After the events that transpired several weeks ago, I’ll be honest, I should be dead. So please, pay close attention, because this could happen to you, and if you know what to expect, you’ll have a much better chance of survival.
The Victoria was small, and she was mostly used for simple tasks, like coastal patrol around South America. I worked hard to get here, and I would take whatever job they gave me with a smile.
Mostly we sailed along our pre-determined path, checking to make sure nothing posed a threat to the states, while also making sure the locals of nearby islands weren’t getting into trouble. We did have a run-in with a small pirate vessel, but after a quick firefight, we returned to our normal schedule as if nothing happened.
But in late August, something happened that will haunt me for the rest of my life. During a routine sweep of the South American coast that would normally send us in the direction of the states, a tropical storm brewed out of nowhere, and it hit us hard.
Tropical storms weren’t uncommon this time of year, but we still had to act fast. Huge waves were hitting our ship, and we worked frantically to make sure we didn’t capsize or lose anyone overboard.
After what seemed like hours, the storm eventually passed, and after muster, all hands were accounted for. We were forced to dock in a port city in Barbuda to get a better idea of what kind of situation we were in.
I was glad to be alive, and the fact that we were in a beautiful tropical city didn’t hurt either. The damage from the storm wasn’t severe, and with some hard work, the Victoria would be up and running in no time.
The bad news was that in this case, “in no time” meant about 3 days. It could have been faster, but we didn’t have the necessary parts to replace the damaged ones in the engine and had to work with what we did have.
Others were bothered at the fact that they’d have to spend three days on a tropical island working and not enjoying their time there. A chance to kick back and enjoy 3 days of sun and waves, maybe flirt with cute native girls, and overall, relax after several months at sea.
Our captain told us that as long as we kept in radio contact, and didn’t stray too far from the ship or the port city, that we could pretty much take it easy until the repairs were finished. We hit up bars, flirted with the locals, sunbathed on the beaches, and had loads of fun.
We were a little disappointed when the third day rolled around because we knew it meant that our little vacation would be over. After discussing our options, 4 of my fellow shipmates and I decided that for the last day, we wanted to lounge on a beach.
There was Simon, Anthony, Tobias, and Jeffry, as well as me, all eager to soak up a bit more sun. He smiled, a grin that suggested he knew a juicy secret, and we all wanted in on it.
“Well, don’t keep us all in suspense,” he asked, excitement lacing his voice, “what’s this place you’re talking about?” Tobias simply kept smiling, then turned and walked off towards the grove of trees on the opposite side of the beach.
Wherever this secret location was, Tobias wanted to keep it a surprise. As we walked through the forest, Tobias started talking.
“Yesterday, while everyone else was off doing their own thing, I decided to explore,” he said over his shoulder, “and what I found was awesome.” He was the youngest of us and tended to get under our skin, but I could tell he wanted this surprise to be great and made sure not to spill too much about it.
After twenty minutes of walking through the forest, we came upon a large rock wall with a cave leading into darkness. Tobias pulled out a flashlight from his bag, and everyone except me followed suit.
Tobias gasped and put his hand on his chest in mock surprise. What would we do then?” The rest of the group joined in the teasing, laughing at my caution.
“Conner, it’s fine,” Tobias said, “I got through this cave to the other side and back, and I’m no worse for wear. After taking a deep breath, I relaxed, pulling out my flashlight and followed the rest of the group into the cave.
But luckily, the heavy-duty flashlights we carried with us illuminated the dark just fine. After walking for ten more minutes, I saw a light at the end of the tunnel.
Tobias had found a secret cove hidden on one side of the island. There was a beach surrounding a large wave pool, forming a crescent shape.
There were palm trees on the right side of the pool, a rock face extending off to the left, and white, pristine sand stretching out in front of us. Tobias made us promise to clean up after ourselves before we left, which we did.
We had brought a cooler filled with beers and sandwich materials, some towels and a speaker to play music. We swam in the crisp, clear water, swung from the palm trees into the ocean, we sang our favorite songs as loudly as we could.
We groaned, upset at the notion of leaving our little slice of paradise, but we knew he was right. If we weren’t back before it got too dark, we’d catch hell from our captain, and besides that, clouds were starting to form, hinting at another possible storm.
I walked closer to the rock face to make sure we hadn’t accidentally left any litter behind, and that’s when I heard it. We walked along the rocky coastline, rounding a corner and finding the singing’s source, and it was not at all what we expected.
Sitting on the rocks a good 30 feet away, five of the most beautiful women I had ever seen in my life were singing a gentle, soothing tune. When they noticed us, they made no attempts to cover themselves or hide.
She grinned mischievously, raised her hand, and beckoned for me to come to her, making it clear what she wanted. If most men saw a stunningly beautiful, naked woman show them that they were interested in having sex, they’d either have to be stupid, gay or in a relationship to turn them down.
I was trained to be vigilant, cautious of potentially dangerous people and situations. I started walking towards her, vaguely aware of my fellow sailors doing the same, but I didn’t care.
I only cared about the beautiful redhead, and her enchanting, illustrious singing. I kept walking, my heart pounding with anticipation and excitement, any other thoughts getting pushed farther from my mind the closer I got to her.
My reality came crashing back down on me like a massive tidal wave, and I regained my composure. I looked down and saw that I had unconsciously started removing my clothes.
I looked around and saw my friends in the same stupor, all in similar stages of undress. I looked back at the redhead, preparing to demand answers of what she had done to me, but I realized she was no longer focused on me.
Instead, she and the other women were looking at the end of the rock face, away from where we had come from. Although all the women had stopped singing, the beach wasn’t silent.
A deep baritone voice was singing a song similar to what the women had performed, but it was altered. The women shrieked in terror, pulling my attention away from the approaching singing.
I watched in disbelief as the women in front of me changed. Their fingers and toes became webbed, and their skin became covered in scales.
This was the fear you felt as a child, laying in your bed in the middle of the night when you could have sworn that something made a noise in your closet and that whatever it was, it wasn’t something you’d want to meet. A hand reached up from the ocean, grabbing onto the ledge of the rock face.
It had a humanoid frame, with mottled green skin covered in moss and seaweed. It had four long, muscular arms, with fingers that ended in dagger-like claws.
Its torso was just as massive, and its legs were extremely muscular, having fins and what looked like 12 webbed toes. But just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, the wind from the brewing storm picked up, blowing the creature’s hair away from its face.
By contrast, its lower mouth had no teeth at all, and hung wide open, wider than I thought possible. It was as if its lower jaw wasn’t connected to its skull, and from that gaping maw, came its haunting, terrifying melody.
Every fiber of my being been screaming at me to turn tail and run, and there was nothing more I wanted to do than just that. I was frozen in place, utterly terrified, but completely unable to move.
It continued forward until it was standing directly in front of Tobias. Then, with its four powerful arms, it picked him up and bit his head off in one swift motion.
Blood spurted from the ragged stump where Tobias’s head once was. The monster chewed on Tobias’s head with several sickening crunches, then swallowed the entire mass in one go.
It dropped Tobias’s limp body, turning and moving on to Simon, then Anthony, then Jeffry. Tears were streaming down my face, as I prayed for someone to save me, for a chance to live.
Then, whether it be from divine intervention or just a massive stroke of luck, I was given that chance. The rain from the coming storm had started to pour down around us, and that, combined with the wind, caused a stone about the size of a football to become dislodged from one of the larger rocks the creature and I were standing next to.
It fell, bouncing once off the side of the rock, then hit the creature square in the back of the head. It wasn’t large enough to kill it or even knock it unconscious, but it did cause the creature to lose its focus and stop singing.
I rounded the rock face, sprinting up the beach and towards the cave. I quickly scooped up my bag from our pile of equipment and pulled out my flashlight, clicking it on and stumbling into the cave.
