind his snake-like southern charm and the anger that really seethed below.
I want to get out of here. I want him to spit it out and tell me how I can save my mother, whatever he wants. I’d even kill if I had to. Not like my life isn’t already ruined. After several long minutes I finish the last of the pie. I follow suit and clean off my face and hands, then sit with my hands folded and wait.
He surprises me by extending his hand, “there’s a good boy. Alright now, go on and say your peace.”
There’s a large lump in my throat and I’m sure he can see me visibly shaking. He knows I’m scared, he knows he has me. Secretly he must be jumping for joy at the chance to watch me squirm. I want answers. I want to know why me, why all of this and why he has chosen to ruin my life. I’m just some guy trying to get by. I want to ask all of this, but I can tell he’s testing me and that I’m going to have to do this his way.
“What do you want from me?” I ask. I try to sound as non-threatening as I can, hoping to appeal to some form of his human side. If he has one.
He smiles at me again, but this time it’s another sort of smile. One that makes me believe that he already has what he’s looking for. Then, as if reading my own thoughts he says, “Oh, I’ve already gotten that. You see Richard, I’ve been doing this for a very, very long time. I’ll do it again once you’ve left, and I’ll get away with it.” He paused, inching closer, “Don’t try to find me, don’t be brave and just live what life you have left to. You’re free to go on about your way.” I sit very still, staring across at him.
“What do you mean? What about my mother?”
His grin gets wider. “She’s here, don’t you worry.” It’s not what he said, but how he’s said it. Like a game he’s playing with a child who doesn’t yet understand the rules.
He leans in real close, so close that I can smell his breath. It lingers in the air, the sweet smell of carrots, potatoes, and the delicious meat.
“Tell me again, Richard. How did you enjoy the meat pie?”
─To Be Continued? Maybe. The killer is still out there.
❤ Grey

My Family is Falling Apart – Conclusion

Part I

Part II

Part III

I stare across the house from the living room and then turn back to the patio door. So this is it. This is what being insane is like. It’s Monday morning and I’ve scheduled an emergency appointment with a psychologist first thing. I have to run by the office first but it shouldn’t take long. Kyle is giving the presentation instead of me. It’s the first personal day I’ve taken in nearly five years. Suffice it to say everyone has already asked if I’m dying.

I roll into the parking lot, jet up the three flights of stairs and then slip into my office. I don’t intend to stay long, just look over the presentation and make sure it doesn’t have any obvious mistakes. Kyle is usually great with this sort of thing when I need to sit one out, so I’m not worried. I skim through most of it and grin. Good man, I think, looks great. I sigh in relief and send out an email that it’s approved. If this doesn’t seal the deal I don’t know what will. It was four months of hard work with a more than capable team. Minus Carroll.  

I stare across at the empty office. What on earth was she afraid of? Why did she call Jenna instead of me? Jen doesn’t work here. It just doesn’t make sense and the more I think about it, the angrier and more hurt I get. Did they talk about me behind my back? Had they always been this close? At this point I know it’s useless to dwell on it, but it’s the one thing that just doesn’t fit into the equation. Shaking my head I scoop up my keys and pull my door shut. I’m turning the lock when the smell hits me.

Jesus, it’s bad.

I glance up as people start to funnel through toward me. “Hey Tom, I thought you were taking a personal day?” I grin and wave at Kyle. “Hey man, you know I trust you to do an amazing job, but I’m still going to check.” Kyle gives a hearty laugh, shaking his head. “I would expect no less from our top guy, and honestly I welcome the second set of eyes. You never know, and with Carroll gone─” he sniffs and turns toward her office. “Holy shit. Did something die in there?”

I stiffen and turn toward the office. “You smell it too? Carroll mentioned it the other day. I thought I was going crazy.” Kyle turns toward me, his eyebrows raised. “Wait, Carroll called you? What did she say? Is she OK?” I study his face. His breathing has picked up and his nostrils are flared. His eyes are wide, scared-looking with a hint of anger. Then it dawns on me. They were seeing each other. I chuckle uneasily, “well, she was here a few days ago before she quit. Said she needed to take a few personal days.”

Kyle’s face turns pale and his fists ball at his side. “This is so typical. She hasn’t responded to me in over a week. She just disappears from the office, randomly shows up and then asks for more days off.” He wipes at his eyes muttering something about needing a minute and then he’s gone.

