Mask Of The Reddeath
by
Al Bruno III
 


Just an old man, dying and alone in a mansion that had once been so alive with voices and activity. Rob Raymond was content with that. After all he had lived an amazing life, full of adventure and excitement. He had always thought he would die young and in a blaze of glory like so many of his contemporaries, but he had outlived them all.


He spent most of his time in his study reading, listening to music and occasionally sleeping in his favorite chair. When he was hungry- and that was a rare thing now- he would shuffle down to the kitchen and open a can of anything and eat it uncooked. Once there had been servants to wait on him hand and foot but Rob had sent them away with generous severance packages and glowing recommendations.


On the last night of his life he wandered through the darkened study wearing his silk pajamas and thick purple bathrobe. He would pause before each of his mementoes to smile or frown in remembrance;


a black gauntlet festooned with wires and missing a finger.


a framed newspaper page, the headline CRIME SPREE ENDS IN DEATH hovers above a grainy black and white photograph of two dark figures lurching off of a rooftop.


the bronzed skull of a gorilla.


a wall of medals.


a green scarf with a drop of blood.


a framed photograph, old friends around a round table, all but one of them is looking at the camera.


Rob paused at that photograph until finally he took it down and stared long and hard at the time lost faces. His friends, like his adversaries, were all gone now. His wife had passed away years ago and his son hadn’t spoken to him in years. Rob’s adopted daughter tried to keep in touch but she was always traveling, always busy.


And that was just as well wasn’t it? Would he really have wanted to have them fussing over him at this stage and trying to make amends for long forgotten disagreements.


A loud crash from downstairs and the sounds of shuffling footsteps shook him from his thoughts. The manor’s intercom system crackled to life, “You could not wait for death but I found you, oh I found you.”


Goosebumps ran over Rob’s skin at the sound of that voice.


There was no time to get to any of the still functioning keepsakes from his old life but he always kept one thing he still kept close at hand. He pulled the cowl from the pocket of his bathrobe.


It was silken and black and conformed perfectly to cover his face, when he wore it he could see in the dark and breathe in conditions that would kill a normal man. He still didn’t know where the fabric had come from or how it had been created.


With his features hidden he felt the old confidence return and the mundane agonies he had become so familiar with over the last six months seemed to fade away.


He was ShadoMask again.


Are you hiding?” The voice said, “Be honest now. You were always a little scared of me weren’t you?”


The door of the room splintered and fell open and figures shambled in. ShadoMask charged not even paying attention to anything more than the position of his attackers. They were just shapes to him, obstacles. Weakened as he was every swing of his arm or sweep of the leg was pushed him closer to nausea and exhaustion. The room seemed to tilt sideways around him.


Chuckling echoed through the manor, “Do you like them? They’re hand picked. I went to so much trouble.”


ShadoMask began to realize that not matter how much force he put behind his punches and kicks his adversaries stayed silent, impossibly silent.


They weren’t even breathing.


Then he began to recognize them.


…there was the American – fourteen years dead from a car crash but still dressed in red, white and blue.


…the crime lord Dragonfist was an arm’s length away, he had died in the electric chair almost a generation ago but here he was blind and stumbling.


…Merlin Man was waiting just outside the doorway, his gadget laden top hat was gone and his costume was in tatters. He reek of the grave, the all did.


“What have you done?” ShadoMask’s voice was a whisper, then a shout, “Reddeath! What have you done?”


His old adversary purred at the sound of his name being spoken, “The black scrolls of Nephren-Ka old friend. I finally managed to liberate them, finally managed to have some real time alone with then. Oh such wonders, such wonders…”


The Reddeath had always been obsessed with the black scrolls of Nephren-Ka, he had committed atrocities in his pursuit of them and ShadoMask had stopped him every time.


But he was supposed to be dead. ShadoMask had seen the crimson cloaked menace fall from the gondola of an invisible zeppelin decades ago.


Do you think this is what it’s like to have your life pass before your eyes?”


With a cry of rage ShadoMask pushed through the doorway into the hall to find it crowded with long lost friends and enemies. They closed in but he fought back sending them tumbling down the stairs in groups of three and four.


I’m right on doorstep old friend,” the Reddeath said, “Can you reach me? Do you want to reach me?”


ShadoMask had to laugh, “Oh I’ll reach you all right.”


But there were so many shapes bearing down on him;


the Silver Claw, his head drooping at an obscene angle his pirate suit hanging off his tattered frame. His own henchmen had turned on him after growing tired of his increasingly elaborate nautical themed crimes.


the Brat, with his faux schoolboy outfit and his wizened expression. He had retired after a long prison sentence, even written a self-published memoir about his life of crime only to shoot himself when the scheme left him bankrupt.


the teen wonder Arachni-kid, his features forever young, the track marks on his arms hidden by his gaudy costume. He had showed so much promise.


Mr. Nice Guy’s smiley face costume was even more ludicrous in death, he had been a failure at fighting crime but a his child safety videos were still shown in schools all across the globe. A heart attack had claimed him as he answered fan mail, the rumor he had been found with a beatific grin.


ShadoFace’s mask was made from a flawed facsimile of the fabric ShadoMask’s cowl had been made from. A chemical instability in had left his face burned and twisted. He had eventually died in a madhouse.


Julie was last, still dressed in her funeral finery. The sight of her caused her husband to falter and she managed to claw his cowl from his face.


Rob was weeping as he knocked the walking corpse down the stairs, he could hear her bones shatter as they hit the landing. Reddeath was leaning in the doorway. Even in his blood-colored robes and skull mask he seemed sickly.


Oh,” he said. “Just like the old times, the best times.”


Unlike the horror movie cliché none of the bodies Rob had fought his way past stirred, that part of the game was over. He charged his old adversary, his bathrobe fluttering around him.


Then the pain flared up, not the constant mundane ache of the cancer, but a bolt of cold fire that bloomed out of his chest and rand down one of his arms leaving it numb and useless. He cursed, vowing that it would not end like this.


He forced himself to keep moving towards his enemy.


One step…


Two…


Three…

His legs failed him and he collapsed at the Reddeath’s feet. Rob couldn’t catch his breath and his vision was darkening. The Reddeath loomed over him and Rob managed to speak one last time and those final words surprised them both.


“Thank you.”

by Mike Leonard

You don’t have to believe the stories on my blog, you can dismiss them as good hallucinations or bad fiction if you want to but they’re all true. The darkness was never empty, there are things that wait for the innocent and unwary to turn their backs. What is it you think I’m talking about here? Ghosts? Vampires? Ghouls? If only it were that simple. The creatures of the night are still out there but they’re not shadowing your every footstep. They just check your status updates from the comfort of their tombs.

All I ever wanted was to be a Do-It-Yourself style reporter but more often than I like I find myself becoming part of my stories. It turns out gods and monsters don’t like their secrets getting out any more than your standard politician or celebrity. We all know how this is going to turn out in the end; I’m already long overdue for jail, the looney bin or a guest of honor spot at a monster buffet but until that fateful day I’m not going to back down or give up.

My name is Brian Foster and some people call me The Night Blogger.

But I wish they wouldn’t it’s kinda cheesy.

 

 

 

 

Storyline In Progress

by S.A. Hunt

 

Prologue: Personal Journal Entry #1

Episode One: The Ripper

Episode Two: Personal Journal Entry#19

Episode Three: The Zombie

Episode Four: Personal Journal Entry#25

Episode Five: They Have Been, They Are, They Will Be

Episode Six: Personal Journal Entry#39

Episode Seven: The Vampire

Episode Eight: Personal Journal Entry#52

Episode Nine: The Werewolf

Episode Ten: Personal Journal Entry #83

Episode Eleven: Firefall

Episode Twelve: Personal Journal Entry #106

Episode Thirteen: The Devil’s Platform

Episode Fourteen: Personal Journal Entry #125

Episode Fifteen: Bad Medicine

Episode Sixteen: Personal Journal Entry#156

Episode Seventeen: The Spanish Moss Murders

Episode Eighteen: Personal Journal Entry #161

Episode Nineteen: The Energy Eater

Episode Twenty: Personal Journal Entry #184

Episode Twenty-One: Horror In The Heights

Episode Twenty-Two: Personal Journal Entry #211

Episode Twenty-Three:  Mr RING

Episode Twenty-Four: Personal Journal Entry #254

Episode Twenty-Five: Primal Scream

Episode Twenty-Six: Personal Journal Entry #255

Episode Twenty-Seven: The Trevi Collection

May 2nd …there are things no one ever expects to hear, and I don’t care who you are or where you live, the term ‘Brony Death Cult’ has to be in your top ten.

But that’s what the Albany PD’s Chief of Detectives believed caused the death of Chad Trevi. He even announced it in an impromptu press conference without the slightest trace of self awareness.

One of the first things wrong with their cockamamie theory was that Chad Trevi wasn’t into My Little Ponies, he was all about My Happy Horses. Now for those of you with lives and families please allow me to explain that My Happy Horses are the Go-Bots of the plastic equine world. In other words they were a cheaply made cash-in product created to flood the dollar stores for the holidays.

Of course as soon as Hasbro found out about My Happy Horses they rained hellfire and lawyers down upon the creatively challenged Tomlande Toys Inc and the My Happy Horses line was shut down before it had barely gotten off the ground. Hundreds of the toys were pulled from the shelves and sent away to be destroyed.

That meant the ones that had actually been sold or slipped through the cracks were very rare and very collectable. A complete set of the twelve different horses were very hard to find but Chad had them all, and then some.

Other toy collectors say he had gone to unethical lengths to get them but then again I have no idea what the ethics of toy collecting are.

It all began when Chad was entertaining Les Spencer, a much wealthier My Happy Horses obsessive. We don’t know what was said but friends knew Chad was eager to show off what he was sure would make his collection the envy of his peers.

The showing must not have gone over wellNeighbors reported shouts and a slammed door. A Denny’s waitress positively identified Les as the man drowning his sorrows in an epic stack of pancakes. Les told the police that he went home right after that but the police believe that he then doubled back on foot, somehow got back into Chad Trevi’s apartment and killed him with a blunt object they had yet to find.

The real story is far, far stranger than that…

 

THE NIGHT BLOGGER:

A Season In Hell

Episode Twenty-Seven

The Trevi Collection

by

Al Bruno III

 

 Another day, another intrusion into a crime scene. It was two days after Chad Trevi met his untimely and unlikely end. It’s funny how inured I’ve become to police tape, I give it about as much passing thought as you give a clicking on a terms of service agreement.

These days however I am a little smarter in my trespasses. I own a jumpsuit just like the ones the guys at Remediation Crime Scene Clean Up use, so now if someone spots me creeping around the site of a violent death they can dismiss me as some working stiff burning the midnight oil. 

How should I describe Chad Trevi’s apartment? There was a crappy couch, a filthy TV, a sink brimming with dishes and a bag of rank-smelling laundry near the door. Ordinarily fingerprint powder and chalk outlines would stand out like a grim reminder of our ultimate mortality but here they kind of tied the room together. 

I spent a few minutes examining the chalk outline. The boards from the section of floor where Chad’s head had been were pulled up. My sources told me that his skull had been stuck with such force that it had driven fragments of bone into the wood.

I’d seen pictures of the police’s main suspect and let me tell you Les Spencer does not look like the kind of guy that could break anything larger than a potato chip, and according to Les’s brother Tom the guy was so squeamish he’d faint at the sight of a rare steak.

That’s how I got involved in all this. Tom Spencer is a member of the FEAROFTRUTH forum. He posts under the name ‘CaptainTrekker’ and he asked me to try and prove his adopted brother was innocent. I warned Tom that any mysteries I stuck my nose into usually ended up having a body count roughly equal to the final act of Hamlet but ‘CaptainTrekker’ was most insistent.

I turned my attention to the second bedroom of Chad’s apartment, where he kept his collection. Now I have to admit my inner child thrilled a little at the sight of so many GI Joes, Micro Machines and Teenage Mutant Ninja figures displayed on glass paneled white oak shelves but it was obvious the true gem of his collection was the My Happy Horses.

The display was a four-tiered pyramid-shaped shelving structure with the plastic toys arranged in ascending order from the most common, relatively speaking, to the rarest. The space at the top of the pyramid was reserved for his pride and joy - Lil’ Blucifer.

The legend of Lil’ Blucifer is an obscure one, and considering the legend is attached to an obscure toy line, I had to go all the way to the second page of my Google search to learn about it. Lil’ Blucifer was designed to be an antagonist for the Happy Horses, an equine antagonist if you will. The design of the toy had been based on the 32 foot tall, garish Blue Mustang statue that marks the entrance to the Denver International Airport. Before being completed the statue fell on his sculptor and killed him. From there things went downhill, it was linked to deaths, madness and the Blue Kachina Prophecy of the Hopi Indians.

A strange idea for a cheap knockoff toy manufacturer. I guess someone was trying to be clever. 

Trust me, clever people and hipsters will be the death of this world.

My theory was that somehow, the curse of Big Blucifer passed on to his plastic effigies. Somehow that cheap, hard to find toy had called up a supernatural force that pulverized Chad Trevi with a single strike of its hooves. It was the kind of supernatural force that could only be stopped by clever application of that most blasphemous and blessed sigil, the Sign of Ninazu.

A great theory, but the problem was that the toy wasn’t where it belonged, the top of the display was empty. My sources told me the police hadn’t taken any of Chad’s collection into evidence yet. Had some sticky-fingered cop stolen it? It made no sense to me, suddenly none of this made any sense.

I decided a top to bottom search of the apartment was in order. First I checked beneath the couch, I found a remote control, several empty bags of potato chips and one sock of disturbing stiffness. The bedroom and kitchen were no less disgusting and toy free. All I found in the hall closet was a pair of coats, an umbrella, and an indigo-colored stallion of clydesdale-esque proportions. Blazing red eyes glared down at me as I slowly and carefully closed the closet door.

I got clear of the door just as it exploded into splinters. The daemon horse strode out of the closet, the closet that was too small to hold a bicycle much less a horse from Hell, or Denver.

The world seemed to slow down in it’s proximity, the ticking of the clock, the pace of my terrified breathing, the sound of the traffic outside. The whole world had slowed down except for Blucifer.

Did I mention the damn thing was between me in the exit?

It reared up on it’s hind legs, bloodied hooves cut the air. It’s head passed through the ceiling, the solid plaster rippled like the surface of a pond.