My fellow shipmates were pestering me with questions, wondering what the hell was going on. Once I managed to calm down enough to speak clearly, the captain was in front of me, demanding to know where the others were.
He gathered fifteen other sailors and told me to lead him to where this “monster” was. I said I wouldn’t go anywhere near that place again until we were all wearing noise-canceling headphones and armed to the teeth.
Grudgingly, he obliged, and once we all had rifles, I led them back to the cave, then the beach, and finally the rock face. My captain was furious, thinking that I had brought him out here for nothing more than an elaborate prank, and demanded I tell him where the other four were.
He ordered two of his men to take me back to the ship, while the rest of them started searching for the missing sailors. Hours passed, and the search party never found the missing sailors.
What they did find were several empty beer cans at our picnic spot. After searching the rest of the island for any hint of the missing sailors, we finally went with the captain’s story, and they were declared dead.
I was confined to my quarters for the rest of the voyage, and when we were stateside, I was discharged on the count of insanity. Hell, even my mother thought I had been triggered because of some traumatic memory involving the ocean as a child.
Because when we were leaving Barbuda, I was sitting in my quarters, looking out a porthole. The Victoria happened to pass by the secret beach we had found, and I could have sworn I heard the faintest sound of that monster’s deep haunting tune.
View Entire Discussion (7 Comments)More posts from the no sleep community I was reading on the bed while my boyfriend, Charlie, was playing on the computer with his friends.
I don't play many games, so it's interesting to listen to the things he says to his friends, even if terminology goes over my head sometimes. There will be moments when I'll be focusing on something, and he'll just spout off words that sound extraterrestrial.
I'll just laugh it off and continue with what I was doing, it wasn't my thing, but he enjoyed it, and it wasn't hurting anyone, initially. Like I said I had my nose between the pages reading about various armchair philosophies as Charlie raved on in the background play Call of Duty, I think.
He had won a match and swiveled his chair to face me, like a dog when they did a trick right. He turned back to the computer and talking to his friends again, they were hyping each other up.
“Now that was Loggers.” It was such a random word that it tickled my brain when I heard it and I couldn't help but laugh. Charlie leaned back in his chair as if he was exhausted himself as he swiveled to face me once more.
“I can't believe I just said that unironically-” he echoed my laughter offering a painfully adorable smile. I heard the stairs creak and figured the smell of bacon had lifted Charlie out of bed.
“God I'm tired.” He chuckled before shuffling over to help me finish up with breakfast. We even decided to go on a little impromptu date, the best we could with the world the way it is.
Charlie informed me that “Today was Loggers babe.” I politely replied that if he was trying to mess with me, it was going to get old fast. We both brushed our teeth and in unison spit into the sink, as I was wiping my mouth I could see Charlie leaning in for a kiss.
It was enough to make me recoil away from him, it was like battery acid poured over rotting roast beef. I followed his cue and looked into the sink where we had spit our toothpaste out.
On his side of the sink, however, still clinging to the white porcelain was a thick and frothy substance. It was a sickly yellow with streaks of red they would suggest Charlie's dental hygiene had degraded significantly in just one night.
He quickly reached over and turned the faucet on, opening his mouth he checked out the condition of his teeth, they looked completely fine. It took a good bit of water for the mess he had spit into the sink to budge at all.
Eventually, with the convincing of steaming hot water, it disappeared. With the lights turned off and the dark of a sleeping world creeping in I closed my eyes.
I don't know how long I was asleep for, but I was woken slowly by a small prodding on my shoulder. Charlie was ever so gently poking me, like a child who wants their parent to wake up on Christmas but is afraid to make them angry.
I shuffled my body, still coming out of the throes of deep sleep my body was sluggish and the blankets felt like they weighed thirty pounds. As I turned over I reached behind me to flick on the light and the sudden brightness momentarily stunned my vision.
I started wiping my eye and was about to ask what was wrong when a very familiar and pungent smell assaulted my senses again. I struggled to keep my urge to vomit subdued, this was made all the more difficult when I moved to brace my new position and felt my fingers press against the sheets.
As my fingers pressed down, a hot and viscous liquid rose from the divots I had made. His face had that sickly yellow shit caked onto his face, he looked like an infant that fought hard against eating his baby formula.
His voice was raspy I could tell they were painful, his body would tremble every time he started to speak. Such a horrid sight, watching each letter accompanied by a small spittle of the disgusting liquid and before long I could see how it was about to get worse.
I could see thin trails of smoke lifting from inside his mouth and under his lip. Charlie started to shake more violently as I finally snapped to my senses and ran to the phone.
Dialing 911 as fast as I could, I heard Charlie behind me beginning to shout “Loggers” over and over. I didn't know what to even say to the operator, so I told the lady he had severe burns and trouble breathing.
The liquid had saturated the sheets and bed to the point that they were dripping onto the hardwood. Plumes of smoke rose from the hardwood threatening to bore right through the floor, but it wasn't my biggest concern.
I couldn't help but picture Charlie laying there all night, saying that stupid word over and over, suffering but not wanting to disturb me. He looked so weak, I don't know what that fluid was, but it was taking all the nutrients Charlie needed to function with it.
The whites of his eyes were beginning to stain yellow like a smoker's walls and his skin was so visibly dry I thought he was going to start molting. He barely recognized the man I knew as he rose from the bed, shambling to his feet.
It looked like some cheesy zombie flick with a small budget but seeing it in person, happening to someone I loved, was so painful and scary. I started to worry about my safety as he got closer to me, the same yellow substance dropping from his slack jaw.
The voice was ethereal, it didn't even sound like Charlie anymore. Before Charlie closed in I saw the sanctity of blue and red lights flashing beyond our bedroom window.
Quickly I ran to the front door letting paramedics in and trying to explain to them what was going on as we headed back up the stairs. Charlie looked so weak, but it took the three of them to subdue him as he fought back.
His grotesque saliva burning holes in their clothing, though I don't think they noticed. They made it apparent that I wasn't allowed to go with him as they loaded him into the back of the ambulance.
As they drove away leaving me to my own devices I could see one of the paramedics pressing a needle into Charlie's neck and that was that he was gone. Eventually, I made it back upstairs and started cleaning up the mess.
Luckily the piles of vile no longer burned on contact, though the texture was still enough to make me wince. I didn't think there was a point washing anything, so I just pulled the bed with its covers out to the alleyways and rested them against the garage.
Was so out of it I almost didn't hear the phone ringing, someone from the hospital telling me I could visit. The doctor said it would be difficult for Charlie to speak as he had chewed through his tongue during his night there.
Looking at my boyfriend I could see that even under sedation his jaw was moving up and down, his lips pursed and contorted as if trying to speak. However, with the drugs and the lack of a tongue, all that came out of his mouth were small whistles of air.
As I stared at Charlie I heard something behind me, a commotion caused by another person being rushed into the ER. Turning around I saw one of the paramedics that had helped get Charlie into the ambulance rushing down the hall.
The ambulance drivers speaking low under the (mutter) of voices and the chaos of chirping machinery. Myself and Ryan Harlow, a seventeen-year-old kid from Elk torch High.
We’re sitting in his parent’s garage, in a couple of fold-up camping chairs, with cheap cups of coffee on our laps. An encounter of overwhelming significance, and one which I believe could explain a series of grisly murders -- murders which have gone unsolved, and plagued this sleepy town for close to ten years.
“It’s just a stupid nursery rhyme,” Ryan says, book ending his words with a smirk. He stares at me for a few seconds, a smile playing on the corners of his lips.
The cool demeanor, the dismissive aloofness -- it fades and for a moment I see a twinge of terror, and that’s when I know that I have him. I lean back in the chair and fold my arms, appraising him like my Orientation taught me to do.
