Vespers

Cold wind flows past the dying trees in streams

Taking the last leaves swiftly followed by moonbeams

It is on darkening cobblestone paths that we tread

Out of the approaching night’s bosom and dread

To the tolling of bells do we steadfastly approach

The serpent of old slithers along offering reproach

Never mind his venomous words spun like a web to ensnare

Only fear the Spirit and enter His House with sins laid bare

Crossing reverently as the tall wooden doors tower overhead

Chilling wind howls for you to turn back and retire home instead

Pushing open the doors the sights, smells, and sounds overtake you

Chanting, incense, and candlelit icons drench the soul to remake you

You worship in the warmth and safety of the Holy Church

In here your soul’s quest for meaning can end its search

Within the Church alone does worship in spirit and truth abound

Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses are we truly found

-CL Fuqua

The Daemon Slep

It comes to me in the night watches. I hear its bellowing ragged cloak whipping in the wind as it advances towards me, its helpless victim. Like a dove overtaken by a predatory hawk mid-flight am I viciously thrashed apart by its preternatural claws. A very select few in our world of Terra know of this beast even though its malevolent presence visits every living soul that still dwells in a body. It is only we who struggle against its sinister machinations that come to be made aware of its true personality. Of its name.

Slep the Daemon of night first appeared in my troubled 20’s. Not troubled in any delinquent sense, quite the contrary, I was overburdened with my work and career and it was costing me sound night’s rest for nearer week’s at a time. I was never the sharpest knife in the drawer but a hard work ethic was instilled in me from an early age. My colleagues surely didn’t appreciate my titanic efforts at the time but such is my lot. As I said I was missing consistent full night’s sleep for weeks at a time and it finally caught up to me… Late one night I was in a groggy and dreamlike state as one often is when rest-deprived, rubbing my eyes while seated at my desk when strange things began occurring. The lamp’s yellow light flickered in quick rapid succession and for some reason the hairs on the back of my neck stood upright. I felt as though I were not alone in my bedroom. I was hesitant to move as one often is when seized by anxiety and slowly turned my head around towards my bed and could see out of my peripheral vision a clear and contrasting sight in the room. A dark and what seemed like hunched over figure was behind the head-rest of my bed. Its blackness held a cold aura that is almost futile to try and describe beyond what I have. Against the yellow light of the weakening lamp and the off-white walls of the room its shadowy dark visage stood out more brilliantly than a full moon in cloudless night. I jerked completely around frightened of what was to follow but there was nothing! Just my bed and the bland wall behind my bed’s head-board. The lamp’s dimming light brightened back to its normal strength at this moment and I rubbed my eyes as I turned back to my desk to continue the evening’s work.

You must understand it was not as if I avoided a good night’s rest on a regular basis. Not as I do now… No, it was just that work enveloped my time and when not working I had precious few hours left to play and play is what I most often elected to do. I succumbed to the occasional day nap to be sure but nothing like a restful evening of deep dream wanderings. Those dream wanderings which bring that wretched Daemon Slep its minacious delights. It was a mere two days after the first occurrence that I met “it.” I was again busy working at my desk when I decided to move to the bed for a more comfortable position. Sitting my pillow against the head-board vertically I sat back against it with my laptop on the lap of my outstretched legs. It predictably didn’t take long at all for drowsiness to slam against my eyes like a sledgehammer. The door to the hallway was half opened letting light spill in and mingle with the artificial glow of my laptop’s screen when once again they began flickering and dimming. Both at the same time so I knew it wasn’t merely a weakening bulb or malfunction of the computer. I shook my head and rubbed my eyes as I prepared to get up and see what was going on in the rest of the house when I suddenly froze in place on the bed. I had looked to the cracked doorway leading to the hall when the hunched-over cloaked Daemon that, to my dread, had been leaning over the side of the door frame staring at me quickly moved out of sight!

“Who’s there!?” I yelled out in a panic which made my voice crack a bit.

No answer. The lights still flickering.

“I’m calling the police!! I have a knife! Come near me and I’ll kill you!!”

No answer. But then suddenly I heard a thud and then clacking and scraping. I didn’t know what was happening until horrifyingly it dawned on me the insidious creature had dropped low to the floor and was crawling into my bedroom! I stood up on the bed holding my laptop ready to smash it into whatever was assailing me but I couldn’t see anything around my bedroom floor. Just as I was getting ready to jump off and make a run for it the hallway light extinguished itself and my hopes with it. I let out a whimper not knowing what else I could do when I felt the cold wet alien fingers of the abominable being grab my ankle! I shrieked and screamed yanking my leg but it had already let go causing me to collapse over the side of the bed onto the ground. I couldn’t see anything in the darkness but it sounded as if my laptop was definitely broken in the fall. I clasped a hand on the side of the bed and turned to see two wide bulging eyes shimmering white in the pitch blackness. Eerily human looking eyes but inhumanly large and so so gaping wide as if in a perpetual state of mania or on the verge of striking. They stared at me from under the bed. Nothing but those white eyes visible. I think I died inside then. Perhaps I lost some years off my life. I am not ashamed to admit I fainted. It was the first time in my life and it was well warranted.

I came to 14 hours later by my best estimation. When there are deep lines along your body and slobber along your face and matted in your hair you know you’ve been out for a while. I blinked and picked the sleep out of my eyes and to my chagrin the laptop was in pieces. But as I picked it up all the previous night’s horrors came flooding back to me! I dropped the laptop and gathered my things in a hurried rush out the door. I asked to stay at a friend’s for the night saying something about fumigation I think. Certainly not that a shadowy demon was terrorizing my own place at night. Work was on hold indefinitely until I could get a new computer and transfer the files from my flash drive which was still at my place. So that evening as my friend was getting ready for bed I was reading a book from his collection when before I knew it, an hour had passed! I looked at my watch which said “1:14 am” and was getting up to to retire in the guest room when I heard a violent rustling as if a heavy cape was flapping in the wind! Then a thud! It was coming from the master bedroom… I quickly made my way to my friend’s room calling out his name but his door was closed. I softly knocked calling his name again but still no answer. I slowly turned the knob and let the door creak open but it was so very dark. Just then like a hideous revelation I perceived the same hunched and raggedly cloaked figure crouched over my friend with his slick and shiny wet fingers tightly grasping his head. It was gazing with those wide bulging malevolent eyes at my friend’s face as he lay there in a paralytic slumber! I gasped involuntarily and it jerked its gruesome hooded face to me and stared at me with the same unblinking expression. The same one it had burned in my mind the previous night when it lurked about my room! It didn’t move. It stayed crouching gripping my friends face while staring at me intensely. I couldn’t move for what felt like eternity before I started backing away slowly without thinking. I must find a weapon of some kind! I looked around and found a baseball bat he had in a utility closet! I ran back to the master bedroom but it was gone! My friend lay there alone, snoring away. I went back to the recliner in the main living room to ponder the events that had come crashing uninvited into my life. I did not sleep that night and I did not let go of the bat.

I did not mention the night’s events to my friend because he did not seem to me altered in any way and I was confident he would not believe such a wild story anyhow. But I had to research what was happening and discover if at all possible the origins of this infernal phantom. I acquired a new laptop and began scouring all the dark, dingy, macabre corners of the internet I could find looking up anyone who may have heard legends of such a creature. The research was feverish and consumed me. Work had texted, emailed and called several times but damn them I had more important things to contemplate! I sent an email referencing leave of absence and left it at that. Maybe I’d have a job by the time I had rid myself of this malady or maybe not. Either way I had one singular task ahead of me. For all the online junk, bad fiction, creepy pastas, etc that I had unfortunately crammed down my beleaguered brain it was a forum on sleep paralysis that had been my salvation. Several people referenced the usual apparitions associated with this phenomenon such as dark silhouette figures, aliens, demons etc etc but a few people made reference to a women several years back who ended up in the news in her sleepy coastal town in Maine. She had become something of a cautionary tale among the sleep paralysis community. This woman in her mid 30’s with no history of mental health issues one night set fire to her house burning her husband and 4 children alive. She was arrested and after observation declared mentally unfit for trial where she was committed to a institution. She made constant references to a hooded and cloaked demonic figure with bulging eyes stalking her family at night but these were passed off as the deranged ramblings of a mad woman. However, for me the similarities were striking indeed. I inquired further about where she was committed and made plans to travel to New England’s infamous asylum in Arkham, Massachusetts.

