Tag Archives: Horror

REALITY: THE MOST TERRIFYING NIGHT OF MY LIFE

On August 3, 2000 one of my friends from high asked me to ride along with him to meet a girl who he found online. I’m always up for an adventure, so I agreed. I knew that it was quite a drive, about 10 hours, but I didn’t mind at all. We left in the evening and drove all night, got there in the morning, and left that evening. Neither one of us slept a wink. On the way back we were about 15 miles west of a small town when I was asleep. He was going well over the speed limit when he decided to pull over to switch driving. Right when we got onto the shoulder we went over the top of a small hill which was blocking sight to the road ahead. Right when we got over the top of the hill he saw a truck parked on the shoulder. He tried to get back on the interstate, but there was a semi there, so he instinctively jerked the wheel to get off of the road. We hit the end of the guardrail, that was when I woke up, took out 70 feet of it, and rolled onto the top. I looked at him and said “dude, that was f****** awesome,” we both laughed hysterically for a few minutes and unbuckled and fell on our heads. I found one shoe and the flashlight. I had to kick a window out to get out. I had no idea that the truck was there before us, so I started looking for the driver. When I looked into the driver’s window, I saw that the keys were still in the ignition. I knew that he was definitely somewhere around, so I kept looking. When I looked around the front of the truck I saw a blue rope that was tied around the tow hook and went over the top of a short wall. I assumed that he hit us and knocked something off of his truck and climbed down the rope to get it. When I looked over the wall, I got the shock of a lifetime. There was a dead body at the end of the rope, looking up at me. He looked like a demon. I’m not a person to freakout, but I definitely did. I jumped backwards into traffic. I almost got hit by a passing semi. He swerved around me, pulled over, jumped out, and asked me “what the f*** are you doing?” I was still in a panic and said “there’s a dead guy over there.” He said “f*** this, I’m out of here.” Then he jumped in his truck and left. We looked at each other and said, that sucks. He called 911 and told them that we needed help, then called his parents and told them where we were and that we needed help. Then I called my mom and said, mom were ok. Then the phone dropped the call and wouldn’t call back. We were really out in the middle of nowhere. We sat there for an hour and a half waiting for the cops when a security guard pulled up, got out, and very calmly asked if we were ok. I assumed that she knew what happened, so I said he’s over there and pointed to the front of the truck. She looked over the wall and had a bigger panic attack than I did. She ran back to her car, grabbed the radio, and yelled, “we need everyone out here now!” Fifteen minutes later when the first cop showed up he looked around and said “you guys are under arrest.” I was shocked and said “woah woah woah, wake up dumbass, if we would have killed him then why would his truck be upside down over there and these tire marks show that he intentionally jerked the truck off of the road to miss hitting that truck?” He thought for a second and said “huh, you make a good point, you guys are ok.” They flipped the truck back over and cut the guy down. Then he asked if we were ready to go. I said that we had to stay there because he told his parents that we were going to be there waiting for them. He said “ok, have it your way.” Then everyone left. I had nightmares about it for years.

Storystar, where short story writers are the stars!
https://www.storystar.com/story/12389/brandon/true-life/survival-success-2
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Horror Classics : HOW TO GET BACK TO THE FOREST 

How to Get Back to the Forest

“You have to puke it up,” said Cee. “You have to get down there and puke it up. I mean down past where you can feel it, you know?”

She gestured earnestly at her chest. She had this old-fashioned cotton nightgown on, lace collar brilliant under the bathroom lights. Above the collar, her skin looked gray. Cee had bones like a bird. She was so beautiful. She was completely beautiful and fucked. I mean everybody at camp was sort of a mess, we were even supposed to be that way, at a difficult stage, but Cee took it to another level. Herding us into the bathroom at night and asking us to puke. “It’s right here,” she said, tapping the nightgown over her hollow chest. “Where you’ve got less nerves in your esophagus. It’s like wired into the side, into the muscle. You have to puke really hard to get it.”

“Did you ever get it out?” asked Max. She was sitting on one of the sinks. She’d believe anything.

Cee nodded, solemn as a counselor. “Two years ago. They caught me and gave me a new one. But it was beautiful while it was gone. I’m telling you it was the best.”

“Like how?” I said.

Cee stretched out her arms. “Like bliss. Like everything. Everything all at once. You’re raw, just a big raw nerve.”

“That doesn’t sound so great,” said Elle.

“I know,” said Cee, not annoyed but really agreeing, turning things around. That was one of her talents.

“It sounds stupid,” she nodded, “but that’s because it’s something we can’t imagine. We don’t have the tools. Our bodies don’t know how to calculate what we’re missing. You can’t know till you get there. And at the same time, it’s where you came from. It’s where you started.

She raised her toothbrush. “So. Who’s with me?”

• • •

Definitely not me. God, Cee. You were such an idiot.

• • •

Apparently, a girl named Puss had told her about the bug. And Cee, being Cee, was totally open to learning new things from a person who called herself Puss. Puss had puked out her own bug and was living on the streets. I guess she’d run away from camp, I don’t really know. She was six feet tall, Cee said, with long red hair. The hair was dyed, which was weird, because if you’re living on the streets, do you care about stuff like that? This kind of thing can keep me awake at night. I lie in bed, or rather I sit in the living room because Pete hates me tossing and turning, and I leave the room dark and open all the curtains, and I watch the lights of the city and think about this girl Puss getting red hair dye at the grocery store and doing her hair in the bathroom at the train station. Did she put newspapers down? And what if somebody came in and saw her?

Anyway, eventually Cee met Puss in the park, and Puss was clearly down-and-out and a hooker, but she looked cool and friendly, and Cee sat down beside her on the swings.

• • •

“You have to puke it up.”

• • •

We’d only been at camp for about six weeks. It seemed like a long time, long enough to know everybody. Everything felt stretched out at camp, the days and the nights, and yet in the end it was over so fast, as soon as you could blink. Camp was on its own calendar—a special time of life.That was Jodi’s phrase. She was our favorite counselor. She was greasy and enthusiastic, with a skinny little ponytail, only a year or two older than the seniors.Camp is so special! The thing with Jodi was, she believed every word she said. It made it really hard to make fun of her. That night, the night in the bathroom, she was asleep down the hall underneath her Mother Figure, which was a little stuffed dog withFlorida on its chest.

• • •

“Come on!” said Cee. And she stuck her toothbrush down her throat, just like that. I think Max screamed. Cee didn’t start puking right away. She had to give herself a few really good shoves with that toothbrush, while people said “Oh my God” and backed away and clutched one another and stared. Somebody said “Are you nuts?” Somebody else said something else, I might have said something, I don’t know, everything was so white and bright in that moment, mirrors and fluorescent lights and Cee in that goddamn Victorian nightgown jabbing away with her toothbrush and sort of gagging. Every time I looked up I could see all of us in the mirror. And then it came. A splatter of puke all over the sink. Cee leaned over and braced herself. Blam. Elle said, “Oh my God, that is disgusting.” Cee gasped. She was just getting started.