If you want to make people talk, I recall my instructor lecturing, then be silent. Moments pass, and finally he breaks the silence.
“You made a post on your social media three days ago. He leans back, picks up his styrofoam coffee cup and takes a sip.
“You in league with demons?” He laughs, tries to play it cool, but the question is genuine. A smile plays on his lips, as if he’s waiting for me to laugh at a joke I made, but I don’t.
The night you took the photo on your Instagram, what events led to that moment?” Perhaps one his older brother orchestrated to make him look foolish.
There’s nothing to be ashamed of.” I place my pen down on the clipboard, taking a breath and letting the veneer of professionalism fall away. “The truth is, Ryan, there’s plenty in this world we don’t have answers for, but only a handful of us are ever visited by such phenomena.
He studies me for several moments, as if determining whether I’m lying to get him to talk. “Go as fast as you’d like.” I click the pen in my hand and beam him a smile.
Her dad took off on a business trip, and he’s fucking’ loaded so there’s plenty of room in the house. Some people are playing beer pong upstairs, and I’m down in the living room hanging with this chick from my English class, Becca.
We’re getting kinda… you know, hot and heavy or whatever, and she starts messing with me.” “Just like, talking shit about spirits and ghosts.” He gives a small laugh and shakes his head.
Nothing harsh.” He swallows, and I catch sight of his hands, still holding his cup in his lap. He scratches his head, his eyes glassy, like he’s remembering a distant memory.
“She says there’s this old legend about something called Snip pity Snap, which I mean, duh. The entire town knows that stupid nursery rhyme.” He takes a breath, it’s deep and when he speaks again his voice cracks.
It’s not uncommon for people who believe they’ve encountered an urban legend to have actually just been heavily influenced by external sources. If somebody tells you something is real with enough vindication, humans have a tendency to believe it.
At first, I was into it, because I thought she was taking us somewhere private to -- well, you know -- but once we started going down the steps I got a real uneasy feeling.” She closed the door behind us, and we walked down the creaky steps in the dark.
Darkness is a key component of the Snip pity Snap summoning ritual. The greater the darkness, the higher the likelihood of a successful summoning.
Most people were on the top level, in Shannon’s game’s room. It’s got a nice big window with a sick view of the city.
“That’s a fine description.” I circle the word Isolated on my clipboard. “So we start walking down those steps, and Becca’s gripping my wrist real hard.
She says we can both fuck around all we want once she proves to me that this thing is real, and I’m drunk enough that I agree. Can you describe that for me please?” Truthfully, I know the ritual full-well.
I’ve even done it myself on several occasions, though all of them proved unsuccessful. It requires an incantation, a pair of scissors, and a human finger.
His face pales, and he pulls his right-hand back into his sleeve. She um -- she takes us to a sink in the basement, and then she pulls a pair of scissors from her purse.” He pauses, shaking his head with a look of disbelief.
He stares at me, and for a moment I think he might refuse, but then he slides his hand out of his sleeve, and there it is. His eyes only look at it for a moment, before quickly wrapping it up again.
Words hang on the edge of his mouth -- I can see them there, trying to break free -- but for one reason or another, he doesn’t say them. “I mean that you’re fairly large for your age and appear to be in decent shape.
If you wanted to break free of this girl and her ritual, it shouldn’t have been much of an issue.” I gesture to him with my hand. “And yet you sit before me, with so many cuts on your finger that it’s hard to tell where one stitching ends and another begins.
“I mean, this shit about the Facility, and investigating urban legends and recognizing the shadow in my picture. He hands the badge back, takes a long sip of his coffee, and closes his eyes.
It’s only now that I notice the heavy bags beneath his eyes, and I idly wonder if he’s gotten any sleep these past few nights. His bravado is beginning to fall away, and I’m starting to see the real Ryan Hallow beneath.
She promised, and she pulled me down into a kiss and I sort of forgot about the pain and… and how fucked all of it was.” Whoever this Becca girl is, she’s familiar enough with the legend to know exactly what it requires to be summoned.
“She cuts me again,” Ryan says, and his expression falls and his lips quiver. It’s just the two of us in the basement, and I know that for a fact because there weren’t any lights on when we got there, and there're no bedrooms.
He shakes his head, and again his hand disappears into his sleeve, gripping at the inside anxiously. Like something’s watching us.” He’s choking the words out now, his body trembling against the torrent of emotions he’s likely feeling.
“ Snip pity Snap, you’ll come back, she says again with the scissors, except now her voice is different.” It’s raw, and serious, and when she cuts me it’s deeper than before, like almost to the bone.” He takes a shuddering breath, and his hand curls inside his sleeve.
I’m starting to think with a clear head again, and I realize nothing’s worth this kind of torture. I tell her she’s fucking nuts and turn to leave, but she grabs my hand and cuts the finger again.
He takes a moment, his teeth gnaw on his bottom lip. “An understandable reaction.” I place my pencil down and center my clipboard on my lap.
The aggressiveness with which Becca wished to instigate the ritual was alarming to say the least, but not unheard of. I wasn’t putting up with it anymore and then…” His voice dies on his lips.
“You saw Snip pity Snap?” Ryan isn’t a small individual, but At that moment he looks like a terrified boy. “It was big, twisted looking, like the thing had crawled straight out of hell.
He takes a sip of coffee, then puts the cup back down with a shiver. “It was impulsive and stupid, but I needed to know that I wasn’t imagining it.
So I snapped the picture and made a run for it, but Becca grabbed me by the ankle. I hit the ground hard.” His hand stops rubbing his neck, and his eyes glisten with newborn tears.
“Laughing?” I frown, hoping I didn’t come all this way for a practical joke. That fucking creature is standing over me, getting ready to cut my head clean off.
“Did you give it an offering?” I ask, excitement lacing my words. I straighten up, flatten my expression and adopt a more serious tone.
“Once she stopped cutting, I realized the creature was gone, and before she could do anything else fucked I booked it up the stairs and got my dad to drive me home.” That some girl half my size held me down with a monster in a basement and cut up my finger?” He snorts, wiping tears from his eyes.
I sigh, reaching across and placing a hand on Ryan’s arm. One second.” He pulls out his phone and navigates to the photograph, then passes the device to me.
It’s similar to what I viewed on his social media, but given the low lighting and shakiness of the photograph, the compression algorithm wreaked havoc on it. For instance, whereas his Instagram showed only a shadow with a faint outline, this one provides additional details.
On the creature’s scissor arms, I see the faint sheen of light against metal. There's a reflection in the steel, a face, though it doesn't look like Ryan's -- probably a consequence of the dim lighting.
I move my eyes over the photo, analyzing the creature and note that within its sewed mouth are a hundred small white dots. It's bow-legged and slouched, with a sort of zigzag to its posture, like a person suffering from severe scoliosis.
I make a note on my clipboard regarding its appearance, and then resume my study of the photo. In the bottom corner of the picture I see a human face.
It’s Becca, no doubt, on the ground after Ryan had knocked her down, looking wild-eyed with a gleeful smile across her face. I make a final notation on my clipboard labeled Survivor.
There was Tina Reese, who wore an eye patch every day and claimed that the hamster in Mr. Trevor’s room had eaten her eyeball out. There was Andy Bale, who always went around smiling but never spoke a single word.
And of course, there was Zach Wilson, who seemed like a nice and quiet kid except the other day Kimberly Lee swore she saw a massive fucking bark scorpion crawling out of his pocket. Anyway, there were a lot of weirdos at Ash borne, but my best friend Hannah wasn’t weird in the slightest bit.
“Because I’m going to show you something way more amazing than a new pair of shoes. I put my hand in my pocket and touched the fuzz of my little kitten-shaped coin purse, where I put the two quarters my dad gave me every day so that I could save up and buy the furry leather lace-up boots in the store window of Macy’s.
