Blogoween Day 16 – True Terror Tuesday: Growing Up

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That’s it. Growing up. It’s fucking scary. End of blog.

Just kidding, I am way more long winded than that.

Did you ever play “light as a feather, still as a board” growing up? In case you’re unfamiliar, the game goes something like this:

One friend lies on the ground, arms crossed over her chest like a corpse. The rest of the friends encircle her, kneeling or sitting, and slide their middle and pointer fingers under her body (coincidentally, the Ouija planchette fingers). Sometimes, if not every time, one of the sitting friends tells a story about how the subject “died” or gives a little eulogy, and then the friends in the circle chant: “Light as a feather, stiff as a board” over and over until they are able to lift the “dead” friend off the floor.

Does it work? In my memory, abso-fucking-lutely. And you don’t question it as a kid because duh, magic is real, and all the grown ups are just keeping it from you! Or they don’t believe anymore so they can’t experience it (like Santa). But it’s right there, in your bedroom, levitation by the power of four ten-year-olds chanting a phrase that one of them learned from their big sister.

So it’s most likely that, as a group, we picked one another up, and were so caught up in the game, it felt real, and after a couple decades our memories are just fuzzy enough to let us question what happened in the wee hours of a weekend morning long ago, but there is a part of me that wants to believe there is some kind of magic going on. And there’s a bigger part of me that wishes I still had the capacity that ten year old me had to anticipate certain outcomes.

I was thinking about this game and others like it and the willingness of my childhood friends (and myself) to engage in such things. Similarly we played Bloody Mary and Candyman (whose name to this day makes me nervous) which always evoked a quick exit from the bathroom and have made me forever nervous of mirrors in dark rooms. Less “dangerous” were fortune-telling games with folded paper and asking ouija boards who you might marry when you grow up (to be clear: I do not believe ouija boards are inherently evil, Hasbro is not mass-producing portals to hell, ya’ll). There were other, let’s call them rituals that bordered on the occult like “crack an egg on your head” or guessing what words someone was tracing on your back, and even the act of braiding the hair of your friend who sat in front of you in class, now looking back on it, was almost like witchcraft, the physical embodiment of saying “this is a member of my coven.”

I wanted to find the origin of light as a feather since it seems such a shared experience, but unlike games with poems or songs like Red Rover or Ring Around The Rosie, it is often done in secret, at night, rarely spoken of outside the slumber party, and unobserved. How did it get handed down and for how long has it existed? Surely it was imagined in the last hundred or so years, maybe popularized by some movie in the seventies, and it will die off in the next few generations in favor of all the 3am games popping up all over the internet. I was surprised, however, to find the diary Samuel Pepys, a British civil servant, who wrote the following in his diary on July 31, 1665:

This evening with Mr. Brisband, speaking of enchantments and spells; I telling him some of my charms; he told me this of his owne knowledge, at Bourdeaux, in France. The words these:

Voyci un Corps mort,
Royde come un Baston,
Froid comme Marbre,
Leger come un esprit,
Levons to au nom de Jesus Christ.

He saw four little girles, very young ones, all kneeling, each of them, upon one knee; and one begun the first line, whispering in the eare of the next, and the second to the third, and the third to the fourth, and she to the first. Then the first begun the second line, and so round quite through, and, putting each one finger only to a boy that lay flat upon his back on the ground, as if he was dead; at the end of the words, they did with their four fingers raise this boy as high as they could reach, and he [Mr. Brisband] being there, and wondering at it, as also being afeard to see it, for they would have had him to have bore a part in saying the words, in the roome of one of the little girles that was so young that they could hardly make her learn to repeat the words, did, for feare there might be some sleight used in it by the boy, or that the boy might be light, call the cook of the house, a very lusty fellow, as Sir G. Carteret’s cook, who is very big, and they did raise him in just the same manner.

This is one of the strangest things I ever heard, but he tells it me of his owne knowledge, and I do heartily believe it to be true. I enquired of him whether they were Protestant or Catholique girles; and he told me they were Protestant, which made it the more strange to me.

So I came to the conclusion that all little girls are born witches, and somewhere along the way we lose that. And that’s the true terror of this Tuesday.

