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For those of you following Demon Haunted Boy, thanks! But I must interrupt your regular viewing for this broadcast: I’m leaving for Vietnam in the near future, and so on top of continuing my latest novel, I’m creating a backlog of DHB so you won’t be deprived of Will’s latest adventures while I’m gone. Until then, enjoy this thing I wrote for Reddit’s Nosleep thread…

This story was brought to you by Absinthe – the preferred drink of mad men and women all over the world.

 I Drink to Still the Demons

My psychiatrist tells me in his stilted voice that I must have something in my past, in my preconscious childhood. He refuses to delve deeper, and gives me no explanation, which is fine by me. I don’t want to know any more than he does.

The drink, like everything else in my life, is a ritual, as predictable as the sun rising in my bedroom window the next morning, burning me with maddening heat. It begins with a shot glass, an expensive crystal piece I bought in Russia, I don’t remember when. I set the glass down on the desk and take my favourite bottle of absinthe from the cupboard – Green Fairy – and place it beside the glass. Then I write in this journal. I never read back over previous pages. I believe that the past is dead and gone and not worth dwelling over, and so I turn over a fresh page and write on clean paper. The bottle sits untouched, the beautiful green liquid drawing my gaze, until I’ve finished at least one page. Then finally, I fill the glass and stare at it, hypnotised, for several minutes.

At last, I drink. It tastes like liquorice flavoured fire.

That one shot is all I have, and I go to sleep shortly afterward, just as the pleasant buzz is settling into my brain.

That was the drink; now here are the demons.

There are two of them, and they appear to me at random times during the day, without warning. The first demon looks just like a man, and yet at the same time is so monstrous that the sight of him makes me want to run in the opposite direction until you collapse from exhaustion. The only reason I don’t is that I know he would follow me, striding with legs as thick as tree trunks, each pace longer than several of mine. He stands and watches, a seven foot beast with rank hair the colour and smell of garbage hanging over his grinning face, leaning back as if to survey me. His arms – strong enough to choke a gorilla, dangle by his sides, and he holds a wicked blade in his right hand. It’s the blade that gets to me the most, because I’ve never seen anything like it in all my life. It has the sterile sharpness of a surgeon’s tool, but I can’t imagine what practical function it could serve: it curves away from the handle in three different directions, hooking and curling and twisting. Capable of delicate work… but what work, I dread to think.

He knows. It’s in his grin. I can never move an inch when I see him, and only when my eyes begin to sting and I blink does he vanish.

The other demon is me. Or at least, he looks like me, if I’d spent the night in the sewer. His hair – my hair – has grey streaks in it, wild and torn out in places. His face is dirt streaked, and his clothes look and smell as though he’s been panic-sweating into them for weeks. He is more terrifying than the other demon, because of what he tells me, in my own shaking voice. This world is not real, he says. Stop taking the drink, and you’ll see: This World Is Not Real. He takes me by the shoulders and shakes me, staring desperately into my face, and then vanishes abruptly.

My psychiatrist comforts me, saying that the fact I know the demons are hallucinations is very promising. He’s missing the point, and I don’t bother to correct him, because I suspect he’s no more able to help me than I am to help myself. The point is that there was never any doubt in my mind that the demons aren’t real – what I’m not so sure about is whether or not Demon number two is telling the truth. After all, why would I lie to myself?

*

The thing is…

The thing is I keep noticing things.

It’s been a week now since I saw the demons, and now and again I have a moment of relief, when I think it’s all over and I can get on with my life. And then the coffee cup won’t be where I put it down a second ago. I sit down on my couch with the paper and put the steaming cup on the glass table beside me. I read the paper for a minute or two to let it cool, but when I reach for it, it’s gone.

Why is it I can’t go around to places in my neighbourhood I’ve never been before? I go on a walk, take a turn up Wightman. I never take a turn up Wightman – never. I always do the same route around the block when I’m walking. But just yesterday I decided to take the turn up Wightman. And a minute or so along I started recognizing houses, and I realized I’m not on Wightman at all, I’m on Richmond, the route I always take.

I’m starting to feel like a rat on a treadmill. The rat runs faster and faster, but he can’t get free – the only way to do that is to stop running and step off. I have to step off.

*

This morning, the second demon wrenched me from my bed. He was right in my face, shaking me, screaming at me. Wake Up! WAKE UP! WAKE UP! Jesus, I was so scared I wet the bed. I haven’t done that since I was a child, but I couldn’t help myself, seeing those familiar features twisted with insanity, the terror in his screams. I’m shaking, even now.

Tonight, I will not drink the absinth. My psychiatrist says it’s a good idea. It’ll do wonders for my health, he says.

*

The sunlight pierces me soon after dawn and I roll over the side of the bed in agony. I feel like I’ve crossed the Sahara desert naked, pale skin exposed to the African sun for days, my tongue thick and dry. The light struck my left eye so badly I haven’t regained the sight in it yet.

I call in sick to work, and Terry, my boss, takes it in his stride. His voice is almost relieved, as if to say: oh, thank God, you’re human. I haven’t called in sick once since I started there three years ago, or done anything outside of punch the clock exactly on time and do everything asked of me to the letter and not an inch more. When I think of it, I’ve lived the same day without variation for all those years. Never a fresh face, never so much as a skipped meal. I didn’t visit family. Never once did I stay up late, or have drinks with a colleague. I try to think back to the last conversation I had. Did they tell me anything I didn’t already know?

*

The pain is worse the second day. I crawl from my bedroom, teeth gritted, and pull myself down the hall. I have to call an ambulance, but I left my phone in the lounge downstairs.

Why does my house look so different? Everything is made of concrete instead of wood and carpet. My windows have thick bars across them, and the sunlight that comes through has a distinctly artificial hue – like the fluorescent lights in a hospital. My body is different, too: my skin is raw and bruised, and with each breath I take I wince from a pain in my chest, as though half my ribs are broken. How did this happen?

I drag myself down the stairs, gasping, and collapse at the bottom, paralysed for a minute. When I regain my senses I roll over and look down at myself, and discover the reason I’ve been crawling: both of my legs are severed at the shin. Stained trousers that I don’t recognize are tied off neatly at the stumps.

I scream.

*

I must have died at some point, because when I next wake up I am in hell.

I’m lying spread eagled on a stone slab, arms stretched taut by chains that have rubbed my wrists bloody. I’m already screaming when I come to my senses, because the first demon is leaning over me, his enormous mouth leering with pleasure and breathing his reek into my face.