That much I knew, from the day two springs ago when she came to school crying. She told me her mom had kicked her dad out of the house, screaming and threatening and all that.
I knew Hannah missed her dad, because she would sometimes show us pictures on her phone and tell us stories of what a cool dad he was, how he was a watchmaker and would sometimes make her these tiny little windup toys that would move and talk to her with little doll-mouths. That had made everyone feel sort of awkward, especially because Hannah started tearing up, and Kimberly had sauntered down the hallway muttering to herself.
Hannah pushed open the door to her pink-and-blue room and walked over to her closet, which was plastered with faded stickers and posters of boy bands. She opened the closet door, and sitting inside was a corpse.
We were lucky Hannah’s mom wasn’t home, because she would have surely heard us. Or maybe Hannah had known this would happen, so she brought me to her house when her mom wasn’t there.
I wanted to look at her to see if she was serious, but I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the corpse. The pale and bony body sitting on the floor of Hannah’s closet was that of a small boy, something like twelve years old though it was hard to tell with his shriveled skin and sagging features.
He was dressed in white linens as if he had been prepared for a burial that never happened. His eyes were closed and his head lolled limply, and in my catch-breaths I caught a hint of a faint sickening stench.
She rolled her eyes, stuck her hand in my pocket, and fished out my kitten-shaped coin purse. She zipped it open and shook out two quarters, and then crouched down by the corpse in the closet.
With stiff movements, I lowered myself to be eye-level with the white shriveled body. A shudder went through me as I studied the papery crinkles and pores of its skin.
Without even a bit of hesitation, Hannah tipped open the jaw of the little boy and stuck her fingers into his mouth. I almost gagged as she parted his yellowed teeth and used her thumb to peel the stiff grayish tongue from the bottom of his mouth.
Even as I recoiled in disgust, I could see the narrow horizontal slit in the skin under the boy’s tongue. Hannah took the two quarters and slipped them into the slit, then sat back and grinned.
I watched the corpse, partly dismissive about Hannah’s ridiculous claim that her dead brother could come back alive, and partly terrified of the but what if he did. A tinge of pink gradually returned to his cheeks and even his long messy hair seemed to regain some of its color, a similar golden brown to Hannah’s pony tailed curls.
As I watched in disbelief, small, muffled clicking noises began to emanate from the boy’s chest. The boy blinked, smiled, and hugged her back.
Mom caught me stealing quarters from her purse, and now she won’t give me any money.” The boy buried his nose in Hannah’s shoulder.
Close to the end of our second hour, Tax put down his controller in the middle of a game and sat back on the fuzzy pink carpet. When we looked at Tax, his cheeks were starting to turn pale.
I put my hand in my pocket and thumbed the fuzz of my coin purse. I took a short breath, thinking about the boots in the Macy’s store window.
Then his eyes slid closed, the muted clicking of his heartbeat slowed, and his body crumpled limply onto the floor. The blood drained from his face and his skin turned gray, and in just a few moments, he had become the skeletal corpse again.
I went to Hannah’s house with my coin purse every Tuesday and Thursday. Each time, Hannah requested two quarters and slid them into the slot under Tax’s tongue.
Tax came alive, a trace of relief in his eyes as if waking from a long nightmare, and we spent the afternoon playing video games and sharing the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that Hannah’s mom had left for her in the fridge before going to work. Two hours later, Tax would slowly sink back into cold unmoving death, and Hannah would pick him up gently, hug his bony white body, and put him back in her closet.
One day, as the end of Tax’s two hours approached, I pulled out my coin purse and shook out four more quarters. “She put Tax in a garbage bag and threw him in the dumpster.
Hannah took the quarters from my hand and stuffed them back into my purse. “That’s not true,” Tax whimpered, his eyes full of pain.
Tax opened his mouth to say something back, but at that moment the clicking of his heartbeats began to fade. “I’m going to call my Dad,” Hannah muttered, pulling out her phone.
I tried to remind myself of the furry boots at Macy’s, but all I could think about was how much time all of those quarters could buy for Tax. “He’s happy with two,” Hannah said as she put his body back in the closet.
Sooner or later he’ll try to go to her, because he won’t believe I’m telling the truth about her.” I went home for the evening, and in the weeks that followed, neither I nor Tax acknowledged the extra quarters in my purse.
Hannah and I were downstairs in the kitchen fetching the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches from the fridge, when I noticed something was missing. We ran upstairs and threw open the door to Hannah’s room.
He was bleeding from his mouth, the slot under his tongue split and torn from stuffing inch-thick stacks of quarters through at once. He looked up at Hannah with a strange mix of anger and sorrow in his eyes.
Hannah scrambled to pick it up and look inside. “You’ve been keeping me prisoner in this room for years,” he said, his voice cracking around the edges.
She yanked open a drawer, dug deep beneath piles of old magazines and tangled cables, and closed her hand around something small and shining. In her hand she raised a small silver key, intricately cut and studded with tiny jewels like it was part of an expensive watch.
Only when she yanked down Tax’s collar did I notice the thin silver keyhole set into the nape of his neck. He ducked away, kicked a chair into Hannah’s knees, scrambled up onto her desk, and threw open the window.
Blood dripped down his chin and tears filled his eyes. Then he jumped out the window, and Hannah screamed his name, and I heard the soft thump of a body hitting the lawn below.
Then we heard the scrabbling of footsteps, bare feet pattering on grass. By the time we ran up to the window and looked down, Tax was nowhere to be seen.
If he was looking for his mom, Tax should have come back home by the evening. I walked up and down the neighborhood streets, looking into storefronts and alleyways, until I had to go home because my parents would worry.
I racked my brain to remember how many quarters I had in the coin purse. Hannah fell silent at the thought of her brother collapsing on the streets and returning to a corpse.
We discussed whether something like that would be on the news, and in her desperation, Hannah decided to take comfort in the fact that they never mentioned Tax on television. I only hear muffled fragments of the words coming from her phone, but her dad sounds like a pretty nice person.
If you see a little boy on the streets whose heartbeat sounds like clockwork, please let me know. And if you stumble upon the white withered corpse of what used to be a boy, out in broad daylight with nothing to suggest how he died or where he came from, please hide him in a safe place and look under his stiff dead tongue.
In the bottom corner of the picture I see a human face. It’s Becca, no doubt, on the ground after Ryan had knocked her down, looking wild-eyed with a gleeful smile across her face.
I make a final notation on my clipboard labeled Survivor. I stand up straight, reach into my jacket pocket and pull out my badge.
Her name is Becca Galen, and I believe she’s been in contact with an urban legend known as Snip pity Snap. Presently, she’s wearing a green turtleneck with blue jeans, and a scowl the length of her face.
Her eyes look me over, and then she glances back inside her single-story house, as though making sure the coast is clear. I was cautioned that due to recent Events, knowledge of the Facility’s existence may have grown more widespread.
Her face turns shades of anxious as she ushers me inside. Before she closes the door, she scans the front yard and the rest of the street.
“I spend a lot of time on the Deep Web. She rummages through a wooden cupboard and a moment later pulls out a kettle and a couple of tea bags.
“Hope you like English Breakfast,” she says, filling the kettle with water. I pull out a chair at the kitchen table, then open my briefcase and retrieve my clipboard and forms.
Strictly speaking, I should be requesting their permission before interviewing a minor.” “My mom doesn’t live here, and my dad’s at work -- don’t worry though,” she adds, “Neither of them care.
“I see.” I attach the forms to the clipboard and pull my pen from my pocket. I notate that Becca Gal dun is a child of separated parents.
It's a minor detail, but one potentially important in determining her motivations and impulses. My eyes scan down the form, and read the heading labeled INTERVIEW ENVIRONMENT.