With nowhere else to go I ran into the bathroom and in a gesture of hopeless optimism locked the door behind me. I dropped to my knees and dug the charcoal pen from my pocket.

My hand sketched out the lines, crosses and curves of that most blasphemous and blessed sigil with practiced ease. Jasper was the one that had made me practice it again and again. I silently thanked him as I drew and silently cursed him for leaving on a fools errand to Syria without so much as a goodbye argument.

There. I thought as I finished, Fastest Ninazu in the Northeast.

It brought the bathroom door crashing down with a single blow from its hooves. One foot came down on the toilet, shattering the porcelain like it was fine china.

The other foot came down dead center in the sign of Ninanzu…

*

…what else is there to say? If you’ve seen one satanic horse go down like the Wicked Witch of the West you’ve seen them all. The real kicker is what the shattered toilet revealed to me.

A lump of melted plastic that was a very bright shade of blue.

All the pieces fell into place then. 

You see Les did go home after he’d had a bite to eat, he’d gone home to his own Lil’ Blucifer. He’d always assumed his was the only remaining one.

You might wonder why, unlike Chad, he didn’t brag about his amazing acquisition. It’s because he understood what the thing really was, and what it could do.

Les Spencer wasn’t the kind of man to make enemies, but over the last two years some people he didn’t like had died unexpectedly.

An ex-girlfriend, a co-worker and now a rival toy collector all dead from one kind of blunt trauma or another.

Yes, I tried to tell the police.

No, they didn’t believe any of it.

Hell, you probably don’t believe me.

Not that it matters, the Spencer family’s high priced lawyer got all charges dropped this morning. Tom and his parents are going to be bringing him home this afternoon. No one’s told Les yet that some lunatic broke into his apartment and left five heat lamps there all going full blast. His beloved toys have been reduced to goop.

Every single one.

I plan to be there when he finds out. Wild horses couldn’t drag me away.

 

To Be Continued

by Mike Leonard

You don’t have to believe the stories on my blog, you can dismiss them as good hallucinations or bad fiction if you want to but they’re all true. The darkness was never empty, there are things that wait for the innocent and unwary to turn their backs. What is it you think I’m talking about here? Ghosts? Vampires? Ghouls? If only it were that simple. The creatures of the night are still out there but they’re not shadowing your every footstep. They just check your status updates from the comfort of their tombs.

All I ever wanted was to be a Do-It-Yourself style reporter but more often than I like I find myself becoming part of my stories. It turns out gods and monsters don’t like their secrets getting out any more than your standard politician or celebrity. We all know how this is going to turn out in the end; I’m already long overdue for jail, the looney bin or a guest of honor spot at a monster buffet but until that fateful day I’m not going to back down or give up.

My name is Brian Foster and some people call me The Night Blogger.

But I wish they wouldn’t it’s kinda cheesy.

 

 

 

 

Storyline In Progress

by S.A. Hunt

 

Prologue: Personal Journal Entry #1

Episode One: The Ripper

Episode Two: Personal Journal Entry#19

Episode Three: The Zombie

Episode Four: Personal Journal Entry#25

Episode Five: They Have Been, They Are, They Will Be

Episode Six: Personal Journal Entry#39

Episode Seven: The Vampire

Episode Eight: Personal Journal Entry#52

Episode Nine: The Werewolf

Episode Ten: Personal Journal Entry #83

Episode Eleven: Firefall

Episode Twelve: Personal Journal Entry #106

Episode Thirteen: The Devil’s Platform

Episode Fourteen: Personal Journal Entry #125

Episode Fifteen: Bad Medicine

Episode Sixteen: Personal Journal Entry#156

Episode Seventeen: The Spanish Moss Murders

Episode Eighteen: Personal Journal Entry #161

Episode Nineteen: The Energy Eater

Episode Twenty: Personal Journal Entry #184

Episode Twenty-One: Horror In The Heights

Episode Twenty-Two: Personal Journal Entry #211

Episode Twenty-Three:  Mr RING

Episode Twenty-Four: Personal Journal Entry #254

Episode Twenty-Five: Primal Scream

Episode Twenty-Six: Personal Journal Entry #255

The bad news was that Chloe Tree and I were trapped almost a hundred feet below the Earth in the base of operations of a cult determined to set the human race back millions of years.

The good news was that I could cross ‘bitten by a neanderthal’ off my bucket list.

Well pseudo-neanderthal really, but I think that still counts.

The pseudo -neanderthals, the man-animals as I have taken to calling them, would have killed us if not for the timely arrival of a robed and red-haired man. He ordered  that ordered them to stop in a voice that was patient and authoritative. The man-animals forgot about us fawned and groveled at the man’s feet.

I glanced at Chloe, “Are you Ok?”

Dirt and bruises contrasted with her pale, albino skin, “Morceau de merde stole my rucksack…”

I was clutching at the wound on my shoulder. There was so much blood. My hand looked like I was wearing a single red glove. Direct pressure. I told myself, Apply direct pressure.

The stranger sent the man-animals scurrying with a snap of his fingers. He had a tall forehead, frizzy hair and an almost nonexistent chin. His voice was haughty and nasal, “We meet again Ms. Tree.”

“Mr. Volsung,” Chloe said his name like a curse.

“‘We meet again?’” I said woozily, “Who the Hell says that in real life?”

He glared at me, “I just did.”

It was at that moment I realized I was on my knees, I tried to stand up but my legs weren’t having it, “Are you really going to release a killer virus and destroy the world?”

Mr. Volsung turned his attention back to Chloe, “Who is this idiot?”

“He’s a fellow investigator.”

“Is this fellow investigator aware that he will soon be reborn as a Beast of Valhalla?”

“Is that bad?” I asked, “Because it sounds bad.”

Mr. Volsung’s reaction was a roll of the eyes, Chloe’s expression became pained. In other words it wasn’t as bad as it sounded, it was worse. I was infected, I was on a one way trip to Troglodyte Town.

“Come,” Mr. Volsung gestured to Chloe Tree, “we have matters to discuss that are not for lesser ears.”

“Oh no.” I said, “I’m a part of this, I want some answers.”

Mr. Volsung snapped his fingers and the man-animals swarmed me. They lifted me up and carried me away…

 

THE NIGHT BLOGGER:

A Season In Hell

Episode Twenty-Six

Personal Journal Entry #255

by

Al Bruno III

 

…my name is Chloe Tree and it has fallen upon me to tell this part of the story. Please understand that this is not the whole story, there are facts that must be obscured for the sake of humanity but I respect Brian Foster and what he has tried to accomplish.

Know then that the man called Volsung is an old adversary of my family and the world. He is the last and least of a bloodline as arrogant as it is ugly. Let it be known however that Volsung is the last and least of that lineage, he labors alone like a mad scientist of old in the finical and scientific ruins of his betters. The mighty had fallen I just didn’t know how far.

“Come,” he said to me, “we have matters to discuss that are not for lesser ears.”

“Oh no.” Brian’s voice was desperate, “I’m a part of this, I want some answers.”

All it took was a snap of Volsung’s fingers for the pseudo-neanderthals, the creatures some called the Beasts of Valhalla, to fall upon Brian. There was a moment of terror when I was certain they would tear him limb from limb, but why would the beasts do that when he would be one of them soon enough?

They lifted him up and carried him away deep into the heart of this fungus choked monument to one man’s hubris. “How?” I asked, “How do you make them obey you like that?”

“All in good time,” there was a tremor in his voice that seemed to spread through his entire body. He began to walk away knowing I would follow.

Brian’s straw fedora had fallen to the ground, I tossed my own hat off my head and put his on in its instead. Even now I am not sure what my motivation was for doing so. You might think it was so he could be with me in spirit,  but I don’t believe in spirits, or monsters or gods. There are only mysteries that have yet to be solved.

It was sentiment I suppose.

“Does your adoptive father know you’re here?” Volsung asked.

“He’s none of your business.”

The path he led me along sloped downward. The white fungus became thicker and thicker as we progressed, it popped and hissed underfoot like a carpet of bubble paper. The air it released was foul and choked with spores.

“What is this?” I asked.

“It was the only thing to survive when the facility descended into chaos. It spread from  hydroponics to contaminate everything.” He ran a hand along the veins of soft, whiteness, “From foodstuff to conquerer in less than a generation. Impressive no?”

This was getting nowhere, I changed the subject, “What about Brian?”

“What about him?”

“There must be some kind of cure, some way to help him.”

“No. The infection is incurable and for all but 2% of the population.”

“2%? Which 2%?”

“For some reason it does not impact individuals with a mutation of the MC1R protein. Speaking of mutations,” Volsung paused in mid stride and glanced back at me, “I was sorry to hear about your ‘uncle’ but I suppose he lived longer than someone with his genetic setbacks should have.”

I said nothing

“Did he ever consider,” he began walking again, “That perhaps his encounter with the Valhalla virus was the source of his prolonged lifespan? It can have different effects on different subjects.”

“He…” I took a moment to compose myself. This is the curse of an atheist; a religious person finds solace in the knowledge they will be reunited with their loved ones in an afterlife. Atheists know better, dead is dead and gone is gone- we only live on in memory and even that is fleeting. “He would have wanted me to try and appeal to your sense of reason.”

Volsung chuckled, “My sense of reason doesn’t come into it.”

“This strain of the virus is flawed, it could never do what you want because it is only passed through bodily fluids. All you’re going to do is create human misery.”

“Look around you Ms. Tree, we’re already in a world of human misery. Better to begin again or never to have been at all.” The door to hydroponics had fallen from it’s hinges, the ultraviolet lights dangled by half rotted fixtures and wires. The fungus was everywhere, it surrounded us on all sides, a thick mound of it festered in the center of the room. “If it is to survive Humanity must stop warring with itself. It must become one mind, one soul.”

That brought a question to mind, “Is that how are you able to control the beasts?”

“One mind,” His robes and voice trembled again. He approached the mound and caressed it, “One soul.”

An ugly suspicion took hold of my thoughts, “Whose mind?” I asked, “Whose soul?”

His expression became sly, he undid the belt of his robe and let it fall open to reveal corruption. The same fungus that had run riot over the complex had grown fat on his flesh. It pulsed in time with his heartbeat. “It has such tranquility to share,” he said, “It will forgive your trespasses.”

I dropped to my knees, he liked that. I asked, “What does this have to do with saving humanity?”

“Livestock survives. Livestock endures.”

“You’re insane!” I reached down “Think what you’re saying.”

“Don’t you see?” Volsung spread his arms wide in a gesture of welcome, “Every flock needs shepherds. We. Have. Been. Chosen.”

One of my father’s old friends had given me the pistol and the ankle holster I drew it from. I fired twice, both shots hitting him in the face. There was less blood than I expected. Thick tendrils quivered and lashed at the air before becoming still. He didn’t fall, he just stood there like a toy with batteries that had run down.

The mound of fungus in the center of the room began to quiver, I imagined it erupting like a boil and filling the room with spores and tendrils. It was time to get out of here, but first I had to find Brian…

*

…aside from a few disconnected images I can’t remember what happened.

I know the man-animals carried me away to what might have an auditorium. There were TV screens on every wall, some hissed static others played old newsreel footage from World War II. The man-animals sat me down in the first row of seats. Just before I blacked out I realized one of the man-animals had stolen my pants.

Then gunfire. Chloe Tree came charging in to the room like, if you’ll pardon a bit of alliteration, an albino avenging angel. When she grabbed the arm attached to my wounded shoulder she got my attention. She dragged me to my feet and pulled me out of the room. The man-animals started to give chase but a few shots over their heads scattered them.

She practically carried me through the complex. All around us the white fungus was pulsing angrily. 

Somehow we got back to where we had come in. How the Hell did she get me back up that rope? The Serious Men in Serious Suits waiting for us at the top of the shaft must have had something to do with  it. There was construction equipment everywhere in the decrepit textile mill, cement mixers to be specific. The oldest of the Serious Men knew Chloe, I wish I could remember, it didn’t take long for them to start arguing about me, something about me not leaving here alive.

At that point I wanted to say something but I was too busy blacking out again.

Days later I woke up in the most sterile-looking hospital room I had ever seen. There were no windows, the bed was standard prison issue; the door was locked and there was no TV. My shoulder had been patched up and there were needle and IV tracks up and down my arms. Either I was being held prisoner by a shadowy government agency, or Albany Med had a terrifying new way of dealing with uninsured patients.

Thankfully it was the former and after a few more days of observation and tests they let me go with a warning never to tell my story to anyone.

But come on, what did they think I was gonna do?

By the time I got out Chloe Tree had already gone back to France but she had kindly emailed me the file I posted above so you could know what I missed.

Item: If you recall Volsung mentioned that people with a mutation of the MC1R protein are immune to the virus. The protein in question is the one that makes you a ginger. You don’t actually have to be a ginger to have that genetic marker, it’s recessive but just having it is enough to save you.

Item: I only have one picture of my absentee grandpa but if you haven’t guessed already he had bright red hair.

Item: In the two weeks I was gone Jasper Moradi and Mrs. Vinchenzo were going out of their mind’s with worry, now that I’m back they’re furious with me.

Item: Eight days ago my car was towed, that is a lot of storage fees. I’m going to need help paying for it and am open to donations.

Item: At least I got my straw fedora back.

Item: You won’t find anything beneath the textile mill anymore, nothing but eighty-plus feet of fresh concrete, and pretty soon you won’t even find the mill itself. The city of Troy has decided to knock it all down and build a community playground.

I wonder if there’ll be monkey bars

 

To Be Continued


________________________________


This storyline is dedicated with awe and admiration to George C. Chesbro.

 
You don’t have to believe the stories on my blog, you can dismiss them as good hallucinations or bad fiction if you want to but they’re all true. The darkness was never empty, there are things that wait for the innocent and unwary to turn their backs. What is it you think I’m talking about here? Ghosts? Vampires? Ghouls? If only it were that simple. The creatures of the night are still out there but they’re not shadowing your every footstep. They just check your status updates from the comfort of their tombs.
 
All I ever wanted was to be a Do-It-Yourself style reporter but more often than I like I find myself becoming part of my stories. It turns out gods and monsters don’t like their secrets getting out any more than your standard politician or celebrity. We all know how this is going to turn out in the end; I’m already long overdue for jail, the looney bin or a guest of honor spot at a monster buffet but until that fateful day I’m not going to back down or give up.
 
My name is Brian Foster and some people call me The Night Blogger.
 