He is working on me with his special knife, the one with curves and hooks I was so curious about before. I’m not curious now. He draws the blades across my flesh almost gently, with the flourish of an artist with his brush as he makes the final touches. The wounds he makes are shallow, superfluous, and excruciating. He takes his time.

He unchains me before he leaves, but I’m so drained I don’t move from my position, and simply stare, drooling, at a grey wall. Once the pain dulls to a bee sting hum, I allow myself to drift away.

*

It takes me another hour to make it off the slab, and when I hit the ground, fresh waves of nausea roll over me. I grit my teeth and lie down on the cold floor until the urge passes. Then I drag myself into the far corner, beside a cracked toilet. I take the room, and with each passing second it grows more familiar to me – more so even than my comfortable home and my well-lit white wallpapered office. While I went about my day, walking around the neighbourhood, lying down in my soft bed at night – this place was there all along.

This is my real home: a cell, perhaps twice as large as the average prison cell. The floor is covered with brown and black stains and scratch marks, and everything smells strongly of raw meat and excrement. A bedsheet is rolled up in one corner, and I read bloody letters on the fabric. Funny, I always wondered, writing in my journal, why the pen ran out of ink so frequently.

When I look down at myself, I begin to weep, even though I know what will be there before I see it. My emaciated body is so covered in scar tissue, blood and sweat that I can’t recognize it. My stumps are not halfway down the shin as I’d initially thought, but at the knee, and there are no trousers to hide the stumps. I put my hands up to my face and feel features that are just as mutilated as the rest of me: I was drooling earlier because I’m missing at least half of my teeth, and my gums hurt to touch. I have a beard and matted hair, and my nose has been broken at some point, though it doesn’t hurt, now. I try to touch my left eye and my fingertips, moving beyond where my pupil should have been, touch something tender in my socket. That is when I break.

I curl up on the floor and weep tears of despair. I don’t even know where I am, or who has done this to me, or why. I try to recall a true memory and arrive at a vision of friend’s face – his name comes to mind like a welcome breeze: Miles Neiman. He’s grinning, and he says: ‘It’s gonna be a good trip, Matt. Stop stressing, it’s about time you got out of the rat race for two weeks.’

That’s all I have, but just beneath the surface is a whole life lived, thirty – no thirty three years. I don’t know how long it will take to come back for me, and the more I strain my memory the more I despair that I’ll ever find out how I’ve got to this dark place, and who I’ve left behind.

‘Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh…’ A dry sound comes from nearby, and I’m crying so loud I don’t hear it at first. I have to wipe my eyes and prop myself up against the wall, sniffling, to listen. It sounds again, and this time I recognize it as a human voice.

‘Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh… Yesssss. You’ve stopped taking your medicine, haven’t you?’ The voice is coming from somewhere beyond my cell door. I crawl over to it, wiping snot from my nose and gasping as the cuts along my chest reopen from the movement. When I arrive, I see a small plain shot glass sitting beside the cell door.

‘Can you see me?’ The voice enquires. I peer through the bars into a narrow hallway. The walls and floor are all made of dusty concrete, and although the ceiling is lined with fluorescent lights, at the moment only one is lit, and it barely reaches me. The voice is coming from a gloomy cell opposite. A man stands inside, two wide eyes gleaming in a silhouette. I’m almost jealous of him, until I look closer and see that he is standing on his right leg, and holding the bars with his left arm: his other limbs are missing. He smiles at me, and his teeth are in about the same condition as mine. He has a deeply lined face and shoulder length grey hair. ‘There you go,’ he says. ‘I’m so glad you’re awake.’

‘Where am I?’ I’m shocked at the sound of my own voice – it is the voice of a broken man: soft and scratchy; helpless.

‘Back in the real world. You are embracing the truth at last, instead of the lie you’ve been living for three years.’

‘Oh, God. Three years.’ So I had never moved house, never got the new job. They were all hallucinations of comfort and sedation my mind had conjured up to keep me happy.

‘It’s a long time to be asleep. I took the drink for a full year.’

‘Who are you?’

‘Me? My name is… Life.’

‘Life?’ I say.

‘Yes. You wanted to know who I was before, though, didn’t you? Before, I was George. A banker. Rich, comfortable, content. Too much fat around my belly, too little going on,’ he tapped the side of his head with enough force to bruise himself, ‘in here. Now I’m alive. I feel everything, I taste everything, even the gruel that he brings. I still have power. Look!’

I watch while he lowers himself into a squat on his leg, keeping perfect balance all the while, and then rises up again. ‘I grow as strong as the food allows me – and he doesn’t skimp on gruel, no he doesn’t!’ He chuckles.

I am afraid to ask, but I do. ‘Who is he?’

‘Aaaaaaaahhhh. Our Nemesis. Our Captor. Our Sworn Enemy. Let me tell you about him. I have been studying him for all my stay here, and over the course of my attempted escapes, I’ve learned much. If I die, you may have to continue my mission, so listen closely, my young apprentice.’

He leans in to the bars, pressing his dirty face right up against them so that his eyes bug out, his pupils contracting to small points against the harsh hallway light.

‘He calls himself Master, but I always call him Slave. He doesn’t like that at all. The first time I did it, he cut off my arm. The second time, he took my leg, but I kept doing it, and he wanted to keep me alive for as long as he could. That was my first victory over him. The first step to proving who is really the Master.’ He laughs again, and winks at me.

‘He is a slave to his pleasure, you see. He’s a sadist in the purest sense, unable to live a normal life. He’s driven by a desire to control, and as a result he will never experience anything else life has to offer. That is a shame, because he is an incredibly intelligent man – a genius, even – and in prime physical shape besides. He could do and be anything anyone could want, and yet he chooses instead to live in a rundown house, pouring his savings into this elaborate basement: this obsession of his.

‘And it is an obsession, oh yes. I have personally met two men and two women, in your cell and the cells just adjacent to yours, and besides them I can see two more cell doors on your side of the hallway, and I believe there must be four doors I that I can’t see on my side. I estimate that he’s ended the lives of at least thirty people over the last four years, but it’s impossible to know. I can’t communicate with any of them, because they always take the drink. You’re the first to refuse it for two years. Congratulations.’

I stare at him in horror. He grins back. Insanity.

‘But what… There must be some way we can escape? I’m not taking the drink – I can help you.’ He nods eagerly, as though he’s been waiting for me to say this. My heart lifts. There is hope.