Since the horrible incident several years back she had shown no signs of violence and besides her ravings could be rather docile. This led to my being able to visit with her under light supervision. We were in the common area with other patients and I was seated across from her at a table when I leaned in whispering about the “demon that comes at night” and her eyes widened with terror. To my relief though she did not lose control causing an abrupt end to our session. She leaned forward also and whispered “Daemon.”

“It’s called Daemon Slep. Demon is too new.”

“Tell me, miss! I need to know how to stop it from coming to me and my friends.”

“I tried” she weakly groaned with tears beginning to form in her eyes. “I tried to burn it alive but I burned everything else! Every ONE else!”

The guard near the door to the common area had begun to take notice.

“Yes and I’m truly sorry. But now its after me. I don’t know what to do!”

“It’s after us all. Don’t you know that? It still comes to me and everyone in this goddamn madhouse.”

“What? How is that possible? Are there more of them!?”

She began laughing in a mix of bemusement and frustration probably at my complete lack of awareness. “There’s only the Daemon Slep.”

“How do you know its name?”

“It told me. The night I…..of the fire. It spoke to me. I knew then what I had to do. It’ll tell you too. I don’t know if you can kill it. But if you want a chance you have to wait for it to take someone else. That’s all I have to say about this, please leave.”

I wanted to continue but seeing that she was thoroughly finished speaking I rose from the table, offered my condolences to her family and left that foggy town of Arkham headed back home.

The plans were quite simple I’d make up some other excuse to stay the night at my friends place and just as before it would make its appearance and while it was doing its work on my friend I would kill it or die trying. The tool was already at his place. Louisville Slugger. Made for one thing; beating the hell out of whatever was in front of it. That night as we each retired to our rooms I came back out into the living area and sat down with the bat just watching and waiting. It was probably a quarter past 12 when I heard that wind-flapped billowing of its wretched black cloak and the dreaded thud of a very real presence in my friend’s room.

“Okay, there’s no time to hesitate, don’t stare at it, don’t let it get away.”

I was trying to inspire supernatural courage within myself and finally arose. I approached the door cautiously. No sound from inside the room. I carefully twisted the knob as before and let it creak open enough to see it. There in all its maligned glory crouched over my friend with its hideously long shiny black fingers it dripped viscous dark fluids all over my friend’s face as it squeezed its palms over his eyes. Those unblinking bulging white eyes were transfixed on my friend. The Daemon’s concentration was like nothing I had ever seen before. Something not even the strongest of illicit stimulants could induce in a human being. I was involuntarily squeezing the handle of the bat so hard sweat was pooling inside my palms. I glanced down at my hands for a second and looked back up to see the wretched Daemon staring at me with its ghastly gaze! As if it had been peering into me the whole time as well. “Don’t hesitate” I whispered, and barged in!

Swinging the bat violently downward in the darkness of that room it met with a satisfying *crack* as the Daemon’s hands were stretched out to defend itself. I swung mercilessly cracking it in the face several times and then the body as it writhed around over my friend! A gurgling wheezing was emitting from it as it struggled to breathe and then it vanished out of sight leaving just me and my friend! I turned to the door and flipped on the light which greeted me with an image so nauseating and repellent I shall never sleep soundly again. The bed sheets and blanket were scattered about the floor and my friend’s beaten and mangled body lay twisted on his mattress with blood pooling around his face. One of his eyes was knocked clear out of his skull and he choked and coughed up a pathetic glob of blood and teeth as he turned his one good eye up to me like a frightened and confused child. I dropped the blood-soaked bat and rushed to him frantically looking for a phone to call an ambulance but he was already breathing his last. I collapsed into a sobbing heap on the floor of his bedroom with his fresh blood all over my clothes and hands.

Time as a construct had become a faded concept to me but if I had to guess I would say it was maybe an hour after I had been crying next to the mutilated corpse of my friend that it came back. It just seemed to creep back into the visible spectrum out of its nether nothingness. The light’s flickered as it perched over my friend’s body and looked down on me from on top of the bed. Its coldness was more apparent then ever before and I swear I saw my own breath as I examined its features. The cloak was well past worn and was tattered scraps yet concealed every inch of the Daemon’s body besides its face and hands. Those long fingers hung a good 10 inches each dripping that shiny black liquid all over the mattress as it stood hunched over motionless. Its face was a pale sickly gray shrouded by the hood it wore but by far the most strikingly disturbing feature were those great grotesque bulging white eyes leering lifelessly without end. It peered at me or rather INTO me for hours. It didn’t move. Didn’t change expression. Just stared. While I sat defeated on the floor against the wall, tear-stained and blood-soaked.

Finally I hoarsely croaked “Who are you? What do you want?”

It didn’t move or make a sound. Just stared…

“Please…I have nothing. Why did you do this?!”

Staring…

“Answer me!! “WHAT ARE YOU?! WHAT ARE YOU?!!”

A guttural sound like squeezing wet sandy rocks together in your palms emitted from it like regurgitated waste. The sound seemed to splatter all over the walls, the floor, the furniture, my friend, me… It spewed until it filled up the room like a septic tank overflowing with stinking refuse. It was just a word:

“SLEP.”

I had covered my mouth so the sound wouldn’t enter me and I gaped at it wide-eyed with horrible fright as it uttered this single name of preternatural and ancient eldritch terror.

In in an instant it was flying at me with its outstretched dripping fingers and lidless white eyes until only blackness enveloped me!

Only that Daemon Slep.

So should you find yourself resisting that creeping and stalking urge to rest, your sense for its presence may be awakened. You may find yourself burning the midnight oil and rubbing your eyes to stay awake. But take care dear reader, for one night when you rub your eyes you may open them to see that Daemon Slep watching you from the corner of your vision as the lights flicker on and off…

-CL Fuqua

Undo

When you look at me what do you see?

Is it the reality or what you want me to be?

I am walking the halls again just as before.

Now they are adorned with Saints and more.

Will they ever get to know me as You do?

Or like before maybe I’ll fail them too.

No I am not like the ones you have come to know.

No I am not looking to be another stand-in for the show.

Polished and picturesque but now with an added ethnic flair.

From here it looks remarkably ordinary the longer I stare.

Here comes the priest to do his Godly work on my heart.

Kind words of wisdom and encouragement to impart.

Could you put away the broom, Father, for Christ’s sake?

Cause knowing me I still got a lot of messes left to make.

But I promise to keep struggling, to keep showing up.

I promise I’ll meet you where I am, just bring the Cup.

Just don’t expect a sanitized version of me to emerge.

A creation of your imagination’s wholesome surge.

I won’t be yet another good christian family man in your Church.

You will cry for unmet expectations and get left in the lurch.

If I leave this life with a little less hate in my heart you have won.

If I leave this life with a little more love then your work is done.

I will not be undone by you.

Me you will not undo.”

-CL Fuqua

Take me to Heaven. Take me to God.

“Will you take me to Heaven where the angels sing? Will you show me the Uncreated Light that burns for all eternity? I want to see the Tree that feeds life itself with each succulent fruit. I want to walk in the mist of the day and revel in the all consuming peace that never fades. Will you take me to Heaven where pain is a myth and death a legend of old? Will I finally see all God’s creation and marvel at each atom’s perfect alignment forming a complex dance of matter? Will you take me to God so I can see the perfection my heart has whispered of since I was born?