• • •

Elle was next. All of a sudden she spun around with her hands over her mouth and let go in the sink right next to Cee. Splat. I started laughing, but I already felt sort of dizzy and sick myself, and also scared, because I didn’t want to throw up. Cee looked up from her own sink and nodded at Elle, encouraging her. She looked completely bizarre, her wide cheekbones, her big crown of natural hair, sort of a retro supermodel with a glistening mouth, her eyes full of excitement. I think she even said “Good job, Elle!”

Then she went to it with the toothbrush again. “We have to stop her!” said Katie, taking charge. “Max, go get Jodi!” But Max didn’t make it. She jumped down from the third sink, but when she got halfway to the door she turned around and ran back to the sink and puked. Meanwhile Katie was dragging Cee away from the sink and trying to get the toothbrush, but also not wanting to touch it, and she kept going “Ew ew ew” and “Help me, you guys,” and it was all so hilarious I sank down on the floor, absolutely crying with laughter. Five or six other girls, too. We just sort of looked at each other and screamed. It was mayhem. Katie dragged Cee into one of the stalls, I don’t know why. Then Katie started groaning and let go of Cee and staggered into the stall beside her, and sploosh, there she went.

• • •

Bugs.

It’s such a camp rumor. Camp is full of stories like that. People say the ice cream makes you sterile, the bathrooms are full of hidden cameras, there’s fanged, flesh-eating kids in the lake, if you break into the office you can call your parents. Lots of kids break into the office. It’s the most common camp offense. I never tried it, because I’m not stupid—of course you can’t call your parents. How would you even get their number? And bugs—the idea of a bug planted under your skin, to track you or feed you drugs—that’s another dumb story.

Except it’s not, because I saw one.

The smell in the bathroom was terrible now—an animal smell, hot; it thrashed around and it had fur.

I knew I was going to be sick. I crawled to the closest place—the stall where Cee knelt—and grabbed hold of the toilet seat. Cee moved aside for me. Would you believe she was still hanging onto her toothbrush? I think we both threw up a couple of times. Then she made this awful sound, beyond anything, her whole body taut and straining, and something flew into the toilet with a splash.

I looked at her and there was blood all over her chin. I said, “Jesus, Cee.” I thought she was dying. She sat there coughing and shaking, her eyes full of tears and triumph. She was on top of the world. “Look!” she breathed. And I looked, and there in the bowl, half-hidden by puke and blood, lay an object made of metal.

It actually looked like a bug. Sharp blood-smeared legs.

“Shit!” I said. I flushed the toilet.

“Now you,” said Cee, wiping her mouth on the back of her wrist.

“I can’t.”

“Tisha. Come on.”

Cee, I couldn’t, I really couldn’t. I could be sick—in fact I felt sicker than ever—but I couldn’t do it that hard. I remember the look in your eyes; you were so disappointed. You leaned and spat some blood into the toilet.

I whispered: “Don’t tell anyone. Not even the other girls.”

“Why not? We should all—”

No. Just trust me.”

I was already scared, so scared. I couldn’t bear the idea of camp without you.

• • •

We barely slept that night. We had to take showers and clean the bathroom. Max cried the whole time, but for at least part of the night, I was laughing. Me and Katie flinging disinfectant powder everywhere. Katie was cool, always in sweatpants, didn’t give a shit about anything.

“You know your friend is a headcase, right?” she said.

It was the first time anybody’d called Cee my friend. We got out the mop and lathered up the floor. Everyone slipped and swore at us, coming out of the showers. Cee went skidding by in a towel. “Whee!” she shrieked.

• • •

You cannot feel your bug. I’ve pressed so hard on my chest. I know.

I could feel it,” said Cee. “After they put it back in.” It wasn’t exactly a physical thing. She couldn’t trace the shape of the bug inside her, but she could feel it working.

“Bug juice,” she said, making a sour face. She could feel bug juice seeping into her body. Every time she was going to be angry or afraid, there’d be this warmth in her chest, a feeling of calm spreading deep inside.

“I only noticed it after I’d had the bug out for a couple of weeks.”

“How did your parents know you needed a new one?”

“I didn’t need one.”

“How did they know it was gone?”

“Well, I kind of had this fit. I got mad at them and started throwing food.”

We were sitting on my bed, under my Mother Figure, a lamp with a blue shade. The blue light brought out the stains on Cee’s Victorian nightgown. We were both painting our toenails Cherry Pink, balancing the polish on my Life Skills textbook, taking turns with the brush.

“You should do it,” Cee said. “I feel better. I’m so much better.”

I thought how in a minute we’d have to study for our Life Skills quiz. I didn’t think there was bug juice in my body. I couldn’t feel anything.

“I’m so much better,” Cee said again. Her hand was shaking.

• • •

Oh, Cee.

• • •

The weird thing is, I started writing this after Max came to visit me, and I thought I was going to write about Max. But then I started writing in your book. Why? This book you left me, your Mother Figure. You practically threw it at me: “Take it!” It was the worst thing you could do, to take somebody else’s Parent Figure, especially the mom. Or maybe it was only us girls who cared so much about the moms. Maybe for the boys it was the dads. But anyway, taking one was the worst; you could basically expect the other kids to kill you. A kid got put in the hospital that way at a different camp—the one on the east side—but we all knew about it at our camp. They strung him up with electric wires. Whenever we told the story we ended by saying what we would have done to that kid, and it was always much worse.

But you threw this book at me, Cee, and what could I do? Jodi and Duncan were trying to grab your arms, and the ambulance was waiting for you downstairs. I caught the book clumsily, crumpling it. I looked at it later, and it was about half full of your writing. I think they’re poems.

dank smells underground want to get back

no pill for it

i need you

I don’t know, are they poems? If they are, I don’t think they’re very good. A nap could be a door an abandoned car. Does that even mean anything? Eat my teeth. I know them all by heart.

I picked up this book when Max left. I wrote: “You have to puke it up.” All of a sudden I was writing about you. Surprising myself. I just kept going. Remembering camp, the weird sort of humid excitement there, the cafeteria louder than the sea. The shops—remember the shops? Lulu’s was the best. We’d save up our allowance to go there. Down in the basement you could get used stuff for cheap. You got your leather jacket there. I got these red shoes with flowers on the toes. I loved those shoes so much! I wonder where they went? I wore them to every mixer, I was wearing them when I met Pete, probably with my white dress—another Lulu’s purchase I don’t have now.

It was summer, and the mixer had an island theme. The counselors had constructed this sort of deck overlooking the lake. God, they were so proud of it. They gave us green drinks with little umbrellas in them and played lazy, sighing music, and everyone danced, and Pete saw a shooting star, and we were holding hands, and you were gone forever and I forgot you.

• • •

I forgot you. Forgetting isn’t so wrong. It’s a Life Skill.

• • •

I don’t remember what my parents looked like. A Parent Figure cannot be a photograph. It has to be a more neutral object. It’s supposed to stand in for someone, but not too much. When we got to camp we were all supposed to bring our Parent Figures to dinner the first night. Everyone squeezed in at the cafeteria tables, trying to find space beside their dinner trays for their Figures, those calendars and catcher’s mitts and scarves. I felt so stupid because my Mother Figure was a lamp and there was no place to plug it in. My Father Figure is a plaque that saysAlways be yourself.