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Blogoween Day 12 – Freaky Fiction Friday: Saber and Parchment

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Note: This is written in first person, and sounds a lot like normal blogging me. Though it’s based on true events, it is, obviously, fiction. It was written originally in an attempt at the NoSleep style, part one to a longer story. Perhaps I’ll continue, only time will tell, but I do think it can stand alone.

Saber and Parchment

I met Nick when I was in my final semester at [redacted]. We had an American lit class together, and our mutual love of Poe evolved into love for one another. We moved in together that summer, some might say too quickly, but we knew we were meant to be together. It felt like fate.

Or like a totally manufactured series of events.

Maybe I jumped in head first because I never thought I could have anything normal, and Nick felt like my chance at normal. Up until my last couple years of college, my life had been so full of fucking noise–just this constant background chatter from what I affectionately call the Other Side, like background music that would occasionally crescendo into some horrific experience. But since about my sophomore year everything had gone quiet, and when I met Nick I thought maybe, just maybe, I’d imagined everything in my life up until that point.

Nick was a year older than I, but I finished my degree first as he was balancing school and work to help pay for his degree. Nick’s job was unique: he worked third shift for the university’s emergency facilities department. It was way too easy, and he got paid way too much to do it, even as a student employee, and of course he loved it. Basically, he waited to get alerts that could range from the temperature gauges in the science facilities varying by a degree, to a forced entry through any of the keycard-access-only dorms, and when they came, he would dispatch the right people to handle the issue. The alarms didn’t sound often despite the university being massive, and most of what he handled were drunken students stuck in elevators, or drunken student pulling fire alarms, or drunken students, well, you get the idea. There was always one other employee, a non-student, there as well, so Nick spent the majority of his time writing essays, watching pirated movies, and on rare occasion he’d go “exploring.” It was a sweet gig, and he was going into his fourth year at it when we moved in together.

I was newly graduated with an English degree and no idea what to do with it, but lucky enough to snag an editorial assistant job with a favorite professor of ours, the very professor whose class Nick and I met in. I could work anytime I wanted, so we both ended up living nocturnally that last semester he finished up school.

We lived in a shoddy one bedroom just off campus, but popular housing for students as some of our classmates lived in the same complex, and walking a couple blocks would get us on to university grounds. The school was spread out over hundreds of acres, and though it had its own transit system, it didn’t run at night, and Nick was usually scheduled from 10pm to 6am. His office was in one of the oldest halls on campus so there was very little parking near it, and most parking on campus required a pass that we were too cheap to shell out for anyway. He usually biked there, but when it was raining or particularly freezing, I drove him. I liked the drive, even at 15 miles an hour on old cobbled streets, and more importantly, I liked knowing Nick was safe.

I imagine there are other things like it, but in all the years since, I’ve never quite experienced the silence that is driving through a university campus just before sunrise. Parties ended hours before, classes have yet to start, and exhaustion settles over the grounds like a dense fog. In those moments, the towering halls and copper statues seem like relics from lifetimes ago, and you wonder if anyone will ever return to these ruins after you.

Of course, even in the predawn there are people out, very few, and most unseen–this I know better now than I ever wished to.

Summer passed uneventfully, with Nick taking a couple evening classes, and me getting paid to collect research for Professor White. He was working on a book about magic and folklore in literature with plans to publish in the following year. I was reading through renaissance poetry and romantic gothic novels to find the exact passages he would reference vaguely from memory in his notes, and typing up the information for him throughout the night, then Nick would come home by sunrise, we’d sleep for a few hours, and start our day over again. By fall we were in a pretty good rhythm save for Nick picking up an early morning class twice a week.

Nick’s job was technically high security, but he’d ask me to come eat “lunch” around 1am with him on occasion. I’d bring fast food if his counterpart John was working, and a burger or a couple tacos would keep him quiet about my presence. One night I got a Skype message from Nick–texting didn’t work from his basement office–asking me to come for lunch in the next hour. I hadn’t planned on it, but Nick typed out that he’d found “something awesome” and needed to show me.

