Friday, November 19, 2010

The Fallout Effect

June 17, 2012
It's my tenth birthday and I can't believe I have to put up with this crap. I hate my dad. Why would he make such a stupid decision? why did he move into this stupid Vivos vault when I was a baby? It's my birthday today and instead of having fun and playing outside like a regular kid, I get to eat some crappy-tasting cake in a cramped cafeteria.

Almost everyone here is either a complete whack job or a jerk. The only real friend I have is Amata. I can always count on her. It's times like this I think that I wouldn't be in this situation if it weren't for mom dying. I think it was her death that drove dad to make us move down here. My party's gonna start in about an hour and hopefully dad at least managed to find me something decent.

June 25, 2012
I think dad's gone crazy. He gave me a fucking gun. I don't know what I'm supposed to do with it down in this vault, but he doesn't seem to care. Mr. Almodover, or "The Overseer" as he likes to call himself, gave me a pretty cool digital watch. I wear it so much it's like it's welded to my wrist. I got nothing of value from anyone else.

December 28, 2012
It's past the "day of the apocalypse" and nothing has happened. Big surprise. My dad keeps insisting that the end will soon be upon us and that I should be thankful I'm in such a protected place. I try to convince him he's mad, but he won't pay me any mind.

February 13, 2014
I sneaked into my dad's office today. Him being the vault's only dentist, he has information on all the residents. I figured I might be able to get some inside information on Christine by accessing his computer. I found nothing and was about to leave before I noticed his personal journals were left open. I read the most recent entry.

"The Novocain transport pipe has a leak at point 323-XY3. A constant supply of Novocain is being added to the air supply. Due to the security and health implications of repairing it, we have decided to leave it be. The dosage is said to be small enough to have no effect on residents." I couldn't understand most of what he was talking about. I heard his footsteps approaching, so I quickly ran back to my room.

January 16, 2015
I was incredibly bored one day, as I was most days, so I decided to snoop around dad's office. he has a bobble-head with a huge medical syringe on his desk for some reason. I found his journals again and decided to read. "The gap has slowly widened over the last year. The Novocain doses are increasing. At this level, we expect minor brain damage as a side effect. I warned Alphonse of the implications, but he's gone mad with power. At this rate, the leak is doomed to increase in size. Permanent brain damage will be the result. I wouldn't be surprised if hallucinations start to set in after enough time has passed. I hope to God things resolve themselves."

I didn't know what Novocain was, but I sure knew what brain damage was. I immediately confronted my dad about what he wrote. He passed it off as a novel he was writing. It explains things better than it being true. I'll choose to believe it. For  now.

August 04, 2017
I'm suffering from what I believe are terrible hallucinations. I keep seeing giant cockroaches and my watch has become oddly high tech. I vaguely remembered my dad's journal talking about this, so I ran to his office and started reading. "I'm sure of it. Everyone is going mad from the Novocain. They're starting to fabricate things in their senses. The terrifying thing is that these hallucinations even penetrate one's memories. It's as if it completely alters your perception. Everything is livable, no one is crazy beyond reason, but if things persist to an unbearable point, I'll be forced to try to repair the pipe myself."

This was ridiculous. Why would dad say such things? The giant roaches have always been there. Ever since I was born. I even shot one on my birthday! Andy the robot had worked at dad's office for years. He was even at my party! The sheer implication he was making, that people were starting to go's just preposterous. I'm sure this is just an inventive story of him. I'm sure everything's fine.

September 24, 2018
Today is the day of the big test! I'm really excited! I hope I'll become a Laundry Cannon Operator...Ooh! Or maybe a Pip-Boy Programmer! That would be so cool! Well, I better get going; I don't want to be late. Hopefully, I won't run into Butch and the Tunnel Snakes on my way there.

March 11, 2021
I found a note from my father. "Son, the vault is falling into ruin. I need to try my best to repair the Novocain pipe. For some reason, I'm the only one not affected by the gas. If I don't succeed or something goes wrong, I'm leaving the vault. Son, you mustn't leave. Everyone in the vault has gone homicidal and I don't know what they'll do to you. I'm not even sure if you can understand this letter. But just know that I love you." Dad is so silly.

March 12, 2021
Amata woke me up. She said there was a lock down. Officers were patrolling the halls and my father had escaped. She gave me a pistol and ran off. My God, I see what's happened. My father wasn't crazy. He was telling the truth! He was trying to save us all Everything I knew was a figment of my own creation. The ridiculous uniforms everyone wore the giant cockroaches, the robot was all so ridiculous! How could I have been so stupid?!

I ran out of my room, determined to escape with my father. I cut a path of blood along my way, shooting what I thought were giant roaches and officers. Who knew if they were real or not? I shot the Overseer in cold blood and walked away from the sobbing form that was Amata. The exit to the vault was just within reach. I could feel my mind on fire. Everything warped before my eyes. I collapsed to the ground.

Date Unknown
I woke up at the entrance to the vault. I still had my uniform. I still had my Pip-Boy. It was all the same. I looked around. A barren landscape extended for miles. I was free of the vault, yet everything remained the same. How could this be? It hit me. It's all real. I was sane; my father was the crazy one. I had entered into a new, post-apocalyptic world and it was mine for the taking! I felt unstoppable! I picked up a radio signal on my watch and started running through the scorched field. On the horizon was what appeared to be a shanty town of some sort. I had a good feeling about this. I was on top of the world. I was unstoppable. I was the Lone Wanderer!

Subject 134 is one of our most interesting cases. We have no name for him, but he calls himself "the Lone Wanderer." He was found running around the Mojave Desert screaming, shouting, and talking to random foliage. he was also reported to be seen shooting at wildlife with a BB gun. Upon closer interrogation, he insists upon thinking he's in a post-apocalyptic landscape. He insists upon calling me Lucas Simms, the sheriff of some place he calls "Megaton." 

He keeps telling us that his cell is a house I provided him with upon diffusing the bomb in the center of town. The bomb he is referring to is what I believe to be the sculpture in the courtyard. We let him out occasionally. He always has the same reaction. He insists upon being in an apocalyptic world. We have no idea where he came from; he appeared to pop up out of nowhere. All we know for sure is that he shows little hope for improvement.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Fresh Faces

Hi, I'm Seth. I'm writing this note, bottling it, and tossing it in the brook by my house. Writing helps me keep my sanity. Hopefully, somebody who still reads will pick it up and come help me.

It started a month ago. I was down in my basement office on my computer watching old Mystery Science Theater 3000 re-runs. The phone rang next to me, but I didn't pay attention to it. It was never for me; on the off-occasion it was, it was usually my brother, and half the time we were on the phone my nephew would be trying to grab it and talk to me himself. Mom yelled down the stairs that the phone was for me. Yeah, I lived at home with my folks. Sue me. Anyway, I picked up.

"Hello?" I said, paying more attention to the antics of the robots on the screen.

"It's begun." The voice was little more than a whimper, a plea, I didn't even recognize the voice.

"Excuse me?" I asked, wondering who on Earth was calling.

"They've come. I don't have much time, Jeff; you told me to call if what we did caused trouble."

Now a little worried, I said, "I think you've got the wrong number. This is Seth, not Jeff."

"DON'T GO OUTDOORS!" The person shrieked. Completely freaked out, I disconnected the call. It must have been some prank caller, but I wasn't amused. Rattled, I put the matter behind me.