Jodi came by, as the counselors were all going around “meeting the Parents,” and she said, “Wow, Tisha, that’s a good one.”

• • •

I don’t even know if I picked it out.

• • •

“We want you to have a fabulous time at camp!” Jodi cried. She was standing at the front with the other counselors: Paige and Veronica and Duncan—who we’d later call “Hunky Duncan”—and Eric and Carla and the others.

Of course they’d chosen Jodi to speak. Jodi was so perky.

She told us that we were beginning a special relationship with our Parent Figures. It was very important not to fixate.We shouldn’t fixate on the Parent Figures, and we definitely shouldn’t fixate on the counselors.

My stupid lamp. It was so fucking blue. Why would you bring something blue? “The most important people in your life are the other campers!” Jodi burbled. “These are the people you’ll know for the rest of your life! Now, I want you to turn to the person next to you and say, Hi, Neighbor!

• • •

Hi, Neighbor! And later, in the forest, Cee sang to the sky: Fuck you, Neighbor!

• • •

Camp was special. We were told that it was special. At camp you connected with people and with nature. There was no personal tech. That freaked a lot of people out at first. We were told that later we’d all be able to get online again, but we’d be adults, and our relationships would be in place, and we would have learned our Life Skills, and we’d be ready. But now was special: Now was the time of friends and of the earth.

Cee raised her hand: “What about earthquakes?”

“What?” said Veronica, who taught The Natural World. Veronica was from an older group of counselors; she had gray hair and leathery skin from taking kids on nature hikes and she was always stretching to show that you could be flexible when you were old.

“What about earthquakes?” Cee asked. “What about fires? Those are natural. What about hurricanes?”

Veronica smiled at us with her awesome white teeth, because you could have awesome white teeth when you were old, it was all a matter of taking care of yourself with the right Life Skills.

“What an interesting question, Celia!”

We were told that all of our questions were interesting. There’s no such thing as a stupid question! The important thing was always toparticipate. We were told to participate in classes and hikes and shopping sprees and mixers. In History we learned that there used to be prejudice, but now there wasn’t: It didn’t matter where you came from or who you loved, just join in! That’s why even the queer girls had to go to the mixers; you could take your girlfriend, but you had to go. Katie used to go in a tie and Elle would wear flowers. They rolled their eyes but they went anyway and danced and it was fun. Camp was so fun.

Cee raised her hand: “Why is it a compliment to tell somebody it doesn’t matter who they are?”

We were told to find a hobby. There were a million choices and we tried them all: sports and crafts and art and music. There was so much to do. Every day there was some kind of program and then there were chores and then we had to study for class. No wonder we forgot stuff. We were told that forgetting was natural. Forgetting helped us survive, Jodi told us in Life Skills class, tears in her eyes. She cried as easily as Max. She was more like a kid sister than a counselor. Everybody wanted Jodi to be okay. “You’ll always be reminded,” she said in her hoarse, heroic voice. “You’ll always have your Parent Figures. It’s okay to be sad! But remember, you have each other now. It’s the most special bond in the world.”

Cee raised her hand: “What if we don’t want us?”

Cee raised her hand, but of course she raised her hand. She was Cee. She was Cee, she’d always been Cee, do you see what I mean? I mean she was like that right from the day we arrived; she was brash, messy Cee before the night in the bathroom, before she supposedly puked out her bug. I couldn’t see any difference. I could not see any difference. So of course I had second thoughts. I wished so bad I hadn’t flushed the toilet. What if there wasn’t anything in it? What if somebody’d dropped a piece of jewelry in there, some necklace or brooch and I thought it was a bug? That could have happened. Camp was so fun. Shaving my legs for the mixer. Wearing red shoes. We were all so lucky. Camp was the best thing ever. Every Child at Camp! That was the government slogan: ECAC. Cee used to make this gag face whenever she said it.ECAC. Ick. Sick.

• • •

She took me into the forest. It was a mixer. Everybody else was crowded around the picnic tables. The lake was flat and scummy and the sun was just going down, clouds of biting insects golden in the haze.

“Come on,” Cee said, “let’s get out of here.”

We walked over the sodden sand into the weeds. A couple of the counselors watched us go: I saw Hunky Duncan look at us with his binoculars, but because we were just two girls they didn’t care. It only mattered if you left the mixer with a boy. Then you had to stop at the Self-Care Stand for condoms and an injection, because becoming a parent is a serious decision! Duncan lowered his binoculars, and we stepped across the rocks and into the trees.

“This is cool!” Cee whispered.

I didn’t really think it was cool—it was weird and sticky in there, and sort of dark, and the weeds kept tickling my legs—but I went farther because of Cee. It’s hard to explain this thing she had: She was like an event just about to happen and you didn’t want to miss it. I didn’t want to, anyway. It was so dark we had to hold hands after a while. Cee walked in front of me, pushing branches out of the way, making loud crackling sounds, sometimes kicking to break through the bushes. Her laugh sounded close, like we were trapped in the basement at Lulu’s. That’s what it was like, like being trapped in this amazing place where everything was magically half-price. I was so excited and then horrified because suddenly I had to take a dump, there was no way I could hold it in.

“Wait a sec,” I told Cee, too embarrassed to even tell her to go away. I crouched down and went and wiped myself on the leaves, and I’m sure Cee knew what was up but she took my hand again right after I was done. She took my disgusting hand. I felt like I wanted to die, and at the same time, I was floating. We kept going until we stumbled into a clearing in the woods. Stars above us in a perfect circle.

Woo-hooooo!” Cee hollered. “Fuck you, Neighbor!”

She gave the stars the finger. The silhouette of her hand stood out against the bright. I gave the stars the finger, too. I was this shitty, disgusting kid with a lamp and a plaque for parents but I was there with Cee and the time was exactly now. It was like there was a beautiful starry place we’d never get into— didn’t deserve to get into—but at the same time we were better than any brightness. Two sick girls underneath the stars.

Fuck you, Neighbor! It felt so great. If I could go anywhere I’d want to go there.

• • •

The counselors came for us after a while. A circle of them with big flashlights, talking in handsets. Jodi told us they’d been looking everywhere for us. “We were pretty worried about you girls!”

For the first time I didn’t feel sorry for her; I felt like I wanted to kick her in the shins. Shit, I forgot about that until right now. I forget so much. I’m like a sieve. Sometimes I tell Pete I think I’m going senile. Like premature senile dementia. Last month I suggested we go to Clearview for our next vacation and he said, “Tish, you hate Clearview, don’t you remember?”

It’s true, I hated Clearview: The beach was okay, but at night there was nothing to do but drink. So we’re going to go to the Palace Suites instead. At least you can gamble there.