But I wish they wouldn’t it’s kinda cheesy.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Storyline In Progress
 
 
 

November 8th: After the events of the hospital things moved quickly. Albany’s Chief of Police went on TV and declared a city-wide manhunt for the ‘drug crazed hooligans’ that had killed six people, including two highly decorated officers. I am sure that little soundbite was a great comfort to the citizenry as did the show of force that took place the next day. At high noon on November 5th the forces of law and order went marching through the poorer neighborhoods of Albany in all their army surplus enhanced glory. The whole scene was the very model of a post 9/11 dystopia. The final results of the brouhaha in body armor was twelve arrests on unrelated charges and outstanding warrants, a neighborhood dog being shot and not one ‘drug crazed hooligan’ taken into custody.

While all this was going on I was busy learning all I could about Dr. Fredrickson, my only clue as to what was really going on around here. I had assumed that I would learn that Dr. Fredrickson was some kind of mad scientist but it turns out that his degree was in criminology. He taught for a while at a downstate college before opening up his own private detective agency. That was when Dr. Fredrickson’s story got weird- really weird, Swan Lake being performed by mimes with Tourette’s syndrome in a running car wash weird. Dr. Fredrickson’s cases weren’t of the standard ‘act as a bodyguard’ or ‘find out of my spouse is cheating’ variety. He actually investigated grisly murders, mysterious disappearances and ninjas. 

Yes, you read that right. Actual ninjas!

While I did my research things kept getting more and more complicated around town. There were almost a dozen sightings of the man-animals in Troy but they were all dismissed as hysteria and lies by the powers that be. Some unlucky citizens were attacked but those attacks were blamed on rabid animals. By the third chewed up jogger the local newspapers began to get suspicious but their investigations went nowhere because both the survivors and the dead had all been spirited away by those Serious Men in Serious Suits.

It took some doing but on the 6th I struck pay dirt. My investigations revealed that in 2006 Dr. Fredrickson moved to France to act as a consultant for Interpol and never came back. In fact he moved his whole damn family across the ocean with him. I found his Interpol email address and sent him a guarded message. 

I got an answer almost immediately…

 

THE NIGHT BLOGGER:

A Season In Hell

Episode Twenty-Five

Primal Scream

by

Al Bruno III

 

…the place: Troy, New York. The time: high noon. 

Going to secluded locations at the behest of people you’ve just met on the Internet is only slightly dumber than climbing into the back of a van offering free vasectomies. But I went anyway, to the secluded location, not for the vasectomy.

I parked my car across the street from a flower shop and and made my way to the Volsung Corporation’s long-abandoned textile mill. Abandoned buildings are nothing new in Troy; the town is an urban explorer’s dream but the mill was unique in that after the Volsung Company shut down operations and moved production to Taiwan they held on to the property- and let it rot. 

At least until the Volsung Corporation went belly up in 1985. The city took the property over and came up with one idea after another of what to do with it; each idea was stupider than the last, and none were ever acted on.

The mill was an ugly rectangle of red brick with tiny windows and a pair of chimneys. It looked like an orphanage out of a Dickens novel. Dr. Fredrickson had told me he was booking a flight to New York right away and he planned to meet me there. Personally I would have preferred to meet the man at the airport or a nice restaurant but if this was how he wanted to play it I didn’t have much choice.

Not if I wanted answers.

Like most creepy, long-abandoned buildings the mill was surrounded by a chain link fence that was crawling with tetanus. There is no way to casually climb a chain link fence in broad daylight so I just got it over with as quickly as I could. My bum knee screamed in protest when I landed but I walked it off.

There was a brief moment when I paused to realize there had been a man-sized hole in the fence just a few yards from where I had gone over but I got over it and started walking again. Trash and weeds ringed the building, one of the loading dock doors was wide open, it gaped hungrily, waiting for me to enter.

And enter I did. My pen light in one hand and my iPhone filming away in the other. The loading dock looked like… well, a loading dock. Truck bays, ramps and offices. A double door led to the interior of the building I nudged it open with mill was empty, no walls, no machines. The afternoon sun was level with glassless windows, I passed from shadow to light to shadow. Somewhere an owl hooted and flew away.

The only thing worse than the stink of a building gone to rot is the odor of death and lucky me, I was smelling both. I hated myself for not asking for more answers from Dr. Fredrickson but he’d insisted that he no longer trusted the security of Interpol’s email system.

Nice going Patriot Act.

“If you head there you will find traces of the Volsung Corporation’s true legacy.” Fredrick son’s last message had said,  “Bring rope, flashlight and an open mind. Go tomorrow afternoon, before things get worse.”

Just in case this whole thing was a trap I’d decided against bringing a rope. I had no intention of being trussed up by someone as deadly as they were thrifty.

My penlight beam found footprints on the dirty floor. Dozens of them, all barefoot and all walking on the balls of their feet. I followed the trail deeper into the building. I began to find half-eaten animal corpses strewn here and there, I’m not 100% sure what kind they were but I imagined there were a lot of folks in Troy missing their cats and dogs.

Suddenly I began to wish Jasper was at my side instead of packing for his big trip. He still wanted me to go with him but how could I ever leave all this, and the Vorvolaka, behind?

“Stop right there!” a voice called from the shadows. It was soft, heavily accented in French and deadly serious.

I stopped.

“Look down,” the voice said. 

There was a hole in the floor right in front of me, even with the occasional illumination I couldn’t see the bottom. I exhaled heavily, “I should have brought that rope.”

“Indeed,” A trench coated figure stepped into view, a beautiful young woman with refined features and ghostly white skin. She was an albino. “You’re Brian Foster, I like the hat.”

The stranger was wearing a chapeau of her own, a dark blue pork pie hat that anchored down her white curly afro. “Back at ya” I said, “And you are?”

“My name is Chloe Tree, you’ve been emailing my Uncle.” There was a rucksack over her shoulder, she pulled a slender object from it. There was a muffled crack followed by a hiss, the road flare she was holding burst to life.

Once I was done flinching I asked, “He sent you?”

Chloe Tree walked over to the edge of the hole and dropped the flare. The stick of reddish flame fell for eight seconds before hitting bottom. She nodded sagely and shouldered out out her rucksack. “Good, I brought enough,” she handed me one end of the rope, “please tie it around something solid.”

Like I said before the place was pretty much empty but Chloe brought plenty of rope and I managed to find a free-standing support column about six 

 to our left. “So,” I began, “Dr. Fredrickson is your Uncle?”

“Adopted,” she admitted, “when I was four years old I was orphaned by a man that thought my skin and organs could give him great power. The Fredrickson brothers rescued me.”

“And Dr. Fredrickson’s brother adopted you?”

“His big brother Garth and his wife Mary.”

I stared at the knot I had tied for a moment or two. I’d never been a Boy Scout and I couldn’t be sure the ugly tangle of rope would hold but it would have to do. “Ready!”

She dropped the rope down into the pit, “The Volsung Company presented itself to the world as an agricultural research company but they had other interests.”

“Bio-weapons?” I asked.

She flashed me a smile, “How did you know?”

“What can I say?” I shrugged, “I’m a good guesser.”

“Indeed.” After one last look around she hefted the rucksack and began lowering herself into the hole in the floor, “Climb carefully now.”

Climb down into a pit in an abandoned factory? That’s how I roll.

It has been a long time since I’ve done anything even remotely athletic and I started to ‘feel the burn’ with in a few seconds of making my way down the rope. How far down were we going? I thought eighty feet was a good estimate but that begged the question- what the Hell was down here? What had this company been doing on the side? “So,” I panted, “Volsung was making some kind of killer virus…”

“Worse, a morphic impacting pathogen.”

“I have no idea what that means but it makes me want to wash my hands immediately.”

She gave a little laugh and she dropped from the rope to pan d on the floor below, “You’ve seen the results of it on Martin Biddle, a complete re-writing of DNA to the point where a physical transformation is triggered. The transformation is mental too, millions of years of evolution are wiped away. Their minds become primitive and malleable.”

“Are you telling me,” I dropped down after her, “that this thing turns people into cavemen?”

“To put it simply yes. But the damage done is so profound that the children of any surviving victims will be pseudo-neanderthals.”

What she was saying was impossible, it was insane, it was the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey in reverse but I’d seen it. I’d seen what that poor bastard Marty Biddle had become, and I’d heard the rest of his furry posse in action.

She took the penlight from my hand and swept the beam around the chamber. The place was at least a thousand feet across in every direction and populated with long, flat buildings as well as obelisks and statues that rose up to brush the ceiling. I felt a shiver of worry at the thought I might be crossing into Dero territory again but I soon realized that this place had been designed with human aesthetics in mind. It was positively cathedral-like, “Why would anyone do this?”

“They called it the Valhalla Project,” she walked over to one of the statues, it was covered with an ugly, foul smelling mold that grew in streaks and lumps along what must have once been a seventy foot tall effigy of some saint or wise man. The coating of mold left its face and inscription impossible to make sense of, “let the virus do its work while a chosen few survivors waited in a dozen places like this around the globe. Then once the human race had been fully regressed they would emerge and guide mankind into a less warlike state of being. A kinder, gentler human race.”

“That’s… that’s…” I boggled, “You’re not kidding are you?”

“No,” she started walking then paused and glanced back at me before continuing on. It seemed like her too-pale face lingered in the shadows after her. Chesire-like.

I used my phone to snap a few pictures along the way but I knew I would never post them, not when everything looked like a shadowy photoshop job or a Yes album cover. “It would be nice if you could tell me what we’re looking for.”

“Some clue as to who blasted that hole up above. Everyone that experienced the Valhalla Project firsthand should be dead.

“Everyone?”

“Everyone except for my father and those doctors and spooks from Albany Med,” the entrance to one of the buildings was open, we took a moment to peer inside. There four rows of 70’s era looking computers a skeleton was slumped over one of the keyboards. It was covered with mold, everything was.

“What is this… gunk?” I ran my fingers along the wall, scooping up a handful of the stuff, it was moist and clammy.

“It was supposed to be a food source, I guess after the place was abandoned it got ambitious.”

“Ichhhhh!” I shook the stuff from my hand.

Up ahead was something that must have been a town square, a gathering place for discussions of great importance and possibly the occasional biome hoedown. A fire made from bones and shattered furniture blazed in the heart of it and ugly troglodyte figures danced about it in orgiastic fury. 

There was a toppled obelisk nearby, Chloe and I took cover behind it and watched. Somewhere an amplifier was playing a speech that sounded like it had been recorded long ago, “Let every man remind their descendants that they also are soldiers who must not desert the ranks of their ancestors, or from cowardice fall behind…” 

It boomed and echoed, the acoustics of the place were amazing.

“There are more than I expected,” Chloe said.

“O ye sons of heroes, that you strive to be the bravest of men. And I think that I ought now to repeat what your fathers desired to have said to you who are their survivors…”

I have so out of my depth in my life, and possibly out of my mind, “What do we do now?”

“We retreat, we contact the authorities and we hope.”

“Love it.” I said, “Best plan ever.”

There was a pause in the recording. We turned to go. I stepped on a bone. The sound of it snapping resounded like a gunshot…

*

of course the man-animals heard it.

Of course we ran.

Of course they caught up with us easily.

The moment one reached us, Chloe clocked it with her rucksack. Then her hand was in the rucksack, grabbing two more flares.

There was a crack and a hiss. The road flare burned to life. The man-animals backed away in panic but surrounded us just the same.

We weren’t going anywhere.

“How long do those things last?” I asked her.

“Here,” she threw the other one to me and I almost caught it.

When I bent down to retrieve it one of the man-animals pounced. We tumbled along the slimy, moldy ground. Teeth brushed my throat. I fought to push it away but only managed to keep the creature from biting into my neck.

My scream was half-pain, half terror. Chloe was shouting something in French. I started to beg the creature nuzzling into the meat of my clavicle for mercy.

But it didn’t understand a damn word I was saying…

 

To Be Continued

April 2nd: What follows is a tale of things that happen in dark and private moments, a tale of emotional needs supplanted by physical desire, in other words a tale of fucking. It begins with Roseanne Gluckman, a woman unlucky in love but a whiz at the stock market, a self made millionaire at thirty years old.
 

Roseanne’s plans had been to make her fortune first and get married second but now the fear that her suitors were only after her for money left her unable to get past a first date much less third base. On the Internet we call this a ‘first world problem.’

 

Since women have needs just like men Roseanne found a workaround, an expensive and preternatural one, but a workaround nonetheless; she nicknamed him Mr. RING; a callback to the simpler, geekier, days of her youth. He was an expensive lover, high maintenance and low personality but he got the job done and he was always ready for more. He made her feel things she’d barely been able to imagine feeling before. Sure she always felt a little guilty afterwards but that wasn’t enough to make her send him away, not when she was in a relationship with so few rules or expectations.

 

And isn’t that what every relationship comes down to? Rules and expectations?

 

Speaking of expectations, one she had been told to accept was Mr. RING’s complete silence at all times. He would never ask questions, make complaints or ask about her net worth. He was a blank slate she could overwrite with her every fantasy, he could be everything Roseanne thought she ever wanted.

 

Then he started humming.

 

That faint almost tuneless sound turned her normally warm post-coital sweat ice cold. She realized what she had done with a scream, a scream the shape beside her in the bed ignored. 

 

She ran from bedroom and locked herself in the bathroom. This was bad. She had broken the rule- THE rule. She had committed a sin far worse than breaking a roomful of  mirrors or feeding a gremlin after midnight.

 

The hum became a voice, almost too faint for her to hear, “Is you is or is you ain’t my baby?

 
 
THE NIGHT BLOGGER:
A Season In Hell
Episode Twenty-Three
Mr. RING
by
Al Bruno III
 
 

…if you only know the city via the Carly Simon song then let me explain that Saratoga is the closest thing upstate New York has to Beverly Hills. Except of course for it’s complete lack of celebrities, glamor and decent weather- but it has a pretty nice racetrack, so it’s got that going for it.

 

The time? Two days after Mr. RING’s impromptu serenade had driven Roseanne Gluckman from her high priced condo to her even more expensive McMansion.

 

I was barricading us into her spacious study. Rosanne was loading the gargantuan revolver she’d just purchased. She’d said it made her feel safe. 

 

That was one of us.

 

“Mr. RING means what?” I paused in nailing shut a window.

 

Roseanne blushed, “Mechanical Robotic Replicant Intended for Nocturnal Gratification.”