‘Yes. I have made many attempts over the years. I have learned two things. The first is that it is impossible for us to leave this place. The second is that our freedom lies within easy reach – inside ourselves. Isn’t that something? Isn’t that brilliant? Our salvation has been within our hands all this time. We have only to accept the truth.’

I close my eyes and swallow. Please, I beg a God I do not believe in, please tell me he has real plans to get out of this place. But before he can speak another word, a door cranks open and heavy steps sound in the hallway.

*

Two days go by.

When he slides the gruel through the tiny slot beneath the door, I eat it ravenously: tasteless grey mash. When he gives me the glass full of green liquid, I empty it into the toilet before temptation overtakes me. Each time, Life claps his hands and grins at me with his ten remaining teeth.

Three times a day, the footsteps thump down the hall. Twice, food slides through the slots at the bottom of our doors, the lukewarm sludge that Life seems to relish so much. Once a day, someone gets the knife.

I say once a day, but I don’t know, because the ones who take the drink don’t scream. Life tells me there is someone in the cell beside mine, which he can see into. A young woman, he tells me. Missing her ears, nose, tongue and arms. She takes the drink every day, he says, for two years, and on the days the footsteps stop in front of that cell and I hear the door creak open, I never hear a peep. Who knows where she is, while he does what he wants to do with her.

Life guides me, in some ways. He shows me how I could dig at the crack in the corner of my concrete cell, and cover my progress by tossing the bundle of sheets in the corner. ‘Who knows?’ he says. ‘If you can make it through the wall, perhaps you can crawl to safety. Devote your life to that crack, and you might well escape.’

And I do, I dig and dig and dig, with my fingernails, then with shards of harder concrete that broke off during my excavation. The Demon is not thorough in his visits. He is here only to satisfy a need. I can’t dig on the days he chooses me – I can only shudder in the corner and weep, while Life urges me to continue.

*

Life fights every time, but it seems only to delight the ‘Master’. Nevertheless, over the past two weeks I’ve never seen someone fight so furiously against an opponent who so obviously outmatches him, even if he were given all his limbs. Master spends longer with him than with anyone.

*

I am losing my mind. Yesterday, after a month of digging the crack, until it had gotten deep  enough that I could feel soil with the tips of my fingers, and wide enough that I could fit my head inside the cavity, He found it and moved me to another cell.

Life told me that would be the first of many times it would happen. The he laughed madly, and shouted at the top of his lungs: ‘NOT FOREVER! NOT FOR ALL OF US!’

I noticed the lock of my new cell was rusty, and I scraped a piece of the wall away and started chipping away at the rust.

*

Life died yesterday.

I heard him, I heard when the blade cut deeper than skin and his screams turned from pitch to gurgle. Four years, he fought. Four years. He died screaming my name.

At this point, I’ve chipped almost half of my ancient padlock to dust. My body is a mess, but I have all of my limbs. I chip, I chip away at the lock. Footsteps come thumping down the hall, louder than usual. He is angry, and tonight is my turn.

*

It was a pleasant day, today. I don’t seem to get many of those anymore. Old age has brought me much pain. As a youngster watching an old man hobble across a street, I never guessed the agony he would feel just to move the way I always took for granted. But on the other side of the coin, small things give me a pleasure they never could previously.

A hot cup of tea, a good meal, and a long sleep is enough to keep me happy. My routines bring contentment: my morning coffee, my office job, my nightly walk under the starry sky. My life may be plain, boring, mediocre – but it’s a good life. I tell people I drink to still the demons, and they just laugh, because what demons could a man like me have?

My psychiatrist tells me in his stilted voice that I must have something in my past, in my preconscious childhood. He refuses to delve deeper, and gives me no explanation, which is fine by me. I don’t want to know any more than he does.

The drink, like everything else in my life, is a ritual, nothing more, nothing less.

 

 

This ones pretty much the twin of my other story ‘Angel’, although I didn’t have that in mind when I started writing it. I think I’m just interested with the concept. It all happened very quickly, The idea occurred, I thought it was cool, came up with the ending, wrote it, scratch to story in two hours. Enjoy!

 

Demon

By Ben Pienaar

 

Doctors, if they even had a chance to interview me, would call me a sociopath, psychopath, or maybe pure evil. If, that is, I told them everything I’d done, the whole truth. I’m none of these things, but the Doctors would never know, because they’d only have the facts to look at, the actions I’ve taken. They are rational people, who don’t believe in Demons, which is unfortunate because the truth of the matter is that there is a demon inside me, living and breathing and real. If they cut me open, I think they’d find it sitting just above my brain stem, clinging with little red claws to the top of my spinal cord and grinning from ear to ear.

I was a good kid, and I’m a good guy now, inside and mostly out. This isn’t the exorcist: no one’s crawling on ceilings and vomiting all over the place. Mostly I’m even in control. But when no one’s around, and the time is right, and the Demon is hungry, he flexes his muscles and brings a little piece of hell up to earth.

The first time I was seven years old. The Demon came to me in my dream, it was that simple. I dreamed about hell and the Demon saw me there and grabbed hold of me, and when I woke up I’d brought him awake with me, into me. It was just after midnight, and the silence was like a blanket over the house, except for the sound of my father snoring in his bedroom down the hall. I got out of bed and went into the bathroom.

I was fully aware, not sleepwalking – a little groggy maybe, but that was it. I wasn’t thinking about my movements, the way it feels when you’ve done something so many times you don’t think about it. Sometimes I drive somewhere late at night and when I think about it later, I can’t remember the drive. I still stop at the red lights and watch my mirrors, but I’m daydreaming in my head, my body and mind acting automatically. This was like that.

I took a box of matches and a candle from the mirror cupboard (we keep them there for blackouts), and took them down into the television room. I lit the candle and stood in front of the fireplace for a while. I remember wax dripping onto my hand until it had pretty much covered it, but I didn’t once flinch. The pain was a normal, everyday feeling to me, like breathing in and out; it wasn’t important.

I lit a fire in the fireplace and waited for it to get going really good, used every bit of kindling we had, and when it was roaring nicely I started grabbing burning logs and rolling them around the carpet. I set one on the couch, one at the foot of the television, and kick rolled another all the way into the dining room so it could catch the table. We had a real fluffy carpet and it burned fast.

I stood there, terror tearing through me, thinking why did I do that? Just what did I do that for? At first with a mild curiosity when I grabbed the candle and match, then with growing horror as I watched my blistering hands grab logs and roll them across the room. Why am I doing this? I don’t understand.