I brought some Thai for all three of us, and left the car in a delivery area safe enough for an hour or two. Campus police seemed to like nothing better than to call a tow truck on passless cars, but didn’t start patrolling until around 5am. Nick was waiting for me at the door: his ID was high security and allowed him into most buildings on campus, but mine just gave me special library access, and without cell service down in his office, he wouldn’t know I was there otherwise. The emergency facilities office was a small room in the basement of [redacted] Hall, a largely disused building that had stood on campus in some form or another since its inception. The office had a number of cubicles, two glass-windowed offices for management during normal business hours, and cement block walls painted hastily in hospital white. Monitors lined one wall, most filled with text, one of them displaying a live video of the hall we’d just walked down, and a gentle hum filled the room. That hum let you know everything was fine.

We ate, and Nick told John he was going to take a break. John waved him off and hunched over in his chair, eyes closed. When we were out in the hall, I asked Nick what happened if John fell asleep. “He always does,” he told me, “but he’s never missed an alarm yet.”

Nick took me to the end of the hall where a heavy, fireproof door opened into a dim stairwell with the swipe of his ID. To my surprise, the stairs headed down. I grabbed his arm when the door slammed behind us, echoing into the empty space. “I thought your office was the basement?”

“Sub basement,” he pointed over the railing and winked a blue eye at me.

“Are we allowed down there?”

Nick shrugged and held up his ID, “I guess.”

Another fireproof door sat at the bottom of the stairwell, and through it a sadly-lit hall that was too dark to see its end. I immediately didn’t like it, but Nick insisted I had to see what he found, which he still wasn’t defining for me. He swiped his badge on the second door on the left and turned the handle, “You’re gonna love this.”

A single light shone down from the room’s center. Some old desks were upturned in the corner, but otherwise the space was empty. I looked back at him, and his face immediately fell. “What the hell?” He moved passed me and looked around, but there was nowhere to really search in the small space. “I swear it was right here!”

“What was here?” I gnawed on my lip. Nick was a bad liar, and his surprise seemed pretty genuine.

He walked to the corner with the desks, “This bin…this big rolling bin full of books.” Nick held his arms out to mimic the size, “Like loads of books!”

My heart sort of skipped at the idea of something so large and presumably heavy just vanishing in the middle of the night. “And you’re sure it was this room?”

“I left the light on,” he screwed up his face, gesturing to the fixture above us that had indeed been on when we entered, “I mean, it was right here, and it was huge.”

I wanted to bolt, then calm washed over me as I realized. “Huge, hu?” I went up to him and slipped a finger into his belt, “Like something else?”

His face changed, sort of giving me a stupid grin, “Yeah…” then he shook his head, “But no, seriously. This is weird.”

Now that was weird: he’d never turned down an opportunity to fool around.

Nick moved past me and my advances back out into the hall. From the doorway, I glanced down into the darkness at its far end as he started opening other doors. When my stomach flipped, I tried to convince myself the Thai just wasn’t sitting right, but when I followed him into a different room across the hall, the queasy feeling wouldn’t rescind. Nick was very still, staring at the back wall. Again there was a small pile of desks to his right, but the room was larger, and its most prominent feature was a chain-link fence reaching from floor to ceiling, caging off the back half of the space. The light above where Nick stood shone only slightly beyond the cage, but there beyond the fence was a rolling bin like he’d described.

“That’s it,” he pointed when I came up beside him, “The books I wanted to show you.”

I closed the space between myself and the cage, peering into the bin through the links. It was full to the brim with books, most with tattered covers. They looked like they might have been headed for an incinerator, but they also had some beautiful leather covers and ornate script along their cracked bindings, though it was too dark to make out what they said. I smiled, momentarily forgetting the weirdness of the situation, and searched the fence for an entryway, but there was a padlock on the chain-link door.

“Well, these are cool,” I offered, “It sucks they’re probably going to be destroyed.”

Nick came up next to me and pulled out his flip phone–old, even for those days–and pressed buttons furiously, “That’s not all. I took this to show you in case you couldn’t come by.”

He pulled up a picture, low resolution and shadowed on his tiny screen, but I could tell it was one of the books, lying open on top of the pile. I glanced at the bin again on the other side of the cage, nowhere near close enough for him to have gotten the shot, and what was more, none of the books were open. Looking back at the photo, I could see text on one page, and a drawing on the other, but it was quite blurry.

“I thought–”

“Shh!” I cut him off, snapping my head toward the cage. Something there, in the space beyond the light, had moved.