 

“Oh.” I said.

 

“Oh? What is that supposed to mean?” she snapped.”

 

“Nothing!” Now I was reddening, “Just ‘oh’.”

 

My Macbook was in the corner of the room, Jasper’s face was in the chat window, “I think I’ve got something…”

 

“What is it?” I put the hammer down and approached.

 

He held up a sheet of paper with Hebrew lettering on it to the camera;

 

אמת

 

“It’s the word ‘truth’,” Jasper explained. “You inscribe it on a golem to bring it to life.”

 

“A golem?” I scanned the room. The study entrance was nailed shut. A heavy oak bookshelf had been pulled in front of the glass balcony doors. There was a pitiful looking log burning in the fireplace. The fireplace poker was beside it, the business end buried in the hot coals. “She turned her sex doll into a golem?”

 

“It is not a sex doll,” Roseanne said frostily, “it is a Macho Manikin Fully Articulated Love Companion.”

 

Jasper’s voice said from the Macbook, “Yeah but now it’s a golem.”

 

“It cost twelve thousand dollars!”

 

“Then it’s a twelve thousand dollar golem,” Jasper started shuffling through his notes, “the thing is the word ‘Truth’ is supposed to be on the golem, not the golem’s owner.”

 

“That Ashley Fowler…” held her forearm up for us to see, the Hebrew lettering was there ‘אמת’. It wasn’t a tattoo or a birthmark but it had appeared on the night of April 2nd and had been growing darker and more pronounced by the hour, “she did this to me. She’s the Devil.”

 

“No she isn’t,” I crossed back over to the door again and tested it. Would it hold? I didn’t know but I doubted it.

 

Jasper said, “But she did bring Roseanne’s sex doll… I mean Fully Articulated Love Companion to life.”

 

“She. Is. Not. The. Devil.” I bit my words off in an annoyed staccato, “I don’t know what we are dealing with but she is not Old Scratch.”

 

“OK. Whatever.” Jasper said, “Hey Roseanne, you didn’t sell her your soul did you?”

 

Roseanne shrugged, “It was more of a promissory note.”

 

“All right,” I said, “so you signed a promissory note with Ashely Fowler. What did you promise?”

 

“The deal was that Mr. RING would come to life and… take care of my needs until the day I found true love…” her voice trailed off.

 

“And?” I gestured for her to continue.

 

She sighed, “And if I ever let a teardrop fall onto his silicone flesh I would become Mr. RING’s true love.”

 

There was a long pause, I looked from Roseanne to the Macbook, Jasper just stared out of the screen at both of us. Finally he cleared his throat, “I have to admit that does sound like something the Devil would do.”

 

Roseanne nodded eagerly, “I know right?”

 

I pinched the bridge of my nose, “She is not… Wait. You cried on him? On Mr. RING?”

 

This whole affair was getting more bizarre by the minute, I wondered if she was putting me on. It’s happened before, you folks remember the time I received an email from a concerned citizen about a haunted house only to learn it was actually a meth lab, or the time I got a tip about a coven of vampires only to find out it was a group of swingers with a love of crushed velvet and LARPing. Both those adventures had nearly gotten me fucked over- just in very different ways.

 

“Yes I did,” Roseanne said, “but not on purpose. Do you think I wanted to end up spending my nights getting off with some kind of a magic robot? That night I was so disgusted with myself that I started to cry.”

 

“I’m really sorry. I didn’t think-”

 

“Haven’t you ever done something for physical gratification then hated yourself afterwards?”

 

A rueful tone crept into my voice. “Oh Hell yes.”

 

“Dude!” Jasper said from the Macbook screen, “I’m right here!”

 

“I didn’t mean you!”

 

She looked from Jasper to me and said, “Oh.”

 

“Oh? What is that supposed to mean?” Jasper snapped.

 

“Nothing!” She looked away, “Just ‘oh’.”

 

“I got a gal who’s always late,” A syrupy, Prince Charming voice interrupted us, it was making it’s way up Roseanne Gluckman’s driveway. “Anytime we have a date…”

 

“And here we go,” I closed the Macbook lid. Jasper had time for a single shout of protest.

 

Meanwhile the serenade was continuing, “I’m gonna walk up to her gate, and see if I can get it straight…”

 

There was a crash that could only be the sound of the house’s front door being kicked in. The home security system started going berserk. A stern sounding operator began issuing stern sounding warnings from the intercoms but all the while Mr. RING kept singing away, “Cause I wants her, I’m gonna ask her- Is you is or is you ain’t my baby?”

 

I turned back to look at Roseanne, the paleness was spreading out from the word on her forearm, something about it made her flesh take on an artificial tone. She cried, “You said you had a plan!”

The singer was getting closer now, I could hear his footsteps on the landing, “The way you’re actin’ lately makes me doubt…”

 

“I do have a plan,” I explained, “it just happens to be an awful one.”

 

The study door crashed open and I got my first glimpse of Mr. RING. Imagine if you will Kirk Cameron’s head perched atop the hairless body of a romance novel lothario. He wore only Roseanne’s flowery bathrobe and a pair of silk boxers. Poking out the fly of those boxers was the main selling point of a Macho Manikin Fully Articulated Love Companion. It wasn’t so much a penis as it was an assault on all sense of proportion and sanity. “You is still my baby, baby,” his mouth opened and closed like a puppet’s, “Seems my flame in your heart’s done gone out…”

 

His doll eyes zeroed in on Roseanne. She made a small terrified sound. I approached the thing, “All right now. Easy big fella. Let’s talk about this.”

 

“A woman is a creature that has always been strange…” Mr. RING took another step forward, I moved forward again, quite literally cock blocking him. “Just when you’re sure of one you find she’s gone and made a change…”

 

“I don’t think you’re a monster,” I said, “No monster has a singing voice like that. Let the lady go.”

 

He paused. Was he listening to me? Was there an actual soul of some kind that could have understood what I was doing or was he just a wish and a curse made manifest? I’ll never know because that was when Roseanne decided to shot him.

 

It was like a bolt of lightning crashed over my shoulder. A hot breeze blasted past my cheek. My right eye was flash blinded. My right ear was deafened. The bullet hit Mr. RING dead center in his smarmy smile and lodged deep in one of the steel joints that held his PVC skull together.

 

There was a long pause. I think Roseanne said “Sorry Brian.” but the ringing in my head was so loud it sounded a lot like “Starry fryin’.” 

 

Then Mr. RING started singing again from what was left of his mouth, “ITH you iTH or iTH you ain’t my baby? Maybe baby’TH found THomebody new…”

 

He picked me up by the lapels of my leather jacket and threw me into the oak bookshelf we’d been using as a barricade. I hit it with enough force to send it pitching backward. It smashed through the glass doors and suddenly I was out on the balcony.

 

Roseanne kept firing. Mr. RING kept singing.

 

Blam!

 

“Or iTH my baby THtill my baby true?”

 

Blam!

 

“ITH you or iTH you ain’t my baby, baby?”

 

Blam! Blam!

 

“Baby boy, the way you’re actin’ lately makeTH me doubt…”

 

Blam!

 

“THee here, who’TH been cuttin’ me…”

 

I got to my feet in time to see Roseanne throw the empty revolver at him. It bounced off his jaw, taking out a faux tooth before it hit the floor. She was backing away. It might have been the concussion talking but it looked like her movements were getting stiffer, her face losing the ability to hold it’s expression of terror. 

 

What was it Roseanne had been told? If she ever let a teardrop fall onto his silicone flesh she would become his true love. What would a Pinocchio with a priapism like Mr. RING want?  Another living doll of course.

 

There was no choice, it was time to implement my awful plan. I scrabbled across the study and grabbed the fireplace poker. It had been sitting in the fire for almost an hour so it was good and hot. 

 

“You’TH is THtill my baby, baby. Baby boy, it seemTH my flame in your heart’TH done…”

 

I charged, crashing past Mr. RING and bringing the red hot metal down onto Roseanne’s forearm scalding the flesh to the bone reducing the ‘truth’ marking to a blackened ruin…

 
*
 

…it was a lucky guess and something I’m surprised no one at the mercy of a demonic promissory note ever tried before. Then again this may be the first time anyone had ever tried to make a semi-satanic love doll. 

 

Item: the Saratoga Police burst into the room about thirty seconds after I’d given Roseanne her life saving third degree burn and ten seconds after Mr. RING had collapsed lifelessly to the floor.

 

I can only imagine how the whole thing looked so I am not holding a grudge over the tasering, beatdown and crushed fedora.

 

Item: Jasper isn’t talking to me again. “That oh Hell yes.” was really was not about him. It was a reference to my nights of glumly banging the dancers at Scorpio’s.

 

Seriously Jasper, if you’re reading this call me.

 

Item: Roseanne Gluckman didn’t thank for for saving her, or offer any kind of reward but she didn’t press charges either so we’ll call that one even. In the time since this little misadventure she’s given her heart, and a good amount of her fortune, to the Colonie Crusade for Christ.

 

Please don’t think I’m rolling my eyes at her decision. She seemed like a nice enough person and all she wanted was to be loved, maybe the Church is where she’ll finally find it.

 

But there also may be another reason for Roseanne’s sudden conversion.

 

Item: There was a break in at the evidence storage facility used by the Saratoga Police Department. The only item that went missing was one heavily damaged Macho Manikin Fully Articulated Love Companion. When did it go missing? On the same day as a Policeman’s Benevolent Association cookout put on by local millionaire socialite Ashley Fowler.

 

Item: Ashley Fowler is not the Devil. I know the woman. Actually we’ve never met but I know of her. You longtime readers will remember that she went to summer camp with one of my relatives. Because of this there is no way I will ever accept that the First of the Fallen, the dark tempter of mankind, the very ruler of Hell, lost her virginity to my cousin Roy back in the 80’s. That way lies madness.

 

But, just the same, I’m going to make it my goal to stay the Hell out of her way.

 

Brian Foster out.

 

To Be Continued
 
 
 
 
 
You don’t have to believe the stories on my blog, you can dismiss them as good hallucinations or bad fiction if you want to but they’re all true. The darkness was never empty, there are things that wait for the innocent and unwary to turn their backs. What is it you think I’m talking about here? Ghosts? Vampires? Ghouls? If only it were that simple. The creatures of the night are still out there but they’re not shadowing your every footstep. They just check your status updates from the comfort of their tombs.
 
All I ever wanted was to be a Do-It-Yourself style reporter but more often than I like I find myself becoming part of my stories. It turns out gods and monsters don’t like their secrets getting out any more than your standard politician or celebrity. We all know how this is going to turn out in the end; I’m already long overdue for jail, the looney bin or a guest of honor spot at a monster buffet but until that fateful day I’m not going to back down or give up.
 
My name is Brian Foster and some people call me The Night Blogger.
 
But I wish they wouldn’t it’s kinda cheesy.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Storyline In Progress
 
 
 
 
Completed Stories
 
 
 
 
 
Part Three: Digging In The Dirt
Part Four: The Red Chimes
Part Five: Back From The Shadows Again
Part Six: The Devil’s In The House Of The Rising Sun
Part Seven: The House Of Gorgo
Part Eight: The Parliament Of Moloch
Part Nine: Under The Eye Of Luna
Part Ten: The Tale Of Detective Bradshaw
Part Eleven: Waiting For The Mortician Or Someone Like Him
Part Twelve: The Shape On The Stairwell
Part Thirteen: It’s What’s Inside That Counts
Part Fourteen: Dies Irae


 
 
 



 

 
 
 
You don’t have to believe the stories on my blog, you can dismiss them as good hallucinations or bad fiction if you want to but they’re all true. The darkness was never empty, there are things that wait for the innocent and unwary to turn their backs. What is it you think I’m talking about here? Ghosts? Vampires? Ghouls? If only it were that simple. The creatures of the night are still out there but they’re not shadowing your every footstep. They just check your status updates from the comfort of their tombs.
 
All I ever wanted was to be a Do-It-Yourself style reporter but more often than I like I find myself becoming part of my stories. It turns out gods and monsters don’t like their secrets getting out any more than your standard politician or celebrity. We all know how this is going to turn out in the end; I’m already long overdue for jail, the looney bin or a guest of honor spot at a monster buffet but until that fateful day I’m not going to back down or give up.
 
My name is Brian Foster and some people call me The Night Blogger.
 
But I wish they wouldn’t it’s kinda cheesy.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Storyline In Progress
 
 
 
 
Completed Stories
 
 
 
 
 
Part Three: Digging In The Dirt
Part Four: The Red Chimes
Part Five: Back From The Shadows Again
Part Six: The Devil’s In The House Of The Rising Sun
Part Seven: The House Of Gorgo
Part Eight: The Parliament Of Moloch
Part Nine: Under The Eye Of Luna
Part Ten: The Tale Of Detective Bradshaw
Part Eleven: Waiting For The Mortician Or Someone Like Him
Part Twelve: The Shape On The Stairwell
Part Thirteen: It’s What’s Inside That Counts
Part Fourteen: Dies Irae


 
 


You don’t have to believe the stories on my blog, you can dismiss them as good hallucinations or bad fiction if you want to but they’re all true. The darkness was never empty, there are things that wait for the innocent and unwary to turn their backs. What is it you think I’m talking about here? Ghosts? Vampires? Ghouls? If only it were that simple. The creatures of the night are still out there but they’re not shadowing your every footstep. They just check your status updates from the comfort of their tombs.

All I ever wanted was to be a Do-It-Yourself style reporter but more often than I like I find myself becoming part of my stories. It turns out gods and monsters don’t like their secrets getting out any more than your standard politician or celebrity. We all know how this is going to turn out in the end; I’m already long overdue for jail, the looney bin or a guest of honor spot at a monster buffet but until that fateful day I’m not going to back down or give up.

My name is Brian Foster and some people call me The Night Blogger.

But I wish they wouldn’t it’s kinda cheesy.