#

“Tell me more about the women in your life, past, and present.” Dr. Tanner says. I expected to talk a little bit in this first session, but these questions are leading to something I don’t like. What does this have to do with anything I’ve just said to him.

“Look, no disrespect but I’ve just told you that my house was torn apart by a non-existent tornado and that my soon-to-be ex-wife was a monster and some weird wind-beast is following me around. Why are you even asking me about this?” I say.

He smiles across at me with that infuriating calm all physicians seem to possess, “Yes, you mentioned these things, but one of them was before a head injury, the other was around bedtime, and the third you said you were looking out of your back window.”

OK, I think, and? I stare over at him and cross my arms.

When I don’t answer, he sighs and continues, “Tom, all of these things have a pattern. Do you not see it?” I frown, “That I’m going insane?” I offer. He shakes his head, “Far from it. When was the last time you had more than a few hours of sleep?” I pause awkwardly and think. Holy shit, he’s right. When was the last time I had enough rest?

I let out a long sigh. The weight of the world rushes from my shoulders to my fingertips and then finally the floor. The known side effects of sleep deprivation, all of them added up. I place my face into my hands and cry. Finally, things were making sense. I feel his warm hand on my shoulder and then he places a box of tissues in front of me.

“I tell you what, I’m going to go ahead and prescribe you something to help you both relax and sleep. It’s just a mild sedative and it is non-habit forming.” I nod automatically and sniff as I wipe the soft tissue against my face.

He reaches into his drawer and scribbles on a piece of paper. “In the meantime, let’s schedule another session and we can get more into the heart of the issue. I think this may be all stemming from much more than sleep-deprived hallucinations.” What could possibly be worse than this? I wonder.

The drive home has never felt so long. It’s as if my body has caught up to what Dr. Tanner said. I ache, from head to toe and my eyes are so raw I can feel every vein pulsing beneath the surface. I really want to talk with Karis, but I think it’s better that I just close my eyes for the next twelve hours.

I can’t believe how dumb I’ve been. Monsters? Conspiracies? Damn, man. Get your shit straight. I’m really glad that the pharmacy was around the corner from the doctor’s office. I don’t think I would have made it another mile past what I have. My knees wobble as I turn the lock and stumble inside. I don’t think any amount of caffeine could keep my eyes apart. I want to collapse in bed, but remember I won’t get actual sleep unless I take my meds. He warned me that I may be able to fall asleep while anxious, but I won’t be able to stay asleep.

I down the pills, kick off my shoes and collapse into pillowy bliss.

#

The sound I hear next is not the one I expect. I expected the familiar soft jingle that wakes me every single morning. This one is different. Like a low drone, a humming. I roll and pull the sheets over my head. Not alarm, I think, go back to sleep. Then it happens again, and then a third time before I realize that my phone is ringing. Angry, I roll over and look outside. It’s still light out, I must have only been out for a few hours. Damn it. I scoop up the phone and look at the caller I.D.

I clear my throat a few times and then answer, “Hey man. How did the meeting go?”

“Hey. I’m sorry, were you sleeping? I didn’t know you were taking another day off.” I bolt up and look at my phone. It’s 10 a.m.

Tuesday at 10 a.m.

“Christ, dude. I’m sorry. The doctor gave me some pills yesterday, I haven’t been sleeping. I must have slept straight through my alarm.” “Oh wow,” he says, “hey, no worries man. You must have needed it. I can hold down the fort another day, you get some sleep.” I clear my throat again, slowly starting to clear the fog in my mind, “You sure? I don’t mind coming in if you need me to help. Everything go alright yesterday?” I can hear his smile from the other end, “we crushed it. They signed first thing this morning, that report was freaking phenomenal man. You added some stuff in there I didn’t even think of. I really appreciate that.”

I grin, “well, keep at it and you’ll be where I am in a few years.” He chuckles. We both knew he was just as good. I’m hoping to see him promoted by the end of the year. The guy was a genius.

He shifts and then sighs, “there is one thing you can do for me.” he says. “What’s up?” I ask. “Can you ask Carroll to please call me when she can? I just want to know if she’s OK.” He sounds really sad, almost broken. Poor guy, I know where his head is at right now. “Of course. I’ll let you know right away if I hear anything.” “Thanks, man, I really appreciate it. Speaking of which, this is a little off-topic but can you have Brett call maintenance and check out her office? That smell really needs to be taken care of. People have been complaining all day.”