Much later, I finished watching videos and shut the lights off to head upstairs. It was pitch black, but I knew the way. The dark seemed a little more oppressive this time, though. I shrugged off the feeling and went upstairs. As I passed through the living room, I chanced a look out the window. There were people outside, on a walk or something. I checked my watch and it said 3:00 AM. "That's weird," I muttered. I stumbled up to my room and drifted off to sleep.

I was a fool that first night. If I'd recognized what I'd seen, I would have saved myself the terror and just stepped outside.

The next morning, the news was on. That was odd, since my dad usually turned to the sports channel before we went off to work. I didn't even glance at it as I threw on a tie and stumbled into the bathroom. An uneasy feeling crept into my gut as I did my morning routine. I usually had to fight for bathroom space, but today there wasn't a sound. I peeked out of the room and saw that the front door was open, but the glass storm door wasn't. There wasn't a sound. Looking outdoors, I saw those same people I'd seen the night before.

I opened the door.

Immediately, their heads snapped towards me. I recoiled and leapt inside as quickly as I could, feeling something catch at my ankle as I did so. Their faces were fixed in expressionless gazes and their mouths were slightly agape and dripping blood. I looked down and saw one right next to the porch, withdrawing its arm; it had tried to grab me. with a dizzying feeling of horror, I recognized my little brother. Slamming the door, I locked it tight and stumbled back into the living room. The television was reporting that a disease was spreading south from Canada across the US. I shut it off and pointlessly called out to see if anyone else was in the house.

No answer.

So began my solitary existence. The news ran for a few days before they were caught. They kept making the most stupid mistake: going home every night. The electricity has stayed running; I guess someone left the switch on at the factory. Or maybe it's just northern New England that's been overrun; I dunno. The internet's been out, too, so that's annoying.

While the news was running, they called them zombies, going back to that old standby. I guess it works. I mean, they don't do a whole lot and they're definitely dead; they walk around until their legs rot out from under them, then they crawl until they literally fall to pieces. While they've got legs, though, they're fast. That's how they jumped my family, I suppose. and the police car that drove up to the house to see if there were any survivors...that wasn't fun to look at every morning.

They overturned my car while chasing him, so I'm stuck. Cops to the rescue again. They don't really need food, so they didn't finish eating the poor guy. But they dismembered him; that's why he couldn't get up and join them. I could see him gnashing his teeth fruitlessly, though.

For about a week, a guy on the radio pointed out that they were falling to pieces, so all we needed to do was wait them out. Then he got impatient and went outdoors. Nobody's been on the radio for two weeks.

I'm in trouble, though. You see, the house has no food left. I can't wait for them all to fall down dead all over again. I've made a couple expeditions to the general store. Lucky I had that sword collection upstairs. They're all too slow to catch me when I run, but there are so many that I sometimes panic. Last time, they nearly got me. I broke the front door getting back in; now the cold seeps in every night and I can see one standing out on the porch right now, not ten feet from where I'm writing this.

You're safe indoors. Don't ask me why they abhor coming inside. Whatever the reason, it's been my lifeline. Unfortunately, they seem to know that there's someone alive in the house. Don't ask me how; this fellow on the front step doesn't even have eyes anymore. Maybe they can hear a heartbeat or smell sweat...or blood.

I spent a couple days naming them. Some of the faces I recognized and gave their old names to them. The same old gang's been hanging around here for the last few weeks, slowly dropping in number as they fall to pieces. They've never wandered off, though. There are 79 who were once men and 63 who were once women out there.

Once, just to see what would happen, I shot one in the head with a shotgun. You know, to see if the old "shoot a zombie in the head and they die for good" adage had any truth. So I've actually got 79 who were once men, 62 who were once women, and 1 who was once a woman and decided to keep standing even after losing about 80% of her head. AND I'm down one shotgun shell.

So they wait...and I'm losing it. I talk to myself constantly and I ate a stuffed animal last night. The cotton went down hard, but it felt good to have something in my stomach again. There are no fruit trees around and, anyway, it's November. Water has been getting scarcer. The tap water stopped working eight days ago; luck I'd filled a bathtub and every bottle I could find before it stopped.

Oh, great. Now the lamp's getting brighter and I hear a buzzing sound. I wonder if the power's going ou

Well, that wasn't fun. Total loss of power for four days. Every try sleeping in the dark, knowing that there are things just outside that will kill you and make you one of them the first chance they get? Probably, since these things are everywhere as far as I can tell. Quick update: I mentioned Herschel, that guy on my porch? One of his legs fell off, so he's sitting down and sniffing at it. Thank God they lose all higher brain functions. I'm pretty sure the soul isn't held captive in these things and that this is all the disease (or whatever) trying to spread itself as far as it can in the population.

I don't know if you've noticed this, reader, but the animals just don't seem to be affected. It's a small comfort. Of course, they die if they eat the flesh, but they don't get back up once they die. Weird, huh? I'm getting hungry and desperate. Maybe, just maybe, I can load the old .22 and bag a squirrel from inside. But how will I go get it?

on one hand, I'm a bit more optimistic that you're out there now, whoever you are. The power couldn't have come back if there weren't people out there working to restore order. I'm feeling lucky; time to grab a sword and go drop this in the brook. Maybe this hole thing is almost over.

Maybe. On the other hand, if it is almost over...

Why are there fresh faces outside today?

Tom and Jerry

The thirteen Tom and Jerry shorts made by the Czechoslovakian director Gene Deitch are infamous for their poor quality and rather disturbing nature, featuring badly done sound effects and animation and having a more realistic feel to the violence. Some have speculated that Deitch didn't like the concept behind Tom and Jerry and was pressured into making them, and wanted to make the people who watched his take on it feel bad for liking the concept.

What many people don't know is that Deitch was originally signed on to make more than the thirteen episodes the public has access to. Desperate to get out of his contract, Deitch made one more Tom and Jerry short that few have ever seen.

The short was called "Tom's Basement." It opened with Tom in a typical Tom and Jerry house. His owner was the fat, angry guy from other Deitch shorts. Tom's owner seemed even angrier than in his other appearances; the first scene is him stomping on Tom's tail in a very realistic and painful looking way because Tom is sleeping by the basement door.

The owner yells at Tom to never go down there. Tom is clearly terrified and runs away to another room. Our view stays in the room by the basement door and we see Jerry come out of a mouse hole. He looks truly grotesque, far more off-model than in the other Deitch shorts. He gets an evil look on his face and follows Tom into the next room.

The next few minutes are fairly formulaic. Jerry repeatedly manages to trick Tom into chasing him to the basement door a few times, but each time the owner catches Tom he inflicts a painful looking injury on him, which stay with Tom even after the scene ends. After three beatings, Tom is bruised all over, bleeding in a few places, and limping on a broken leg.

After this, Tom starts to literally beg Jerry not to bother him any more; he's not really talking, but he's crying and mumbling, and you can tell what he's doing by his body language. Jerry just laughs at him and pushes him back to the basement door.

The owner catches Tom again and goes ballistic. The camera zooms in on his face - it changes color and distorts as he yells at Tom in a much louder voice than any other sound in the cartoon. I can't post most of what he said on here, but it's definitely vicious and furious. It seems like Jerry has finally decided to take pity on Tim, though. Jerry picks up a knife that was lying around and stabs the owner in the leg, quite graphically.