We were both silent, and I stared unblinking beyond the fence. It had been a subtle sound, a gentle sliding of material against itself, but distinct enough in the quiet of the hall’s sub basement to catch my attention. I held my breath standing there, trying to keep my mind from conjuring up all sorts of imagined visions and sounds in the darkness. I saw nothing, I heard nothing, but what I felt to this day I can barely explain. It was a bit like the feeling you might have gotten when you were little, immediately after one of those old tube televisions were turned off. The static is still there, radiating out into the room as it dissipates. I could feel the static of whatever had been there until its energy was gone.

I nudged Nick and gestured to the door. He said nothing, but backed up toward it, both of us still staring into the shadows until we fumbled back out into the hall. My heartbeat quickened as we scurried to the stairwell. Nick swiped his badge and the panel lit up green. As he pulled the door open, I glanced back because, well, I’m a fucking idiot, I guess.

In the blackness of the hall’s end, I saw it. In silhouette only, it stood there, taking up the space of the corridor unlike any human man could, its shoulders too near the ceiling, its chest too broad. It didn’t move to follow, but it stared after us with intent. I didn’t need to see its eyes to know it was looking right into me. And my first and only thought was, Not again.

We thundered up the stairs and let the fire door slam behind us. Nick turned to me to say something, but before he could get a word out I interrupted him. “Don’t go back down there!”

He took a few deep breaths and scratched the back of his neck, “Oh, uh, okay?”

“Promise me!”

I barely remember lunging forward and grabbing his shirt, but his hands were on my wrists and he tipped his face low to be near mine. “Okay, okay, I promise!”

Nick was a bad liar, but he turned out to be worse at keeping promises.

 

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Blogoween Day 6: Recommended Spooky Internet Reads

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We all know that The Internet is a cesspool where every bad thought humanity has ever had goes to hang out and pick on one another, but sometimes the World Wide Web gives birth to a thing that’s not actually total garbage, and I think one of those things might be creepypasta.

For anyone who doesn’t know, the term “creepypasta” is derived from “copypasta” which is a blended play on “copy (and) paste” which refers to a piece of prose that is shared over and over on internet forums. The original creator of copypasta is often lost, and the prose become recognizable and a joke. Creepypasta specifically is a bit different and the stories are treated more like urban legends, making the rounds on the internet and keeping people awake at night.

The stories are neat because they’re typically written in the first person with the suggestion that of course they’re true, and with the added anonymity of The Internet, there’s a greater sense of “Well, I guess that could have happened??”

Now, yes, like most things on the interwebz, there is a LOT of awful creepypasta, but also like most things on the interwebz, creepypasta is not exactly cultivated or controlled. It’s molded by those who engage in it, and it is amateur (just like everything you’re reading here, friend!) because it’s created largely by anonymous writers to be distributed and consumed for free by readers, so expecting these stories to be polished is asinine. (Also, if they are true, then you’re not expecting them to be well-told stories right??) That being said, there are some really great pieces floating around out in the inter-ether, and I’d like to share with you some of my favs. These are stories that have stuck with me either for their imagery or their style or just for nostalgia’s sake.

Skinwalker – I’m starting with this because it’s one of the first I ever read years ago, and though I doubt I saw the original post, I know I read this on one of the internet’s scummier sites. It’s also notable to me because it frightened Husband, and he doesn’t really care for spooky stuff at all. The link I’m including below is to an image of a bunch of screenshots of a message board, and the story is written in greentext, popular on that forum, so it’s not the easiest to read, but I do love this story because it’s so organic, and it’s everything I love about creepypasta. These stories aren’t usually written as if by an aspiring author, they’re told like how your friend might tell you the weird thing that happened to them last night, and that makes them all the more creepy. Light a campfire, maybe, before you read.

Anansi’s Goatman – If you liked the skinwalker story above, or if you wanted to like it but couldn’t get through because of the writing, this story will be a better read for you. The concept of the skinwalker/goatman got popular for a while and you see a lot of the same lore around the creature pop up in the stories, but these two do it best, I think. All I know is I will never fucking go camping out west.

Abandoned By Disney – This is another that feels quite real, but is more prosey. I’ve seen the concept of the story and the imagery in this one be criticized a lot, but I think that’s bullshit because, again, you’re getting it for free, and you’re not meant to look at it like a piece of literature. Regardless, I think it’s a really fun read.