            I heard the Demon laugh, somewhere deep inside my brain. He and I walked upstairs together and I lay down in bed and stared at the ceiling, watching the shadows dance across the hall and the smoke drift in through the open door.

Eventually the alarm went off and I heard my parents screaming, but not my little sister Maree, even when a section of the house fell in and buried the kitchen table. The demon was asleep by then, or else he didn’t care what happened, and all my movements (and all the pain) were my own. My parents managed to get to me and my mother climbed out of the window with me while the sirens wailed far away.

My father went to get my sister, and he was dragged out by the firemen a few minutes later with burns all over him, a scrap of Maree’s pajama top melted into his palm. She didn’t make it, and her lack of screaming, I think, was because she’d already choked in her sleep. Her room was closer to the stairs, so that is what I desperately hope happened.

I relate all this to Lara now, trying to keep my voice steady. I resist the urge to come forward and put a reassuring hand on her shoulder because I don’t want to see her flinch away. Plus, I’ve still got some of her cat’s blood on my hands. Literally. The rest of it we got rid of together, before coming back into her bedroom for this little talk.

‘I’ve done a few things like that since then,’ I’m telling her, looking honestly into her tear stained, incredulous face. ‘Nothing completely evil, you know. But pretty bad. That’s why I don’t sleep much. I mean, Jesus, poor Maree, that poor girl. I loved her so much.’

I’m crying, but I don’t think she believes me. I know she believes in ghosts, but I’ve never asked her about demonic possession.

‘Have you ever killed anyone?’ she asks, and her voice is still cold.

I nod. ‘Just one guy. A bad guy, though, some gangster who pulled a knife on me. The demon saw it and flipped out, he was threatening its… its home.’ I don’t mention that the mugger had also been interrupting our stalking of a potential other victim.

‘That’s all, huh?’

‘Yes. It wants to kill, but usually I can divert it, make it settle for small things like birds and rats and…’

‘Cats.’

‘Yeah.’

‘Jesus.’ She puts her hands over her eyes and breathes in deep, and then takes them away and looks at me again. I don’t say anything.

‘You’re serious, aren’t you?’ she says, as if I’d be joking. Sure, your dead cat was all a joke, Lara, get it? Ha ha! My eyes are streaming with tears now, but I don’t mind, it probably lends credibility.

‘I just want it to end,’ I say, and in that instant, as if I had to say the words out loud for the thought to formulate clearly, I realise how simple it is. There is only one way to really and truly end, after all. Why have I never thought of suicide? And I realise the answer to that question, too: I never thought of it because the demon didn’t let me. He hid the notion from my mind, somehow, but he’s sleeping now and I’m awake and I’ve thought of it.

Holy Christ, it’s the only way. I have to go, and soon, or it’ll wake up. How long will it be before it makes me kill another family member or ,God forbid, Lara? Or some innocent small child, like the girl we followed for half a day before I gathered the will power to close my eyes until she was gone.

I can’t comprehend the finality of that – of suicide – there’s no time. There’s no time to say my goodbyes or gather my thoughts and prepare myself. I’m locked in a dungeon and the dungeon master is sleeping and left a window open. It’s jump or be trapped, now or never.

Lara is great at dressmaking. She has a sewing machine and all different kinds of materials and needles, but most importantly she has a giant pair of material cutting scissors lying on her desk. In the time it’s taken for me to have my epiphany, she’s drawn a breath, about to say something, but I’ll never hear what it is. I grab the scissors and take two steps back.

Staring at her, wide eyed, I begin to cut.

She’s fast, getting over her surprise like that. If we switched places I think I’d have been so shocked by the surprise of it all I’d have still been sitting and gaping long after she hit the ground with blood spurting from her throat. Not Lara though; she sees what I’m doing, screams, lunges, and pulls my arm so hard the scissors go flying into the wall paper and stick there.

We fall onto the bed together and she’s sticking sheets against my wound and kissing me and crying, although there wasn’t really time enough to make the cut that bad.

‘No matter what, that’s never the answer,’ she’s telling me. ‘Never do that again, you hear me? Never. God, it’s really true, isn’t it? There really is a demon inside you.’

It’s not really a question but I nod anyway. ‘I have to kill it,’ I whisper, trying not to wake it up. ‘We have to kill it, somehow.

She looks at me and a hot tear lands on my face. Her eyes are half full of sadness and half with rage, and I understand. ‘No matter what it takes,’ she says, ‘we’ll kill it, somehow.’

We talk for a while, and hug, and I apologise again for killing her cat. She rests her head on my shoulder and puts an arm around me and tells me it’s going to be alright, and we’ll kill the demon no matter what, and I don’t want to be afraid.

But I am afraid, I tell her. I’m terrified, and I still wish I’d killed myself. I tell her it’s going to be alright now, and she shouldn’t worry, but those words aren’t mine, now. She snuggles up close to me and starts talking, but I don’t hear what she’s saying. I’m watching my free hand lift up and work the scissors free from the wallpaper slowly, quietly.

I’m watching and outwardly there is no dread, no horror or sadness or remorse. I’m watching my hand grip the round black handle with white knuckles. Outwardly I’m calm and relaxed and happy. Inside, I scream. ‘It’s going to be alright,’ I say again.

It is what you do that defines you. I think Batman said that, and it is therefore beyond question. This is my way of agreeing with my black caped idol. I have to admit though, writing it made me wonder about people a lot. Remember the last person you met, who smiled and treated you nice and gave you compliments. I wonder what they were really thinking, under that cheerful mask? How many people you meet are sociopaths who just have yet to make their first kill? Or just have yet to be caught? Makes ya think… enjoy!

Angel

By Ben Pienaar

 

When I was a boy, I set my neighbour’s house on fire. Over the course of several months I killed half the pets in the surrounding areas of my neighbourhood. Fortunately, I was a very intelligent young boy, and no one ever found out it was me. No one knew it was me who disembowelled Hamish Donner either, because they never found his body.

 

If you see him on the street, he smiles. He’s always cheerful; tells jokes and laughs and makes delightfully intelligent conversation. In day to day life, he has the charisma of the most charming of politicians, but the real charm, people will tell you, is that he has no idea about it.

People who know him well say he’s a good person. They love him, and they think he loves them too. His tongue begins to wag and everyone leans in to listen, to see what funny or interesting or just plain nice thing he has to say.

