Monthly Archives: January 2016

The Owl

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The owl, pictured center

This is the owl. The owl can appear anywhere, at any time. A stain. A smear on your glasses. You might pass it many times without noticing it. But you will notice.

The owl will follow you. It will appear on things close you you. The rings in your bathtub. The grease congealing in the kitchen sink. It is a pattern you alone will recognize. It is only when the sightings increase in frequency that you will realize: the pattern is not on your world but your eyes themselves.

28.8% corruption

28.8% corruption

The owl will seep into everything you love. It will make the world dirty to you. Blink and rub it out, it will only swim back into your vision. Colors will molder. Light will dim. And with sight go the other senses. Soon you will be able to smell it, the smell of corruption. You will feel its outline on your eyelids, it is embossed into your pupils. It will send you down avenues you never knew existed.

It will change you.

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60% corruption

Love will curdle. Compassion will sour. The world around you will shrink as it rots, as pieces of you break away. You will not remember the smell of fresh air, the sun on your face. The owl will ferment you in the shelter of its wings until you are just, just right.

And when you are right, when you are ripe, it will eat everything. All that you are. And it is only then, in these last moments, that you will see its true form.

80% corrupTHEREISNOHOPE

80% corrupTHEREISNOHOPE

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The Dictator’s Wife

The dictator’s wife rose before the sun and washed her face in cold water. There was no sink in the penthouse, so she poured the water from a chipped pitcher into a basin large enough to bathe her youngest child.

The children slept three to the bed. The dictator’s wife took the coverlet from her own mattress and covered them with it.

A maid brought in a covered tray. The woman was of lower class, rough in look and dress. She never spoke, only set the new dishes on the table and cleared away the previous night’s. The dictator’s wife poured herself coffee from a glass decanter and listened to the door click shut behind her.

These few hours belonged to her. She thought of her husband. She hadn’t seen him in weeks, and the children had stopped asking about him. The dictator had been a loving father and a doting husband. He had only been a private in the army when they’d met, when he swore he would build her a palace to shame the sun. He had, on top of the slum where she’d lived with her family. When it had finished construction he had taken her hand and run, laughing, through the empty loveliness.

One of her children stirred, dragging her up from the past. She turned her mind to setting out the covered dishes, serving her children breakfast.

They supped at a table near a barred bay window that looked out on a pond. In warmer times, the children had been taken out by a nanny to visit the water. They begged her still to take them out.

A knock at the door startled her into dropping her toast. A dark-uniformed guard entered, gun lowered.

“My lady,” he said, “I’ve been sent to notify you. You have five minutes. Please be ready when I return.”

He pulled the door sharply shut. The dictator’s wife held onto her youngest child’s hand until her heart calmed.

Though the children complained, they abandoned the food. She bullied them into their clothes, fighting the youngest’s feet into stubborn shoes. Her own clothes were few. She’d been allowed to take only a fraction of her wardrobe when they’d fled the palace. She dressed in a skirt and jacket of dark plum that were from a European designer. She only wore European couture. Her necklace alone cost more than her family would have made in three lifetimes.

Four and a half minutes later, the guard was back. The dictator’s wife was struggling into Gucci pumps and the middle child, the only girl, had her blouse still untied. The guard motioned them into the hall with the muzzle of the gun. The dictator’s wife silently obeyed, herding her children in front of her.

There were three more guards in the hall. At an unsaid signal they began walking with the dictator’s wife and her children between them. She tied her daughter’s blouse as they walked.

“Such a lot of guards,” she said, “are we to be moved again?”

The guards said nothing. They had always been politely deferential, but taciturn. She could expect nothing from them as they walked a long hall.

They came to a green metal door set into the concrete of the wall. It had been chipped in several places as if battered by a great force. The guard leading the group nodded. The guard at the door returned the nod and opened the door. Without touching them, the guard behind the dictator’s family ushered them through the door.

The room beyond the door had plain white walls, and a plain white floor with a large drain set in it.

The dictator’s wife fell to her knees.

“No,” she said, “oh no, no.”

The guard that had entered behind them shut the door firmly.

The dictator’s wife held her open palms up to the guard. “Please—for my children, please!”

The guard shook his head. He seemed no more upset than if executing a parade maneuver. He raised his arm.

Wait,” she gasped, “wait, wait, wait! Let us leave! We never did anyone harm! We will go away forever, we will become nothing!”

The guard said, “you already are,” and let his arm drop.

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Shortcuts

Carter was elbow-deep in papers when Eli texted him:

can I come over?

Carter took one look at the thick stack of unmarked papers by his left elbow and the whisper-thin deposit of marked ones by his right and texted back

sure.