I want to see my Lord as He truly is so I can cry out for redemption. Will you take me to God so I can breath clean air for the first time? All these sins that I know and the oh so many that are hidden dry up and die in His sight. I have known love and loved a great deal before. The love of a mother who carries her child for months and raises her boy through self-sacrifice and devotion. The love of friends who form a bond of brotherhood, unbreakable and ready to defend against the day’s troubles. The love of a lover whose blissful gaze brings warmth and joy to the heart of her man. A mysterious and powerful love that brings a man and woman so close together their souls dance and intertwine, mingled for the rest of their lives.

Such loves are so great only God could have created them, but I want to see a greater love still. So will you take me to Heaven so I can see God? I wish to see the One who considered my existence before time began, Who looked upon all my filthy trespasses that I would one day commit against Him and still determined that I would be a beneficiary of His atoning death for all mankind. No love I have known has exceeded such depths or heights. Take me from my pain, my pride and my temporal satisfactions. Take me to Heaven so I may see God.”

-CL Fuqua

Don’t disrupt the flow

“Sun sets on the city of big dreams

Sun sets on the lonely and afraid

So disconnected

I see hundreds cramped into a building to “live”

An aging woman cries alone in the dark loud enough to hear herself

But quiet enough to leave her neighbors in peace

A fat man laughs away illuminated by the glow of the one eyed god

On and on it goes

Each other’s lives no one cares to know

The other’s pains and fears are their own

Souls huddled in concrete boxes

Separated by paper thin walls and an ocean of self-absorption

Was this the plan?

When the sun rises we all put on our happy faces once again

When the sun rises I swear I’ll make the world believe I’m OK

Don’t disrupt the flow. Don’t disrupt the flow.”

-CL Fuqua

Nether Gloom

THIS LETTER IS THE PROPERTY OF THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH TEXAS STORED IN THE ARCHIVES OF THE DEPT. OF METAPHYSICS & ESOTERICS:

Hello dear reader, my name is Samuel Alexander. What I’m about to share with you is a bit lengthy by modern standards for letter writing. But I urge you to read on. If anything just to be remembered. 

I can’t recall exactly how many times I’d made the trip to Denton, Texas to spend the day. More often than can now be recollected. You see I usually resided in suburban areas that while safe and perfectly pleasant to raise a family in didn’t offer much in the way of adventure. Adventure in the exploratory and culinary sense. Denton on the other hand was a small town in metamorphosis. It’s early life as a generic college party town was ending by the time I had reached early adulthood. Instead the town seemed to have cocooned itself in a cultural chrysalis where it gestated into something else entirely. Shedding its vestigial trappings it was now utterly unique. Independent shops, bars, coffee houses, eateries and peculiarities of the eclectic sort now peppered the landscape. Sure there were still chain restaurants and squeaky clean retail outlets to be found on the fringes but slowly the town’s entirety had transformed into something worth while. But what had been the catalyst for such a transformation? We as a species often like to pin these things down to concrete events. As Caesar crossed the Rvbicon he started the Civil War that ultimately led to the restructuring of the Great Republic into the Great Empire. And as Emperor Constantine took up the sign of the Cross in the battle of the Milvian bridge he shifted the Great Empire from Pagan to Christian and ultimately all of Eastern and Western Europe. However, we aren’t discussing grand historical narratives with the fate of nations in the balance. We are discussing little Denton, Texas. I do not claim to be a historian myself and cannot, I’m afraid, pinpoint this little college town’s rather dramatic change in the look and culture. There is a starting point, however. A first clue. Not an event but a location. And this location shall be the focus of my tale from this point hence. You see, the things I experienced here are infinitely more consequential to me than ancient Rome could ever be…

I had recently moved from my safe suburban environment to the big bustling metropolis that is Dallas, Texas. Long gone were the endless cul-de-sacs of houses seemingly churned out of a factory like Big Macs with roofs. No, now I had more culture and architectural diversity than I could handle. There was still just something missing, that “thing” that was aloof amidst the skyscrapers and bustling traffic. I needed a respite to the familiar yet adventurous. I needed the Square in downtown Denton. As a visitor to Denton, the Square was akin to the nucleus of activity. Bookstores, bars, coffee, and restaurants all occupy its small sphere. They even have things to do after 10 pm when suburbia has long since shut off the lights. So on a whim one morning I set off for Denton from my new abode. Happily it was significantly closer geographically to me now so it was quite an expedient drive in. I admit it was odd approaching the town from a different direction. It felt not quite right. As if the town had its own preference. As I drove in I took the familiar twists and turns to approach the Square. Coffee was to be the first of my day’s agenda then Recycled Books at the corner of the Square. At the time of my arrival you had two exquisite options for a piping hot cup of coffee and black is really the only acceptable way to drink it. Black as midnight on a moonless night as they say. I think I heard that somewhere? If you require cream and sugar, you require a better cup of coffee. I digress, of the two options I chose “West Oak Coffee.” It has a warmly lit atmosphere accentuated by the hardwood flooring and tables. My spot of choice is a seat at their long polished wood bar. It’s brick backdrop and soft glowing lights provide ample quality of environment to focus on work or simply relax. As I mentioned before the coffee is also superb. Taking up my seat enjoying the steam wafting up from my freshly poured coffee I opened my reading for the day to a collection of short stories by several different horror authors. It was all centered around the tale of the vampire so it was interesting to see how different authors approach the same subject and give it life, no pun intended. I was completely lost in one of the stories and coming to the climax where the vampire realizes the ride he hitched, his supposed victim, was actually a vampire hunter! But then I noticed my cup was empty. Looking up I was astonished to find it was evening and the sun had set! It was only a little past noon when I sat down. To add to my perplexity the surroundings inside West Oak themselves had changed. The lights had dimmed to a dysfunctional degree barely illuminating a small space under each bulb.I instinctively looked back down at my book and could barely see it. “What the…?” I whispered inaudibly. Dilapidation was the most immediately striking difference from when I first arrived. Large cavernous cracks spread out like a malignant mold. Compounding the wicked unease that now had a vice grip on me was the cloudy haze which the anemic lights revealed. Like a fog machine in a fun house had been set to run indefinitely. Instinctively I coughed although I don’t think I needed to. “He…hello?” I called out as the staff seemed absent in the dark hazy void that now occupied the space behind the bar. No answer. I looked around in bewilderment but thankfully I could glimpse through squinted eyes one or two people seated along the bench at separate tables. They were little more than black silhouettes under the ill lights. I hopped off my stool at the bar but instantly slipped and fell to one knee just barely catching myself with one hand to the hardwood floor. Or what WAS hardwood. Now it was much like stone but…sticky and slimy all at once. Since the haze was settled along the ground I couldn’t actually see it anymore. I pulled my hand out of the cloudy mist as it whirled about like kicked up dirt in a shallow muddy pond. My hand was covered in some inky black viscous sludge. Horrified beyond curiosity I vigorously wiped it on my jeans until at least most of it was gone. “HELLO!!?” I exclaimed loudly enough to be heard by anyone in the building. I carefully felt my way along the bar slowly stepping through the cloudy mist and sticky surfaces to approach one of the seated silhouettes. But a sudden wave of fog overshadowed the figure as I approached and just like that they were gone! Damn! I must be in some nightmare. Did I fall asleep on the bar stool? This didn’t feel like a dream. I peered to the outside through the filthy glass windows to see if the same thing was happening outside. It was. I furtively pressed open the double doors to exit the ghostly West Oak and to my relief the mist was significantly lessened outside. It was prevalent to be sure but not as if drowning in a bowl of it. The street lamps were on, thank goodness, but they only served to heighten my anxiety. Deadened trees replaced green along with lethal quiet and unnatural stillness. No moon in the sky to give me some sense of the familiar. Is this even the same universe? Not even the more modern buildings that had been added in recent years were left standing. They’re just missing. There’s the old multi-domed archaic looking courthouse at the center. Somehow it seemed to fit in the macabre Square. All the buildings seemed slathered in the sticky black sludge still caked on my jeans and just as inside West Oak the ground was no longer visible. Every now and then sporadic glimpses of darkened silhouette people popped in and out of the fog. As if taunting me in my solitary forlorn. Calling out to the figures predictably was futile. As I carefully made my way along the sidewalks peering into the desolate businesses my attention was grabbed by a flickering light out of the corner of my vision. I quickly turned my head to the courthouse to see one of the doorways was open! A small yellowish light was flickering from inside as if by candlelight. But I dare not approach such a haunted looking scene. One of my other favorite spots was the used bookstore on the corner of the Square. I had intended to visit there next anyway. Maybe I’ll find someone, anyone.