Tom opens the basement door and they carry the owner's body down the stairs. There are dozens of other bodies down there, decaying and showing signs of their violent deaths. Tom and Jerry shake hands and it seems like they've triumphed over the serial killer...but Jerry gets an evil look in his face again and Tom says, in that ghostly, deep voice...


Jerry stabs Tom, killing him, and throws his body into the pile. The last shot is Jerry putting up a 'For Sale' sign on the yard of the house, laughing, clearly planning to do it all again.

(This story is by a person called KI Simpson.)

Cemetery Soup


I never liked going through alleys. It was the homeless people that bothered me. If you encounter one on the street, it's no big deal and you can just pretend you didn't hear them begging. If you're in the middle of a crowd, it's easy to be anonymous.

But in an alley, you have to directly pass them. It's just you and him (female homeless people are a bit rarer). I usually stop to give him whatever change I have if it's in an alley, opposed to when on the street I just fleet by, pretending to be caught up in my life. I know I do this and I feel a tiny stab of guilt every time. It's because of this little drip of resentment that I stopped for him today.

I normally avoid alleys, but I was late for work and I save about three minutes shooting across one instead of waiting for lights to change. It's a few blocks, but New York City traffic is too rough.

He was on my left, leaning against a garbage can and the wall of one of the buildings. As I was approaching him, he politely spoke up. "Sir?"

"Oh!" I started, pretending I hadn't noticed him at first, and began reaching into my pockets looking for spare change or a dollar. While I was searching, I stopped at his feet and saw his face. His left eye had no iris. No pupil, either. Just white.

"I don't want your change, mister." His voice almost sounded metallic, about as much so as a cheap beer or the aftertaste of blood.

He had caught me off guard. "Then...uh...what is it you want...?"

"I want...out."

I wondered what he meant as I gazed into his two sparkling green eyes. He looked too intelligent to be homeless. Whatever, I thought. I have a job to get to. Smart people go crazy easily; he's probably on heroine or something.

I walked swiftly away and to the office. Everyone there looked at me weird, like I just grew a beard overnight or something. When I looked at everyone else, they looked like I needed glasses. Just a little blurry. Odd, I have perfect vision. When I went to the bathroom to see if I could figure it out, I looked the same, but...different. It was like my face was half-distorted or something. A bit out of focus. I closed my left eye and I looked fine. I closed my right eye and...have you ever seen yourself naked? I mean, truly naked?

Oh my god...the things I have seen with my left eye.

Bob Ross

Before Bob Ross had a career television show, he shot his own home videos from his basement. This was even before he was in the Air Force. His brother, Jim Ross, recovered most of the tapes from Bob's ex-wife's home in 1995 before the fire that burned it down. There was one particular home video that disturbed him greatly, which he describes in the following text.

Most of Bob's tapes were almost generally the same as The Joy of Painting. They were fun to watch as this was an earlier version of his work and he had more of a cartoonish style back then.
I remember the last tape I watched. The video was labeled 'Joy of Painting' so I assumed that's where the title for his show came from. The tape started the same, typical way you'd see on the real show. He was smiling in his basement with a blank canvas and a cart of paints, ready to spill his imagination and make it come to life.

I noticed most of the paints on his palette were of dark reds and blacks; there were no blues, yellows, or any 'happy' colors.

Bob started out by saying, "Today is a surprise! You should all follow along as you watch this video, which will make the surprise your very own!"

He didn't say much after that, just dipped a small brush into black paint and went to work. The rest of the video has no sound. You could see his mouth moving and he would pause to point out certain techniques he was doing, but you couldn't hear what he was saying.

He continued to paint this huge mass of red and black, and it looked like nothing at all. By now, the whole canvas was covered with this spew of garbage and I never recall my brother painting anything this way, ever.

Twelve more minutes into the video, I noticed he seemed very trance-like. He kept painting and painting and it never really went anywhere. Then his brush strokes would get faster and his movements and smiling were becoming more crazed.

This went on for another ten minutes until Bob just dropped everything. The paint and brushes crashed to the floor and Bob furiously punched a hole in his canvas. Bob was smiling, but then he started to scream.

I don't want to tell you what happened in the next nine minutes, but I suppose I have to anyway. I pulled up to the house about seven or eight and I yelled to the cabbie, "Yo homes, smell ya later!" I looked to my kingdom, I was finally there, to sit on my throne as the prince of Bel Air!


"Mom," said the little girl, rubbing her eyes and standing in the doorway to her mother's room.

"Mom, the Easter Bunny is eating my candy," she said.

"Nonsense, baby," the woman replied. "The Easter Bunny gives out candy, he doesn't eat it..."

The woman lightly shook her covers and continued to speak, halfway into her pillow and halfway to her daughter, "Go back to sleep, baby..."

"But, mom," the girl said. "The Easter Bunny is eating candy!" She now spoke in a more serious tone, almost as if she were going to cry.
Her mother sat up and opened her arms. "Baby, I just told you. The Easter Bunny doesn't eat candy, he hands it out to little children. Besides, it's not even Easter yet. Go back to sleep," she said in her kindest voice.

"Okay, mom," the child sighed as she turned to walk out the room.

The woman smiled and thought, 'Crazy kid with her lively imagination,' and went back to sleep on a whim.

Out in the hallway, the little girl stood for a while staring at the Easter Bunny eating her candy. She then sighed. "Mommy said I should go back to bed."

The Easter Bunny smiled. "Good idea, child. Turn around and don't look back."

He flicked a shiny metal pendant at the child. She picked it up and cried as she saw what it was: it was a dog tag and it read 'Candy.'

The Deepest Fear

You've been dating your girlfriend almost two years now. You often stay late over the summer and on weekends and arrive home long after the rest of your family go to sleep.

Every night, you drive the deserted rural roads back home from a pleasant evening at her house, but you become overwhelmed by fears that you will arrive home to find your family dead in their beds. Each night, you peek into your sister's room and see she's fine and hear the reassuring rumble of your father's snore as you pass your parents' door.

You chuckle at your silly worries and drift off to sleep. Finally, one morning, you decide to tell your mother about your late-night fears amidst some jovial conversation for a nice laugh. As you tell her, a concerned look comes over her face. She sweeps the hair away from her face as she says,

"Oh honey, you know we were all shot almost two years ago."

You scream as you see the gaping bullet hole in her forehead.


Don't Worry About It

You're slowly stirred awake by the distant ringing as the phone beside your bed pulls you out of your dreams. Your thoughts gather themselves and you groan, reaching over to answer.

As soon as you place the phone to your ear, you're greeted by the background noise consisting of twisted screams. There were people in agonizing pain begging for help or death, not that the interference allows you to hear any individual voice clearly enough.

"Get out of the house now!"

The call ends abruptly after what you could have sworn was a voice from closer to you than on the other end. You shift yourself to the side of the bed, sighing while rubbing your eyes. A call this startling and this early in the morning would keep you awake.

Your wife shuffles to the side, apparently also woken by the call. She wraps her arms around you and gives a light kiss on the neck.

"Don't worry about it." Her half-asleep mumble calms you down somewhat.

Just as you're about to place the phone down, it rings again. You fumble slightly and drop it. Instead, you feel your wife's arms tighten around you, preventing you from leaning forward.

It's then you notice a subtle difference between the arms around you and the familiarity of your wife's.