“Sure, I’ll give him a call right now. And Kyle, thanks again for all your hard work and taking care of yesterday and today.” I say. He thanks me and hangs up. I make another note to promote him asap and then roll out of bed. First thing’s first.

“Brett Manning.” he rumbles on the first ring. “Hey, Brett. I need you to email maintenance about Carroll’s old office. There’s a─” “Smell like putrid ass coming from there? Yes, I know. I put in a complaint a few hours ago, hopefully, they get to it today. Honestly, if it isn’t taken care of tonight, I think I may have to quit. Sorry, not sorry.” I laugh and shake my head, good ole Brett. “I don’t blame you. Let me know if they fix the problem today. If not, we may just go ahead and give a staff holiday tomorrow or let people work from home.” “I vote staff holiday,” he quips. “You would. Thanks, man, I appreciate it. See you tomorrow.” “Maybe,” he says and hangs up the phone.

The rest of the day goes by pretty uneventful. I pick up my phone for the thousandth time and look through my text messages. Still nothing. If I don’t get a call by 8 tonight, I’ve decided I’m going to call her instead. Normally, I like to let her be the one to call me in case they are in the middle of something. Just relax, I think, they are probably having a good time and forgot to call last night. Besides, would I have even heard it?

My stomach complains at me in a high pitched squeal and then a deep rumble. My first instinct is to reach for a box of cookies, but when my stomach turns just thinking about it, I realize I need actual food. A quick glance in my fridge tells me all I need to know. Take out it is.

#

I settle on some pepper beef and rice and then plant myself in front of the computer. It’s been so long since I’ve used this thing for fun that I forget I have at least three new games I’ve purchased recently. I used to be an avid gamer. In college, it was all I did. Hell, my degree was wrapped around becoming a 3d modeler for the game industry. My buds and I had won several competitions for most innovative. That was just before the crash in ‘08. I basically graduated with a useless degree, and here I am now managing teams of people that make websites for other companies. It wasn’t a dream job, but it paid more than enough to keep us comfortable. At the end of the year, I’d be looking at a possible promotion and making over $400k. It wasn’t what Jen made, but it was a decent living.  

The game fires up and I’m pumped. I’m a super nerd for sci-fi, especially shooters. Add mechs and I’m all in. This one checked all the boxes. Before I knew it, the doorbell sounds.

I glance at the camera and see the young delivery guy there. I’d have to go AFK for a minute, but I was in free play mode so I wouldn’t be holding anyone back. 

I let out a long sigh and pat my stomach. Man, that was some of the best Chinese food I’d had in a while. Or you were just hungry, I think. I stand and stretch, yawning loudly. I’m beat. I glance at my watch. It was well past Karis’s bedtime. I look at my phone and instantly feel guilty, there’s a missed call. Then, on closer inspection, I notice it wasn’t Jenna. Damn. Part of me is hoping that she got voicemail for once. Then a new feeling sets in. Why haven’t they called? It’s now been two days. While that wouldn’t really be a point of concern for many, it was for me. Jenna is an extremely punctual and respectful person. The silent treatment wasn’t her thing. Even when they fought she would tell him that she was angry and needed a moment to herself.

Maybe she sent a text, or she’s in an area without reception, I reason silently. I pull up my messages and then click on her name. I send a quick, ‘hey haven’t heard from you in a couple days, everything alright?’ Message and then wait. Fifteen minutes drag on, and then another thirty. I pace, staring at my phone and willing it to light up with the little rectangle of light. Don’t be crazy, I tell myself, they do live in the country. Unable to stand another minute of this I leave the room. I needed a distraction. A shower. My body responds with a slight shiver. Not the bad kind, but the sort that tingles you all over in anticipation. How long had it actually been since I’d taken a nice, long one? I sigh, pausing just outside of the bathroom. Best to keep it nearby, just in case, I think. I circle back to the living room, scoop up my phone and then pad to the bathroom. The cool tiles are unwelcome to my feet, but I ignore the slight discomfort in lieu of what is waiting for me. The hot liquid instantly bubbles out, splashing my arm as I pull it back. A sneak peek of what is waiting for me once I leave the frozen floor rocks that are my tiles behind.