I carefully and stealthily made my way to the steps of Recycled Books glancing left and right at my ghostly night surroundings before gently pulling the creaking double door open. I don’t know why I felt the impulse to be on guard. I hadn’t seen any hostile presence or menacing phantasms up to this point. Perhaps it was just the stark eldritch mask this town had assumed so suddenly. Or perhaps it had taken the mask off and revealed  its true face. No matter, I had no sooner entered the bookstore before I FELT something wrong with this place. This vast building consisting of 3 stories including a lower level always beckons me when I visit the Square but now, now it is as if the walls themselves cry out to me for justice on their behalf. The hideousness that had overtaken this hallowed space of knowledge was a crime, a violation of the highest order. Books were mutilated and strewn about the floor as if violently, balefully. More interestingly however was the appearance of ancient looking scrolls dotted in and about the bookshelves and floors. Quietly as if a specter I ever so slowly crept to the front counter a mere ten to fifteen feet from the entrance to pick up one of them. The papyrus was ancient to the touch. I felt as though I had no business handling something so archaic with my sullied modern hands. And no matter, I couldn’t hope to understand whatever language was written upon them. Even if I could the darkness in this place was so oppressive it was alive with malcontent. The deep blue and black of abyssal oceanic depths seemed to pervade this place. “Useless!” I exclaimed with a whisper and frustratingly set the scroll back on the counter when at precisely the same moment I heard it. A…splash? I doubted myself for the sheer strangeness of such and idea but there it was again! And again as if something was wading and slopping about in muddy waters. Where was it coming from? Below. The staircase that descends behind the front counter leads to the vast section of every sort of histories you can conjure. Ancient to modern, military to poetry, in the lower level is where I usually peruse. But peering down it was just pure black. Not even any mist to speak of. The only thing escaping the dark yawning chasm before me was that deep splashing. I say deep because it was the sort of commotion only something of sizable proportion could make. There I stood at the top of the steps peering helplessly into the nothingness. Any reasonable person would’ve fled back out into the night. But reason was long evicted from this desecrated realm. *SLOP SLOP* growing louder with each eager splash. I could hear a distinct *ssssthooop* in rapid succession as though innumerable suction cups were being yanked off the dampened concrete and wood interiors and then a ghastly demoniac moan mixed with a wheeze gushed forth! The hot air I presume to be its breath mingled with the stench of countless corpses left in the sun to slowly rot, invisibly drenched my entirety causing me to double over ready to lose the day’s meal.  A demented parody of communication perhaps? As if on cue with the peak of my fear being reached a long hideous and darkened gray tentacle shot forth from the black barely missing me! Just one was large enough in length and circumference to wrap around my body in its entirety several times over. I lunged to the side and rolled across the ground as a semblance of reason returned. Two then three more issued forth as though being vomited up by the cavernous depth. It now barred the entrance and my only way of escape. Just then I saw a faint yellowish light far ahead off into the “religion” section and could see a frail darkly clothed woman very advanced in years cupping the glowing light in both hands. Shocked to see an actual human person and chased by the aquatic nightmare still slowly breaching its monstrous form to the surface floor howling, wheezing, and moaning in some tortured agony I ran breathlessly toward her! She slowly turned and began moving almost as if not taking strides at all. She seemed to hover into the next area which was partitioned off by dry wall. Catching up to her I saw she had a very antique almost what I surmised as Victorian style of dress complete with a crinoline petticoat making her lower body’s movement imperceptible.

“What was that thing?! Is it still coming after us??”

She slowly raised an extended finger to her lips and let out a quiet “shhhh” as if scolding a rowdy child in a library.

“Wouldn’t want to encourage it now, would ya lad?”

“N..no, no. You’re right. What is “it” anyway?” I whispered to my new mysterious companion.

“Not sure honestly. I’ve been here a long long time. But it’s been here longer still. All I know is when people get to making a fuss it starts a splashing and comes out looking for blood. Usually finds it to. You got real lucky there, young fella.”

I snorted aloud at the thought. “Lucky. Haven’t felt much of that here lately.”

“Well you’ll see.” she cryptically retorted with a grandmother’s grin.

“I’m sorry I haven’t introduced myself. It’s been a hell of a day. I’m Samuel. You can call me Sam.”

“Hello Samuel, I’m Edith Miller. Pleased to make your acquaintance. So tell me, what brings you to this shady place, young man?”

The infernal noise of the creature’s moans and sticky slopping about had slowly subsided and I sensed it had receded into it’s dark pit in the lower level of the building. “Shady” I thought, that’s one way of describing it.

“I don’t know honestly. I was down the street having a coffee and reading a book when this whole damn town changed on me. Into this nightmare version. I haven’t had much chance to explore before coming here and meeting you. Is….is the whole world like this? I doubt I’ll find my car in all this madness.”

“The whole world? Well I’m not sure I take your meaning. If you mean down below, up the staircase and right here where we’re standing then yes, it’s all as it seems.”

I stared confusedly at her for a moment. She is quite old. From her attire perhaps the better part of two hundred years old. I’d have to inquire about that. But maybe she’s gone a bit senile. Or completely crazy by being here for so long. I can’t say I’d fare any better.

“No I mean, outside this bookstore. The other shops and buildings are affected along with the Square itself. But what about beyond? Is Denton as a whole like this and outside of Denton is it all like this?”

She silently gazed into my eyes as if listening intently but not reacting to anything I was saying. The deep lines and creases of her incredibly aged face were flickering in and out of view with the little light she held in her cupped hands.

“You’re talkin nonsense, boy. You’re standing right in the center of it all. You got everything you need all around and you babble on about cities and worlds beyond. Samuel is it? Old Bible name. Not much for a prophet are ya, eh? Heh heh! I see that cross round yer neck. You done much prayin since you been here, boy? Prayed to see more worlds? Beyond this world? Ain’t nothin else out there for ya, boy. You best come to accept that. The sooner you stop prayin to a god that ain’t listenin and start prayin to one that will, the better. They called me a blasphemer in my day. A crazy old witch! But I showed em. Look, here I am. Still breathin, still livin, readin these scrolls all around us. I’ve seen things that would turn your brain to jelly, boy. Things you ain’t ready for yet. Maybe one day you will be. Maybe”

What on earth? I couldn’t outright deny all the things she was telling me but her responses to what I was inquiring bordered on insane or at the very least emotionally unstable. The center of it all? Has she not ventured outside this building? I was about to press the question but perhaps from a different angle when she intercepted:

“Lemme show you what I mean, boy. These scrolls were all but unreadable to me when I first arrived. But then I was given the sight. I was given eyes to see as your old book says.” She dusted off one of the ancient scrolls and started speaking aloud: “Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn!” You ever heard that before, boy? No? I guess you wouldn’t. They don’t like this sort of thing in church!” She cackled aloud at her own venom. “Some of these languages ain’t even HUMAN.” Her eyes grew wider than I thought possible as she said it. “They come from beyond, out among the stars. Out there in that endless darkness they reached out to us.”

“Where do these scrolls come from? I don’t remember ever seeing them in here when I’ve visited before.”