"He's too late to save you anyway."

Play it Again

It likes music. It's especially fond of the piano.

It was late one night. Around 2:00 AM. I was up late surfing the internet and listening to music. It was a normal night; I was just getting tired when I happened across an interesting YouTube video called, "Easiest Song to Play on the Piano! Learn TONIGHT!"

I'm not much of a piano player, but I've been trying to learn, especially since I inherited my grandmother's old upright piano. It was built in 1928, but it's still in fine condition. I decided to watch the video to see just how easy it was to learn the song. On the video, it was a shot of the keys around the middle C key and elderly, white hand were playing the notes. The song was extremely simple, but there was something about it that was...strange. Unnerving. But I liked it.

I memorized the chords and notes, stood from my computer, and left the room. The hallway was dark - pitch black save for the small night-light plugged into an outlet in the hall. It cast a dim, yellow light on the walls and flickered like a candle. I walked slowly down the hallway, feeling along the wall for the light switch I knew was there...somewhere.

Click. Found it. The hallway flooded with light, but I was not comforted. It seemed, for a moment, I saw something. Something...small. And white, perhaps. Not like a spirit or ghost and not like a person, but it was small and...probably just my imagination playing tricks on me with the light.

I made my way to the piano in our living room. It, too, was pitch black. Our high ceilings were never visible in the dark. It was unnaturally dark. A kind of dark that you can feel.

I turned on the tiny lamp that sat about the piano, opened the keyboard, and played a few scales to practice. While playing, I tapped my foot on the pedal to add an echoing noise that almost sounded like...a steady inhale...exhale...inhale...exhale pattern.

I stopped and listened. Silence. An eerie silence.

I began to play the song I learned on the internet. The keys all flowed together well. I was remembering the song easily enough. It was quite simple. In fact, someone could probably accidentally play this song without realizing it was actually a song at all.

When I finished playing the song, I sat back, satisfied.

Then, I heard the song playing from the hallway.

How was this happening? I stood up and walked briskly back down the hall, to my room where it sounded like the music was coming from. I saw my computer playing the YouTube video again. It probably just refreshed itself.

Then, the music started playing again. This time, from the piano. In the living room.

I was frozen in place. I could not move. Slowly, I made my way back down the dark hallway...back into our vast living room - all the while, the piano was still humming this new, bone-chilling melody.

I approached the corner to where I knew I'd be able to see the piano. I swallowed my fear and turned to look.

Instantly, the music stopped and there was nothing I immediately saw.

Upon looking closely, I saw something white...a small, almost child-height...being. Standing in the dark corner...smiling at me.

It whispered to me in a hellish, quiet tone.

"Play it again..."

Monday, November 15, 2010

Where the Bad Kids Go

I must have been six or seven when I lived in Lebanon. The country was ravaged by war at the time, and murders were common and frequent. I remember during a particularly vicious era, when the bombings rarely stopped, I would stay at home sitting in front of my television watching a very, very strange show.

It was a kids' show that lasted about 30 minutes and contained strange and sinister images. To this day I believe it was a thinly veiled attempt on the part of the media to use scare tactics to keep kids in place, because the moral of every episode revolved around very uptight ideologies: stuff like, “bad kids stay up late,” “bad kids have their hands under the covers when they sleep,” and “bad kids steal food from the fridge at night.”

It was very weird, and in Arabic to top it off. I didn't understand much of it, but for the most part the images were very graphic and comprehensive. The thing that stuck with me the most, however, was the closing scene. It remained much the same in every episode. The camera would zoom in on an old, rusted, closed door. As it got closer to the door, strange and sometimes even agonizing screams would become more audible.

It was extremely frightening, especially for children's programming. Then a text would appear on the screen in Arabic reading: “That's where bad kids go.” Eventually both the image and the sound would fade out, and that would be the end of the episode.

About 15 or 16 years later I became a journalistic photographer. That show had been in my mind all my life, popping up in my thoughts sporadically. Eventually I'd had enough, and decided to do some research. I finally managed to uncover the location of the studio where much of that channel's programming had been recorded. Upon further research and eventually traveling on site, I found out it was now desolate and had been abandoned after the big war ended.

I entered the building with my camera. It was burnt out from the inside. Either a fire had broken out or someone had wanted to incinerate all of the wooden furniture. After few hours of cautiously making my way into the studio and snapping pictures, I found an isolated out-of-the-way room. After having to break through a few old locks and managing to break the heavy door open, I remained frozen in the doorway for several long minutes. Traces of blood, feces, and tiny bone fragments lay scattered across the floor. It was a small room, and an extremely morbid scene.

What truly frightened me, though, what made me turn away and never want to come back, was the bolted, caged microphone hanging from the roof in the middle of the room.

If anyone lives in Lebanon and recalls that show and can tell me the name, I'd appreciate it.

(Transcribed from this Youtube video.)

Dream Memories

Do you ever have dreams that give you false memories? Something happens in a dream, and you remember it, it can be as inconsequential as an imaginary episode of your favorite TV show, or an important childhood memory that should have completely changed your life. I started having a series of dreams like this.

In the dream, I was in a small house in the middle of a huge, empty field. I was just standing in the living room of the house, thinking. I had memories of myself in the house, decades ago, I was remembering something from when I was 2 or 3. I was in the house, I heard pounding on the door. I didn't know where my parents were, I was terrified, crying. The pounding got louder and louder, and eventually the door crashed down, and I woke up.

A few nights later, I had the dream again. I was in a dark, locked room, at my current age. I couldn't get out, and started thinking back to that imaginary day from my childhood. It picked up where the last memory stopped, someone had just entered the room. He was waving a huge knife, shouting something I couldn't understand.

I tried to run, I ran to a door on the other side of the room, but no matter how hard I tried my hands kept slipping on the handle and I couldn't get the door open. The man with the knife kept screaming something I couldn't understand, and started walking towards me. I was too scared to move at this point, and the dream ended when the man was standing right in front of me, and had just raised his knife.

I wanted to talk to someone about these dreams, but there was something holding me back, some kind of fear that I couldn't explain. I didn't do anything, and soon, I had yet another dream. I was sitting in a chair, completely restrained. My memory returned to that day from my childhood. Again, it picked up right where the previous dream had ended.

The man stabbed me, I felt pain, more pain than I ever had in a dream. He kept stabbing, and soon I was floating above the room, looking down at my dead body. He kept stabbing, long after I had died, and I couldn't do anything but watch. This went on for hours, and then I finally woke up. I was too scared to keep this to myself any longer, and told someone.

It's amazing the kind of tricks your mind can play on you. I told a friend about the dreams about a year ago. They told some other people, people very interested in the dream. I stupidly told them all the details of the dream, if I had just kept my mouth shut, none of this would have happened, and I wouldn't be locked up, and about to die. It turned out my dream was true, except for one little detail. I should have known my dream wasn't possible, but like I said, dreams have a way of making you believe anything.

I hate dreams, the solution was so obvious, but I was blinded by my "memories." I hate myself, hate my subconscious. I would have been free, wouldn't have even had the guilt, but my dreams changed that. All they had to do was make me forget which one I was that night.

(This story is credited to a person called KI Simpson.)