The Smiling Man – In literally “this creepy thing happened to me last night” fashion, this story is a short read that will give you chills on imagery alone. There isn’t much to it, mostly facts, and that’s all it needs. The author insists the story is true, so I have no reason to disbelieve her.

1999 – Perhaps one of the longest-running creepypastas out there (technically still running), this story is a long, uncomfortable read, but you won’t be able to stop. They were written as blog entries, but I don’t know where the blog itself is (or if it ever really existed), but I do believe the posts were updated over the course of years which really sets the creepy factor high for this one. Be forewarned: it gets graphic and disturbing. What the fuck are you reading?

Borrasca – Perhaps one of the best known stories on the Reddit NoSleep forum, this is a long and unsettling piece, but it won’t feel long. Despite how legitimately upsetting it is, the writing makes it a pleasure and a surprisingly fast read. Unlike most creepypastas, Borrasca has a stronger fiction-feel to it, with wonderful Stephen King undertones. But do be warned: it is legitimately disturbing and will haunt you. Fortunately it’s not anonymous and the author can be found here!
Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV

I hope you’re sufficiently spooped, Dear Reader! Sleep tight!

Blogoween Day 5 – Freaky Fiction Friday: Best Friends

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Best Friends

Marianne is my best friend. We’ve been together since the beginning of time, or at least it feels that way since I can’t remember an instance from before we met. When we were very little we would play most of the day and even sometimes at night when we were meant to be sleeping. If you would have asked her then, Marianne would have said I was her best friend too, even if sometimes she would do something bad and blame it on me, but it was okay because sometimes I’d do bad things too, and she would always end up the one in trouble.

Once I knocked over her milk–and it was an accident really!–but her mom didn’t see it that way. Marianne didn’t talk to me for the rest of the day, and I slept in the closet that night, but by the next morning we were back to having a tea party with her stuffed animals.

I will admit that over the years we’ve drifted. Days would go by, weeks even, and we wouldn’t even talk, but Marianne always comes back. A classmate turns on her, a boy breaks her heart, and when she’s finally at her lowest, she reaches out to me. She doesn’t need to know my part in those things–that would only complicate our relationship–she just needs to know I’ll always be here for her. I am her friend, after all. Her best friend.

Caroline would say that she is Marianne’s best friend. They met in Mrs. Mulberry’s third grade class and became inseparable, but I don’t know how Marianne could stand her with her whiny voice and stupid pigtails. Marianne ignored me when Caroline was around, but despite my best efforts they remained friends, so I came to accept her. I let them do whatever stupid thing Caroline suggested, work on projects I wasn’t part of, go to parties I wasn’t invited to, but I’d eventually get my alone time with Marianne. Even just for five minutes before falling asleep, we’d talk. And that was enough. It had to be.

Marianne was really nervous the night before her first day of senior year. We stayed up really late talking about how we missed being little and all the fun we used to have, how we’d play pranks on her mom, and how we’d fall asleep with Barbies in our hands. We even talked about how stupid Caroline’s hair was, and Marianne laughed! She thanked me for calming her down, told me that she loved me, and in her sleepy stupor as she closed her eyes, she said goodbye. Silly, I thought, she just meant goodnight.

I woke up last week to her call. She was so nervous all over again that I thought I was living the same night over again at first, but no. We caught up, apparently this last year has been great–without me–but she was a wreck trying to figure out where to go to college. Her mom wanted her to pick before graduation at the end of the week, and she needed help. That’s when it hit me: Marianne was leaving. I always had an inkling this would happen, but it never felt so real. Every time I’d watch her walk out the door, I never felt like this, like she might leave me behind for good.

I can feel myself slipping already. It’s like, I don’t know, like she’s able to look right through me now if I don’t go out of my way to get her attention. I didn’t want to break her volleyball trophy–really, I didn’t!–but I needed her to know I was there. To acknowledge me. Her best friend.

So after all this time, I finally sat Marianne down and told her that it was my turn, that I needed her now. I told her she owes me this, and, I mean, Marianne made me what I am, so she must want this too somewhere deep down inside. It took some convincing, some rationalizing, some coaxing, but in the end she understood. Of course she does, because really this is what she wants. What we both want. It’s the same thing when you’re best friends.