The fridge is old, its white surface stained an off-yellow color and peppered with magnets. A short distance away is the stove, and between the two is a dull, metal sink.
Its blinds are closed, blocking the glare of the setting sun. He doesn’t make much money and needs to pick up shifts where he can.” She pulls a couple of teaspoons out of a drawer.
Am I correct in saying that you attended a house party on 321 Kendra Ave with one Ryan Hallow?” She shuts off the tap, closes the kettle lid and plugs it in.
The second question I asked was a small lie, one used to determine the validity of a potential informant. It ensures multiple stories can be corroborated.
Don’t think I haven’t heard about the experiments you did to make the Man with the Red Notepad a reality.” “That…” I begin, unsure how to phrase it without giving away pertinent intelligence.
You talk to people like me who have met the monsters you want to subdue. She looks me over, her eyes flicking from my clipboard, to my face.
“I also know that you were hired after an Interviewer posted an encounter with an entity known as Jagged Janice. She turns back to the counter and drops a couple of teabags into two mugs.
Then she unplugs the kettle, and pours the boiling water inside. She cracks the lid and takes a spoonful, dropping it into the steaming mugs.
I felt ecstatic about the prospect of chaining an Entity in my first month on the job. She appraises me, leaning forward and resting her chin on her steeped fingers.
The asshole stabbed her six times with a sewing needle, then cut her throat with a pair of scissors.” She picks up her tea, gives it a gentle blow, and then takes a sip.
One of these poems was read at her funeral, and the local paper published it.” After the paper published it, and since the events surrounding her death were so horrible, kids picked it up and started running with it.
I remember getting emails when I was in high school about an entity known as Snip pity Snap. They contained an old nursery rhyme, but I had always assumed the origin of it would be much older than ten or so years.
Snip pity Snap, please don’t come hack “Some friends and I were chanting it one night,” Becca says, squeezing her scarred finger.
I don’t think a single one of us thought anything would actually happen, but back then we didn’t have smartphones to entertain ourselves, so we had to get creative.” I flip through my clipboard to the form entitled ORIGIN APPARATUS.
I check a box labeled ATTEMPTS and then place a single tally beside it. Knowing the rough number of times before a summoning succeeds is important, particularly if we intend on capturing the Entity in question.
I feel for this entire town and everybody who’s suffered from this urban legend, but I can’t pretend I’m not excited. It’s something I recognize from the instructional videos I watched only a couple of weeks prior.
“So you can just turn around and hand those details to the FBI as soon as I’m finished talking?” Her fingers grip her coffee mug, and they dance along its circumference. I cycle several pages on my clipboard, then I stop at the one labeled FIRST APPEARANCE.
To see it there, this monster with two giant scissors for arms and that horrible, sewed face with its loose flesh and all of those eyes.” It occurs to me that informants must feel incredibly vulnerable sharing these harrowing Events.
To go back to whatever circle of hell it crawled out of…” She stops suddenly, and I think I've upset her again, but I catch her glancing toward the hallway. In any case, Snip pity Snap is a creature that requires a summoning to appear, and such parameters haven’t been met.
It caught her arm when she tried to make a break for it -- to run past the thing. The only thing keeping it together was a few strings of flesh.” Becca's expression trembles, the muscles on her face twitching with the onset of coming tears.
She stifles a sob and wipes her runny nose onto her sleeve. “I'll never forget the overwhelming smell of blood, and the sound of Heather screaming.
“A metallic sound.” A sensation begins to grow in my chest, my adrenaline spiking. The sound is so faint, so quiet, that I’m wondering if maybe I’ve allowed myself to become too invested in Becca’s story.
“Heather’s bawling and there’s blood everywhere, and I see that creature’s mouth open and close, with all of its eyes, and a sound escapes, and I realize it’s speaking.” “Speaking?” The scissor sound is gone now, and I’m beginning to think I may have imagined it.
I don’t know if I just saw the writing on the wall because of what it did to Heather, or if I was attuned to it or something but… I knew what it wanted. “Suffer like it had?” A thought crosses my mind, and I stop writing for a moment, staring across at Becca.
Her hands are shaking so much that the tea spills over the rim, scalding her. I freeze, the sudden intensity of the moment feeling wrong and out of place.
“I’ll deal with it.” She gets up and walks to the stove, ripping a rag off the oven handle. She uses it to dab at the wet table, sucking on her burnt hand as she does so.
Hearing Becca speak, the concept of Snip pity Snap being a vengeful spirit is a plausible theory, and one that I make certain to write down in full. She looks up at me then, her eyes and mine, and I see a worry in her expression.
She closes her eyes, takes a deep breath and then brings a hand to her mouth to stifle a sob. People nobody gives a fuck about.” She steps away, and a moment later the dim, flickering kitchen light goes out.
Ryan grabs my hand in a flash, pulling the scissors down from my throat and closing them on my index finger. The pain of the shears slashing my fingers is dull, faded against the backdrop of my boiling adrenaline.
Ryan has one of my hands, and I’m quite certain he could overpower me even without Becca’s help, but I still have my service weapon. “It’s not working,” Ryan says, and I faintly see blood running down my finger.
Ryan shuffles around me, and I realize that my window to draw my weapon and get out of this situation is quickly deteriorating. I take a sharp breath and lunge sideways, reaching for my sidearm, but Ryan’s quicker.
He tackles me to the ground and grabs both of my arms, wrestling them behind my back and holding them there. “Fucking Christ…” I mutter, my face pressed against the cold linoleum.
I’m beginning to wonder if Becca’s father even lives here. A shoe rests on my face, and I hear Becca’s shrill laughter.
You thought that just because big daddy government handed you a job working at their spooky old Facility, that you were beyond the reach of monsters.” Her sneaker kicks me in the cheek, and I feel pain blossom across my face. “Let me tell you a secret,” she says, and I realize her voice is closer now, nearly against my ear.
She grabs my finger while Ryan holds my arms tight behind my back. “Let’s try this again,” she says, closing the scissors on my finger and drawing blood.
I slam my eyes shut, roaring in agony. “Aw, he thinks somebody’s going to hear him,” Becca says in a doting voice.
“Well if you didn’t bitch out earlier, Snip pity Snap would already be here!” Three more cuts in rapid succession. I wasn’t lying when I said it was a real picture of Snip pity Snap, though.
“You grabbed the dead kid’s phone, and then played it off like you took the picture?” “We figured we might attract some weirdos interested in the paranormal -- some awkward kids with no friends.
Ryan on the other hand seems different, almost like he’s being manipulated along for the ride in Becca’s master plan. If you stop this now we can put it behind us, and that means no prison and no charges.
I scream so hard that my throat becomes raw and my body writhes in anguish, my eyes sting as they let loose a torrent of tears and my adrenaline spikes, causing my legs to kick out and my torso to twist violently. She grabs my face, stuffing my amputated finger into my mouth.
“That’s enough talking from you.” I choke on it for a moment before spitting it out, bawling in pain. My pain dulls in the face of my racing heart, and mounting panic.
“I see it, dumbass.” Becca steps in front of me, and I see the blue of her jeans, just barely in the inky blackness. It speaks in that terrible, sharp and jagged sewing machine voice Becca described.
A shadow in the dark, save for its two gleaming steel shears, and those many eyes, swimming inside its flesh-sewn mouth. It speaks again, that whirring, terrible sewing machine ramble.
I know you think it’s worth it, these blood offerings, but Becca Gal dun’s the one who’s chained you here. She’s the one who ripped you out of your afterlife, and brought you here to make people suffer.
Becca’s foot connects with my face, and I hear a sharp crack. The pain tells me my cheekbone just fractured, badly enough that I can feel blood trailing down my jaw, but it’s hardly a consideration.