 

 

 

 

Storyline In Progress

 

Prologue: Personal Journal Entry #1

Episode One: The Ripper

Episode Two: Personal Journal Entry#19

Episode Three: The Zombie

Episode Four: Personal Journal Entry#25

Episode Five: They Have Been, They Are, They Will Be

Episode Six: Personal Journal Entry#39

Episode Seven: The Vampire

Episode Eight: Personal Journal Entry#52

Episode Nine: The Werewolf

Episode Ten: Personal Journal Entry #83

Episode Eleven: Firefall

Episode Twelve: Personal Journal Entry #106

Episode Thirteen: The Devil’s Platform

Episode Fourteen: Personal Journal Entry #125

Episode Fifteen: Bad Medicine

Episode Sixteen: Personal Journal Entry#156

Episode Seventeen: The Spanish Moss Murders

Episode Eighteen: Personal Journal Entry #161

Episode Nineteen: The Energy Eater

Episode Twenty: Personal Journal Entry #184

Episode Twenty-One Horror In The Heights

Episode Twenty-Two Personal Journal Entry #211

…The story so far; I work, I blog and I go out to look for things that bump in the night. It’s a routine only broken up by court dates and arguments with Jasper. Those tiffs are always my fault by the way. He keeps telling me he loves me and I keep telling him I’m not gay. Now since this usually happens after we’ve just finished doing gay stuff to each other, you can understand his anger and frustration. He tells me I’m in the closet, I tell him the only thing in my closet is monsters and the negotiations break down from there. 

Speaking of monsters, the legal fallout from the little fracas at the Heritage Heights Convalescent Home was minimal. The judge handed down a sentence of community service with a dash of “Why the Hell do I keep seeing you here Foster?”

I tried to explain about the vorvolaka. The judge listened thoughtfully, then threatened to send me to a mental ward and doubled my community service

 

THE NIGHT BLOGGER:

A Season In Hell

Episode Twenty-Two

Personal Journal Entry #211

by

Al Bruno III

 

…word of advice, if you’re going to do some court-ordered roadside trash pickup don’t do it on a February afternoon. There was no snow on the ground but it was sunless and cold with a wind that had a frosty bite to it. I’d swapped out my straw fedora for a knit cap and my leather jacket for a parka. The reflective orange safety vest added just the right touch of spice to the ensemble. 

There were three other people working with me near the Wolf Road exit of the Adirondack Northway; a forty-something shoplifter, a teenage car thief and a woman that had been arrested several times for stalking. The car thief and the shoplifter seemed properly chastised by having to pick up McDonald’s wrappers and used condoms by the roadside but I don’t think the stalker lady was at all moved by the experience. Maybe it was the way she barely seemed to notice the cold, maybe it was her bright smile, maybe it was the way she kept singing Taylor Swift’s song ‘You Belong With Me’ to herself with a strangely murderous undercurrent. 

When I’m doing manual labor my mind tends to wander; I shuffle through my memories, plan blog posts and indulge in long bouts of self-pity and self-loathing. I was particularly deep into the self-loathing part of things when it started to rain.

There was no sudden warning drizzle, one moment it was cloudy skies, the next it was monsoon season. Parka or no parka I was soaked to the skin in no time, my knit cap was reduced to a soggy headband of ice cold wool, my sneakers fared no better. I couldn’t see my court-appointed coworkers or even the county vehicle that had brought us here. My two biggest worries became either getting hit by a car traveling too fast for the limited visibility and catching pneumonia, so I made my way to the cover of the trees by the roadside.

I crouched under a sugar maple and waited for a break in the weather or rescue but neither showed up. Then the shiver going up my spine stopped being from the cold and started being from the feeling of being observed from afar.

A quick scramble to the other side of the tree showed me a dilapidated one room house just a few yards away. Strange that I hadn’t noticed it before, stranger still was the sensation that the person watching me was in there, that somehow they had known I would come to this place at this time.

Throwing caution and my big bag of garbage to the wind I ran for the house just as it started hailing. The interior of the house was lit by a single candle sitting atop an otherwise empty table. Wind whistled in through the cracks in the windows and down through chimney. There was a filthy mattress in one corner of the room, right next to it was a chain attached to a spike driven into the floor. Rain clattered along the metal roof making a sound that reminded me of static. 

The man seated at the table wore a surgical mask, sunglasses and a red baseball cap. The rest of his wardrobe had a thrown together, rummage sale feel to it. He gestured for me to sit down in the chair opposite him.

I’d met this man before, he wandered into the pawn shop five years ago. When he spoke his voice was little more than a whisper, “Good to see you again - - - - -.”

The smart thing to do would have been to leave, to just run before the masked man pulled out a knife or a gun or a chainsaw and turned me from ‘the Night Blogger’ into ‘the Late Night Blogger’ but since when do I do the smart thing? I took the seat offered to me, it was a wooden chair that wobbled ominously. I asked, “What are you doing here?”

“Getting out of the rain of - - - - - -.”

I had to lean forward to try and catch what he was saying,  “I never got a chance to pay you for that lovely bit of jewelry you left behind.”

“You mean this?” he pulled a butterfly brooch from his coat.

The sight of it knocked the wind from me, “How many of those things do you have?”

“There’s only one,” he explained, “there - - - only ever - - -.”

“Then were did you get that from?”

“Your upper - - - - - desk drawer.”

“You were in my apartment?”

“- have been in your - - - - - - - - - many times.” He handed the brooch back to me, “I was there on your - - - - first night there.”

That chilled me more than any February rainstorm. I decided to take the offensive, “That might impress me more if I knew who you were.”

“- - name is Reynolds.”

Reynolds? Not the kind of name I expected for a creepy mysterious guy but I pressed on. “Why are you afraid to let me see your face?”

He chuckled and pulled off the surgical mask, the first thing I saw was that he had no nose, just an ugly hole in the middle of his head. The rest of his face was no better, it was all scars. There was no doubt in my mind that something, or several somethings, had gnawed and bitten at his flesh. He took off his sunglasses, he had both his eyes and they were full of a kind of ugly mirth. The kind of expression you might see on a thirteen year old boy tossing frogs into oncoming traffic.

“I am here to deliver a warning and a question,” he said.

Despite all the things I’ve seen in my life there was no way I could keep eye contact with this guy; I concentrated on the candle flame instead. “A warning about what?”

“The Sign of Ninazu,” he explained, “Ninazu is not simply a god of healing, he is also the god of the underworld. He is life and death.”

I pocketed the butterfly brooch, this time it was going straight into my safety deposit box, “I’ve read the relevant materials.”

Actually I had Jasper summarize it for me but why should this creep know that?

“Each time you invoke his sign,” Reynolds explained, “you draw closer to his world.”

“Are you saying it will eventually kill me?” I sneered into the candle flame, “So will booze, marijuana, and white bread.”

“Ninazu will take your soul to a place far more terrible than the Ruins of Never.”

I didn’t like the sound of that one bit but the Sign of Ninazu and I are kind of stuck with each other. All I could do was keep the conversation moving forward. “What was your question?”

“Are you a rat?” he asked, “or an owl?”

“Is this some kind of a cosplay thing?”

He laughed, “The owl is the lord of the thousand-faced moon, the avatar of Moloech and the keeper of forbidden wisdom. The rat is the finder of secret places, the master of survival and overcoming obstacles, the spirit animal of George Washington and Jeffery Dahmer.”

Ah, I was wondering when the hardcore crazy talk would begin, “How about I be neither?”

“Owls prey on rats but the rats always outnumber the owls,” Reynolds’ voice became more fanatical, “everyone must choose.”

“I think it’s time for me to go,” and my that I meant I was going to make a run for it.

But I couldn’t stand up, I couldn’t move my arms, I couldn’t do anything but stare at the candle.

Not good. Not good at all.

There was a soft plop from the fireplace beside me.  Reynolds made a happy sound, “It seems the choice has been made for you.”

Another plop, then another, then a dozen more. An animal smell invaded the room, the odor of damp fur and dirt. Things scurried towards me and began to climb and swarm over my body. Squeaking noises then tickling whiskers reached my ears. Their paws felt like baby fingers with sharp nails on my face but they didn’t scratch or bite, they just examined me with beady-eyed fascination. Shudders of revulsion tremored through my body but I still couldn’t move. I wanted to scream but I didn’t dare.

“No surprises then,” Reynolds put his mask and glasses back on, “I always suspected this was so.”

No! I thought, Don’t leave me like this!

“Someday we will meet again I think,” he stood and walked towards me. His proximity agitated the rats, “We have old and new business.”

A rat had burrowed under my coat, another was gnawing at my soggy cap, one sat upon on the table and looked from me to the candle and back again. I began to weep with terror and a rat licked at my tears.

From somewhere behind me Reynolds snapped his fingers and everything went black…

*

…I woke up eighteen hours later. The candle had burned itself out. The rats were gone but their little muddy footprints were all over my clothes and face. Did Reynolds hypnotize me or did I hypnotize myself? Had I really just been drafted onto Team Rodent? I’d guess I’ll find out when it’s time.

My more pressing concern was finding out if my disappearance had violated the terms of my community service sentence, that and getting all this written down for you to puzzle over. I gave Jasper a call to come and get me.

Jasper took me to his place for a hot meal and a hotter shower and yes we ended up in bed but I didn’t feel like sleeping alone and I sure as Hell didn’t feel safe in my apartment.

I’m sure that tomorrow morning I’m going to catch Hell with Mrs. Vincenzo and my court appointed lawyer but I suppose nowadays that’s part of my routine too.

To Be Continued

 

TALES FROM THE ODDSIDE

My Love Is Vengeance

by

Al Bruno III

The old saying is “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves” but in the end I only needed one. I have no regrets for my years spent planning and executing my vengeance upon Creighton Tillingshaft Jr.

It should never have come to this and I like to think that if he had just paid for his crimes I would have tried to move on but that man did not take responsibility. There was no denying that my thirteen year old son was dragged beneath Creighton Tillingshaft Jr’s car for 180 yards, there was no denying that Creighton Tillingshaft Jr had fled the scene of the accident leaving my boy to die by the side of the road like an animal. The authorities thought he was driving under the influence, but by the time they caught up to him there was no way to prove it.

The trial was a sham, the Tillingshaft fortune saw to that, his team of doctors and psychiatrists spoke of ‘dissociative episodes’ and addictions. His lawyers questioned my parenting, scolding me for allowing my boy to be out delivering papers at five in the morning. In the end all my son’s killer received was a hefty fine, community service and twelve years probation.

Was that all my boy was worth to them?

It is a painful thing to outlive your offspring; my wife had died in childbirth and the thought that my son would not attend my grave as I attended his mother’s left me not entirely sane. I bought a gun and tried to decide if I wanted him dead or if I wanted to die myself. Eventually my perspective changed, I became colder. I let my love for my son twist into a dream of vengeance. I vowed to never rest until I saw my boy’s killer on his knees.

Years were spent watching and planning, I came to know his life better than I had known my own. Finally, shortly after his fortieth birthday, I began to move against Creighton Tillingshaft Jr. At first all I did was let him know he was being watched by using the skills I’d spent years honing. His family heard footsteps echo through the house at night, they would investigate to find a door or window open. They started finding newspapers delivered to their front step though they never subscribed and their mansion was behind walls and a gate, Those papers were not new, they were from the year my son died. He began to panic, he hired security guards that never found anything amiss and bought guard dogs that disappeared to be found dead weeks later.

Once the Tillingshafts were good and rattled I backed off, I waited a year, I could afford to. Then they found Creighton Tillingshaft Sr. dead, everyone said it was a simple heart attack but I  was responsible. The old man wasn’t even a week in the ground when I struck again, seventeen year old Creighton Tillingshaft III took a tumble down one of the crowded stairways of his college. His injuries left him a paraplegic, months later an opportunistic infection took care of the rest. That blow made my son’s killer turn his back on the sobriety he had embraced twenty-five years ago. That drove his wife away leaving him alone in that big mansion with just his servants but I soon took care of them. For all their professed loyalty to the Tillingshaft family a few well planned accidents and some threats from the shadows was all it took to send them running.

After that I waited again knowing that eventually, despite his near constant drunken stupor my son’s killer would realize what I had done. It was a cold February morning when he came to me, he screamed and cursed until he collapsed into a sobbing heap.

Does Hell await me as punishment for what I’ve done? I don’t know, and I don’t care.

It was worth it to have the once great Creighton Tillingshaft Jr fall to his knees on my long untended grave.

 

You don’t have to believe the stories on my blog, you can dismiss them as good hallucinations or bad fiction if you want to but they’re all true. The darkness was never empty, there are things that wait for the innocent and unwary to turn their backs. What is it you think I’m talking about here? Ghosts? Vampires? Ghouls? If only it were that simple. The creatures of the night are still out there but they’re not shadowing your every footstep. They just check your status updates from the comfort of their tombs.

All I ever wanted was to be a Do-It-Yourself style reporter but more often than I like I find myself becoming part of my stories. It turns out gods and monsters don’t like their secrets getting out any more than your standard politician or celebrity. We all know how this is going to turn out in the end; I’m already long overdue for jail, the looney bin or a guest of honor spot at a monster buffet but until that fateful day I’m not going to back down or give up.

My name is Brian Foster and some people call me The Night Blogger.

But I wish they wouldn’t it’s kinda cheesy.

 

 

 

 

Storyline In Progress

 

Prologue: Personal Journal Entry #1

Episode One: The Ripper

Episode Two: Personal Journal Entry#19

Episode Three: The Zombie

Episode Four: Personal Journal Entry#25

Episode Five: They Have Been, They Are, They Will Be

Episode Six: Personal Journal Entry#39

Episode Seven: The Vampire

Episode Eight: Personal Journal Entry#52

Episode Nine: The Werewolf

Episode Ten: Personal Journal Entry #83

Episode Eleven: Firefall

Episode Twelve: Personal Journal Entry #106

Episode Thirteen: The Devil’s Platform

Episode Fourteen: Personal Journal Entry #125

Episode Fifteen: Bad Medicine

Episode Sixteen: Personal Journal Entry#156

Episode Seventeen: The Spanish Moss Murders

Episode Eighteen: Personal Journal Entry #161

Episode Nineteen: The Energy Eater

 

Completed Stories

 

 

Part Three: Digging In The Dirt

Part Four: The Red Chimes

Part Five: Back From The Shadows Again

Part Six: The Devil’s In The House Of The Rising Sun

Part Seven: The House Of Gorgo

Part Eight: The Parliament Of Moloch

Part Nine: Under The Eye Of Luna

Part Ten: The Tale Of Detective Bradshaw

Part Eleven: Waiting For The Mortician Or Someone Like Him

Part Twelve: The Shape On The Stairwell

Part Thirteen: It’s What’s Inside That Counts

Part Fourteen: Dies Irae

My writer’s block is broken, or at least whittled down to a manageable size, the same goes for my work schedule (fingers crossed). I am working on episode 18 of the ‘Season In Hell’ series is but it is going not going to be ready today. I hope to post it by Tuesday though.