Cee, I wonder about you still, so much—I wonder what happened to you and where you are. I wonder if you’ve ever tried to find me. It wouldn’t be hard. If you linked to the register you’d know our graduating class ended up in Food Services. I’m in charge of inventory for a chain of grocery stores, Pete drives delivery, Katie stocks the shelves. The year before us, the graduates of our camp went into the army; the year after us they also went into the army; the year after that they went into communications technologies; the year after that I stopped paying attention. I stopped wondering what life would have been like if I’d graduated in a different year. We’re okay. Me and Pete—we make it work, you know? He’s sad because I don’t want to have kids, but he hasn’t brought it up for a couple of years. We do the usual stuff, hobbies and vacations. Work. Pete’s into gardening. Once a week we have dinner with some of the gang. We keep our Parent Figures on the hall table, like everyone else. Sometimes I think about how if you’d graduated with us, you’d be doing some kind of job in Food Services too. That’s weird, right?

• • •

But you didn’t graduate with us. I guess you never graduated at all.

• • •

I’ve looked for you on the buses and in the streets. Wondering if I’d suddenly see you. God, I’d jump off the bus so quick, I wouldn’t even wait for it to stop moving. I wouldn’t care if I fell in the gutter. I remember your tense face, your nervous look, when you found out that we were going to have a check-up.

“I can’t have a check-up,” you said.

“Why not?” I asked.

“Because,” you said, “because they’ll see my bug is gone.”

And I just—I don’t know. I felt sort of embarrassed for you. I’d convinced myself the whole bug thing was a mistake, a hallucination. I looked down at my book, and when I looked up you were standing in the same place, with an alert look on your face, as if you were listening.

You looked at me and said: “I have to run.”

It was the stupidest thing I’d ever heard. The whole camp was monitored practically up to the moon. There was no way to get outside.

But you tried. You left my room, and you went straight out your window and broke your ankle.

A week later, you were back. You were on crutches and you looked . . . wrecked. Destroyed. Somebody’d cut your hair, shaved it close to the scalp. Your eyes stood out, huge and shining.

“They put in a bug in me,” you whispered.

And I just knew. I knew what you were going to do.

• • •

Max came to see me a few days ago. I’ve felt sick ever since. Max is the same, hunched and timid; you’d know her if you saw her. She sat in my living room and I gave her coffee and lemon cookies and she took one bite of a cookie and started crying.

Cee, we miss you, we really do.

Max told me she’s pregnant. I said congratulations. I knew she and Evan have been wanting one for a while. She covered her eyes with her hands—she still bites her nails, one of them was bleeding—and she just cried.

“Hey, Max,” I said, “it’s okay.”

I figured she was extra-emotional from hormones or whatever, or maybe she was thinking what a short time she’d have with her kid, now that kids start camp at eight years old.

“It’s okay,” I told her, even though I’d never have kids—I couldn’t stand it.

They say it’s easier on the kids, going to camp earlier. We—me and you and Max—we were the tail end of Generation Teen. Max’s kid will belong to Generation Eight. It’s supposed to be a happier generation, but I’m guessing it will be sort of like us. Like us, the kids of Generation Eight will be told they’re sad, that they need their parents and that’s why they have Parent Figures, so that they can always be reminded of what they’ve lost, so that they can remember they need what they have now.

I sat across the coffee table from Max, and she was crying and I wasn’t hugging her because I don’t really hug people anymore, not even Pete really, I’m sort of mean that way, it’s just how I turned out, and Max said “Do you remember that night in the bathroom with Cee?”

Do I remember?

Her eyes were all swollen. She hiccupped. “I can’t stop thinking about it. I’m scared.” She said she had to send a report to her doctor every day on her phone. How was she feeling, had she vomited? Her morning sickness wasn’t too bad, but she’d thrown up twice, and both times she had to go in for a check-up.

“So?” I said.

“So—they always put you to sleep, you know . . .”

“Yeah.”

I just said “Yeah.” Just sat there in front of her and said “Yeah.” Like I was a rock. After a while I could tell she was feeling uncertain, and then she felt stupid. She picked up her stuff and blew her nose and went home. She left the tissues on the table, one of them spotted with blood from her bitten nail. I haven’t really been sleeping since she left. I mean, I’ve always had trouble sleeping, but now it’s a lot worse, especially since I started writing in your book. I just feel sick, Cee, I feel really sick. All those check-ups, so regular, everyone gets them, but you’re definitely supposed to go in if you’re feeling nauseous, if you’ve vomited, it might be a superflu! The world is full of viruses, good health is everybody’s business! And yeah, they put you to sleep every time. Yeah. “They put a bug in me,” you said. Camp was so fun. Jodi came to us, wringing her hands. “Cee has been having some problems, and it’s up to all of us to look after her, girls!Campers stick together!” But we didn’t stick together, did we? I woke up and you were shouting in the hall, and I ran out there and you were hopping on your good foot, your toothbrush in one hand, your Mother Figure notebook in the other, and I knew exactly what they’d caught you doing. How did they catch you? Were there really cameras in the bathroom? Jodi’d called Duncan, and that was how I knew how bad it was: Hunky Duncan in the girls’ hallway, just outside the bathroom, wearing white shorts and a seriously pissed-off expression. He and Jodi were grabbing you and you were fighting them off. “Tisha,” called Jodi, “it’s okay, Cee’s just sick, she’s going to the hospital.” You threw the notebook. “Take it!” you snarled. Those were your last words. Your last words to me. I never saw you again except in dreams. Yeah, I see you in dreams. I see you in your white lacy nightgown. Cee, I feel sick. At night I feel so sick, I walk around in circles. There’s waves of sickness and waves of something else, something that calms me, something that’s trying to make the sickness go away. Up and down it goes, and I’m just in it, just trying to stand it, and then I sleep again, and I dream you’re beside me, we’re leaning over the toilet, and down at the very bottom there’s something like a clump of trees and two tiny girls are standing there giving us the finger. It’s not where I came from, but it’s where I started. I think of how bright it was in the bathroom that night, how some kind of loss swept through all of us, electric, and you’d started it, you’d started it by yourself, and we were with you in that hilarious and total rage of loss. Let’s lose it. Let’s lose everything. Camp wasn’t fun. Camp was a fucking factory. I go out to the factory on Fridays to check my lists over coffee with Elle. The bus passes shattered buildings, stick people rooting around in the garbage. Three out of five graduating classes join the army. Give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change! How did I even get here? I’d ask my mom if she wasn’t a fucking lamp. Cee, I feel sick. I should just grab my keys, get some money, and run to Max’s house, we should both be sick, everybody should lose it together. I shouldn’t have told you not to tell the others. We all should have gone together. My fault. I dream I find you and Puss in a bathroom in the train station. There’s blood everywhere, and you laugh and tell me it’s hair dye. Cee, it’s so bright it makes me sick. I have to go now. It’s got to come out.