NiGHTS into Dreams

I am what you call an obsessive NiGHTS fan. NiGHTS into Dreams, for those not in the know, is a game for the SEGA Saturn that was created by Sonic Team. One of the only worthwhile titles worth playing on the system, it’s become a cult classic. The simplified version of the storyline is that you play as NiGHTS, a renegade nightmare creature (though he doesn’t look like it). Throughout the game, you help two human children reclaim stolen dream energy (Ideya) from his creator (Wizeman)’s minions, and fight other nightmare creatures. It’s pretty cut and dry in that regard.

I’ve been a fan of the series since I was a little kid. I’ve held onto my SEGA Saturn for just this reason. It’s worth noting that only diehard fans will actually spell the game’s name out with the weird capitalization of the title. I own countless versions of the full game, according to region, as well as demo versions and the Christmas editions of the game. In some circles, there’s a call for beta versions of the game, not that any seem to be available to the public. Most people want them for research purposes; I however want one to see for myself the things that were left out of the final.

Particularly, I was after a lost level and boss. People who’d cracked the data format used in Saturn games had dug up information about a boss named “SELPH”, as well as an unused level. In the data format, it was labeled as “CLARIS-TOWER”, obviously being meant for the female character, Claris. There are 7 levels total in the entire game; the 7th being shared by both characters at the end of the game, and playing exactly the same for both aside from the different character models. Most NiGHTS fans are DYING to play this level and its boss, though a version with them both intact has proven to be nonexistent. Nevertheless, I hoped against hope that I’d find copy where both were playable.

One day, I stumbled upon a listing on ebay marked “SEGA SATURN NIGHTS DISC”. It was a pretty mundane name for a listing. I took a peek, expecting to find one of the overly marketed US versions that you find scattered all over the place. What I saw wasn’t THAT. The photos on the listing shown that it was a gold, CD-Resque disc with the word “Nights” marked on it in marker, underneath of it, what appeared to be Katakana (or at least I think it was: I haven’t taken a Japanese course in five years). It was listed for incredibly cheap, so I hit “buy it now” and awaited it to arrive. I noted after buying that the seller had absolutely no feedback. Regardless of whether or not they might be a crook or a new user, I just decided I’d wait for it to arrive.

Less than a week later, it arrived in the mail. I remember the packaging: manila envelope, no return address. The disc was exactly as it had appeared in the photos. My heart soared. I quickly confirmed that it booted it, albeit to a slightly different title screen than the original, and went to leave feedback for the seller. It appeared, when I got there, that they’d deleted their account. I thought it strange, but disregarded it, as I was more than ready to dive into the beta version of this game.

I went back to my Saturn and booted up the game again. It lacked the final game’s opening video, but the title screen looked similar, aside from NiGHTS being in a different pose. The logo was the same, and it lacked title screen music, much like the original. I hit start and made a new save file on my Saturn. The menus were pretty much identical to the final version, but eager to find the differences, I selected Elliot as my playable character and started playing. Elliot’s story played out exactly identical to the final version. Same level layouts, ant the same bosses. It seemed like nothing was different until I got to Twin Seeds, the final level. The layout was the exact same, but when I got to the end of the level, there was a noticeable difference. You see, in the final level, you can’t join with NiGHTS at the beginning, and have to fly through the level as the kid you selected. At the end of the level after you retrieve all the ideya, the kid you weren’t playing as shows up as an NPC and helps you break the barrier over NiGHTS so you can join with him and fight the final boss. Claris didn’t show. There was no barrier. Elliot joined with NiGHTS and went to fight the final boss alone.

I figured they hadn’t programmed in the in-game cutscene I described, for this version at least. I beat the boss, and the credits rolled, though without the cutscenes from the final game. After the credits ended, I started on Claris’ game. Like Elliot’s, it played almost exactly the same as the final. That was until I played through her first 3 levels. I was expecting the final level for Claris to be Twin Seeds, but when I went back to the level select, the symbol for her final level was different than the Twin Seeds symbol. It was the shape of a downward spiral. My heart almost leaped out of my chest. It was the lost level! I hoped it was fully playable, and it was right there in front of me. Without a second thought, I hit the A button and proceeded to play it.

That’s when Claris did something that surprised me. She changed the expression on her face. As the character select transitioned into the beginning of the level, her normal cheerful and optimistic face changed to display a fearful frown. A title card for the level was not displayed. As the level started, Claris touched down on a platform outside of the Ideya Palace holding NiGHTS. Below the platform, was a set of dark, foggy ruins; they seemed to make the shape of a spiral going downwards. Before I could examine the level any further, a creepy laugh unlike one I’d heard in the game before sounded, and Claris was flung off of the platform, into the air. She floated there, suspended, as the platform holding NiGHTS and the Ideya Palace plummeted into the dark depths below. There was no music, only silence.

Claris’ character model clenched herself into a fetal position, and floated shivering in the air for a moment. It was then that I regained control over her. There was no time limit in this level. You merely just flew down the spiral toward the bottom. As she flew further down, the creepy laughter from before started up again. It grew more intense the deeper you flew. At points, I could make out speech. It would say things like “God has abandoned you” or “There is no delight in dreams, only sweet death”; morbid, terrible things. I began to hear crying. After a short while, I realized it was Claris. This continued on for what felt like hours.

When I got to the bottom, there was a small transition. Claris touched down in a spotlight area in the middle of a black nothing. She looked around as NiGHTS floated down in front of her. Except something was different. NiGHTS didn’t look right. He looked greyed, almost rotten. The laughter intensified even further, and NiGHTS fell to the ground like a ragdoll. The voice stopped laughing. Then it spoke. “She is ours now. Soon he will be, and then you will be as well. We are them, we are you. We are all that will ever be, and all that will ever perish. We are the Self.”

As it ended its monologue, the shadows rose and wrapped around Claris. She let out a scream, as the disembodied voice cackled, only to be silenced as the darkness impaled her through her mouth. The screen faded and the game reset.

NiGHTS was no longer present at the title screen. I returned to the character select to see that Claris was no longer selectable as well. Her name text was grayed out, and she was completely absent from the menu. Elliot however was still selectable. I noticed that in selecting levels for him that the cursor would cross over to the icon for Claris’ last level. The look on Elliot’s face changed when I moved the cursor over the Spiral level icon, as if to beg me not to select it. I felt like I had to. Almost like I had to go back for Claris. So I hit the A button and took Elliot into the level.

There was no sequence with NiGHTS, no wait to gain control over the flying kid. I had Elliot fly down into the abyss as Selph’s laughter started back up. The things it said got more abusive, more demeaning than before. The words “faggot” and “queer” were mentioned several times. Like before, Elliot too began to sob as I neared the bottom of the spiral. As he reached the area Claris had been before, I noticed NiGHTS’ remains, more rotted than before. The voice ceased laughing and spoke again. “Now he belongs to us too. You will join us soon, as well. There is no God to save you. You will join us in oblivion.”

The shadows rose around Elliot and swallowed him in the same manner they’d swallowed Claris. The screen faded to black, and the voice spoke again, almost tauntingly. “We’ll see you soon.”

The game reset to the same empty, NiGHTSless title screen I’d seen before. I went to the character select, and both characters were missing. Yet the icon for the Spiral was still selectable. I knew who it was for.

Maybe one day, I’ll face it myself.

The Cell Phone Game

Howdy. You can call me "Jack." It's not my real name, but that's what I'll go by for now. I reckon the time to tell my story has come. Believe it or don't, but here it is. I suggest you take away the lessons it teaches, even if you dismiss it all as bullshit like 98% of the other stories on the internet.