“Oh here and there, all ancient. From different sources. They can all be found compiled in a special book. THE book. Necronomicon. Ever heard of it, boy?”

I began to feel her tone was taking on a jeering quality. I found her pronouncements of “boy” especially distasteful. “No, I don’t find myself reading garbage too often.” I shot back sarcastically.

“G…garbage? That what you say, boy? Well you ain’t ready a mite for the knowledge in these texts. You don’t DESERVE what’s hidden in this place! I..I never..”

My decidedly disrespectful jab had had the desired effect.

“Listen, Edith is it? I don’t know what you’re on about but I don’t want any knowledge from your scrolls, I don’t need to understand the mysteries of whatever cosmic mumbo jumbo writings you got around this place. I just need to get home. Back to my reality if there is a “my reality” anymore. Or maybe just wake up from whatever coked out dream this is. Maybe my coffee was spiked…” I mumbled to myself.

“Oh we’ll get you home, boy.”

Her visage took on a new and malevolent quality. As she spoke she seemed to transform.

“You clearly don’t belong. You can’t see the powers that be for the masters they are!” She started murmuring and chanting quietly and in a low tone something like “Zazii, Zamaii, Puidmon the Powerful, Sedon the Strong, El, Yod, He, Vau, He, Iah, Agla, protect me and help me when I summon the Gate!” All the while motioning with her hands in a practiced ritual as her volume was increasing in intensity. I could hear from the other side of the bookstore that familiar splash as if the creature was being disturbed by her loud chanting.

“Please, ms, you’re being too loud it’s going to attack us!” It was no use. She was in an absolute frenzy by this point.

“Draba, draba, kalta, kalta, entemos!”

I began to turn and make my way to the entrance before the creature crawled out of its abyssal resting spot when she seized my wrist with an unnatural strength. Like I was being held in a vice grip. “Agghh! What are you doing? Let go!”

My demands were met with cold indifference. Her eyes grew wide with crazed zeal and she kept chanting in a trance-like state: “Yog-Sothoth knows the Gate. Yog-Sothoth is the Gate.” Her teeth were discolored and almost black while her flesh was increasingly masticated as she became a hideous crone before my eyes. I yanked with all my might so she dropped her flickering light and crashed into a nearby bookshelf finally letting go of my aching arm. I sprinted for the arched opening back through the partition to hear her maniacal screams behind me.

“NO! In him is no want or need. He requires only what we require to better comprehend him!” I saw she had produced from the side of her blouse a glistening object that I perceived to be a twisted old fashioned dagger. “I will comprehend him tonight! He will lead me through the Gate for my offering! Yes, yes! Come back here, boy! You will help me pass Yog-Sothoth’s Gate. ALL ARE ONE IN YOG-SOTHOTH!”

I sensed she had picked herself up from the ground and was frantically barreling after me, dagger drawn. Just as I had made it past the archway I saw, to my absolute terror and despair, the tentacled monstrosity had fully awoken from all of Edith’s commotion and was slithering about in the main entrance way. Just then it alertly moved its slick, wet, amorphous body in a seemingly unified motion as if aware of my presence. One, two, three, four and so many yet unseen tentacled appendages violently slapped and slopped over bookshelves and whatever else the malodorous suckers and sheathed hooks could grasp on to. I turned back only to see the horrific, fully decayed face of Edith Miller flying toward me in a demonic frenzy. Her blackened jagged teeth were bared with syrupy saliva hanging from her chin like a rabid wolf hot with blood-lust. The deranged expression was beyond anything I had ever seen in a horror film or artistic work of a macabre nature. It was pure hatred with rotted skin messily dangling on it.

“ALL ARE ONE IN YOG-SOTHOTH ALL ARE ONE IN YOG-SOTHOTH!!!” she dementedly screamed at me, dagger ready to plunge its way into my flesh!

I bolted down to the other end of the dry-wall where another arch way led into the music section. I didn’t have a plan, only desperation. As I closed in on my targeted escape a thunderous crash came behind me. Books and shelves flew across the aisles as a tentacled maw barely missed me. Through the archway and running past all the tables of what was once vinyls, which were now replaced with more ancient and decrepit looking scrolls, I saw the staircase leading to the 3rd floor where the modern and classical fiction collections resided. I sprinted, skipping two and three steps at a time until I found my way to a particularly darkened corner where I had two potential avenues of escape. I crouched trying to catch my breath without making much of a sound. I could hear the old wench clambering up the steps like an ape of some kind. I peeked from behind a shelf to see her just visible enough in the glowing light she retrieved for herself on her way upstairs. Her dead hair which was carefully pulled back into a bun when we first met was now a crazed mess of hanging disheveled scraps. She had utterly mutated into an accursed creature that had no business in the world I had come from. Had she really come from my world once long ago?

Her voice had lowered into a furtive growl as she called out: “Come out, boy. The Gate is waitin for us. Come let old Edith gut you. It’s no use runnin anymore. Ain’t nothing gonna come save you.” 

She stalked about hunched over like a monster from a childhood nightmare. I kept angling my way out of her vision waiting for an opening back down the stairs. Hopefully the creature from the depths would have left the entrance unattended by the time I made it down there. Caught, squeezed and dragged down below to be eaten alive or violently sliced up by an insane old bitch. “My options are looking fantastic” I thought to myself. As beads of sweat rolled down my neck and cheeks I tried to calm the storm my nerves had cooked up. I was only going to get one shot at this escape. If the kraken creature was still guarding the entrance then I’d have to try and force my way past it. I was utterly out of options. There is a sort of freedom in the lack of choice. You’re free to do what you must. No more burden of deliberation on the best course of action. The only course is that you act. I took a deep breath…then ran! I made for the staircase and with the sound of my movements the hellion that was Edith Miller wrenched her dead eyes towards me. She tumbled towards me with an unnatural gait, her picturesque Victorian garb tattered shreds revealing the monster within. She howled and wheezed “COME HERE, BOY!!! COME TO MY DAGGER!!”

I skipped the steps altogether this time and slid down the railing and tossed myself over the other side when I was close enough to the ground. Panting like an overly excited hound on a Texas summer day I ran with all the speed I could muster for the archway leading back to the first section of the bookstore. Somehow Edith had kept pace and wasn’t too far behind. I saw the double-doored entrance and the Square just beyond it! No sign of the creature from below! “Just a little further!!” I said to myself or perhaps screamed to myself when I heard the “WHOOSH” and caught the glimmer of the dagger Edith had been wielding as it flew past me and stuck in the wood frame of the door! That old bitch! “AAAHHHHHHCKKKK COME BAACK HERE BOYYY!!!!” I heard as I yanked open the door and collapsed onto the sidewalk outside of Recycled Books. Suddenly I rolled over onto my back leaning up on my elbows and saw Edith at the entrance just standing there behind the glass doors. She gazed at me expressionless. I got up quickly, breathing heavily and covered in sweat, we stood mere inches apart but the door was like an impenetrable barrier for her. She looked into my eyes with a distinct unknowing. Like she hadn’t been frantically trying to murder me just seconds before. Blinking confusedly she slowly turned as if to get back to a task that had been neglected. The most unsettling moment in all of this was watching her monstrously degraded features disappear. Her tattered clothing gracefully floated about her as if submerged in water and the fabrics restitched themselves becoming whole again. Her physical deformities too restructured until she was the old quiet woman I had first encountered. Floating away with her softly flickering light I stood gazing transfixed until she was deep into the recesses of the bookstore beyond my sight somewhere amidst the ancient scrolls and forbidden knowledge. 

“Edith Miller” I whispered aloud. 