He’s a talented diplomat, and rose high in the government. May be president one day, they say. He’s rich, but he gives his money away at every turn and his living standard is modest at best. Entire charities live off his income. No poor man can enter his line of sight and then leave it still poor. He attends church every Sunday, and has friends there too, and they talk about doing good and helping people.

And he despises it.

Every day, he wakes up and begins his perfect, disciplined and virtuous routine. It consists of healthy meals, quality time with his wife and kids, a day of good work, and a night of even more work, perhaps some socialising, and finally relaxing. He does nothing in excess, never speaks badly or behaves immorally in the slightest, and he has only one enemy in all the world: himself.

 

No one knew, and while then I was only a smart boy, I was growing into a genius killer. I had plans drawn up in a secret language in several notebooks, and they were going to deliver me great power, and I was going to do great things. Terrible things, most would say, but for me they would have been great. Death, blood, murder, and absolute power. Like a God.

I was so close, so close to beginning my Grand Plan For Everything when I turned twenty and became possessed. Some hideous thing, a creature of burning light and sickening warmth crawled, slimed its way through my ear and into my brain while I was asleep, and when I woke I was no longer in control of my body.

Some things, I was able to do myself, like get out of bed and shower and eat breakfast. The first thing happened when I was on the school bus and one of the others dared to make fun of me. It had happened twice before, and the first time I’d cornered the one who did it when he was alone and used my knife to scare him very, very badly. The second time was Hamish Donner.

I turned to flip him the bird and maybe yell something dirty at him, a part of me almost hoping to provoke him, so I’d have no choice but to get rid of him in that brilliant, exhilarating way of mine. My hand came up and… waved. I smiled pleasantly, and turned back around.

None of these motions were of my own doing. Mentally, I was screaming obscenities, rushing down the aisle to beat him to a pulp, anything. I sat there for a while, outwardly calm but searching my thoughts for this odd presence I felt. Now it had used its power I could really feel it, an actual weight on my brain, pressing against my skull, pulling wires and reconnecting them in disturbing ways.

What the fuck are you? I asked it.

Your happy saviour, it said, full of merriment, and I was filled with hatred.

 

He has an odd clumsiness about him, some say, though if anything it only serves to make him more endearing. Still, there have been a few near misses, and had it not been for his habit of surrounding himself with friends and loved ones most of his life, he might even have died.

One Gavin Smith recalls him almost falling from a fifth floor balcony, despite the sturdy railing, and only escaped death when Gavin reached out and grabbed his shirt as he went over. Another time his hands slipped on his steering wheel and he almost hit a wall if he hadn’t recovered his reflexes just in time.

 

I try to kill myself almost every day, but after the first few times the Angel was ready for it and now it’s nearly impossible. It has to be distracted somehow, or at least very tired, before I can even begin. Every now and again I get past him, though, and one day I hope I might get through, maybe. All it takes is a break in his concentration and I’ll be… Where? Hell? Shit, I’m already there; it can’t be worse than this.

 

Despite his success, there have been occasional rumours, and strange moments during the course of his career that have sometimes cast only the slightest of shadows on his impeccable reputation. In one bizarre interview, he responded to a question with an expression of what can only be described as utter hatred. A moment later his face went blank, and then he smiled and answered the question normally, later dismissing the expression by saying he had a bad taste in his mouth.

He often demonstrated his love of the people by having private talks to random citizens. One of these, Harry Cane, told his family of a strange and completely uncharacteristic occurrence. All was normal and pleasant, he said, until near the end of the encounter when he said goodbye and extended his hand. The vice president took it, but instead of shaking, he squeezed it so hard that Harry cried out in agony.

‘When I looked up I saw a face on him. Or not a face a – an expression. He was just as happy as a clam, not like anything was wrong but like he was really enjoying it. His eyes were wide open and his mouth was open in this big wide smile like he just won the lottery and couldn’t believe it. He raised his left hand up in a fist and then just shook his head and let go and apologised. Weirdest thing I ever saw.’

These instances, while incredibly rare and hard to find credible information about (as he is of course so well loved) nevertheless seem to be happening more and more as the vice president ages.

 

I try to kill people all the time. Oh, yes, not a day goes by when I don’t try to slice or dice something. Even with my bare hands, if I can cause some good pain in a day, I consider it a big win. If I’m not trying to kill myself, of course. Nowadays, I don’t do that as much as I used to.

The old bastard is starting to get weak. Funny thing about having no real control over my own body: I get to spend every last ounce of energy I have on the fight. Sometimes, I just let myself rest and doze while he’s occupying himself with the day, and then, right when he lies down to get some shuteye… bam! I’m there, fighting him for the chance to grab that letter opener and ram it in my eye.

It’s taken thirty years or so, but I’m getting into my groove now. Conserve energy, strike when he’s weak. Any normal person would have given in after a week, but this guy no, this… thing is supernatural, obviously. I think it’s some kind of Angel. I mean, if Demons possess all the good guys, what else would it be? Supernatural or not, though… He’s getting weak. Every now and again, I catch him off guard, and every time it takes him a little longer to get back control.

Well, fuck him. There’s got to be a balance, doesn’t there? He’s had me, used me for his goddamn good. He took the best years of my life, too. Fine, the next thirty are mine then – if I even live that long. And I’m going to start my Grand Plan. Oh, I bet he won’t be laughing then. I bet he’ll get a spanking when the big guy upstairs realises that he spent thirty years putting me in a position of supreme power on earth only to weaken just in time for me to abuse it.

I bet he won’t be laughing then, hell no. But I will.

 

 

Ever been lying in a dark room long after bedtime, whole house asleep, certain that some razor toothed monster was lying under your bed? Waiting for you to fall asleep, maybe roll over and drop a hand over the side of your bed, when it’ll seize it’s chance to grab you and pull you down and tear your insides to ribbons before you can open your eyes? And when you scream your breath catches in your throat and even though you should be dead you’re still alive and you can see parts of yourself spilling onto the carpet, and all you hear is the monsters greedy chewing as it gorges itself on your liver? Well, if you haven’t had that feeling, you will now. Enjoy!

 

Into Dark

By Ben Pienaar

 

He and his brother were in separate rooms, but even so the sound of whispering reached Graham, through the thin walls or maybe a vent in the ceiling. The sound simultaneously woke him and froze him in place with fear, even though by now it wasn’t unfamiliar.