I feel Ryan lift his hand from my wrist, clambering toward my face and that’s when I move. I roll over, my hand darting inside my jacket and even as Ryan grabs me by my hair and smashes my skull against the linoleum floor, it’s already too late.
There’s a loud bang and a blinding flash, and Ryan stumbles off of me with a look of confusion on his face. Becca rushes at me, but I swing my hand back and bash her across the face with the pistol grip.
I only look at her for a moment, my breath heaving in my chest, before my attention is pulled toward the real danger. I study it, wrestling against my fight or flight response and trying to determine a game plan.
The creature’s not moving that quickly, with its crooked legs and twisted spine. I could dump a clip of bullets into Snip pity Snap and blow the creature away.
I’d fire them straight down its throat, into that flesh-sewn mouth, and its hundred white eyes. That won’t work either, because the truth is Snip pity Snap isn’t the real monster here.
My eyes drift to Becca, she's groaning on the ground, a hand against her battered jaw. A thought occurs to me between the snap of the shears and Becca’s shrill demands for blood.
“Give them to me, or I blow your brains all over the kitchen floor.” I glance at Ryan’s corpse, jerking my head toward it. There’s a glint of defiance in her eyes, but I think she realizes Snip pity Snap isn’t moving fast enough to get to me in time.
I keep my pistol steadied on her as I reach down to pick them up. It shambles toward me slowly, it’s voice speaking in that mechanical whir.
I bring the blades to my hand, still holding the pistol, and extend my undamaged index finger. I close the scissors on my flesh, cutting across my finger and loudly announce.
It was a Hail Mary, but I thought maybe if the first lines had summoned the creature, then the last ones could send it back. Shooting Hope feels wrong, given her tortured existence, and beyond that it’s probably pointless.
To get away, return to the Facility and come back with some reinforcements to deal with this creature. I take another step back, into the pitch darkness of the hallway.
It’ll Snap you the moment you rest those tired eyes.” I snarl, my finger twitching on the trigger and desperate to put six rounds into Becca’s head.
She deserves to die for everything she’s done -- for the willing horror she’s inflicted on so many, and the gleeful torment she put me through. She needs to offer herself to Snip pity Snap to end this curse once and for all.
If she dies without Snip pity taking its toll, then who knows if there’s even a way to put that genie back in the bottle. The creature could roam the world forever, snapping people until the end of time.
Its feet plod forward, slapping against the floor with each step while its scissors drag behind it, squealing as they carve up the linoleum. As it passes the kitchen table, the creature suddenly stops.
She stares up at Snip pity Snap, only six or seven feet away, slack jawed with a lost look on her face. Snip pity's head tilts downward, and its hundred eyes begin vibrating in horrid excitement.
Ryan's arm twitches, and he tries to raise himself onto his hands and knees, but he's lost too much blood. There’s a thud, and Ryan’s messy head of hair rolls across the kitchen floor.
Tears escape her face, and this time I know they’re genuine. She stumbles to her feet, as Snip pity Snap starts plodding forward again.
Again, the kitchen’s illuminated for the briefest of moments by the flash of gunfire. Becca drops, knees bleeding and voice screaming.
She squirms on the ground, whimpering as each movement of her arms and legs prove too agonizing to complete. Behind her, Snip pity Snap’s shears open and close, its feet slapping the linoleum with each labored step.
A few feet away from her, Snip pity Snap takes the first steps into Becca’s trail of blood. It speaks again in that strange, sewing-machine voice, and somehow I sense a level of glee in it.
Snip pity Snap’s feet step over her, its scissor blades pressing her neck to the floor. It’ll kill you unless you let me keep it away from you!” Her eyes are wild again, desperate.
Becca’s head rolls toward my feet, bumping against my leather shoe. Her tongue lolls from her mouth, and her messy eyeshadow runs down her cheek, wet from the tears staining her face.
For a moment, I see her eyes moving, full of terror and rage, and then they’re still again. I heave a sigh and stumble along the wall before flicking on the dim light.
As I pass through the kitchen, I step over the two corpses on the floor, each of them riddled with bullets from my service weapon. I grab a clean rag from the oven handle and wrap my still-bleeding wound.
A short distance away from me, I spot my finger on the floor, lying in a pool of three different people's blood. It's pale and pruned and a reminder of just how arrogant I was in underestimating Becca Gal dun.
My fingers find the handles of several drawers, pulling them open and slamming them closed, one after another. I fish some ice out of Becca's freezer, and then drop my amputated digit inside before sealing it shut.
Two high schoolers shot dead, riddled with bullets and beheaded, with the only weapons in sight being a pair of scissors and a firearm registered under my name. If the public gets a whiff that there really are monsters under their beds, it'll lead to widespread civil unease.
My conscience roars inside me, and it only takes a moment before I realize I can't go back there. Once that happened, it'd probably take them a matter of hours before they tore Hope's soul back through the ether, and sentenced her to another lifetime of torment and death.
Not until I give up what I know and tell them how to summon Snip pity Snap. While it's true they might be able to glean most of the ritual from the details I've provided here, I intentionally left out a key component.
I disappear and make a new life, under a new identity, and hopefully never hear the words ‘Snip pity Snap’ ever again. In case something happens to me, I think the public deserves to know that I wasn’t the monster here; Becca Gal dun was.
Oh, and if you hear anybody singing the Snip pity Snap nursery rhyme, do yourself a favor and make sure they don’t have a pair of scissors with them. Hearing Becca speak, the concept of Snip pity Snap being a vengeful spirit is a plausible theory, and one that I make certain to write down in full.
She looks up at me then, her eyes and mine, and I see a worry in her expression. She closes her eyes, takes a deep breath and then brings a hand to her mouth to stifle a sob.
Becca wipes the last of the tea from the table, then tosses the rag into the sink. Her arm was practically amputated, and she'd painted the bathroom red with her blood.” She sits down in the chair and puts her head in her hands.
“Besides, it wasn’t like any of us were escaping while that... thing was standing in front of the door.” I write the details down, but each word digs a pit in my stomach.
A sickening sadness grows inside me for that poor girl. Becca’s eyes appear from her hands, and her cheeks are wet with tears.
I stare at her, wondering if her terminology was an accident, intentional, or a psychological slip. I reach for my mug and take a sip, reminding myself not to judge too harshly.
To be confronted by a nightmare at her age would drive anybody to act in strange ways. “After you offered it Heather, what did it do to her?” I’m not sure I want to hear the answer, but I know that it’s important.
Her eyes are red and puffy, and a trail of snot winds its way from her nose to her lip. It’s um,” she wipes her leaky nose onto her sweater sleeve.
“On the bright side though, we didn’t have to listen to Heather screaming anymore. I lean back in my chair, taking a breath and looking over my notes.
After two other people were killed, the police finally realized my dad was innocent. Pieces begin to connect in my mind, and I’m not certain I like the look of the puzzle.
The presence of identical massacres made them acknowledge your father's innocence.” Its last rays cast shadows across the room, filtering in through the narrow openings in the blinds.
The way they play across Becca's face, it's difficult to discern her expression. “Are you fucking kidding me?” She slams a hand on the table, shooting up out of her chair.
You don’t think that shit keeps me up at night, hating myself and wishing I had the courage to just let Snip pity Snap take me instead?” I speak my next words with a measured calmness, though my heart’s beginning to race in my chest.
She glares at me, one side of her face draped in shadow, the other bathed in shrinking sunlight. We sit in a tense silence, and the corners of her mouth twitch with unsaid words, but she keeps her lips pressed together.
She closes her eyes, runs both hands through her dark hair, and groans. She doesn’t want to tell me this next part, but then her mouth opens, her voice cracks, and it all spills out.
My pen scratches at my clipboard, my eyes straining in the waning light, and I’m beginning to believe Becca Gal dun isn’t the girl I thought she was. She chose to massacre innocent people, multiple times, all to save herself.