How to Get Back to the Forest – Lightspeed Magazine
http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/how-to-get-back-to-the-forest/

HORROR:”The New Old House” (REALITY) | GBAMLOG.COM 

By batoutofhell

We bought an old house, my boyfriend and I. He’s in charge of the “new” construction – converting the kitchen in to the master bedroom for instance, while I’m on wallpaper removal duty. The previous owner papered EVERY wall and CEILING! Removing it is brutal, but oddly satisfying. The best feeling is getting a long peel, similar to your skin when you’re peeling from a sunburn. I don’t know about you but I kinda make a game of peeling, on the hunt for the longest piece before it rips.Under a corner section of paper in every room is a person’s name and a date. Curiosity got the best of me one night when I Googled one of the names and discovered the person was actually a missing person, the missing date matching the date under the wallpaper! The next day, I made a list of all the names and dates. Sure enough each name was for a missing person with dates to match. We notified the police who naturally sent out the crime scene team. I overhead one tech say “yup, it’s human.” Human? What’s human? “Ma’am, where is the material you removed from the walls already? This isn’t wallpaper you were removing.”

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MYSTICAL CLASSICS: TRUTH OR DARE by Ryan Thomas | GBAMLOG.COM

“Who is up for a game of Truth or Dare?” I ask, looking between Tim and the two girls inside of the pool, the back of my shoulders leaning against the ledge.

“Me! I am!” Lauren screams. “How exciting! Let’s do it! Woo!”

She grasps the neck of a Bacardi Limon. She hoists the bottle above the pool’s surface, as she wades in the six-feet-deep water, repeatedly pushing her right arm out to stay afloat. Her eyelids flutter — after she guzzles a few shots worth of liquor — and she continues to use her left arm for sustaining the Bacardi in air . . . post-drink. Next she leers at Tonya, whom is vastly more coherent and nearly sober after drinking a can of Bud Ice. Tonya drank a shot or two of Raspberry Vodka, as well, which has barely loosened her up. Other than a quick “Hello” to the both of us, she hasn’t said anything since our arrival. We showed up here to Lauren’s (i.e. her parent’s) impressive estate about ten minutes ago.

Lauren raises the 70 cl bottle — pressing it to her lips, awkwardly — before draining the last of its contents. She screams “Woo!” again. She whips her hair, flipping it left and right, inelegantly splashing her delicate, bony shoulders.

“I’ll go,” Tim says, laughs uproariously.

“Well, first . . . why don’t the ladies decide,” I say, looking for my High Life and not instantly finding the fat, heavy bottle.

Tonya watches my eyes, so I decisively flash her with a flirtatious smile. Next I push myself up — using the flat surface of my slippery palms — and lift out of the water. I sit on the pool’s concrete rim. “Tonya, you up for a game of Truth or Dare . . . or what? This is getting boring. My fingers are beginning to wrinkle like my prune-shaped privates over here.”

“Shit yea,” Tim adds, as if similarly prunish. “Let’s play already.”

“Too immoral,” Tonya warns, looking to Lauren with visible anxiety, until further vocalizing her genuine concerns: “I don’t know, Vince. Something bad could happen.”

“We’re not two bad guys,” Tim argues, moving water with his outstretched arms, repeatedly widening them and carrying them inwardly again, doing so while kicking his legs. They flicker, at light speed, other times conversely appearing to travel extra slowly. “We’re not evil, Tonya . . . Lauren.” His suave, winsome grin grows several inches, conspicuously evincing his eagerness. “Just sinners . . . right?”

He cackles and violently splashes a spray of water toward Tonya. “Play the game!”

Tonya deflects most of the water, showing impressive reflexes shielding herself by using hands and forearms as facial protection.

“Bad guys and sinners are pretty much one and the same thing,” she says, intentionally glaring in my direction. After dodging a new splash of soaring water, she erects her head and surprisingly her fuchsia fingernails slip like magnets away from each other in a sonorous snap, and — after lifting her same hand — she points at where I sit along the ledge. “Watch your boy, Vince. He’s out of control.”

“I’ll let you know why they aren’t the same,” I say, after rediscovering my thirty-two ounce of Miller High Life. It’s located to the left side of my hip, a foot away and completely knocked over on its side. I grab the neck, open the bottle, swig a bit of beer, and brush water off my Scooby Doo designed board shorts. I’m still a die-hard fan.

“Go ahead. Explain. I’ll listen,” Lauren says, outwardly enjoying my introductory set up on the surface of her covergirl face with a tiny, pert grin.

“The difference between them . . .” I begin, trying to sound officious and knowledgeable. ” . . . Tonya, is that a sinner — by very nature, at the core — does not intend to harm a soul. Bad people, evildoers . . . now, they’re an entirely different subject.”

“And why’s that?” Tonya responds.

“Once again, bad guys commit acts of evil. Right? What’s evil, really? Evil is when you hurt — or, even — when you wantor desire to hurt yourself or someone else. Point being, the wrongdoing is malicious and fully intentional. The deliberate decision to hurt your fellow woman and man, well . . . that just might be the worst transgression there is. Period.”

Again the thick-glassed bottle of Miller is angled toward my mouth. I swallow a couple more ounces of foamy, golden-brown beer. “Of course, a sinner’s propensities are typically related to partying. Far be it from me to be hyperbolic, but sinning can be incredibly fun. We do it to loosen up, rid ourselves of unwanted inhibitions and actually enjoy life. If sin is carefully controlled, it can hardly harm anybody. Nobody dies from it. Nobody ever gets hurt too badly. Wouldn’t you agree, Tonya?”

Tonya looks toward Lauren — as her sister sets the Bacardi bottle on the edge of the pool. It falls backward with a small, unceremonious plop into the water. Lauren even kicks it by her tiny heel, swimming away.

“Yes,” Tonya agrees, just slightly grinning. “I guess that is a sensible way of looking at the difference between evildoers and sinners. Perhaps I was overreacting just a little.”

“So, now we can play a game of Truth or Dare?” Tim asks, boldly.

Tonya still holds a noticeable amount of trepidation.

“We’ll keep it controlled, then?” she whimpers, nervously.

“Who’s first,” says Tim, raising his wet hand and waving it. “I’ll go,” he says. “Do me. Hey — everyone hear that — I just said do me. That’s hilarious.”

“Fine,” says Lauren. Her eyelids lifting and falling down from drunkenness, she effortfully lunges toward Tim in slowed, moon-walking style leaps. “Truth or dare, Timmy. You’re so cute. Like a puppy dog. I just want to pet you all day . . .”

She pats the empty air, then — so the imitative gesture is better seen — slaps the blue water’s surface that’s comfortably heated at seventy-two degrees, until she arrives in similar bobbing fashion to Tim’s front side. “Say dare, Tim . . . or I’ll chop your prick off with my fingernails.”

She arranges her apple-red fingernails into a threatening cat’s claw, adding, “Choose dare. Don’t make me castrate you, Timmy.”

“Dare,” Tim says, unemotionally, eyes tethered in solemnity to Lauren’s.

“Good boy,” replies Lauren, as she excitedly claps once. She gestures with the bright fingernails now pointing at the shallow side of the pool. “Go French-kiss Tonya. I want to see tongues entwining like Lesbians during sex. Thirty seconds of noisy making out. Half a minute . . . or it won’t count guys.”

Tim looks at Tonya impassively treading water with her arms and legs. He races toward her without checking for agreement on Tonya’s face. Tonya acquiesces, choosing to hop over — rather than swimming toward him — at a slow-moving advance. They embrace like old lovers and their lips connect together exchanging tongues for the requested period of time.