So Caroline is coming over to spend the night, one last time before their big graduation bash. Marianne says she knows the words–I think she’s always probably known them since she made me–and I brought her the knife. I’m sure I can dye her hair or something, and if I can’t, well, it’s a small price to pay to stop being imaginary.

 

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Blogoween Day 2 – True Terror Tuesday: The Spirits of Bourgeois Swamp

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Let’s start light, shall we? Oh, and if you’d like a little ambiance, I created a fun haunted house-style mix over at Ambient Mixer.

A few years ago, Husband and I were living in New Tampa, Florida which isn’t a real place, it’s just a bourgeois name some wealthy but uncreative people came up with who still wanted to be considered in the city limits but have sprawling golf courses between their McMansion subdivisions. The smartest thing the New Tampa planners did was to plot the “city” down in the middle of a protected wetland-type-area. Yeah, I don’t know exactly how they did it either, but basically most of the developed areas there are surrounded by land that can’t be built on because it’s too soggy or too protected. I’m all for protecting natural areas and leaving wilderness untouched, and maybe this was the best way to do it, I’ll never know, but something about it feels icky.

We lived in one of the few apartment complexes allowed in the area because sometimes you have to keep the servants close what with gas prices being so high and their wages so low. We actually didn’t know anything about the area when we moved to it, we just picked the complex for its convenience to my new workplace. It was much nicer than any place we’d lived before; our apartment was on the back of one of the buildings and all of our windows looked out on what was essentially untouched forest/wetland. This made the apartment nice and cool and quiet, but it was also often a bit creepy. I made Husband sleep on the side of the bed next to the sliding glass door.

Speaking of Husband, you should know this about him: he thinks all of this is bullshit. He’s never had a supernatural experience, and doesn’t believe in ghosts or demons or anything like that. He loves fantasy stories, and he has a great imagination, but none of those things are real to him. Although I can’t wholly wrap my head around this kind of thinking, I’m really appreciative that I’ve married someone who can keep me grounded. (Though if we ever find ourselves in a horror-movie situation, he is the exact kind of person who will get possessed but insist there’s nothing wrong with the house, and WE AREN’T MOVING, DAMMIT!)

So while we were living there, we would go on walks in the evening along the driveways and parking lots of the complex that snaked deeper into the preserve. Even though there weren’t sidewalks, there wasn’t a lot of traffic. The complex had about 55 buildings, most of which were at the front and the main road, but there was a private road that went further into the forest and ended in a big loop with about 10 buildings off of it. The private road was maybe a third of a mile long, with dense woods on either side and a stream running under it in the center: I suspect there weren’t any apartments built right off of it because the land was too bog-like.

We were both working weird hours back then, so we’d often find ourselves walking kind of late, and once you were headed down that road with the woods on either side of you and the trees reaching out overhead, it got dark quickly. There was a single streetlight, maintained by the complex so that is to say, not well, right in the center of the road. It was that yellow, sickly color, dim, sometimes flickering, sometimes out all together.

We had a couple occurrences out there in the dark. Once as we were walking we could see something in the shadows of the road up ahead, black against the tar of the road, so just a weird outline on the street, but it was long and a bit winding, not like a branch had fallen from a nearby tree, but that would have been the most obvious thing. We got closer, and not unreluctantly–we just thought hey, what is that thing?

A snake. That thing was a snake. And not like a little garden snake–we certainly wouldn’t have been able to see a small thing as far as we were to begin with. I’ve happened upon plenty of snakes while walking in Florida and though obviously they give a fright because of how they move and basic human instinct is “GET AWAY FROM THE FAST, POINTY, POSSIBLY VENOMOUS THING!” I know logically snakes want to me around me about as much as Di wants to be around Rutherford (which is not at all). But this wasn’t that, Dear Reader, this was massive and fat and in the shadows of the trees and the evening, it was black.

Florida is a great place for reptiles: it’s hot, wet, swampy, and there are year-round bugs and rodents. People have also released enough invasive species there to really amp up the scary factor when stumbling upon anything scaled in the state. I can’t tell you what this was–it was too dark and even in the light I honestly assume all snakes are good guys who should just be avoided–but it slithered away and into the woods with the kind of leisure that says, “I have no reason to be afraid of you.”