I check the ringer, see that it is on and that no new text messages have arrived. Let it be, I tell myself. If you don’t hear from them by tomorrow, then worry.  This seemed to calm me. I shrug off my clothes and toss them aside. I pull at the glass door until the soft clink happens. My legs fold and I sit on the bench, allowing my head to get completely submerged.

My body melts into the water and despite the warmth, I shiver. I might as well be outside for all the heat I’m retaining. A cold creeps along my spine and seeps into my bones. My eyes close and I feel myself drift from the beating water against my skin.

Flashes of Karis’s smile pop into my mind. We’re walking along the beach, the sky an endless blue. I love you, daddy. Her giggles sprinkle across my mind like a summer breeze. I’m all grins, smiling at her sweet face. I love you too, baby girl, I say, reaching out and taking her little hand. The sky fades from the warm, sunrise colors, to an ugly grey and blue. Thick, dark clouds roll in. Not just any clouds─ those clouds. Its clouds. Instinctively, I reach to pull her close to my side and grasp at air. Karis is gone.

I spin frantically, searching the whole area, but the only thing I can see is the tall, dense grass. Miles and miles of nothing but the tall mess of green that reaches to the sky. There are no trees, no place to hide. Lightning explodes around the sky, and an angry rumble growls from the distance. Then it starts. This time it’s not just close to me, it’s behind me. No matter which way I turn, it is always a step ahead. It’s loud enough to be annoying, but soft enough that I can’t get a handle on just how close it is.

The suction sound drones on. It’s now moving all around me. Coming from every which way. I cover my ears and spin on the shore. There must be some way out of here. Some way back to the comfort of my home. I’m struggling to remember what it was I was doing. Something to do with warmth, I was vulnerable. The draining noise stops momentarily, and all that can be heard is the gentle rustle of grass behind me and the waves lapping at my heels. Something about the water dug at me as I stood there. Why am I here? Could it be possible that I fell asleep?

Yes, that sounds right.

I had stayed up late to play a game and checked my phone. After that, I─

What was it? My head is pounding as the deep rumble sounds again. Shower. The thought jumps into my head and I remember. I had been checking my phone before I turned on the shower. Then I sat down and closed my eyes. This time, it is distinctly closer. I know this because the spider webs of light are blinding, and the earth shifts beneath my feet. This can’t be real, I reason, because I’m dreaming.  I can feel Its vibration as It crawls toward me. I’ve fallen asleep in the shower, and I am safe and alone. The shiver returns as I sense the movement behind me. To my absolute terror, I know that It is standing there.

Click

Click

Click

Click

It’s swirling is now mixed with a new sound. Insect-like pops and chitters that blend with the draining-suction. Wake up, I yell. The clicking now sounds questioning, prodding even. It’s backed away, but I know full well that the demon is less than twenty feet from me.  I have acted, but not in a way that It expects. It’s not sure how to react, Its clicks and pops almost sound confused. I take a step forward, inching my way toward the water. When nothing happens, I take one more. Suddenly, the pattern starts again, click whirr, click, click, cli
God damn it, wake your ass up now I growl. I howl in agony as a new sensation rips into my left wrist. I spin toward the pain, cradling my left arm with my right. Blood oozes down my arm, then drips to my feet. It’s the only noise that fills the air. The wind has died, the lightening subdued. Not even a blade of grass dares to stir. It’s as if the entire world is holding its breath, terrified of the beast. 

My eyes are glued to my arm. There are two distinct slices trailing from the top of my wrist down to the forearm. Neat, precise cuts. Deep ones. I stare at the blood as it pools from my wounds. It wraps my arm and drips to the ground. I’m mesmerized by the amount that flows from me.

It isn’t real, I tell myself. Over and over again. It isn’t real, it isn’t real, it isn’t real.

There’s movement behind my arm. A darting movement that is so fast I can’t keep up with it. It’s as if the monster exists in two places jumping between the planes. I can see that it towers me. The gargling, and then clicks continue. Almost as if this is Its way of drawing breath. There’s a waving movement, like thousands of wriggling worms.  I want to look up, but I can’t bring myself to. Somehow I think that if I don’t look at it, it can’t harm me.

If I can’t see it, it can’t see me. 