“Woo!” Lauren screams, but then something catches her intoxicated attention.

She discovers another bottle of liquor near the glass table. The table is deliberately situated in front of the latitudinous vista, obviously so her prosperous family can view the flora and wildlife — consisting mostly of birds, coyotes, and occasionally wolves — whenever peering inside the vast canyon behind Lauren’s home.

She fights through water to the edge of the pool, lifts out, sprints over the wet concrete in a frightfully tentative fashion, presumably in pursuit of the liquor bottle. She amazingly reaches the table without experiencing an injurious pratfall. She secures the bottle in her shaky grip, and — after almost dropping it, but catching the bottle with her knees — carries the liquor back to the pool and jumps into the water. She rises back up with the bottle of Raspberry Vodka.

“Who’s next?” she exclaims, loudly.

“Vince,” Tonya says.

She looks over to me with an aloof, joyful expression, as Tim confidently leaps back to the deeper end of the pool. He then pushes off the wall like an Olympic swimmer — two feet at a time — and his medium-height body (five feet and nine inches) torpedoes all the way through the middle area and approaches the six-feet water again.

“Fine, I’ll go,” I say, holding my beer, enjoying the elevated view from the ledge.

“Truth or dare?” Tonya asks, eagerly.

“Truth,” I reply.

“No, you chicken-shit —” Lauren interjects, exhibiting her cat-like claw and vehemently shaking her head in angry protest. She raises the Raspberry Vodka, only now to discover there’s no more liquor inside of the bottle. For a second or two, clearly, her disappointment overcomes her facial expression, but then, after a demonstrative shrugging of her shoulders, she heaves a sigh and follows that with a perky sweeping of her head. Her hair immediately fans out and shoots pellets of water away like an aqueous sort of machine gun.

“Don’t be a loser, Vince,” she says, throwing the bottle on the grass.

She turns at the edge of the pool and forms the kitty claws once more. “Don’t think I won’t chop your Johnson off, too. Vince chooses dare. He is doing a dare.”

“Fine. Dare, then. If it will make Lauren happy, I’ll —”

“— Terrific!” Lauren practically shouts.

Tonya looks at us, inspecting Lauren and myself while choosing the dare.

I swig the very last of the Miller High Life, discard the bottle by getting out and responsibly depositing it inside the only waste receptacle. Afterward, my strongest desire is to immediately slip back into the warm pool.

“I dare you to suck Lauren’s nipple,” Tonya says, surprisingly. “Go,” she says, clapping, finally showing a similar level of enthusiasm as her sister. “Suck Lauren’s nipple, Vince.”

“What?” I say, laughing. Afterward, I curiously look toward Lauren.

Lauren doesn’t appear disagreeable to the idea. So I change my mind. “Fine. I’m up for it.”

I walk toward Lauren’s thin frame in the water. She fixes her hair, so the wet strands cling to the back of her shoulders, preliminarily kept away from her face. I wait, as she lowers her top, giggling and then looking in different directions with a closed-lipped, immodest smile, noticeably excited the game has elevated in this manner. Once her full breast is exposed, she motions for me to approach with a welcoming arm gesture. I get closer, lower down to her chest, and — as dared — wrap my lips around the protruding bump. Her nipple looks like a pink bull’s-eye. It’s the size of a pushpin and closely resembles the game piece from “Sorry” that advances across the collapsible playing board. The supple breast tastes like chlorinated water, as I lap my tongue around the nipple, ever so lightly holding the tit as I do.

“Enough,” I say, raising my head . . . sort of like an overstuffed baby . . . from the exposed breast. “Who’s going to go next? Tonya . . . truth or dare? We all doing dares? Yes, no — what?”

“Dare!” Lauren shouts for her sister.

She rearranges her lime-green top over her breasts, covering up slowly and afterward straightening the upper portion of her two-piece. Desire to sustain the level of excitement is equally felt by everyone, especially Tonya, enduring the high pitch of Lauren’s continual screaming within elbow’s length of her: “Dare! Dare!”

“Nothing raunchy. Shhh! I hear you —” Tonya reaches her open hand toward Lauren’s mouth, as if to tamp her lips, but never actually touches her. “Shhh! I hear you. Dare.”

“Nothing too gross, Vince.” As she spoke, her quarter-inch — similar in extension to Lauren’s — fingernails threaten to slice me to ribbons. She’s like Uma Thurman from “Kill Bill,” swinging her claws and making guttural noises like a tiger.

The twins clearly think alike. They most likely yield a similar taste, as well. Either way, more unknown information of their exquisite taste and feel will — undoubtedly — be stored securely in my head by game’s end. I’m sure to remember this night for a great while.

“I got a dare,” I say, smiling nefariously. “I dare you two . . . Tonya and Lauren . . . to both drop your tops and French-kiss each other.” I extend my smile, wryly adding: “And the makeout session must continue for at least half a minute. Otherwise, it doesn’t count.”

“We’re sisters —” Tonya argues, laughs toward starry, dark sky. “Would that turn you on, Vince? You Perv.”

“Yes. Yes it would,” I say, unabashedly. “I’d be very turned on by that.”

Lauren is already frontally nude — by this point— and her light-green top drifts away from her at the surface of leftward-moving, choppy water.

“Don’t be a chicken-shit, Sis,” Lauren hops toward Tonya.

Tonya winces, reaching behind her back. Her black floral-patterned top falls toward water, carried leftward toward a skimmer drain.

Soon their soft bodies melt into each other. Everything appears to interlock: tongues, B-sized breasts, shoulder-length hair, grasping each other’s arms with small identical hands, as they French uninhibitedly, unapologetically, unfettered by taboos or common reservations of any kind. As they disconnect bodies, they momentarily peer into each other’s eyes. They give confident stares, signaling what they’d just finished doing wasn’t a very big deal to them. They have done the same thing many times before! They finally look our way, Lauren bowing, then Tonya, both of them smiling and appearing euphoric.

“Excellent,” Tim says, clapping.

“Yes —” I add, clapping a few times. “Excellent. You two are hot as fire. The conflagration is quickly spreading to my heart. It’s en fuego, really. Lauren, Tonya, thank you. I can say, now, I have greatly matured from sharing this experience. Bravo. Who’s going to go, now?”

“I’ll go again,” Tim offers, still overjoyed at what he just saw.

He swims closer toward the three of us. He waves at the topless twins and noticeably elevates his eyebrows just a little, grinning, as he turns my way and shares a strong look of approval. He lifts them up further, still, as he glances between the naked girls again.

“Who wants to do me?”

He softly chortles to himself shaking his head, which was a pretty corny couple of things to do after his repetitious joke, even making his nervousness more conspicuous by batting a hand . . . somewhat effeminately, in truth . . . toward them. Due to a heightened sense of self-awareness, he grows very solemn again. “Nevermind. Who wants to ask me to do what— Tonya, Lauren?”

“I got an idea,” Lauren says, snappily. “Whip out your dick and jump in the pool.”

“What?” Tim says, feigning confusion.