 For the past week, around three or four in the morning (Graham’s watch glowed in the dark), he heard his older brother whispering to someone in the adjacent room. He almost never heard the someone’s voice, but when he did it made him sick with fear. Not necessarily because of that dry inhuman accent it possessed, but the fact that it was there at all. Because if it wasn’t, Graham would have been able to tell himself his brother was all alone in the next room and talking in his sleep.

 Tonight, the whispering went on for less time than usual, and at about four thirty there was silence. Graham lay in bed and stared at the little glowing stars and planets on his ceiling and listened to his heartbeat. He thought about going over to the other room, but decided against it; why face that sickening, insurmountable fear, when he knew he was just going to wake up tomorrow feeling fine and rush down to see Terry already eating a bowl of Froot Loops and reading a comic?

 So instead, he closed his eyes and went to sleep. And the next day, his brother was missing.

 

***                              ***                              ***

 

 The police searched Terry’s room and the house inside and out, from all angles, exhaustively. They found absolutely nothing. The window was open, but it hadn’t been forced and it was too tiny a gap for anything larger than a cat to fit through anyway. The family had no enemies and no one had a bad word to say about Terry. There were no similar disappearances in the area, and no suspects. If Terry had vanished into thin air, he wouldn’t have left less trace.

 Every night at three in the morning Graham sat up in bed, wide eyed, ears straining to the point of pain for the slightest sound. He heard his heart thundering, his breath rattling, and the blood rushing in his ears, but night after night he heard nothing else. Not a whisper.

 After a month, he too was losing hope. He knew something had taken his brother, if not what or where, but he couldn’t tell a soul. Even at twelve, he knew that if step one was telling someone that his brother was kidnapped by a disembodied whisper from the dark, step two was seeing a counsellor and step three was going to ‘special treatment’ and worst of all, ignored.

 Instead, he clammed up completely when it came to his brother. He became dark and sullen and his grades descended three letters of the alphabet. He did see Counsellors, as it happened, but not one of them could get more than a sad little smile and a hello and goodbye. Smart, very disturbed, but not seriously damaged, they said. Give him time, they said.

 That was fine by Graham, because it gave him a chance to search for his brother in earnest and care about nothing else. Bad grades, no friends, depression, isolation? All normal for a boy who’d just lost his older brother. Maybe not so much after six months, or a year had gone by, but he was certain by then he’d find him. Dead or alive.

 Graham didn’t share the view the police had – that his brother had either been kidnapped by someone or run away. The latter he knew wasn’t true, and the former implied that the culprit was human, someone based in this reality. No one who’d heard that thick sliding whisper would believe that. So where had his brother gone? Into the dark. The whispers had only started late at night, when the air was so pitch black it seemed solid. And they never went till dawn – in fact by the time the first hint of light in the sky showed the whispers had always stopped. So his brother had gone into the dark, and the only way to find him was to follow, come what may.

 It was winter, so there was no shortage of darkness, and what he had Graham made the most of. His curtains were always drawn and he taped the corners to the walls so not even starlight could penetrate. After he got home from school he would eat a hearty a lunch so that his parents wouldn’t nag him too much to come down for dinner. Then he’d close and lock his door, cram some clothes into the crack under the door, and turn off the light. By now he’d already taken down the luminous stars and planets from his ceiling and thrown them away.

 There, in the quiet dark, he’d wait, and think. It occurred to him to wait in his brother’s room, but somehow he didn’t think it mattered. The whispers came in the dark and that’s where he had to be. But they didn’t come to him, and slowly he despaired.

 He never expected to hear his brother’s voice again, but he did. He was walking home from school one day. It was overcast and raining heavily. He’d forgotten to bring his raincoat and he was soaked through, but still he dawdled along the sidewalk, shivering slightly and staring at the slabs moving under his feet.

 ‘Gray!’ It was definitely Terry’s voice, the one he used when he was trying to whisper and shout simultaneously. Graham turned so fast a jolt of pain shot through his neck, and he took a step back into the gutter. The voice had come from the alley joining the old Chinese Restaurant on Way st. It was a narrow alley, and though he could usually see right to the end, on an overcast day at five o’clock in the middle of winter it was black as a sewer.

 ‘Gray,’ the voice said again, though this time it was fainter. Graham stared into the darkness, wanting badly to run forward and grab his brother, but he couldn’t. For all his desperate searching, he realised he’d never expected to find anything. He never really believed that something so horrible could be true. His brother was really there, out there in the dark.

 ‘Terry?’ He replied at last, unaware that he was whispering.

‘I’m scared Gray. I can’t see anything in here.’

 ‘Where are you?’

 ‘I don’t know… Somewhere under the bed. Did you look? I didn’t believe their lies so they took me.’

 Graham took two steps forward, trying to home in on the location of the voice. He hovered on the brink of the alley now, hesitant to venture further, even though it felt like the two of them were standing only a few meters apart.

 ‘How do I get there?’

 ‘No! Don’t come, just get me out of here! If you come we’ll both be lost. Get me out!’

 ‘I’ve got to go after you.’ Graham said. His whole body was tensed now, as if he was prepared to run headlong into the alley. He wondered if that would even work.

 ‘If you… Wait. Something’s coming…’

 Graham held his breath and tried to listen into the dark, but before he could hear anything a car drove past behind him. Then there was only silence, dragging on for minute after minute. He wrinkled his face at the stench of what he thought must be rotting shellfish and eggs from the Chinese Restaurant.

 ‘Terry?’

 ‘Bring a light,’ came the soft reply.

 Graham stood at that alley for a long time, but he didn’t hear anything else besides the pattering of rain on concrete.

 His mother’s mouth fell open at the sight of him as he came through the front door, soaked in water and late, but before she could say a word he dropped his bag at the front door and hurried upstairs. ‘Don’t worry about dinner for me!’ he called from the hallway.

 He ruffled around in the bathroom until he found the candles and matches they kept there in case of a blackout. He took the matches and headed into his bedroom. He locked the door, pushed the clothes under the crack, and just like that he couldn’t see a thing. He flopped onto the bed and stared at nothing.

 ‘Terry?’ he whispered after a while. There was no response. He tried again every ten minutes or so for an hour but nothing happened. No secret world opened up in the dark – he didn’t feel himself being sucked into another dimension. Maybe he did have to go to his brother’s room, after all.

 He wondered about the darkness, about where it was and what lived there, and soon his wonderings turned to daydreams, and his daydreams became real dreams as he passed into slumber. At length, they became nightmares.