She reaches a hand up and grips a clump of her air, pulling at it with a pained, manic glint in her eyes. I notice her teeth nervously chewing on her lip, and a thin trail of blood snakes its way down her chin.
I clear my throat, pocketing my pen and rising from the table. I let my unease slip into my voice, and I hope she doesn’t notice.
“I’m not finished telling you my story though,” Becca says, and this time the tears are gone. I lower a hand to my side, where my service weapon is holstered within my jacket.
“I think the good part can wait until tomorrow.” I give her a curt nod and a false smile, and turn around to leave.
Ryan Hallow is towering in front of me, a pair of scissors in his hand. There’s the squeal of a chair sliding on linoleum, and a moment later Becca strides in front of me, just behind Ryan.
“You actually walked right in here after hearing Ryan’s sob story, and now I’ve got a perfect offering that nobody is going to be looking for or talking about.” “But the Facility isn’t going to risk revealing itself to the public in the name of avenging some stupid intern.
In the meantime though, you’ll keep Snip pity Snap satisfied for another few months.” “Listen,” I say, and with each word I can feel my Adam’s apple dig against the scissor blade.
I have enormous resources, more than you can possibly know and--” “I know all about your resources,” Becca snaps, grabbing me by my hair and pulling my throat against the edge of the shears.
You think I’m going to risk pissing Snip pity Snap off, just on the off chance some fresh out of Orientation dimwit can solve a nightmare I’ve suffered with for a decade?” She lets go with a violent jerk, and I wince as the blade slides across my flesh, drawing more blood.
Her face contorts in a mixture of revulsion and glee, and I realize this is the real Becca. People nobody gives a fuck about.” She steps away, and a moment later the dim, flickering kitchen light goes out.
Ryan grabs my hand in a flash, pulling the scissors down from my throat and closing them on my index finger. One girl, a real nasty job, I didn’t even get to meet.
By the time I turned up the whole family had been crammed into the oven and the house had burned down. We weren’t there… We try to do some outreach, but it’s hard with the government mandate stopping us from going public.
The truth is that when the supernatural turns up on your doorstep, you’ll likely choose not to believe it. These kids aren’t X-Men, levitating remotes or mowing the lawn with their minds.
It's not easy when your six-year-old tells you the date and time of your death. Or you give them a bad row and the following morning you wake up with an abscess the size of a tennis ball filling your mouth like a ball-gag.
It’s funny to read if you don’t know what’s at stake. Introducing your gifted child to the concept of death, as early as possible, is essential to long-term safety.
Examples of traditional folklore you should avoid discussing with your child include: Phrases like “a better place” can become real to them in a way they’ll never be for an adult.
They visit grandma in a parlor somewhere, everyone’s crying, everyone’s sad, and their mother won’t let them open the box to see the old woman who gave them candy every week. One of my early cases was a young girl, sweet as can be.
Her parents, bless them, hoped it’d lead to a better life, but they made the mistake of asking when they’d die and the answer wasn’t what they wanted. It broke my heart to visit that little girl, to sit and play the Wii with her, laugh with her, and then look back in the kitchen and see her mother standing there with a distant look in her eyes.
The little girl couldn’t understand why her parents jumped when she looked at them, or shivered when she hugged them. They still loved her, but you could see they’d spent every second of every day counting down the moments.
It was up to me to make sure the little girl understood the reality of death, that much I managed. She’d been confused for a few weeks by that point, but her parents refused to answer her questions.
“I shouldn’t have told mummy about the yellow car,” she whispered, her eyes tearing up as her little mind grasped such a big idea. “Mummy shouldn’t have asked,” I replied a little too quickly, letting my emotions rise to the surface.
I figured with any luck the mother and father would learn to live with what they knew and not drive themselves mad thinking about how to avoid it. Most people though, they get so blinded by the specifics they don’t see the big picture.
In the kitchen, all the cupboard doors had been thrown open and she’d clearly started hacking away at old tins of food with a knife. There were even empty packs of pasta where she’d been eating the stuff dry and uncooked.
At first, I thought her parents had killed themselves, and she’d been forced to survive on her own for a short while. But when I asked her I got an answer that made my blood run cold.
“A beach that goes on forever and ever in all directions, and you can eat as much as you want because the grass grows fruit and candy and there’s no one to tell you what to do so father never has to go to work again and mummy never has to worry about being fat because no one will ever see her get bigger and father will love her no matter what because he said so and…” She held up a piece of paper with blue crayon and beige lines scribbled all over the place.
It was a kid’s interpretation of the beach, an explosion of colors and poorly drawn shapes that composed the background. There were two black-and-white photorealistic figures, frozen in time, hands held to the sides of their head as a silent scream escaped from their lips.
They push at the boundaries of the page, sometimes even go around the other side. I still hold out hope the girl will come back and pull them out, worse for wear but ultimately alive.
I like to think the government rounds them up and finds them a place where they can help the world with their powers. But most of these kids aren’t cut out to be fry cooks, let alone super-soldiers.
Part of my job is minimizing the threat these kids pose to relatives and society at large. In the movies if some gravedigger spots the undead grandma hauling her ass out of the ground and shuffling towards the horizon, all you have to do is spray him with whiskey and hope no one believes him.
Kids who speak to the dead can be the worst because it turns out, whatever’s on the other side, it drives the average person fucking insane. But the truth, I’m not so sure it can even fit inside one person’s head.
The glimpse I had was bad enough to net me six months in a mental health facility. It started when some poor boy had brought his grandfather back without even realizing.
Next thing was I got a phone call from the parents who’d locked themselves in the bathroom. And even though I was on probationary training, I didn’t call up my supervisor.
I made the mistake of treating it as a problem that could be solved for x. I thought having an answer would do something, help me in some way… I managed to find Grandpa staring at the bathroom door, formaldehyde leaking out his asshole and dripping onto the floor.
Those eyes looked at me with an unspeakable hatred, a venomous glare bad enough to made me stumble back, keeping far out of his reach. They burst out of my mouth and I asked so many, so quickly, I don’t even remember what they were.
When the old man spoke it was like his voice carried an epoch of suffering and weariness. I was looking at a soul that had been put through the ringer, twisted, washed, cleansed, battered, and abused.
I almost asked a follow-up question but good God, something inside me choked and stopped the words. If I let myself start asking questions like, “who’s doing the serving?” my mind just doesn’t stop.
I spent six months going in circles, reading old case files hoping to learn more. That word stills calls out to me a few times a day, scattering my thoughts like rats before a torchlight.
Minimizing the harm done by these kids can be hard when it’s at risk of putting you in a rubber room. Like I said, the only thing on our side is that 99% of people just don’t want to face the truth of what’s underneath all the mundane boring shit we call “daily life”.
It takes a kind of twisted mind to imagine the world the way a kid does, and more importantly, to think of all the ways it can go wrong. Even parents who know better, reasonable intelligent people who are doing the best they can, will still make a few mistakes here and there.
The best they can hope for is that it doesn’t backfire and wipe out half the town. That’s when the other half of my job comes in: clean up.
Most of the time it’s the guys with mops, buckets, and a very strong stomach. Other times it’s a nasty man in a suit who knows how to stop the neighbor from posting photos to the internet.
But the Geiger counters they left behind still haven’t stopped clicking. Talking about tooth fairies, in some parts of the world they’re very real.
Do you know how fucking scary the idea of a tooth fairy is to the average child? Let’s just say what some kid dreamed up in the eighties is exactly what you’d expect from a being who steals teeth for a living.
Its face is nothing but a palate with teeth growing all over the damn thing, so that there’s barely a sliver of gum wider than a finger. And the teeth stink… they’re all rotting and yellow like a meth addict’s.