But I have to share one of the lines from the story with you. Consider it a prevew;

It was like Rube Goldberg and HP Lovecraft had a baby.”

Cool eh?

 

 

 

Storyline In Progress

 

Prologue: Personal Journal Entry #1

Episode One: The Ripper

Episode Two: Personal Journal Entry#19

Episode Three: The Zombie

Episode Four: Personal Journal Entry#25

Episode Five: They Have Been, They Are, They Will Be

Episode Six: Personal Journal Entry#39

Episode Seven: The Vampire

Episode Eight: Personal Journal Entry#52

Episode Nine: The Werewolf

Episode Ten: Personal Journal Entry #83

Episode Eleven: Firefall

Episode Twelve: Personal Journal Entry #106

Episode Thirteen: The Devil’s Platform

Episode Fourteen: Personal Journal Entry #125

Episode Fifteen: Bad Medicine

Episode Sixteen: Personal Journal Entry#156

Episode Seventeen: The Spanish Moss Murders

 

Completed Stories

 

 

Part Three: Digging In The Dirt

Part Four: The Red Chimes

Part Five: Back From The Shadows Again

Part Six: The Devil’s In The House Of The Rising Sun

Part Seven: The House Of Gorgo

Part Eight: The Parliament Of Moloch

Part Nine: Under The Eye Of Luna

Part Ten: The Tale Of Detective Bradshaw

Part Eleven: Waiting For The Mortician Or Someone Like Him

Part Twelve: The Shape On The Stairwell

Part Thirteen: It’s What’s Inside That Counts

Part Fourteen: Dies Irae

 

 

Part Three: Digging In The Dirt

Part Four: The Red Chimes

Part Five: Back From The Shadows Again

Part Six: The Devil’s In The House Of The Rising Sun

Part Seven: The House Of Gorgo

Part Eight: The Parliament Of Moloch

Part Nine: Under The Eye Of Luna

Part Ten: The Tale Of Detective Bradshaw

Part Eleven: Waiting For The Mortician Or Someone Like Him

Part Twelve: The Shape On The Stairwell

Part Thirteen: It’s What’s Inside That Counts

Part Fourteen: Dies Irae

 

Part Eight: Kalo Junction

Part Nine: Foster Got Fingered

Part Ten: Assignment Terror

Part Eleven: Pineapple Rendition

Part Twelve: The Clemens Callback

Part Thirteen: Run In With The Devil

Part Fourteen: Women And Children

Part Fifteen: The Tarantino Situation 

Part Sixteen: Our Nada Who Art In Nada
Part Seventeen: Photo Finish

 

Prologue: Personal Journal Entry #1

Episode One: The Ripper

Episode Two: Personal Journal Entry#19

Episode Three: The Zombie

Episode Four: Personal Journal Entry#25

Episode Five: They Have Been, They Are, They Will Be

Episode Six: Personal Journal Entry#39

Episode Seven: The Vampire

Episode Eight: Personal Journal Entry#52

Episode Nine: The Werewolf

Episode Ten: Personal Journal Entry #83

Episode Eleven: Firefall

Episode Twelve: Personal Journal Entry #106

Episode Thirteen: The Devil’s Platform

Episode Fourteen: Personal Journal Entry #125

Episode Fifteen: Bad Medicine

Episode Sixteen: Personal Journal Entry#156

 


 

May 26th: …Freddie Maxwell worked the night shift at the Hess Gas Station on Ketcham Road in Altamont. He’d had other jobs and other schedules over the years but this one seemed to suit his temperament and sleep schedule best.  His family worried about him working alone from eleven in the evening until seven a.m. but he assured them he was perfectly safe. After midnight he was for all intents and purposes locked into the building; he could only communicate with customers via a speaker set into bulletproof glass and anyone wanting to exchange cash for goods would have to perform the transaction by way of a metal drawer.

That wasn’t to say he didn’t see more than his fair share of cranks and weirdos while he waited for sunrise. From his secure little box Freddie had seen all manner of hook-ups, break-ups and freak-outs. That was one of the things his friends always said about him, “Freddie always has the craziest stories.”

Security footage recovered from the scene shows a figure walking into the gas station parking lot at 12:40 a.m.. The shape approaching the secured building was slumped and seemed to carry its own shadows with it. It held a thin length of metal in its right hand and dragged it along the asphalt as it walked. Freddie was too busy sleeping and didn’t notice the stranger until a filthy, lichen coated hand rapped against the bulletproof glass. Freddie started but then, ever the professional, shifted into customer service mode. He asked the bearded, grimy figure, “Can I help you sir?”

When the stranger spoke the audio on the security tape went wild with static, obscuring the voice. Whatever he said sent the suddenly terrified young cashier scrambling away. 

All Hess late shift workers are required to wear what is called a ‘Panic Button’, pressing that button sends the local police speeding to the rescue. The security video clearly shows Freddie pressing the ‘Panic Button’ but no alert ever reached the local authorities.

At 12:44 a.m. the Hess Station trembled, the shelves toppled and the thick, security glass of the building’s walls and windows shattered as though they had been struck by a thousand invisible fists. The stranger must have spoken again because the security camera’s audio erupted into fresh wave of static that faded away just in time for the viewer to hear Freddie’s final plea for mercy.

So, in the end Freddie Maxwell’s craziest night shift story of all was the one he never lived to tell...

 

THE NIGHT BLOGGER:

A Season In Hell

Episode Sixteen

Personal Journal Entry#156

by

Al Bruno III

 

…where was I when Freddie Maxwell met his demise? Where was I when I learned about the Black Door? Where was I when my research buddy almost got killed? I was at my favorite bar of course. Jasper Moradi and I were both in that wonderful place that exists between Not Sober and Not Sloppy Drunk. We had run into another dead end in our hunt for the vorvolaka but thanks to him I had just learned a stunning new fact.

“This…” I looked around the Blue Valentine in confusion, “…is a gay bar?”

Jasper snickered while ordering another round, “You didn’t know?”

“It… It doesn’t look like a gay bar…”

“You were expecting it to look like Elton John’s basement?”

“But there are women here…” I’d like to be able to tell you readers that it was the seven white Russians that were making me this clueless but we all know the truth.

“Yes, there are,” Jasper said. “and there are gay men in straight bars. Truly we live in an age of wonders.”

I have to admit that my impressions of what the inside of a gay bar looked like were primarily influenced by the Blue Oyster from the Police Academy movies. A nightmarish vision of a dimly lit dive full of leather clad men forcing unsuspecting straights to dance with them to jaunty salsa tunes. 

Blue Oyster? Blue Valentine? Was it a color scheme thing?

“Maybe we should go somewhere else?” I suggested.

“Oh don’t worry about it,” Jasper said. “Lets talk about something interesting. I think I’ve found a copy of the Liber Cicatrices in readable condition. I’ll just need to go to- To go to- What is that smell?”

The man approaching our table smelled and looked like he had come from a swamp. The first thing I noticed was that he was carrying a serrated length of metal that only bore a passing resemblance to a sword. My eyes traced a straight line from the stranger’s weapon arm to his face. It was a face made cadaverous by necrosis and eyes made insane by abandonment. Strings of lichen hung from his clothes and was tangled in his long hair. “Didn’t you hear…” he spoke revealing teeth that were as discolored and bent as his weapon, “…the clawing at the Black Door?”

All around us people were making for the exits. Jasper had his hand and mouth over his nose. I was pretty sure the question was directed at me so I said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t even know who you are.”

The stranger started to cry, his tears cut veins through the filth that coated his face, “You made a sacrifice of me.”

“Now just a minute here-”

He raised the blade over his head, I hit the floor with practiced ease. But he didn’t go after me, he went after Jasper. The weapon missed my friend’s head by inches. Swamp Man was screaming now, he sounded like an animal left to die in a trap. He took another swing at Jasper but before that blow had a chance to connect I kicked my friend’s seat over.

“Who the Hell is this guy?” Jasper asked.

“I don’t know!” And I really didn’t.

“Whoever he is I think he watched too much Highlander II.”

“Highlander II?” I almost turned away from our assailant so I could give Jasper a dirty look, “You’re thinking about Highlander II now?”

Swamp Man attacked again swinging the weapon like a demented samurai warrior. I grabbed a chair and deflected the blow. I positioned myself between Swamp Man and Jasper looking like some kind of a third rate lion tamer. “Listen,” I said, “we can talk about this.”

“Too late now,” he sobbed, “too late now. I’ve seen the secret at the heart of the Never that beats behind the Black Door.”

“Wait. Just wait and tell me what’s going on.”

“Why?” Swamp Man brought the length of metal down with enough force to smash the chair to pieces, “So you can put it on your fucking blog?”

The next words out of his mouth weren’t really words at all, they were collections of ugly syllables that shattered all the glasses and windows of the Blue Valentine and made me feel like I was drowning. Swamp Man raised the weapon high over his head. I raised my arm in a feeble attempt to protect Jasper and myself.

And that was when one of the bar patrons shot Swamp Man dead…

*

…The bullet punched a hole through the back of Swamp Man’s skull and when that bullet came out the other side it made an even bigger hole. Swamp Man dropped dead at my feet. Maybe it was a trick of the light or the ungodly number of drinks I’d downed but the stuff leaking from his skull didn’t look like any kind of blood I’d ever seen.

Fact: The events of that night have forced me to reevaluate my opposition to concealed carry laws.

The first thing the police did after they arrived was give me the standard ‘Not this guy again look.’ Then they ushered everyone out of the building and sealed the area. Not sealed the area in the crime scene sense but sealed the area in the hazmat sense. Since I had a bit of Swamp Man’s brains on my favorite t-shirt they took it into evidence.

Fact: I don’t think I’m ever going to get my White Brains On Toast 2003 world tour shirt back.

Once the police had finished with us Jasper and I headed back to his place for a little research. We had some wine and while he went through his volumes of questionable lore on modern day supernatural legends I logged into the FEAROFTRUTH message board and started asking questions.

Fact: The legend of the Black Door is your standard Book of Revelation/ “The stars are right” kind of stuff. It says that there is another world near ours; a world that the Creator turned his back on because the creatures that lived there were worse than any devil or angel you might imagine. This world is called ‘Nix’ or ‘Never’ and there is a heart at its center. That heart beats slowly and irregularly but when it does the Black Door opens.

Where does the truth begin and the half-assed metaphors end? I can’t tell you yet. What I can tell you is that Jasper has no idea why Highlander II popped into his head in that moment of crisis.

Fact: Highlander II sucks ass.

I can tell you is that I stole a bit of evidence before the police ushered us out of the Blue Valentine, a clump of the slimy plants that covered our attacker.

I’m no horticulturist but ‘ShortRound92‘ from the forums is and was able to tell me that the vegetable matter in question was tillandsia usneoides or, in layman’s terms Spanish Moss.

Fact: Spanish Moss is not even remotely native to New York.

When you get right down to it Jasper and the regulars from FEAROFTRUTH did all the work; ‘50Fingers’ got me the surveillance footage from the Hess Station, ‘ObamaWanKenobi’ worked as an intern at the Altamont county morgue and found out that Freddie Maxwell’s heart had collapsed and ‘ScaredGhost’ was the one that found the eventual, unexpected destination of the hazmat truck.

Fact: The hazmat truck was found in a ditch along the Northway, the crew dead, the body of Swamp Man missing.

 

 

 

To Be Continued

Overtime has done its deadly work and I am once again too burnt out to actually finish a new Night Blogger story for today but it will be finished for next Friday and I tell you what, here is a quick taste of what you can expect;

After a while the story faded into the background, lost amid the off topic flame wars, chatter about how awful the second season of Heroes was and a flame war about whether or not Devil Monkey scat had been found at Water Slide World…

See you next Friday!

 

Prologue: Personal Journal Entry #1

Episode One: The Ripper

Episode Two: Personal Journal Entry#19

Episode Three: The Zombie

Episode Four: Personal Journal Entry#25

Episode Five: They Have Been, They Are, They Will Be

Episode Six: Personal Journal Entry#39

Episode Seven: The Vampire

Episode Eight: Personal Journal Entry#52

Episode Nine: The Werewolf

Episode Ten: Personal Journal Entry #83

Episode Eleven: Firefall

Episode Twelve: Personal Journal Entry #106

Episode Thirteen: The Devil’s Platform

Episode Fourteen: Personal Journal Entry #125

 

 

 

Part Three: Digging In The Dirt

Part Four: The Red Chimes

Part Five: Back From The Shadows Again

Part Six: The Devil’s In The House Of The Rising Sun

Part Seven: The House Of Gorgo

Part Eight: The Parliament Of Moloch

Part Nine: Under The Eye Of Luna

Part Ten: The Tale Of Detective Bradshaw

Part Eleven: Waiting For The Mortician Or Someone Like Him

Part Twelve: The Shape On The Stairwell

Part Thirteen: It’s What’s Inside That Counts

Part Fourteen: Dies Irae

 

Prologue: Personal Journal Entry #1

Episode One: The Ripper

Episode Two: Personal Journal Entry#19

Episode Three: The Zombie

Episode Four: Personal Journal Entry#25

Episode Five: They Have Been, They Are, They Will Be

Episode Six: Personal Journal Entry#39

Episode Seven: The Vampire

Episode Eight: Personal Journal Entry#52

Episode Nine: The Werewolf

Episode Ten: Personal Journal Entry #83

Episode Eleven: Firefall

Episode Twelve: Personal Journal Entry #106

Episode Thirteen: The Devil’s Platform

Episode Fourteen: Personal Journal Entry #125

…all right, you guys have been asking all month for all the juicy details so I’ll tell you the whole story about the time I punched Jasper in the face.

First a little catching up. Work has kept me as busy as ever, Mrs. Vincenzo bought the stock from a comic book store that went out of business. It isn’t that much to keep track of really, we just put it out in dribs and drabs but I gotta admit some of the stuff is darn distracting. I lost an entire night reading the entire run of Starman comics from a couple of years ago. Now there is a set of Cerebus trade paperbacks up on the shelves I am just dying to sneak up to my room.

But the blog comes first. Nine times out of ten anyway.

I should also mention that Cousin Roy is still crashing on my couch, still eating up my food and still not paying a damn cent towards the utilities. He’s got some scheme in his head to go on permanent disability, he just needs to convince a doctor to declare him allergic to work or something like that. He’ll probably do it too; it always seems like the people who have the easiest time accessing the social safety net are the ones that need it the least.