In less than five minutes, Eli was sitting across from him, smiling ruefully at the papers.

“I farmed my quizzes out to my TA. Learn to love the system, Carter.”

“It’s not that much,” Carter protested, “and anyway, what’s wrong with quizzes? Aren’t they all you have right now? Midterm isn’t for a week.”

Eli leaned back, eyes musing over the different pennants decorating Carter’s office. When he worked his way up to speech like this, it usually meant serious business. Carter capped his red marker and laid the unfinished paper open in front of him.

“I’ve been sitting on this student’s essay,” Eli said, “I want you to read it.”

Even his tone felt like he was carefully skirting the subject. Carter tried to smile.

“Is it an uncredited reworking of an old classic?”

As a response, Eli set a blue book down on the desk.

“Why don’t you see for yourself?” he asked softly.

Now a little disconcerted, Carter picked it up. After seven minutes of reading he put it down again and blew air over his teeth.

“Man,” he said, “that—can you just give the kid an A for the semester and be done with it?”

Eli was smiling faintly, in a way that didn’t quite seem happy. “What’s your opinion on the writing?”

“I wish I could’ve written like that when I was in college,” Carter joked, “any way we get a finder’s fee for discovering this kid?”

Eli had put his elbow on the desk, now he leaned forward with his hand cupping his chin.

“What part did you like about it,” he asked, “specifically?”

Words fled. Carter picked up the essay again. “Well,” he began, flipping futilely through the paper. No specific phrases leaped out at him. In fact, the words were all a blur. In fact—

Eli met his eyes.

“There you go,” he said, “you see it too.”

Carter let the paper slide limply from his hand to the desk. “But…what? And how?”

Eli had lost all pretense of humor. “I first noticed it when I went to grade it. I wanted to pluck out specific examples to congratulate him, but I couldn’t. And then I realized I couldn’t think of a topic for it. And then I realized that I couldn’t even pick out specific words.”

Carter let his eyes fall to the desk. The blue book lay there, benignly beckoning, as if to say come on, read me again and again, you’ll never go away unsatisfied.

“Who?” Carter asked, as if it mattered. They never discussed their students.

“Boy named Edward Muntz,” Eli said, folding the book closed. “Never really stood out. Unremarkable in short-form assignments. Never leads a class discussion. In case you’re wondering, I checked. This is the first piece of homework I got from him with these…qualities.”

Carter tried not to look at the book. “And you wanted me to confirm?”

“Not just that,” Eli said, leaning back in the chair and putting his feet up, “I want you to be a witness.”

 

Muntz had a chubby pink face that didn’t quite fit his body, and a stubbly straw-yellow head of hair. He seemed too bubbly and eager, almost like it was a put-on.

Of course, Carter reflected, that could just be his suspicions talking.

“Am I in trouble, Mr. Forbes?” Muntz asked in a squeaky tenor. God, it was ridiculous. He was ridiculous, which just made the whole thing more of a shock.

Eli smiled and shook his head. “No, Mr. Muntz—”

“Please call me Eddie, sir—”

“Well, please call me Eli. My father is a sir, I barely rank Mr.”

Muntz giggle-snorted. Carter had to stare. The young man caught his gaze and Carter looked quickly away.

“Is there a problem with my essay?” Muntz asked with a noticeable tinge of fear in his voice.

Eli laughed comfortingly. “No, of course not. I love it!”

Muntz preened. “Thank you—Eli.”

“I really mean it. It’s extraordinary.”

“That’s…wonderful.”

“In fact I’m thinking of submitting it to the school paper.”

Muntz froze. Through years of experience, Carter could see the mathematics going off behind the student’s benign face, the weighing of options.

“Don’t you think other students deserve to hear about these things?”

“What things?” Muntz asked flatly.

“Why, the things in your paper, of course. Very topical subject.” Eli finished with a shit-eating grin.

Without moving in his chair at all, the young man rearranged himself. Gone was the golly-shucks student. In its place was a hardness that came out in Muntz’s voice and eyes.

“You know,” he said, tone a half-step lower.

Eli rocked back-and-forth in his chair, enjoying himself. “I know a game-changer when I see one.”

Muntz’s face was suddenly disagreeable. It didn’t fit. His boyish features twisted like a bulldog.

“So you want to expel me or something?” he asked in a sulky tone.

Eli leaned over the desk. “No, I want to study you. How the hell did you do this?”

Muntz leaned away, smiling, knowing. “Do what? All I did was what you told us, write what you know.”