And this thing goes around taking teeth and whenever an old one falls out of its… well I’ll call it a head, but I’m not exactly an anatomist. But anyway, when one falls out, it takes one of the teeth it's collected from kids’ mouths and finds a new home for it.
Its muscular arms shake as it forces the root through flesh and cartilage, and I swear the sounds it makes are cries, but who knows? I always hoped the damn thing would disappear when the kid grew up but no, it’s apparently still out there, climbing gutters and drainage pipes using its arms because the kid who dreamed it, dreamed it with no legs.
And they think things in a way we can’t easily predict. Even the difficult ones, the ones with learning difficulties, or emotional problems, they’ll show regret when they realize that their actions have hurt people.
People hurt each other all the time but the vast majority of us don’t do it knowingly. I don’t know a whole load about ‘em, just enough to help me identify them in my work.
But they’re the kids who are ambivalent to the pain they cause because they just don’t care. Most of ‘em are narcissists, content to chase dreams of money and sex because it gives them a thrill.
They just tend not to be bothered when I explain to them that, after what they did to their little brother, he won’t be able to play any more Xbox with them. It takes a lot of moving parts to come together so that you make a person who enjoys hurting others.
I read once that most serial killers have lower IQs because the average psychopath knows damn well that the cost-benefit analysis of murder isn’t in their favor. Murder is hard and the pay-off is usually quite small, and a smart psychopath knows that.
Society imposes enough consequences to keep most people in line. If I can demonstrate the presence of sadism, and a total absence of remorse and empathy, in a child I can request permission to euthanize them.
Those kids didn’t know what waited at the end of the road if they failed the tests… Not even their parents knew. We had sixteen teachers suffer kidney failure in a single year and that’s what flagged his hometown for further investigation.
Looking at the injuries some of these teachers had suffered, I was convinced that we were dealing with a teenager who had latent abilities. That kind of cruel spite is usually reserved teenagers.
What you don’t expect is to see that the other kids in Bradley’s class look a little like him, that parents all over the place have been crying havoc to local scientists who simply don’t have any answers. They got these photos of their kids just a few years before Bradley moved in, and they look different.
We had to cull a lot of people to bring things back to normal and even then Bradley wouldn’t just let us kill his main source of computing power. Some things he just couldn’t learn from pilfering the average person’s brain but in our labs he was like a kid in a candy store.
Putting him in a room with our scientists was guaranteed to end badly. We don’t let scientists out in the field now just in case another telepath picks up some useful tips.
A burst pancreas here, a brain-bleed there, turning your blood to something the consistency of pudding... We still hold annual conferences trying to figure out what Bradley was, what his end-game was.
We’d just found him in his home, sure enough, and he was odd, definitely intelligent beyond all reason. “There’s no one like me,” the little boy replied, and his eyes fixed on my boss like daggers.
Next thing I know my boss is shaking, convulsing, blood is foaming out his mouth, his nose, his ears… When they finally got around to doing an autopsy on the old man, they say that there was barely anything left inside his skull. What little of his brain remained was pooled at the base of his skull, like the final dregs of milkshake at the bottom of a cup.
After two years of watching him massacre his way through a small town, and then our labs, all while wondering when he’d finally set his sights on some bigger prey, I decided I couldn’t just let him carry on. Throw in an ego the size of a planet, and they often lack that essential humility beaten into most of us by adulthood.
But truth is I think Bradley could leave the drawing whenever he wants to. Sooner or later the page will be lost, destroyed, maybe even intentionally.
Bradley must have seen right through into whatever afterlife there is, and he did so with such clarity it’d put all the other kids to shame. I think he knows sooner or later he’s going to end up on the other side and there’s nothing he can do to stop it.
All that’s left to him is to put as much distance between the beginning of his life and its end, and he knew from experience he could make all kinds of special places where time runs slower than the norm. A cloud-computing telepath who borrowed other people’s minds strengthening his own powers.
That’s the kind of feedback loop that could end the world, maybe even the universe. We’re glad he called it quits, although it unsettles me to think of the reason.
The one filled with recyclable cups and microwave TV dinners. You hear that, and you think it must be a thing of wonder to have that kind of knowledge.
I just think of Bradley... a literal god amongst humans who took one hard long look and fled with his tail between his legs. Before I get the kind of lecture I’d expect from my father, I know that it’s a risky move to walk home alone at night.
The kind of place where people don’t shoot up in bed worried because they can’t remember if they locked their doors. I’ve stumbled home drunk more than a few times myself, only to discover my keys long forgotten in the lock outside the next morning.
Nobody really worried because nothing bad really happened here, not until a few months ago. Up until now, it wasn’t actually considered that dangerous to walk alone after dark here.
I don’t have a car and the public transportation system here is basically nonexistent. I’m saving up to finally get myself a vehicle, but it’s a bit of a vicious cycle.
We’ve seen a startling number of victims who’ve all met their end at the hands of a frenzied knife attacker over the past few months. First it was one murder every so often, but now sometimes multiple victims are found after a single night.
All of these people were simply going about their business as usual, walking home after dark from work or a friend’s place or the store. Many of them died just yards from the safety and comfort of their homes, some mere steps away from their front doors.
We’ve been forced to confront the fact that we almost certainly have a serial killer on our hands. With all of this weighing heavy on my mind, I guess you’ll all understand why I was terrified to find myself out on the street hours past nightfall and out of options.
It started with the same-old, same-old stuff; he’s incredibly jealous, aggressively possessive. Despite my being faithful for the several years we’ve been together, he’s never learned to trust me.
The busses had stopped running for the night and the walk to the nearest bus stop probably would’ve been longer than the walk back home. I briefly considered knocking on a neighbor’s door but stopped myself… I didn’t want to make a fuss.
His motives to kill didn’t come from the normal things I’d expect. He didn’t hate his mom, he wasn’t angry at his first girlfriend for leaving him… he wasn’t killing a specific type of victim to live out his fantasies of vengeance against those he’d felt had wronged him.
With this realization, I found myself walking at a brisk pace, much quicker than usual. Before the onslaught of brutal killings, I used to enjoy my walks home, used to savor the quiet of the town after dark.
It used to feel like the world belonged to me, like everything had slowed down for my enjoyment alone, like I was the only person left on the planet. In my mind, I wasn’t the only person anymore; instead, it was just me and the knife-wielding fiend, hellbent on my destruction.
My senses were on high alert so that I wouldn’t get caught off guard. It was probably because of this heightened vigilance that I heard the sound from behind me, the first sign to prove that I was as far from alone as I feared.
Before I’d even registered the disturbance, my head whipped around instinctively to look back over my shoulder. It was hard to see at first, but once I saw a quiver of movement in the distance, my stomach bottomed out and hit the ground.
I felt frozen in place for a moment, but once my body caught up with me, we were on our way further down the street. I was only a couple blocks away from my house at that point, and my feet carried me as fast as they could, but my shoes were uncomfortable, and I found it hard to move.
I could still hear him shuffling along behind me, his footfalls coming at a disturbingly fast pace. From the sounds alone, I figured I’d hardly expanded the gap between us; he was in quick pursuit.
I knew I had to get up, though, because his steps were growing much louder. I began to panic as I realized that this not only because he was closer to me, but because he’d started to run.
Adrenaline surged through me, urging me to scramble to my feet and get home, or at least to get help. I don’t think I was even in control of my body anymore; I’d relinquished all operating power to my most basic, primal self.
There are few details available now, but he was found on the same street I’d been pursued on last night, likely to have been killed near the same time I’d escaped. One of the detectives on the case reported that he expected an identification to be difficult, seeing as the victim had been nearly ripped to shreds.
Like I said, I don’t exactly remember what happened last night, but I’m comforted by the fact that I was so close to death but that I made it home safe.