And as for the vorvolaka? I know it’s out there but it can’t be the same one from before. Maybe that’s what it wants me to think but that’s just not possible. So how do I explain my grandmother’s broach? Or the fact I can sometimes feel her presence? Could the vorvolaka have escaped the hastily made trap I created almost four years ago? Is it really after me? The damned thing was a parasite made of smoke and hunger, how could it hold a grudge? Where would it put it?

There must be other ones out there, that’s what I think, moving from deathbed to deathbed, or from one human incubator to the next. 

That’s right, I’m a marked man, and I don’t just mean that tattoo I have on the inside of my lower lip…

 

THE NIGHT BLOGGER:

A Season In Hell

Episode Fourteen

Personal Journal Entry#125

by

Al Bruno III

 

…back to 2004, back to a version of me so much more innocent that it feels like another guy entirely. A guy that wanted to get his journalism degree and conquer the world, a guy that thought life was fair and monsters could be defeated. It had been two weeks since my little fainting spell, grandma was still on her deathbed, listless and unresponsive a lot of the time. She was particularly unresponsive when it came to questions about the thing nesting inside her. Mom was busy taking care of everything; the house, her job, her mother, my laundry. Mrs Vincenzo visited regularly to help out, she and I got to be pretty close. She didn’t have any kids of her own and I guess I was like the numbskull son she hadn’t known she wanted.

It had taken a combination of charm and persistence but I had managed to get back into Jasper Moradi’s good graces and it really paid off. It turned out that thanks to his studies of all things Mythological and Theological he had acquired a fairly impressive library of rare and slightly forbidden tomes. We sometimes spent entire nights researching (and drinking) and soon enough we got to be fairly good friends. He learned about my dream of becoming a big time reporter in an era when hardly anybody under the age of fifty knew what a newspaper was; I learned that being a brown-skinned man in the post 9/11 era could really suck.

Seriously, every time there was a terrorist attack someone tried to pick a fight with the guy. It was the kind of thing that set my liberal blood boiling.

On this night, the night I punched Jasper in the face, we were at my Mom’s house. I’d convinced Mrs. Vincenzo to take my Mom out to the Comedy Works while I watched over Grandma.

Jasper showed up about an hour after they left, he had brought a paper bag with candles, a brass bell and ink made from the ashes from freshly burned lotus plants. He also had a copy of the Latin translation of the Ana Harrani Sa Alaktasa La Tarat, where the only known illustration of the Sign of Ninazu could be found.

For an hour or so we farted around, talking about this and that. Jasper was nervous as Hell, he had always taken the mythologies he studied to be just that- mythologies, but here he was now trying to catch a monster. He said, “I can’t believe I’m doing this.”

He said that a lot.

Once it was well after sunset we entered Grandma’s room. Nothing had changed much, the hospital bed, the stockpile of medical supplies and a pair of vases brimming with silk roses. Mom had tried keeping fresh flowers in them at first but they always seemed to die within a day or so.

Funny that.

We got started at a quarter to nine, Jasper set out and lit the candles while I leaned close to Grandma. “I’m sorry for this,” I whispered as I stroked her hair, “but there’s something wrong and I have to do something. Can you hear me Grandma?”

She didn’t stir. Like I said before she had been mostly unconscious for the last two weeks, surviving on IVs and an oxygen feed. Even if I hadn’t been dealing with a thing like the vorvolaka I would have been horrified to see the woman that had once carried me on her shoulders in this state.

“You OK?” Jasper asked. The candles were flickering and he had the bell in hand.

I kissed her forehead, then backed away from the bed, “Let’s do this.”

Jasper handed me the bell, then dipped a fine tipped brush into the lotus ink and began drawing the Sign of Ninazu on my grandmother’s forehead. Did I ever post an image of what that looks like? If not I’ll do so.


But just in case I’m too dead or worse to get around to it let me just explain that it’s a tangle of lines, crosses and curves; it’s an hourglass overlaying and ampersand, it’s a configuration of X’s and triangles cutting each other to pieces. Jasper painted it perfectly, he’d been practicing for three days. 

I can’t begin to explain how grateful I was in that moment. Can you understand how lonely it is when you know something that your sure no one else will believe?

The sigil finished he spoke the incantation, his voice had a tinge of embarrassment, like a shy kid having to give a presentation to a full classroom.

“Dingir Xul Idpa Barra,” he said. “Dingir Xul Idpa Barra.”

“Come on come on.” I mumbled to myself.

Grandma gasped, a throaty rattle that sounded like it was coming from the depths of a stone pit. “I think it’s working.” Jasper said.

According to the Ana Harrani Sa Alaktasa La Tarat any moment now she would expel the creature. It would be like a crab suddenly robbed of its shell, it would be vulnerable. The only problem was that I had no idea what it would be vulnerable to.

Silver bullets?

Holy water?

Air freshener?

The only thing I could do was drive it from the house with the ringing of the brass bell. That would panic it even more and it would flee to some other house, to some other victims.

I knew going into this it was a pretty shitty excuse for an exorcism I admit but it was all I had. Thirtyseconds later Grandma was still inhaling and then I   realized how shitty my excuse for an exorcism really was. “What’s happening?” I said.

“No idea,” Jasper replied, “this was not in the book. This doesn’t make any sense.”

More seconds ticked by and she was still inhaling. Like an idiot I started ringing the bell and not seven times in a row like the book said. I whaled on that thing like I was calling deaf cowhands home for supper.

But she wouldn’t stop inhaling. The veins of her arm clotted and darkened, the skin swelled. I dropped the bell and ran to her. I smeared Sthe ign of Ninazu into nonsense. There was a pause, a pause long enough for me to feel tears starting because I was absolutely sure she was never going to breathe again.

That was when she backhanded me, her bony yet swollen arm knocking me into the bedside commode. She exhaled and the red plumed out of her, softly curling towards the ceiling. Then it paused, thoughtfully I’m sure, and slithered back down into where it had come from.

“I don’t understand,” Jasper said. “Did we get the sigil wrong?”

Pain and frustration overwhelmed me, I did start to cry. Just a little mind you. Grandma was, or at least appeared to be, sleeping peacefully.

When my partner in crime spoke again his voice was full of wonder, “The vorvolaka! That was amazing!” Jasper cringed as soon as the words left his mouth. Instead of making things worse with an apology he helped me to my feet. Somehow I turned that into a hug. I guess I needed one.

Can you blame me?

“It’s all right,” he said, “it’s all right.”

I had no idea what our next move would be. Could we try to find a copy of the Ana Harrani Sa Alaktasa La Tarat in the original Sumerian? Should we consult that possible quack demonologist Johann Averies? Or maybe I should just smother my grandmother with a pillow and see if she takes that  thing to the next world with her.

All that and more spun through my mind. As you can imagine my thoughts stopped dead when Jasper planted a kiss on my lips. It was brief, gentle and tentative and I punched him out for it…

*

…what more is there to say? I screamed at him. I called him every homophobic insult I could think of and threw in a few racist ones for spice. The look he gave me was indescribable, even now years later I can’t attach words to it. He left my house and never spoke to me again.

Until three years ago of course. I don’t know why he forgave me but he’s my partner in crime again. I guess that first encounter with the unknown awakened a real fascination in him and now he knows more about the occult than a Wikipedia page edited by Aleister Crowley himself. I think with his help I have a good chance of finding the vorvolaka before I end up dead or worse.

Unless of course he’s the one possessed by the damned thing.

Oh.

I really wish I hadn’t thought of that.

 

To Be Continued

Prologue: Personal Journal Entry #1

Episode One: The Ripper

Episode Two: Personal Journal Entry#19

Episode Three: The Zombie

Episode Four: Personal Journal Entry#25

Episode Five: They Have Been, They Are, They Will Be

Episode Six: Personal Journal Entry#39

Episode Seven: The Vampire

Episode Eight: Personal Journal Entry#52

Episode Nine: The Werewolf

Episode Ten: Personal Journal Entry #83

Episode Eleven: Firefall

Episode Twelve Personal Journal Entry#106

…it all began with a framed poster, something that had caught Phil Mantillio’s eye when he was wandering around the local Spencer’s Gifts looking for a joke birthday present. Phil wasn’t normally the kind of guy to hang a poster on his wall, much less pay sixty bucks to have it professionally framed. I guess there was just something about the sight of those two heavily airbrushed and scantily clad women making out that excited his college-aged sensibilities.

Phil lived in the Theta Upsilon Omega frat house; a three story building just a stone’s throw from the SUNY campus. I know what you might be thinking but the boys of Theta Upsilon Omega were not known for their shenanigans. In fact they were more Revenge Of The Nerds than Animal House.

Maybe if Phil had been in one of the more debauchery oriented frats he might have been too busy partying to think about hanging smut on the walls. Maybe if somebody had reminded him there was a whole internet full of faux lesbians just waiting for him to download he would have kept his sixty dollars. Maybe if he had even the slightest understanding of the female sex he would have understood that his shiny new objet d’art would ruin his chances with any young ladies he might have convinced to come up to his room. So many maybes, any one could have saved him but not a one of them did.

They say the kingdom was lost for want of a nail but in this case Phil’s personal kingdom was lost because he had a nail. It was his lousy hammering of the thing that cracked the plaster of his wall into a fist-sized hole. He barely had time to mutter an “Oh shit!” before he saw the slim cardboard box of videotapes crammed between the inner and outer walls of the room.

I suppose Phil could have taken those video tapes to the college’s media center but instead he decided to stop by Vincenzo’s Pawn and pick up a VCR. Oh yeah, we’ve got plenty of the damn things in stock. Make us an offer.

Phil had been hoping to find something scandalous on those tapes but the first two were nothing but episode after episode of Green Acres.

The opening moments of the third video revaled chickens, a whole room full of chickens. The video camera was at floor level giving Phil a coop’s eye view of the proceedings. It speaks to Phil’s investigative spirit, or his boredom, that he fast forwarded through almost twenty minutes of poultry footage. The chickens milled about, the chickens alternately examined and ignored the camera, the chickens crapped everywhere. At the twenty-four minute mark the chickens began to panic. Phil set the VCR from fast forward to play.

A boot came crashing down in the midst of the birds, killing one of them instantly. The animals went wild, the screen became a storm of feathers and panic. Phil watched the pair of boots come down again and again, crushing the life out of the chickens with cruel determination.

Until that moment all he had seen of the ‘star’ of the video was a pair of workboots, a shape wearing heavy winter clothing and a pair of thick hands that clenched and unclenched spasmodically with every downward stomp. 

Once all the chickens were dead the owner of the camera picked it up and glared into the blood and shit streaked lens. Whoever they were, they had chosen to hide their face beneath an ugly burlap mask. The picture then went to static. Phil sat there for a moment, shaken and confused, then he rewound the videotape and told his frat brothers there was something they just had to see.

They brought the tapes and the VCR down to the main room of the house. Phil hooked the VCR to the wide screen TV they all shared and then the boys of Theta Upsilon Omega settled in to enjoy the freak show.

Most of the tapes were more Green Acres, hour after hour of the show; sometimes a tape would be nothing more than the same episode over and over again. But mixed in with those shows was other footage, the person filming this never took off their heavy parka or the gunny sack they wore over their head. Maybe it was sexism but the members of Theta Upsilon Omega unanimously decided that this person must be a man.

Just as unanimously they all started referring to this individual as ‘Gunnyhead’.

The Gunnyhead tapes were sometimes unwatchable because of the quality of the recording and other times because of the subject matter. Most of the tapes were of animal mutilations. Fish were left to drown on land, cats and dogs were clumsily vivisected. All the while these animals suffered and died Gunnyhead worked in silence. That was one of the worst parts, if there had been just a touch of fiendish laughter or a few sentences of schizophrenic rambling the audience could have dismissed all this as an elaborate prank or a student film gone off the rails.

That is not to say that Gunnyhead was completely silent. A few hours of footage was devoted to him sitting in an easy chair, still masked and dressed for winter. The angle of the camera showed he was watching his favorite TV show and speaking the dialogue along with the main characters. His voice was soft and strong, a librarian’s voice.

Then there were the tapes with long sequences of Gunnyhead stalking someone. Always the viewer had the camera-eye view of the event as Gunnyhead would choose an individual, seemingly at random, and shadow them for hours. Each of these sequences would end with an abrupt cut to meat being chopped up on a filthy-looking cutting board. The meat was pale, raw and unidentifiable; it might have been just chicken or pork but there was no frame of reference for the audience to be sure.

All the members of Theta Upsilon Omega were certain the ‘meaty’ scenes had been filmed in the kitchen of their house. But when? The layout of the room was the same but the wallpaper and countertop were at least ten years out of touch with modern aesthetics. It was three AM when they loaded the last tape they would watch into the VCR. That was the tape that would send them running to the police, setting in motion a chain of events that would eventually involve yours truly.

The tape began with a close up of a campfire. It wasn’t much of a campfire really, more smoke than flames; probably because it was being fueled by a cluster of twigs, pine needles and a few clumps of organic looking matter. From there the camera swung around to show a hog. It was a huge animal, the kind of pony sized livestock that wins blue ribbons at county fairs. It lay on it’s side, not breathing, not moving at all. The camera drew closer to reveal the hog had been split open from throat to groin, then re-sewn closed again with lengths of metal wire.

Gunnyhead let the camera linger on those ugly stitches then moved his attention to the head of the animal. The mouth was stapled shut, the eyes gouged out.

A muffled sound broke the silence, something white fluttered behind the hog’s empty sockets, fluttered then widened.

Then the poor bastard sewn inside the carcass began to scream…

THE NIGHT BLOGGER:

A Season In Hell

Episode Twelve

Personal Journal Entry#106

by

Al Bruno III

…that was almost five months ago now. The Theta Upsilon Omega frat house has been shut down since winter break and now no one is really sure who owns the place. No one is really sure of anything when it comes to this situation. A real mystery.

That’s why I broke into the building on that frosty February morning. It was cold, too cold for snow but cold enough to keep potential witnesses in their homes. I had everything I thought I might need- a crowbar, a flashlight, my smartphone and some pepper spray. The back door was where I decided to try make my entrance.

Phil Mantillio and his frat brothers had wasted no time in packing up those tapes and bringing them straight to the local police station. They were pretty damn spooked and they didn’t feel much better when a Detective Bradshaw played the tapes back and found… Nothing.