“I meant stupid relationship observations and family anecdotes,” Eli said, “I didn’t mean pull a magic paper out of your ass. How did you do this?”

Muntz looked loftily out the window.

Carter felt he should interject. “You know this constitutes some kind of academic fraud, don’t you?”

Muntz’s eyes went mean. “What kind of bullshit is that?”

“You didn’t actually complete the assignment by the standards set out for it,” Carter said, “and yet you still tried to get an A. You cheated, Mr. Muntz. There’s no two ways about that.”

Muntz looked at him with contempt. “I knew there was a reason nobody takes your classes.”

Eli placed a hand over his heart. “I’m flattered you chose me, honestly. But this isn’t okay. I don’t know what kind of work went into this, or how hard it was, but this is still just lazy. Do you understand, Eddie?”

Muntz got flinty. The longer they were around him, the more his boyishness chipped away.

“Why?” he snapped. “What have I done wrong? You know what writers do? They struggle and sweat over mountains of drivel just to get the same result I did. I just found a shortcut, that’s all. The end result’s the same.”

“And that, specifically, is what tells me you haven’t done the work. Writing isn’t about the end result, it’s about the journey.”

“Yeah, that sounds like something an unpublished writer would say.”

Eli exchanged glances with Carter. “I’m not jealous of you,” he said, “I am trying to do what I am paid to do: teach you. I’m trying to impress upon you how serious this is. What do you think would happen if you tried this out in the real world?”

Muntz gave a lazy shrug. He was looking out the window again, like he was above it all.

“The same thing that happened with me. You have an extraordinary talent, and this is a flagrant misuse of it.”

Muntz got sly. “Anyone could do it—if I taught them.”

“And then there’d be a whole lot more people getting failed for the assignment. You are very shortsighted, Mr. Muntz.” Eli tapped his desk and sighed. “And I hope you know I do this for your own good.”

“You’re failing me?”

“More than that. I have to turn this paper over, Eddie. I’m sorry.”

Muntz looked coolly between the two of them. Carter didn’t like his calculating expression.

“How’s this for a story,” Muntz said, crossing his arms behind his head, “a professor invites a student up to his office. One of his colleagues is also there. Some discussion goes on behind closed doors. Something untoward happens. Do I have to spell it out for you?”

They both stared at Muntz.

“You know, if you worked this hard in class, we wouldn’t be having this discussion?” Eli asked blearily.

Muntz was smiling now. “They’ll believe it. Especially about you two.”

Eli didn’t answer. Carter slowly walked around the visitor’s chair and opened the door. Smiling grandly and keeping his eyes on Eli at all times, Muntz rose and exited the office. They heard his footsteps all the way down the carpeted hall and then the stairs. Carter shut the door.

Eli sank his head into his hands. “Fucking Christ.”

“Do they really think that about us?” Carter mused, looking out the window as Muntz jovially strolled across the quad.

“Does it matter? What are we going to do?”

Carter was still looking out the window.

“I think I have an idea,” he said slowly.

 

Muntz did not look pleased to see him in Tuesday’s class.

“Where’s Eli?” he asked.

Carter straightened a stack of papers on the lectern, entirely for effect. “Professor Forbes is indisposed, and asked me to fill in.”

Muntz shot him a look of naked hate. Carter smiled beatifically as the students ushered in. When the last man rushed in fifteen minutes after the hour, Carter led the class in applause.

He’s made it,” Carter crowed, “we can finally begin.”

This got some laughs. Did people really avoid taking his classes? Carter decided to investigate that later.

“Your professor has already told me so much about you,” he said, “so I’m sure I can run the class just as well as Mr.—” he pretended to check his hand, “—Forbes.”

Another laugh. He was priming the crowd. Muntz didn’t know what to do with it.

Carter made a great show of straightening the papers, shuffling them around, pretended to check notes.

“Alright, for the first order of the day—” he stopped and pretended to surprise himself.

“Edward Muntz is in this class?” he asked.

Muntz gave no sign of acknowledgment. It didn’t matter. The other students immediately looked at him.

Carter made a great show of putting down his papers. “Well, this is a pleasant surprise. The famous Mr Muntz.” He turned to address the rest of the class. “Your professor has been raving about your classmate. He turned in something this last assignment, something really extraordinary.”

Muntz colored deeply. The other students looked envious and shocked by turns.

Carter clasped his hands together. “I know it’s not usually done, but can I hear a reading from this wonderful, exceptional paper?”

Muntz sank down in his seat. “I haven’t got it back yet,” he muttered.

It hit the desk in front of him.