I smirk, remembering the logic I’d had as a child hiding beneath my covers. I guess we never really grow up.

It sighs, breathing a rancid stench into my face and lungs. I squeeze my eyes shut. It isn’t real, it isn’t real, it isn’t real. 

The pop-click, then click, click, click is inches from my face. Every muscle in my body tenses up as I ready myself for the inevitable blow. My legs buckle and I drop to the ground.

I’m surprised as my hands shoot out and are met with smooth, wet tile. I’m crouched on the shower floor, my head leaning on the wall. Suddenly, I’m overwhelmed with emotion. I curl my legs under my chin and rock back and forth beneath the stream. It’s long since gotten cold, but I don’t care.

I’m free from the evil creature. At least, for the moment.

#

I groan and roll over, willing the annoying sound to stop. The jarring noise sounds again, and then again. I growl and roll towards it. Scooping the phone up, I look at the screen and then hastily hit the green button.

“Hey, I was wondering when I would hear from you guys.” I sit up, excited to hear Karis and Jenna’s voice again. “Daddy?” I clear my voice a few times, trying to get the grogginess out of it. “Yeah, baby. Daddy is here. How is your trip going?” Static fills the speaker. It sounds like she’s trying to say something, but it keeps cutting out. “Sorry baby, Daddy can’t hear you. What was that?” I struggle to make anything out. “…my’s good. I’ve had fun.” I smile as she finally comes through. “You’ve had fun? That’s great! I miss you, sweetie.” There’s silence on the other end.

“Sweetheart, are you there?” There’s a burst of static, then “Daddy?” I panic and respond instantly, “Yes, I’m here. I’m glad you’ve had a great time.” There’s a long static filled pause. “…my’s good. I’ve had fun.” A knot forms in the pit of my stomach. “Yes, baby. You just said that.” I swallow thickly. “Can you put mommy on the line?” I’m met with more static. “…Daddy?” A lump forms in my throat. “Who is this?” I manage to choke out. There’s a long pause, then, “…my’s good. I’ve had fun.” This time her voice sounds different. As if she knows something that I don’t. My hands tremble as I hear the static grow louder from the other side.

Her laughter breaks through the static. Not Karis’s soft, twinkling laughter. It’s something else. Something that sounds like my little girl. My throat goes dry. I’m finding it harder and harder to breathe. How long is it going to toy with me?

“Daddy?” it’s her. It sounds like her. She’s frightened. “Baby? Where are you? Are you OK?” “Daddy, are you OK?” I let out a long sigh, covering my hands with my face. “Yes, sweetheart. I’m alright. How is your trip?” The silence that follows makes me nervous. I’m worried that I am being messed with again when I hear, “Oh. It was good. I told you that a long time ago.” I sit up. “A long time ago?” She sighs really loud, “yes,” she says, “like, a long time ago.” I’m immediately alarmed and confused. I glance at the date on my phone, then bring it back to my ear. “When did you talk to daddy about the trip?” I can hear her fidgeting on the other line. “Daddy?” My stomach twists, “yes, baby?” “When are you going to come to get me?” I frown at how small and scared she sounds. “I can come now if you want.” I tear up as I hear her start crying on the other end.

“Honey? Don’t cry. I’ll come over, right now.” I hear a few more gasps and then the phone goes quiet. Confused, I immediately dial Jenna’s number. It goes straight to voicemail.

I roll out of bed and throw on my clothes.

#

I’m in Jenna’s driveway, tearing across the parking lot when my phone goes off.  I pull it out frantically, then frown at the screen. It’s the same number from last night. I swipe it to go to voicemail and beat on the door. I wait.

Thirty seconds go by, then a minute. I’m not sure if she has heard me. This time, I knock louder.

I take a step back and yell, “Jenna, it’s me.” Thirty more seconds, still there is only silence.

My phone jingles and I look at the message that’s popped up:

Voicemail 00:31

Maybe it was work. I am supposed to be in this morning. I look at the time and frown. Not this early, it’s barely 7:30 in the morning. The office won’t be open for another thirty minutes. Probably a telemarketer or scam. No one calls me. Except Jenna.

I try the door again and gasp as it pops open. I stare as it slowly comes back toward me and snaps shut. I try the knob, and it easily swings open.