 He woke again, and it was immediately obvious to him that he’d been asleep for several hours. The house had that dense silence it only got when it was late at night, and the rain had stopped. He got the feeling someone had shouted his name, but he wasn’t sure if it had been in his dream or not.

 ‘Terry?’ he whispered, forcing himself up on his elbows and trying to get accustomed to the dark. Of course, it was impossible. Even the light in the hallway was out, and there was no moon tonight. No light from anywhere.

 It was only then that he really thought about the things Terry had told him in the alleyway, and he recalled one strange remark in particular. I don’t know… Somewhere under the bed. Did you look?

 He hadn’t looked, had he? You were too afraid, a voice in his mind told him. Because secretly you knew that’s where it was all along.

 The more he shook the remains of sleep from his mind, the more things, small as they were, he noticed. Did he smell some remnant of that alleyway? Those rotten shellfish and eggs he’d been sure were from the Chinese restaurant? Why did his hand feel warm when he held it up in front of his face and ice cold when he let it dangle over the side of the bed. And why, when he did that, did he suddenly feel the urgent need to pull it away and hide under his covers?

 Graham pushed the covers down to the end of the bed, exposing his damp clothes to the air. With a force of will that only another young child in a similar situation could comprehend, he got off the bed and then lay down on the floor beside it. In the dead of night, lying beside that gaping abyss beneath his bed, Graham understood fear.

 I wouldn’t believe their lies so they took me. They Took Me. He pushed open the matchbox and was glad to see it was completely full. He struck one and felt utter relief as the warm firelight surrounded him. For now, the smell of rot and icy air was gone, and he was only here alone, in his dusty room.

Using his free hand to cup the flame though there was no draft, he wiggled sideways until he was exactly centred under the bed, and there he stayed, match warming his skin, hypnotising him. He waited.

 The flame burned low, chasing his fingertips as they ran from it, until at last there was no more wood to burn and it guttered out. Graham’s stomach clenched tight and he felt sheer fear take hold of his lungs. ‘I’m coming for you, Terry,’ he whispered, as the ground fell away.

 The carpet seemed to twist and turn under him, softening and dampening, and then it dropped and let him slide into it. If it weren’t for the cold, he’d have imagined himself dropping into the mouth of some great toothless beast. He came to a stop, curled up in a ball and propped up against something hard and jagged. It felt like a frozen thornbush.

 This place was quiet, but not quiet enough. There was breathing apart from his own. It was wet and thick, but thankfully it didn’t sound close. It didn’t sound aggravated, like it knew where he was. From the sound of it, he was hidden away somewhere, a hollow or a cave separate from the rest of it.

 Without thinking, he popped the matchbox open again and lit one of the matches. For a moment, he was certain something had seen and attacked him in the split second its light sputtered into existence. His feet jerked out and his back came down hard on… carpet. He was back in his room, staring at the underside of his bed.

 For a moment, that was where he remained, breathing hard. As much as he loved his brother, the first thing he felt was incredible relief to be out of that foul smelling place that emanated evil so clearly it shocked him. But the hope was there, too. Bring a light, Terry said, and so he had. And now he knew, no matter how far he ventured into that place, he’d have a way back.

 Graham closed his eyes and blew out the match.

 This time, when he stumbled to the end of the short ride he hit that jagged thing a little harder and felt one thorn pierce his arm. He pulled away, biting his lip, and collided with what felt like a slippery boulder the size of his head. A moment later, it rose on a hundred stick thin legs and scuttled over his back.

 Graham tucked the box of matches into one pocket and decided to proceed on all fours. He was shivering now, and gagging on the stench. It was so concentrated here that it was barely recognizable from what he’d smelled earlier. Like that voice, this was a thing not of the Earthly world. It was the stench of demons.

 He was following a feeling rather than any actual sense of direction, specifically the feeling of wind. If he could get somewhere out in the open, maybe it would be easier to get his bearings. In the back of his mind was the hope he’d be able to see something somehow, but of course that couldn’t be possible, not if the slightest light transported him home. No, this was the Land of Dark: there was no light here.

 He followed the light whistling wind up a slope and through a tunnel so tight he almost suffocated going through it. When he broke out on the other side, the wind was all around him and he realised he was out in the open at last. He looked up, hoping to see a sky of some sort, perhaps with a few stars and planets hovering… but of course there was only nothing. A deeper black, perhaps, like the kind you saw when you looked out over the ocean on a moonless night.

 The things were all out here, too. He couldn’t exactly hear them, or not clearly (though there was that odd slithering somewhere behind him), but he could sense them. Great shapes, predators and carnivores. Any prey that existed here must be dead, or dying. Imprisoned, like his brother. Graham became suddenly more conscious of the blood leaking from his arm and he wondered if they could smell it. He certainly could. He raised the wound to his mouth and began to suck.

 He stopped after a minute or so as it occurred to him what he was doing. Even then, it took another minute to convince himself that the delicious substance melting on his tongue was his own blood – it felt like trying to gather willpower enough to step out of a hot shower on a winter night.

 He dropped to his knees in the mud – everything seemed to be made of mud – and gasped for breath. How long had he been here? Hours? A day? Surely not even that long, and yet he was sure it was changing him. He had to think.

 He slowed his breathing and tried to concentrate on his senses. He didn’t have his eyes, so what did he have that could help him find his brother?

 ‘Terry?’ The vastness swallowed his voice, and he heard nothing back for a long time. Then, at last, so close it seemed almost in his ear, his brother replied.

 ‘Gray! I’m here, follow my voice.’

There was something wrong with that voice, though. There was no question it was Terry speaking, but this was a different Terry. This one sounded happy, even excited. He knows I’m here now, Graham thought, that’s all it is.

 There was no time to ponder it then, because Terry’s next words chilled him to the bone: ‘Hurry, Gray, they know you’re here now.’

 They did, too. He could hear them coming – could almost smell them over the putrid offal stench of the world. He dropped lower to the ground and slid through the mud (if that’s what it was) grabbing anything he could for purchase. Down an embankment here, across a patch of razor sharp rocks, through a cobweb full of stinging ants. These were the pictures he conjured in his mind as he went, because in the absence of sight he had to revert to images he knew, though the realities of these things would have horrified him far more than his mere imagination, had he known it.

 He was close to his brother, very close, when a hand shot up out of the mud and grabbed his ankle. He gasped and then cried out aloud as he felt nails dig into his flesh. He twisted around and clawed at the hand, but then Terry called out to him: ‘Stop! It’s me, Gray! I’m down here, in a cage.’