But there's more truth in this story than any one of you could know.

Now, I've been out of high school for three years, but that's when this particular event takes place, so I'm going to have to wind my clock back a little here to tell the story.

Originally, for my first two-and-a-half years of high school, I attended a school in the deep Southern part of America, close to the gulf. We had all kinds of ghost stories growing up and if there was one lesson our super-conservative parents taught us, it was this: Don't go fooling around in things you don't understand.

Now, I was really unpopular at my high school in the South. My first two years of high school were a real pain because I was a big dork and everyone made fun of me. I was a loner and all I really did in class was play my Game Boy all day before rushing home to play an MMO I was addicted to.

All of that changed during my Junior year, when my mother's job moved us out West.

I started to attend a little Catholic high school with no more than around 250 students. It was at this time that I finally started to fit in and make friends. No one out here knew how much of a dork I was, so I opted to "hide my power level," as they tend to say on /a/, and try to make friends for once in my life. Who knows? Maybe I could even get a cute girlfriend if I was careful.

I started to meet people at the school. At a school that small, you end up knowing everyone in your class.

My first day I made a new friend named Sam and at lunch I opted to sit with him and his friends. He told me all about the other kids at the school - who was most popular, who the jocks were, so on and so forth.

He introduced me to his friends, too: Jim, a big jovial fellow who tipped the scales at 300lbs, Vogelman, our table's resident computer nerd and hacker, and Thomas, a musician who played electric guitar.

I also met Stephanie, the school's resident spunky Asian girl. Some of the guys said she could be a bitch, but she seemed cool enough. She was into gaming and never messed with any of us. She even seemed to think I was funny, so maybe that's why she started to call me at home after school on some days.

Sam told me all kinds of stories about her, like how she used to make snacks for guys at the school but then sprinkle Viagra all over them or pour laxatives into them so that anyone who ate it would suffer the brunt of her painful and arguably cruel joke. I just chuckled to myself and politely refused whenever she offered me anything.

Then...there was Rottenbacher. His real name was Jason, but everyone always called him "Rottenbacher" or "the Kraut" because he was a hardcore Nazi. He was an outcast and an loner, and no one wanted to be associated with him. Every day he'd wear a red Swastika armband to school just beneath his jacket where the teachers couldn't see, but whenever he'd get hot and slip it off - or whenever he was changing in the locker room - he'd be wearing the Nazi armband.

Furthermore, on Halloween and on school costume "event" days when he knew he could get away with it, Rottenbacher always wore an entire replica of an SS uniform like the Gestapo wear, with the black hat and the long boots.

He was a mean and angsty son-of-a-bitch. Whenever anyone told a teacher about him or asked him about the Nazi stuff, he'd shout racial or ethnic slurs at them, cuss them out, and yell "Heil Hitler!"

Furthermore, one peculiar thing that caught my eye was that I couldn't help but notice that Rottenbacher always walked with a slight limp, like he was in pain. Sam told me that somebody once saw him tightening a barbed Cilice in the locker room like the ones the Catholic priests wear to punish themselves for their sins.

It was a Catholic school so I, like most people, just assumed at the time that maybe he just wore the Cilice because he's a devout Christian. It was kind of strange for a hardcore Hitler lover like Rottenbacher, but it was high school and none of us preferred to think too much about stuff like that.

After he got done introducing me to everyone, Sam told me some of the school's old stories - including an urban legend that circulated about Kaylee, a girl that died mysteriously after playing some sort of "cell phone game." Sure enough, he could point out the girl in the year book to me and everyone recalled that the police had declared her missing under mysterious circumstances; she was presumed dead almost immediately thereafter. If you asked anyone exactly what happened, no one could tell you a damn thing. They always just said it was because she played the "cell phone game."

Sam. Stephanie the cute, mischievous Asian. Rottenbacher the self-torturing Nazi. The cell phone game. The police's investigation of a teen's disappearance. All of these people and events were about to come together to drag me into something in which I wanted no part. It wouldn't even be until over two years later that I finally understood how and why everything went down just the way it did.

Anyway, the last half of Junior year came and went, and the long summer passed us all by in what seemed like a heartbeat; it was finally time to begin our last year of high school.

Everyone was back for the new school year, pumped to start the laziest and most fun year of our high school lives. Even Rottenbacher, still limping around the school in that barbed Cilice, still spouting his Nazi garbage every time someone decided to mess with him.

The year started out eerily quiet. Word was that two more "cell phone game" related disappearances had happened over the summer to one boy and one girl from another high school and that the police were investigating a possible serial killer. According the the paper, the only common link the police had found was that every person who disappeared had received a text message that read, "Welcome to the game." None of the text messages had been sent from the same cell phone, so this evidence had been dismissed as circumstantial.

For me, things weren't half bad. It was this year when I finally started to open up more as a person. I had made a good circle of friends who I trusted and I felt more calm about being myself at this point. Gradually, I started to fit in more and more and pretty soon I was pretty popular in certain circles.

Stephanie liked to hang around with me more and more because of how funny she thought my jokes were. Before long, one day - which I still remember as one of the happiest of my life - she came to me in the middle of campus after school and looked up at me with this beautiful Asian eyes and that long, black hair and a smile to die for. She asked me right then, "Jack, will you go out with me?"

I laughed, ran, and jumped for joy. "Of course I will," I said, and danced around with her there in front of everyone. I finally had a girlfriend. I still remember that as one of the happiest days of my entire life, if not THE happiest. we went on dates, we hung out after school, and she even started to eat lunch with Sam, Jim, Vogelman, and I every day.

Maybe I wouldn't have been so happy had I known what was going to happen next.

It was one day at lunch when she was sitting with us, when she mentioned that while sleeping over with her friends one night, they had stayed up late with some girls from another high school talking about the cell phone game. She said that these girls knew all about the rules of the game and that they had explained it all to her in great detail.

Supposedly, you can join the game at any time by sending a text message at midnight to the right phone number. The text message was supposed to say, "I wish for the power to curse." If you did it right, you would get a message in return that said, "Welcome to the game," and, supposedly, this was the reason they had given for why the police found that message on the phones of everyone that had disappeared.

Stephanie went on to talk about the game. We all listened attentively to what she was saying.

She told us that once someone was in the game, they were in danger. Within two weeks, they had to complete one of a number of different tasks or else they would be dragged away in the night.

I stopped her right there. "Dragged away? By what? To where?"

She got silent for a moment.

"I don't know," she whispered before continuing her story.

She said that in order to protect oneself from being dragged away, you could one of two things:

The first was to find a special protective item. The item could be anything. You never knew what it was going to be, but it seemed that whatever the item was, it would make the bearer suffer in some way. This was considered a small price to pay in return for protection for as long as you wore the item.

The second way was to bring someone else into the game. This could be done by sending the text message, "Welcome to the game," to someone else's phone. If someone received the text message from someone else who was in the game, then that meant that this person was now in the game, too, and subject to all of the same rules and consequences of the game. If the person didn't find a protective item themselves, or bring another person into the game, then they too would be dragged away.

The catch about the second was this: While the protective item, if found, could protect you indefinitely so long as you kept it with you, bringing someone else into the game would only buy you a temporary grace period. The first time you brought someone into the game, you'd get a two week extension. Then, only one week. Eventually the grace period would get shorter and shorter until you barely bought yourself any time at all by bringing someone else into the game. By that time, you needed to have found your protective item.