“Hello?” I call inside. I hesitate at the entrance, unsure of what I should do. I didn’t want to intrude. Maybe I’m just overreacting. Suddenly, I’m embarrassed. What if Karis is just having a moment and I read too much into it?

“Jen? You here?” I glance around the living room and then over to the stairs. A thin streak of red lines the stairs all the way to the top. Now I’m really worried. I’m very aware that the only thing I have is the clothes on my back, and my phone. What if someone else is here? What if they have a gun?

I ease the door closed and quickly run over to the kitchen. Without thinking, I reach above the refrigerator in the cabinet. Strapped right where it was in our house is Jen’s gun. I rip it out and check the clip, exactly fifteen bullets are still there. She hasn’t had a chance to use it. I pull back, getting one bullet in the chamber and turn toward the stairs.

I jump as the phone vibrates in my pocket. Jesus, I swear silently, Good thing I didn’t have my finger on the trigger. I edge up against the wall and look at my caller I.D. The same number is calling me. Maybe I should go outside and answer it. Maybe it’s Jenna.

I sneak back outside and manage to answer on the last ring. “Hello?” I say quietly, not wanting to alert anyone that may be inside. “Jesus, dude. You’re hard to get a hold of. Did you get my message?” I relax at Kyle’s voice. “No, sorry man. I had to run and pick up kiddo early this morning. I may be bringing her into work today.” There’s a slight pause on the other end. “You getting to see her again?” I frown, “Yeah, why wouldn’t I?” “I don’t know man, there was a lot of…you know. With you and Jenna.” I sigh. Oh right, he wouldn’t have known about the agreement between me and her recently. “Oh, yeah that all got worked out. So, what’s going on?” He cleared his throat, “well, turns out they found something in Carroll’s office. They are shutting down the whole office for the day. I just wanted to let you know to not come in.”

“They found something?” I ask. “Yeah, they think an animal might have crawled up between the floorboards and died. They hired a crew to come in and clean it up.” “Oh, OK.” I say. “I appreciate you letting me know. We all coming back in tomorrow?” I look over at the door. It’s still propped open, no Jenna in sight.

“Yeah, it shouldn’t take too long. The crew actually got here about twenty minutes ago. I just wanted to catch you before you left.” “Alright,” I answer, “thanks again, man. I’ll see you tomorrow.” He mutters something and then we both hang up.

Good. That means I can see what the hell is going on. Hopefully, Jen is just upstairs and can’t hear me. My mind goes back to the first time I saw her in this place─ the way her skin moved beneath my touch. Her long, unnatural stride.

I glanced up as a dark cloud rolled over the sun, bathing the area in an eerie green light. Again, I pause by the door. What if this is a trap? What if…It is in there, waiting for me to walk right into Its trap. Is Jenna a part of it? I started thinking about how different she had been acting lately. This huge, expensive looking home. How young she looked the last time I saw her.

Tom, I just want you to know─ I’m sorry. 

I stare into the house as I push open the door. What are you sorry for? I wonder for the thousandth time. Sorry that you tore us all apart?

I climb the stairs, the gun weighing heavy in my right hand. I peek into Karis’s room, then double check the hallway. It’s quiet as ever. The sun shines for a moment, bathing the room in a warm glow. It’s a peaceful feeling, almost safe. I know why she loves this space. It’s completely open. You can see the entire house from up here and most of the kitchen. Jenna always hated walls.

The sun slips back behind the clouds and the putrid green is back. I take a deep breath and push on Karis’s door. It makes contact with something and stops. Something solid. I grunt and push harder. A loud whimper comes from behind the door. I pause, crouch down and call softly, “here boy, come here.” Another whimper. I look down the hall again and then back to Karis’s door. It’s wide enough for me to squeeze through. I have to make a decision. I look into her room.

Her bed has been made and everything is neat. It looks as if she hasn’t even been here. I reach in and grasp at the door handle. The whimper gets louder and I feel something jump on the door. There’s a soft woof and then another whine. I feel around until I grip something tangled around the door. It feels like─ I pull it off the handle and then bring it around the door. The lump on the end hobbles toward me and then the dog is suddenly in front of the door. He’s been completely tangled in the leash, no doubt trying to get out of the room and then shutting himself in. He nips at me as I untie it from around his neck, and then shoulders. It doesn’t hurt, I can tell he’s just scared. I coo down at him, running my hands behind his ears and neck.