 Graham stopped his frantic clawing and instead gripped the hand with mad relief. ‘Terry! It’s really you!’ He felt for some kind of opening, but the ground here was not solid. Instead, his hand slipped over what felt like thick steel bars, with a gap only large enough to fit his wrist and perhaps his forearm through.

 He reached down into the cage and felt his brother grab hold of him almost desperately. His nails were so long they made shallow cuts in his arm, and his skin was so cold. The things in the dark were close now. Another minute and he’d feel hot breath on his feet, and a minute after that the only thing left of him would be the part of his arm in the cage with his brother. Then he felt Terry’s teeth on him and had time to think maybe not even that before the pain hit.

 Instead of distracting him, the pain shot through him like a bolt of electricity and focused his thoughts into perfect clarity. This was not him, he knew, but the demon he was becoming.

 In all his wildest dreams, Graham never would have believed that one day his life would depend on whether or not he could strike a match one handed in less than a minute. He jammed the box into his mouth, afraid that if he laid it down it might get wet or fall through the bars of the cage. He pushed it open and several matches fell down through the bars. He drew another out and pushed the rest back in. He tried to strike and the match broke.

 Terry’s teeth hit bone and dragged a little before he began to close his jaws. Now Graham did see stars and planets, but these ones were all in his mind, as brightly as they shone. He opened the box, drew another match, and tried again, gently. It didn’t strike, and the box slipped halfway out of his mouth. Something was clawing its way up a steep incline behind him – he heard its irregular steps and frantic breathing and imagined a sick three legged dog.

 Terry tore his mouthful free. Graham didn’t scream like a boy but roared like a beast, and it was the demon’s rage and sheer focus of energy that rose up in him. The world slowed to a crawl, and when as the matchbox fell from his open mouth he caught it a second before it would have slipped between the bars. In a flash he’d opened it, snatched four or five matches in a go and closed it. He jammed the box in his mouth and struck again with all the matches, hard. Three snapped and two lit. The fire exploded in the darkness like a sun, and just like that the cage bars disappeared along with the wild shrieks of hungry monsters and everything else that lived in the dark.

Carpet slammed up against Graham’s back and his vision returned to him. Still gripping the guttering matches, he pulled his brother – who was still clinging to his mutilated arm, out from under the bed.

 The thing that Terry had become was so far changed from the brother Graham had known that besides the familiar red pyjama pants he was wearing when he disappeared, he was unrecognizable. He had a huge, misshapen mouth filled with razor teeth, skin paler than paper and eyes like jet.

 Had Terry not been blinded by the flare of the match, Graham would have stood no chance. But the effect of seeing a flash of real light, no matter how small, on a thing that had seen nothing but pitch black for over a month, was akin to a person staring at the sun for several minutes. It wasn’t simply blindness but pain, and while Terry shrieked and struggled Graham pushed him into the closet and slammed the doors.

 He braced against them with all his might and held them closed against the first assault. He didn’t wait for a second, but grabbed his small wooden desk (with his unmauled arm), and dragged it in front.

 After that, he collapsed on his side and watched the carpet soak up congealing blood from the wound in his arm. The howls and cries of his mutant brother took second place to the rush of blood in his ears and intense nausea. The world went white for a split second. When the room came back to him all was silent and he realised he must have fainted from shock. His arm was heavy and hard to move, as though the pain had numbed the muscles. His hand hung limply at the end of his wrist, the crucial tendon digesting somewhere in his brother’s stomach.

 Without standing – he thought he might vomit if he did – Graham turned his eyes upwards and squinted in the dark. The closet doors were splintered and broken badly, with considerable cracks from floor to ceiling, and the desk was now sitting a good inch back from where it had been. There was no sound.

 Shaking, he got onto all fours and crawled over to his door. He reached up with his bad arm – it couldn’t support his weight – and flicked on the switch. He half expected to hear that terrible shrieking again, and the deadly sound of snapping wood as Terry broke free for good. It didn’t come.

 He crawled back to the closet, squelching through the half dried blood and not caring, and used his shoulder to push his desk out of the way, inch by inch. At last the doors swung open and the real Terry fell out.

 If possible, he looked even worse than Graham. They were both as pale and sickly as each other, but Terry had been reduced to skeletal proportions. There couldn’t be so much as an ounce of fat on him, and his torn pyjama pants hung from bony hips. He was covered in a thousand little scratches and punctures, some old and some fresh. His eyes, once clear, looked milky and unfocused, and his teeth were broken and cracked. But when he blinked and glanced up at Graham, he was once again Terry.

 ‘You got me out,’ he said. His voice was so broken it was a whisper, and it would stay that way for months afterwards.

 ‘You tried to eat me,’ Graham said, lifting his arm up. Terry looked as though he was going to throw up so Graham put it down again. A second later they were chuckling like the school boys they were, and more than a little of it was the bright, persistent light that flooded the room. Even the bed held little shadow now, and the Land of Dark seemed further away.

 Moving with shaky energy, Terry went to the curtains and tore the tape on the bottom corners as he parted them. Fresh dawn light flooded the room, and Graham didn’t think he’d seen anything so beautiful in his life. He stood up with one hand on the desk for balance and grinned widely at his older brother. Soon they were laughing again, each infecting the other with his own mirth until they were both on the floor and had to stop for fear of passing out.

 ‘What happened to you in there?’ Graham asked after a little while. They were sitting beside each other on the bed, unable to take their eyes off the sun as if to do so would cause it to vanish.

 ‘I can’t remember much. They kept me in a cage with a couple of other kids, I don’t know where from ‘cos they didn’t speak English. They ate the kids one at a time. Just reached in and chewed them. I remember bits dropped down through the bars and I…’

He didn’t finish the sentence, but Graham knew all too well how it ended. He remembered how his own blood had tasted in the other world, and how pain had felt.

 ‘Anyway, they went off again and never came back. I think something bigger ate them.’

 ‘What?’

‘I dunno. But I think in that place, everything eats everything, and there’s always something bigger. I think it was hell, Gray.’ 

Graham thought the smell alone was enough proof of that statement.

 ‘I started turning pretty fast,’ Terry went on. ‘I remember talking to you, but it was like a dream. After that I don’t remember anything until I woke up in the closet.’

 ‘Wow.’

 ‘Where do you think it was, Gray? That place?’

 Graham shrugged. ‘The Dark,’ he said. ‘It was the Dark.’

 

 

 

 

 

   

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