Nothing but Green Acres episodes from beginning to end of them all. From what I’ve heard Detective Bradshaw doesn’t suffer fools gladly, and he isn’t too keen on the rest of humanity as well. He went ballistic on the boys of Theta Upsilon Omega, accusing them of trying to play a Halloween prank.

It took me very little effort to break the lock and get into the house. Once I was in there I closed the door and jammed it shut with the crowbar. I flicked on the flashlight and swept it across the room. Then I took some pictures;

Click: The empty counter and sink. There is a thin layer of dust over everything. 

Phil Mantillio disappeared three days later that visit to the police station.

Click: The cabinet doors hanging open, one still has cans of soup stacked in it.

A week after that one of his frat brothers went missing as well.

Click: The parlor is just as empty as the kitchen. Brown butcher paper has been taped over the windows.

After the third vanishing in four weeks all the remaining members of the SUNY chapter of Theta Upsilon Omega quit college and fled to the safety of their parent’s homes; all except for the one guy that joined the army and decided to take his chances in Afghanistan. That was Private Rodney Shinn, and he was the one that told me about all this. He was something of a fan.

Click: There is a single footprint near the front door, the brown imprint of a work boot.

A week later after talking to me Private Rodney Shinn disappeared while on a daylight patrol. The other members of his squad said he had been on point. He went ahead of them around corner and then he was gone.

The last room on the first floor was cramped and windowless. I wondered if they’d used it as a bedroom, or an office or a maybe even a makeshift hydroponics lab. It’s gotta be 4:20 someplace right?

Click: The room is empty, the walls bare and thick with shadows. There is a tripod in the middle of the room, a digital camcorder sits atop it.

I pocketed my smart phone and approached the camcorder. The feeling of being watched didn’t kick in until I crossed from the hallway into that miserable little room. The urge to run became sickening as I passed around to look into the camera’s viewscreen. It was on, it showed an open doorway and walls that obscenities and nonsense verses had been carved into. There was a human figure slumped at the edge of the screen. There was no audio, and it was too dark to make out what the human shape looked like but I was sure it was either shuddering or sobbing.

There was no doubt in my mind this was more of Gunnyhead’s work. I paused to consider that video technology had become so ubiquitous that even the drooling psychopaths of the world were using it.

Speaking of drooling psychopaths the star of the show wandered into frame. A stooped figure wearing a dirty parka and a burlap hood. He peered in the doorway and stared right into the camera. The slumped figure went mad at his presence, squirming and throwing itself back and forth against the wall. Whoever they were they must have been secured expertly to that part of the room. I wondered how, then I thought of the description of the ‘luau video’ and of Gunnyhead’s expert use of wire and staples.

In the time it took me to consider these things Gunnyhead had stepped back out of the doorway, leaving nothing more on screen than the miserable figure in the corner and the defaced walls. I switched off the camcorder and unfastened it from the tripod. I wondered why I was bothering, the tapes had been useless as evidence so why would this thing be any different? 

Still though, I had to try, even though if all I got for my troubles was a Green Acres marathon or worse yet the Beverly Hillbillies reunion special.

A floorboard creaked somewhere upstairs. The sound was so loud and sudden that I caught my breath and clutched the camcorder close to my chest.

There was another creak, then another. It was footsteps, slow and deliberate. I decided it was time to retreat.

Unfortunately I retreated right into the damn tripod. It hit the bare floor with a dull thud.

The footsteps stopped. I remember thinking to myself, Gee it sure would be nice to have that crowbar right now.

Heart racing I made my way back to the main hallway of the house, then paused at the bottom of the stairway. It was too dark to see more than halfway up the steps. Someone could have been standing at the top of the landing and I would never know.

A loud scraping noise made me jump. It made me think of spring cleaning and chests of drawers being shifted to find lost keys or pens.

More footsteps, then another thick wooden scraping sound. A moment of silence hung in the air before I heard the keen and crash of something heavy being pushed over.

A voice roared from upstairs, the sound of a madman’s rage. Something else crashed to the floor. Glass shattered. A jabbering howl reverberated through the house.

Then something small and metallic hit the landing. It bounced once and plunked down at my feet. I recognized them for what they were, I picked up the dog tags up and examined them. 

They belonged to Rodney Shin.

I nearly knocked myself out trying to get out the back door. It took me the longest five seconds of my life to remember that I had jammed it shut. I whipped out the crowbar throwing it carelessly behind me. Then I was running out of the house, leaving the door hanging open behind me. I ran until my legs ached and my vision started getting gray at the edges.

No doubt about it. Things could have gone better…

*

…I never did find out who lived in that house before the Theta Upsilon Omega boys moved in. There was talk of lawsuits and squatters but nothing concrete. Did anyone ever see a man matching Gunnyhead’s description wandering around sometime in the last couple of decades? Nobody came forward to say so.

It should also be noted for the record that I have no idea who burned that house down a few nights ago. My cousin Roy can account for my whereabouts all week. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Fact: There is a lot of talk on the Internet about something called a ‘tulpa’. The legends say that the Tulpa is an imaginary being willed into existence. Think of a dream, or a nightmare, given form, think of imaginary friends brought to life, think of Calvin and Hobbes and Fight Club. Think it’s all bullshit?

Maybe.

But who hid those tapes in the walls? And how did all that Gunnyhead footage disappear between the  fraternity house and the police station? Had it ever been there at all?

Fact: No trace has ever been found of the missing members of Theta Upsilon Omega. There are six of them left and they aren’t granting interviews to the likes of me. From what I was able to find out many of these once promising honor students have all become shut-ins and a few of them are hospitalized and receiving the best psychiatric care their parents insurance can buy.

Fact: When I got back to the relative safety of the apartment I tried to play back the footage from the camcorder. Except, there was no memory card and this particular model of video camera doesn’t have any kind of internal memory.

Meaning that what I saw playing out on the little screen in that house was a live feed.

To be Continued

Pass It On, It’ll Make Your Skin Crawl
By
Al Bruno III




 

The dog was barking, its voice high and frightened. Josh woke at once wondering how long he had been asleep for. He had just lain down for a moment to relax but the clock told him he had been out for hours. Josh shook his head, no wonder the dog was barking.

His wife Dina stirred uneasily, eight months pregnant and forever uncomfortable. Josh smiled at her in the dark, still terrified and bemused at the thought of fatherhood. Dressed in jeans and a t-shirt Josh opened the back door expecting to find his beloved mastiff bounding in place expectantly.

Good thing my nearest neighbor is over a mile away.

The fenced in back yard was empty and the front gate was still latched. Up ahead the dog’s barks had become combative snarls.

This made no sense. Josh had trained Roscoe well; the dog knew his boundaries and going past the front gate when he wasn’t on a leash was simply not allowed. Josh headed around to the front of the house, to the dirt driveway that was far enough back from the road to reduce the occasional pair of headlights to frail shafts of illumination flickering between the trees. After ten years of living in the heart of Chicago he still found it hard to sleep without the murmuring din of the city and the light from oncoming traffic.

Earth oozed between his toes as he scrambled between his old battered truck and the newly purchased minivan. Four footsteps later and his feet were caked with mud and he vowed to himself that this spring he would find a way to finance paving the driveway.

Along with touching up the roof and re-grouting the bathroom wall … and the baby too. He thought. So many plans, so many expenses.

The dog became silent. “Roscoe?” Josh called, “Come here boy!”

A muffled cry filled the air. It was a human cry. No dog ever made a sound like that.

Visions of lawsuits filling his head Josh plunged forward into the trees to find Roscoe half-chewing, half-gagging on something wet and gleaming. Another shape was retreating toward the road, nearly collapsing with every pained step. Josh ordered the dog back to the house but Roscoe was snarling, his ears pinned back. Josh had to strike the dog to make him obey.

This is crazy! Roscoe never acts this way. At least until now.

The trespasser, if that’s what it was, collapsed between a pair of trees.

“Are you all right?” Once he was sure the dog had retreated back to the house Josh moved closer, “Did he bite you?”

A car sped past leaving him with a snapshot image; a supine shape, slender and dressed in a shapeless orange and white hooded suit. A dark stain spreading out from the figure’s midsection; blood soaking through the layers of cloth and PVC. The suit was hooded with a clear plastic faceplate that was cracked into a dozen spider web patterns; it obscured the wearer’s face beyond any hope of recognition. Josh involuntarily took a step back, a generations worth of TV shows and movies had taught him what a hazmat suit looked like. The knee of the suit was torn away, marking the place where Roscoe had bitten. There was something about the wounds that looked too dark and too greasy.

Then the car was gone and all Josh had left was shadows.

The figure in the hazmat suit spoke with a voice that was a sexless rasp, “I’m sorry.”

“Are you all right?” Josh felt ridiculous asking the question. He and his father had gone deer hunting for years, he knew a bullet wound when he saw one. The bite on the knee from Roscoe was nothing compared to that.

“Somehow dogs always know. It’s even in one of the memos. I should have stayed back but I saw your truck…” The figure made a sound somewhere between choking and a nervous laugh, “I thought you could help. Isn’t that hysterical?”

“Look, you wait here. I’ll call an ambulance.”

“Wait. Don’t go,” the figure in the hazmat suit sat up suddenly and whimpered from the pain of it. Josh flinched away from the smell of the wounds; the scent brought to mind something septic and rotten. The flesh beneath the cracked faceplate was all swollen ridges and thick furrows. Those unnatural striations shifted and slithered of their own accord. The figure pushed the strap from a tattered knapsack into Josh’s hand, “Take these. It’s almost too late…”

“What-” Josh drew back.

“I can feel it. I can feel it in my bones.”

With a soft splitting sound a thin weal opened up on the flesh of the dog bitten knee and blood, heavy with thick wormy shapes began to ooze from it. The shape in the hazmat suit mewled. Flecks of red began to spatter the face plate from the inside, shapes wriggled against the broken visor.

Stunned and almost breathless Josh ran back to his house. The front door hung open; he must have forgotten to close it behind him. There were muddy paw prints in the kitchen. Josh scrambled for the phone. Who could he call? The police? An ambulance? The fire department? Josh dialed 911 and let them decide. Whoever they decided to send it would take fifteen minutes at best for them to get here. Would the man- or woman- in the hazmat suit even be alive by then?

When the 911 operator finally answered Josh gave them whatever information he could and hung up.

Should I wake Dina? Should I go out there and tell that… guy I think… that help is on the way? Maybe I should wash my-

Josh looked down at his hand; he was still holding the muddy, torn knapsack. He looked at it for a moment, and then dropped it. It tore open from the impact, a digital camera and a sheaf of papers spilled across the kitchen floor. Tilting his head at an angle he saw they were all documents with some kind of a corporate letterhead.

Trinity Advance Corporation, they have a place about a few miles up the road. They’re a medical research facility… they make artificial limbs and stuff.

Josh glanced closer at the papers, they were all photocopies and they looked to have been hastily made with the images off center and marked with the occasional glimpse of a finger or hand near the corner of the document. They all seemed to concern something called ‘Research Initiative I:VI:VII’, it was all over Josh’s head but the one thing that did catch his eye was a map of an unnamed city with concentric rings drawn around a central point. Each ring was marked with different percentage- ‘99% Efficiency… 71% Efficiency… 49% Efficiency.’

Sifting through the papers Josh found other documents, letters from ranking military officials first sanctioning then removing support for the project. The dates however didn’t add up to the other requisitions and testing data.

The digital camera was within arms reach. Josh picked it up and flicked it on. A small LCD window lit up giving him an image of the Trinity Advance building; he could see their triangle shaped logo that read TRIAD near the main gates.

With a push of a button he was looking at another image, this one of a room full of prosthetic arms in sealed vacuum pouches. Figures had been caught moving in the background but the picture had been taken in haste making them seem distended and inhuman. Josh wondered how the person in the hazmat suit had gotten onto the grounds of the building, past the checkpoints and electrified fences.

Another press of the button and another picture, this one of men in familiar-looking orange and white hazmat suits. They were working in a long white room, tending to vials incubators and microscopes. Is this where they make vaccines? Whoever did this had brass balls. I wouldn’t break into a lab like that for a million bucks.

The fourth picture was similar to the first except now it appeared the picture taker was on the other side of the room. There was a trough of some kind to the left of the frame; it seemed to be filled with some kind of a dark liquid. There was a stain on the floor nearby, a patch of discoloration that seemed to resemble a smeared handprint. There was something about it Josh didn’t like.

The next digital photograph was the last, the symbol in the upper corner of the frame read ‘5/5’. This picture was almost the same as the third picture except for the two figures in the center of the frame, a man and a woman. They reminded Josh of sketches, all clean angles and perfect features. They were dressed in street clothes. The woman had her head thrown back in laughter, the man had his head turned towards the strange troughs but his eyes were focused directly on the camera taking his picture.

What is all this? Will I ever know? Do I really want to? Well the police can sort it out. But I still better wash my hands just in case.

Roscoe groaned. Josh turned to see the dog laying half in and half out of the bathroom doorway. The old mastiff’s breathing was labored and phlegmy.

Josh knelt beside the old dog and reached out to stroke his fur. It writhed beneath his touch. Josh pulled his hand away as though it had been scalded. Roscoe took a final sobbing pant. Pale shapes began to seep from the dog’s mouth and the corners of his eyes.

“We have to get out of here,” Josh choked back tears. His car keys were on the counter in the usual place; he called his wife, shouted for her.

“What’s wrong?” Dina’s speech was slurred with sleep.

He rushed into the bedroom, pulled her to her feet, “We have to get out of here.”

He was afraid that if he explained more he might start sobbing or screaming.

He thought of the map in the pile of papers on his kitchen floor…

‘99% Efficiency… 71% Efficiency… 49% Efficiency.’

Where was he now on that map?

“What’s the matter?” Dina pulled away from him, “Tell me.”

“Listen, please…” He kept tight hold of her hand; out of habit he put his arm around her waist.

He felt the skin of her belly flutter and undulate.

Dina winced, “Oh! He’s awake too.”

Josh’s eyes found the muddy paw prints and it all made sense. Didn’t Roscoe always go to her when he thought he might be in trouble for chewing up a pillow or having an accident?

“Honey?” Dina asked, “What’s the matter?”

Josh didn’t answer; he just kissed his wife and waited for the police to arrive. He tried to tell himself it was just the baby kicking, but he knew that when the police arrived here they would find something terrible.

He could feel it in his bones.