Well, quite the story indeed wouldn’t you say? How could conquests and Caesarian drama ever mean anything to me now? I wish I could say it was all a fictional tale. A nightmarish dream perhaps. Or even that parts of it were sensationalized. But I cannot. It’s all, to my great dread, completely true. I have spent the time I’ve been locked away in this nether gloom wandering around searching for a way out. I’ve not dared go back into Recycled Books but I need more research material. I remember reading long ago about a university in Arkham, Massachusetts that housed documents pertaining to fantastical accounts like the one I find myself entrenched in. Miskatonic I think it’s called. I have attempted many times to walk to the nearby University of North Texas to scour their libraries for any clues as to my current otherworldly confinement but when I reach the edges of the Square’s borders a fog passes over and I am turned around heading back near the center. It’s a damn cosmic joke! I can’t say how long it’s been. There’s no daybreak and no dusk. Pure fog and darkness are the totality of my existence now. I fear with increasing anxiety that the next path for me to take lies in the ancient looking courthouse at the center of the Square. I mentioned back near the beginning of this letter that I had witnessed a glowing light emanating from within an open door of the courthouse. It still glows softly, steadily. It calls to me, beckoning me to approach but I have not because I fear a fate even worse than the one I find myself trapped in. A fate perhaps worse than annihilation of the soul or burning in the Lake of fire. Those are concepts I recognize. Even the misery of a biblical hell smacks of the familiar. It reminds me that all I knew before my exile here, was real. Everything I’ve witnessed since passing over into this brumous dimension has been alien to me. All the silhouetted shadows, the unspeakable tentacled horror in the depths of Recycled Books, Edith Miller, they’re all foreign in essence. Even the slime along the walls and ground, the marred and decaying nature of everything in sight, it isn’t like back home. What I would give for one small aperture of sunlight across my face. For the warmth of another person’s embrace. Any sort of conversation with another person, be it intellectual discourse or meaningless weather talk would be like a drop of cool water down a parched and cracked throat. Physical craving is a concept itself which is slowly fading from me as well. Here there is no hunger or thirst. That may sound idyllic but it’s like I’m not even real anymore. I’m just another silhouette wandering here and there about the sticky stone streets. Just the motions of my limbs are of any use now. No more digestion, nutrient absorption, or waste disposal. I’m becoming less human every moment I’m here. Since my violent encounter with Edith so very long ago I haven’t experienced a droplet of perspiration or any kind of exhaustion. Just monotonous exploration which leads to despair. The only unknown now is the courthouse. What lies inside its primeval walls? I feel I am out of options. I am getting desperate. I don’t know if I would even recognize life back in my reality if I were suddenly forced back into it but I must try. Whatever lingering trauma remains with me like an impish goblin latched on my back, I must try and come home. I have written this letter out in the hopes that perhaps somehow it finds its way back to the Denton I know. My intuition tells me I’ve been here for years by now and I don’t think sanity will allow me to stay much longer. I am leaving the letter inside West Oak Coffee with the rapacious desire to be found by a soul willing to believe this fantastic tale. This is not a joke or mere fiction. I am trapped here. I am at the end of my desperate rope and will soon enter the courthouse but if you are reading this know there is another place, another universe beyond our own where the supernatural and alien collide in a violent ecstasy. They wriggle and writhe to construct a tapestry so hideous and blasphemous it tugs at the limits of human sanity and comprehension. And I’ve seen just a glimpse. It’s all I’ve been allowed to see. Edith has seen vastly more. She gazed into the abyss and kept gazing. And it drove her mad. It MADE her into something mad. But I must stop drawing this out. It’s time. I hope this letter finds the reader in good health and peace. Those things which are but a vague memory to me. God help me. -Samuel Alexander 

THIS LETTER IS SEALED AND ARCHIVED UNDER STRICT INSTRUCTION NOT TO BE REMOVED UNDER THE AUTHORITY OF HEAD PROFESSOR OF METAPHYSICS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH TEXAS, ALBERT MILLER.

-CL Fuqua

Dreams

“Well there you were. The first moment I laid eyes. I knew I would have you all to my lonesome self. I just had to convince you my cold life was better than your summer sun. Oh how you came shining through the clouds and into my dreams. Like an angel descending from Good Old Dad. But we know it can’t stay there no we know it can’t stay here.

As summer fell into fall and leaves started to die with our dreams, I never forgot how I first felt when I saw you all that time ago. My summer sun. Hold my hand now cause it only gets colder from here.

You know you’re such a dream. Pour your blood on me. Crimson red and sweet. You’re this winter’s only heat. Let me wrap myself in you. Split my mind straight in two. Falling out of love and into it all. So much more than feeling, it’s life’s call.”

-CL Fuqua

TELOS

“I can feel the rhythm of the hooves in my heart. Beating like war drums steadily guiding me on. The horse’s galloping is my lullaby throughout this hostile wood. Fog’s rising mist bathes the leaves and muddy soil beneath my beast. Darkened woods with the chill of a pale and anemic daylight envelope my existence. We ride onward. How long have we been here in this forest? We’ve crossed through pleasant hill country with pockets of sunlit meadows. Gentle reminders that the beauty I desperately ride towards exists. I’ve been through the deserts with its scorching sands and seemingly endless heat waves. Tightly it squeezes out the life of anything that would audaciously try and thrive in its realm. A harsher reminder that this place is not where I am to stay.

I’ve sacrificed, yes I have sacrificed. I’ve lost family to the bandits seeking my life. I found their lifeless corpses with slashed throats pouring their lifeblood out on the steps of our great home. The bandit’s blood lust is never satiated. They sought my life, attacking me ravenously in the hallowed halls of our house. There in the halls with the bodies of my family still warm, I fought for hours slicing and stabbing my way to an exit. The dead eyes of my family member’s bodies still gazing out like an enraptured audience. There was no time to mourn them. Only avenge to what little measure was afforded me and then escape with my small pack and the horse I now ride. How long ago was that now? Will I ever be afforded time to mourn?

Faster still my horse and I rode until we reached this enchanted wood. There I met them. I have seen those women of legend. The sensualists with eyes of desire that ignite the passion in any man. Like a raging fire they are consumed by lust until there is nothing left of the man. They surrounded me in these very woods when I was overcome by sleep. I awoke to their shining almost inhuman eyes peering into me. Like glittering diamonds carefully and lovingly placed in the sockets of a porcelain face smoother than the finest silk. Their movements so purposed and graceful it was as if they could only dance. Not simply trudge about like some ape. Their hands so gently caressing and guiding me into a trance. Tales have told how these women of the forest with their glowing white yet translucent gowns can surmise the totality of a man’s desire with a single glance. They understand him and how he would have them. Whether he is driven to bestial behavior and takes them like an animal or must be softly wooed into temptation. They use any means to start the fire inside him. Watching him burn into ash and embers is the only source of warmth for them in these woods. I could not find the strength in myself to gut them like the bandits that died by my hand. I simply fled like a mother with her newborn, flames of a wild fire licking the heels. The newborn embodying what little innocence I have left in this life.

So where will I go? My friends from childhood succumbed to the enemy’s religion. The religion of many. They took up rival war banners and betrayed me. Or was it I who betrayed them? Some don’t even know it but would have my blood on their hands before giving up their infernal machinations. I have been riding so long now I am forgetting their faces. I am forgetting the bonds of youthful camaraderie that forged us together. All I know is the hostile world around me with its glimpses of TELOS.

TELOS is where I will go. TELOS is where I’m going. I keep riding East. I will kill any lawless brigand or dear friend that comes between me and my end. I must cross a great expanse of ocean to arrive at my land of rest. When I reach that ocean I will thank my Maker for seeing me through and with my steed I will cross into TELOS.”