Even though I've always been something of an /x/phile, I didn't like hearing her talk about this stuff, so I told her it was a bunch of nonsense.

"You really think so?" She asked. "If it's true, it would explain what the police found. And imagine how cool that would be to be able to curse anyone who messed with you by bringing them into the game! You could get rid of anyone and no one would ever know."

There was an edge in her voice I'd never heard before from Stephanie. She almost sounded intoxicated at the thought of it. Truth be told, it scared me a little.

"Don't go talking like that," I told her. "Stuff like that's beyond people like you and me. We shouldn't go messing with stuff like that. What if you got involved in it and then it all turned out to be true? What would I do if something happened to you? Promise me you won't go messing around in that stuff."

She gave me a funny look. "I never thought you would be the kind of person to be scared of silly things like this, Jack."

"Well, I don't think it's right to mess around in stuff you don't understand, you know?" I gave her a concerned look. "Now promise me, Steph. Promise you won't go try it."

She sighed in annoyance. "Fine, fine. I won't play the scary cell phone game. ARe you happy now?"

I told her I was, but truth be told I was scared. I didn't believe her. In all the time I'd known her, I'd never seen her betray anyone or sleep around or anything, but she had always been a trickster and a liar, and would lie to anyone about anything if it got her ahead without hurting anyone else. But, to be honest, I always thought it was kind of cute and just accepted it as one of her quirks. But this time it was serious.

So, a few days later, when she came back and told us that she had joined the cell phone game, I was pissed.

"What are you thinking, Stephanie? You promised me you wouldn't do that!"

"Yeah, yeah I know! But it's not any big deal. I've already got it all planned out. Besides, if it's true and it works, it's too good of an opportunity to pass up!"

She held up her cell phone. "Look!" She said giddily.

A text message was open on the screen which read, "Welcome to the game."

"Kind of freaky, huh? I got it just after I sent the text at midnight, just like the girls said."

My jaw dropped. I was speechless and scared stiff. This game couldn't be for real, could it?

"Stephanie, if this is real, then you're in danger now. You've only got two weeks to find the protective item."

"I know. That's why I sent the text to Rebecca. I'm gonna find out if it's true or not!"

I hit the roof. "You did WHAT?! But Stephanie, if this is real then that makes you as good as a murderer! You cursed Rebecca and now she could die because of you!"

"Relax, Jack. I don't actually believe any of this stuff. But even if I did, Rebecca's always been a big time bitch. It's not like she doesn't have it coming anyway." She giggled that same mischievous giggle of hers that I'd always loved. But this time, I wasn't loving any part of it.

A couple of weeks passed and nothing happened. But then, one day, Rebecca didn't show up at school. At lunchtime, Stephanie was sitting around with us as usual when the assistant principal came to talk to us all with a megaphone.

"May I have your attention, please." Everyone got silent. "The police have reported that one of your fellow students, Rebecca, has gone missing."

Stephanie's golden skin turned white. She froze.

"Her parents are very worried about her. If any of you know anything about this, please come and talk to me after school. That is all."

"Stephanie..." I whispered. I was very afraid for her. I was very afraid for what she might do. She looked at me and said, "Don't say anything. Just don't."

She got up and bolted from the lunch room. I chased after her.

"Stephanie! Stephanie! What are you doing?"

She kept jogging away from me, her cell phone out.

"Don't try to stop me, Jack. If I'm going to survive, I'm going to need more time. I can get another week if I curse someone else, and that'll give me three weeks to find it."

"Stephanie, listen to yourself! Who are you going to curse? You'd kill someone else for a little extra time? Look what's happened to you!"

She was starting to cry.

"I know, damn it! But I know who I'm going to curse. No one's going to miss them, I promise."

"Stephanie, that's not right. You can't do it. No one deserves this. Let me help you! We can find a protective object for you together!"

She turned and showed me her cell phone. Her text outbox had a message which read, "Welcome to the game."

She had sent it to Rottenbacher.

I started to weep. I grabbed onto her as tightly as I could. "Stephanie, Stephanie. I love you. I'm so sorry. This isn't right. None of this is right."

She held onto me and began to cry deeply as well. We held each other there for nearly an hour like that. I still remember it like it was yesterday.

Then, that night before we went home, we both resolved we would start looking for a protective item the next day.

The next day, I was walking with Stephanie along the track after school when Rottenbacher approached us with his cell phone. He was furious. He held it up to her face.

"Is this your idea of a joke, you stupid slant-eyed bitch?"

Truth be told, I felt Rottenbacher had the right to be a little angry. Sure, he was a Nazi pervert freak, but with all of the whispers of murder going around, I could imagine anyone being angry about getting a text like that.

But even so, I wasn't about to let anyone talk to my girl that way.

"Hey, buddy, you watch your mouth. That's no way to talk to a lady."

"Lady?" Rottenbacher shouted. "This fucking slut is not a lady. She's just a bitch, and she tried to kill me! I bet you killed that other girl, too, didn't you? Rebecca? She's missing 'cause of you, isn't she?"

Stephanie began to cry again.

I pulled my arm back and punched as hard as I could at Rottenbacher's face. He stumbled backwards a few steps and grabbed at his lip, from which trickled a little stream of blood, but he kept his composure.

I halfway expected him to swing back at me, but he just stood there.

After a moment, he spoke.

"You just don't get it, do you Stephanie? I'M ALREADY IN THE GAME. I always have been. I know the fucking score. But unlike you, I never cursed anyone else."

"Bullshit!" I said. "If all that's true, then how are you still-"

Suddenly, I remembered the Cilice Rottenbacher wore around his leg that caused him to limp in agony, and what Stephanie had told me at lunch.

Whenever a new protective item was discovered, whatever it was, it would cause its bearer to suffer.

"Your protective item! You have one!"

Stephanie's eyes lit up. It was clear that had realized the same thing that I had. Rottenbacher smirked. "That's right. So I just figured your girlfriend better know that she didn't get any additional time for trying to curse me. I've already been there and done that."

Stephanie looked up at him with fear in her eyes.

Days passed and, try as we might, Stephanie and I couldn't find anything that could qualify as a protective item. We were approaching the two-week deadline and she was looking more and more scared by the day. Her hair was a mess, her usually bubbly personality was glum and distraught. She stared off into space during classes and prayed constantly.

After the two-week deadline passed, we were both terrified. She came to me at school and said, "Jack, I want you to sleep with me tonight. Stay with me all night. Don't let it get me."

I couldn't refuse. I showed up at her house late that night and came in through her window. We slept together. It was bittersweet.

She went to sleep holding me, but I lay awake most of the night watching and waiting until I finally fell asleep around 4:30 in the morning from sheer exhaustion.

The next day, when I woke up, all I could think was "Stephanie!" I looked around frantically. She wasn't in the bed next to me.

"Stephanie!" I said louder as I climbed out of the bed and began to search for her. I walked into her kitchen.

"Don't be so loud," A voice said. It was Stephanie's. I turned around to see her sitting at a round table in the kitchen. She was smiling and seemed as giddy as ever.

I breathed a sigh of relief.

"My parents have already gone to work, but I don't want the neighbors to get suspicious and say something."