A second memorable moment was once when we had already walked down the road and completed the loop. We hadn’t measured time well, and upon return, we saw that the road had gone almost completely dark, but there wasn’t any other option–there was a single way back home, and it was through the heart of the wood.

My mind immediately goes to playing tricks on me, so I have to reason with myself, but the danger in that is I go too concrete: “Of course there isn’t a wendigo loitering behind the trees and sniffing the air for your blood, and those two glowing dots you see are very certainly not the piercing eyes of a skunk ape ready to attack.” I managed to calm myself down by chatting with Husband about something inane like work or football, and had actually put the spooky thoughts out of my mind when I heard it: the growl.

This noise shook me to my core, Dear Reader. We did not walk along the edge of this road, and it was wide enough for cars to pass one another, but even as we walked down its very center, I heard this growl in the space just behind my ear so that my jaw bone tingled. It wasn’t loud, but it was somehow right beside me. I didn’t have the nerve the turn and look, but I did feel something out in the forest. Not just behind me, not preparing to attack, but something lurking that was looking as us like we ought not be there.

Yes, I may have been too heavily invested in The Werewolf of Fever Swamp when I was a kid, but if nothing else R.L. Stein taught me not to dawdle when lycans are afoot. I grabbed Husband’s arm and started fast walking til we got past the flickering light then broke into a sprint. He was questioning me audibly, but not enough to make me stop. I didn’t explain, I didn’t even bother to ever look back, I just told him we had to go. When we got back home I told him what happened. No, Husband does not believe there was a werewolf in the woods that night. But he’s also not dead, so that is that.

Finally, the legit most frightening thing that happened to us on that road, and possible ever in our relationship, was another night, of course, when we were walking out towards the back loop of apartments. The streetlight had been properly maintained at this time and though still yellow and illuminating the humidity hanging in the air, it lit up the road enough in its center to make walking though the darkest parts tolerable. We were headed toward the light but in the darkest span of the road. It was quite quiet that evening, not even a breeze, and the woods on either side of us were still and heavy. Then there was a sound, somewhere off in the forest, more than the snapping of a twig, but not the fast and loud skitter of a small animal. No, this was slow and deliberate. We stopped to listen, but it was followed by nothing.

So we continued on toward where the streetlight stood illuminating the only bright patch on the road. Then, just at the edge of where the light ran out and the foliage turned from distinct leaves to shadows, a form emerged. Husband and I were petrified in that moment. This was no trick of the eye, there was nothing to question or second guess–something was coming out of the woods, and we, like hapless victims in the first fifteen minutes of your favorite creature creep film, froze.

Bursting onto the street up and out of the woods, it crashed through the brush like cannon fire and plunged itself out onto the road just under the light. The thing looked to be easily seven feet tall, even on four spindly legs, and had a head massive and branch-like. It stood there for just a second, regaining itself, its features obscured by shadows, then darted back off onto the other side of the road and disappeared into the woods leaving just the clamor of snapping tree limbs and crushed leaves in its wake.

Dear Reader, it was only your sweet namesake, a deer, but it was humongous with antlers like something out of a hillbilly’ wet dream. We knew almost immediately what it was once it had gone, but the jump scare we got that night will likely stick with us forever. Its size is most definitely hyperbolically painted into my memory, but not the scare we got.

So those are my spookiest stories from the time Husband and I lived in the boggiest but best apartment we’ve ever had. More to come next Tuesday, possibly spookier, possibly more supernatural. So far Blogoween is going quite swimmingly, but I’ve only had to post for two days straight, so I guess we’ll see! Stay spoopy, my deers!

Podcast: Vacancy 1.10 – Cross The Veil

Episode 1.10 – Cross The Veil

Vacancy is an ongoing web serial. Find out more about it and start reading or listening here.

Vacancy’s Theme is “Planet Bullspit” by Corey Major

I went for a creepy vibe with this episode which is a shame because it’s not autumn nor was it autumn when I wrote and published the installment, so clearly I have a long way to go to sync up themes and the real world. I also attempt a southern US accent which is inconsistent at best, and cannot be sourced in the real world. Please enjoy!