-CL Fuqua

The Rooms Are Wrong

“Wasn’t it just daylight outside? Or maybe I’m thinking of earlier… The house seems to have changed or am I imagining it? Did someone slip me something? I….feel wrong. This house feels wrong. Walking down this corridor I’m trying to remember what’s the same and hold on to that. The wallpaper is a sickly yellow color with a bland floral print. Definitely not with the times. And the ceiling is an off white. Like it’s dimmed by the environment. Like it wants to be brighter but can’t. I guess even houses sometimes wish they could be what they’re not. There’s no light. Except the daylight peeking in from the rooms on the left side. Oh wait, there’s no daylight. What am I thinking of? But how can I still see? It’s storming now. There’s the puttering of rain and I hear restrained thunder. It’s powerful but not out of control. And the cracks of lightning flood the hallway for a split second with blue-purple light. There’s 3 doors on the right and 2 on the left. No, 2 on the right and 3 on the left? I swear it’s changing! Houses aren’t supposed to do this. I should feel stable here. But it’s as shifty as my mind. If I can just get my bearings and remember why I’m in this house….who’s that?

I see a silhouette at the end of the hallway just standing behind the open door. It doesn’t seem to take notice until I call out “hello?”. I can see it quickly turn its head then shift to the door and violently swing it open. It’s still too dark until a couple flashes of lightning reveal it’s a woman. Her hair is matted and tangled and she’s in a tattered night gown. At first I assume she must be frightened as I look like an intruder but as I try to calm her down I begin to notice the details. Her gown is ripped and splattered with blood. Her light colored hair is also drenched in blood making it stick together in chunks. But her face is what terrifies me most. It’s twisted and disfigured with madness like it can no longer contain the hatred and rage inside. I manage to pull my eyes away and notice feet sticking out just beyond the wall. Someone’s lying face up on the other side of the door way, are they alive? One foot is twitching… This is when I notice the large knife still soaked crimson red.

I slowly begin to raise my hands to calm her down but she screams and charges toward me wildly with the knife raised to swing down at me. I turn to run but am instantly blocked by a wall. Dead end. I turn and she’s two feet from me and as she strikes lightning flashes and I’m alone once again in the hallway. I frantically check myself over; no stab wounds. Where is she? As I raise my eyes forward everything is the same. Puttering rain, occasional flashes of light with thunder, tacky wallpaper and three rooms on the left, two on the right….right? Yeah, I’ll stick with that.

At the very end of the hallway this time the door is closed. No crazed woman, no dead body. As I slowly creep down the hallway I quietly try each door knob I pass. Locked…locked…locked….all locked. Only door left is the one straight ahead….where she was. I carefully try the handle half hoping it’s locked but of course it gives way and “click” the door creaks as it slowly opens. It’s too dark to see clearly but as I step through the doorway it quietly shuts and another flash of light pierces through the blackness and I see what’s transpiring. I’m in a bedroom and by the positioning it isn’t difficult to tell what was happening moments before I entered. A man, the man from before perhaps? He’s handcuffed to the headboard, feet to either side of the bed. From the muffling I can tell he’s gagged. What is this? Why am I here? He’s screaming, writhing and contorting in pain. She’s straddling him, the crazed woman, she’s not as blood soaked but she’s getting there. She’s meticulously cutting away. Slashing in his most vulnerable parts. More lightning flashes. It looks like she broke his ankles. There’s a bat on the floor next to the bed where his feet hang limp. Wait…a bat!

Just as I think it the man notices me and screams inaudibly for help, his eyes full of fear and pleading like a helpless wounded dog. But the woman turns too and quickly starts to jump off, the insanity in her eyes so intense. I panic and try for the door behind me but it won’t budge. I rattle and wail but it’s not moving. I hear her screaming and turn to find her bringing the blade down to my eyes and I suddenly wake up back in the hallway. I sit up against one of the walls pulling my knees to my chest and burying my head. Is this some nightmare? I can’t help but weep. I just want to forget what I’ve seen. I shouldn’t be able to imagine what I’ve never actually seen but it’s so vivid… All the blood, the man screaming, the room rank with the stench of his vomiting all over himself in agony. It looked like she was castrating him. Using the knife like a saw. What had he done to her? Was it unprovoked? I try to calm myself down. Then I notice it….The rain. It’s stopped.

I reluctantly get to my feet and stand on my toes to look out one of the windows. Grey skies. It’s lighter out. Sunset with rain threatening but quiet for now. Is this a different day? How long had I been out? Didn’t she kill me? Twice, no less? I need to get out while there’s still daylight. I dart to the bedroom, maybe I can stop her before she sees me. As I open it I find it empty. The bed is made, everything in order, there’s even some incense burning on the the corner night stand. What in the hell is happening? I go back to the hallway but now there’s a door at the end! I swear it was just wall before when the madwoman chased me down. Ignoring the other doors I walk up to it and put my ear against it listening. I hear voices, a man and woman. There’s laughing and some inaudible conversation. Is it the same two from before? It can’t be. I take a deep breath and open the door to find a wider living area with a kitchen and dining room attached. Warm light is flooding the expanse and as I’m surveying I see the couple standing in the kitchen with dirty dishes still in their hands just staring at me wide-eyed. They’ve just finished a candle lit dinner from the looks and were washing up until I walked in.

The woman looks amazingly different with fixed hair, makeup, and a form fitting elegant short dress…yet it’s still the same woman. I must look just as stunned as them solely because I can’t believe after all I’ve seen I find her somewhat attractive. She darts towards a closet in the living room as the man runs forward leaving me no time to explain myself. Not that I could explain any of this. He takes me to the ground and is hitting me as I try to block the blows. He relents just enough for me to see the woman running toward us with a bat. The same bat? The man moves and she swings downward at my head.

“Honey? Are you alright?”

I’m shaken on my left shoulder and I snap awake. Like I was in a trance. My….wife….yeah, I’m married. I almost forgot. She’s looking at me inquiringly and I glance at the table and realize we’re having dinner.

“What happened? Was I sleeping long?”

She laughs a bit:

“You weren’t asleep, just daydreaming. Finish up your meal, it’s our anniversary and I want plenty of time to celebrate.”

She smiles at me as she carries her dishes to the kitchen. She looks amazing in that dress. What was I thinking about before? I can’t remember. I’m finishing my plate as she stands over me and wraps her arms around my neck and chest from behind and whispers:

“I want to try something a little adventurous tonight” and with that we head down the hallway.

“Looks like a storm,” I remark as I peer out the window.

“Mm-hm,”she exclaims as she opens the bedroom door. The door closes behind us.”

-CL Fuqua

Haunt

“Every night. Every damn night it’s the same. Well sometimes not. I don’t really know anymore. I’ve lost my head as they say. This house has become my prison. To think of all the potential I saw when I first laid eyes on it. When WE laid eyes on it. I had a wife and a good life. Or so I thought. We were newly weds and this was our first home purchase, possibly our dream home! It was quaint and humble but nestled in a lightly forested area which gave the illusion of seclusion. Like a little cottage you see in those Kinkade paintings. It was still part of a neighborhood sure, but not like the ones I had grown up in. Clones of each other with uninspired architecture all the way down the street. Any red blooded American’s dream but my worst nightmare. I knew when I was still young that I wanted something different for myself. My wife Christine did as well. So this was the house we would call home! We decided to show up before the date we gave the moving company so it was just us, an air mattress and passion. We celebrated our new purchase quite voraciously as we had forgone a proper honeymoon in favor of a substantial down payment on the property. I can say without a doubt that first night was still the best love making we ever did.

In the months to come happiness only seemed to steadily increase. Both of us were doing well with our careers and the house payments weren’t even near a burden. I knew it was too soon to start talking about kids but I couldn’t help but want a family when I looked at her. I wanted to raise a child with this woman. It seemed like the most romantic gesture I could make but she insisted she wasn’t ready and so we continued taking precautions. I would eventually learn just how unready she was. Her job as a trauma nurse kept her out and about at all hours day or night. If the hospital was short staffed they could count on her. She was so reliable. Her phone was always glued to her hip. Except the day I had come back home early.