“She said,” Tonya says, laughing. “Whip out your dick and jump in the pool.”

“Fuck it,” Tim says, apparently letting go of any misgivings.

His surf style board shorts — showing crabs and seaweed as a design — make a brisk ripping sound from the Velcro strap. From his small-bellied waist, the shorts slowly and consistently descend further into the somewhat transparent, slow-moving water. His bare ass is a toast-brown sort of color, flashing above the pool for a disgusting length of time, as he relies on his moderately strong forearms and triceps, while pushing up onto the ledge. He proceeds — naked as a child at birth — and as, though denying such would do him no favors, he suffers from a similar condition as neonatal boys having an exposed, shrunken penis.

He fiddles with his miniature shaft, until it is enlarged enough to be firmly gripped and swung about like a rope. Then, squeezing the dangling junk with his right hand, he proceeds to flail his penis in a cowboy-with-a-lasso kind of way — the tip wavering like a fish head — jumping back into the warm, splashy water.

“Woo!” Lauren screams.

Even Tonya, clapping herself, screams “Woo!”, but then she heads toward the other end of the pool. The departure is probably due to wanting to fix her looks. In truth, she’s a perfect ten without a single flaw. Always will be.

Tim resurfaces and immediately thrusts his head backward. The strident thwack of his six-inch long hair is a bold declaration of his triumph over inhibition and self-consciousness, the water sort of being like fireworks popping around his relatively handsome, bluish face. He’s a conqueror of all mankind’s greatest fear: a cold, wet penis.

“Vince,” he says, like he’d been baptized. “I got a dare for you, man.”

“What’s that,” I say, with a cool smile. “What is it?”

“I dare you to go down on Lauren.”

“What?” I say. “That’s crazy.”

“C’mon,” Tim says, confidently smiling. He elevates his open hand while it faces toward Lauren. “Sushi style. Do it. You’ve got to do that . . . for Lauren, Tonya, you, and myself . . . and do it for epic games of Truth or Dare occurring everywhere.”

I’ve been hoping from years of escalating flirtation with Tonya to hookup with her, but Lauren isn’t a poor choice as a girlfriend either. She’s quite a knockout in appearance and personality herself, at least when judging from what I’ve learned tonight. Occasionally, Lauren would appear at Pay Less, when Tonya and I were both working together, yet she was always so taciturn and inaccessible, perhaps, wrongfully, I had her pegged as the unapproachable type. I figured she was mostly concerned with reading lengthy books and praying at church. I assumed she would only accept an earnest marriage proposal after “hanging out” with a guy for years, rather than agree to “date” a person.

Tonya has wandered over to the farther away end of the pool. She searches for something; meanwhile her bare thigh gently taps against the fourth step leading to ground. She finally finds her handbag, toward the left and resting only inches from the pool’s edge. She fumbles with something inside of the purse, most likely a bottle of perfume or some kind of compact.

“I’m naked below,” Lauren says, as if to steal attention.

“I heard that —” I say, immersing myself in a moment of impetuousness. “Let’s do this.”

“Awesome!” Tim shouts in a deep cry. He cups his mouth. Booms: “I can’t believe this is happening!” so the words echo across the canyon. The canyon shouts his words back.

I close my eyes before submerging in the warm pool. Realizing I’d have to do so sooner or later, I open them up again and swim froggy-style toward the pale pillars sweeping and kicking a few yards away. They drop and lift, recurrently, but they never fall below a foot above the elusive sight of the pool’s floor.

I arrive at Lauren’s — no more than — 130-pound treading body. I lightly hold her legs, encircling both of my thumbs and index fingers around the smooth, doughy flesh above her knees. Afterward, I reel out my tongue and connect lips to her exposed vaginal area. A lump, the clitoris, juts from the top of the dark purplish-red hole, a fact I’d known prior to the old South Park joke. I lick the salty portion of skin around the clitoris, under a thick bush of frazzled hair. It isn’t till — and only after — an ocular and indisputable check, that I realize my tongue is abrading six or seven or eight, even, tiny, button-like protuberances, collectively lining the purple walls of her vagina, as well

HORROR REALITY STORY: AREN’T YOU GLAD YOU DIDN’T TURN ON THE LIGHT? By W. Horton | GBAMLOG.COM

Two dormmates in college were in the same science class. The teacher had just reminded them about the midterm the next day when one dorm mate—let’s call her Juli—got asked to this big bash by the hottest guy in school. The other dorm mate, Meg, had pretty much no interest in going and, being a diligent student, she took notes on what the midterm was about. After the entire period of flirting with her date, Juli was totally unprepared for her test, while Meg was completely prepared for a major study date with her books.

At the end of the day, Juli spent hours getting ready for the party while Meg started studying. Juli tried to get Meg to go, but she was insistent that she would study and pass the test. The girls were rather close and Juli didn’t like leaving Meg alone to be bored while she was out having a blast. Juli finally gave up, using the excuse that she would cram in homeroom the next day.

Juli went to the party and had the time of her life with her date. She headed back to the dorm around 2 a.m. and decided not to wake Meg. She went to bed nervous about the midterm and decided she would wake up early to ask Meg for help.

She woke up and went to wake Meg. Meg was lying on her stomach, apparently sound asleep. Juli rolled Meg over to reveal Meg’s terrified face. Juli, concerned, turned on the desk lamp. Meg’s study stuff was still open and had blood all over it. Meg had been slaughtered. Juli, in horror, fell to the floor and looked up to see, written on the wall in Meg’s blood: “Aren’t you glad you didn’t turn on the light?”

Horror story specials: BRAISED HEART by Grace Treutel | GBAMLOG.COM

When I saw him for the first time, I knew I had to have him for dinner.

It was in the ripe red of his mouth, the plush of his lower lip. The hollows of his cheeks were little inlets for his amusement, surprise dusting his high cheekbones from the shadows of his lashes.

“What, me?” was his answer, a laugh paused at the corner of his mouth. “I don’t even know you.”

I should have been embarrassed, but I wasn’t. I was under a thrall – his thrall. This beautiful, angled boy, with a halo of dark curls and pianist’s fingers. He touched his throat when he spoke, as though nervous I might tear it out with my teeth. As though inviting me to tear it out.

“Please,” I clarified. His prominent knuckles flashed over his sternum with the absent invitation of his hands – rip it out, they said, taste it. He was agreeing to my invitation without words, his hands beckoning even as his red mouth hesitated.

“… Okay. But only because you look posh, and I’m hungry. But I’m not down for anything weird.”

I thought about him the entire subway ride home. It wasn’t until I was three stops from my door that I realized he never gave me his name, nor did he ask for mine. He’d only wanted the address – he’d taken it with those eat me fingers, punching it into his phone as he repeated my words aloud.

“Seven o’clock,” I’d told him, before reconsidering. “Maybe six – seven is dinner time.”

An hour was enough time. An hour to find a recipe, to think of a way to impress him. To honor him.

My fingers ached from my grip when I released the pole at my stop, but it wasn’t the ache of overuse. It was something closer to unsatisfaction – I had been thinking of his throat, the flex of tendons and muscle as he laughed at me with that red, ripe mouth.