“What a lovely coincidence, it was in my stack of papers to give back.” Carter patted the sheaf of papers. “I’m sure you wouldn’t mind favoring us all with a little reading while I pass the rest of the assignments back?”

Muntz was stony-faced. He hadn’t so much as moved towards the blue book.

“I can get another student to read, if you’re shy.”

“No,” Muntz quickly said, and snatched it up. He opened it to the first page.

Carter smiled.

Muntz cleared his throat. He scanned up and down the page. He looked up.

Carter hadn’t moved.

Muntz was sweating. His pink face was shining as he struggled to start.

“It—” he said.

Carter stood, smiling expectantly.

“That—”

Carter stood, smiling expectantly.

“We—”

Carter stood, smiling expectantly.

Muntz swallowed. He stood up, ripped the blue book in two, dropped it on the desk, and promptly walked out.

 

The class was filing out when Carter saw him again. Muntz stood like shoal amid the tide of student bodies pressing out of the English classes, staring at the professor. Carter locked up the classroom and strode away, whistling.

Muntz caught up with him.

“You fucked me over,” Muntz hissed, “you sabotaged me out of spite. Pure spite.”

“It’s one of my greatest hopes that one day, dear boy, you will recognize that I saved you.”

Muntz was coloring again. “You set me back. But not forever. I’ll get better. And I won’t have to deal with people like you.”

“Maybe you will,” Carter said noncommittally, “and maybe you won’t. And maybe one day you’ll figure out the one person who is really setting you back.”

He dropped the tattered halves of the blue book on the ground in front of Muntz.

“Good-bye, Eddie.”

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Creepypasta cook-off 2015

The cook-off is here! So exciting to see so many new and creepy authors, can’t wait to archive-binge the whole thing.

My stories:

K2

Mesa Blanco

San Lorenzo

The Carrier

The Roommate

And also:

The Entire Archive

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The Parable of Two Cities

Daghles was a city of merchants and artisans that suddenly developed a taste for war. Nihzy had been a city-state of proud military tradition, but was hundreds of years past its prime. The Daghles strike was swift and precise. They were able to craft innovative armor and weapons while Nihzy struggled along with leftovers from its last military campaign. The battle, which took place in the land between the cities, became known in Daghles as the 3-day war. It was not really so brief, but in the end the effect the same: Nihzy was routed and its forces sent fleeing back to the city. Daghles soldiers followed and laid siege. What citizens were left alive after 30 days of famine died when Daghles soldiers lost patience and set fire to the barricaded city.

After the embers cooled, they picked over the ashes. It became vogue to posses objects from the fallen city. Jewelry was dismantled and the beads repurposed into familiar designs. Cornices were scavenged from buildings and cut into mantelpieces. A color called Nihzy purple came into fashion when a group of looters broke into a dye workshop hidden under layers of slag so its recipes had escaped the flames.

The Daghles people came to pity their enemies, lamenting that they had been a noble, if ultimately wrongheaded folk.

After enough time had passed, a new religion emerged with Nihzyan flavors. It revolved around the worship of a god called Erzeniz, which meant “dragon from Nihzy.” As it happens, the religion spread like a healthy rash. It started with corner proselytizers and graduated to outdoor gatherings quickly. Worshipers were encouraged to cast away material possessions. The uniform was, of course, Nihzy purple.

Soon, churches were built. Statesmen began worshiping in secret. Self-flagellation became commonplace.

The Daghles autocrat looked at the lavender cast of the streets, his prefects flogging one another, and bowed to the winds of change.

Erzenihz was declared the official deity. Supplicants celebrated with a bonfire of household furnishings. Now that the religion gained foothold, it grew austere. Citizens went around with open wounds displayed like flags. The staple grain of the city was deemed wicked, replaced by a leafy green that did poorly in Daghles’ dry climate. Salt was forbidden on food. If a man had in his house an object too big to be carried by a single mule, he was stripped and shamed.

The city no longer produced works of art. Trade was forgotten. Now all labor was dedicated to processing the hemp that made their robes. The city wore down to almost nothing.

It was one tired day among many others that the edict came down: the children of Daghles must be sacrificed.

The ripple it created was not as large as it once might have been, for they were led to it in steps. Once the outrage died down, the dutiful stepped to the fore.

The first wave loosened the knot. The second untied it completely. Soon whole families fell under the sword without flinching. There were not enough hands to replace the ones being taken, so food production slowed and finally stopped.

The day arrived when the few Daghlites left were past the age of producing children. They wound down their days scrabbling through the remains of their once-thriving city, waiting for the inevitable day when the last Daghleite would die of old age.

And it was in this way that silent Nihzy avenged itself.

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