I was on my way to work in a rush and had forgotten my laptop. Nothing was so infuriating to me as little inconveniences. In an exasperated growl I pulled an (excessively aggressive) u-turn and headed home. I had left Christine sleeping but she was in the shower by the time I had gotten upstairs to our room. She had left her phone on the nightstand and I noticed the soft pulsating glow of the led at the top. Someone had called or texted. I went to check it out in case it was an emergency. I figured I’d be a good husband and shout through the door that “duty called!” It was a message from someone named Sean. No text history for this contact and I couldn’t remember ever meeting a Sean. Maybe it was a coworker? He had sent a short puzzling message with a video….”Hey movie star, here’s last night’s clip ;)” I had an icy feeling in my gut but I had to watch. I clicked the play icon and I was instantly transported into her adultery. There she was, Christine, my wife, on top of who I assumed was Sean. She was still wearing the top half of her scrubs. But it was the look on her face that I couldn’t pull my eyes away from. The breathless smile of ecstasy. Her moans . It was about a 10 second clip and then it was over. Just the play icon taunting me to press it again, the still image of her blurred smiling face… Christine. I hadn’t even noticed that the shower had stopped. For me all time had stopped. I just sat staring at the ground holding the phone. I was numb and could feel nothing. Until I saw her. She opened the bathroom door wrapped in a towel, startled by me she just stood there”Honey what’s….”She saw the phone in my hand. I don’t know what emotion I was expressing but whatever it was it made her eyes grow wide with fear. I had always heard the expression “seeing red”. I thought it was just word play but my vision suddenly glossed over with a crimson hue and my numbness was washed over by rage. Uncontrollable rage. I couldn’t articulate my anger into words. I couldn’t hurt her with my thoughts. All I could manage was “You recorded it?”

Before she had time to answer or I had time to think I threw the phone at her face as hard as I could and seeing her retract and cry out spurred my rage even more. I lunged at her and slammed her against the wall, grabbing her by the hair I hurled her into the adjacent wall with enough force to make a considerable hole in the wall where she was engraved. Like something out of a Looney Tunes episode. The thought flashed through my head as I looked at my hand still clenched in a fist with so much of her hair poking out every which way. I saw her naked as the towel had fallen off, moaning and coughing with blood running down her face. I wish I could say this was the end of it. That she ran, called the police, served me a court order and we never saw each other again. But I see her often. I ran at her and grabbed her arms yanking her out of the hole, she started to come around and I saw her eyes look into mine with fear and mania. It was so satisfying because all I could see were her eyes filled with lust for “Sean” on their little movie. She started screaming and I slapped her again and again as I dragged her to the stairs. “No! Please!! St–!!” And I shoved her hard down the steps. All the rage, the fear, the screams, our bloody little drama, it all came to a halt with the tumbling of her body and the distinct “SNAP”. There goes the neck. She lay at the foot of the stairs naked, bloody, mangled and silent. I calmly walked down and sat on the first couple of steps just surveying all I had done.

It isn’t important HOW I covered her murder up. She took an unscheduled vacation and not long after, her job let her go. So much for loyalty. And never being very close with her family they were content to hear from me every now and then. No, none of that is the point. What is important is THAT I covered up her murder. I cut her up into pieces and buried them under the house. It’s been 2 years and I haven’t had a good night’s sleep since. I could have sold the house by now and rid myself of the daily grim reminder of what had happened but I can’t risk anyone finding out. At first it was just my guilt haunting me. I know you’re horrified by what I’ve said so far. But you must believe me when I say I loved her. A man with no passion or feelings could never and would never have lashed out the way I did. I only did it because I loved her so fiercely. And I missed her so. It wasn’t until about 3 months later on a rainy night as I was tossing and turning that I stopped missing her. My dreams were always the same since the event. They are just flashes of the event itself. Her screams, my red vision, blood, her broken body. I wake up often covered in sweat and panting but this particular night I was not alone. As I jerked awake from her screaming in my nightmare I realized I was hearing audible screaming. My eyes darted to the source and I saw her there. Her hair was so dark and wet, a mixture of water and blood, she was naked and pale, mutilated looking, standing in a half crouched position as if ready to run or cover herself. Her hands were raised in front of her face and her fingers were curled and trembling. She just stood there screaming and screaming but it was her eyes that shattered me with fear. They were so crazed and otherworldly and they were fixated on me.

“Chris..Christine?” Was all I could manage and in an instant she rushed at me! The flashes of lightning made a strobe effect as she jumped on the bed crawling at me in a wild and furious fashion. All the while screaming. I kicked and jerked trying to keep her away and suddenly the covers were over my head. Did I do that!? Was I reverting back to childhood tactics for dealing with a monster? Before I knew it it was silent again. Aside from the puttering of rain outside and the rumbling of thunder. I slowly lowered the covers under my eyes and I was alone. That night I packed up and headed for the nearest motel. I was gone for 2 days before I mustered the courage to go back. Could any of that actually have happened? Had my guilt finally driven me insane? Honestly I’m still not sure. I have seen her many times since. I usually sleep on the couch downstairs because she’s almost always active in our bedroom and the stairway. I remember being shaken out of my nightmare one night to find her at the top of the steps just looking down at me. Her eyes are so unsettling. They were wide, almost impossibly so, and they were almost the only things I could see as it was so dark in the house. I just lay there on the couch face up unable to move. We stared at each other. She wasn’t hysterical like before. Just pale and almost glowing softly with those wild eyes fixated on me, unblinking. “I’m sorry, Christine.” I almost cried as I said it. My voice quivered giving away my absolute fear. She stood there for what seemed like hours but was in reality seconds and slowly turned back towards the bedroom. Eyes still open and unblinking she drifted into the bedroom. I dared not follow her.

A year and a half of this would wear down anyone. And I am at the end of myself. I write this knowing it will be the last thing I ever write. I could just sell the house and risk her being discovered but I know now that I will never rid myself of her. One form or another will haunt me as long as I live. I will give her what she wants…

So he went to sleep in his bedroom for the first and last time in a long time. He actually slept quite well having given up on trying to live. And without fail he woke up to find her there at his bedside. Even though he was expecting her he was startled nonetheless. Her appearance could make anyone’s skin crawl. She was standing over him with those huge sunken eyes that would not blink eating their way into his own. “Christine, please! Tell me what you want!” She slowly drifted towards the door and he understood. He followed her to the edge of the stairs and looked down. When he looked back she wasn’t next to him anymore and quickly looking down again there she was. Standing at the foot of the steps. Her shoulders hunched and fingers still curled in madness, her mouth open as wide as her eyes. It was as if she were screaming or gasping wide but no sound came out. “God let this be quick…. I’m coming to you, Christine!”

He dove face first and instantly heard snapping sounds. Fire radiated throughout his shoulder and back and he tumbled down to the ground. A whispered creaking sound escaped his lips but he was still alive. With his mostly face down his head was bent back in a way it should not. He saw her standing over him. That silent screaming face staring at him. Why was he still alive?? He wondered. As it turned out he had broken his back, ankle, and collarbone. So movement was impossible but death would only come from dehydration and internal bleeding. For 6 nights he lay mangled as his wife did, but still breathing. Every night he would hear the slow deliberate steps of Christine coming down from the bedroom. On the 3rd night she did not merely watch him. He was surprised as she bent down and began eating away at his stomach. Pulling the flesh until it broke and started gnawing at his intestines. He was too weak to cry out in pain but it was agonizing all the same. Did she not forgive him still!? Was she so vengeful that it was not enough he lay slowly dying, she had to torture him further?? During the day the feasting would continue but in the form of maggots and flies. Eating and eating, laying eggs, bursting forth larvae which would then feast themselves on his flesh. At night it was her. Perhaps the pestilence was still there but he only noticed her crouched in an inhuman position, her head almost completely in his abdomen as she tore and tore away at him. Finally on the 7th day he felt his life fading. His heart giving out. He gave one last breath and died alone.”

-CL Fuqua