I was methodical in my kitchen, thinking back to all the meals I had made before. I wanted to get this one just right – I wanted to impress this boy.

Saffron, for his sensuality. Rosemary, to immortalize our evening. Plums, to mimic the shape of his mouth. A glaze, sticky and spicy, that would shine dark as varnish on his ivory skin, pool into the secret coves of his cheeks.

When the doorbell rang, the air was thick with the opiate scent of aromatics sizzling in pans. My heart felt hot and swollen. I decanted a bottle of dark wine into two glasses and imagined.

“Hey,” he said when I opened the door, glancing over my shoulder with naked curiosity. “I don’t usually do this, but you seem okay – damn, what are you making in there? It smells fantastic.”

I stepped aside and summarized my efforts for him. I wondered how my house looked through his eyes – old-fashioned, expensive. Dark. He was a smear of brilliance against my carefully curated backdrop, the thing that didn’t fit. Watching him move across my canvas made me feel drunk.

“What’s the dish?” he asked, shrugging off his coat. The wings of his shoulder blades shifted beneath his thin t-shirt, straining against the fabric like trapped, living things. I didn’t answer him.

Instead, I handed him the wine and tried not to stare as his throat clenched with every swallow.  My jaw ached like my fingers had, petulant with disuse.

I let him finish the entire glass before.

It was a wet, red thing, and I held him close as I obeyed the invitation of his fingers. My own against his chest and felt his heart beat up to meet their press. His glass shattered on the stone floor, the dark red of his wine kissing the dark arterial shade in a violent swirl. It was over quickly – six fifteen. Dinner was at seven. I moved with purpose.

It was a complicated dish, but I had gotten the sense that he was a complicated boy.

I worked until it was perfect. I plated it to perfection. I set out the dishes, one for me, one for him. I helped him into his seat, careful to avoid the ribbons of red spilling from his chin, arranging him until he was comfortable and patting his lovely knuckles once.

I sat down and he was staring at me, wide-eyed. It made me smile, bashful, but only just – I wasn’t used to the unbridled attention. He made me feel exposed in a way that I liked, his mouth parted slightly like overripe fruit that had burst a seam.

“Thank you,” I told him with a hint of nervousness, the inevitable bloom of self-consciousness that came with a first date. “For joining me for dinner.”

He said nothing, but the sweet drip drip of sentiment from his throat onto his plate was answer enough.

I smiled down into my plate and took a delicate bite of his braised, silent heart. He tasted like new romance.

Despite the earliness of the evening, I felt confident there would be a second.

HORROR CLASSICS:THE DARK SHADOW by Vidal Martinez |GBAMLOG.COM

To the sound of the air brakes something catches my eye.

“Mike, I see something,” I whisper.

“What?”

I point to the second floor. “Up there in the window.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, I saw something.”

Mike turns the steering wheel and parks the fire truck on the edge of the road. He then looks up at the second floor window. “There’s too much smoke.”

I look again. “I swear I saw something.” I tighten the straps on my air pack, open the passenger door and jump off Engine 13.

“Fidel, wait for backup,” Mike says.

“There could be someone in there.” I walk toward the old abandoned home.

“Don’t go inside. It’s just you and me, remember?”

I look up at the abandoned house as black smoke covers the bright moon.

Mike steps off the fire truck. “Wait for Engine 7. They’ll be here soon.”

Ignoring Mike, I make it to the porch, take a deep breath, and slowly push open the front door. I walk into a cold, dark, smoky house. “Hello is anyone in here?” I then crouch, trying to breathe, moving cautiously, looking for any signs of fire, but the smoke is too thick. I panic, lose my sense of direction and bump into a staircase. “Is anyone up there?”

I cough, pushing smoke out of my lungs, about to run out the front door, when I hear heavy footsteps above on the second floor. “Hello!” I shout, hearing footsteps again. “I’m a firefighter, and I’m here to help!” There is silence. I then think of Julia and how proud she would be if I saved a life from a burning building. I surely would make the front page of the newspaper. I hear a thump, and with what courage I have left, I run up the stairs, stumble, and fall to the floor. I stand up, when I see a glimmering light coming from underneath a door at the end of a hallway. “Hello, it’s the fire department!”

Curious, I creep up to the door. As I push it open, I’m blinded by a small flickering light coming from the corner of the room. I walk in while the light starts to take shape. My mouth drops, I’m about to run away, when small flames burst out from the flickering light, leaping toward the walls, reaching the ceiling, and rolling over each other like dancing angels.

I step back, and slowly the flickering light disappears, leaving a dark shadow lurking in the corner of the room. I move away as the rolling flames from the ceiling start to fall on the floor. I reach for the exit, but several flames jump from the ceiling to the door, forcing me to the center of the room. I stumble, trying to catch my balance but hit the floor, twisting my ankle. The flames surround me in a ring of fire as I realize what the dark shadow is.

“Get away from me,” I mumble.

I hear a deep growl.

“Get away,” I insist.

As the room becomes engulfed in flames the dark shadow moves away from the corner of the room.

“What do you want?” I ask.

In a whispering voice the dark shadow replies, “You.”

I panic and force myself against the ring of fire. “No,” I cry.

“Then you will burn to death.”

“No.”

“I can save you.”

“Then save me,” I beg.

“Tell me that I can have your soul.”

I push up my shield from my helmet, staring into his eyes.

“What are you waiting for? Speak the words before you burn,” he insists.

I think of Julia, my sister, mother, and then I shout, “I don’t want to die.”

“Then say it before it is too late,” he whispers.

I’m about to utter the words when the floor starts to crack. The dark shadow moves frantically around the room. Suddenly the floor inside the ring of fire starts to cave in. I cover my head and fall through, landing on a table on the first floor. I roll over and crawl toward the exit. I look behind me as the dark shadow falls on the table, spreading fire everywhere.

“Get back here,” he demands.

“Fuck no!”

As the dark shadow is about to grab me, I close my eyes, but instead of death, cool water splashes against my face. I look up, and it is Mike with the fire hose.

“Hurry up!” he yells, spraying water at me.

I crawl to the front door.

“Hurry,” he says.

I reach the door and Mike drops the fire hose, pulling me out of the house. We stumble to the street.

“Are you okay?” Mike asks.

“Did you see that?”

“What?”

I am hesitant to answer.

“I saw fire and smoke,” he says.

I grasp his bunker jacket and glare into his eyes.

“Are you okay?” he asks.

“No.”

“What’s wrong?”

I’m about to tell him what I saw, but I know he won’t believe me. He will laugh, think I’m crazy, and make fun of me in front of the other firefighters because they already hate me.

“Well?” he insists. “You look like you saw a ghost.”

I let go of his jacket and fall to the curb. “There was nothing in there,” I mumble.

“I told you. I can’t wait to tell the guys that I saved your skinny ass.”

I pull my helmet off and unbutton by bunker jacket, thinking I almost gave my soul away.

“Fidel, you’re lucky you’re alive,” Mike says.

“I know.”

We both look up to the crackling sound of the burning abandoned house. Engine 7 arrives.