He whines but allows it, desperate for human contact. I pick him up and take him downstairs. I’m reluctant to tie him up, but I need him to stay out of the way while I search for Jen and Karis. I fill a bowl of water and another with a little bit of food. He doesn’t seem to take notice as I hook the leash around the table and tie it off. He’s happily chowing down on the food as I climb the stairs.

Now I’m really worried. Jen never mistreats animals or leaves them alone for longer than a few minutes. The dog would have been with her, or in the back room where he could go outside and then back into his crate. I glance down at my arms and gasp. They’re covered in blood. A quick glance tells me it’s not my own. It must be from the dog. I want to run and check his injuries, but I need to find them first.

I’m at full speed. If someone is still in the house, they would have attacked me by now. Or got out. I’m being incredibly stupid, but I need to know.

Fuck it. 

“Jenna?” I burst into Karis’s room. I drop to look under her bed and then search her closet. They all turn up empty. “Karis? Honey, are you OK?”

I scream through the hallway, busting down every door on the way to Jenna’s room. Empty, empty, fucking empty. 

My phone goes off just as I round the corner. Jenna’s room is a few feet away. I halt at the entrance. It’s then that I notice all the water. It’s pooling into the room. My phone hums several times as I trace the source back to the right. The door is closed.

My lip trembles as my knees wobble, threatening to buckle beneath me.

I can’t breathe. Can’t move. I’m vaguely aware that my phone is going off again. I stare at the silver door handle. My own reflection is small, weak. Jesus, I look so small.

My hand trembles as I reach for the phone. It’s buzzing again, this time with a voicemail. I know what is waiting for me behind that door. I bring the phone up to my head and play back the message.

“You sick son-of-a-bitch. I know it was you. I KNOW IT WAS YOU─ Do you know how they found her?” The phone drops from my hands. There’s more screaming and yelling, but I can’t make it out.

I don’t want to do what my legs are doing, but they won’t stop. I’m in another person’s body opening the door.

All I wanted was to be a husband, a father.

I stagger into the room and reach for the handles to turn off the water. I stare down, numb. I can hardly move. I don’t want to move─ I don’t want to look. Her delicate, pale hand is cradled by a smaller hand resting on the side of the tub. Karis is laid across Jenna, curled in a fetal position. They look so beautiful, it’s as if they were asleep.

I jump as Jenna’s eyes flash open and she smiles. She grins lovingly up at me as she cradles Karis in her arms. My wife, my beautiful wife is back. I cry, holding the two in my arms. The drain sounds, swirling and whirling around us. The room darkens as rain pelts against the glass.

I feel Jenna wrap her hand around my own and pull me back toward them. She smiles, wrapping her hand against mine. I’ve missed her touch so much, how I’ve longed to just be here in her arms. She caresses my cheek, then runs the length of my arm down toward the gun. I cradle the other side of her, Karis positioned in my lap. I felt her hand in mine as she guided my hand up to my mouth.

Her blues were so perfectly calm, her skin smooth as silk against mine. I stare into them as I hold her and Karis. I feel her squeeze my finger and I close my eyes.

Finally we’re together again, a whole, happy family.

      

Obligatory Update Post

So I thought I would do one of those update posts. I haven’t done one in a while and wanted to share a little of my life.  (warning, long boring text)

I started a new job around 3 months ago that has been really time intensive. I had a few concerned messages about me still doing my videos for you guys and podcasting.

No worries, you guys. I had to have an adjusting period to get my head straight and not come home dead exhausted. I am definitely going to keep doing those. I mentioned that I will be sending my work off to a publisher, I will be doing that in 3 weeks and will hopefully know something within 6 months. (publishers take quite some time to respond, as you can imagine!)

One of the things I struggle with is being able to stick with one thing and going with it. Especially being horribly ADHD and for a while, unmedicated. I also was diagnosed with something I’m not comfortable sharing on social media, but it is genetic, so thanks, mom 

I had the last few months to really turn my attention to what it is I wanted to do. I have been focused on doing too much at once, versus focusing on what it is I enjoy. I enjoy storytelling, I enjoy drawing. So, that is what I should do. Everything else should fall to the wayside as a hobby. 

In short, I’m here and not going anywhere – Just had to get there mentally. 

I heart you all! ~♥


Grey ❤