Vacancy Episode 1.10 uses these sounds from freesound, all of which have been remixed. The inclusion of any sound does not indicate endorsement of this completed work or its author:

It Didn’t Say Juicy On The Butt

Since it’s the spookiest season of all, I thought I might share a little true tale of horror with you because, Dear Reader, I feel I haven’t revealed how truly fucked up I am yet.

I would preface this by saying that yes, I believe in certain supernatural things, but I also believe that I cannot possible understand these things so the names I give to them and my perceptions of them are basically irrelevant. What I do know is some fucked up shit has happened to me that I haven’t been able to explain. Doesn’t mean someone else couldn’t explain it had they been there, and I’m totally open to other explanations, but from where I sit, the paranormal is real if not terribly prolific or photogenic.

But, Dear Reader, I digress. This is probably the least fucked up thing, so it’s an easy one to start you with. This happening occurred on neither a dark nor stormy night. In fact, it was midday with very pleasant weather. It was as unspooky as it could be and in a lot of ways that made this whole thing spookier in the end. At the time, I lived in a very suburban neighborhood with an HOA and everything. Again, the spooky factor was super low. Like half a skeleton out of ten.

I was, what some folks like to call, “between jobs” at the time. I like to refer to it as my sabbatical where I transitioned out of the hell hole that is healthcare (but my time in healthcare is too spooky to talk about now, like eleven skeletons out of ten plus one Frankenstein’s monster). I used to take walks around the neighborhood by myself during the day and came to expect certain things–overgrown yards, broken up sidewalks, poor parking jobs (the HOA apparently focused all of its ire on me, so it didn’t have time for anyone else), and it was always quite quiet, so any movement got my attention.

I saw a car pull into a driveway. The most innocuous thing. I was walking toward the house it had parked in front of from the opposite side of the street but was still a few houses down from said driveway. I watched a woman get out of the driver’s side of the car. She wore a pink tracksuit and was blonde, reminiscent of Paris Hilton circa 2002, except she was very tall and broad shouldered.

The way most of the houses were built in the neighborhood had the front door recessed down a pathway, sheltered on either side by the garage and some other room. So, if I am walking toward the house from down the street, as I was, a person could disappear around the corner of the garage and into the walkway toward the entrance. This is what happened.

So no biggie, right? I’m still walking in the direction of the house, nothing strange, but I do hear some voices, high, excited voices, so it’s pretty obvious the woman walked down the way and knocked on the door and someone answered. At this point, I am parallel with the house, so if I glance to my left, I can see down that walkway to the people there and the front door. So I do. There’s a man and a woman in the doorway, facing out, welcoming the woman to their home.

But it’s not the same woman. (Spookiness intensifies!)

Ok, so we got like 3/10 skeletons here. I’m staring at the back of this woman’s head which is now brunette, she’s wearing something dark like jeans and a black shirt, and she’s much smaller–narrow shoulders and short. This is weird, I think, and I’m just confused, but I’m not thoroughly spooked yet. That happened when she turned around.

As the couple went inside, the Amazing Changing Lady glanced back at me, and I went cold. Admittedly, I have a problem with looking people in the eye, and that is exactly what she did, somehow from all the way across the road, two sidewalks, a lawn, and a walkway. It was kind of horrifying, but as I was still walking, a scurried away and out of her sight almost immediately.

I booked it home at a solid 5.87 skellies and thought hard about what could have happened. Was there a second person in the car? Was that just someone from inside the home? Were there shadows in the walkway playing tricks on me? None of these seemed plausible at the time, and they still don’t since it all happened so quickly. And what happened, if you put a name to it, would be some kind of shape-shifting, which is not a kind of supernatural thing that I actually believe in. Ghosts? Of course. Demons? Why not? Aliens? Not even supernatural, just plain real! But shapeshifters? Go back to Stephanie Meyer, please. You’re not even the cool kind that turns into an animal, you went from one generic lady to another! Boring.

So after writing it out, it doesn’t sound all that spooky, like a couple hand bones and a tibia at best. Maybe a tooth too. But in that moment it was very scary. I was sure she was going to come for me later, but so far no dice. Though, I guess if she’s a shapeshifter, she could be anyone, anywhere. Just waiting. But only if you believe in that sort of thing.