I wept with relief. It was over and she was safe. Nothing had come for her. I ran across the kitchen floor and hugged her, and kissed her all over.

Everything was perfect.

For two weeks.

Then I came to school one day and nine of our classmates had disappeared, including Sam.

Everyone was in an uproar. No one knew what had happened to them, or where they had gone. No one except for me and the person who had done it: Stephanie.

If the amount of time extended was halved each time you brought someone into the game, then nine people would have brought her just over two weeks. Which meant that her time would be running out again tonight.

I confronted her about it after school.

"Stephanie, the police are getting suspicious. You can't do this any more, and I can't watch you do this any more. It's wrong. It's evil!"

She looked at me silently. I still remember the look in her eyes that day. At this point, it had become clear to me that the girl I had known and loved was long gone, and all that remained was a soulless, wicked shell which clung to life and feared death more than anything. But, even so, I still loved her more than anything. She was my first and only girlfriend, and I couldn't let her go. I couldn't let anything happen to her.

"It's okay," She said. "I won't do it anymore. I've accepted what I need to do, and I'm going to do it. No one else is going to die because of me."

"Stephanie...are you sure? Maybe we can still find a protective item for you if we look now."

She looked down sadly. "There's no use in running from it now. I just want to spend the night with you tonight, okay? One more night together. That's all I want."

I was heartbroken. Everything was too melancholic and too melodramatic. I was so sad at hearing her words, at the thought of her being taken away.

I threw up. I vomited and retched over and over again into a nearby garbage can trying to fight back an endless stream of tears.

That night, she slept with me again. Sick, weak, and tired, I passed out from pure exhaustion at 3:00 AM.

Less than an hour later, though, I awoke with a start.

Stephanie was gone.

I sat up and looked around in terror, then found a note. I read it.

"[Jack]: I'm sorry for lying to you again, but I'm not ready to die yet."

A chill went down my spine. I continued to read.

"I've figured out what I need to do. Don't worry, as I promised, no one else is going to die because of me."

What could she be thinking? I looked around my room. Suddenly, I noticed that the .45 caliber pistol my father had bought me for my 18th birthday was missing from my room, and everything made perfect sense.

That's why she had wanted to spend the night with me tonight. She wanted my gun. she was planning to go after Rottenbacher and take HIS protective item.

As fast as I could, I threw on some clothes and bolted for my truck. I sped off towards Rottenbacher's apartment.

When I got there, the lock had been shot off and there were voices inside.

I pushed the door open. "What's going on here?" I demanded.

I looked around. Stephanie was holding Rottenbacher at gunpoint with my .45. The apartment walls were covered in pictures of Adolf Hitler and Swastika banners. There were whips and chains scattered around the bedroom floor. Rottenbacher was stomping around in long sleeve pajamas and cursing at her in his typical neo-Nazi form, screaming at her about 'home invasion' and 'calling the police' and this and that. He was even wearing that stupid Nazi armband. It was obvious this guy was a lunatic fanatic.

Stephanie screamed at him. "Shut the fuck up!"

She fired a round at the wall behind him and winced.

I remember my ears ringing from the loudness of the gunshot and a sharp pain in my inner ear, but I was too tense to worry about it at the moment.

"Now give me that barbed torture thing you're always wearing or I'll kill you right now."

Her voice was all malice.

Rottenbacher stood in place for a moment and slowly began to remove his pajama leggings.

"you're making a big mistake," He said. "You should just accept the way things are and die with dignity. You're not going to get away with this."

He removed the cilice from his leg, from which trickled a small amount of blood and handed it to her.

Immediately, she slipped it onto her own leg with one hand, fumbling with my pistol as she tightened it until it hurt, and her own leg egan to bleed a little.

"Let's go, Jack." She whispered and turned to leave.

I started to walk out with her. From the apartment, I heard Rottenbacher's shouting.

"You won't get away with this! He's going to come for you and he's going to drag you off to Hell for what you've done! You're going to pay for all those kids!"

I could see that she was sobbing a little as we walked away.

I was sick. I was disgusted with everything. I was disgusted with Stephanie for being so cruel and selfish and I was disgusted for myself for seeing all of this, and seeing the signs, and not doing anything to stop it. But at least now it would be over.

As we walked back to my truck, I said a small prayer for Rottenbacher in the hopes that he could find a new protective item within two weeks. He may have been a racist bastard, but in a way, he was still better than Stephanie if what he said about never cursing anyone else was true, and he didn't deserve to die just for that.

I drove Stephanie home. She was exhausted. I would have given her a kiss on the cheek, but I was too sick and just wanted the whole ordeal to be over.

"Good night," I whispered to her.

"Good night, Jack. I love you," She whispered back, and climbed out of my truck and went back to her house.

I started to drive home, exhausted from the day's events.

Suddenly, my cell phone began to vibrate. I picked it up. It was a call from Stephanie.

I answered.


The first thing I heard was a shriek, followed by what sounded like the noise of pounding at her door.

"Jack! Help! He's here! He's here and HE'S COMING FOR ME!"

"What? Hold on, Steph!"

I pulled a U-turn in my truck and sped off back towards her home. Stephanie was becoming more frantic.

Suddenly, on the other end of the line, I heard the sound of her door being bashed in, followed by another shriek. I could hear Stephanie screaming at the top of her lungs, a hideous, blood curdling scream. I still remember every moment of it perfectly, and I remember her screams word for word.

"No! No! I don't want to die!" Adrenaline surged through my heart and I floored the accelerator.

"No, no, no! Stop!"

She screamed again and I heard what sounded like the phone hitting the floor and Stephanie's screams getting further and further away.

And then, dead air.

"Stephanie? Stephanie?! Answer me, damn it!"

Getting no response, I hung up and called the police.

When I arrived at Stephanie's house, the front door had been smashed in. I parked my car on her lawn and jumped out, carrying my .45 caliber pistol with me.

I ran inside, searching the halls. Everything was in slow motion.

Then, I came to Stephanie's bedroom. I turned on the light and checked all of the corners with my pistol leading the way. At length, I lowered the gun as something caught my eye in the center of the room. Stephanie's cell phone lay on the floor next to her bed.

In the middle of the room, in the carpet, was a very small patch of blood. It wasn't more than a few drops. But the most chilling sight of all was that from the edge of her bed to the door of her room which lead out into the hall was a trail of claw marks that she had left as something or someone had dragged her away to her doom.

I couldn't take it any more. I turned and left her room. On the way out, I couldn't help but notice that she had torn out most of her fingernails clawing at the carpet and that they lay scattered near the trails her fingers had left.

I went out into the street and threw up again. I could hear the sirens coming in the distance.

Days passed, then weeks, then months. The police did investigations; they questioned me time and time again, and every time my stories were all the same. I told them the truth as I knew it, as unbelievable as it was. I don't think they believed me, but all of the evidence supported my story and there was nothing to implicate me in any of the crimes, so at length they finally let me go.

Things gradually went back to normal.

Our class eventually recovered from the losses of so many of our classmates, and over time my mind kind of accepted what had happened until it seemed like a distant dream. I graduated and moved on to college.

But there was one thing that still bothered me through it all, and that was Rottenbacher. He had been exactly right. Even though Stephanie had taken his cilice, he never vanished in the way that she and the others did.

But there is one thing that I do know, and that is to this very day, if you ever see Rottenbacher, he's still always wearing that red Nazi Swastika armband.